Debunking the Latest Argument to Ignore Climate Change

Jonathan Chait examines the latest argument: ‘Do you support President Obama’s EPA restrictions on emissions even though science reporters at the New York Times admitted in a recent story that restrictions will do nothing to combat climate change by themselves?’

“The New York Times story … does not say the Clean Power Plan will ‘do nothing.’ It says, ‘Mr. Obama’s new rules alone will not be enough to stave off that future.’ There is a difference between going part of the way toward solving a problem and doing nothing at all to solve a problem … Reducing emissions in the United States, the second-largest emitter in the world, will alleviate the problem without eliminating the problem.”

“Second, a major purpose of reducing American emissions is to encourage further international cooperation [and] that reducing American emissions is a necessary if not sufficient condition to produce an international agreement.”

“So to say that lower American emissions will not solve the problem “by themselves” is to introduce a caveat that makes the point meaningless. If you suffer a heart attack, calling 911 will not by itself prevent you from dying, because the ambulance might not make it to the hospital before you die. Buying groceries will by itself do nothing to prevent your children from starving, because, hey, maybe your kids won’t eat the food.”

How Can a State Circumvent Emissions Laws? Import Dirty Power.

SNL Financial: “Carbon laws are choking demand for coal-fired power in California, but the state still imports a large amount of coal-based power and is one of the nation’s top industrial users of coal, providing a needed market for Western producers facing dimming prospects elsewhere.”

“California’s carbon law AB 32, which requires the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to return to 1990 levels by 2020, sets in-state plant performance standards that are too stringent for conventional coal units. But California is still importing coal-based power from neighboring states until current power purchase and plant ownership contracts expire.”

“But at times, as much as 50% of Southern California’s electricity still comes from coal-fired plants, Steve Homer, director of project management for the Southern California Public Power Authority, or SCPPA, told SNL Energy.”

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“The three main out-of-state coal plants serving California — the Intermountain Power Project in Utah, the San Juan plant in New Mexico and the Navajo plant in Arizona — together received 10.1 million tons of coal in the first seven months of 2015, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. On an annualized basis, that would total about 17.4 million tons for the full year, or 2.2% of projected U.S. power sector coal burn for 2015, based on the EIA’s latest ‘Short-Term Energy Outlook.'”

“Although California is committed to going coal free, SCPPA’s Homer said the transition will be ‘expensive for ratepayers’ and ‘of course there are reliability concerns.'”

Two Very Different Kinds of Debates

Emily Badger in The Washington Post: “Tuesday night’s first Democratic debate made clear a fascinating contrast that’s emerged in this presidential election: The Democratic and Republican fields aren’t simply offering different visions for America’s most urgent policy challenges — they’re often talking about different challenges all together.”

“Of course, there are plenty of policy areas where the two have overlapped (even if their positions haven’t). Both fields have talked in their debates about gay marriage, marijuana and Social Security. But the many areas in which they’re not even engaged in the same conversation are striking:”

Which Cities Will Drown With Global Warming?

Quartz: “A new, interactive map from nonprofit climate science publication Climate Central illustrates precisely how American cities will fare under the best and worst possible climate futures—and which ones will disappear completely.”

“This map draws on new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (pdf) that ties carbon dioxide levels to sea level rise and layers in topography and population statistics.”

“The map uses four different scenarios laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change … Even with aggressive carbon cuts, cities like Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, could lose more than half their land. New York and Boston are in danger of shrinking by a quarter … New Orleans, meanwhile, is pretty much doomed any way you look at it.”

“If triggered, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) covering a portion of Antarctica could leave tens of thousands of more Americans without dry land, even with extreme carbon cuts.”

Obamacare Drives Record Increases in Medicaid Enrollment

A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion resulted in record increases in Medicaid enrollment and spending nationally in fiscal year 2015, with both rising an average of nearly 14 percent

The survey shows “big differences across states driven largely by the states’ decisions on the Medicaid expansion. The 29 states expanding Medicaid in FY 2015 reported enrollment and total Medicaid spending growth nearly three times the rate seen in non-expansion states. Adults newly eligible for Medicaid under the ACA with 100 percent federal financing were the primary driver, with enrollment climbing an average of 18 percent and total spending up an average of 17.7 percent in expansion states. By contrast, enrollment and total Medicaid spending grew an average of 5.1 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively, in non-expansion states, with the increase in enrollment largely due to increased participation of previously eligible parents and children.”

FY 2015 enrollment and total spending growth in expansion states far exceeded non-expansion states; state spending growth was lower.

“The survey also finds that state Medicaid spending growth in expansion states (3.4%) was more modest than in non-expansion states (6.9%).”

Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Fall Short of Projections

The Hill: “The Obama administration on Thursday announced a goal of having 10 million people signed up for ObamaCare coverage next year, fewer than a million more than are enrolled this year.”

“Hitting the goal would be an increase of just 900,000 people from the 9.1 million people that the administration expects will be enrolled at the end of this year. The goal of 10 million sign-ups is far below a Congressional Budget Office projection in June that 20 million people would be signed up in 2016.”

