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Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2015

Release date: March 12, 2015

A Wide Variety of Definitions, Methods and Estimates Occur in Other Energy Subsidy Studies

This report and its previous editions respond to a specific congressional request. There is a continuing debate over the scope, role, and effectiveness of energy policy measures, and several studies addressing energy subsidies appear each year from various sources. Some examples within the past five years include: (1) Environmental Law Institute (2009), ‘Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies to Energy Sources: 2002-2008’ (2) Earth Track, Inc. (2010), ‘EIA Energy Subsidy Estimates: A Review of Assumptions and Omissions’ (3) DBL Investors (2011), ‘What Would Jefferson Do? The Historical Role of Energy Subsidies in Shaping America’s Energy Future’ and (4) Management Information Services, Inc. (2011), ‘60 Years of Energy Incentives: Analysis of Federal Expenditures for Energy Development.’ Several of these reports and others in the literature seek to draw conclusions about policy issues related to energy subsidies.

This EIA report focuses on developing data to provide information that can be used by others to conduct their own analyses. Along with EIA, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) also issue occasional reports on the scope and nature of federal energy subsidies that mainly or exclusively focus on data. Recent CRS, CBO, and GAO reports include: (1) CRS (2012), ‘Energy Tax Incentives: Measuring Value Across Different Types of Energy Resources’12 (2) CBO (2012), ‘Federal Financial Support for the Development and Production of Fuels and Energy Technologies’ (3) GAO (2013), ‘Energy: Federal Support for Renewable and Advanced Energy Technologies’ and (4) GAO (2014), ‘Energy Policy: Information on Federal and Other Factors Influencing U.S. Energy Production and Consumption from 2000 through 2013.’ Taken together, the extensive literature on subsidies provides examples of how differing definitions and methods can yield a wide range of estimates and interpretations.

12CRS Report R41953, Energy Tax Incentives: Measuring Value Across Different Types of Energy Resources, September 18, 2013, by Molly F. Sherlock.