Beyond Cost: Examining Tax Subsidies to the Energy Industry

37 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2013 Last revised: 30 Oct 2014

Tracey M. Roberts

Cumberland School of Law, Samford University

Date Written: October 28, 2014


While the conflicts between energy law and environmental policy have been critiqued and environmental law has itself been scrutinized as an obstacle to the transition to a clean energy economy, environmental scholars have paid less attention to the way tax policy has been used or misused in achieving energy and environmental goals. This article contributes to the tax policy and environmental law literature by examining tax subsidies to the energy industry on a qualitative basis. Taking tax subsidies to the fossil fuel and renewable energy industries as a case study, the article compares their structures and the political economy associated with their development and maintenance over time. Fossil fuels subsidies, whole structured effectively, further distort the market rather than correcting for market failures and should be eliminated. Renewable energy subsidies, on the other hand, are structured in a way that makes them far less effective in facilitating capital formation. They have instead, at times, undermined the development of the renewable energy industry and should be reformed.

Keywords: Tax Subsidy, Production Tax Credit, Investment Tax Credit, Renewable Energy, Publicly Traded Partnerships, Master Limited Partnerships, Fossil Fuels

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Tracey M., Beyond Cost: Examining Tax Subsidies to the Energy Industry (October 28, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Tracey Michelle Roberts (Contact Author)

Cumberland School of Law, Samford University ( email )

800 Lakeshore Dr.
Birmingham, AL 35229
United States
(303) 818-8589 (Phone)

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