Electric Vehicles Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Gas Guzzlers

EcoWatch

Electric vehicles are gaining momentum across the globe. National Geographic‘s Years of Living Dangerously sent Ty Burrell to meet with a mechanic to find out why.

Electric vehicles are gaining momentum across the globe. National Geographic's Years of Living Dangerously sent Ty Burrell to meet with a mechanic to find out why. Read more: http://bit.ly/2hMp2Sdvia Years of Living Dangerously #YEARSproject #WeCanSolveThis

Posted by EcoWatch on Thursday, October 19, 2017

EcoWatch

Electric Vehicles Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Gas Guzzlers

By Lorraine Chow     September 27, 2017

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Good news for car drivers looking to go electric. In a handful of years, these zero-emission vehicles will be cheaper than traditional gas guzzlers, according to a new report from investment bankers Cowen & Co.

The analysis, compiled by Cowen managing director and senior research analyst Jeffrey Osborne, determined that electric vehicles will cost less than gasoline-powered cars by the early- to mid-2020s due to falling battery prices as well as the costs that traditional carmakers will incur as they comply to new fuel-efficiency standards.

These factors, Osbourne notes, will spur EV adoption from 1 percent of all global sales this year to 3 percent in 2020 and 7.5 percent in 2025.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported similar findings in May.

“Falling battery costs will mean electric vehicles will also be cheaper to buy in the U.S. and Europe as soon as 2025,” the report said. “Batteries currently account for about half the cost of EVs, and their prices will fall by about 77 percent between 2016 and 2030.”

Osbourne pointed out that a number of major car brands are hopping onto the electric bandwagon to compete in a space carved out by industry disrupter, Tesla.

“We see the competitive tides shifting in 2019 and beyond as European [car makers] roiled by the diesel scandal and loss of share to Tesla in the high margin luxury segment step on the gas and accelerate the pace of EV introductions,” he wrote.

Volvo Cars announced in July that every car it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor, marking a “historic end” to the internal combustion engine.

And earlier this month, Volkswagen Group, the world’s biggest automaker, announced plans to offer an electric version across the company’s 300 models by 2030 and will be rolling out 80 new electric cars under its multiple brands by 2025. The German company, which is trying to rebound after its emissions-cheating scandal, is investing more than 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in zero-emission vehicles to challenge Tesla.

Not only that, the Cowen report comes as an increasing number of countries such as China, Scotland, France and India announced intentions to ban diesel and gasoline cars in order to cut fossil fuel emissions.

Cub Scout Ousted From Den After Asking Politician Tough Questions

HuffPost

Cub Scout Ousted From Den After Asking Politician Tough Questions

David Moye, HuffPost       October 19, 2017

A cub scout in Colorado has been cast out of his den after he asked a state legislator pointed questions about racially charged comments she made about African-Americans in 2013 and a gun bill she co-sponsored.

Ames Mayfield, 11, and other members of his den in Broomfield had a question-and-answer session with state Sen. Vicki Marble (R) at an Oct. 9 meeting. Topics raised by the scouts  included the border wall, fossil fuels, and former President Barack Obama, according to The Denver Post.

Mayfield queried Marble about comments she made during a 2013 hearing on poverty suggesting that mortality rates among blacks were tied to their consumption of barbecue ribs and fried chicken.

“I was astonished that you blamed black people for poor health and poverty because of all the chicken and barbecue they eat,” Ames asked, according to ABC News.

Marble responded, “I didn’t; that was made up by the media.” She added, “So, you want to believe it? You believe it. But that’s not how it went down. I didn’t do that. That was false. Get both sides of the story.”

The complete exchange can be seen here:

For the sake of accuracy, the Denver newspaper reprinted Marble’s original comments:

“When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race. Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up. Diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup, and you just can’t help it.

“Although I’ve got to say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South and you, I mean, I love it. Everybody loves it.”

Mayfield also asked the senator about her co-sponsorship of a bill to allow domestic violence offenders to continue to own a gun, phrasing it bluntly.

“Why on earth would you want someone who beats their wife to have access to a gun?” he said.

The boy’s den leader cut him off and he was kicked out of the group a few days later, according to Denver station KMGH-TV.

His mother, Lori Mayfield, told the station that her son had no clue he did anything wrong.

“He is heartbroken his den leader kicked him out. What does that teach scouts (about asking challenging questions)?” she said.

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Marble is steering clear of the controversy.

“Decisions about who is in or out of a den are internal organizational matters that I won’t second guess,” Marble told the Denver Post by email. “I don’t blame the boy for asking the questions, since I believe there was an element of manipulation involved, and it wasn’t much different from the questions I normally field in other meetings.”

Lori Mayfield told the paper that her son spent a lot of time researching Marble before the den meeting.

“The only coaching I gave him was to be respectful,” she said. “Don’t be argumentative, preface things ‘with all due respect.’ I felt my son followed directions. He asked hard questions, but he was not disrespectful.”

Now she and her son are looking for a new den.

The Denver area council of the Boy Scouts told KMGH that a scout’s eligibility is ”up to the chartered organization, but it is working to help Ames find another den “so that he may continue to participate in the scouting program.”

 

China Is Showing the World What Renewable Energy Dominance Looks Like

EcoWatch

Go China!Read more: http://bit.ly/2fKPaMx

Posted by EcoWatch on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

By DeSmog 

https://resize.rbl.ms/simage/https%3A%2F%2Fassets.rbl.ms%2F11480014%2Forigin.jpg/1200%2C630/K1zmRE0B4737FyyU/img.jpg

China Is Showing the World What Renewable Energy Dominance Looks Like

By Ben Jervey         October 4, 2017

The growth of solar energy continues to outpace forecasts and this growth, according to a report published Wednesday by the International Energy Agency, (IEA) “is a China story.”

