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Coronavirus: The worst way to drive down emissions

The rapidly spreading coronavirus has infected over 90,000 people worldwide, stoked fears about a worldwide pandemic, and rattled global markets. The coronavirus is also having an unexpected environmental effect: It’s cutting carbon emissions.

China’s work stoppages and flagging industrial output have decreased the country’s normally sky-high carbon emissions by at least a quarter, according to an analysis recently published in CarbonBrief by Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air. That drop translates to a 6 percent decline in overall global emissions. New research from China’s statistics bureau shows that the country’s factory activity suffered the deepest contraction on record last month.

A decline in air travel might be playing a supporting role. By mid-February, around 13,000 flights a day had been canceled, with many airlines suspending flights to and from mainland China. Aviation remains one of the most carbon-intensive activities, accounting for 2 percent of emissions worldwide.

But how should we think about something as objectively terrible as the coronavirus — which has left more than 3,000 people dead — temporarily slowing climate change?

The truth is that there are a lot of bad things in the world that also happen to (temporarily) lower carbon emissions. Experts have attributed a 10 percent decrease in fossil fuel pollution in the United States between 2007 and 2009 to the global recession and financial crisis then gripping the country, putting millions of people out of work. The Chinese government’s one-child policy was widely decried as causing an epidemic of forced abortions and even infanticide. But the government has boasted that it prevented 1.3 billion tons of carbon emissions.

These respites from fossil fuel pollution aren’t actually “good for” the climate. For one thing, they rarely last. In 2010, post-recession, the U.S. economy resurged, and with it fossil fuel emissions that wiped away losses from the previous years. The drop in Chinese emissions from the coronavirus is also likely temporary; China has been known to increase production dramatically in the aftermath of a crisis in order to make up for lost time.

Moreover, in times of global stress, green projects often take a back burner to more pressing issues. Distracted by the problem at hand, governments funnel political attention and subsidies into the pandemic or the economic meltdown. The environment gets short shrift.

The problem of climate change isn’t about how we save the earth (the earth will be just fine without us). It’s about how humans can thrive, not just survive, in a greenhouse gas-constrained world. So, even if a Thanos-style reckoning might sound nice when you are depressed by species extinction, melting polar ice, etc., you can’t save a world by destroying it.

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Coronavirus: The worst way to drive down emissions

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Trump’s 2021 budget proposal would be a climate disaster

February is the shortest month of the year but usually feels like the longest, and it’s made even more interminable by the fact that it’s the month when the president of the United States unleashes his spending wish list on federal agencies. This year, Trump truly outdid himself.

As the U.S. grapples with the consequences of decades of unrestricted gas-guzzling and coal burning, Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, a “Budget for America’s Future,” aims to slash funding for 14 different climate programs. And that’s just at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Overall, Trump’s budget would cut or entirely eliminate funding for climate-related programs at science and energy agencies across the federal government, including the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior, which see their budgets slashed by 8 percent and 16 percent, respectively, under Trump’s plan. The EPA is facing the biggest cuts — Trump wants to trim the department’s budget a whopping 26 percent.

The good news is that presidents rarely get to keep their budgets as they envision them — by the time the House and the Senate are through with it, the federal budget for the fiscal year that begins in October 2020 could look a lot different than it does now.

But if he had his druthers, Trump would toss the Energy Star rating program (which measures the energy efficiency of different appliances) and slash funding for the EPA’s superfund cleanup program by 10 percent. He would eliminate millions in grant funding for land conservation projects in Interior Highlands states and get rid of regulatory processes for developments on waterways and wetlands. And he’d dedicate new funding for research into “advanced coal processing” — a fancy term for finding new uses for coal — which would in turn “help to develop new markets for coal,” a resource that’s currently losing out to cheaper and greener renewable energy (and natural gas). Alas, Trump seems keen as ever to make good on his campaign promise to revitalize the nation’s coal industry.

