Tuesday tidbits (in mid-September, 2022)

Being in an alliterative state of mind, here are a few Tuesday tidbits for tasting. In no particular order:

  • I read where Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson is having trouble with his reelection campaign, as well he should. Apparently, independents like myself have soured on the guy, and he is in a toss-up with Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes. To be frank, many Republicans did not want Johnson to run again (his age), but for a different reason than I have. He is such an overt supporter of the former president, many Republicans on committees he chaired have openly disagreed with his inane assertions.
  • I continue to read some folks are voting Republican for economic reasons, but they should look at historical data. Here is an easy example to find – under which White Houses have more jobs been created, Democrat or Republicans (note there have been 13 terms apiece)? The answer is under Democrats, and it is not even close. Even Democrats tend to miss this question. The economy and stock market have done better as well. Those who say the last former president did great with the economy, should note that he inherited an economy in its 91st consecutive month of economic growth, a more than doubled stock market and six consecutive years of 2+ million per annum job growth. Note Obama inherited a recession from George W. Bush.
  • I should note that presidents and legislators get too much credit and blame for the economy. They do provide some headwinds and tailwinds, but the economy is bigger than their jobs. The inflation we are seeing today has a lot to do with an inadequate supply chain. If you remember your economic graphs, when supply is low, prices go up. The pandemic hurt a great deal. To me, the tariffs imposed by the previous president and continued under the current one have upset our supply chains, where businesses had to find other sources of goods that they likely continued. I would add the Russian invasion of Ukraine has fueled fossil fuel price increases along with the continued disruption of a poorly planned and executed Brexit which has an echo effect.
  • I should also caution my British friends they are in for an even rockier road with new Prime Minister Liz Truss’ infatuation with trickle-down economics, which has been proven in five studies to have failed. The state of Kansas recently had a huge failure with this theory and almost went bankrupt before it was overturned. Per Mother Jones, “After years of budgetary ruin, Kansas’ experiment in trickle-down economics is finally coming to a close. Late Tuesday night, the state Legislature voted overwhelmingly to override a veto from Gov. Sam Brownback and increase a slew of taxes in the state.” Trickle-down economics is not the best of names, but it is better than what it was called in the late 1890s – the “Horse and sparrow theory,” meaning what you feed the horse (the wealthy) is excreted to feed the sparrows (everyone else).

Sucking the oxygen out of the room

I have written often about relevant issues not getting discussed as certain politicians and sloppy reporters and opinion people would rather discuss sensationalized and exaggerated issues, which may not be that big of a deal to begin with. Or, worse, the party complaining the most chose not to act to leave an issue open to blame the other side for its failure to address it. This last step is happening too often for my tastes. It truly sucks the oxygen out of the room.

When Donald Trump used “build that wall” as his bumper sticker theme in 2016, immigration was a problem, but down on the list of issues causing disenfranchisement in people in run-down areas. The two main culprits of companies chasing cheaper labor and technological advancements would not fit on a bumper sticker. Plus, it is hard to fear a robot like you can an illegal alien brought in as cheap labor in some industries. But, it should be noted when his bluff was called on his number one issue and Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham got him to agree on a wall funding for DACA being made law, he reneged on his promise in a matter of a few hours as not solving immigration was better as a campaign issue.

Right now instead of discussing more our US and global water crisis, our poverty and hunger problems, the threats to our civil rights and democracy, the need to further stabilize health care costs and access, the continuing threats to inflation and climate change, etc., we spend far too much time speaking about things that are not really problems based on some variation of “fear the other” as a threat. When I see “fear the other” issues being bandied about, I just move on as these are purposeful wedge issues to garner votes.

We just passed a good, but imperfect Inflation Reduction Act that included elements to reduce the deficit with increased taxes on the wealthy, help with renewable energy investment and stabilizing health care premiums continuing what happened with the pandemic funding. Although Republican led states will benefit from this, no Republican voted for it. If a party is going to complain about inflation, why did no one vote for it? No legislation is perfect, but no one, even when your state benefits?

