Before wading into the detail there's another thing to explore (beyond me making the habitual whinge that they don't provide a convenient link to the report they're talking about) which is the word "subsidy". Last time (see my link) we had a big discussion about what might meaningfully be called a subsidy. This time, the source report OECD Companion to the Inventory of Support Measures for Fossil Fuels 2018 (at least, I assume that's their source, I can't be sure, see rant previous) somewhat interestingly uses the word "support" not "subsidy", at least in their headline. Is this a semantic game or does it matter? If the OECD has deliberately chosen a different word, it would be nice to think they probably have a good reason. But it isn't clear that they do have; if they explain the distinction they are trying to make, I failed to find it (and, for example, fig 1.3 is headlined fossil fuel support in Indonesia, but the caption reports subsidy data). CarbonBrief uses the word "support" 59 times and the word "subsidy" 35 times, but as far as I can see show no awareness of any difference. So, I shall ignore the distinction and use the word "subsidy".
An example of how slippery the concept of "subsidy" is, is provided by figure 1.2, for the column for France, which shows a huge increase in support for Coal. Foot note 2 helpfully explains this: France introduced a "carbon tax component in fuel taxation" in 2015, but energy-intensive things not covered by the ETS and that were subject to possible "carbon leakage" pay pre-2015 tax rates. This counts as support. And in a sense it is; but it would probably be more accurately be described as "non-penalisation". And of course the industry itself has not had its tax position changed at all by this measure, yet it shows as a huge change.
Another is something not in the OECD report, but in the CarbonBrief report, is specific report to UK fossil fuel support. This notes that The UK defines fossil fuel subsidies as government action that “lowers the pretax price to consumers to below international market levels”. Therefore, the UK government argues that it does not provide any fossil fuel subsidies. CB notes that this is similar to the definition used by the IEA; but then continues Definitions of “fossil fuel subsidy” aside, the OECD inventory documents a significant level of support for fossil fuels in the UK. So, that's a bit confusing.
Some things are unambiguous subsidies: where the government supplies fuel at prices below market rates. Those are stupid and should be stopped, obviously. The report notes Mexico and Indonesia moving in this direction. On the producer side, the report tells me that Germany subsidies hard-coal production (this OECD report says As production costs remain well above revenues, the company gets substantial government subsidies). That's mad, obviously, and shouldn't happen.
There's another oddity, on page 18, where they discuss (with approval) France and Belgium "phased out fossil fuel subsidies" by removing the tax differentiation between Petrol and Diesel. But this doesn't make sense: diesel is more CO2-efficient, and so should indeed be taxed less? Ah, but although the report cares deeply about the Paris agreement etc. etc., CO2 is not it's measure; all they care about is differentials? I don't really understand their thinking on this point and they don't really explain themselves. They seem to regard any (tax) that differentiates between petrol and diesel as a subsidy; would they regard tax differentials between petrol and coal as a subsidy?
There appears to be a concept of "efficient" and "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies. Unfortunately the last sentence of the Exec Summary notes that there is no consensus as to when a subsidy might be "inefficient". So although people promise to phase out "inefficient" subsidies (as you'd rather hope; why have them in the first place?) this may not mean very much. Section 1.2 discusses this; the implication is that subsidies that encourage wasteful use are "inefficient".
Overall the report isn't really telling me what I'd like to see. I'd like to see total subsidies split up into different classes, and by different countries, in a more useful way. Figure A.1 (I've belatedly got that far) partially answers that.
Maggie, head of a truncated Lents. Caius bumped Downing to go second, but would not have caught Maggie even if the other two days had happened; it took them until past the railway bridge to get Downing. See more.