He also wants to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy at the Department of Energy and relocate pieces of the program to other areas of the government. That’s a strange move considering that increased funding for renewable energy research and development is one of three major tenets of the House GOP’s brand new climate change agenda. In addition to funding clean energy technology and innovation, that climate push, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, aims to capture CO2 emissions (using trees, mostly) and reduce plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Trump’s budget flies in the face of the research and development leg of that push; it seeks to slash funding for R&D programs by half — from $5.3 billion to $2.8 billion.

At least environmentally conscious Republicans in Congress (and conservationists everywhere) got one win in Trump’s budget: The EPA could get an additional $8.4 million and seven full-time employees to “support reducing ocean pollution and plastic waste.” But nuggets of hope were few and far between in a budget that neglected to mention “climate change,” “warming,” or “greenhouse gases” a single time.

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Trump’s 2021 budget proposal would be a climate disaster

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Judge writes blistering dissent as kids’ climate lawsuit gets tossed

Nowadays, it’s not unusual to see young folks publicly protesting climate change. But back in 2015, long before Greta Thunberg set up shop on the steps of the Swedish Parliament and inspired millions to take to the streets, 21 kids sued the United States to try to force the government to do something about climate change. They argued that the government’s inaction was putting their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at risk. That case, Juliana v. United States, paved the way for more climate-themed lawsuits to be filed against governments and oil companies around the world.

On Friday, after five long years of wins, setbacks, and procedural delay, the kids finally got their answer: No.

The 9th Circuit dismissed the case on the grounds that the courts don’t have the power to order the kind of emissions reduction plan sought by the plaintiffs, who were demanding that the government limit atmospheric warming to 1 degree C — a whole half-degree cooler than the target called for by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Any plan to reduce emissions, the panel of three judges wrote in a 32-page opinion, would require the executive and legislative branches to come up with a range of complicated policies and vote on them. As such, the decision reads, “the panel reluctantly concluded that the plaintiff’s case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large.” The issue here, of course, is that the leadership of one of the United States’ two major political parties denies the existence of climate change, and Congress’ most recent climate bill — the first one in a decade — just hit the dust in the Senate. Regardless, the case will not go to trial.

One judge wasn’t happy about that. In a searing dissent, District Judge Josephine Staton lacerated the U.S. government and said that the young people do have standing.

In these proceedings, the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response — yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward the Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation.

The decision is a blow to the youth plaintiffs, many of whom have put their lives on hold for years in order to be available for depositions and testimonies. But winning the case wasn’t their only priority. When Grist interviewed one plaintiff, Aji Piper, in 2018, he said his reasons for suing the government are chiefly moral.

“It’s not about the winning,” he said. “It’s doing it because it’s the right thing to do.” At least the kids know they tried their best to protect Earth from the asteroid. And their legal counsel isn’t giving up yet. “We will be asking the full Ninth Circuit to review the determination that federal courts can do nothing to address an admitted constitutional violation,” Andrea Rodgers, the plaintiffs’ co-counsel, said in a statement.

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Judge writes blistering dissent as kids’ climate lawsuit gets tossed

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Australians call their prime minister an ‘idiot’ for ignoring wildfire victims

The Land Down Under has been on fire for weeks. At least 17 people have been killed by wildfires in Australia this season to date. On Thursday, New South Wales declared a state of emergency — the third emergency prompted by uncontrollable wildfires since November. Australians have lost homes, land, and loved ones. And a lot of them are furious with their government.

While his country battled dozens of simultaneous infernos in late December, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was vacationing with his family in Hawaii. When he realized that his absence wasn’t going over well with his constituents, Morrison returned and tried to stage a photo op in wildfire-ravaged Cobargo, a tiny town between Sydney and Melbourne with a population under 1,000. As you can see, hell hath no fury like an Aussie scorned in the middle of a climate disaster.

“You won’t be getting any votes down here buddy,” one man said. “You’re an idiot, mate,” another tactfully added. “You really are.” One resident, who arrived to greet the prime minister with what appeared to be a goat by her side, asked why Cobargo had only received four fire trucks to help battle the blazes.

Morrison promised help was on the way and asked for patience. “What we are saying is we cannot control the natural disaster but what we can do is control our response,” he said. But there are, in fact, a few things Morrison’s government could do to control the extent of the “natural disaster” — like rapidly phasing out fossil fuels.

