Top Expert on Energy Subsidies Demolishes Bjorn Lomborg’s Disinformation

We’ve called out Bjorn Lomborg (an “associate professor of statistics” who is “not a climate scientist or economist,” but who is well known for his “extensive and extensively documented errors and misrepresentations”) a couple times on this blog, including this post by Tigercomm President Mike Casey.

Here’s Bjorn Lomborg, apparently trying to curry the favor of fossil fuel funders with another piece that talks down clean energy and that wholly ignores the staggeringly large dirty energy welfare.

This is not the first time that Lomborg, a discredited “skeptic” around global climate disruption, has plunged into the world of clean energy policy

Now, Lomborg’s back at it yet again, with more disinformation and deception on clean energy in a Wall Street Journal piece entitled “Green energy is the real subsidy hog.”  This is a favorite argument of cleantech bashers, one that’s particularly tiresome because it’s so wildly false.  Unfortunately, despite its falsehood, this “argument” has gotten significant play over the years. In large part, this is because – as Jeffrey Sachs points out in today’s Washington Post – the oil and gas industry has almost unlimited money to spend both to “bury climate-change information and policies.” They also use their enormous profits to fund a network of “think tanks” specifically geared towards promoting fossil fuels and bashing the rising clean energy industry.

Fortunately, in spite of all their money and disinformation, there’s one thing the fossil fuel folks can’t buy: the truth.  And that leaves them vulnerable to thorough debunkings of their falsehoods.  For instance, we strongly recommend the demolition of Bjorn Lomborg’s Wall Street Journal hit piece by Doug Koplow, one of the leading experts in the world on the subject of energy subsidies. If you have a few minutes, check out the entire deconstrucdtion of Lomborg’s “argument.” For now, here are a few highlights:
  • Not only is green energy NOT a “subsidy hog,” in fact “dollars to renewables were quite small until the early 1990s, and become mere rounding errors for that time period once one removes (as I believe they should) support to corn ethanol and large scale hydro plants.” In contrast, “subsidies to oil and gas date back at least a century.”
  • Lomborg also ignores negative “exernalities,” and “ignored externalities mean artificially low delivered prices for fossil fuels, and systematic underinvestment into improved efficiency and conservation.”
  • Unlike the fossil fuel folks, who deny that the massive taxpayer-funded corporate welfare they receive is even a “subsidy,” the “people in the wind or solar industries…are actually quite candid that what they are getting from the government are subsidies.”
  • The Wall Street Journal, where Lomborg’s op-ed appears, “has run numerous editorial pieces on subsidies to wind and ethanol.” In stark contrast, the Wall Street Journal “has run pretty much nothing on subsidies to nuclear or to fossil fuels — the only exceptions being postings by people claiming, as Lomberg has, that the fossil fuel subsidies are small and mostly pretend figments of crazed greenie imaginations.”  On this same topic, we also recommend the superb report by the Checks & Balances Project, “Fossil Fuel Front Groups on the Front Page,” which explains how fossil-fuel-funded front groups “have been secretly influencing the media and the public on energy issues by moving pro-fossil fuel messaging.”
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One thought on “Top Expert on Energy Subsidies Demolishes Bjorn Lomborg’s Disinformation

  1. Thank you for calling our attention to Kudlow’s decimation of Lomborg.

    The “Smiling Dane” is truly dangerous because he seems so reasonable. His disinformation and truthiness are far from limited to The Wall Street Journal, but regularly appears in The Washington Post and he gets rather gentle treatment on talk shows (whether TV or NPR).

    Lomborg is truly in a select group: there are few other people who have had Yale University Press publish a book dedicated solely to showing how they systematically deceive through fake / false / misleading footnoting. http://getenergysmartnow.com/2010/04/21/energy-bookshelf-the-lomborg-deception-leads-to-a-question-does-the-washington-post-have-any-honor-left/

    And …

    Here and in Kudlow’s piece there is a framing issue — the externalities is a huge issue and it is one that is susceptible to better framing: Ignoring Externalities is a HUGE SUBSIDY. And, unlike minimal cash ‘subsidies’ to renewable energy, we are subsidizing fossil fuels with our health and with risks to future viability of human civilization. That is a set of far greater — and far more painful — subsidies than anything imagined for clean energy.

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