04/19/2018

News

How California Taught China to Sell Electric Cars

California wants 5 million emission-free cars on the road by 2030. China, with a far larger population, wants 7 million electric vehicles by 2025. California has a cap-and-trade program to limit emissions from power plants, factories and fuel suppliers. China is launching a cap-and-trade system to lower fuel consumption and cut reliance on oil imports. […]

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Why Energy-Rich Australia Suffers the World’s Priciest Power

A bungled transition from coal to clean energy has left resource-rich Australia with an unwanted crown: the highest power prices in the world.

New Yorkers pay half as much as Sydneysiders to keep the lights on, despite Australia boasting among the world’s largest coal and natural gas reserves, as well as ideal conditions for clean power generation. A decade of political dithering and climate policy missteps have set its patchwork power system adrift, ratcheting up manufacturing costs and hurting consumers with a doubling in electricity prices since last year and rising risks of blackouts.

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California Considers Following China With Combustion-Engine Car Ban

Governor Jerry Brown has expressed an interest in barring the sale of vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview Friday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. The earliest such a ban is at least a decade away, she said.

Brown, one of the most outspoken elected official in the U.S. about the need for policies to combat climate change, would be replicating similar moves by China, France and the U.K.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols said, referring to China’s planned phase-out of fossil-fuel vehicle sales. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”

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Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley’s Tech Giants

Organized labor doesn’t rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn’t most people’s idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they’ve unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook.

The workers aren’t technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies’ direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability.

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Wall Street Sours on $9 Billion Mechanism for Green Projects

Wall Street investors have gone cold on one of the main mechanisms banks invented to fund the green-energy revolution. The business structure, known as the yieldco, feeds dividends from operating solar and wind farms to investors. Yieldcos raised $7.9 billion in public equity in 2014 and 2015 but only $1 billion since then, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The shift is further fallout from the collapse of yieldco promoter SunEdison Inc. and has changed the way clean-energy developers finance themselves. In years past, they started yieldcos to buy projects once they were operating, recycling the capital into new installations. Now, they’re turning to a large and deepening pool of buyers — insurance companies and pension funds — to provide funding and sometimes take control of income-producing assets.

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Why Aren’t American Teenagers Working Anymore?

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent in May, the lowest in 16 years, so teens started looking for summer jobs in the best labor market since the tech boom of the early 2000s. The May unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds was 14.3 percent, but teens usually find it harder to find jobs than their more experienced elders. Back in 2009, the teenage jobless rate hit 27 percent. 

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Denmark Is Killing Tesla (and Other Electric Cars)

Sales in Denmark of Electrically Chargeable Vehicles (ECV), which include plug-in hybrids, plunged 60.5 percent in the first quarter of the year, compared with the first three months of 2016, according to latest data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). That contrasts with an increase of nearly 80 percent in neighboring Sweden and an average rise of 30 percent in the European Union. The figures suggest clean-energy vehicles still aren’t attractive enough to compete without some form of subsidy.

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The Electric Car Revolution Now Faces Its Biggest Test

The primary cost for an electric car is its battery, responsible for almost half the pricetag of a mid-sized plugin. If you take that away, electric cars are much cheaper to produce and maintain than internal combustion vehicles. (That’s why French carmaker Renault sells its popular Zoe without a battery, which customers pay a monthly fee to lease.

For true mass-market appeal, the up-front sticker price is what matters most, and battery prices must come down further. Fortunately, prices are falling fast—by roughly 20 percent a year. The manufacturing cost of electric cars will fall below their gasoline counterparts across the board around 2026, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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Young White America Is Haunted by a Crisis of Despair

The fates of the less-educated and those who graduate from universities diverge in dire ways. Middle-aged white Americans without four-year degrees are at increasing risk of dying, a well-documented trend driven not only by drug use but also by alcoholism, suicide, and slowing progress against heart disease and cancer. Outcomes may worsen further as millennials—Johnson’s generation—grow older.

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California Cities’ Pension Tab Seen Almost Doubling in 5 Years

California cities and counties will see their required contributions to the largest U.S. pension fund almost double in five years, according to an analysis by the California Policy Center.

In the fiscal year beginning in July, local payments to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System will total $5.3 billion and rise to $9.8 billion in fiscal 2023, according to the right-leaning group that examines public pensions.

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AFL-CIO Dismissing Staff Amid Declines in U.S. Union Membership

The AFL-CIO is dismissing dozens of staff members as part of a restructuring amid continuing declines in union membership and fresh political threats to labor rights.

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Bill Gates Among Rich Individuals Backing $1 Billion Energy Fund

Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., spent much of the last year stumping for advances in energy production. He maintains that things like solar plants, nuclear power and electric cars will do little to solve global warming in the relatively near-term. The only way to halt global warming is to find an energy source that produces no greenhouse gases, Gates has said.

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Women Are in the New Sweet Spot of the U.S. Economy, Study Finds

Women still earn less than men, but they’ve narrowed the gap because they tend to work in jobs that require more social and analytical skills, a new study from the Pew Research Center finds. . . Women’s pay went up 32 percent while men’s pay went down 3 percent from 1980 to 2015, according to the study, “The State of American Jobs.”

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Dallas Police See Exodus as Doubts Rise on Pension Promises

Dallas’s police and firefighters are quitting in droves, wagering that financial-market losses are about to render their promised pensions too good to be true.

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Solar Rooftop Revolution Fizzles in U.S. on Utility Pushback

Residential installations are expected to increase by 21 percent this year, but in 2017 the figure will inch upward by about 0.3 percent. The change comes as utilities push back against mandates to buy the electricity and shifting tax policies curb demand. Throw in sliding electricity rates and it’s clear the economic benefits of rooftop panels are no longer so obvious to consumers.

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