While China today is far and away the global leader in solar generation, a decade ago, the country had just 100 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed. That’s nothing. For reference, it’s actually less than is currently installed in the city of San Antonio. By the end of 2016, China had increased its solar PV capacity by nearly 800 times, with more than 77 gigawatts currently installed.

China’s solar dominance is only going to keep growing, according to the IEA report. As Dr. Paolo Frankl, one of the lead authors on the report, said on a call to reporters, “In one year, China will install the equivalent of the total history of solar development in Germany.”

The stunning growth trajectories reflected in the IEA report show how quickly the transition to renewables can be underway when aggressive policies cut through the barriers to growth.

The Renewables 2017 report takes a deep dive into renewable energy deployment across all industries and throughout the world, but the dominance of solar PV stands out. As a whole, renewables represented nearly two-thirds of new electricity capacity additions last year, far outshining coal and natural gas growth. For the very first time, solar PV additions grew faster than any other resource, surpassing coal growth.

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Put simply: The world is now building more solar than coal generation, a trend that looks to continue, regardless of any uncertainty in current American energy policy. Most new demand for electricity is being supplied by renewable resources, with solar providing the most.

“The star is really becoming solar PV, which becomes the leader in renewable growth,” said Frankl.

The report forecasts out the next five years of renewable energy growth, a short time-frame that is easier to project than some forecasts—like, say, the Energy Information Agency—that are routinely criticized. Over the next five years, the IEA anticipates renewables growing by roughly 1,000 gigawatts. “That is half of the total capacity of coal fired power plants worldwide,” said Frankl, “and it has taken 80 years to build all of those.”

Did you get that? Over the next half decade, the world will install half as much renewable energy as the current entire global capacity of coal power.

As China is proving, there is a dramatic shift in how emerging economies are powering their development. From the report:

Along with new policies that spur competition in several other countries, this Chinese dynamic has led to record-low announced prices of solar PV and onshore wind, which are now comparable or even lower than new-built fossil fuel alternatives.

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Developing countries are now looking to renewables as engines of economic growth. This includes India, which according to this year’s forecast, will soon leap ahead of the European Union with the third largest growth in renewable capacity, after China and the U.S. “Soon—and, we hope, very soon—African countries may see the next wave of development supported by cheap renewable power,” the IEA report anticipates.

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Despite the clear trajectory of global energy supply towards renewables, as reflected in this IEA report, the Trump administration is currently threatening tariffs on cheaper Chinese solar panels and has just proposed a bailout for uneconomical coal plants. “What would the tariff accomplish?” Frankl asked rhetorically. He then answered, “One thing is for sure: they would make U.S. PV much more expensive than it is today.” Because Chinese companies account for more than 60 percent of global PV manufacturing—and thus set global PV prices—and American companies produce relatively little to the global market, it’s hard to project how the proposed tariff would effectively rescue the American companies. Rather, it would slow PV deployment in the U.S. at precisely the time the rest of the world is pivoting aggressively to solar.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

There Could Be a Real Solution to Our Broken Economy. It’s Called Universal Basic Assets.

Resilience

There Could Be a Real Solution to Our Broken Economy. It’s Called Universal Basic Assets.

By Marina Gorbis, originally pub. by Medium.com – October 16, 2017

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Institute for the future

“The marketplace in which most commerce takes place today is not a pre-existing condition of the universe,” says author and Institute for the Future fellow Douglas Rushkoff. “It’s not nature. It’s a game, with very particular rules, set in motion by real people with real purposes.”

Over the past 100 years such rules have fostered unprecedented economic growth. However, today they are also producing deeply damaging social and ecological outcomes.

The numbers are striking. In 2010, 288 of the richest people in the world collectively owned as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion people. Last year, according to a recent study by Oxfam International, just eight people owned as much wealth as half of the world’s population.

In this moment of massive wealth inequality​,​ we urgently need to develop a new model for society to deliver both social and economic equity.

The answer may be in the concept of Universal Basic Assets (UBA),​ which​ in my definition​ is​ a core, basic set of resources that every person is entitled to, from housing and healthcare to education and financial security.

It Can Get Worse

The social instability caused by vast economic disparities is likely to only grow deeper under the pressure of two forces.

The first is the unrelenting progression of global warming that is already driving massive migrations of climate refugees due to wars, water and food shortages.

The second force — rapid advances in automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning — is undermining traditional sources of income for vast swaths of populations in developed and developing countries alike.

A whole set of new technological tools, from networking to machine learning to robotics, are making it possible to produce goods and services in abundance without employing large numbers of workers. Growing numbers of people are making livelihoods in various types of flexible yet precarious employment arrangements rather than in stable, well-paying jobs that come with essential social benefits and risk protections.

As a result, the system that worked relatively well under conditions of scarcity is poorly suited to fulfill the needs of many when products and knowledge can be produced in abundance by relatively few.

In a healthy society, every person has the right to resources to safely live, learn, heal, and grow into the best version of themselves. These are Universal Basic Assets.

A Framework for Equity

We urgently need to design a new framework that delivers greater social and economic equity. Some economists and activists are proposing Universal Basic Income, a guaranteed minimum payment for everyone, as a way to ensure a guaranteed minimum for people to live on. We believe that a universal basic income is only the first step in making our economic system more equitable.

French economist Thomas Pikkety, author of the best-selling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, documented that in this point in history, it’s impossible for a person simply earning a salary to see the same economic returns as investors and capital owners secure through their assets.

Such disparities are likely to grow ever larger as the result of automation. An enterprise with fewer workers can reward owners with larger profits. As a result, solutions to economic inequality need to address more equal access to primary assets that generate better economic and social outcomes.

New Assets, New Rules

In designing Universal Basic Assets we take into account access to traditional physical and financial assets like land and money, as well as the growing pools of digital assets (data, digital currencies, reputations, etc.). We also recognize and assign value to exchanges we engage in as a part of maintaining the social fabric of our society but that do not currently carry with them monetary value (caring, creative output, knowledge generation, etc.).

