Can Renewables Compete?

December/January 2005

Q & A with Alternative Energy Expert Scott Sklar

Q. I was in a debate with someone who said that renewable (solar, wind, hydroelectricity, etc.) energy should just compete in a free market like every other industry and should stop receiving government and state subsidies. I wanted to disagree with him, but I didn't have the facts.

? John Z.; Denver, Colorado

A. The United States subsidizes its coal and oil industries more than any other country, so there is no 'free market.' Some examples of these subsidies are oil and gas depletion allowances, special treatments for coal royalties, tax waivers for companies with overseas refineries and federal appropriations for black/brown lung benefits for coal miners. There are many other subsidies, and they all total billions of dollars per year.

In comparison, renewable energy receives much less ? under $100 million per year in subsidies. If we are going to shift to renewable energy before oil and gas run out, we need to shift taxpayer subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables.