Opinion | Subsidies in the Climate Bill Keep Oil and Gas Alive


The technology called carbon capture and storage is aptly named. It is supposed to capture carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources and pump them deep underground. It was a big winner in the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress last week.

What the technology, known as CCS, also does is allow for the continued production of oil and natural gas at a time when the world should be ending its dependence on fossil fuels.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden said he will sign this week, does more to cut fossil fuel use and fight climate change than any previous legislation by expanding renewable energy, electric cars, heat pumps and more. But the law also contains a counterproductive waste of money, backed by the fossil fuel industry, to subsidize CCS

Fifteen years ago, before the cost of renewable energy plummeted, carbon capture seemed like a good idea. We should know: When we launched a start-up 14 years ago — the first privately funded company to make use of the technology in the United States — the idea was that the technology could compete as a way to produce carbon-free electricity by capturing the carbon dioxide emissions emitted by power plants and burying them. But now it’s clear that we were wrong, and that every dollar invested in renewable energy — instead of CCS power — will eliminate far more carbon emissions.

Even so, this technology has broad political support, including from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, an ally of the coal industry, because it enables the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels while also preventing the resulting carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Industry campaigns such as “Clean Coal” have also promoted the technology as something that could ramp up quickly to bridge the gap to the deployment of large-scale renewable energy. But by promoting CCS, the fossil fuel industry is slowing the transition away from fossil fuels .

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, facilities using this technology will be eligible for generous tax credits provided they break ground by the end of 2032 — an extension of the current deadline of 2025. Those benefits come on top of $12 billion in government investments in CCS, as well as technology that would pull carbon dioxide directly from the air, which were included in the infrastructure bill signed by President Biden last fall.

CCS is seen as a solution to the emissions problem for a range of industries, from fossil-fuel-fired electricity generating plants to industrial facilities that produce cement, steel, iron, chemicals and fertilizer.

Where CCS has been most widely used in the United States and elsewhere, however, is in the production of oil and natural gas. Here’s how: Natural gas processing facilities separate carbon dioxide from methane to purify the methane for sale. These facilities then sometimes pipe the “captured” carbon dioxide to what are known as enhanced oil recovery projects, where the carbon dioxide is injected into oil fields to extract additional oil that would otherwise be trapped underground.

Of the 12 commercial CCS projects in operation in 2021, more than 90 percent are engaged in enhancing oil recovery, using carbon dioxide emitted from natural gas processing facilities or from fertilizer, hydrogen or ethanol plants, according to an industry report. That is why we consider these ventures oil or natural gas projects, or both, masquerading as climate change solutions.

The projects are responsible for most of the carbon dioxide now being sequestered underground in the United States. Four projects that do both enhanced oil recovery and natural gas processing account for two-thirds to three-quarters of all estimated carbon sequestered in the United States, with two plants storing the most. But the net effect is hardly climate friendly. This process produces more natural gas and oil, increases carbon dioxide emissions and transfers carbon dioxide that was naturally locked away underground in one place to another one elsewhere.

In an effort to capture and store carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel-burning power plants, the Department of Energy has allocated billions for failed CCS demonstration projects. The bankruptcy of many of these hugely subsidized undertakings makes plain the failure of CCS to reduce emissions economically .

The Kemper Power Project in Mississippi spent $7.5 billion on a coal CCS plant before giving up on CCS in 2017 and shifting to a gas-powered plant without CCS The plant was partially demolished in October 2021, less than six weeks before President Biden signed the infrastructure bill with its billions of taxpayer money for CCS: good money thrown after bad. The FutureGen project in Illinois started as a low-emission coal-fired power plant in 2003 with federal funds, but ultimately failed as a result of rising costs.

The Texas Clean Energy and Hydrogen Energy California CCS projects were allocated over half a billion dollars collectively, then dissolved. The list goes on, with at least 15 projects burning billions of dollars of public money without sequestering any meaningful amount of carbon dioxide. Petro Nova , apparently the only recent commercial-scale power project to inject carbon dioxide underground in the United States (for enhanced oil recovery), shut down in 2020 despite hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits.