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In essence, we need to look at the concept of assets in its broadest sense, considering three classes of assets: private, public, and open.

Private Assets https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/640/1*MUWRwpb-xJ2eGEgBLIjxEw.png

Private assets are resources that we own individually. Housing, land, personal money, and retirement accounts fall into this category.

Since the 18th century, thinkers across the political spectrum have been advocating for equitable access to private assets, with some focusing on redistribution of incomes in the form of various types of taxes in order to achieve greater economic equity (Universal Basic Income comes under this umbrella). Others frame the issue around equal access to opportunity — that is, giving people a more equal starting point for achieving economic and social mobility. In this latter category, legal scholars Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott, for example, propose creation of The Stakeholder Society by granting a one time lump sum payment of $80,000 to everyone upon reaching the age of maturity. The UK’s Child Trust and efforts to create Individual Development Accounts (IDA’s) in the U.S. similarly aim to give children a head start while helping them understand personal finance and the importance of saving for and investing in the future.

Public Assets  https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/640/1*u7ihWWJ9SBeApSek-V_9zw.png

Public assets include resources collectively owned by the public and are managed by different types of government bodies on their behalf. They can include everything from national parks to mineral and cultural resources to critical parts of physical or digital infrastructure.

The four countries that have consistently been at the top in global rankings of social mobility are Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Canada. What they have in common is a high level of access to public resources like education, healthcare, and transportation.

If you are born to a poor family in Denmark, your chances of attaining economic success are not that different than those of your peers born into wealthier household.

Access to a whole variety of public assets makes it possible for children in countries like Denmark and Finland to move up the social and economic ladder independent of where they start.

In the United States, by contrast, your socio-economic status at birth is a big determinant of how well you will do as an adult.

Within the U.S., access to public resources accounts for regional differences in socio-economic mobility. Children born to families at the bottom fifth of the income distribution, have a 10 percent chance of reaching the top fifth of income levels during their lifetime if they live in San Francisco, New York, or Boston. The chance for the same children living in Charlotte, Columbus, or Atlanta is 5 percent, and for those from Memphis, only 2.8 percent. This is largely due to lower access to public schools, transportation, healthcare, and, of course, well-paying jobs. Being born poor dooms you to staying poor.

Open Assets https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/640/1*Xeyohr4XIQ29QOPEQFRW5w.png

Open assets are resources that are owned and managed neither privately or by a government. They are open to anyone and governed by a defined group.

Open assets are created in what MIT Media Lab researcher and IFTF affiliate John Clippinger calls the “open sector.” According to Clippinger, in the open sector, a group of “founders” create a set of initial conditions from which rules emerge through the interactions of participants.

Clippinger cites the example of the British Common Law, a basis for America’s legal system, which evolved from customs and norms, and was eventually codified into constantly evolving laws. “It wasn’t top-down. It was constantly reinventing itself around the circumstances, and there was no single point of control,” he says. This is how the open software community operates today. Wikipedia is another familiar example of a community bound by common practices and principles that has established an architecture and a set of practices for entering and editing information, which in turn, has made it possible to create an open resource used by billions of people worldwide.

In the analog domain, we find examples of open systems for value creation in physical communities such as Burning Man or Freespace, where no money is allowed. People choose to come together freely and exchange or gift each other anything from physical goods to knowledge and services. This model is probably the form of existence most familiar to us as a human species as this is how many of our human ancestors lived before we invented money and market capitalism.

However, we don’t have to participate in the open-source software movement or go to Burning Man to experience non-monetary, non-profit-based economies — we participate in them on a daily basis in many ways. We don’t pay for love, for dinners at our parents’ homes, for our child’s affection, for art and music and other creative outputs that have become invisibly woven into the infrastructure of our daily lives (if we are lucky). As we transition to new forms of value creation we have opportunities to enlarge our pool of open assets and reconsider how and what we assign value to.

In the face of rising economic inequality in a society where those with capital get richer far faster than those who labor, we need to focus attention on more equitable distribution and access to a variety of assets. This would ensure not only greater socio-economic mobility for individuals but also help sustain the social fabric of our society.

Let us not forget that high levels of economic inequality come at a price not only for the poor but also for the extremely wealthy themselves. Some are building protective bunkers on secluded islands as they prepare for the inevitable social upheavals. Historical research shows that any concentration of wealth and power requires investments in vast networks of expensive security institutions leading to what Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld calls privilege violence. Such violence stems from a “power structure that allows or enables violence against some citizens as the price for maintaining extreme privilege.”

Creating a new kind of economy based on Universal Basic Assets can enrich all of our lives. Without it, the future may be a much poorer place for everyone.

For more on this topic, please read the IFTF working paper “Universal Basic Assets: Manifesto and Action Plan” (PDF)

New health deal falls flat with GOP

The Hill

New health deal falls flat with GOP

By Peter Sullivan         October 17, 2017

https://content.newsinc.com/jpg/2124/33128244/65388927.jpg?t=1508251440Trump signals support for Obamacare deal      TheHill.com

A bipartisan Senate deal that would extend critical ObamaCare payments to insurers for two years got the cold shoulder from Republicans on Tuesday, suggesting it faces a rocky path to become law.

The chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee in the House dismissed the offering from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as an affront to GOP promises to repeal President Obama’s signature legislation.

“Anything propping [ObamaCare] up is only saving what Republicans promised to dismantle,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who leads a group of more than 150 conservatives.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stopped short of promising to bring the bill to the floor, and while Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) offered some praise, not a single Senate GOP conservative offered strong public support for the compromise.

Senate Democrats, in contrast, hailed the deal, and pressed GOP leaders to quickly bring it to the floor.

