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Trump's Christmas Gift to Big Oil: Killing Hopes of Electric Car Tax Credit Extension

Politics
Trump's Christmas Gift to Big Oil: Killing Hopes of Electric Car Tax Credit Extension
Trump tours the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Shell Oil company President Gretchen Watkins and Shell Pennsylvania Vice President Hilary Mercer in Monaca, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 13, 2019. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

By Dana Drugmand

The oil industry, a staunch opponent of electric vehicles (EVs), received an early Christmas present from the White House as President Trump reportedly intervened to quash an EV tax credit expansion from inclusion in a government spending package.


The tax credit is meant to help offset the upfront cost of electric vehicles and boost the EV market. Consumers who purchase an EV can currently claim a credit up to $7,500, and the credit phases out once auto manufacturers sell 200,000 qualifying vehicles. Tesla and General Motors have both hit the 200,000-vehicle cap and had lobbied for an extension. A bipartisan proposal called for allowing a $7,000 credit for an additional 400,000 vehicles sold.

That proposal, introduced earlier this year as the Driving America Forward Act, was rolled into a broader package of incentives for renewable energy that proponents hoped to pass as part of an end-of-year spending deal. But groups tied to the Koch network and backed by oil industry funding worked hard to kill the clean energy incentives. These groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week urging the Senate to oppose any bill that includes an EV tax credit extension.

Ultimately the EV provision was dropped from the spending package. According to Forbes, "In last-minute negotiations over a massive package of spending bills designed to avert a government shutdown, the EV provision was lost in the shuffle and that was the outcome Republicans and President Trump wanted."

Trump specifically pushed for excluding the EV tax credit, as Bloomberg reported.

"There has been extreme resistance from the president. I don't know why the White House would want to stop jobs and the future of the auto industry," said Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, one of the original sponsors of the Driving America Forward Act.

According to Bloomberg, White House pressure was a key factor in eliminating the EV tax credit extension: "White House officials warned lawmakers that if they tried to expand the electric vehicle credit as part of a compromise spending bill, it could tank the measure, according to two people familiar with the matter. The issue is particularly heated in the West Wing and among conservatives who view the credit as mainly benefiting rich Californians and Tesla."

The American Energy Alliance, the main recipient of grant funds from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), a major oil refinery trade organization, was one of the chief groups working to defeat the EV policy. In a press release, the AEA responded to the news by thanking the president and applauding him for "holding the line."

"President Trump stuck to his guns against a Congress hell-bent on saddling the cost of the Green New Deal on middle class American taxpayers. Companies like General Motors (GM) and Tesla have been clamoring for more taxpayer dollars to prop up their subsidy-based business model by doing everything in their power to influence our legislative process in their favor. But common sense has prevailed. President Trump deserves all the credit for holding the line on the electric vehicle tax credit expansion," AEA President Thomas Pyle, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries, said in a statement.

While AEA is calling the defeat of the EV tax credit extension a "holiday reprieve for taxpayers," the move is perhaps more accurately described as a holiday gift to the oil industry, which continues to bask in billions of dollars in federal subsidies each year.

Reposted with permission from DeSmogBlog.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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