Time and again humans have realized that they are running out of fossil fuels. They have also realized that non-renewable sources are doing more harm than good. Greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide released in the air is severely damaging the environment. There are green energy sources which are a clear solution for the future and a savior for the environment. But why are green energy solutions still ignored? And why should government support these solutions anyway?
Let’s take a look at the answers to these questions one by one.
History and Statistics Imply …
There are two types of people: those who believe the government should support renewable energy financially and those who want the market to handle the future of renewable energy. According to a chart that compared the annual energy subsidies:
- Oil and gas received 4.86 billion dollars and nuclear received 3.5 billion dollars.
- Renewables received 0.37 billion dollars – almost 13 times smaller than the first two.
If the subsidies for these energy sources are considered in their first 15 years, then oil and gas and nuclear received 5 times and 10 times more subsidies than renewable ever did. So, it is quite clear that green solutions have suffered more than fossil fuels and have been part of a game where the opponent is heavily favored.
The Government’s Role in This Debate
While everyone seems to admire the idea of clean living and green sources, it would still be difficult for them to invest in an area that may or may not work. Once the government supports green solutions financially, it will serve as an “economic incentive” for investors. They will find it easier to shift towards renewable energy. For instance, the UK government stopped funding offshore wind turbines in 2016. Subsidies by the government for solar plant installation were also reduced which resulted in the loss of 12,000 jobs. A recent study showed that investment in green projects will decrease by 95% between 2017 to 2020. As a result of this, Ikea has decided that it will not invest its £524 million in green energy. Renewable energy supporters have claimed that this will be dangerous for the government in the future.
And what if the government does not shift its support towards green solutions? Well, the fossil fuels are limited and war is already raging due to the importance of oil. The environment is constantly being polluted and we are creating a dangerous world for our future generations. The U.S. government has given oil and gas companies around $490 billion in handouts. In 1916, the U.S. government presented tax incentives to promote the discovery of oil. The same can be done for green sources where loans, tax incentives and direct grants could encourage investment from companies and further develop this area.
China has been the most successful ‘green’ country by investing more than $52.2 billion in green solutions in 2011. Their solar industry is thriving and once non-renewable sources are over, the U.S. would have to rely on China for providing them with the latest green technology. Supporting green solutions will make countries independent of each other. Wind, water and sun are sources that are present all around the world unlike fossil fuels. If government supports green solution and shows investors a proper and detailed plan that helps them identify and calculate return on their investments, then green solutions will get more support.
Criticism and Controversies
Renewable energy critics claim that green solutions are not cost-effective and are unproductive. They also state that government should not interfere in this debate and let price and competition determine the winner. It’s interesting to note that they rarely acknowledge the environmental aspect of these sources. The cost of the greenhouse gases and the carbon emitted by oil and gas does not exist in the market yet. So, it makes this concept sound like a myth. But the reality is that fossil fuels are not cheap, they come with a heavy price. This price is not apparent yet but will be in the future. When this is compared with the initial heavy cost of building green solutions, the odds will be in favor of the clean energy.
Non-carbon emissions from fossil fuels negatively effects public health which in turn costs $361.7 to $886.5 billion yearly. Non-renewable power plants in the U.S. also use 4 times more water than the residents. But once again, these costs are not included in the sources. Other effects related to fossil fuel subsidies include non-uniform distribution of resources among the rich and poor. The wind energy’s cost decreased 90% in the past few years and the industry grew somewhat due to tax incentives from the government. So, it is quite clear that the same could happen with the other energy sources if the government decides to increase its support for green solutions.