Natural Gas Subsidies Are Harming, Not Helping our Climate


With leaders from around the world gathered in Paris for the international climate summit, CLF advocates are commenting on how what happens in Paris will impact what needs to happen here in New England to cut carbon, boost renewables, and protect our communities. Read the entire blog series.

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Photo credit: Alexander Baxevanis

In Paris this week, wealthy nations are being confronted with uncomfortable truths about our energy choices – particularly which energy technologies and fuels we need to support to have any hope of staving off the drastic effects of climate change and which fuels we actually do support through our policies and subsidies. Thompson Reuters reports that the top carbon-emitting nations spend $80 billion per year in public money to subsidize fossil fuel production. This dwarfs the amounts we spend on renewable energy and aid to poorer countries dealing with the effects of climate change.

Meanwhile, here in New England, policymakers continue to make increasingly hollow pronouncements about the potential climate benefits of massive new natural gas pipeline projects (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) to rationalize ever more fossil fuel subsidies. These shortsighted assertions fail to acknowledge that, while burning natural gas does release fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal or oil, those emissions are still higher than our climate can handle (including for new natural gas plants). Continued reliance on natural gas will not get us anywhere near our goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels.

To have a chance of achieving the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed here in New England, we simply cannot afford to subsidize new natural gas infrastructure. Unfortunately, the urge to assist natural gas pipeline companies here at home reflects a global system with baked-in preferences and subsidies for fossil fuel interests.

Leaders in New England, the US, and other wealthy countries need to take a hard look at the disparity between what we are willing to do (cut carbon emissions from coal levels only to still-too-high gas levels!) and what we need to do (invest heavily in zero- and low-carbon sources of energy) to avert disaster.

CLF President Brad Campbell is on the ground in Paris sharing insights and learnings from New England’s leadership in fighting back against climate change. Follow his updates on Twitter and the Huffington Post.

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