The Atlantic

The World Spends $400 Billion Propping Up Oil Companies. Is That Bad?

A new study says: It depends who’s writing the check.
Source: Sean Gardner / Reuters

In the thrilling world of multinational industrial policy, it’s about as high-stakes a fight as you can get.

Every year, the world’s governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars making it cheaper to extract and burn fossil fuels. Almost as regularly, their representatives get together and beg everyone else to stop doing that. Then they go home and keep doing it themselves.

The pattern has worn on for more than two decades. Way back in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol—the first international treaty aimed at fixing global warning—called for governments to stop subsidizing all “greenhouse-gas-emitting sectors.” That didn’t happen, so, in 2009, the leaders of resolved anew to “phase out ... inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies.” Three years later, that “a century of subsidies to the oil companies is long enough.” In 2016, when G20 leaders met in China, they again “reaffirmed” the need to end subsidies.

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