They also touted “anti-sabotage” measures they said they had included in the deal that would prevent President Trump from taking ObamaCare apart — language that appeared aimed more at winning a messaging war over the health-care law than actually advancing a legislative compromise.

“The president had been sabotaging [ObamaCare] and the agreement would undo much of that sabotage,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.). “So overall we are very pleased with this agreement.”

While Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did not release a statement on the deal, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did, hailing it as “good news for families across America.”

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The deal forged by Alexander and Murray, who have been working on and off on legislation for months, would fund payments to insurers meant to help poorer people afford healthcare.

President Trump announced the end of the payments just last week, arguing the previous administration never had the authority to make them given Congress’s control over the nation’s purse strings.

Trump offered measured support for the compromise when he was asked about it during a press conference Tuesday with Greece’s prime minister, calling it “a short-term solution so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period.”

But Trump’s endorsement was hardly ringing, and it did not appear that Republicans were highly excited about the measure.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said there were elements of the Alexander-Murray compromise that could be built upon, but that “much more work needs to be done.”

He mentioned including lower-cost, short-term health insurance plans and expanding health savings accounts as elements that could be added to the deal.

The basics of the deal worked out by the two senators — who are the chairman and ranking member on the Senate Health Committee — would exchange the payments to insurers for increased flexibility for states to change ObamaCare regulations. It would allow states to change rules that insurers must meet under the health-care law as long as consumers are still offered “comparable” affordability.

The measure would also allow people to buy lower-cost, less generous “copper” insurance plans. And it would speed up the process for states to apply for a waiver for ObamaCare rules, for example by letting a governor apply without waiting for the approval of the state legislature.

It would not change the minimum standards that an insurance plan must meet, and would restore $106 million in funding, cut recently by Trump, for outreach to sign people up for ObamaCare. A GOP aide said the money would go to state governments, rather than be spent through the Trump administration.

Alexander acknowledged the legislation faces a tough road, but pointed to the support from Trump as promising.

“I’m encouraged by the consensus of support I’ve received, and that includes President Trump,” Alexander said. “He’s called me twice over the last two weeks saying he doesn’t want people to be hurt in the interim.”

He also pitched his plan as just an interim step.

“This takes care of the next two years. After that we can have a full-fledged debate on where we go long term on health care,” Alexander said. “This is a small step. I would like to undersell it, not oversell it.”

Even with Trump’s support, the bill seems like a long-shot in the House. Just last month, Ryan told the Senate that an Alexander-Murray deal is “not viable” for the House GOP.

The way forward might be to attach the health-care legislation to another bill — such as the legislation needed to keep the government open at the end of the year. That vehicle is also seen as a target for immigration measures — including legislation that might shelter young immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation.

At the same time, that sets up a complicated negotiation at the end of the year that could involve trade-offs on high-profile issues that would raise risks for both political parties.

Alexander said he would be working to attract Republican co-sponsors for the measure this week.

“Hopefully we will be giving Sen. McConnell and Sen. Schumer legislation co-sponsored by a significant number of Republicans and Democrats later this week, and then we can see where it goes from there,” he said.

A reporter finally asked Trump to just explain his health care plan. His response was a train wreck.

ThinkProgress

A reporter finally asked Trump to just explain his health care plan. His response was a train wreck.

A simple question. A disastrous answer.

By Aaron Rupar       October 17, 2017

https://i2.wp.com/thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/116.jpg?resize=1280%2C720px&ssl=1CREDIT: SCREENGRAB

During a joint White House news conference with the prime minister of Greece on Tuesday, President Trump was asked an extremely basic question about his health care plan. He responded with a lengthy, incoherent word salad.

Trump was responding to Fox News’ John Roberts, who noted that Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act through legislation have failed, and then asked him, “I’m wondering, at this point, what is your health care plan, sir?”

Without addressing the question, Trump immediately attacked insurance companies.

“Well if you look, ah, insurance companies, and you take a good strong look at the numbers, you’ll see since the formation of Obamacare they’re up 400 percent, 450 percent, 250 percent, 300 percent — they’ve made a fortune, the insurance companies,” Trump said. “So when I knocked out the hundreds of millions of dollars a month being paid back to the insurance companies by the politicians, I must tell you, that wanted me to continue to pay this, I said I’m not going to do it. This is money that goes to the insurance companies to line their pockets, to raise up their stock prices, and they’ve had a record run, they’ve had an incredible run, and it’s not appropriate.”

Trump then pivoted to attacking Obamacare.

“Obamacare is a disaster. It’s virtually dead, as far as I am concerned it really is dead, and I predicted that a long time ago — it is a concept that doesn’t work, and we are very close,” Trump said. “We feel we have the votes, and as soon as we’re finished with taxes, John, we really feel we have the votes to get block grants into the states where the states can much better manage this money and much better take care of the people, rather than the federal government. The state block grants — we’ll do massive block grants into the various states so that the states can run the program.”

Before he was done, Trump attacked Democrats (“they have no good policies”), decried that his judicial appointments aren’t being approved more quickly (“it’s a very disgraceful situation”), and touted his tax plan (“the largest tax cuts in the history of our country”).

After nearly three minutes of ranting, Trump finally stopped talking. But at no point did he actually explain what his health care plan is. So after Trump finished, Roberts interjected, “So is Graham-Cassidy still the plan, sir?”

“Yeah, essentially that would be the plan, yes,” Trump said. “Block grants.”

The Graham-Cassidy plan Trump mentioned would result in 32 million Americans losing coverage and has already been rejected by a critical mass of Republican senators.

Trump has repeatedly proven himself unable to talk about the details of policy. While he was pushing Obamacare repeal over the summer, Trump did an interview where he indicated he thinks health insurance cost $12 annually. Following a June meeting during which Trump tried to persuade Republican senators to vote in favor of a repeal bill that provided huge tax breaks to the wealthy, one supportive senator told the New York Times that Trump “did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan — and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy, according to an aide who received a detailed readout of the exchange.”

