Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are A Staggering $5 Tn Per Year

In this photo taken on November 19, 2015, smoke belches from a coal-fired power station near Datong, in China’s northern Shanxi province. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

By John Abraham for The Guardian – Fossil fuels have two major problems that paint a dim picture for their future energy dominance. These problems are inter-related but still should be discussed separately. First, they cause climate change. We know that, we’ve known it for decades, and we know that continued use of fossil fuels will cause enormous worldwide economic and social consequences. Second, fossil fuels are expensive. Much of their costs are hidden, however, as subsidies. If people knew how large their subsidies were, there would be a backlash against them from so-called financial conservatives. A study was just published in the journal World Development that quantifies the amount of subsidies directed toward fossil fuels globally, and the results are shocking. The authors work at the IMF and are well-skilled to quantify the subsidies discussed in the paper. Let’s give the final numbers and then back up to dig into the details. The subsidies were $4.9 tn in 2013 and they rose to $5.3 tn just two years later. According to the authors, these subsidies are important because first, they promote fossil fuel use which damages the environment. Second, these are fiscally costly.

Newsletter: Policies For The People

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Political economist C. J. Polychroniou recently interviewed David M. Kotz, author of “The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism,” about the transition in the US from a regulated capitalism instituted under FDR that protected workers and the vulnerable to some extent to a financialized global neoliberal capitalism that started in the 1970s. Under neoliberalism, the rich got richer while protections for workers in the form of unions and and the vulnerable in the form of a social safety net were dismantled. In addition, the environmental impacts of industry and fossil fuels are barely considered despite the reality of climate change. Neoliberalism crashed in 2008 and has remained in a crisis state ever since with a stagnating economy, growing wealth divide and political turmoil. Crises are turning points.

Newsletter: When Empires Fall

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. The Pentagon recently released a report, “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World,” which details its concerns about losing access to resources and “resistance to authority” both at home and around the world as governments lose legitimacy. Faced with these changes, the United States could embrace them, become a cooperative member of the world, transition to a lower-waste lower-energy sustainable existence and draw back the military to use those resources to meet domestic needs. Sadly, that is not what the Pentagon has in mind. There is a saying, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The US is the biggest empire in the world; therefore, the Pentagon’s solutions are “more surveillance, more propaganda (‘strategic manipulation of perceptions’) and more military expansionism.” The United States’ reign as an Empire is coming to an end. It is up to those of us living in the US to take action to prevent more aggression and demand that the US dismantle its empire in a way that causes the least harm at home and abroad.

Our Obsolescent Economy

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By Steven Gorelick for Local Futures – A friend of mine from India tells a story about driving an old Volkswagen beetle from California to Virginia during his first year in the United States. In a freak ice storm in Texas he skidded off the road, leaving his car with a cracked windshield and badly dented doors and fenders. When he reached Virginia he took the car to a body shop for a repair estimate. The proprietor took one look at it and said, “it’s totaled.” My Indian friend was bewildered: “How can it be totaled? I just drove it from Texas!” My friend’s confusion was understandable. While “totaled” sounds like a mechanical term, it’s actually an economic one: if the cost of repairs is more than the car will be worth afterwards, the only economically ‘rational’ choice is to drive it to the junkyard and buy another one. In the ‘throwaway societies’ of the industrialized world, this is an increasingly common scenario: the cost of repairing faulty stereos, appliances, power tools, and high-tech devices often exceeds the price of buying new. Among the long-term results are growing piles of e-waste, overflowing landfills, and the squandering of resources and energy. It’s one reason that the average American generates over 70% more solid waste today than in 1960.

The High Cost Of Insurance Profits

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By Peter Dolack for Systemic Disorder. You could not devise a worse health care system than that of the United States if you tried. By far the most expensive, with among the worst results. Perhaps saying “among” the worst results is being too kind. That is an accurate statement if we are simply measuring metrics such as mortality rates and other medical outcomes. But if we consider that tens of millions of United Statesians go without health insurance while none do in any advanced capitalist country (or most any other) — and that tens of thousands annually die because of that lack — then we must reasonably assess the U.S. health care system as the worst. This is the high cost of private profit in health care. How much? The United States spends more than $1.4 trillion per year than it would otherwise if it had a single-payer system.

Newsletter - Positive Actions You Can Take This Summer

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. This week, we look at some of the current struggles in the United States and ways that you can get involved this summer. From protecting health care, net neutrality and the environment to building positive alternatives that transform our current dysfunctional systems, there is something for everyone to do. Read on to learn what’s happening and how to take action. This is the time to rise up and protect our families, communities and planet.

Mobilizing For A Culture Of Nonviolence This Fall

Poverty Fuels European Extremism

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By Andrew Spannaus for CounterPunch. Less stable employment conditions and the stagnation or regression of salaries have created the fertile ground for populist movements on the right in particular, which now mix their traditional nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric, with criticism of the economic orthodoxy of the supranational European Union (E.U.) institutions. In recent years the prevailing response from economists has been that many Western nations are simply unable to compete in sectors dominated by low costs and the high efficiency unleashed by globalization. This narrative, however, is used to hide a more troubling reality: government institutions have contributed directly to the economic difficulties with their own actions, driving down living standards through multiple waves of austerity and blocking attempts to break from the neoliberal principles that dominate among E.U. institutions.

