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Charted: $5 Trillion in Fossil Fuel Subsidies

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Fossil fuel subsidies

Charted: $5 Trillion in Fossil Fuel Subsidies (2010-2021)

With energy consumption vital for life and business, governments often look to fossil fuel subsidies to make energy as affordable as possible.

These subsidies artificially reduce the price of fossil fuels and generally take two forms:

  • Production subsidies occur when governments provide tax cuts or direct payments that reduce the cost of producing coal, oil, or gas.
  • Consumption subsidies cut fuel prices for the end-user through price controls and other such measures.

Each year, governments around the world pour nearly half a trillion dollars into fossil fuel subsidies. This chart breaks down a decade of fossil fuel consumption subsidies by energy source using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Breaking Down Fossil Fuel Consumption Subsidies

Since 2010, governments have spent over $5 trillion in fossil fuel consumption subsidies. The majority of this sum went towards making oil more affordable, as seen below:

Subsidies by Year (US$)OilElectricityNatural GasCoalTotal
2010$203.0B$143.5B$113.6B$2.7B$462.9B
2011$263.7B$147.2B$100.4B$3.6B$514.0B
2012$304.0B$149.9B$132.2B$3.3B$589.5B
2013$300.0B$132.8B$119.1B$1.7B$553.6B
2014$262.4B$124.1B$104.2B$1.1B$491.9B
2015$147.3B$119.2B$83.6B$1.5B$351.5B
2016$110.2B$132.8B$56.7B$2.2B$301.9B
2017$153.5B$136.2B$65.2B$2.7B$357.6B
2018$195.3B$167.4B$106.0B$3.0B$471.7B
2019$134.2B$124.8B$51.0B$2.2B$312.2B
2020$90.4B$52.5B$36.9B$1.7B$181.5B
Total$2,164.0B$1,430.4B$968.9B$25.7B$4,588.3B

Fossil fuel subsidies fell to a decade low in 2020 as the pandemic hampered fuel consumption and triggered a nosedive in oil prices. However, after two years of straight declines, the IEA estimates that governments around the world spent $440 billion on subsidizing fossil fuel consumption over 2021, representing a 142% rise year-over-year.

Breaking down the subsidies by fuel, oil accounts for 43% or over $2 trillion of all subsidies between 2010 and 2020. Together, oil and electricity generated by fossil fuels received nearly 75% of all subsidies.

Despite growing support for the clean energy transition, the fossil fuel industry reaps the benefits of billions in subsidies annually—but why?

Why Do Governments Subsidize Fossil Fuels?

High energy prices can have rippling effects throughout an economy.

For consumers, heating and transportation become more expensive. And for producers who use energy and oil as inputs, the cost of goods and services goes up.

Often, governments turn to energy subsidies to keep prices down and encourage economic activity. Therefore, there’s a high cost to removing these subsidies, especially in developing countries where large parts of the population might lack access to affordable energy.

But fossil fuel subsidies can also have detrimental effects. By artificially lowering prices, they can encourage overconsumption of carbon-intense fuels, creating negative externalities through adverse environmental and health impacts. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, these add up to an amount anywhere between $2.6 to $8.1 trillion globally.

Despite these disadvantages, fossil fuels remain an important part of the global energy mix, with continued support from governments. And with energy prices soaring, 2022 could be another year of billions in fossil fuel subsidies.

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Energy Shift

Visualized: The Growth of Clean Energy Stocks

Visual Capitalist partnered with EnergyX to analyze five major clean energy stocks and explore the factors driving this growth.

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This line chart shows the growth of clean energy stocks and hints at their cumulative five-year returns.

The Growth of Clean Energy Stocks

Over the last few years, energy investment trends have shifted from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy sources. Long-term energy investors now see significant returns from clean energy stocks, especially compared to those invested in fossil fuels alone.

For this graphic, Visual Capitalist has collaborated with EnergyX to examine the rise of clean energy stocks and gain a deeper understanding of the factors driving this growth.