“Mr. Trump said he planned to tackle tax reform later, ignoring the repeal’s tax implications, the staff member added,” according to The Times.

And it’s not just health care. Public comments Trump has made in recent weeks indicate he is confused at best about how the national debt works, and about what the concept of “wiping out debt” entails.

While Trump may not understand his own policies, the steps the Trump administration has taken to sabotage Obamacare independently of Congress have already resulted in substantial rate increases.

The Old, Hidden Pipeline at the Bottom of the Great Lakes

EcoWatch

By Sierra Club    October 12, 2017

The Old, Hidden Pipeline at the Bottom of the Great Lakes

By Conor Mihell

At dawn, I launch my kayak and paddle into a velvety expanse of turquoise water. Here, in northern Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac, Great Lakes Michigan and Huron meet like the middle of an hourglass. To the east, the rounded form of Mackinac Island is the centerpiece of an archipelago in Lake Huron.

According to an Ojibwe creation story, this is Mishee Makinakong, the Great Turtle, whose surfacing shell became a refuge for plants and animals as floodwaters surged in the days before time. Today, droves of ferries buzz to and from the island, a bustling summer tourist destination replete with kitschy fudge shops and horse-drawn carriages.

I’m paddling south, dwarfed by the Mackinac Bridge, a monolithic five-mile-long ribbon of green steel and gray concrete that connects Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. Lake Michigan sprawls westward. Its watery horizon shows the telltale dance of rising winds just as a wave splashes over my deck, reminding me to put away my camera. This isn’t a place to multitask.

Currents deflect my course as I approach a towering bridge support. It’s like paddling on the ocean, with steep waves and a strengthening tidelike flow. I angle my bow to compensate. Whitewater reflects from the concrete pillar, and eddies swirl in its wake. Even on this sunny June morning, the conditions hint at a destructive violence that makes me nervous.

Almost directly beneath my kayak runs Enbridge Line 5, twin 64-year-old pipelines at the bottom of the lakebed. Line 5 transports 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids daily for 645 miles through Wisconsin and Michigan to Canada. Enbridge, the Canadian oil transportation giant, operated Line 5 inconspicuously until 2010; that’s when its sister pipeline, Line 6B, ruptured, pouring a million gallons of tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan. It was the largest land-based oil spill in U.S. history. Suddenly, the peril posed by vintage infrastructure carrying petrochemicals through the heart of North America’s greatest supply of freshwater loomed very large.

University of Michigan hydrologist Dave Schwab has concluded that the Straits of Mackinac is “the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.” At any given time, one million gallons of petroleum products are contained in the 20-inch pipes that run along the lakebed. If one ruptured, oil would disperse with the currents that slosh back and forth through the straits. In Schwab’s worst-case scenario, 720 miles of lakeshore would be devastated.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicts that in the event of a spill, no more than 40 percent of the oil could be recovered by deploying booms and “in-situ burning”—lighting surface slicks on fire, a technique used in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The success rate would plummet in the winter, when the Straits of Mackinac are sheathed in feet of ice. This apocalyptic vision was enough to convince more than 60 municipalities and all 12 of Michigan’s Native American tribes that Line 5 should be decommissioned. Even Republican state attorney general Bill Schuette called for a timeline to shut down the pipeline.

“We know that Line 5 will ultimately be decommissioned,” said David Holtz, the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter chair and the coordinator of Oil and Water Don’t Mix, a grassroots coalition of pipeline opponents with 30,000 supporters. “The only question is, will it be decommissioned before or after it ruptures?”

Line 5 is a product of the post–World War II construction boom, when oil companies installed pipelines across the country to fuel an increasingly global economy. “Michigan was the shortest path to get oil to market,” Holtz explained. “We get all the risk; Enbridge gets the reward.”

For Enbridge’s part, spokesperson Michael Barnes said that Line 5 is “vital to the people of Michigan, who need energy to heat their homes and power their industries.” (Holtz contends that the company has never documented this claim.) In the five years following the Marshall disaster, Barnes said, the company spent nearly $5 billion on maintenance, inspection, and leak detection: “This is the largest, most comprehensive and sophisticated maintenance and inspection program of any pipeline system in the world.”

As for the underwater pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac, Barnes said, “Recent inspection reports show that Line 5, from an engineering and integrity perspective, is like new and in excellent condition.”

Retired Dow chemical engineer Ed Timm has taken it upon himself to debunk such rosy claims. Timm, a resident of nearby Harbor Springs whose dark ponytail and youthful swagger belie his 72 years, started studying the pipeline and checking out Enbridge’s claims out of curiosity. He dug up early construction journals documenting the hasty process whereby pipelines were “pulled,” as the engineers called it, across the straits. He plotted modern imagery alongside original blueprints to show how lakebed sediments have shifted drastically over time, placing stress on sections of pipe. And he tabulated modern-water-current data to prove that the Straits of Mackinac are capable of producing double the 2.25-mile-per-hour currents envisioned by the original plans.

Timm also discovered a 2016 technical report that he calls a “smoking gun.” The operating-easement agreement for Line 5 between Enbridge and the state of Michigan mandates that there be no unsupported spans longer than 75 feet. According to engineer Mario Salvadori, who reviewed the design, “The pipe must not be allowed to span a valley of more than 140 feet.” But the 2016 report, conducted by the Ohio-based engineering firm Kiefner and Associates, mentions unsupported spans of up to 286 feet, indicating that over time the pipeline has shifted from its moorings. Timm showed me a graph of how the pipeline’s resiliency diminishes across increasing lengths of unsupported spans. Just like a bent paper clip, he said, a pipeline with inadequate support will become fatigued as it flexes back and forth in moving water. “At that distance a steel pipeline basically turns into a noodle.”

