06/23/2010 09:23 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Leaked Memo: World Leaders Plan to Backtrack on End to Oil Company Handouts

I suspect Pittsburgh might have something to do with politicians making promises they cannot keep.

It has always baffled me as to why oil companies -- the largest, most profitable companies in the entire world -- need taxpayers to subsidize their business.

Worldwide, an estimated $500 billion in taxpayers dollars a year is handed over to oil and other fossil fuel companies, such as ExxonMobil, who made a record $45.2 billion in profit in 2008, making it the largest company in the history of companies.

Our world leaders know it is absurd to be giving so much money over to the oil companies, and they also know that it is creating an unfair playing field for those in the clean-energy sector who do not receive similar taxpayer hand-outs.

In fact, two weeks ago President Barack Obama told business leaders at an address he made in Pittsburgh that he would ask Congress to phase out taxpayer handouts to oil companies in his country. He said that he wants to roll back "billions of dollars in tax breaks" for oil companies and begin to look at ways to significantly increase investment in clean energy alternatives.

This is the same forward thinking that many other world leaders, including President Obama, displayed at last year's G20 conference held in Pittsburgh (see why I'm suspicious about Pittsburgh now) where they all signed on to a memorandum of understanding agreeing to "... rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption," estimating a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 10 percent by mid-century. They pledged to have energy and finance ministers develop "implementation strategies and timetables."

But here we are a year later, and a leaked draft agenda for this year's G20 summit in Toronto, Canada, has emerged outlining a plan that will completely water down the earlier commitment to ending handouts to oil companies by making it voluntary for countries to do so.

According to a report earlier today on E&E:

..this weekend [G20 leaders] will tell the world they have "reviewed progress made to date in identifying inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and we agree to continue working to develop voluntary, member-specific approaches for the rationalization and phase out of such measures..." Analysts noted that the language fails to specify what progress, if any, actually was made." [my emphasis]

Steve Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International told E &E that:

Last year, there was ambiguity around timetables; it was unclear who was going to do what by when -- but they did all say they're going to phase it out. Now they're going to say -- they'll do it when they feel like it, and everyone can interpret it differently.

This is only a draft agenda, and you can download the PDF here to see it for yourself. The language could change if pressure is brought to bear on the issue, so anyone with a blog or an ear to a politician or media outlet, get the word out that we cannot have our world leaders waffling on this very important commitment.

And maybe tell them to think twice about visiting Pittsburgh -- I think there's some type of flip-flop virus in the water (I kid of course, I've been to Pittsburgh twice and it is surprisingly one of the prettiest and greenest places in America).