Democrats have just done a similar ploy delaying a vote of the marriage equality act until after the election. It is arguable that it could not have passed, but the Democrats feel some lame duck moderate Republicans will be more inclined to vote in favor after the mid-terms. Yet, the bill had support and some momentum. Some Republicans in tough campaigns wanted to vote for it.

Politics has become a new sport with a zero-sum mindset – I must win and you must lose. We even have folks who taunt the other side. In this construct, the people who lose are the voters and citizens of our country and other countries. When the US fails to be a responsible global partner and citizen, then the rest of the world thinks less of us. Botching our pandemic response showed that the US cannot effectively deal with a major issue. The January 6 insurrection showed that even the US can look like a Banana Republic. The unproven bogus election fraud claims planned and touted by the losing former president, made us look like an autocratic country pretending to look like a democracy.

We must strive toward our better angels and civilly discuss our problems truthfully and factually. If any leader from any party cannot do this, then he or she needs to resign. And, we certainly do not need them running for office. Full stop.

When real people are used as pawns

Three governors of states have decided to play with people’s lives in an overt way to win some delusional wedge issue to garner votes. These governors have decided to transport migrants and refugees from Venezuela and other places to Democrat majority cities for them to deal with the problem. Our friend Jill has a good piece on the subject which I will link to below.

Here a few thoughts that share how I feel about stepping on the neck of the disenfranchised:

If grandstanding were an Olympic sport, these three prone-to-exaggerating governors would vie for the Gold. If bullying the disenfranchised were a Commandment, these three prone-to-condescending governors would be very pious. If letting your dog go in your neighbors yard without clean-up was a character trait, then these prone-to-screwing-people governors would be honorable..

The migrant stunt is just poor form, but not outside of these three governors’ modus operandi. I did read the migrant stunt is not playing well with Latino Americans in South Florida, nor should it. People need to recognize when folks are grandstanding, bullying and screwing people like these governors often do. 

With that said, I am all for healthy and civil debate on how to help and deal with the influx of people from other places. Ironically, before he turn and ran from his greatest legislative achievement, Senator Marco Rubio (of that very same South Florida) was part of a gang of eight Senators who helped pass a pretty good immigration bill in 2013. The Speaker of the House chose not to bring it to a vote, although it would have passed, because Republicans felt it was a better election issue if left unpassed. This is the same reason the last former president was talked out of his wall funding for DACA deal the same day he agreed to it.

Working together should not be as hard as the elected officials have made it. My strong advice is stop the grandstanding and get in a room and work things out. Truth telling and civility would be helpful.

Oil companies’ internal documents confirm gaslighting the public

An article in The Guardian yesterday by Oliver Milman called “Criticism intensifies after big oil admits ‘gaslighting’ public over green aims” does not paint the fossil fuel industry in a good light. Here are a few paragraphs, but I encourage you to link the article below.

“Criticism in the US of the oil industry’s obfuscation over the climate crisis is intensifying after internal documents showed companies attempted to distance themselves from agreed climate goals, admitted ‘gaslighting’ the public over purported efforts to go green, and even wished critical activists be infested by bedbugs.

The communications were unveiled as part of a congressional hearing held in Washington DC, where an investigation into the role of fossil fuels in driving the climate crisis produced documents obtained from the oil giants ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP…

The new documents are ‘the latest evidence that oil giants keep lying about their commitments to help solve the climate crisis and should never be trusted by policymakers,’ said Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity.

‘If there is one thing consistent about the oil and gas majors’ position on climate, it’s their utter inability to tell the truth,’ Wiles added.

Ro Khanna, co-chair of the committee, said the new documents are ‘explosive’ and show a ‘culture of intense disrespect’ to climate activists. The oil giants’ ‘climate pledges rely on unproven technology, accounting gimmicks and misleading language to hide the reality,’ he added. ‘Big oil executives are laughing at the people trying to protect our planet while they knowingly work to destroy it.'”