For Native Americans in the Great Lakes region, Line 5 touches a cultural nerve. The area a spill might affect coincides with tribal fishing areas and encompasses the watery heart of the indigenous creation story.

On Lake Michigan’s east shore, the Grand Traverse Band operates a couple dozen boats, whose captains and crews make their livelihoods fishing year-round, said Desmond Berry, the band’s natural resources manager. Fish is a staple of the indigenous diet and is recognized in the tribe’s traditional clan system. “We are a fish nation,” Berry said.

The Grand Traverse Band is one of five Chippewa and Ottawa tribes with commercial operations in the Mackinac Straits area. They harvest more than three million pounds of whitefish and lake trout annually. Commercial and recreational fishing on the Great Lakes contribute $2.5 billion to Michigan’s economy, with tourists spending $660 million annually in the counties straddling the Straits of Mackinac, supporting 7,500 local jobs. “If there were a spill,” Berry said, referring to the slogan on the state’s license plate, “‘Pure Michigan’ would cease to exist.”

Safeguarding freshwater was at the core of efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock and is also at the root of Native American opposition to Line 5. Little Traverse Bay Bands member Jannan Cornstalk takes her responsibility as a water protector seriously. “Women have the ability to bring life into the world through our bodies,” she said. “An embryo is held in a sack of water inside of us. That’s our connection to the water.”

Cornstalk was shocked when she learned about the sunken pipelines at Mackinac Straits. Since 2015, she’s organized Labor Day demonstrations to coincide with a popular Mackinac Bridge walk, which includes canoe and kayak flotillas and, this year, an arts and culture festival. “I believe our water is in crisis,” she said, pointing to the contaminated drinking water in Flint, which led to a federal state of emergency in 2016. “Clean water is a basic human right. Without it we are nothing.”

The water calms and my mind wanders as I paddle back to shore. After the flood in the Ojibwe creation story, Sky Woman, the mother of humanity, settled on the Great Turtle’s back and summoned the animals to help rebuild the earth. One at a time, the strongest swimmers—Beaver, Fisher, Marten, and Loon—plunged into the water, diving deep in search of soil. Each returned to the surface empty-handed and ashamed.

Then diminutive Muskrat volunteered. The other animals snickered, but Muskrat dove in anyway and stayed underwater an exceedingly long time. “The Muskrat floated to the surface more dead than alive, but he clutched in his paws a small morsel of soil,” recounted the late Ojibwe historian Basil Johnston. “Where the great had failed, the small succeeded.”

Sky Woman spread the modicum of soil on the turtle’s back and infused the new world with the breath of life. Turtle Island grew, teeming with grasses, flowers and trees. Finally, Sky Woman gave birth to the first Anishnabeg—the people—whom she instructed to live in harmony with all of creation, living and yet unborn.

The Mackinac area exerts an energy that pulls at the conscience of indigenous people and newcomers alike. A 2016 poll revealed that nearly two-thirds of Michigan voters do not support oil pipelines in the Great Lakes. Holtz hopes the state government will soon have a moment of reckoning like he did five years ago, when he represented the Sierra Club in an initial meeting to discuss Line 5 with other environmentalists. Holtz had recently retired from a career in media and “wasn’t looking for a fight.” Then he spent an autumn weekend alone at the straits. “I drove across the bridge and looked over the water,” he recalled. “I decided I didn’t want to be responsible for not stopping an oil spill in a beautiful, wonderful place that I love. I don’t want that to be my legacy.”

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA magazine.

#NotOnePenney in tax cuts for the rich

#NotOnePenney in tax cuts for the rich

This Republican Farmer from Kansas is Calling for #NotOnePenny

Meet Mike – a Republican farmer from Kansas who has experienced first-hand what happens when the GOP cuts taxes for the rich. Now, he's calling for #NotOnePenny in tax cuts for the wealthy: notonepenny.org.

Posted by Tax March on Monday, October 16, 2017

This Republican Farmer from Kansas is Calling for #NotOnePenny
notonepenny.org

 

Gary Cohn Can’t Quit Trump. Literally. He’s Tried More Than Once.

Vanity Fair

Gary Cohn Can’t Quit Trump. Literally. He’s Tried More Than Once.

Now he’s one of the tiny quorum of adults around Trump—doing his “national duty,” as Trump said. “They get along again,” said a source.

by William D. Cohan          October 13, 2017

https://media.vanityfair.com/photos/59e109dd5ff33a0576fc201a/master/w_1920,c_limit/gary-cohn-cant-quit.jpgGary Cohn board Air Force One following Steven Mnuchin and Stephen Miller, September 27, 2017.  By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

Gary Cohn, Donald Trump’s national economic adviser, made his bones at Goldman Sachs by proving to be an exceptional risk manager. Famously, he was part of the small group of Goldman traders and senior executives who figured out in 2006 that a meltdown was looming in the housing market and who positioned Goldman, through a series of clever trades that became known inside the firm as “the big short,” to benefit mightily nearly two years later when the financial crisis hit with a vengeance. In 2007, while much of the rest of Wall Street was reeling from the crisis’s first shockwaves, Goldman was cleaning up, thanks to its decision to bet against the mortgage market. That year, the firm made nearly $18 billion in pre-tax earnings—a number it has never seen again—and the top five Goldman executives, Cohn included, split a whopping $322 million. Cohn’s personal take from that honeypot? $72.5 million.