“The administration says that projection assumed that people would drop employer-sponsored coverage and shift to the ObamaCare marketplace, but that shift has not occurred.”

“The slowing projected rate of sign-ups has raised questions about how many more enrollees are coming in future years.”

“Overall, the administration said last month that 17.6 million people have gained coverage through the law’s marketplaces, Medicaid expansion, or by staying on their parents’ plans until age 26.”

‘Crony Capitalism,’ Not Corruption, Stunts U.S. Economic Growth

Wall Street Journal: “Cozy relationships among private interest groups and government officials have stunted economic growth, according to a new report by the Committee for Economic Development, a nonpartisan group of corporate executives that offers policy prescriptions for fiscal problems.”

“In the report, the organization calls for curbs on the so-called revolving door between Congress and lobbying firms and for overhauling the campaign-finance system, two popular ideas on the 2016 campaign trail.”

“The report, titled ‘Crony Capitalism: Unhealthy Relations Between Business and Government,’ says the spiking cost of running campaigns, combined with lobbyists’ mounting influence in Washington, have ‘exerted an important toll on the U.S. economy.'”

“One such example is the federal sugar subsidy program, which the report estimates costs consumers almost $4 billion per year … While sugar crops comprise a small percentage of the total value of U.S. crops, the sugar industry accounted for more than a third of all U.S. crop lobbying from 2002 to 2011. Political-action committees affiliated with sugar companies made more campaign donations than did lobbyists for all other U.S. crop interests combined between 2002 and 2012.”

“The committee also cites analysis of 200 firms by the Sunlight Foundation, which found that between 2007 and 2010, companies that spent heavily on lobbying paid far lower effective federal tax rates than those that didn’t.”

The Uninsured Problem Isn’t Just a Red State Issue

Drew Altman: “About 32 million people in the U.S. remained uninsured as of early 2015, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of federal survey data has found … With the high-profile resistance in some states to Medicaid expansion and the ACA generally, you may think those places are the main obstacle to covering more of the uninsured. But the uninsured remain a problem in both red and blue states.”

“About half of the remaining uninsured, 16 million people, are in mostly blue states that have expanded Medicaid. The other 16 million are in states that have not expanded Medicaid and where there is strong anti-ACA sentiment. Consider the examples of California and Texas, the states with the largest populations of remaining uninsured, to understand the different challenges.”

California is already struggling to pay for unexpected and unbudgeted Medicaid enrollment. Proposals in the legislature would make undocumented residents eligible for Medicaid at state expense, but the legislation’s prospects are unclear. Next year California will begin extending Medi-Cal coverage to about 170,000 undocumented immigrant youths up to age 19.”

“Some elements of the remaining uninsured problem are uniquely a red state issue … But as the examples of Texas and California demonstrate, progress on covering the remaining 32 million uninsured will depend on action in both red and blue states.”

Coal Giants Call for a Climate Change Deal

Bloomberg: “Calling for action on climate change is as trendy as it gets for corporations these days. But the latest businesses to declare support for a global deal on greenhouse gases may turn some heads.”

“The 14 companies that issued a joint statement Wednesday endorsing international negotiations include leaders from some of the world’s most carbon-intensive industries: coal miners BHP Billiton Plc and Rio Tinto Plc; oil majors Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc; aluminum producer Alcoa Inc.; and the planet’s biggest cement-maker, LarfargeHolcim Ltd.”

“In the statement, companies said they needed a clear direction from world leaders to guide long-term investments and transparency to ensure all countries were applying the same rules to emissions.”

“’We recognize the rising environmental, social, economic, and security risks posed by climate change, and that delaying action will result in greater risks and costs,’ according to the statement. ‘An effective response to climate change requires strong government leadership, and presents both enormous challenges and significant economic opportunities for the private sector.'”

Study: Obamacare is Not a Job Killer

CBS News: “Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect last year, critics claimed it would lead to job losses and cuts in employee hours. But how is it really playing out?”

“The dire predictions have so far proved to be unfounded, according to a new research paper from Federal Reserve Bank of New York economist Maxim Pinkovskiy. The fear was that employers who were newly required to provide health insurance to their workers would opt instead to cut hours or fire employees. But early numbers show that locations with a high percentage of uninsured Americans, such as Texas, ended up experiencing a rise in employment, salaries and output in comparison to areas with less exposure to the health care law, Pinkovskiy noted.”

“The bottom line is that in the first year of implementation, ‘it is unlikely the ACA had adverse labor market impacts,” he wrote. “It did not substantially impede the recovery after the Great Recession.'”

Which State is the Most Energy Efficient?

U.S. News & World Report: “New York tops a new list of the most efficient U.S. states in 2015 based on home- and car-energy consumption, followed by Vermont, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Utah.”

“Warm-weather states rounded out the bottom of the list – compiled by the personal finance site WalletHub – with South Carolina finishing last, preceded by Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky and Arkansas. (Alaska and Hawaii were not counted due to ‘data limitations.’)”

Source: WalletHub

“Utah, which ranked fifth on the list overall, was home to the most energy-efficient residences. Florida, which placed 23rd overall, had the highest car efficiency rank. Louisiana and North Dakota took last place in home  and car efficiency, respectively.”