These revelations are not surprising but are alarming. It should be noted shareholders of Exxon Mobil voted to require management to inform them on the progress toward fighting climate change, the vote occurring the day before the former president pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. The proof though is in the pudding. To me it is a culture of window dressing – making it look like management is doing something but really not as much as it seems.

Yet, for those who simply cannot believe Big Oil would do this, let me remind that eight CEOs of the tobacco industry sat in a panel in front of a Congressional Committee and lied to a direct question. The lie they covered up is they all knew nicotine was addictive dating back thirty years. Let me remind that per the movie “Dark Waters,” Dupont knew that making Teflon was harmful to people, including their own workers, and hid that fact. And, after losing a data-centric arbitration case, they reneged on paying restitution to people. They then lost successive lawsuits to individuals for multiple millions of dollars before settling all the cases.

It amazes me that leadership of these (and other) organizations are so protective of their brand, they avoid doing the right thing. They would rather hide it and hope their secret is never discovered. In the end, they are more harmful to their brand than coming out and admitting the truth. Compare what these companies did to what Johnson and Johnson did when someone was poisoning Tylenol capsules in the grocery stores. They admitted their own failure and acted quickly to make protective seals, setting off a larger trend in industry.

Gaslighting is not a flattering word. When we see these feel good commercials on TV put forth by the oil companies, we need to take them with a large grain of salt. They may just what it seems – window dressing.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/17/oil-companies-exxonmobil-chevron-shell-bp-climate-crisis

Friday follies and fumbles

Happy Friday all. The mornings have been surprisingly cool these last few days of summer here in the northern hemisphere in the US south. We are ending a work week which has several notable follies and fumbles.

At the top of the list is the surprise of many Russians as their troops are hightailing it out of northeastern Ukraine. But, Mr. Putin, but you said we were winning? I think the news brought a smile to many Ukrainians and non-Russians beyond the borders of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, Prince Andrew came out of hiding to pay respects to his mother. It is unfortunate as it brought to the front pages the reactions of his and other Epstein/ Maxwell victims. Mind you a son should be able to grieve his mother, but it is sad that he did what he did to dishonor his position and harm his relationship with her the last few years.

It also saddens me that two famous womanizing ex-presidents had a relationship with Mr. Epstein. I am not saying anything happened, but there is evidence that Messers. Clinton and Trump knew Mr. Epstein. What also saddens me is how easily Trump’s presidential career could have ended before it started if Mike Pence had not rescinded his resignation from the team after the famous “locker room talk” recorded where his running mate bragged on grabbing women by the private parts in public just because he could. Trump survived by painting Hillary Clinton with her husband’s indiscretions. How that worked is beyond me.*

In the southern hemisphere, “Brazil’s presidential hopeful Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leads incumbent Jair Bolsonaro by 12 points, a Thursday poll showed, while the far-right leader seeking reelection has lost the pace against his leftist rival’s edge ahead of the Oct. 2 vote.” Now, Bolsonaro has already made Trump like statements about the pending election (as his counterpart did before his 2020 election), so take it to the bank – if he loses, Bolsonaro will pull a Trump and call foul.

Finally, Florida governor Ron De Santis is bussing migrants to Democratic majority cities to make it their problem. It should be noted punishing your neighbors is not the wisest of strategies, but these kind of bullying antics are not unusual for DeSantis dating back to when he was a Congressman. I would not be surprised if the governors of these states retaliated as it is obvious shaming DeSantis does not work. An expected retaliation would be to deny state workers reimbursement for any business travel and to suggest conventions be held elsewhere. Nothing in this paragraph should be construed as being helpful to American citizens and is playing up yet another wedge issue.

On the flip side, kudos should be offered to the Biden administration for their role in garnering a deal between the unions and Amtrak. A rail strike helps no one and harms many. Well done for getting it done to all concerned.

