Lawmakers unplug the CA’s electric car program

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

A few months ago, Gabriel Lua purchased a 2013 Chevy Volt to replace his 1987?Honda Civic, which had been giving him exhaust headaches?and made him worry about the health of his children, ages?3?and 5.

Even though the old Civic had failed the state’s smog test three times and was costing him hundreds of dollars a month in maintenance, Lua said he couldn?t afford to replace it until he learned about a state incentive that helps?low-income residents in?California?s most polluted communities replace their dirty cars. The state covered more than half the new car?s price tag.

?It saves me gas. It saves me money. I feel safer. And most important, it?s for my kids,? said Lua, a 31-year-old mail carrier for a?San Joaquin Valley school district.

Lua?s experience is exactly what Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers were aiming to achieve when they decided to?spend money from the state?s greenhouse gas reduction fund on subsidizing the purchase of low- and zero-emission vehicles. …

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CA Food Stamp Recipients On The Rise

Daniellle BrownNot only is the number of Californians participating in the state?s federally funded food stamp program increasing, but the number of eligible recipients is decreasing, according to state and federal data.

California for years has lagged behind the rest of the country in terms of participation. Tied for 48th in 2013, only 66 percent of those eligible participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, called CalFresh in California.

The pool of Californians who are eligible for the program is shrinking. While the pool has increased from 6.36 million in 2010 to 6.98 million in 2014, it has decreased from a peak of 7.17 million in 2013, according to CalFresh estimates?based on Census data.

?The good news in California is we?re going in the right direction on both lines,? said Kim McCoy Wade, chief of the CalFresh branch of the California Department of Social Services.

Outreach

For years, outreach methods, internal procedures and state policy kept the rate low, said Wade, adding the nature of California played a role too.

?We?re a very big, diverse, complicated state, so sometimes we move forward in one county and then have to take longer to move forward in another,? Wade said.??We?re not in Idaho, where you can change your call center process and all of the sudden the whole state is dramatically better.?

Wade said the state is studying whether a language/information barrier and a distrust of government among ethnic groups played a role in the low participation rates.

?We really think it?s time for a fresh look to see if immigrant communities are connecting to CalFresh, and if not, why not,? Wade said.

ACA impact

In recent years, the?implementation of the Affordable Care Act hindered the process as well, in that the tsunami?of new people entering the system took time to process, with so much of the state?s efforts aimed at sorting it all out. But as a result of the flood of people entering the system,?CalFresh had better access to families to let them know their options.

?The Affordable Care Act was both the best thing that ever happened to low-income families in California and a real challenge,? Wade said.

Increased participation

In 2015, there was approximately 4.4 million people in the CalFresh program, receiving more than $7 billion in benefits annually. That?s compared?to?2005, when there were about 2 million Californians receiving more than $2 billion in annual benefits.

Eligibility is for those less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line, which is an annual income of $24,300 for a family of four.

The average benefit is $142 per person per month, according to federal data.

Additional data can be found in a?Public Policy Institute of California study published this month.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Elon Musk May Have Even More Cash To Roll In Thanks To Solar Subsidies

Elon Musk has made millions from government solar panel subsidies, and may have found a way to make even more if rumors Tesla will soon introduce a whole-home battery are true.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and chairman of solar panel manufacturer?SolarCity, set off a wave of anxious speculation Monday when he?tweeted?that ?[a] major new Tesla product line?not a car? would be unveiled on April 30.

Neither Musk nor Tesla have confirmed any details about the new product, but?according to The Motley Fool, many observers believe the new product will be a home battery capable of storing electricity produced by solar panels.

Musk told investors during a February conference call Tesla would begin production of a home battery within about six months, and further reinforced expectations with?a second tweet, in which he said, ?With all that solar power being generated, it almost feels like something?is needed?to complete the picture ??

Many experts, however, claim much of the reason for all that solar power being generated is that state and federal subsidies make rooftop solar panels affordable in the first place.?(RELATED: Solar Industry Demands Extension of Subsidies)

In?an op-ed for?Townhall, for instance, Ken Blackwell asserts that, ?Very few people would install these rooftop solar systems at all if not for the federal tax break that comes with it,? which takes the form of a 30 percent non-refundable tax credit known as the solar investment tax credit.

Even the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national trade group,?acknowledges as much on its website, noting that, ?the residential and commercial solar ITC has helped annual solar installation grow by over 1,600 percent since the ITC?was implemented?in 2006.?

Another program that acts as an implicit subsidy for solar is net metering, which requires power companies to?purchase?excess solar from homeowners at the same price they charge their retail customers. Most states have their own net metering policies, and since 2005, federal law has required all public electric utilities to offer net metering to their solar customers on request.