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These projects failed because renewable electricity generation outcompetes CCS Renewable power now is cheaper than coal-fired power without CCS Add the cost of the energy required to couple CCS with fossil fuel power and it becomes hopelessly uncompetitive. We can only guess how much more the full costs of CCS would exceed renewable power because, after decades of promotion and many billions of dollars spent, we still have next to no real-world data about the costs of running, maintaining and monitoring large CCS projects.

These CCS projects are subsidized by Section 45Q of the federal tax code, which now offers companies a tax credit for each metric ton of carbon dioxide injected into the ground. Those enhanced oil recovery subsidies would rise under the new law, from $35 to $60 per ton. The legislation also significantly broadens the number of facilities eligible for tax credits. And those facilities will be able to claim the tax credit through a tax refund. The 45Q program is nominally a program to fight climate change. But since nearly all carbon dioxide injections subsidized by 45Q are for enhanced oil recovery, the 45Q program is actually an oil production subsidy.

These subsidies create a perverse incentive, because for companies to qualify for the subsidies, carbon dioxide must be produced, then captured and buried. This incentive handicaps technologies that reduce carbon dioxide production in the first place, tilting the playing field against promising innovations that avoid fossil fuels in the steel, fertilizer and cement industries while locking in long-term oil and gas use.

Industry campaigns for CCS also have shifted their decades-long disinformation fight: Instead of spreading doubt about climate science, the industry now spreads false confidence about how we can continue to burn fossil fuels while efficiently cutting emissions. For example, Exxon Mobil advertises that it has “cumulatively captured more carbon dioxide than any other company — 120 million metric tons.”

What Exxon Mobil doesn’t say is that this carbon dioxide was already sequestered underground before it “captured” it while producing natural gas and then injected it back into the ground to produce more oil. These advertising campaigns lend support to government programs to directly subsidize CCS

Solving climate change requires resources; misappropriating these resources makes solving the problem harder. We have no time to waste. We need to stop subsidizing oil extraction and carbon dioxide production in the name of fighting climate change and stop burning billions in taxpayer money on white elephant projects. Clean power from carbon capture and sequestration died with the success of renewable energy; it’s time to bury this technology deep underground.


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Opinion | Is the Remote Work Revolution Flopping, Succeeding or Both?


Over the past year, many places have returned to something approximating a prepandemic normal. Restaurants are filling up again. Airports and hotels are packed. Even movie theaters have made a comeback. But that hasn’t been the case for the office. Only about a third of office workers are back in the office full time. And that isn’t likely to change dramatically any time soon: Recent surveys asked executives about the share of their workers who would be back in the office five days a week in the future . In 2021 the response was 50 percent; now it’s down to 20 percent.

But the alternatives — remote and hybrid work — come with their own problems. In many cases, remote work has become synonymous with meeting fatigue, the collapse of work-life balance, overwhelming amounts of email and Slack messages and awkward attempts at social connection. And hybrid work setups often represent what some have called the worst of both work worlds: long commutes to half-empty offices, just to sit on Zoom calls all day.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

That leaves office workers in what feels like a work purgatory: The office is dying, but a new, viable model of work has yet to be born. And that liminal space raises all sorts of new questions: What is the office actually for? What will the postoffice future of work look like? And if the future of work means working from home in some capacity, how do we make that future better for everyone involved?

Those questions are at the center of Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel’s book, “Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home.” Petersen is a longtime culture writer who writes the newsletter Culture Study; Warzel is a veteran technology reporter who writes the newsletter Galaxy Brain for The Atlantic. In “Out of Office” they argue that the core problem with current remote and hybrid work setups is this: Workers have left the physical office, but they have taken the broken culture of the office with them. The result is widespread dysfunction but also immense opportunity: If we take this moment to rethink not only where we work but also how we work, then the possibilities are endless.

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What will work and life look like after the pandemic?

This episode is guest hosted by Rogé Karma, the senior editor for “The Ezra Klein Show.” Rogé has been with the show since July 2019, when it was based at Vox. He works closely with Ezra on everything related to the show, from editing to interview prep to guest selection. At Vox, he also wrote articles and conducted interviews on topics ranging from policing and racial justice to democracy reform and the coronavirus.

