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Subsidies not comparable for fossil fuels, renewables

Richard Elrick and Jim Demetras (Letters, Sept. 16) took issue with the criticism of the economics of wind power in my Sept. 13 commentary, “Wind turbines a poor investment.” They cite the high subsidies to fossil fuels in comparison to renewable energy.

Their numbers are misleading. For example, Mr. Elrick notes the International Energy Agency’s estimates that fossil fuels received $557 billion in subsidies worldwide in 2008 while renewables received only $46 billion. Fair enough, but global production of renewable energy that year was the equivalent of roughly 40 billion gallons of gasoline – a subsidy of $1.15 per gallon. World production of fossil fuels, on the other hand, totaled 3.5 trillion gallons of gasoline equivalent, so the subsidy was $0.16 per gallon. In other words, Mr. Elrick’s numbers show that the subsidy for renewables was seven times greater than the fossil fuel subsidy.

The real question here is whether any town on the Cape would install a wind turbine if the town had to pay its full cost. I very much doubt it.

Bruce Everett