*Note: I have been in many locker rooms in my career as an amateur athlete and I must state that I have never heard talk like Mr. Trump said in a locker room. I especially never heard it in a locker room where businessmen were dressing before or after golfing which is the only locker room I could envision him being in. In fact, if I heard someone bragging on grabbing women by the private parts, it would not sit very well with me as that is bragging on sexual assault.

A four-year old post showed clean energy progress is happening

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act which includes very significant renewable energy funding is a huge step forward. Even Republican legislators who were told not to vote for it, are silently celebrating the needed investment in their states that will be forthcoming.

Four years ago, I wrote the following post which sheds progress at the same time the former president was pulling the US away from the adult table on fighting climate change. President Joe Biden has gotten us back to that table and helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act. Please note the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has caused some hiccups to the progress with Russia punishing its critics with fossil-fuel restrictions, but the progress continues.

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“Global citizens are rightfully concerned the US President Donald Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, but progress continues as “we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy.” Even the US pullout cannot stop the train, as states, cities, businesses and other countries continue the push. It just means the President and his team will not be at the adult table on this issue and may not be invited at all.

Here are a few miscellaneous energy tidbits that should offer encouragement.

Per the UK Based organization Carbon Tracker, here are a few highlights from the past year:

  • more than 1/2 of the US coal plants in existence in 2010 have been closed;
  • more than 1/2 of the remaining coal plants in Europe are losing money;
  • the UK has slashed electricity from coal usage from 40% to 2% in the last five years; and
  • there have been big strides in China and Australia on reducing coal usage.

Per the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the five member, Republican dominated agency denied the request by Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to fund the building of more coal-fired and nuclear plants. This was a surprise move given the make-up of the committee. I would call this decision as not wanting to throw good money after bad.

It should be noted, it is not just coal that is giving the FERC commissioners pause. The US division of Westinghouse Electric Company had to declare bankruptcy for cost overruns on a new nuclear power plant for SCANA, the South Carolina utility. As a result, the new plant is being shuttered and SCANA is being sold to Dominion Resources, so as not to overburden SC citizens with the cost of the lost investment.

The International Energy Agency in their 2017 Energy Outlook notes the cost of new solar photovoltaic electricity has declined by 70% and wind energy has fallen 25% since 2010. It should be noted the IEA has tended to favor fossil fuel energy in past releases. China, the new country leader in the climate change fight, will be investing US$360 billion more in renewable energy by 2020. Plus, the price of solar has fallen so much in places like Zambia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, it has won bidding contests against fossil fuel energy sources for projects.

Finally, any discussion on future energy cannot exclude the declining cost and increasing capacity in battery storage. Per Bloomberg New Energy Financials, energy storage will double six times between 2016 and 2030. Elon Musk just helped southern Australia go live with a major battery installation and 21 states in the US have planned projects on energy storage.

All of the above stories are important because it has always been a financial argument to combat the environmental concerns, whose long term costs have been undervalued. Now, the financials are favoring the renewable energy engine, so market forces will continue to force the ultimate demise of coal-fired energy, which started with the lower cost of natural gas. If a company can find a clean energy source which is cheaper and more predictable long term, that is easily the better path forward. If you don’t believe me, just ask companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart and IKEA to name only a few.”

Sonic Highways – a terrific Foo Fighters Journey across America (an encore)

The following is an encore post of an earlier one I wrote in 2015. Since that time, the Foo Fighters have released an album called “Sonic Highways.” It is a hard rock album, but the songs have purpose, especially if you have seen the documentary series.

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For those who subscribe to HBO, there is a terrific series about American music called “Sonic Highways.” In essence, Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters are traveling to various cities across America that have innovative music scenes. In essence, the Foo Fighters are tracing our musical roots. Thus far, I have seen episodes in Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Austin and each have been wonderful and unique. Each show culminates in the Foo Fighters recording a song in a memorable venue such as Preservation Hall in New Orleans, in Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago or the original television studio for Austin City Limits. I highly recommend you check the series out.