These days Cohn has been wrestling on a regular basis with a different form of risk management—and, mostly, losing. Working for Trump has been slowly eroding the reputation he spent 27 years crafting so meticulously at Goldman. His angst came to a head in August, during the 10 days after a group of white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Trump repeatedly fumbled his response to an incident that left one protester dead. As Kate Kelly and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reported on August 25, Cohn drafted a letter of resignation, and was prepared to deliver it to Trump. What has not been previously reported is that, according to a source with detailed knowledge of this thinking during that period, Cohn sought to resign twice while speaking directly to Trump during that 10-day period. He also spoke with John Kelly, the new chief of staff, about his desire to resign. But apparently, resigning from Trumpworld is far more difficult than one would expect. Cohn’s continued presence in the West Wing is a testament to a reality that is rapidly becoming crystalline: that Cohn, along with Kelly, Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, are all that is standing between Trump and utter chaos and incompetence.

Cohn’s recent troubles began on August 15 in the lobby of Trump Tower when what was supposed to be a briefing with Trump and Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, about the administration’s infrastructure plans turned into a chance for Trump to walk back the more conciliatory comments about Charlottesville he had made previously. While Trump doubled down on his divisive comments—there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist groups, Trump said—Cohn, who is Jewish, stood at Trump’s side, a pained expression on his face. After Trump left the lobby, Cohn was forced to field questions about what Trump had said. He declined to do so.

That began a 10-day period of introspection for Cohn. Should he resign? Should he publicly rebuke Trump? Should he stay silent and carry on? According to someone familiar with what happened, Cohn decided to resign, and drafted up his letter of resignation. It turned out not to be as easy to quit Trump as Cohn had hoped. On Friday, August 18, after a day of meetings at Camp David to discuss his South Asia policy, Trump flew on Air Force One to Morristown Airport, in New Jersey, to spend the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster. Trump landed at 5:23 P.M. and his motorcade took him to the Trump National Golf Club. By then Cohn was already in Bedminster, waiting for Trump to arrive so that he could go in and resign.

He eventually got an audience with the president. They talked about Trump’s upsetting response to Charlottesville. Trump told him, “Is it really so bad?” according to the same person familiar with what transpired. Cohn conveyed to Trump how upset he was and that he wanted to resign. He unburdened himself to Trump. Trump told him to “think about it” and not to act rashly. Cohn emerged from the encounter with second thoughts. “I’ve been asked to think about it,” he said, according to the source. That night, Cohn headed to his house in the Hamptons and to a 30-person dinner party, where he arrived two hours late, at the home of Lloyd Blankfein, the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs and his former boss. Over the weekend, he spoke to his wife and family, and others, about his concerns. His angst continued unabated.

Cohn returned to Washington determined still to resign. He went to see Kelly on Monday morning in order to get time on Trump’s calendar. Gone were the breezy days of just walking into the Oval Office on a whim, before Kelly imposed military discipline on the comings and goings in the West Wing. By then, Kelly knew of Cohn’s intention to resign and Kelly, too, tried to talk him out of it, despite his own considerable frustrations with Trump. Cohn had several conversations with Kelly. “It was complicated,” said the source. “The impression I got was that Kelly wants him to stay around, but he says, ‘I can’t tell a person what to do.’ He encourages him to stay around, but he doesn’t sort of do, like, a, ‘You have to stay.’ It’s some version of, ‘Do what you think is right in your conscience,’ but I do think he encourages him to stay.”

Cohn thought about Kelly’s advice. But he was still determined to resign. He asked Kelly for an appointment with Trump on August 21. But that was a tough day for Trump. The president was hunkered down, focused on the speech he was to give that night, in Arlington, Virginia, about the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. Kelly told Cohn that his meeting with Trump would have to wait. Kelly offered Cohn the chance to see Trump, in the Oval Office, a day later, before Trump flew to Yuma, Arizona. Cohn accepted.

This was Cohn’s showdown meeting with Trump. It was a “long conversation,” the source said, where Trump did everything from yelling at Cohn that his staying with him in the White House was a matter of his “national duty” to trying to cajole him into sticking it out, using more of a light touch. Interestingly, Trump was clear to make a distinction with Cohn. His “duty” was to “the country” not to Trump personally. He refused to read or to take Cohn’s letter of resignation. A White House official disputed that Trump specifically asked Cohn to stay on as national economic adviser. “The president encouraged Gary to make his own decision,” the official said. (For his part, Cohn declined to be interviewed about what happened.)

Although one would think that it’s easy enough to resign by just resigning, Trump’s pleas seemed to work with Cohn. Instead of quitting, he decided to go public with his frustration with the way Trump handled Charlottesville. In an interview with the Financial Times, on August 25—days after his Oval Office meeting with Trump—Cohn throttled Trump. “I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” he told the paper. “As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post . . . because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks. . . . Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the K.K.K. As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job. I feel deep empathy for all who have been targeted by these hate groups. We must all unite together against them.” That Cohn would be speaking to the Financial Times about his views on Charlottesville was pre-cleared with the White House. “He’s been very open and honest,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary, told the Financial Times. “And so I don’t think that anyone was surprised by the comments.”

As we know, Trump does not like to be criticized, let alone by a senior member of his White House staff. According to published reports, he did not react well to Cohn’s FT interview. Cohn was “iced” for a while, my source said. Stories started appearing that Trump would not look Cohn in the eye, that Cohn was being excluded from key meetings, and that the likelihood that Trump would choose him to replace Janet Yellen, as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board—once viewed by Cohn as his elegant escape path from the White House lunacy—had been greatly diminished. It’s a testament to how badly Trump needs the rational, centrist members of his team—Cohn, Mattis, Kelly, and Tillerson, among them—that the hard feelings between Trump and Cohn over Charlottesville have been put in the past. Their relationship is “back to normal,” I am told by this source. “They get along again.”

