Current Event

Environmental Subsidies: Helpful, Harmful or Hopeful?

Date & Time: Tue., December 7, 2021 at 6:00 PM
Venue: Online

About this Event

BASG’s topic for September has its origins in reflecting on the effectiveness of incentives to accelerate adoption of sustainability-minded solutions (e.g., residential/community solar, electric cars) and the creation of green jobs. That path quickly led us to the topic of subsidies – big and small, well- and poorly-designed, local and broad – that has piqued our interest all summer. The more we’ve learned and been stunned by the impacts of certain approaches, the more excited we’ve become to share resources, stories, and insights related to subsidies with you.

In addition to regulatory approaches, the government uses subsidies (financial or market-based incentives like taxes, loans, exemptions, and guarantees) to address environmental issues. Their outcomes can come with serious tradeoffs and put communities and individuals face to face with industry on what is really best for energy, the environment, the economy, and all those involved. Our speakers for the evening are deeply involved in unpacking the complexities of these tools and exploring with new transparency how they actually work, where, and to whose benefit. 

As usual, we will begin with a broad overview of subsidies to lay the groundwork of our conversation and follow with more concrete examples of different strategies applied to varying degrees of success. We hope you’ll come away from the evening with a more informed understanding of how subsidies are designed, what to expect in terms of their impact, and strategies to stay informed and influence existing and emerging adoption of these powerful interventions.

Our Speakers

Doug Koplow, Founder, Earth Track

Doug Koplow founded Earth Track in 1999 to more effectively integrate information on energy subsidies. For the past three decades, he has written extensively on natural resource subsidies for organizations such as the Global Subsidies Initiative, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and the Stockholm Environment Institute. He has analyzed scores of government programs and made important developments in subsidy valuation techniques. He has provided input on subsidy reform legislation, served as a peer reviewer on subsidy papers from all over the world, and has published his own work in major journals and as book chapters. In recent years, his work has focused on subsidies to fossil fuels and to nuclear power.

Doug’s work outside of the subsidy area has included water pricing and conservation, wastewater treatment, recycling, and more robust approaches to decarbonize institutional endowments. Working collaboratively with other organizations, Earth Track focuses on ways to more effectively align the incentives of key stakeholder groups and to leverage market forces to help address complex environmental challenges.

He holds an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and a BA in economics from Wesleyan University.

Greg LeRoy, Executive Director, Good Jobs First

Dubbed “the leading [U.S.] national watchdog of state and local economic development subsidies,” and “an encyclopedia of information regarding subsidies,” Greg founded and directs Good Jobs First, a research and policy center promoting accountability in economic development. His two books include The Great American Jobs Scam, which Publishers Weekly called “…a parade of damning case studies showing why communities should not woo corporations with subsidies.” 

Good Jobs First is the leading voice within the U.S. labor movement for smart growth and transit-oriented development. It has also published more studies than any other group in the world documenting the pro-sprawl spatial distribution of subsidy awards, and recommending ways to make incentives “location efficient.” 

GJF is home to Subsidy TrackerTax Break TrackerViolation Tracker, and Covid Stimulus Watch. GJF led the campaign for Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures, a landmark in U.S. municipal finance. 


Main photo credit: Tomáš Petz via Unsplash