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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)

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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

The World’s Biggest Oil Producers in 2023

Just three countries accounted for 40% of global oil production last year.

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Donut chart showing the biggest oil producers by country in 2023.

The World’s Biggest Oil Producers in 2023

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email.

Despite efforts to decarbonize the global economy, oil still remains one of the world’s most important resources. It’s also produced by a fairly limited group of countries, which can be a source of economic and political leverage.

This graphic illustrates global crude oil production in 2023, measured in million barrels per day, sourced from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Three Countries Account for 40% of Global Oil Production

In 2023, the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia collectively contributed 32.7 million barrels per day to global oil production.

Oil Production 2023Million barrels per day
🇺🇸 U.S.12.9
🇷🇺 Russia10.1
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia9.7
🇨🇦 Canada4.6
🇮🇶 Iraq4.3
🇨🇳 China4.2
🇮🇷 Iran3.6
🇧🇷 Brazil3.4
🇦🇪 UAE3.4
🇰🇼 Kuwait2.7
🌍 Other22.8

These three nations have consistently dominated oil production since 1971. The leading position, however, has alternated among them over the past five decades.

In contrast, the combined production of the next three largest producers—Canada, Iraq, and China—reached 13.1 million barrels per day in 2023, just surpassing the production of the United States alone.

In the near term, no country is likely to surpass the record production achieved by the U.S. in 2023, as no other producer has ever reached a daily capacity of 13.0 million barrels. Recently, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Saudi Aramco scrapped plans to increase production capacity to 13.0 million barrels per day by 2027.

In 2024, analysts forecast that the U.S. will maintain its position as the top oil producer. In fact, according to Macquarie Group, U.S. oil production is expected to achieve a record pace of about 14 million barrels per day by the end of the year.

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