Each year, the International Energy Agency produces a report in which it considers trends in energy use and makes projections for the future. Usually, these reports simply take recent trends and project them forward, but this year's is somewhat different: its author uses a mixture of current trends and the projected impact of countries' pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and subsidies for fossil fuels. This results in some eye-popping figures. Globally, we're subsidizing fossil fuel use to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, at a rate of over five times the subsidies going to renewable energy. And our inaction on climate goals has tacked $1 trillion onto the cost of reaching themin 2009 alone.
We'll start with the subsidies. In 2009, the total subsidies were $312 billion, which may seem high until you hear the 2008 figure: $558 billion, boosted by countries' responses to the high fossil fuel prices that year. Most of the subsidies went to help cut the costs of using oil and natural gas products; another substantial chunk went to electricity use.
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Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.