A report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released this week concludes that subsidies are distorting energy markets to the tune of $1.9 trillion a year and should be reformed. Because public funds are being used to keep consumers from paying the true price of energy, countries are failing to develop alternative forms of energy and/or encourage changes in behavior and energy efficiency. From the Washington Post:

The conclusion, the IMF says, is that each year a massive annual transfer takes place that devotes some 2.7 percent of world economic output to keeping energy prices lower than they should be.

. . .

In the developed world, the IMF says the subsidies are even larger but less overt, reflecting the fact that government tax policies don’t reflect the costs of pollution and other externalities. Using economic models and other studies performed as part of the global warming discussion, the IMF puts those indirect subsidies at $1.4 trillion — $25 dollars for each ton of carbon dioxide produced — and suggests they be offset through an “efficient” tax that makes energy users pay a price more reflective of the full cost of the product. In the United States, that implicit subsidy amounts to 2.4 percent of annual economic output — about $363 billion as of 2011.

. . .

Still, the fund argues, the costs — be they direct or embedded in the need for pollution mitigation now or climate change mitigation in the future — are being paid by someone. Rather than hide from that fact, Lipton said, governments should lay plans to, over time, change the way energy is priced.

This last paragraph is the ballgame. The true costs of energy are being hidden. These are the same costs that companies and politicians try to distract us from when we talk about health, safety, and environmental regulations. Coal subservient politicians talk about the job losses a carbon tax or strict air pollution regulations may cause. What they don’t talk about are the billions in health care costs burning coal creates.

Yes, prices for energy would rise if subsidies were removed, but that doesn’t mean people would simply have more money coming out of their pockets. In the United States, energy subsidies could be used to improve health care and reduce the burden on families due to insurance premiums (average individual health coverage costs about $5,615 a year, about $15,745 for families according to the Kaiser Family Foundation compared to the roughly $2,900 a year the average American spends on gas). That money could also be used for a massive public transportation investment program creating jobs and reducing carbon emissions. Unfortunately, as long as fossil fuel companies hold sway over Congress, legislatures and the media, reforms, including a carbon tax, are unlikely to get very far.


After 55 years in Major League Baseball, most of those as a broadcaster, Tim McCarver will leave the air after the 2013 World Series. From the Associated Press:

McCarver had been thinking about moving on for a couple of years. This winter, Fox executives visited him at his home in Florida to discuss extending his contract, which expired after the 2013 season.

They never even started negotiations. McCarver had already made up his mind.

He has worked 28 consecutive MLB postseasons on network television dating to 1984, providing analysis for a record 23 World Series.

I’m not going to disparage Tim as a person. However, he is a horrible broadcaster. Baseball fans have had to suffer his “analysis” for many years and I’m so relieved that he is leaving TV. His comments have always been less than insightful. He is consistently wrong describing pitches, his comments give no insight into the game and are usually made up of pre-written PR material handed to him by organizations. If you want to see and hear a great broadcaster, just listen to John Miller of the San Francisco Giants. Enough said.

Don’t giggle

Beaming power to earth from solar panels in space? Don’t giggle, it would work. Slate has the details:

Large pieces of a space-solar-power station would be shot from a launch site on Earth into space. Once in orbit, they’d be assembled into facilities that likely would be miles wide. (Proposals differ about the setup and the particular solar-capturing technologies the facilities would use.) Freed from terrestrial limitations of clouds, bad weather, and nighttime darkness, the spacecraft would harvest sunlight essentially 24 hours a day. They’d send the electricity they produced back to Earth either as microwaves or as laser beams. Back on the ground, according to most designs, that energy would be caught by similarly massive agglomerations of mesh: huge rectifying antennas, or, in the lingo, “rectennas.” From there, the electricity would be fed into the grid.

In 2011, a story in National Geographic had this to say:

According to a new report [PDF] by the International Academy of Astronautics(IAA), space-based solar technologies now in development in the lab will be technically feasible and ready for practical demonstration within the next decade or two.

What’s more, based on existing technologies, space-based solar could be an economically viable alternative to today’s commercial energy sources within the next 30 years, concludes the report published last month.

The use of fossil fuels must come to an end. The money needed to do it is inconsequential compared to the horrific changes to our climate if we do nothing. There are still many things we can do here on earth, but we must consider all possibilities.

Now that’s how you retire

We are always hearing about pro-athletes who take themselves way too seriously. Anthony Adams however, is breaking the mold and setting the standard for funniest retirement announcement and making him my video of the day. Just watch, you can thank me later.


The Wall

Like millions of others, each morning I read the news. Unlike generations past I consume it online. Until a few years ago newspapers put their content online for free, however today is the era of the pay wall. This morning, for the first time in a year, I hit my 15 article per month limit with the Los Angeles Times and was hit with the banner asking me to subscribe. The New York Times erected their wall back in 2011 and the Washington Post has announced they will be doing the same.

Is this good for newsrooms as well as a paper’s bottom line?

What I’ve read suggest papers have been pretty happy with the results. For readers of one or two newspapers, online subscriptions are a pretty good deal, better if you’re already a print customer because the material online is free. But for those of us who love to read news from around the country and across the world, who like to share information, and dig into policy issues, it isn’t so great. I love the New York Times so I pay for an online subscription, but I’m not going to shell out money for 10-20 newspapers a month.

Despite this complaint, I agree with Matthew Yglesias in Slate who commented on PEW’s recent State of the Media report:

What’s true today is that with more news outlets available, there is greater diversity in what people are seeking out. People interested in the Cyprus crisis have learned much more about it since Saturday than would have been possible in a comparable four day period 30 years ago. And the same is true of people interested in the 2013 NCAA tournament. People interested in celebrity gossip know much more about that. People can find out much more about what they’re interested in much more easily than they used to be able to.

I hope that some day media companies will agree to some kind of universal subscription that gives us news consumers access to far more news at a reasonable price.

What I’m reading this morning

Pennsylvania Study Finds Halfway Houses Don’t Reduce Recidivism – New York Times

What Drought? Just Don’t Tread on Our Green Grass – New York Times

Supreme Court has menu of options in gay marriage case – Los Angeles Times

Howard Schultz to Anti-Gay-Marriage Starbucks Shareholder: ‘You Can Sell Your Shares’ – Forbes

Rand Paul: Don’t send kids to jail for drug crimes – Washington Post

Why Your Skyrocketing Rent Is Bad for the Economy – The Atlantic

Iraq’s New, Dysfunctional Democracy – The Atlantic

Washington Post Defends Not Running Article On Iraq Media Failure – HuffingtonPost

Insight: Silent or supportive, conservatives give gay marriage momentum – Reuters

What secret e-mails from Enron teach us about influencing politicians – Wonkblog

Wikileaks Was Just a Preview: We’re Headed for an Even Bigger Showdown Over Secrets – Matt Taibbi

An American role-reversal: Women the new breadwinners – USA Today

Green tech shows progress but not prosperity – USA Today

Relief and anger after late-night Cyprus rescue deal – Times of London