Date Presented

Spring 4-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Laura Henry-Stone, PhD

Second Advisor

Jennifer Styrsky, PhD

Third Advisor

Beth Savage, PhD


Renewable sources of energy remove dependence on fossil fuels. When renewable sources are adopted, they reduce damage to the environment from burning fossil fuels. Currently, fossil fuels are cheaper to produce, causing renewable energy to be used less. In the United States, fossil fuels receive heavy subsidies, keeping renewable energy in the periphery. This research explores the environmental and economic effects of subsidizing fossil fuels. Findings include that governments and citizens lose money when fossil fuels are subsidized. While subsidization initially makes them cheaper, they create expenses that are not factored into original costs, such as damage to human health and the environment. When these expenses are accounted for, fossil fuel costs exponentially outweigh renewable energy costs. Research identifies methods of decreasing fossil fuel subsidies such as “subsidy swapping,” measured workforce sector transitions, regional markets for pollution trading, and adoption of the Green New Deal or similar policy proposals, all of which reduce damage from climate change. When these methods are implemented, job creation results from a growing renewable energy sector, and billions of dollars are saved from stranding in a fossil fuel industry that will soon become economically inefficient and obsolete. Case studies of the United States and developing nations are compared to illustrate how the United States is bound by fossil fuel subsidies, whereas developing nations are taking steps to subsidize renewable energy because they will be disproportionately affected by environmental disasters caused by climate change.