California — Elon Musk recently took Big Oil to task in an interview at the World Energy Innovation Forum (WEIF) at Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory. He points out something that alternative energy advocates have wailed about for decades: all forms of fossil fuel come with government subsidies.
Musk says this is no different than being able to dump trash in the middle of your street and then avoid paying trash pick up fees. Fossil fuel subsidies are, in fact, choking progress in solar, wind, and other forms of alternative, clean energy; but sustainable energy will prevail nonetheless.
Dirty Money, Dirty Fuel
Glaring loopholes in our country’s tax code allow for some insane financial breaks to oil companies. Over the past century, the federal government has pumped more than $470 billion into the oil and gas industries by way of these generous, never-expiring tax breaks. While companies like SolarCity, Verengo Solar, Sungevity, and Sunpower face an uphill climb, special interest lobbyists working for Big Oil, such as the Koch Brothers and ALEC, employ all imaginable forms of propaganda possible to keep their fossil fuel billions rolling in.
In states like Arizona, those who were forward thinking enough to install solar panels on their homes were able to sell back excess power to energy companies; but new legislation has dramatically decreased the incentives for the use of solar energy.
“For the last several years Arizonans have enjoyed the ability to generate their own electricity on their own property,” said SolarCity.“Their choices have also helped contribute to the creation of more than 9,000 local solar jobs in Arizona. SRP [Arizona’s Salt River Project Utility Company] has sabotaged the ability of Arizona consumers to make this choice if they happen to live in SRP territory. SRP cannot justify the elimination of competition and the denial of Arizonans’ choice in electricity service. In America, we expect companies to respond to competition and innovation with better service, lower costs and increased efficiency. What SRP has done instead is unacceptable and unlawful.”
The Virtuous Cycle of Clean Energy Can’t Be Stopped
No matter how the Big Oil families continue to try to halt clean energy progress, sustainable energy keeps gathering momentum. Wind power is now the cheapest electricity to produce in both Germany and the U.K., even without government subsidies, according to anew analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Solar power has seen similar success, and utilizing renewable energy is a self-reinforcing cycle.
As more renewables are installed, coal and natural gas plants are used less frequently — and the less coal and gas are utilized, the cost of using fossil fuels to generate electricity goes up. Thus, as the cost of coal and gas power rises, more renewables will be installed.
Musk and the Revolt Against Fossil Fuels
Musk says that we must stage a revolt against the continued financial breaks given to the fossil fuel industry. Citing data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he lamented in his interview that he is “competing against something that has a $6 trillion per year subsidy,” and that the low gas prices subsidies create are “weakening the economic-forcing function to sustainable transport and clean energy in general.”
Musk also fights back against unrelenting propaganda published to discredit companies like SolarCity.
Musk implied that a Los Angeles Times article misleadingly asserted that his companies received $4.9 billion in subsidies originating from the fossil fuel industry.
Musk explained that the report was planted to counter the IMF study, which found the fossil fuel industry was receiving trillions in subsidies every year. Both reports came out around the same time. As Musk explained:
“After the IMF came out with their study showing that fossil fuels are subsidized to the tune of $6 trillion a year [it’s (sic) was actually $5.3 trillion in 2015]–like $6 trillion per year. Then some representatives from the oil and gas industry added up all the incentives that Tesla had received and will receive in the future, which happens to coincide with the $6 billion figure.”
Included in this figure was a Department of Energy loan, which Tesla paid back with interest. Musk said:
“They wanted it [the figure] to start with a ‘6’. So roughly a month or two after the IMF study came out, they started shopping that story around to journalists: ‘Tesla is getting a $6 billion subsidy’ and it sounds a bit like a ‘$6 trillion subsidy’. It has a ‘6’ in it and ‘billion’ or ‘trillion’, you know, it’s kind of close.”
He added, “[T]hen they get the LA Times to buy it. It was totally nonsensical.”
These tactics are nothing new. Anyone who threatens the petrodollar is an enemy to the billionaire magnates who like to play with people’s lives and tarnish the planet; but these cabalistic families running the world energy circus are on borrowed time.
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