Unlike a majority of Australians, Morrison has been slow to realize that climate change poses an immense threat to his nation’s health and safety. As recently as December 22, Morrison told journalists it’s “not credible” to suggest a link between climate change and any individual wildfire. (The science linking this year’s catastrophic wildfire season to rising temperatures is robust.). In November, as Aussies took to the streets to protest the government’s inaction on the climate crisis, Morrison vowed to stop climate activists who pressure companies not to do business with the coal-mining industry. “We are working to identify serious mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians,” he told a group of miners.

But public outcry over the government’s handling of the fires has forced the prime minister to defend his controversial positions on the crisis. On Wednesday, Morrison called a national security meeting to assemble a response to the crisis, and he made sure to say that climate change is a factor in the wildfires. “Our emissions reductions policies will both protect our environment and seek to reduce the risk and hazard we are seeing today,” he said. There’s no telling whether the public outcry over the apocalyptic wildfires will prompt Morrison to revisit his emissions reduction policies. What’s clear, however, is that politicians around the world are going to have a hard time openly denying climate change when its effects are on full display.


Australians call their prime minister an ‘idiot’ for ignoring wildfire victims

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Elizabeth Warren’s new plan would jail lying fossil fuel executives

Lying under oath is a crime known as perjury, but corporations lie all the time. (Remember when tobacco companies told us cigarettes were healthy?) On Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan to fight what she calls “corporate perjury.”

Her proposal, which is part and parcel of her larger anti-corruption push, zeroes in on fossil fuel companies. Specifically, ExxonMobil — a company that is currently mired in lawsuits that allege it knew climate change was real in the 1980s and misled investors and the public about it.

Several candidates have sworn to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for fraud and corruption. But Warren is the first to release a proposal specifically aimed at stopping corporations from misleading the public and regulators in the future.

The plan is three-pronged. First, Warren aims to create a “corporate perjury” law that will take executives to court for knowingly lying to federal agencies. You might assume such a law already exists, but you’d be wrong. People can be taken to court for lying in court, before Congress, or to their own shareholders, but the information they provide to federal agencies currently constitutes a weird gray area.

Warren’s plan says that “where companies engage in egregious and intentional efforts to mislead agencies in an effort to prevent our government from understanding and acting on facts, they will face criminal liability.” Executives who engage in this type of behavior could have to pay $250,000 in fines or face jail time.

In the second plank of her plan, Warren gets nerdy. Research that is not peer-reviewed — not evaluated by other experts in the same or a similar field — will not be eligible to be considered by federal agencies or courts. The same goes for industry-funded research. That is, it won’t be eligible unless whoever submitted it can prove that it’s free of conflicts of interest. “If any conflicts of interest exist, that research will be excluded from the rulemaking process and will be inadmissible in any subsequent court challenges,” the senator writes.

That would mark a significant departure from the way President Trump operates. On Monday, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration plans to curtail the kind of research the government can use to craft public health regulations, which could have drastic implications both for future rules and regulations that already exist.

The last piece of Warren’s plan hopes to reacquaint the public with the federal rule-making process. She would create a national Office of the Public Advocate to guide people through the process of weighing in on new regulations. By involving the public in this process more explicitly, Warren says, federal agencies will “make informed decisions about the human consequences of their proposals, rather than largely relying on industry talking points.”

Warren’s new corporate perjury plan is in keeping with her broader goal of holding Big Oil accountable for the consequences of their actions. At the first-ever Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice last week, she explained how she feels about corporate executives who pollute. (Editor’s note: Grist was one of the forum’s media sponsors.) “If they do harm to people, they need to be held responsible,” she said. “You shouldn’t be able to walk away from the injuries you create.” That apparently goes for the lies fossil fuel companies tell, as well.

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Why New Delhi’s air is always so toxic this time of year

India’s capital city of New Delhi has been making headlines this week for its abysmal air quality as the concentration of particulate matter reached above 400 micrograms per cubic meter, 20 times the levels deemed healthy by the World Health Organization and the worst the city has seen since 2016.

