Fossil-Fuel Energy is subsidized @ $300 Billion/yr.

Romney's understates this subsidy by 99% in the presidential debate of Oct 3, 2012. Hereinafter is a plausible underestimate of the true externalized costs visited upon the US by the US fossil-fuel energy industries.


  1. A negative externality (also called "external cost" or "external diseconomy") is an action of a product on consumers that imposes a negative side effect on a third party; it is "social cost". Many negative externalities are related to the environmental consequences of production and use. The article on environmental economics also addresses externalities and how they may be addressed in the context of environmental issues. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels causes damages to crops, (historic) buildings and public health. The most extensive and integrated effort to quantify and monetise these impacts was in the European ExternE project series.[7][8]
  2. In economics, the tragedy of the commons is the depletion of a shared resource by individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one's self-interest, despite their understanding that depleting the common resource is contrary to their long-term best interests. In 1968, ecologist Garrett Hardin explored this social dilemma in "The Tragedy of the Commons", published in the journal Science.[1]
  3. ROMNEY: ... to oil, to tax breaks, then companies going overseas. So let's go through them one by one. First of all, the Department of Energy has said the tax break for oil companies is $2.8 billion a year. And it's actually an accounting treatment, as you know, that's been in place for a hundred years. Now... OBAMA: It's time to end it. ROMNEY: And in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world. Now, I like green energy as well, but that's about 50 years' worth of what oil and gas receives. And you say Exxon and Mobil. Actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth. ROMNEY: But, you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why that $2.8 billion is on the table. Of course it's on the table. That's probably not going to survive you get that rate down to 25 percent. But don't forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years' worth of breaks, into -- into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tester and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don't just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this -- this is not -- this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure.
  4. In my opinion, the most significant deceit in Governor Romney's statement is quantifying the annual US subsidy at less than $3 billion / year (at best this only considers tax subsidies).  When just the carbon dioxide externality is considered, I argue that the US subsidy is at least 100 times that figure.  Here is the argument. 1. During the last 50 or more years, the US has been responsible for roughly 25% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide.   2. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide is widely accepted as the principal cause of global climate change and sea level rise.  3. At the current rate, the world should expect a 7 meter rise in the next 200 years.  4. Images at easily indicate the extent of inundation of major centers of population along the coasts of the US at 7 meters of sea level rise.  5. My estimate of the value of the inundated real estate and infrastructure resulting from a 7 meter rise of some of the U.S. is over $60 trillion.  6. Although $60 trillion is within the US only, it is reasonable to assume (because the US population is about 2% of the world) that the sum of the potential  economic value of destruction outside the U.S. is at least 3 times that; consequently, (more than proportionally) the US has itself to blame.   7. If you divide $60 trillion by 200 years, you get $300 billion / yr.
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  5. The U.S. produces about 25 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels; primarily because our economy is the largest in the world and we meet 85 percent of our energy needs through burning fossil fuels.
  6. In fact, this has been the case for many decades.
  7. Sea level rise is one of several lines of evidence that support the view that the climate has recently warmed.[10] It is likely that human-induced (anthropogenic) warming contributed to the sea level rise observed in the latter half of the 20th century.[11]
  8. Global average sea level rose at an average rate of around 1.7 ± 0.3 mm per year from 1950 to 2009 and at a satellite-measured average rate of about 3.3 ± 0.4 mm per year from 1993 to 2009,[5] an increase on earlier estimates.[6]
  9. Notice that 3.3 mm / year is just about the same as 1/3 meter / century.  At that rate of sea level rise, it would take 21 centuries to rise 7 meters!
  10. Furthermore, because climate models prior to 2007 "did not provide realistic simulations of the dynamic response of the polar ice caps to global warming used by the present study," we're more likely look at sea level rise double that predicted in 2007, or 600-180cm by 2100.
  11. The much more recent TreeHugger article asserts that the sea could rise 6 meters in only 90 years!  I will make the much more conservative assumption that sea level may rise 7 meters in 200 years.  
  12. New Orleans inundated by Sea Level @ +7m.  (I live in New Orleans!)  My estimate is that just the market value of residential structures within 50 miles of New Orleans is worth over $1 Trillion.  {= The value of roughly 500,000 homes @ $200,000 each.  See the last two quotes below.}   It is probable that the sum of the economic value of the commercial, industrial and governmental buildings as well as roads, highways, & utilities servicing New Orleans is worth at least another $1 Trillion.   The above image depicts inundation from Galveston, TX to Mobile, AL.   Thus, there is at least ten times as much predictable economic loss in this picture than should be expected to be visited upon the area more local to New Orleans.  Therefore I suggest that there is at least $20 trillion of economic value at risk here. 
  13. Florida inundated by sea level @ +7m.  At least $20 trillion at risk here.
  14. The White House inundated when sea level rises 7 meters.  At least $10 trillion at risk within 50 miles from here.  Looking for the other $10 trillion?  Go to and visit either the map for San Francisco or New York!

  15. Entergy Corp., the New Orleans utility giant, reported that the storm had knocked out power to more than 572,000 of its customers throughout the state, according to the Entergy Storm Center website, which provides updates on power outages in New Orleans and across the region.
  16. This and the next quote help substantiate that there is about $1 trillion in residential real-estate near New Orleans.
  17. The median price of a new home increased a record 11.2 percent to $256,900 – this is the highest median price for a new home since March 2007, adding to signs of a slow recovery in the housing market.