The hidden toll that subsidies for electricity, fossil fuels, and transport have on social welfare, economic growth and technological innovation needs to be exposed through better research says a new paper in Ecological Economics by Benjamin K Sovacool. Energy subsidies, which have mostly supported fossil fuels and nuclear power over the previous half century, have historically kept energy prices artificially low, compared to market rates. But they come at a high cost to governments and taxpayers. The Indian government, for example, spends as much as it does on fuel subsidies for kerosene and liquid propane, used to light rural houses, as it does on education. India subsidises fossil energy consumption by $21 billion every year, which works out at $16 per person.
Further evidence that Britain leads the EU in giving subsidies to fossil fuels (Report, 24 January) highlights yet again the urgency of rebalancing UK energy subsidies. Back in 2013-14 the environmental audit select committee found that "energy subsidies in the UK are running at about £12bn a year, much directed at fossil fuels". It concluded that "the absence of any internationally agreed definition of what constitutes energy subsidy has provided a way for the government to reject – erroneously in our view – the proposition in some areas that it provides energy subsidies". Our subsequent recommendations set out a clear way forward for much needed transparency and a public debate on the rationale and justifications for energy subsidies in the UK. Five years on, instead of continuing to deny fossil fuel subsidy, the government could usefully revisit our measured report and recognise that the majority of subsidies are off-budget – externalities that do not appear in national accounts as government expenditure.
Public transport stayed off the streets, several squares and roads in Khartoum were deserted and many shops were shut in a mixed response to opposition calls for a nationwide strike against fuel subsidy cuts in Sudan. Schools in the city were open but many parents preferred to keep their children at home fearing clashes between protesters and security forces. The call for a three-day strike came after the authorities announced a 30-percent hike in petrol and diesel prices that has led to a sharp rise in the cost of other goods, including medicines. "Think, talk, plan, follow, discuss and never keep silent at all," a Sudanese activist told Al Jazeera. "Your country is burning and being looted and people are now living in dire situation where there is no medicine.
According to data gathered by Good Jobs First, a not-for-profit watchdog group, more than 250 billion in U.S. taxpayer-funded subsidies have flowed to some 500,000 businesses in recent years. Good Jobs First's Subsidy Tracker program is a search engine that follows economic development subsidies as well as other types of governmental financial assistance to various businesses. It currently includes more than 740 federal, state and local subsidy programs and more than 2,600 parent companies. The timespan for the data varied depending on whether it was federal, state or local, Philip Mattera, the research director for Good Jobs First, said in an interview with International Business Times. "Our totals reflect the available information, but there's probably more to it than that," he said.