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Opinion: It's time to stop wasting money on fossil fuels

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Over $5 trillion was spent on fossil fuel subsidies globally, found a 2017 study done by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In the United States, we spend around $649 billion to subsidize a dying industry. This is more than we spend to defend ourselves against national security threats and ten times more than we spend on education.

It’s time to end the subsidies entirely, and instead, focus on subsidizing renewable electricity. Renewable electricity is a cheaper, cleaner option for consumers and would do more to protect the environment.

What is remarkable about the amount we spend on fossil fuel subsidies is how it is more than we spend on defense. The United States spends more money on defense than the next seven countries combined according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Now, that money is spent on assisting key allies across the globe, but the same amount should not be spent on subsidizing fossil fuels.

The Pentagon recognizes the threat that the climate crisis poses to our nation’s national security. If we are going to be serious about defending our country, then it is time the fossil fuel subsidies ended. The nation’s top military advisors are well aware of how dangerous the climate crisis is, so why would elected officials rather subsidize an in-efficient, out-dated, expensive industry over the safety and longevity of the nation?

Study after study has shown that renewable electricity is cheaper, cleaner and a job generator. If the United States government was focused on defending the homeland against our nation’s greatest threats, then we need to get serious about nixing fossil fuels.

Energy Trend Track said that US employment in coal mining peaked in 1923, when 883,000 workers were employed. Compared to just 53,000 today in an industry propped up by $20 billion in federal and state subsidies, according to CNBC.com.

Renewables are on track to surpass coal and nuclear before 2030, according to the Annual Energy Outlook.

The latest National Solar Jobs Census shows significant expansion of the industry over the past eight years, suggesting that solar will continue to be a source of stable, well-paying careers. From 2013-2018 alone, the solar economy grew six times faster than the overall US economy, adding some 100,000 jobs to the national workforce. One in every 124 new jobs created in the United States in that time span was in solar.

Today, over 240,000 Americans work in the solar industry, with the median wage for installers at $32 hourly for mid-level workers. Among them are hundreds of veterans provided free training and apprenticeships through the federal SunShot Initiative, according to the Solar Foundation.

In 2018, 74 percent of existing US national coal capacity (211 gigawatts) was considered to be “at risk” from wind and/or solar that could provide the same amount of electricity cheaper, according to Energy Innovation. By 2025, that number increases to 246 GW — near the entirety of US coal capacity!

The fossil fuel subsidies in this country decrease competition within the energy sector, and prohibit a fighting chance against the climate crisis.

It is time to enter a new age in our national defense, and that means working to transition all fossil fuel subsidies to renewable electricity- the cleaner, greener solution.