One of the most persistent arguments coming from those who oppose renewable energy subsidies is that they could never stand on their own without government intervention and that we should let the market decide which electricity source is best. A complete analysis of the problems with that argument are beyond the scope of this post, but one thing that is too often overlooked is the fact that fossil fuels receive a tremendous amount of federal support, an amount that has traditionally dwarfed the supports given to renewables like solar, wind and geothermal.
The above graphic circulated around the internet last fall and I apologize if you have seen it enough, however, it stands as an important reminder of where we were and how far we need to go for true parity in the marketplace. And while the feds have ramped-up investment in renewables and President Obama has proposed eliminating federal subsidies for fossil fuels in his 2011 budget, the billions of dollars spent on securing and protecting our oil interests in the Middle East means that the federal energy subsidy scales will likely still tip in favor of the fossil fuel industry for the foreseeable future.
So next time you hear the argument that renewables cannot stand on their own without massive tax subsidies, remember this graphic.