The Case for Subsidies: In a Word, Green Tech

Should corporate subsidies, drivers of corruption and unfairness, be eliminated?  Or do they serve a public good, filling gaps that the commercial sector can’t or won’t fill? That was the question on the table at Intelligence2’s public debate in New York City on April 6. Kate Gordon, the Paulson Institute’s vice chair of sustainable urbanization and former head of the Risky Business Project, and her debating partner Michael Lind, co-founder of New America, argued against eliminating corporate subsidies. They won in a landslide audience vote. The most compelling argument: climate change.

“The big gorilla in the room on this is climate change…It will create enormous risk in the long term if we don’t deal with it, but there’s not a lot of upside to dealing with it today if you’re in the private sector. Oil is super cheap. Why wouldn’t you just keep using oil?” Gordon said. “It involves new emerging technologies that are not yet on the market but that we need on the market, and we need them quickly to build up and deal with this problem of climate change…This is for everyone. We don’t do that so well in the private sector…Climate change is a big, hairy problem where we need some government intervention.”