Russell Harland argues in his letter May 9 that if solar and wind power were competitive, they would not need subsidies. Yet between 1950 and 2010, the federal government provided $594 billion of subsidies for fossil fuels compared with $74 billion for renewables according to a 2011 study commissioned by the Nuclear Energy Institute.
In addition, Americans spend $120 billion per year on health-care costs associated with burning fossil fuels, an indirect subsidy to the fossil fuel industry. The National Academy of Sciences estimated this hidden subsidy at 3.2 cents per kWh for coal in 2005. Other estimates are as much as tenfold that cost. If fossil fuels are competitive, why do they need such subsidies?
Mr. Harland has a valid point about subsidies, though. Let’s stop all subsidies and price energy according to true costs, including health care, by adding a fee for each ton of carbon produced. Rather than subsidizing anything, return that fee to the American people and let us spend it where we want. When people pay the true costs for their energy, without subsidies, there is no question that renewables will win. And so will the American people.
Tom Lambert, Yosemite National Park