The Astounding Size Of The Marijuana Economy

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By Phillip Smith for AlterNet. Marijuana is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is legal in nearly 30 (although often under quite restrictive regulatory schemes). Between the two, legal weed is generating total annual sales of between $4 billion and $4.5 billion. But legal marijuana sales are dwarfed by sales in the black market, which according to a recent report in Marijuana Business Daily, accounts for about 10 times the size of the legal market, or about $45 billion to $50 billion. While that’s still only about half the size of the legal beer and tobacco market, it is nothing to sneeze at, and it puts marijuana well ahead of some major American economic sectors. Here are 10 products or services already being surpassed by pot, with the first five being smaller than the legal market and the second five being smaller than the estimated overall market, including both licit and illicit markets.

Impact Investing And Employee Ownership

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By Mary Ann Beyster for the Democracy Collaborative. With income inequality in the United States at record high levels, employee ownership is increasingly being lauded as a potential solution to spreading wealth more broadly. Most recently, research from the National Center for Employee Ownership released in May shows that employee owners have a household net worth that is 92 percent higher than non-employee owners. They also make 33 percent higher wages, and are far less likely to be laid off. But employee ownership requires new investment in order to get to scale. A new report by Mary Ann Beyster, president and trustee of the Foundation for Enterprise Development (FED), published by the Fifty by Fifty initiative of The Democracy Collaborative, examines the investing landscape for potential opportunities in employee ownership.

Our Economy Is Based On A Massive LIE That's Killing People

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By Lee Camp for Redacted Tonight. If you’ve noticed lately that corporations have been pillaging our world’s ever-dwindling natural resources as if they’re a Vegas style buffet while placing a premium on food, shelter, and medicine, then congratulations! You’ve seen that our country’s free-market capitalist system is reinforcing false scarcity–creating scarcity where there is none in order to make us pay more than we should for basic necessities. Advertising is a perfect example of how our economy reinforces your insecurities in order to make you buy and consume things you don’t really need, all while making corporations even richer. But by way of technology, there is hope that some human beings still want to create systems where everyone can benefit instead of a select few. Lee Camp has this and more on the latest Redacted Tonight.

Newsletter United To Save The Internet

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By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. The former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, who now chairs the Federal Communications Commission has taken the first official steps to destroy the free and open Internet by proposing the end of Title II net neutrality rules on May 18. This would be a giveaway to Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other large Internet Service Providers that would allow them to control access to content on the Internet and charge users more fees. Chairman Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, is an example of the revolving door between government and industry that serves big business interests, and not the people. Pai has demonstrated during his first few months as chairman that he will say anything, including obvious lies, to serve the telecom industry. We must act quickly to save the Internet from going the road of cable TV

Newsletter - The People's Plan For Transformation

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. It is important to understand that we arrived in this situation by, what Moyers described as “careful long-range planning and implementation…consistency of action over an indefinite period of years…” By understanding this plan, we can realize that we can design a way out of it. This includes seeing through the propaganda and exposing the truth; not allowing ourselves to be divided into issue-based silos or taken off track by the agenda of a plutocratic political party; and organizing not just to resist, but more importantly to demand the changes we require in our communities and on the planet. Popular Resistance is one of the conveners of The People’s Congress of Resistance, a grassroots effort to build resistance and collaboration in our communities to solve the crises at hand and create a better world. One of the purposes of the conference will be to plan the future of the resistance movement and determine how we can work together more effectively. It’s time for the people to create a plan for the transformation we need.

The Next Financial Collapse Is On The Horizon

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By Lee Camp for Redacted Tonight. In 2008 after our country’s huge financial collapse, everyone was too busy watching the trainwreck that was our economy to notice how unnecessary the support for Wall Street was. Our government bailed out the big banks that screwed us over, while Americans continued to drown in financial instability. Now a similar financial crash is looming–only this time with student loan defaults. Compare today’s student loan rate figures to mortgage delinquency rates after the 2008 crash and it becomes clear that Americans may be on the cusp of an unfortunate deja vu. History has shown us that when a financial or natural disaster hits the fan, the government uses the opportunity to wield its power to push through a controversial agendas that otherwise would not have been acceptable to the population. Are we approaching another crisis? How will it be handled? Lee Camp goes into detail on how crises are used and manipulated by politicians in a new episode of Redacted Tonight.

More Equitable Economy Exists Right Next Door

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By Jay Walljasper for AlterNet – Business owners gather at an elegant Montreal event center to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a large-scale economic partnership. The former chief of Quebec’s largest bank is the guest of honor. Sidewalks bustle with people walking in and out of homes, offices, bank, pharmacy, workout studio and coffee shop at Montreal’s Technopole Angus, a development that already sports 56 business with 2500 employees and will eventually encompass a million-square-feet of real estate. Morning-shift workers unload barrels of paper onto conveyor belts emptying into giant shredding machines on the shop floor of Recyclage Vanier, a Quebec City firm specializing in secure disposal of confidential documents.