By Alexander Ochs and Annette Knödler | Vital Signs, May 11, 2011
Gobal fossil fuel consumption subsidies fell to $312 billion in 2009 from $558 billion in 2008, a decline of 44.1 percent.[i] The reduction is due primarily to changes in international energy prices as well as in domestic pricing policies and demand, rather than because the subsidies themselves were curtailed. The number also does not include fossil fuel production subsidies that aim at fostering domestic supply, which are estimated at an additional $100 billion globally per year.[ii]
Fossil fuel consumption subsidies include public aid that directly or indirectly lowers the price for consumers below market price. The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines energy subsidies as “any government action directed primarily at the energy sector that lowers the cost of energy production, raises the price received by energy producers or lowers the price paid by energy consumers.”[i] Common means of subsidizing energy include trade instruments, regulations, tax breaks, credits, direct financial transfers like grants to producers or consumers, and energy-related services provided by the government, such as investments in energy infrastructure or public research.[ii] Many observers believe that fossil fuel subsidies should be phased out because they reduce the competitiveness and use of cleaner, alternative energy sources .
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