4 underrated parts of the Inflation Reduction Act

“One of the most damaging legacies of the intersection between racism and fossil fuels is how highways were built to cut through Latino and Black communities. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 alone displaced more than 1 million people, according to the Department of Transportation. People who remained near these roads, overwhelmingly communities of color, were exposed to more fine particulate matter from the tailpipes of cars and trucks.

That legacy lingers today. A mountain of research has shown how Black people nationwide are exposed to more damaging pollution from construction, power plants, roads, and industry than white people.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes a federal infusion of cash for community projects aimed at addressing some of the harmful effects of these projects. There is $3 billion marked for Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants, in addition to $1 billion already approved under the bipartisan infrastructure law last fall.

The money can be used for many things, including improving walkability, capping wells, installing noise barriers, and reducing the urban heat island effect. But one way communities could use the funding is to just remove a road, highway, or other types of damaging infrastructure. They can also reconnect communities divided by highways in other ways: “multi-use trails, regional greenways, or active transportation networks and spines.””

“Slashing climate emissions requires doing two things at once: electrifying things like cars and stoves that typically run on fossil fuels, while also cleaning up fossil fuels in the power sector so that pollution doesn’t just come from another source. That’s the reason the US will have to shut down its last 172 coal plants within the decade to finally make good on its climate promises.

One surprising policy to help with this transition made it into the final bill, even though it needed Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) sign-off: $10 billion in direct payments to rural electric co-ops that pay for the cost of a clean energy transition. The USDA will administer direct payments for these co-ops to retire coal-fired power plants.

Many of the last coal plants standing are serving rural communities. E&E News noted that “about 32 percent of the power that supplies co-ops nationwide came from coal in 2019.” Investor-owned utilities, by contrast, generated 19 percent of their electricity from coal in 2020.

These rural co-ops, which are collectively owned and governed by the communities they serve, have moved away from coal slowly more for economic reasons than political ones. These coal plants tend to be newer, and the communities they serve may be more risk-averse to transitioning to renewables because they have to pay directly for the cost of the transition.

But before rural communities can even think about transitioning to solar and wind, first they have to shut down the coal plants. And that can be expensive because it includes paying off any debts. (A separate $5 billion Department of Energy program in the bill offers loans that lower debts and costs for privately owned utilities to transition to renewables.)”

“The more controversial part of the bill is its funding of carbon capture for oil, coal, and industrial sites. Typically, these technologies have been used to just pump CO2 back in the ground for more drilling, rather than to do anything about the climate crisis. Still, prevailing climate science shows that some of this technology is probably needed to address the harder-to-decarbonize parts of the economy. So the federal funding for scaling new technologies could manage to go a long way over the long term.”

“the act includes $20 billion for “climate-smart” agriculture, which could help farmers store more carbon in their soil and plants.

Part of that money, for example, will go toward an initiative called the Conservation Stewardship Program, which essentially pays farmers to make their land more environmentally friendly, such as by planting cover crops. Cover crops, planted when the ground would otherwise be fallow, are one way to increase a farm’s potential to store carbon (and can also help avoid emissions).

Another $5 billion in funding goes toward preventing wildfires and protecting old-growth forests, which are rich in carbon. This is critical because the US is expected to lose more of its natural carbon sinks over time under business-as-usual scenarios.”

House of the Dragon is coming to HBO. So is the Netflix Chill.

“The main idea behind AT&T’s acquisition of what was then-called Warner Media — first announced in 2016 but not finished until 2018 — was that the phone company could turn HBO into its own Netflix and that Wall Street would reward AT&T for owning its own Netflix. So in 2021, when it became clear that investors didn’t care about AT&T’s media foray, the company flipped a switch and dumped its entertainment assets to Discovery, the cable TV programmer best known for reality shows like 90 Day Fiancé.

But now Discovery has multiple problems. For starters, it has $53 billion in debt, much of it taken on with the Warner deal. Which means instead of spending aggressively to take on Netflix and Disney, it has to look under couch cushions for change, and David Zaslav, the CEO of the newly combined company, has promised Wall Street he’ll find $3 billion in cost savings … somewhere.

But the bigger problem is one that everyone in streaming — including Netflix — is grappling with now: Wall Street no longer likes Netflix. Netflix’s stock, which got as high as $700 last fall, is now down 50 percent because Netflix’s 10-year record rocketship growth appears over: During the first six months of this year, it actually lost subscribers. So now Wall Street, which had encouraged media companies to adopt Netflix’s growth-first, profits-maybe-later strategy, wants them to change course. (One important exemption from this: Amazon and Apple, which are tech companies dabbling in media, so they can basically spend whatever they want on programming: See Amazon’s Rings Of Power — a gazillion-dollar Lord of the Rings prequel that is very much supposed to be Amazon’s Game of Thrones. Not coincidentally, it will debut a couple weeks after House of the Dragon.)”

