Share of U.S. Renewable Energy Consumption Highest Since 1930

Deseret News: “U.S. consumers are increasingly turning to solar, wind and biomass for their energy needs, driving domestic renewable energy consumption to its highest peak since the 1930s. A recent analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration — an independent research service of the U.S. Department of Energy — found that renewables’ share of the nation’s energy consumption hit 9.8 percent in 2014.”

graph of renewable share of U.S. energy consumption, as explained in the article text

“That percentage, the analysis said, returns the country to its 1930 levels of renewable energy consumption, when wood was a larger contributor to domestic energy supplies. Year to year growth, on average, was 5 percent from 2001-2014 for renewable energy consumption, due in large part to the growing use of wind, solar and biofuels, according to the analysis.”

Which States’ Tax Systems Increase Inequality?

Vox: “A new study finds that state and local taxes can have “significant effects on income inequality. Fed researchers Daniel Cooper, Byron Lutz, and Michael Palumbo estimate how major state taxes — sales taxes, income taxes, and motor fuel taxes — have affected inequality from 1984 to 2011. The differences are striking: While in some states, like Oregon, state taxes cut inequality significantly, in many Southern states like Tennessee, they actually exacerbated it.”

 

Are Wages Really That Depressed?

Wall Street Journal: “A new piece of research from Stephen Rose, an affiliated scholar with the Urban Institute and a professor at George Washington University, has the modest premise that rumors of the demise of American well-being have been greatly exaggerated.”

“Since 1979, real earnings are up only 17%, after adjusting for inflation using the consumer-price index. For a period of nearly three and a half decades, it’s a disappointing run, although broken down by gender, the picture is more mixed.”

“When the cost of employee benefits is included in Mr. Rose’s chart … suddenly workers are doing quite a bit better. Real median compensation, adjusted for the consumer-price index, is up 25% from 1979.”

“But Mr. Rose argues that one more change is important: using the right inflation index. The personal consumption expenditures price index has generally shown inflation to be lower than the CPI. And many economists believe the PCE is the more accurate index, since it better accounts for the ways that consumers’ consumption behavior changes over time. The Federal Reserve, for example, prefers the PCE price index.”

Despite Wins, Supreme Court is not a Liberal Court

Nina Totenberg of NPR observes that “though the court is dominated by conservative justices — the liberal minority, disciplined and united, drove the direction in a startling number of cases, while the conservatives splintered into multiple factions.”

“The liberals won in 19 of the 26 closely-divided ideological cases and eight out of 10 of the most important ones … Even taking the most centrist of the conservatives, Justice Anthony Kennedy, out of the equation, one or more members of the conservative bloc crossed over to join the liberals in 14 of the most ideological cases, while the reverse was true for the liberals only three times.”

One reason: “The liberals are, for the most part, just trying to preserve the status quo.”

Other reasons: “conservative activists just pushed their agenda too far [and] that the five conservative justices on the court have very different legal philosophies, and the cases this term showed those splits in vivid color.”

The New York Times Editorial Board adds:  If the court’s decisions “reflect any particular trend, it is not a growing liberalism, but rather the failure of hard-line conservative activists trying to win in court what they have failed to achieve through legislation.”

Vaccine Panic Largely Among Rich, White Americans

Washington Post: “New data from a Pew Research Center poll examining American attitudes about a range of scientific issues suggests that the way that white, black and Latino adults think about vaccines is helping to drive another pretty complex but important health trend.”

“Parents who delay or avoid vaccines are largely, but certainly not exclusively, white, well-educated and well-to-do or outright rich.”

“The Pew data released Wednesday reveals some differences in the way that white parents think about vaccine safety compared to black and Latino ones — but not the type you would expect. White parents were far more likely to describe vaccines as safe but ranked behind Latino parents and just above the share of black moms and dads when it comes to whether the government should mandate vaccines.”

Pew Research Center June 30, 2015

Obama is the Health-Care Industry President

Philip Bump: “In the past three months, the health-care industry has added 135,000 jobs … Over the 78 months of Obama’s presidency, the industry has lost jobs in only three — all between May and December 2013. Otherwise: Up, up, up.”

“When we analyzed industries last December, with the November jobs data, you could see that the percentage growth in health care tracked pretty steadily with overall employment. Oil and gas, with far fewer employees, had grown much faster since the depths of the recession, thanks to the oil boom in North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma.”

