The producer benefits of implicit fossil fuel subsidies in the United States

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    This paper estimates the financial benefits accruing to fossil fuel producers (i.e., the producer incidence) that arise because of implicit fossil fuel subsidies in the United States. The analysis takes account of coal, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel, along with the implicit subsidies due to externalized environmental damages, public health effects, and transportation-related costs. The direct benefit to fossil fuel producers across all four fuels is estimated at $62 billion per year, a sum calculated due to the higher price that suppliers receive because of inefficient pricing compared to the counterfactual scenario where environmental and public health externalities are internalized. A significant portion of these benefits accrue to relatively few companies, and specific estimates are provided for companies with the largest production. The financial benefit because of unpriced costs borne by society is comparable to 18% of net income from continuing domestic operations for the median natural gas and oil producer in 2017-2018, and it exceeds net income for the majority of coal producers. The results clarify what the domestic fossil fuel industry has at stake financially when it comes to policies that seek to address climate change, adverse health effects from local pollution, and inefficient transportation.