On October 31, the government declared a public health emergency, closing schools, banning construction and fireworks, and limiting private vehicle use to every other day for five days in an effort to protect the population and make a dent in the pollution. Flights have been delayed and hospitals inundated with patients suffering from coughs, dry eyes and throats, and other symptoms brought on or exacerbated by the toxic air.

On the ground, it looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. Blanketing the streets is smog so dense you can’t see the length of a city block, and the sharp smell of smoke is detectable even through a mask, without which you’d be exposed to air that, over the course of a day, is equivalent to smoking a couple packs of cigarettes.

Unfortunately, this sort of air pollution is nothing new to the residents of Delhi, nor those of many other Indian cities. A study released earlier this year found that 22 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India, and the fall and winter months are always especially toxic.

The stew of pollution choking New Delhi this time of year doesn’t have one single source. Massive clouds of smoke drift south from the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana, where farmers burn crop stubble from their fields after the harvest to trap nutrients in the soil. Fireworks set off in the streets by the city’s 2 million residents during the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, don’t help either. And then there are the usual suspects: car and industrial emissions.

But it’s not just human activity that’s to blame — local weather patterns don’t help the problem, either. Cold air settles into the low-lying city, bringing with it, and holding in, pollutants.

The government has been struggling for years — mostly without success — to curb air pollution. Crop burning and firecrackers are both illegal, but people mostly ignore these bans, as well as the efforts to replace the practices with greener alternatives.

Hopefully residents will be breathing easier soon — air quality has begun to improve significantly in the last couple days thanks to winds, the odd-even car scheme, and a reduction in crop burning in Haryana. But these are short-term fixes, and just as history tells us that this year’s emergency-level air pollution wasn’t a fluke, it also suggests that large-scale measures will need to be taken if the people of New Delhi hope to avoid future polluted falls and winters.

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Why New Delhi’s air is always so toxic this time of year

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Are farmers setting the Amazon ablaze in support of Bolsonaro?

Farmers are reportedly setting fire to the Amazon rainforest to show support for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s policy of opening up protected areas to private ownership. According to a widely disseminated article in a small newspaper, Folha do Progresso, the organizers of this “Day of Fire” are hoping that 2019 sets a record for burning.

Ranchers and farmers routinely use fire in tropical agriculture to clear land for planting and cattle pastures, but the practice had slowed before Bolsonaro took office in January. Brazil’s space research agency reported this week that fires have increased 84 percent this year compared to the dry season last year. On Monday, smoke from rampant fires plunged Sao Paulo into darkness in the afternoon.

Many news outlets have said the 74,000 fires Brazil has seen this year sets a record, but that’s based on statistics that only date back to 2013. And deforestation is actually down from its peak in the 1980s. The real, undisputable news here is that there’s been a spike in fires and deforestation under Bolsonaro. And given the Amazon rainforest’s important role in capturing carbon emissions, the stakes seem much higher.

Christian Poirier, a program director for the nonprofit Amazon Watch, said that farmers were clearly emboldened by Bolsonaro to burn forests. “The fires currently ravaging the Amazon are directly related to President Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental rhetoric, in which he errantly frames forests and forest protections as impediments to Brazil’s economic growth. Farmers and ranchers understand the president’s message as a license to commit arson with wanton impunity, in order to aggressively expand their operations into the rainforest.”

Bolsonaro isn’t exactly taking credit, saying he had a “feeling” that the fires were set by nonprofit environmental groups trying to make his government look bad.

There’s been a huge growth in Brazil’s farms, especially after President Donald Trump’s trade war sent China — the top buyer of U.S. soybeans — shopping in South America. But the farm boom won’t improve the lives of poor Brazilians if it depends on dismantling environmental protections, said Toby Gardner, the director of nonprofit Trase. He sees Brazil trending toward “apparent disregard for devastating effects of environmental degradation seen from the recent and unprecedented spate of wildfires, set by landowners to clear forest for agriculture,” he said in an email.

Brazil’s massive forests are a critical part of the Earth’s life support system. The Amazon holds some 17 percent of the world’s plant-based carbon, and fires release that greenhouse gas. It’s home to millions of unique species and people. Fires are also burning in Brazil’s Cerrado — the central savanna — and its other forests.