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View a list of book recommendations from our guests here.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

​​“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Sonia Herrero and Isaac Jones; audience strategy by Shannon Busta . Special thanks to Kristin Lin, Kristina Samulewski, Nicholas Bloom, Adam Ozimek, Julia Hobsbawm and Sheela Subramanian.


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Justice Dept. Objects to Releasing Affidavit Used to Search Trump’s Home


WASHINGTON — The Justice Department objected on Monday to making public the affidavit used to justify the search of former President Donald J. Trump’s home in Florida, saying its release would “compromise future investigative steps” and “likely chill” cooperation with witnesses.

In a 13-page pleading, filed in a federal court in southern Florida in response to requests by The New York Times and other news organizations to make public the evidence included in the document, prosecutors suggested that the department has undertaken a broad, intensive inquiry into Mr. Trump’s handling of some of the most secret documents of the government after he left office.

The prosecutors acknowledged interviewing witnesses in connection with the investigation of Mr. Trump’s retention of the material. They also wrote that releasing the document could compromise the continuing investigation.

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses,” prosecutors wrote. They added that releasing the affidavit could harm “other high-profile investigations” as well.

One of the reasons proposed by the government for not releasing the affidavit was to protect the identities of witnesses against death threats. On Monday, prosecutors in Pennsylvania unsealed charges against a man accused of repeatedly threatening to kill FBI agents in the days after Mr. Trump’s property was searched.

The magistrate judge who signed the search warrant, Bruce E. Reinhart, will ultimately decide whether the affidavit should be released. It is unclear when he will rule on the news media’s request.

The legal — and political — aftershocks from the search were still reverberating a week after FBI agents appeared at the resort while the president was at his club in Bedminster, NJ

Mr. Trump, who has accused Attorney General Merrick B. Garland of conducting a politically motivated “witch hunt” and roughly rifling through his family’s possessions, claimed on Monday that the government “stole my three Passports,” in a post on Truth Social, the online platform he founded.

By late Monday, the Justice Department contacted Mr. Trump’s legal team to retrieve the three passports — two of them expired and the third an active diplomatic passport, according to one of the former president’s lawyers, Evan Corcoran, and a spokesman for the department.

In a statement late Monday, the FBI said that it “follows search and seizure procedures ordered by courts, then returns items that do not need to be retained for law enforcement purposes.”

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Mr. Garland agreed last week to release the warrant used to search Mr. Trump’s private club, but has resisted attempts to make public the underlying affidavit, a far more sensitive document that should contain, among other things, the reasons prosecutors believe there was probable cause that evidence of a crime could be found at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

The investigation into the mishandling of government documents, while known for months, was not considered to be as significant as the department’s sprawling investigation into the attack on the Capitol, which has been moving closer to Mr. Trump and his top advisers.

Federal agents removed top secret documents when they searched Mr. Trump’s residence last week as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws, according to a search warrant made public on Friday.

At least one lawyer for Mr. Trump signed a written statement in June asserting that all material marked as classified and held in boxes in a storage area at Mar-a-Lago had been returned to the government, four people with knowledge of the document said .

Even as the former president counterattacked, new details emerged of how Mr. Trump and his inner circle flouted the norms, and possibly the laws, governing their handling of government records.

According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Mr. Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the man who oversaw presidential records in the chaotic closing days of the administration, failed to organize an effort to collect, box and deliver materials to the National Archives — as prior presidents, and Mr. Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence, did.

Instead, they often focused on settling political grievances and personal grudges, they said.

In the weeks leading up to Mr. Trump’s departure from the White House, officials discussed what to do about material that he had at various points taken up to the residence and that needed to be properly stored and returned.

By then, the staff secretary, Derek Lyons, known for trying to keep systems in place, had left the administration. Mr. Meadows said he would address such issues, according to a senior administration official.

While all this was happening, a very different scenario was playing out just across West Executive Avenue, in Mr. Pence’s less frenetic office.

As Mr. Trump sought to hold on to power, two of Mr. Pence’s senior aides — Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, his counsel — indexed and boxed all of his government papers, according to three former officials with knowledge of the work.

Mr. Jacob spent the bulk of his final few days in government preparing the final boxes, with the goal of ensuring that Mr. Pence left office without a single paper that did not belong to him, one of the officials said.


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