The True Cost of Fossil Fuels

The widespread and terrible flooding this winter should give us all pause to reflect on what is – and what has – been happening to cause this situation so soon after the last serious floods a few years ago. At that time our Environment Agency advised us not to worry because it was a freak and would only happen once in a hundred years. But it did, and I think we all are beginning to see what climate change starts to look like.

Climate Change seems something very remote until disaster affects us directly – or we don’t realise quite what is happening because the effects are gradual – i.e. worsening air quality and the effect that has on our health.

An interesting study by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has recently published what the true cost of our continued use of coal, gas and oil is – on a global scale. It estimated the true cost to us of global fossil fuel subsidies in 2015 – money out of our own pockets – is a staggering £3.4 thousand million (£3.4 trillion). They themselves were alarmed by the result – their recalculations / estimates confirmed this figure.

What is also apparent is that the current subsidies to renewable energy pale into insignificance – a paltry £77 billion globally in 2015.

What this says is that coal, gas and oil enjoy massive subsidies from us all to make them affordable. The true total cost to us is far more than we pay on our energy bills or at the pumps.

The true cost of the way we continue to rely on global coal, gas and oil energy includes the cost of flooding, drought, agricultural disruption, increased people migration due to failing crops in many parts of the world, health care resulting from air, water and land pollution – the list goes on. In short – CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIROMENTAL POLLUTION costs. When we consider that an estimated £1.1 billion is now required to rebuild our flood defences in the UK to give protection at present flooding levels and that 330,000 homes were affected by flooding this winter, then we begin to see the truer cost of our fossil fuel addiction.

The message increasingly from global thinkers such as the IMF, the President of the World Bank and other well qualified organisations is – it is crazy for governments to continue driving the use of coal, oil and gas. The effects are damaging our economies, our health and the future of mother earth. We abuse our planet and she abuses us.

The UK Government’s current response to this is – the promotion of fossil fuels into the future – nobody seriously regards fracked gas as a temporary/ bridging fuel, to remove renewables subsidies / incentives – also threatening the existence of an already considerable and growing UK renewables industry, and to frustrate the development of renewables through changes to the planning regulations.

Our government pushes the message that it’s renewables that are having to be subsidised – no mention of the far greater subsidies we already pay to coal, gas and oil.

One thing becomes very clear since the topic of Fracking appeared 6 years ago – no government is going to change the way we do things. It is us – the people of this country – who will have to force change on our governments. The fight goes on.

Tony Young

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