It has now been 12 months since Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States, a man who as a candidate for the job called the scientific evidence for climate change “a hoax,” vowed to deregulate the American economy from what he considered to be onerous oversight, and bring back jobs that he claimed were lost as a result of the effort to combat the rise in global atmospheric temperatures. So, now is a good time to examine the president’s words and deeds regarding climate change – a sort of first-year job performance review or report card. What has he been able to accomplish? Has he laid a foundation for a successful agenda? And what are the most significant challenges to his energy and climate policy objectives?
For more than a century, the U.S. federal government has subsidized the production of fossil fuels through the tax code. These tax expenditures – amounting to de facto government spending – lower the cost of investment and increase the revenues from fossil fuel production. However, research shows that the subsidies do very little to increase U.S. fossil fuel production, because the impact of subsidy use on investment decisions depends on other factors such as technological improvements in oil and gas drilling, shifts in energy demand in the global energy market, production decisions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and unsettling political events in the Middle East. Without achieving much, if any, useful economic impact, fossil fuel subsidies are transferring about $4 billion annually from the pockets of taxpayers into those of fossil fuel producers.