When oil started leaking from Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, did you know that you were paying BP and Halliburton to contribute to the disaster?

If you are a US taxpayer, you certainly did. From undeserved tax breaks to direct payouts, the oil industry in the US is receiving all sorts of subsidies, while at the same time raking in billions and soiling beaches.

A New York Times article has outlined just how deep those subsidies go, and asked an important question: why do they even exist?

It seems to me that subsidies are justified, to put it very simply, in the rare times when an economic sector essential for the well-being of a nation is under extreme financial difficulties (and if you disagree with this definition, feel free to explain in comments).

Looking at soiled beaches, destroyed fisheries and a dying gulf of Mexico, I find it hard to see how oil drilling can be essential for anyone's well-being. I fully agree that we need to get our energy from somewhere, but there are real alternatives out there that won't do that kind of damage. So half my criteria is gone. Regarding the other - I don't think any oil company out there is in real economic danger - except maybe BP now, since it's becoming obvious that the White House won't let them get away with destroying Louisiana's marches (but unlike some people, I'm not going to start feeling sorry for them).

If you don't live in the US, don't start thinking it's not happening to you either. Fossil fuels live on a nice cushion in a lot of places. Even if extracted fossil fuels don't end up causing a monster oil spill, they cause a lot of damage - and as long as we continue paying people to cause climate change, we're in the wrong paradigm. Anyone up for changing it?

UPDATE July 6th: Well, that didn't take long. The American Petroleum Institute has announced they will start running TV ads to protect their soft cushion.