“Discovery plans to merge its streaming service with HBO Max sometime next year. Which means that at some point you’ll have the ability to subscribe to something that includes both House of the Dragon and Dr. Pimple Popper, a Discovery reality show that’s just what you think it’s about. You can turn up your nose at that pairing — or you can acknowledge that it’s a lot like TV used to be, when in order to subscribe to HBO, you also had to get a package of cable channels that were nothing like HBO. Streaming’s not going anywhere, but the cable TV model is going to stick around for a while longer, too.”

Silicon Valley is wrong about the future of transportation

“The reality of the automobile is quite different from the fiction that we’re sold; the reality is an almost radical dependence rather than a degree of freedom. There’s this high cost of the automobile where you need to buy it in order to get around. You need to pay your insurance, the oil, the gas or the diesel to power it. You need to pay for your occasional maintenance. For some people, those bills can disrupt their finances and their economic security. The idea that this is an example of freedom and not of dependency, in order to enrich a certain number of corporations, is quite laughable to me.
Automotive supremacy is this idea that we’ve reached this point where for many people, there is really no alternative because transit systems were defunded because everyone had an automobile or was expected to have an automobile. That’s a serious problem. It’s not actually as beneficial as it’s been sold to us, as we see in this moment where once again gas prices are through the roof. A lot of people are suffering and struggling as a result.”

We talk about heat waves in a weird way

“heat is the deadliest weather phenomenon in a typical year in the United States, killing an average of 148 people annually in the 30 years from 1992 to 2021, and climate change is only going to make heat waves more common. We already categorize tornadoes, and we name wildfires. Hurricanes get both. Would extending those ideas to heat waves help?”

Why does the WeWork guy get to fail up?

“The housing shortage is certainly a big deal. The US was short nearly 4 million housing units as of late 2020, and the problem is spreading across the country. The inability to buy a home has huge repercussions on everything from Americans’ quality of life to their ability to create wealth. The problem is big enough that venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) is writing its biggest check to date — $350 million, valuing the company at $1 billion — to invest in Flow with the hope that the company can disrupt residential real estate through technology.”

Rising Grocery Prices Pushed Annual Inflation to 8.3 Percent in August

“So-called “core CPI,” which filters out the more volatile categories like food and fuel prices, rose by 0.6 percent in August. In short, falling gasoline prices helped to offset broader and more pernicious inflation across the rest of the economy.”

Are teachers leaving the classroom en masse?

““I think what is clear among all the noise is that there hasn’t been a mass exodus. In some districts there have been elevated rates of teachers leaving,” said Heather Schwartz, senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. “‘Mass exodus’ is an undefined term. But we may all think of it as doubling or tripling the normal attrition rate and we have not seen that.”
Some data sources suggest that the number of teachers really has declined, even if it hasn’t yet hit mass exodus levels. There were about 270,000 fewer school staffers in July 2022 — including teachers, bus drivers, counselors, and librarians — than there were in January 2020, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bleiberg and Kraft, using both national and state-level data, found that overall employment in the K-12 labor market declined by 9.3 percent at the onset of the pandemic and was still 4 percent below pre-pandemic levels in March 2022.

A survey from RAND of 291 school district leaders, released in July, found that 58 percent of district leaders foresee a small shortage this year and 17 percent anticipate a large shortage. The survey also found that more than three-quarters of district leaders said that they have expanded their teaching staff, in some cases including substitute teachers, above pre-pandemic levels as of spring 2022.”

“The usual culprits for teacher dissatisfaction are ever-present. About 75 percent of pre-K to grade 12 teachers who participated in the AFT survey reported that conditions have changed for the worse over the past five years.

The reasons included their workload, greater responsibilities, unrealistic expectations, student behavioral issues, pay that doesn’t keep up with inflation, a lack of support from school leadership, and a lack of support from parents. About 74 percent of respondents said they would not recommend the teaching profession to a prospective new teacher. (Other large surveys of teachers from the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the country, and RAND tell a similar story.)”

The Never Trump wing of the GOP never had a chance

“The bad news for Never Trump Republicans this week wasn’t just that Liz Cheney lost the primary for her Wyoming congressional seat on Tuesday. It wasn’t even that she lost by such an overwhelming margin. It was that her loss fit a pattern in which the GOP’s voters have roundly rejected Republican after Republican who voted to impeach Trump. Only two of the 10 House Republicans who did so will even be on the ballot in November — one of whom is running in a district that Joe Biden won by more than 10 percentage points in 2020.
It’s clear at this point that the Republican Party is a pro-Trump party, and that its voters recoil from candidates who are ardently opposed to the former president. The results of this primary season — and Cheney’s loss in particular — show a Never Trump wing on the verge of extinction.”