Taxpayers on Hook for $20 Billion in Dirty Energy Subsidies Annually, New Study Finds
By Andy Rowell
Millions of Americans may be struggling to pay routine household bills, but still U.S. taxpayers are handing out a whopping $20 billion in fossil fuel subsidies a year.
Subsidies are where the government gives financial incentives to artificially lower the cost of production or consumption of fossil fuels to encourage more drilling or oil, gas or coal use.
The report is published on the day that President Donald Trump is due to visit the island of Puerto Rico, which was recently devastated by Hurricane Maria. Millions of people on the island remain without power and basic sanitation.
Many leading climate scientists believe the recent destructive hurricane season is being driven by warmer waters fueled by our warming climate.
So there is something deeply ironic about the Trump administration subsidizing an industry with billions of dollars which is causing climate change which is costing billions to America and Caribbean nations from hurricane-related damage.
But the irony gets worse. There is something morally wrong with a billionaire-led administration handing out money to rich executives, when this money could help America's poorest and most at need.
The cost of the subsidies to American taxpayers is equivalent to the projected 2018 budget cuts from Trump's proposals to slash 10 public programs and services, including supports for America's most vulnerable children and families.
The report lays out a comprehensive analysis of federal and state subsidies supporting the production of oil, gas and coal. It concludes that:
- The U.S. federal and state governments gave away $20.5 billion a year on average in 2015 and 2016 in production subsidies to the oil, gas and coal industries, including $14.7 billion in federal subsidies and $5.8 billion through state-level incentives. And this is likely to be a conservative estimate at the state level, due to limited data.
- Repeated proposals by the Obama administration to remove some of the most damaging federal subsidies were thwarted in large part due to the cozy relationship between Congress and the fossil fuel industry. In the 2015-2016 election cycle, members of Congress received $350 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures from the fossil fuel industry—which equates to a 8,200 percent return on investment.
- The U.S. spent on average $2.5 billion annually subsidizing the exploration of new fossil fuel resources in 2015 and 2016, even though the science clearly shows that fossil fuel expansion must stop immediately in order to meet internationally recognized climate goals.
- Government giveaways in the form of permanent tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry—one of which is over a century old—are seven times larger than those to the renewable energy sector.
"Every taxpayer dollar wasted subsidizing this industry takes us further from a stable climate and protecting our families from disasters made worse by climate change," said Janet Redman, U.S. Policy Director of Oil Change International and principal author of the report. "No tax plan that leaves in place a 20 billion-dollar transfer of wealth from American taxpayers to one of the country's most profitable and polluting industries can be considered credible."
Redman added: "While the rest of the world moves toward a renewable energy future, dirty energy defenders in the Trump administration are using our taxpayer dollars to promote dangerous new fossil fuel development. Until we separate oil and state, the dirty energy money cycle of fossil fuel contributions going into Congress and oil, gas and coal subsidies coming out will stymie our chances at transitioning the energy sector and staving off worsening climate disasters."
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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