While officials from around their world are working night-and-day to come up with an international agreement to combat climate change in Copenhagen, the US Export-Import Bank confirmed it will subsidize a natural gas project in Papua New Guinea to the tune of 3 billion dollars—a record for the bank.
Critics say the project will clear over a thousand hectares of primary rainforest while pumping over 3 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. Natural gas is considered far cleaner than coal or oil, but some studies have shown that when lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are considered the gap between natural gas and coal and oil closes significantly. Either way, natural gas has a far larger carbon footprint than wind, solar, or geothermal.
“[Export-Import] Bank’s timing is spectacular,” said Doug Norlen, Policy Director for Pacific Environment in a press release by the environmental organization. “[Export-Import] Bank’s announcement in the early days of the Copenhagen climate talks shines a spotlight on the hypocrisy between this federal agency’s massive subsidies for fossil fuel projects and the US Government’s commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies.”
The 3 billion subsidy doubles the amount Export-Import spent on oil, gas, and natural gas last year and is 99 times more than the 30.4 million the bank spent on renewable energy, also last year.
In addition, environmentalists are left wondering why one of the major benefiters of the subsidy, Exxon Mobil, requires any government funding.
“Exxon made more than $45 billion last year, making it the most profitable corporation on the planet,” said Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International in Copenhagen in the press release. “This is the last place that taxpayer support should be going.”
A recent study found between 2002-2008 the US handed out 74 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel industries.
Finance ministers from all G20 countries agreed in September of this year to begin phasing out subsidies to fossil-fuel industries, however environmentalists say this is not happening fast enough.
(11/06/2009) The Green Economy Coalition is urging G20 finance ministers to rapidly put an end to fossil fuel subsidies. In a letter to the ministers the coalition argues that these subsidies are contributing directly to climate change and making it difficult for the world to transition to a greener economy.
(09/21/2009) During the fiscal years of 2002-2008 the United States handed out subsidies to fossil fuel industries to a tune of 72 billion dollars, while renewable energy subsidies, during the same period, reached 29 billion dollars.
(09/26/2008) Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose at a record clip in 2007, according to the Global Carbon Project’s annual overview of the greenhouse gas.