In each of the five shows, they talk with performers who made it big in these locations as well as regionally, nationally and/ or globally. They speak of key influencers early on in the music scene there. So, it is both historical and current. For example, a key reason Seattle has been a big venue for new music is bands from Los Angeles and San Francisco did not like traveling up the coast several hours for only a few gigs. As a consequence, Seattle started its own music scene which culminated with Nirvana’s success but could trace its roots back to much earlier times.

In Chicago, they spoke at length with Buddy Guy about his career and work with his good friend Muddy Waters. They also spent a lot of time with Rick Nielson, the uniquely fabulous guitarist of Cheap Trick, who tied blues with punk rock and tremendous theater. Nielson actually joined the Foo Fighters on the recording at the end of the show, based on Guy’s quotes called “Something from Nothing.” Albini produced the Nirvana second album where he met Grohl when he was Nirvana’s drummer.

Austin is a melting pot of music from blues to country to rock to all of the above blended together. Musicians from Willie Nelson to Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Gary Clark, Jr. to Billy Gibbons to Roky Erickson have graced the city and stages there. Plus some of the more colorful band names like “Thirteenth Floor Elevators,” “Moving Sidewalks” and “The Fabulous Thunderbirds”  were spawned there.

Austin City Limits exposed the Austin music scene even further and has been going strong for 40 years. Grohl was amazed the old theater and stage where ACL was filmed and recorded was still in tact and they performed the song for the show there. Grohl was amazed the grand piano that was used for the show was still there behind the seats covered with a tarp. This piano had been played by Fats Domino and many others and there it sat unused.

Like Austin, New Orleans is an amalgamation of different types of music and is where Jazz really got its roots and took off. One of the reasons for the blending of jazz, blues, zydeco, etc. is the eclectic mix of people who were allowed to commingle before it was acceptable in other places. While the venues are many, the Foo Fighters chose to perform at Preservation Hall, which is a tiny and old venue with one of the best house bands around. If you go, you will stand (in line and while listening), but it is worth it. I took my teen boys there as it is the only venue where they don’t serve alcohol.

I look forward to seeing more of these shows. I think they are still filming, but have already recorded versions in Washington, Nashville and New York and maybe other places. Please do yourself a favor and check it out.

Bankers used to be trustworthy, but threw their reputation out the window – a reprise

In 2014, I wrote the following post which was predicated on yet another huge fine of a large bank for inappropriate activities in selling products. Just yesterday, per The Charlotte Observer in an article called “Bank settles with feds over claims it ‘misused’ 401(k),” Wells Fargo was fined $145 million (after earlier fines for unethical and some illegal practices) for cheating its own employees and retirees with higher stock transaction fees in the company 401(k). This latest fine was forthcoming from the Department of Labor as they govern employer sponsored 401(k) plans. It should be noted the bank settled the case without admitting guilt.

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Last week, Bank of America was the latest bank to be penalized for fraudulent or aggressive marketing practices. They have had so many fines for malfeasance or aggressive marketing practices that it is hard to keep track of their sins. The latest penalty fined Bank of America $783 million for selling credit card consumers products and services they did not request. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was newly created a couple of years ago by the Dodd-Frank Act under the tutelage of now Senator Elizabeth Warren, said the $738 million of that fine is used to restore money to those customers who were fraudulently sold these products.

In its first two fiscal years of operations ending June 30, 2013, the CFPB has fined banks and financial entities $942 million of which the significant majority goes to the consumers who were harmed or defrauded. The banks and financial institutions that were penalized include, but are not limited to American Express, Capital One, Discover, and JP Morgan Chase. While the significant majority of the penalty goes to the consumers, the remainder, which is usually less than 10% of the overall fine, goes into a Civil Penalty Fund, which has the following purpose as stated in the CFPB 2013 Annual Report:

“Under the Act, funds in the Civil Penalty Fund may be used for payments to the victims of activities for which civil penalties have been imposed under the Federal consumer financial laws. To the extent that such victims cannot be located or such payments are otherwise not practicable, the Bureau may use funds in the Civil Penalty Fund for the purpose of consumer education and financial literacy programs.”