“We think this Day of Fire really captures the craziness of what is going on in Brazil — deforestation for the sake of it, as an act of political demonstration,” said Alex Armstrong of the environmental group Mighty Earth in an email. Mighty Earth and other organizations think big corporations can prevent deforestation by promising not to buy crops from Brazilian farmers who burn forests. Some corporations, such as the grain-trading giant Cargill, say they need a supportive government in Brazil before they can act.

It’s worth noting that Grist could not independently confirm that farmers have set fires as a demonstration: Every story and source interviewed about the Day of Fire pointed to the same article based on an interview with an anonymous source. But the space agency observed a spate of fires in the region where farmers reportedly planned their protest. And a government prosecutor has opened an investigation into the reported Day of Fire.

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Are farmers setting the Amazon ablaze in support of Bolsonaro?

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Greenland’s moment in the sun goes beyond Trump’s real estate interests

Greenland is sooo hot right now. And we’re not just talking literally (though, yeah, that’s also true). In the last week, the gigantic Arctic island has been the focus of several news stories. Here’s a quick round-up of why Greenland is blowing up your Twitter feed:

#1: President Trump expressed interest in buying Greenland

Let’s start with the most bizarre story. According to a story from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, President Donald Trump repeatedly asked his top aides “with varying degrees of seriousness” how he could buy Greenland. Like, literally buy it.

“It has to be an April Fool’s joke,” the island’s former prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen tweeted. “Totally out of season.”

FYI Greenland is currently a self-ruling part of Denmark, which controls the region’s foreign and security policy. Still, the president somehow thinks that buying 836,300 square miles of fjord-riddled tundra floating in the middle of the North Atlantic could be feasible since “Denmark was having financial trouble over its assistance to Greenland.”

In case you’re wondering, “Um, why would he do that?” it’s not necessarily because the president is eyeing the island as the next Trump Towers location. After all, 80 percent of Greenland is covered by an ice sheet, and the population is estimated at less than 60,000. But the island is considered to be rich in valuable minerals, which may be easier to access as its vast ice sheets melt.

Of course, there are some major issues with this plan. For one thing, Greenland is not looking for a buyer. In response to Trump’s alleged interest in purchasing the island, officials politely told the president, Thanks, but no thanks.

”We have a good cooperation with [the] USA, and we see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer,” the government of Greenland said in a short statement. “Of course, Greenland is not for sale.”

#2: Greenland is melting

For decades, the Arctic has been galloping toward a more perturbed state butt they seem to have reached a fever pitch this summer. Greenland’s ice sheet just had its biggest daily melt event ever recorded. That resulting rise in sea level is, you know, bad news for all us coastal peeps.

The story received a lot of attention after sobering images of Greenland’s melting glaciers flooded the internet. According to the Associated Press, a team of NASA scientists is flying over Greenland to further understand why this is happening. Greenlanders, on the other hand, have a pretty good idea of what to blame (see next story).

#3: Greenlanders are convinced of climate change

Greenlanders are not snoozing on global warming. According to the first-ever national survey examining the human impact of the climate emergency, dubbed Greenlandic Perspectives on Climate Change, 92 percent of people in Greenland believe climate change is happening.

As for the 8 percent of respondents who didn’t answer in the affirmative? Only 1 percent actually said they didn’t believe in climate change, and around 6 percent said they didn’t know.

More than three-quarters of Greenlanders surveyed said they’ve felt the effects of climate change, with many expressing concerns about everything from its impact on sled dogs to food security.