Sustainable Energy Stock Performance

In 2023, the IEA reported that 62% of all energy investment went toward sustainable sources. As the world embraces sustainable energy and technologies like EVs, it’s no surprise that clean energy companies provide solid returns for their investors over long periods.

Taking the top-five clean energy stocks by market cap (as of April 2024) and charting their five-year cumulative returns, it is clear that investments in clean energy are growing:

CompanyPrice: 01/04/2019Price: 12/29/20245-Year-Return %
First Solar, Inc.$46.32$172.28272%
Enphase Energy, Inc.$5.08$132.142,501%
Consolidated Edison, Inc.$76.55$90.9719%
NextEra Energy, Inc.$43.13$60.7441%
Brookfield Renewable Partners$14.78$26.2878%
promotional graphic with a button and wheel that promotes the EnergyX investment site

But how does this compare to the performance of fossil fuel stocks?

When comparing the performance of the S&P Global Oil Index and the S&P Clean Energy Index between 2019 and 2023, we see that the former returned 15%, whereas the latter returned an impressive 41%. This trend demonstrates the potential for clean energy stocks to yield significant returns on an industry level, sparking optimism and excitement for potential investors.

A Shift In Returns

With global investment trends moving away from traditional, non-sustainable sources, the companies that could shape the energy transition provide investors with alternative opportunities and avenues for growth.

One such company is EnergyX. The lithium technology company has patented a groundbreaking technology that can improve lithium extraction rates by an incredible 300%, and its stock price has grown tenfold since its first offering in 2021.

promotional graphic that promotes the EnergyX investment site
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Energy Shift

Visualized: A Decade of Clean Energy Investment

In this graphic, Visual Capitalist has partnered with EnergyX to explore the growth of global clean energy investment.

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Visualized: A Decade of Clean Energy Investment

Global energy investment is growing every year. But recently, investments in clean energy have been significantly outpacing investments in fossil fuels.

For this graphic, we partnered with EnergyX to explore how global energy investment has changed and learn how investments in clean energy are starting to pay off for their investors.

The Rise of Sustainable Energy Investment

Propelled by various climate initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and the widespread adoption of EVs, global investment in sustainable energy surged to over $1.7 trillion in 2023, the highest ever, and the IEA projects that this growth could continue:

Energy Product20202021202220232030F
Clean Electrification$0.97T$1.05$1.21T$1.34T$1.65T
Low-Emission Fuels$0.01T$0.01$0.01T$0.02T$0.05T
Energy Efficiency$0.28T$0.35$0.39T$0.38T$0.49T
Clean Energy Total$1.26T$1.41T$1.61T$1.74T$2.19T
Natural Gas$0.26T$0.27T$0.31T$0.32T$0.35T
Oil$0.42T$0.48T$0.52T$0.55T$0.60T
Coal$0.16T$0.16T$0.18T$0.18T$0.11T
Fossil Fuel Total$0.84T$0.91T$1.01T$1.05T$1.06T
Total Energy Investment$2.10T$2.32T$2.62T$2.79T$3.25T
promotional graphic with a button and wheel that promotes the EnergyX investment site

Between 2020 and 2030, global investment in sustainable energy could increase by 74% to nearly $2.2 trillion, compared to just 26% additional investment in fossil fuels, with a forecast total of $1.06 trillion. This shows that sustainability is the future of energy investment.

Sustainable Investor Success Stories

While the growing investments in clean energy show that the world embraces sustainability, energy investors will still look for decent returns. Now, in 2024, clean energy investments are beginning to bear fruit. Here are just a few examples:

  • Between 2019 and 2023, Tesla had a cumulative return of 1,073%
  • NextEra Energy’s quarterly dividend increased by over 10% as of February 2024
  • Investors in EnergyX have 10x’ed their investments since the company’s first offering in 2021

Lithium plays a critical role in powering electric vehicles (EVs) and facilitating the transition to sustainable energy. EnergyX has patented technology that enhances lithium extraction rates by up to 300%, contributing to meeting the growing demand for lithium and fueling the EVs of the future.

promotional graphic that promotes the EnergyX investment site
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