What is interesting to me is why certain politicians are against this agency? I want them to tell me why an agency designed to protect the average Joe’s and Josephine’s is a bad thing. To state the obvious, these politicians tend to be Republican and tend to be supported by bankers. Senator Richard Shelby, who Chaired the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee from 2003 – 07 is one of the key critics of the CFPB. (Sidebar – under president Donald Trump, Mick Mulvaney was appointed to lead the CFPB to hobble it).

This is one area where people who don’t want regulation need to explain how we would be better without it. Would it be OK for bankers to have full license to sell their customers services they do not need? Is it OK for banks to screw people over? I find most people confuse unwieldy bureaucracy with regulation. We need the latter, but need to guard against the former. I also find people who don’t want to be regulated tend to be those who need to be regulated more. The fossil fuel industry comes to mind, but that would be a large digression.

Having worked in Human Resources within a bank back in the 1990s, what I have witnessed is being a banker used to be one of the most trusted professions. Now, it ranks much lower in trust.  And, they only have themselves to blame. Truth be told, bankers used to be trustworthy, but threw their reputation out the window.

The slippery slope began in earnest with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in the late 1990s. This act had been put in place at the time of the Great Depression and was designed to assure that banks would be banks and not investment banks, security traders or insurance companies. With the feeling everyone learned their lesson and cooler heads would prevail, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act reopened the can of worms. The real reason for the repeal was banks wanted the fee income that usually came with those products and services. Yet, to add another metaphor, the can of worms became a Pandora’s Box.

What transpired after that repeal is banks pushing the envelope more and cross selling products and services to unsuspecting customers. Two marketing trends emerged. “Bundling” and “Tying.” Bundling represents the concept if you do more business with us, we will give you better terms. By itself, that is not necessarily a bad practice. Yet, when married with tying, it becomes unethical and illegal. Banks started tying business marketing together, so that you had to business with them in one area to get a better deal on another service which was more vital to the buyer. Usually these offers were not made in writing, as some tying can be illegal.

But, the larger trend that occurred is a selling push to reward employees for selling you services you may or may not need. The unscrupulous ones would push the hardest and do things that now get the attention of the CFPB. One of the key reasons the mortgage crisis hit is the better mortgage market dried up and banks had all of these mortgage bankers with nothing to do.

With the push out of the second Bush White House that home ownership was good, the higher risk mortgage market became the target. It was at this time you saw mortgage-in-a-box retail stores competing against banks to sell mortgages to people who did not understand fully what was being sold to them. Variable mortgages and the dreaded Pic-a-payment mortgages that brought Wachovia down after their acquisition of Golden West, were being sold to people who were in over the heads, both economically and educationally. People should have been asking more questions, but trusted the men and women in nice suits that told them they could afford the American Dream. They failed to mention or fully explain terms like “negative amortization” and “variable mortgages” especially what transpires when the rate goes up by 200 basis points.

So, bankers used to be trustworthy, but they threw it out the window. They earned these new stripes. You have to be the navigator of your customer service experience, in general, but especially with a bank. You have to ask questions about why you are being asked to do something. You need to ask why you need another credit card. You need to ask why is the salesperson pushing so hard on this issue. If you don’t, you may need the help of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

With that said, I know many fine people who work for banks. They do their best to serve their customers. Yet, the higher-ups are pushing for sales and align incentives with that push. As a result, even well-meaning people will push the envelope even more. I have been a business for over 34 years and a truism I have learned is you make more money serving the needs of your client long term. You may make more money on occasion by pushing that envelope, but you may do so at the expense of a long term relationship which might come to an end.

