While the official process of setting the federal budget for the fiscal year doesn't begin until October 1, Obama's energy department released its "wish list" earlier this week.

Among other things, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and associates are proposing to remove $4 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel companies. At the same time, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would benefit from a 29 percent hike in funding, up to $2.34 billion.

But is this really enough of a change? The answer is a resounding no, and not just from environmentalists. Recent and ongoing studies have shown the true cost to taxpayers of extensive subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry.

Experts estimate that oil companies receive between $10 to $40 billion a year in subsidies. This accounts for approximately two-thirds of the total subsidies for fossil fuels. The proposed $4 billion cut sounds a whole lot less impressive in comparison.

Aside from the obvious environmental reasons, we have to wonder why the oil industry is so heavily subsidized in the first place. It's no infant industry, so why do we protect it so much? In contrast, renewable energy is arguably in its infancy, yet the budget is set to cut research funding for fuel cells.

However, the direct subsidies are only the tip of the iceberg. Taxpayers pick up most of the negative externalities associated with air pollution, oil spills, and so on. This is no small issue; damage and cleanup costs are estimated to be in the range of $120 billion to half a trillion dollars every year.

These estimates don't even consider the long-term impacts, only one of which is climate change. As Dylan Ratigan, the author of "Greedy Bastards" and the man behind this renewed push toward removing subsidies for fossil fuel, points out, these numbers don't factor in the billions spent on wars to secure oil and the American lives lost in the process.

And what about climate change? More frequent and severe storms, rising sea levels, and much more all owe their roots to this addiction to fossil fuel. The costs seem to be endless.

What this amounts to—and the reason that it is important to consider—is that the price of a gallon of gasoline is currently $10 cheaper than it would be in a truly free market.

In a true market economy, companies take care of their own waste, and are collectively penalized for the damage to the environment. As Ratigan writes in his book, how can the free market "help [us] decide if it's worth switching from gas to another fuel, because the market isn't free, it's rigged?"

To this, supporters of the oil industry might reply that we have no choice, and that all we can do for the time being is move toward domestic oil. Or—the goal of the Keystone pipeline—toward safer supplies.

But again, we must reject this as a viable alternative. As Michael Levi writes, the fossil fuel industry is a global one; prices are not determined on a nation-by-nation basis. When the turmoil in Libya began last year and crude oil prices went up 30 percent, the price of Canadian oil shot up 55 percent.

Our only option, from an environmental and economic standpoint, is to steadily decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, by turning to renewable resources and safe nuclear energy. While some speculate that wind could be as cheap as oil by 2016, one has to imagine that time frame could be significantly sped up.

The new wind industry, if the United States can get into it early enough, has enormous potential for short- and long-term job creation.

And nuclear energy, which did receive increased funding in Obama's proposed energy plan, is on its way to being able to burn and reuse its own waste. It is already one of the cheapest and easiest options to pursue.

There is no shortage of innovative ideas on how to transition from a fossil fuel economy to a cleaner one.

Interim solutions are everywhere, from numerous carbon tax options to technological solutions waiting for funding. Now it's up to the government to do its job and cut subsidies for oil, coal, and natural gas. If not in the name of the "hoax" that is climate change, then at least for the sake of people's wallets.

Peter Nauffts is a member of the Class of 2015.