Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to make people care about an issue, like fossil fuel subsidies

In order to get people to care, you have to personalize your issue for them.

There has been a lot of talk about fossil fuel subsidies recently. But what is missing is the impact to me, as an individual. It's often know as the WIIFM (what's in it for me) approach. It is an effective method to making someone change their mind, or motivating them to do something above and beyond what they were planning to do.

There are numbers thrown out all the time about how many billions of dollars that we give to companies, who are reporting billions of dollars in profit. Sounds like large numbers, but over a million dollars, and even I get lost in how big that is.

From 2002 to 2008 (7 years), the US Government gave the fossil fuel industry over $72 billion in subsidies. I've heard in the past that we spend around $10 billion per year, so that's close enough. The US Government has a budget of around $3.6 trillion dollars (yes, trillion, or 3,600 billion to make the math simpler).

So if we divide the $10B by the total budget of $3600B, we calculate that 0.28% of the US budget is spent on these subsidies.

So in order to personalize it, I need to figure out how much I am personally paying to these subsidies.

I paid in $17,500 in taxes last year, so I can multiply that by 0.28%, and that comes out to $48.60. We'll round to $50, to make it simple. Now we take that one step further, that's about $4 per month. That number doesn't seem that much, but essentially you're buying the fossil fuel industry a sandwich each month, and they're not even hungry. Click to retweet >>