For full disclosure, I am a shareholder (sidebar – I am no longer a shareholder of BofA) and customer of both Bank of America and Wells Fargo. These fines disappoint me. I want them to be accountable to their customers, employees and shareholders. But, they also need to be accountable to their regulators. They owe it to all of us.

Rural Virginia pivots from coal to green jobs

An article by Nina Lakhani in The Guardian this weekend called “‘This is the future’: rural Virginia pivots from coal to green jobs,” is a must read, especially for those who still want to cling to a declining industry. The article can be linked to below. Here are a few salient paragraphs that will give you the gist.

“When Mason Taylor enrolled at the local vocational school with dreams of becoming an electrician like his dad, it was assumed that the ninth-grader would eventually end up moving away from Wise county, Virginia, to find a decent job.

Now 19, Taylor just bought a truck after a summer apprenticing with a crew of electricians installing rooftop solar systems at public schools in the county. He was among a dozen or so rookies paid $17 an hour, plus tools and a travel stipend, as part of the state’s first solar energy youth apprenticeship scheme.

The region’s long-awaited energy and economic transition will be substantially boosted by America’s first climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

It’s far from a panacea, but Joe Biden’s legislation provides $369bn for the transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy – a historic investment that scientists estimate will reduce greenhouse gases by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and ​​create an estimated 1.5m new jobs.

Decent well-paid jobs are desperately needed. In Virginia, coal production has declined by 70% since its peak in 1990, and much of what’s left is semi-automated. Those old jobs are largely gone and are not coming back.

The IRA provides ring-fenced money for training, innovation and manufacturing, as well as an array of tax breaks and other financial incentives to help consumers and businesses transition away from fossil fuels. And Joe Manchin, the conservative Democrat senator from West Virginia played a pivotal role in watering down – and then reviving – the legislation, directing billions of dollars to the economic revival of depressed coal towns.

‘It’s a game changer for rural and coal communities,’ said Autumn Long, a project manager for solar financing and manufacturing workforce development at the non-profit Appalachian Voices. ‘Renewables are a way to honour the region’s energy-producing legacy and be part of the 21st-century global energy transition. The IRA is a turning point.‘”

In my view, these efforts are about ten years overdue. I have been writing for several years now of the demise in coal jobs in our country as contrasted to the uptick in solar and wind jobs. If I knew of the demise, the elected officials in these coal states have had to have known. This would include the Senate Minority leader who hails from Kentucky, one of those coal states. The sun has always shined and the wind has always blown in those states.

Yet, they did nothing. They were paid campaign funds by coal manufacturers to do nothing and perpetuate the status quo. Whether people like him or not, the only 2016 presidential candidate who told coal miners the truth – in person – was Senator Bernie Sanders, who said your jobs are going away, but here is what I plan to do about it.

Now, at long last, more is being done about it. Solar and wind energy are now on par or better in production costs with coal energy. And, when you factor in the environmental, maintenance, trucking, and litigation costs, the two renewables beat the pants off coal. It makes little sense to build a new coal plant which will become obsolete before it is finished.

So, this new law is good news and we should give credit to this Congress and President for getting it done. It is better late than never, but let’s hope it is not too late.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/08/rural-virginia-pivots-from-coal-solar-green-jobs

Civil discourse and truth are needed – letter sent to the editor

I sent this letter into the editor of my newspaper yesterday. I hope they publish it. Please feel free to adapt and use.

It continues to trouble me that too many Americans are following the lead of extremists and committing violence when they don’t agree with something. It also troubles me that we are letting sources of disinformation and propaganda like QAnon, InfoWars, select politicians, et al inflame our opinions. Please ignore these folks as they are doing our nation a disservice.

As an independent who leans progressive on some issues and conservative on others, I can assure you neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones. We must have civil discourse and bipartisan agreement to move important solutions forward. And, we need to use facts and speak truthfully or the solutions will miss the mark.

Politicians owe us the truth. If they cannot shoot straight with us, they need to resign or not run for office even if they happened to have served before. Full stop.