Electric companies complain that net metering ignores the cost of operating and maintaining power grids, which they say accounts for about one-third of the price they charge for electricity. Because solar customers use the grid whenever they buy or sell power, the utilities argue net metering allows solar users to use the grid as a battery without contributing toward operating costs, forcing them to raise rates on other customers.?(RELATED: Low-Income, Minority Households Bear Costs of Solar Subsidies)

According to?a study from the University of Colorado at Boulder?conducted by?Chrystie?Burr, ?most of the investments in solar power systems wouldn?t have been made without the ? upfront subsidy and the residential renewable energy tax credit.?

Similarly,?a study by Kenneth?Reddix?II?of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concludes that in California, ?over 54 percent of all purchases would have not occurred ? in the absence of government subsidies.??(RELATED: Europe?s Green Energy Industry Faces Collapse as Subsidies are Cut)

If Tesla?s new product does turn out?to be?a home battery, as is widely expected, Musk will stand to profit twice from those subsidies?once from?SolarCity?s?sales of the subsidized panels, and then again from Tesla?s sale of home batteries to the same customers.

?Elon Musk is making a big play for American solar and all the subsidies that go along with it,? an energy industry consultant told The Daily Caller News Foundation. ?If you?re getting millions from the federal government and a subsidized power grid, you might as well keep offering related products.?

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Would You Use Welfare Money To Buy Pot?

Scared of federal intervention, lawmakers in Colorado are working on a bill to prevent welfare users from accessing cash at ATM machines in marijuana shops.

The policy of restricting access to certain ATMs already holds for liquor stores, casinos and guns ships,?The Associated Press reports. Republican state Sen. Vicki Marble is worried that the federal government might aggressively interfere in Colorado if there?s any hint that welfare users are spending their benefits on drugs.

The nascent pot industry has been plagued with rumors that low-income users with electronic benefits cards (EBTs) jumped on the opportunity to load up on marijuana. National Review Online found that over a six-month period ending in January 2014,?welfare recipients withdrew $23,608.53 dollars?at marijuana dispensaries. How much of that total was spent at marijuana shops is unknown.

The bill, set to be introduced in the state Senate next week, failed to pass last year. Opponents argued that since marijuana shops tend to concentrate in low-income areas, those ATMs provide a valuable and necessary service for people without a bank account. As?state Sen. Irene Aguilar stated, ?I?m not comfortable limiting that access until I?m certain we?ve done that due diligence to make sure people can access their benefits when they need to.?

Washington state has already gone ahead and prohibited the use of EBTs in marijuana dispensaries as far back as 2012, though only for those under 18 years of age. Now, at the start of 2015, Colorado Democrats have thrown their support behind Marble?s legislation.

?I don?t think a strip club or a liquor store wants to be out of compliance, and neither does a dispensary,??Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon from Denver said. In 2014, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama tried to move a step further by suggesting that Congress set a national standard for EBT use in marijuana shops, but the attempt stalled.?(RELATED: After Senator?s Investigation, ?No Welfare for Weed? Bill Passes House)

In anticipation of possible trouble, many Colorado dispensaries have already cut off EBT cards from their ATMs. Industry groups have remained mostly agnostic on the issue.

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Why natural gas beats wind power and other ?green? experimental energy technologies

From Hot Air:

Lost in the debate over fracking and drilling to extract natural gas in the US and abroad rather than pursuing supposedly clean renewables is this: natural gas is actually?greener.?New Geography?s Matt Ridley?starts off by asking which view homeowners would prefer ? a modest gas well or a towering, noisy commercial windmill ? and then explains that choosing wind means you get both (via?NewsAlert):

Wind turbines slice thousands of birds of prey in half every year, including white-tailed eagles in Norway, golden eagles in California, wedge-tailed eagles in Tasmania. There?s a video on YouTube of one winging a griffon vulture in Crete. According to a study in Pennsylvania, a wind farm with eight turbines would kill about a 200 bats a year. The pressure wave from the passing blade just implodes the little creatures? lungs. You and I can go to jail for harming bats or eagles; wind companies are immune.

Still can?t make up your mind? The wind farm requires eight tonnes of an element called neodymium, which is produced only in Inner Mongolia, by boiling ores in acid leaving lakes of radioactive tailings so toxic no creature goes near them.

Not convinced? The gas well requires no subsidy ? in fact it pays a hefty tax to the government ? whereas the wind turbines each cost you a substantial add-on to your electricity bill, part of which goes to the rich landowner whose land they stand on. Wind power costs three times as much as gas-fired power. Make that nine times if the wind farm is offshore. And that?s assuming the cost of decommissioning the wind farm is left to your children ? few will last 25 years.

Decided yet? I forgot to mention something. If you choose the gas well, that?s it, you can have it. If you choose the wind farm, you are going to need the gas well too. That?s because when the wind does not blow you will need a back-up power station running on something more reliable. But the bloke who builds gas turbines is not happy to build one that only operates when the wind drops, so he?s now demanding a subsidy, too.

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