Cohn supposedly stayed for the good of the country, to be part of the tiny quorum of adults around Trump. But if the events of August taught him anything, it was to keep a lower profile, and not be a lightning rod for the Trump administration. He told me months ago that he relished the opportunity to be part of the team that overhauls the tax code for the first time in more than 30 years. And indeed, Cohn is said to have had a large hand in drafting Trump’s still-amorphous tax-reform “framework,” which provides hefty tax cuts to the wealthy and to corporations providing a minimal benefit, if any, for the middle class. It’s a strange plan for a liberal Democrat, which Cohn was (and may still be) before he joined the Trump administration, to have helped to create. The proposals, a throwback to the “trickle-down” economics of the Reagan era, will massively increase deficits and the more than $20 trillion in national debt, unless the economy can somehow start growing much faster than the 2 percent G.D.P. rut it has been stuck in for a decade.

But Cohn’s selling of the plan has been half-hearted, at best. It has been his former Goldman partner, Mnuchin, who has taken the lead on it, at least publicly, and therefore should it fail, which seems increasingly possible, it will be Mnuchin more than Cohn who will end up with the bulk of the flak. At Goldman, risk management was how Cohn distinguished himself and rose to the top. But sadly for him, in the Trump White House, it’s a skill he’s had to try to learn all over again.

Colin Kaepernick’s grievance all but ends any shot of QB playing in NFL

Yahoo Sports

Colin Kaepernick’s grievance all but ends any shot of QB playing in NFL

Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports         October 16, 2017 

For months, some close to Colin Kaepernick debated whether he should cross the ultimate line. The one you don’t come back from in the NFL. The one that casts a person into football exile permanently. No matter how much it felt like Kaepernick was being blackballed or that team owners might have been conspiring against him, there was a well-defined line between thinking it and saying it. A line between faint hope and career-ending finality. To breach it, and effectively speak out against the shield, was to concede that the league’s door had closed forever.

Today, Kaepernick is there.

By all accounts, his NFL career is over. But his opportunity to challenge the league, and to step far over the line that few have gone near, has just arrived. That’s what the grievance he has filed against the NFL represents: an end, a beginning and a stronger position than before.

Colin Kaepernick is accusing NFL owners of blackballing him from the league. (AP)

It will cost him any faint chance he might have had of getting back on an NFL field. His grievance is loaded with monster allegations and seeks to dig deep under the nails of franchises. That all but assures that no team will ever take a look at him again. Not a call. Not a workout. And most definitely not a paycheck. While some (or many) owners see taking a knee during the national anthem as disrespectful, all of them feel that way about a litigious kick in the ass.

That’s what Kaepernick delivered, accusing NFL owners of scheming to end his career because of his outspoken social activism, and then bowing down to the political pressure of President Donald Trump, who has railed against NFL player protests. And he’s dropped the accusations on the doorstep of the league’s fall meetings in New York, making it a virtual certainty that both the owners and commissioner Roger Goodell will once again be confronted about why he isn’t in the NFL.

If the finance of sports has shown us anything, billionaires don’t react well when being called on the carpet for their decisions. Even less so when they feel they’re being told how to conduct their businesses. And when it’s a player challenging them in the legal realm, it’s basically the career kiss of death. Particularly if that player is someone like Kaepernick, whose fan popularity skews to either heroic or hated. If he was indeed facing an orchestrated freeze-out before this moment, it’s a safe bet his accusations of collusion and conspiracy will deliver his career only into the deepest of nuclear winters.

Of course, that’s not an earth-shattering outcome to some around Kaepernick, who have long-believed he has been on the league’s blacklist. They’ve suspected as much since the summer, after months of the NFL efficiently sending the message that he wasn’t wanted. As reporters asked why he wasn’t getting a chance, Kaepernick’s supporters saw only what they believed to be a litany of anonymous and wholly fabricated lies: that Kaepernick wanted too much money; that he wouldn’t sign to be a backup; that he was too poor of a player; that he cared more about social activism than being an NFL player. And then there was the reasoning that left Kaepernick’s camp absolutely flabbergasted – that he was too good to sign for a backup position when interested teams already had a defined starter.

In the end, every one of those justifications pushed Kaepernick closer to his belief that the past seven months were all a choreographed show. That behind the scenes, NFL owners had come to a collective decision that he was no good for their game. And that each time someone debunked the reasons why he wasn’t on a team, the NFL came up with something new to feed the masses and denounce him.

Deep down, what Kaepernick and some around him have long believed is what is now laid out in his grievance: That the NFL wanted to be rid of him because of his outspoken voice and the wave of social activism that he triggered. That he was too dangerous to a brand that craves power, control and muted obedient labor. By putting those accusations out there, Kaepernick will strike his career down. And in doing so, he may become a more powerful voice in how the NFL handles outspoken players.

That’s where the beginning lies in all of this. For months, Kaepernick has shunned interviews. Primarily for two reasons: He didn’t want to be seen as begging some NFL team for a job; and keeping quiet limited the ability of others to twist his voice into controversy, and destroy any chance he had of playing in the league.

There was a consequence of that duality. The vast majority of NFL teams simply never called and he never got close to signing anywhere. Also, others were left to speculate about Kaepernick’s thoughts and feelings while the league’s social activism moved forward without him.

New Orleans Saints players kneel before the anthem is played at a game in London. (Getty Images)

Now? All of that is poised to change. With the grievance filed and Kaepernick well-aware that he has crossed a boundary of no return, there is no incentive to remaining silent. He no longer has anything to lose. If he chooses, his life’s work can now become two things: proving the NFL has been operating with a hidden agenda against him; and vocally re-entering the social activism realm that largely hasn’t heard his voice for more than a year.

If none of that suits Kaepernick, the very least he can do now is defend himself. Against the NFL. Against the hatred of some fans. And against a president who has invoked his name and turned his efforts into a viable political platform.

The line has been crossed and the league’s door has closed. But other portals are ready to be opened. Now Kaepernick finds himself with a voice again – with nothing to lose and no need to hold back. He’s standing at a new line, between the end of his career and the beginning of something else. All he needs to do now is choose where he goes next.