Saturday, April 11, 2015

Stories to share: U.S. energy going green, and more

Truth Team
Here's some recommended reading that's easy to share. No fluff, just facts -- that's the Truth Team way.

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Not a toy: Plummeting prices are boosting renewables, even as subsidies fall - The Economist

Global investment in renewable energy, chiefly wind and solar power, rose by a sixth in 2014, to $270 billion. This was partly because of subsidies in the rich world, such as America's 30% federal tax credit for solar projects. Under a system known as "net metering", consumers with small solar installations can sell surplus power to the grid at the same price as they pay for power flowing in. But even if the tax credit is cut, as expected, solar electricity could displace 9.7% of American retail electricity sales by 2019, reckons Bernstein, a research firm--over 30 times the share today. Since big solar installations are more cost-efficient than small ones, that makes little economic sense. But the days when renewables were largely a sop to rich-world consumers' consciences are clearly over. Nearly half of last year's investment was in developing countries, notably China, whose energy concerns have more to do with the near term than with future global warming. It worries about energy security, and it wants to clean up its cities' air, made filthy partly by coal-burning power plants. The 2014 figure is slightly less than the previous peak, in 2011 (see chart). But investors today get more energy for their buck. The cost of battery storage, a vital part of a solar-powered future, has fallen by 60% since 2005, and the overall cost of a solar-power system is down by 75% since 2000. IHS, a consultancy, reckons the cumulative fall will be 90% by 2025.

Why 2015 could be a record year for the greening of U.S. energy - Washington Post // Chris Mooney

In general, changes to our energy system come slowly. It's a marathon, not a sprint. In general. Nonetheless, 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty special year and a pretty significant 365-day shift in how we get our power, says a 2015 power market outlook released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "This Research Note is more sensationalist than we typically write," it confesses. The reason is a combination of three separate factors all moving in the same direction -- an expected record for renewable energy installations, another forecast record for coal plant retirements and booming natural gas. The consequence, if these forecasts are realized, would be considerably cleaner energy and an impressive one-year drop in U.S. emissions.

Four largest states have sharp disparities in access to healthcare - LA Times // Noam N. Levey

The national divide over the Affordable Care Act is beginning to affect Americans' access to medical care and perhaps even their ability to pay medical bills, a new study of the country's four largest states suggests. Residents of Florida and Texas, which have resisted expanding insurance coverage through the health law, reported more problems getting needed care than residents of California and New York, which both guarantee coverage to their residents. Floridians and Texans were also significantly more likely to struggle with medical bills and to report that they had medical debt, according to the study from the Commonwealth Fund, a New York foundation that studies health systems domestically and around the world. "Health policy decisions made by state leaders matter," the study's authors conclude, warning: "Coverage gaps are leaving millions uninsured and without access to affordable coverage."

Study Shows Why Hundreds Of Thousands Of Adults With Serious Mental Conditions Can't Get Help - Stateline via HuffPo // Michael Ollove

More than a half-million adults who said they wanted help with their serious mental conditions last year couldn't get it because they lacked the resources and weren't eligible for Medicaid to pay for treatment, a new study finds. Those people -- an estimated 568,886 adults ages 18 through 64 diagnosed with a serious mental illness, serious psychological stress or substance use disorder at the start of last year -- lived in 24 states that didn't expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, according to a study published this week from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA). In contrast, 351,506 adults with those same mental health problems got treatment paid for by Medicaid in the 26 states and the District of Columbia, which did expand coverage of the state-federal health insurance program to eligible adults living on low incomes. The upshot, said Joel Miller, AMHCA's executive director, is "the health of hundreds of thousands of people would be improved" if all states provided Medicaid coverage as they were given the option to under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Seattle Restaurant Data Demolishes Conservative Argument Against $15 Minimum Wage - ThinkProgress // Alan Pyke

Weeks before the first gradual increase in Seattle's minimum wage kicked in, conservative pundits decided that the city's vibrant restaurant scene was shuddering to a halt. Numerous prominent outlets on the right touted a thin report in a local magazine that a handful of well-liked restaurants were closing down to avoid the wage law. High-profile writers confidently proclaimed that Seattle's once-proud restaurant scene was in retreat and that the wage hike was already chilling business activity and killing jobs, based on one anecdotal report. None of that was true. When the Seattle Times asked them about the story, the restaurant owners in question laughed off the claim that their decisions were motivated by the wage law. But even that direct testimony didn't stop the media wave all the way. The conservative National Federation of Independent Business ran a post parroting the disproven restaurant closures claim days after the Times debunked the anecdote underlying the narrative. Now, there's even harder evidence that the right was wrong. The Big Picture pulled the numbers on how many restaurant permits have been issued by the city each month going back to the start of 2012. The chart shows plenty of ups and downs - what data scientists call "noise" - but the 12-month average for permits is almost perfectly steady.

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