“So what’s Obama’s legacy? … If the percentage of oil and gas jobs slips, health care will become the bigger growth industry by both metrics.”

“Obama’s legacy was secured in part by the Supreme Court decision to uphold Obamacare last week. With these numbers, we might as well go ahead and call him the health-care industry president.”

California’s New Fracking Rules Are Toughest in the Nation

L.A. Times: “State officials on Wednesday formally adopted new rules governing hydraulic fracturing in California, setting in motion some of the toughest guidelines in the nation for the controversial oil extraction practice. The oil and gas agency also released its environmental impact report that concluded fracking could have ‘significant and unavoidable impacts’ on a number of fronts, including air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and public safety.”

“The regulations, which lawmakers approved in 2013, require oil companies to expand monitoring and reporting of water use and water quality, conduct broad analysis of potential engineering and seismic impacts of their operations, and comprehensively disclose chemicals used during fracking and other operations.”

The accompanying environmental impact report concluded that “fracking could, in a worst-case scenario, ‘generate greenhouse gas emissions that may have a significant impact on the environment.’ The operations could also increase pollutants ‘to levels that violate an air quality standard or contribute substantially to an existing or projected air quality violation.'”

Democrats Take the Lead in Party Affiliation

Gallup: “In the second quarter of 2015, Democrats regained an advantage over Republicans in terms of Americans’ party affiliation. A total of 46% of Americans identified as Democrats (30%) or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (16%), while 41% identified as Republicans (25%) or leaned Republican (16%). The two parties were generally even during the previous three quarters, including the fourth quarter of 2014, when the midterm elections took place.”

Americans' Party Affiliation, Recent Quarterly Trend

“Republicans have lost ground versus Democrats over the last three months in terms of the percentage of Americans who align with each party, essentially resetting the political map to what it had been in 2013 and early 2014, and putting the Democrats in a favorable political position as the 2016 campaign is getting underway.”

“Democratic gains in party affiliation may be partly linked to more positive views of President Barack Obama … The recent changes in party affiliation may also reflect Americans’ fading memory of the GOP’s electoral successes in the 2014 midterm elections.”

Could California’s New Vaccine Law Be a Model for Other States?

Katie Palmer in Wired writes that California’s new vaccine mandate “is a prime opportunity to carefully study the effects of legislation like this on both vaccination and disease rates.”

“Just take a look at the vaccination rates in other states, compared to where they stand on the two types of exemptions: religious and personal belief. The top-vaccinated state in the nation, Mississippi, is one of the only two states that doesn’t allow either exemption. Hey! Look at that! A correlation! But traveling down the list, the connection between exemption status and vaccination rate gets a little murkier. West Virginia, the other no-exemption state, doesn’t appear in the list of the top-ten vaccination rates (it’s number 18), and three states that allow both types of exemptions appear in the top-ten list.”

Vaccination_Rates_A-1

“If you look broadly at these figures, though, it does seem like states with more exemptions are more likely to have low vaccination rates. Now is the time to test that hypothesis. California is at a historical inflection point. If public health researchers and politicians can look carefully at the state of the state’s vaccination rates and disease numbers before and after SB277 is enacted, they’ll get a powerful tool to either support more bans of these exemptions—several of which are on the table in other states right now—or drive the United States toward different, perhaps more effective strategies to reduce vaccine-preventable disease. Let’s see what comes out of the lab.”

Overwhelming Majority Approve of Court’s Ruling on Obamacare Subsidies

Kaiser Family Foundation: “When told that the Supreme Court decided to keep the health care law as it is so that low and moderate income people in all states can be eligible for government financial help to buy health insurance, just over 6 in 10 (62 percent) say they approve of the Court’s decision and about a third (32 percent) say they disapprove. Approval is higher in this case than it was following the 2012 Supreme Court decision upholding most major provisions of the ACA. In the June 2012 Kaiser Health Tracking poll, the public was more evenly split, with 47 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving of the Court’s decision in the earlier case.”

Figure 4

“Despite the majority’s favorable opinion of the King v. Burwell decision, though, the new poll finds the public’s view of the ACA remains largely unchanged immediately after the June 25 ruling, with 43 percent viewing it favorably and 40 percent unfavorably.”