Norman Myers Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Journey of an Environmental Scientist: Conversation with Norman Myers; 11/11/98 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

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Perverse Subsidies

Some of the research you're doing now is on what you call "perverse subsidies." What are they, and are they a handle on reaching people and changing our ways if they were done away with?

Yes, absolutely, by a long, long way. Harry, I mentioned several times fossil fuels because that not only brings on global warming but urban smog and acid rain, and all kinds of other problems. We need to get out of fossil fuels and into clean, renewable forms of energy like solar power, wind power, there's lots and lots available. Why don't we? Well because they aren't competitive commercially in the marketplace with fossil fuels. But fossil fuels are so cheap, artificially, because of government subsidies. For every $1 going into solar power or wind power, there are $15 of government subsidy going into fossil fuels, which is crazy. Because of all the problems they cause, we should be taxing them highly, no subsidies at all. But instead of that they're not taxed up to the hilt. And the car industry -- Detroit -- is on welfare. Gets an awful lot of subsidies. If we'd get rid of these subsidies that are bad for the economy, as well as bad for the environment, then we'd go an awful long way to fixing up a whole lot of problems in agriculture, water shortages, over-harvesting of fisheries, over-logging of forests, in transportation -- [ending perverse subsidies] would do us all a great deal of good, economically and environmentally as well. It would be a win-win situation.

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