Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Corner: It’s time to end the unhealthy relationship with fossil fuels | News, Sports, Jobs

I like fossil fuels. They have heated my various homes over the years, brought me to my office every day during my working life, taken me on several exciting vacations, and given me lots of petroleum products for my home. But it’s time to end my friendship with fossil fuels and, I hope, with others too.

What drives me to end this friendship is climate change. The oceans are rising, warming and becoming more acidic; the glaciers are retreating; droughts and forest fires are becoming more severe; the atmosphere is warming; and extreme weather brings us more and more death and devastation. We can see the effects locally – the average temperature in West Virginia has risen to 55 degrees from 1950 to 2021. 97% of scientists agree that human activity is the cause of these compelling observations about our climate.

One of the ways to end this friendship with fossil fuels is to eliminate or reduce government subsidies to these forms of energy.

Those who generally oppose government intervention in the free market have asserted that our federal government supports renewable energy sources and that without such support markets would not bear these costs of investing in solar and wind turbines. In his book, “To save us” Evangelical climatologist Katharine Hayhoe describes the massive support our government has provided and continues to provide to the fossil fuel industry.

The United States is second only to China in supporting these industries. These government aids come in the form of tax breaks and cash grants, such as exploration grants. The cost of these direct subsidies amounts to 20 billion dollars per year (20% for coal and 80% for oil and gas). The Environmental Energy Study Institute (2019) estimates the total cost of fossil fuel subsidies to be $5.3 trillion when negative externalities, such as carbon emissions and health costs, are taken into account. Direct subsidies include drilling cost reductions, depletion percentage, clean coal investment credit. Indirect costs include foreign tax credits, mass limited partnerships (to exempt energy companies from corporation tax), and the national manufacturing deduction. The industry also benefits from lower than market value for oil and gas extraction on public lands.

Additionally, our government, through its military, invests millions of dollars in the protection of oil and gas resources in places like the Middle East and the Gulf States. We are compromising our important human rights values ​​with the support of oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia.

The fossil fuel industry is trying to pitch natural gas as a vital bridge to help utilities transition from coal-fired power to cleaner energy sources. What they are saying is that gas-fired power plants can support wind and solar power that works intermittently. But battery technology is advancing rapidly to fill this gap, as is smart grid technology to move electricity from where the sun shines and where the wind blows to where they don’t.

The continuation and expansion of natural gas extraction, particularly through hydraulic fracturing (i.e. fracking) in this region, means for places like Washington County, Ohio, more waste . Washington County leads the state in toxic and radioactive brine waste injection. Many county residents have spoken of brine waste, “Enough is enough!” We do not want to subsidize this industry disproportionately and unfairly.

People concerned about climate change say plans to massively expand oil and gas resources, in this time of high prices, could essentially lock us into a world of high greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating climate change. climate change (methane from natural gas is 80 times more potent in the short term as a greenhouse gas than CO2). If the industry were to implement these fossil fuel investments, the climate impact, including methane leaks, would exceed that of any coal-fired power plants under construction or in pre-construction planning, according to a Global Energy Monitor 2021 report.

With the help of these government subsidies, US energy companies are expanding gas production and transmission capacity to reach world markets. The effect of these companies will be to reduce the cost of natural gas in other markets, but increase those costs in the United States, which will contribute to high domestic energy prices and inflation.

We need to shift our federal priorities from handouts to fossil fuel companies to a carbon tax coupled with a dividend that goes directly to American taxpayers. By reducing these subsidies and introducing a carbon levy, we can limit our dependence on this fossil fuel and switch to lower cost clean energy alternatives like solar and wind power and adopt energy efficiency practices. Such a strategy will improve the environment, our collective health and our bank accounts.


George Banziger, Ph.D., was a faculty member at Marietta College and dean of studies at three other colleges. He is a member of the Green Sanctuary Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, the Citizens Climate Lobby, and the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action team.

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