IMF: G20 Countries Paying Trillions In Fossil Fuel Subsidies


Ah, society — takes us decades to turn a simple, life-saving corner. Subsidizing fossil fuels in the 21st century has got to be one of the dumbest things society has ever done… (and we’ve done a lot of dumb things). We have cheaper alternatives that don’t kill us and cause all kinds of health problems and suffering beforehand. We’ve got locally available, renewable resources that don’t have us exporting billions of dollars a year to countries in the Middle East, Venezuela, etc. We’ve got zero-emission technologies that won’t fry our planet and burn much of the human race. But we choose to continue subsidizing dirty, toxic, expensive fossil fuels instead.

IMF-fossil-fuel-subsidiesThe G20 “wised up” to the idiocy and agreed two years ago to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, but a new study from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finds that we continue to subsidize fossil fuels with trillions of dollars of citizen-earned cash. According to the study, the US dumps a ridiculous $700 billion a year on the dirty subsidies for the dirty piles of coal, gas, and oil. That’s $2,180 per American per year. Yep, aside from your electricity and gas bills, you are essentially sending $2,000+ to oil, gas, and coal companies because… because… well, they need our help, no?

Australia, where the recent G20 meeting was held, has its citizens helping these poor industries to the tune of $1,260 per person. The UK gives $41 billion a year, which comes to $635 per person. Developing countries Mexico, India, and Indonesia average $250 per person per year.

As a percentage of GDP, the subsidies come out as follows:

  • USA: 3.8%
  • Australia: 2%
  • UK: 1.4%
  • China: 20%
  • India: 12%
  • Ukraine: 60%


The world as a whole subsidizes fossil fuels with $5.3 trillion in subsidies per year. Subsidies included in the report go beyond simple tax breaks, direct subsidies, etc., and also include externalities (something I consistently argue should be done). Those include the pollution that causes innumerable health problems and premature deaths as well as the harmful effects of global warming and climate change.

If we were brave enough to cut these subsidies, the IMF estimates that 1.6 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution a year would be prevented, about 50% of those that occur, and global CO2 emissions would be cut 20%.

It seems like common sense, no? Cut the damn subsidies. Stop giving companies trillions of dollars a year to kill us faster.

The UAE is doing it… somewhat.


  1. IMF Figures Show UK Government Still Subsidising Fossil Fuel, While Renewables Are Slashed
  2. The IMF Just Destroyed The Main Argument Against Clean Energy
  3. Fossil Fuels Subsidies Cost World $5.3 Trillion A Year – $10 Million A Minute
  4. Energy Subsidy Nonsense — Energy Subsidy Narrow-Mindedness Gets Old
  5. Oil Subsidies & Natural Gas Subsidies — Subsidies For The Big Boys
  6. G20 Leaders Agree To Phase Out “Inefficient” Fossil Fuel Subsidies
  7. G20 Supporting Fossil Fuels To The Tune Of $88 Billion

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is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.
  • super390

    One of the great forces in politics is the power to define the meaning of words. What’s a war crime? What’s equality? What’s fair? What’s a subsidy?
    The great myth of Anglo-American capitalist civilization is that it has succeeded due to those Randian supermen who didn’t need handouts. The reality is, using the US Army to steal a continent was a subsidy. Giving private railroads excess free land to sell to settlers to populate that continent was a subsidy. The GI Bill was a subsidy.
    And we’re never, ever honest about them.
    So when we’re told that our trillion bucks a year of military spending and related obligations is for the national defense, meaning our collective security, we should ask what our military would look like if we had not allowed our military-industrial complex to transfer its agenda from the USSR to the Middle East. Do you really believe the military is there to protect every American equally?
    Now that’s a subsidy.

  • Jim Smith

    But…the only subsidy fossil fuel companies get a the same depreciation deduction every company gets. Herpa Derp….

    • Ha. Yeah. But hey, who’s going to trust the hippie dippie… IMF?

  • This article is a mish-mash of nonsense. He is calling ‘externalities’ as ‘citizen’s cash’. The US subsidizes $700B? That claim is ridiculous. The EIA says otherwise.