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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

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Rooftop Solar Increases a Home’s Selling Price Across Multiple Markets

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a report showing that homes with solar panels typically sell for $15,000 greater than those without solar panels installed. The study analyzed data collected from over 22,000 homes between 2002 and 2013 to measure the effect that solar panels have on a home’s market selling price. The report’s findings come as a boon not only to homeowners with solar panels, but also to the real estate industry, which has struggled to place a price on rooftop solar in the past.

Solar panels must operate for a number of years before they produce enough benefit to outweigh their initial cost. This sort of multi-year investment isn’t a big deal for conventional utilities, which have the capital and continuity to finance solar farms, gas power plants, and other forms of electricity generation. However, for an ordinary family looking to invest in rooftop solar panels, there is added risk associated with the fact that the panels might not pay off before the family moves out of their home—at which point any electricity cost savings are passed onto the next homeowner (assuming the solar panels stay with the home).

Thus, to effectively finance and utilize rooftop solar panels, homeowners need information not only about the value of produced solar energy, but also about how rooftop solar panels will affect the selling price of their home in the future. This sort of math is familiar to many homeowners, who usually justify the cost of home improvements like hardwood floors, new fixtures, or other upgrades based on the premium they’ll command when the home is eventually put on the market.

To reveal the effect solar panels have on a home’s selling price, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed data collected from 3,951 solar-equipped homes and 18,871 comparable homes without solar panels, located in the states of California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, and Pennsylvania. The data span the years 2002 through 2013, encapsulating the pre-2009 housing bubble, subsequent crash, and ongoing recovery.



Did Edgar Allan Poe Foresee Modern Physics and Cosmology?

By John Horgan

I’ve always been an Edgar Allan Poe fan, so much so that I even watched the horrifying—not in a good way–2012 film The Raven. But when I spotted an essay on Poe by novelist Marilynne Robinson in the February 5 New York Review of Books, I hesitated to read it, thinking, What more can I know about Poe?

Robinson then hooked me with her first sentence, which calls Poe “a turbulence, an anomaly among the major American writers of his period, an anomaly to this day.” She went on to reveal something I definitely didn’t know about Poe. Just before he died in 1849, when he was only 40, he wrote a book-length work titled Eureka.

According to Robinson, Eureka has always been “an object of ridicule,” too odd even for devotees of Poe, the emperor of odd. But Robinson contends that Eureka is actually “full of intuitive insight”–and anticipates ideas remarkably similar to those of modern physics and cosmology.

Eureka, she elaborates, “describes the origins of the universe in a single particle, from which ‘radiated’ the atoms of which all matter is made. Minute dissimilarities of size and distribution among these atoms meant that the effects of gravity caused them to accumulate as matter, forming the physical universe. This by itself would be a startling anticipation of modern cosmology, if Poe had not also drawn striking conclusions from it, for example that space and ‘duration’ are one thing, that there might be stars that emit no light, that there is a repulsive force that in some degree counteracts the force of gravity, that there could be any number of universes with different laws simultaneous with ours, that our universe might collapse to its original state and another universe erupt from the particle it would have become, that our present universe may be one in a series. All this is perfectly sound as observation, hypothesis, or speculation by the lights of science in the twenty-first century.”



NYT Editorial: President Obama Protects a Valued Wilderness

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers only a small part of Alaska. Smaller still is the coastal plain of the refuge, a narrow, 1.5 million-acre strip flanking the Beaufort Sea. The plain is an ecological and biological wonder, the hunting grounds for Alaskan natives and home to caribou, polar bears, all manner of marine life and countless bird species. It may also contain one of the biggest unexploited oil fields in America.

For all these reasons, the plain has been the subject of a bitter tug of war between politicians and oil companies that covet its commercial resources, on one side, and conservationists who think that opening it would be a calamity — “the equivalent,” the former secretary of the interior Bruce Babbitt once said, “of offering Yellowstone National Park for geothermal drilling, or calling for bids to construct hydropower dams in the Grand Canyon.”

President Obama has now come down emphatically on the side of conservation. At the recommendation of Sally Jewell, his secretary of the interior, and John Podesta, his senior counselor, Mr. Obama proposed on Sunday to set aside more than 12 million acres of the refuge as permanent wilderness, including the 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain. Wilderness designation is the highest level of protection the government can confer on public land. It would bar commercial development of any kind, including, crucially, oil-and-gas exploration.

The proposal is the latest instance of the president’s use of his executive authority, which he has deployed in an effort to circumvent a hostile Congress on issues like immigration and climate change. While Congress must put the final stamp of approval on any wilderness proposal, under law the areas so designated by a president will receive full wilderness protections until Congress acts. Mr. Obama’s action also stirred echoes of former President Bill Clinton, who used his last two years in office to protect millions of acres of land from commercial exploitation.


Republicans Are So Desperate, They're Blaming Obama for Income Inequality

On Monday, President Barack Obama’s favorability rating hit 50 in the Gallup tracking poll for the first time since June 2013, with his unfavorable rating at 45 percent. That’s a 22-point improvement since the midterm elections, when Obama’s approval rating was 39 percent and his disapproval rating was 56 percent. What’s caused this turnaround isn’t entirely clear. Obama’s recent actions on immigration, climate change, Cuba, and community college probably helped. But the economy, particularly lower gas prices, is likely a much more important factor. Americans, for the first time since before the Great Recession, are optimistic about the direction of the economy.

