Oil pump jacks in Eddy County, NM, on the Permian Field.
Oil pump jacks in Eddy County, NM, on the Permian Field. Photo credit: Blake Thornberry via Flickr

The analysis shows that billions of dollars in federal and state subsidies could enable large amounts of oil and gas production in the U.S. that would not otherwise be economic. At 50 USD per barrel, roughly the current oil price, nearly half of discovered (but not yet producing) U.S. oil would depend on subsidies to reach minimum returns acceptable to investors.

The additional oil produced due to subsidies would emit 8 billion tonnes of CO2 once combusted, about 1% of the world’s remaining carbon budget to keep warming under 2°C, the goal the U.S. committed to under the Paris Agreement.

At 50 USD per barrel, more than half of subsidy value would go directly to oil company profits, diverting considerable taxpayer resources from other possible uses. The share going to profits would increase to 98% if prices return to levels around 100 USD per barrel.

Eliminating U.S. oil production subsidies would avoid inefficient spending while avoiding substantial climate harm, both directly (reducing oil production) and indirectly (reinforcing an emerging political norm away from fossil fuel development).

Download the policy brief (PDF, 641kb)

Read the SEI working paper on which this brief is based »