With the introduction and advancement of new technologies throughout the renewable energy sector, clean and affordable energy is within the public’s grasp now more than ever. An increase in solar and wind development also means a decrease in ancient energy harnessing, making it seem as though fossil fuels and their outdated methods could be going the way of the dinosaur.
Globally, countries are still spending on average 6.5% of their GDP on fossil fuel subsidies in the form of government-supported tax breaks aimed at oil and gas revenues, as well as the underpricing of oil, gas and coal energy. Over the course of 2016, the coal industry received more financial support in the form of subsidies than any other energy producing sector worldwide. These and other practices have been used for decades to regulate domestic energy prices, as well as alleviate the cost of fossil fuel exploration and production, and are now being called out by environmental groups and their supporters including OilChange International. The organization is among the growing number of advocates seeking to expose the real cost of fossil fuel subsidies and their impact on global renewable energy.
As of September 2017, a staggering list of publicly funded groups who hope to bring the funding of fossil fuels to an end has made their presence felt through public protest and social media. Websites including www.stopfundingfossils.org, www.priceofoil.org have been created to highlight the cost of fossil fuel subsidies while more established media outlets, including Bloomberg and The Economist, have threads promoting the discussion of clean energy alternatives as well as public information regarding different countries and their current stance on fossil fuel subsidies.
In early 2016, the Leap Manifesto was drafted by several well-respected Canadians at the top of their fields with the goal of ending the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. The political manifesto is supported by a coalition of Canadian environmental leaders, labor union representatives, politicians, artists, authors, filmmakers, actors and religious leaders, all of whom seek to restructure the country’s economy in a way that would the fast-track to becoming a nation supported solely by clean, renewable wind and solar energy. The Leap Manifesto was introduced for discussion and approved by the country’s second largest political party, The New Democrats (NDP), at their convention in April of 2016.
Canada’s current Liberal government renewed commitments earlier this year to completely phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. During a speech to politicians and global energy sector executives in March of 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined his government’s goals and willingness to work with others to develop the country’s renewable energy sector. Trudeau continues to receive mixed reactions from government critics and US counterparts after releasing a budget that contains a number of policy recommendations from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Environment Canada and several United Nation agencies. The recommendations call for a carbon-pricing plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as continued support for oilsands projects designed to upgrade existing pipelines. Trudeau admits that progress is slow, but hopes to increase the country’s focus on developing green technologies including those used in carbon capturing.
As the increase in public backlash forces long time fossil fuel investors to consider moving capital away from the industry, governments and environmental groups hope to entice them to diversify instead within the growing field of renewable energy. North American countries have even pledged to drastically reduce subsidies aimed at fossil fuels as support for the industry wanes. Canada, Mexico, and the United States chose instead to expand tax credits to their renewable energy sectors this year. The US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management cashed in on renewables by holding their largest commercial offshore wind energy lease auction in June of 2016, which saw 81,000 acres opened for sustainable energy projects. Support for offshore wind energy has also been felt from the US Senate, as further legislation for the solicitation of offshore wind contracts was recently passed.
While the North American market for renewable energy steadily grows, the number of countries overseas joining the clean energy movement is increasing at a rapid pace. India, China, and the UK have all made major investments in renewable energy, making solar and wind technologies more affordable and accessible to developing nations. The rise of clean, affordable energy across Europe, Asia, and Africa has been reported by the International Energy Agency (IEA), as both large and small developing nations gain further access to renewables. BBC News released a report in June of this year regarding a historic achievement for the United Kingdom, as more than half of the sovereign state is now running on electricity provided by localized renewable energy projects. Although fossil fuel subsidies still remain in place throughout Europe including the UK, British MP’s have gone on record to support those that would focus efforts on storage, cutting demand, as well as scaling-back fossil fuel infrastructure and production. In October of 2016, the IEA reported that the world’s capacity to generate renewable energy has officially overtaken that of the global coal industry, while media outlets in the UK have shown the cost of offshore wind production and development has become the UK’s most affordable energy option, beating out new gas for the first time.
Each year since 2009, G20 countries have signed new, more aggressive agreements to reduce fossil fuel subsidies both at home and abroad. Despite these agreements, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that G20 countries are still responsible for the exploration and production of oil, gas, and coal energy to the tune of $444 billion a year - nearly four times the current global spending on renewable energy.
The list of countries worldwide adopting a greener stance on the future of global energy is only getting longer as oil, gas and coal energy continue to garner harsh criticisms for their impact on climate change. Although a number of obstacles remain in place for solar and wind technology, the future of fossil fuels is beginning to look grim as an increasing number of world leaders, governments and environmental agencies throw their full support behind clean, renewable energy projects.