That has put Republicans in a very tough spot. Their reaction to the State of the Union last week, while predictable, revealed that their current attacks against the president no longer work. They can’t simply point to a terrible economy and high unemployment rate as indicative that the president’s policies have failed. After all, the unemployment rate is down to 5.6 percent.

But over the past week we have gotten a taste of what the new Republican attacks on the Obama economy will look like. One argument posits that Obama’s policies are responsible for the decline in the labor force participation rate. I took that one apart last week. Over the weekend, though, Republicans used a different attack: Obama is responsible for increased inequality. “Frankly, the president's policies have made income inequality worse,” House Speaker John Boehner said on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” citing Obamacare as a reason for growing inequality. Other Republicans, like Mitt Romney, have suddenly discovered that inequality is a pressing problem.

The GOP’s goal is to show that they care about lower- and middle-class Americans and to convince them that the Democrats don’t care about them. But that's all this is—strategic political rhetoric. They have no evidence for their claim that Obama has increased income inequality. It may have worsened during his presidency, but it undoubtedly would have been much worse without him.



Affordable housing didn’t cause the financial crisis

By Max Ehrenfreund
January 27 at 8:21 AM

Irresponsible lending might have been one of the many causes of the financial crisis -- but not just irresponsible lending to poor people, according to a new study.

"The large majority of mortgage dollars originated between 2002 and 2006 are obtained by middle- and high-income borrowers (not the poor)," the authors write. "In addition, borrowers in the middle and top of the distribution are the ones that contributed most significantly to the increase in mortgages in default after 2007." Rich people tend to take out larger mortgages, of course, but the fact is that the amount of money poor borrowers failed to pay back was just never that significant, as this chart from the paper shows. In case you have a hard time believing that so many larger mortgages could have gone into default, The Washington Post just published a series of stories on subprime, sometimes predatory lending in relatively affluent places such as Prince George's County, Md., outside Washington, D.C.

The findings undermine criticism of recent modest efforts by the Obama administration to make housing more affordable for low-income borrowers by loosening federal credit standards. It's important to lend responsibly, even for the federal government, but the risks in this case might be exaggerated.



Tuesday Toon Roundup 2:The Rest












Tuesday Toon Roundup 1: GOP Values

Indiana Gov. Starting State-Run News Service To Compete With Actual Press

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) is starting a state-run news agency that will offer pre-written stories to news outlets in the state, according to The Indianapolis Star, which obtained documents about the news service.

The new news service, called "Just IN" will also sometimes offer stories about Pence's administration. The site is set to launch in the later half of February. Stories will be written by state press secretaries and will be overseen by Bill McCleery, a former reporter for the Star.

"At times, Just IN will break news —publishing information ahead of any other news outlet," a question and answer sheet that went out to communications directors for state agencies said. "Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such 'exclusive' coverage remain under discussion."

A governance board of communications directors will oversee the agency. The editorial board will be made up of Pence's communications team and McCleery.


Obamacare cost to be 20% less than forecast, budget office says

Source: LA Times

President Obama's healthcare law will cost about 20% less over the next decade than originally projected, the Congressional Budget Office reported Monday, in part because lower-than-expected healthcare inflation has led to smaller premiums.

So far, the number of uninsured Americans has dropped by about 12 million. By the end of 2016, 24 million fewer Americans will lack insurance, the nonpartisan budget office forecast.

Excluding immigrants in the country illegally, who are not eligible for coverage under the law, only about 8% of Americans under age 65 will lack insurance by the time Obama leaves office, the budget office's latest report on the law estimates.

Of the Americans who will remain uninsured once enrollment has fully ramped up, the budget office estimates that about 30% will be people in the U.S. without legal authorization. An additional 10% will be people who are too poor to buy insurance on the exchanges, but who live in states that have not expanded Medicaid. The remaining 60% will be people who choose to not buy insurance or enroll in Medicaid.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-obamacare-cost-20150126-story.html

Legalized Bribery-Zephyr Teachout on Sheldon Silver, Corruption and New York Politics

LAST Thursday, Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly for the past 20 years, was arrested and charged with mail and wire fraud, extortion and receiving bribes. According to Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor who brought the charges, the once seemingly untouchable Mr. Silver took millions of dollars for legal work he did not do. In exchange, he used his official power to steer business to a law firm that specialized in getting tax breaks for real estate developers, and he directed state funds to a doctor who referred cases to another law firm that paid Mr. Silver fees.

Albany is reeling, but fighting the kind of corruption that plagues not only New York State but the whole nation isn’t just about getting cuffs on the right guy. As with the recent conviction of the former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for receiving improper gifts and loans, a fixation on plain graft misses the more pernicious poison that has entered our system.

Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy.

Think of campaign contributions as the gateway drug to bribes. In our private financing system, candidates are trained to respond to campaign cash and serve donors’ interests. Politicians are expected to spend half their time talking to funders and to keep them happy. Given this context, it’s not hard to see how a bribery charge can feel like a technical argument instead of a moral one.


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