In 2015, the International Monetary Fund estimated the total cost of direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuel industries at $5.3 trillion a year. The IMF considers subsidies to be anything that costs money that fossil fuel companies don’t pay for themselves, things like premature deaths and health care costs associate with the pollution caused by extracting and burning fossil fuels. Yesterday, the American Lung Association published a new study that quantifies what some of those fossil fuel costs are.
The research is limited to just California and the other 9 US states that have adopted the zero emissions rules and regulations put in place by the California Air Resources Board. Those states are Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The result? $37 billion says the ALF. That’s the total cost of 220,000 work days of missed, 109,000 asthma related attacks, and 2,580 premature deaths every year in those 10 states. The report says every tankful of gasoline burned costs taxpayers $18.42.
One of the goals that many climate activists like Bill McKibben and Elon Musk have is to force fossil fuels to bear their true costs to society. Not only does that mean higher health care costs, it includes environmental damage like that caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It includes methane emissions and seismic damage from fracking. It even includes the damage that will occur if the proposed Dakota Access pipeline is built underneath the Missouri river.
Notice that no one ever adds the cost of our military defense budget to the cost of fossil fuels, even though most of such expenditures since the end of World War II have been dedicated to preserving American and allied access to oil. The trillions of dollars wasted on the Iraq invasion should be included in those calculations as well. If a gallon of gas was priced according to its true costs to society, it would have to sell for more than $10 a gallon.
The Lung Association statistics says every tank of gas places an $18.42 burden on taxpayers, yet voters get emotional when the president suggests adding 10 cents a gallon to the price of gasoline. We continue to vote against our own economic best interest because we believe the lies told to us by the fossil fuel industry.
The Lung Association says if 100% of new cars are electric by 2050, health and climate related costs will drop by $21 billion to $15.7 billion. If America moves aggressively to add zero emissions renewable energy by then, the benefits could be 40% greater. “I think people haven’t been used to factoring health and climate into the daily choices they’re making,” says Bonnie Holmes-Gen, the American Lung Association of California’s senior director of air quality and climate change. “We’ve quantified the hidden costs.”