Mar 2Liked by Emily Atkin

This really is an exceptional article on this issue of fossil fuel subsidies. And I want to expand on something mentioned in the article.

“but Europe looked to coal and natural gas from other countries to stockpile fuel reserves for winter”

I think it is important to look at the secondary effects of policies like this, because as is discussed in the article about broken promises, those effects really illustrate how much of a broken promise this all is.

Europe is buying massive amounts of natural gas and coal, as mentioned, and since they are much wealthier than other countries who need that natural gas, they can out buy them. Which then leads to those countries having to burn more carbon intensive fuels like coal.

“Pakistan plans to quadruple its domestic coal-fired capacity to reduce power generation costs and will not build new gas-fired plants in the coming years”

“Despite power demand increasing in 2022, Pakistan's annual LNG imports fell to the lowest levels in five years as European buyers elbowed out price-sensitive consumers.”


All while pushing an image on the global stage of being leaders of a clean energy transition, and telling poorer countries to not build or use infrastructure like coal plants.

Which they shouldn’t, but then don’t be surprised when they have to resort to stuff like coal when you are buying the natural gas they would have used instead.

And that isn’t even getting into how Europe will get the energy benefits of these fuels, while poorer developing countries have to deal with the negatives of extracting and processing them.

Wealthy Europe is subsidizing fossil fuels not only in the market price, but since they have a carbon trading market, they are paying even more, so poorer countries have to subsidize new coal plants. All while pushing this image of being leaders on a clean energy transition.

When in fact it is their own abject failure of having sensible clean energy policy, worsening the climate crisis. Just a despicable broken promise.

I really don’t have a word for it other than it is just fucked and it makes me so god damn angry.

And for whatever it’s worth, I have never and will never be disappointed in anything HEATED publishes or produces. So much work goes into everything you do, and it matters so fucking much, I’m never disappointed by it.

Really, thank you for the excellent article.

Expand full comment

I live near part of the route of the proposed Uinta Oil Train. The section of new rail line is asking for subsidized loans from a US DOT fund. Two billion bucks or so I think. Who knows if these subsidies are even counted as "fossil fuel." https://coloradosun.com/2023/02/24/uinta-basin-railway-bonds/

Expand full comment

Another example of how the fossil fuel industry puts profits over the health of Americans:


The recent chemical catastrophe of the Ohio train derailment near the border of Pennsylvania:


Expand full comment

Emily and Arielle, thanks for delivering such informed and thorough reporting. I’m never sorry for the investment in independent climate journalism like HEATED. I’m mad as hell and I’m doing something about it. Your newsletter feeds our community and helps us build momentum.

Expand full comment

The fuel "crisis" prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine was another missed opportunity to seriously rethink our reliance on fossil fuels. Instead, we literally doubled down on subsidies. It would be more disappointing if it weren't so predictable.

Expand full comment

So very true!

By far, the most important measure is how quickly we build up green energy sources. It was terribly disappointing that the US/EU didn't meet the moment of the Ukrainian war with a massive, national emergency green energy building plan.

As soon as the market is flooded with low cost, green energy, the fossil fuel companies and petro-dictators lose all influence.

Expand full comment

I fully understand the criticisms of treaties not being enforceable and/or having real consequences for noncompliance. But then I think, ok - play this out fully. What does it take to make them enforceable? And by what authority? Who will be the global police against the top polluters? That is something we rarely see beyond a few what-ifs. What is the real, tangible penalty? A time-out? Perhaps more economic sanctions on struggling economies?

The trade tariff proposal is one way, but then play that out to full execution. Just like during the Trump years when all the criticisms of tariffs stated it is the poor people in the US that really end up paying the extra money. And maybe those tariffs just end up a business transaction vs. actually making progress with emissions reductions.

The Montreal Protocol is often used as an example of something that works, but it is never explained how exactly that works with something far more reaching into our economic engine.

It’s been also said that we essentially need the reductions that happened during the global pandemic to be happening every year, with all the reductions in economic activity that go along with it. How in the world do we make that happen ?

I appreciate bringing forward the failures of all of the past agreements. The frustrations are warranted and shared. But when it comes down to it, making an enforceable plan and acknowledging all the ramifications to make it that way is pretty darn tough. We have certainly created one massive hole for ourselves. I fear it will ultimately be Nature that will play the part of the enforcer, the higher authority. And she will be fierce and unrelenting.

Expand full comment
RemovedMar 2
Comment removed
Expand full comment