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Greenland’s moment in the sun goes beyond Trump’s real estate interests

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Crisis in the Red Zone – Richard Preston


Crisis in the Red Zone

The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come

Richard Preston

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $13.99

Expected Publish Date: July 23, 2019

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

The 2013–2014 Ebola epidemic was the deadliest ever—but the outbreaks continue. Now comes a gripping account of the doctors and scientists fighting to protect us, an urgent wake-up call about the future of emerging viruses—from the #1 bestselling author of The Hot Zone, now a National Geographic original miniseries. This time, Ebola started with a two-year-old child who likely had contact with a wild creature and whose entire family quickly fell ill and died. The ensuing global drama activated health professionals in North America, Europe, and Africa in a desperate race against time to contain the viral wildfire. By the end—as the virus mutated into its deadliest form, and spread farther and faster than ever before—30,000 people would be infected, and the dead would be spread across eight countries on three continents. In this taut and suspenseful medical drama, Richard Preston deeply chronicles the outbreak, in which we saw for the first time the specter of Ebola jumping continents, crossing the Atlantic, and infecting people in America. Rich in characters and conflict—physical, emotional, and ethical— Crisis in the Red Zone is an immersion in one of the great public health calamities of our time. Preston writes of doctors and nurses in the field putting their own lives on the line, of government bureaucrats and NGO administrators moving, often fitfully, to try to contain the outbreak, and of pharmaceutical companies racing to develop drugs to combat the virus. He also explores the charged ethical dilemma over who should and did receive the rare doses of an experimental treatment when they became available at the peak of the disaster. Crisis in the Red Zone makes clear that the outbreak of 2013–2014 is a harbinger of further, more severe outbreaks, and of emerging viruses heretofore unimagined—in any country, on any continent. In our ever more interconnected world, with roads and towns cut deep into the jungles of equatorial Africa, viruses both familiar and undiscovered are being unleashed into more densely populated areas than ever before.   The more we discover about the virosphere, the more we realize its deadly potential. Crisis in the Red Zone is an exquisitely timely book, a stark warning of viral outbreaks to come.

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Crisis in the Red Zone – Richard Preston

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The tax bill for many big polluters last year: $0

Adapting to our warming world is expensive. It costs a lot to build sea walls, cure disease outbreaks, and rebuild after floods. It takes money to invent better batteries, turn farms into carbon sinks, and replace polluting power plants with clean energy.

Instead of maybe taxing carbon emissions to pay for all this, the United States is giving tax breaks to the giant corporations profiting from fossil fuels. Several of the biggest of them paid no taxes last year, according to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, or ITEP, a nonpartisan think tank. It’s the first look at the effect of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, which slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Companies are still finding ways to avoid paying anything.

Last year, for instance, Chevron made $4.5 billion in profits. If it had paid the (newly reduced) corporate tax rate of 21 percent, it would have coughed up $955 million in taxes. That’s enough money to triple funding for ARPA-E, the U.S. energy research and development program that pays for moonshot inventions like wind-turbines on kites. Instead, Uncle Sam handed Chevron $181 million at tax time.

Power utilities and oil and gas companies account for 22 of the 60 biggest companies that paid no taxes last year, according to ITEP’s study. Some of the well-known names on the list include Kinder Morgan, Occidental Petroleum, and Halliburton. The think tank didn’t crunch the most recent numbers for every company, just the biggest ones, but if you go back a few years, ITEP calculated that oil and gas companies avoided paying $27 billion in taxes from 2008 through 2015, while power utilities evaded $86 billion.

To be sure, there’s often a good reason for a tax break. Politicians use them to help get new industries — like the renewable energy industry — up on their feet. Duke Energy, for instance, got a tax credit of $129 million for renewable energy production in 2018. Economists call such credits and exemptions “tax expenditures.” It’s like the government is spending money because these tax breaks leave a hole in the federal budget.

The problem is that many of these subsidies outlive their usefulness.

“Unlike ARPA-E, which has to rationalize its existence and budget every year, these tax expenditures — and they are expenditures — just stay there even if they are no longer relevant,” said Matt Gardner, senior fellow at ITEP. “Are these tax breaks still useful? We want to be in a position where lawmakers are asking if they still make sense every year.”

And about ARPA-E’s budget. In the ten years of its existence, the program has yielded 1,500 inventions (of things like high-energy iron slurry batteries and clothes that automatically warm you up when it gets cold) and over 50 new companies. Nonpartisan groups say ARPA-E provides a good return on investment, and Republicans and Democrats come together to pay for it every year. But the Trump administration wants to cut its budget to zero.

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The tax bill for many big polluters last year: $0

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