Senate sends childcare bill to White House

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization, S. 1086, provides block grants to states to help low-income, working parents obtain childcare for more than 1.5 million children under age 13.

“I cannot be more pleased that we’re sending this important legislation to the president’s desk,” Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Monday. “We know that education begins at birth.”

In March, the Senate passed the bill 97-1 after allowing several amendment votes. The House passed the measure with minor tweaks in September.

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Republicans Branded This Obama Program A ‘Colossal Failure’ — And Now It’s Turning A Profit

Dollars seamless background.The Loans Program Office became a stick to beat President Barack Obama with during the campaigning for the 2012 election, after the solar energy company Solyndra defaulted on a $535 million loan it received from the Department of Energy.

It was followed into bankruptcy by the startups Fisker Automotive and Abound Solar, all of which received loans from the office.

Now, it has reported a profit of $30 million, after collecting interest payments of $810 million on total loans of $34.2 billion, Reuters reports.

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Renewable Energy ‘Creates More Jobs Than Fossil Fuels’

new studrejobs2y by the UK’s Energy Research Centre (UKERC) took a deep dive into job creation claims made by proponents of renewable energy and energy efficiency, looking at the figures and projected figures for the EU from a number of angles. It came to the conclusion that in the short run, moving to renewables and ramping up energy conservation would create more jobs than the fossil fuel sector, at a rate of about one job per gigawatt hour of electricity saved or generated by a clean energy source, with the long-term picture murkier because of factors in the economy and government policy that are hard to predict.

Building new renewable generation capacity or investing in greater energy efficiency to avoid the need for new generation would create more jobs than investing in an equivalent level of fossil fuel-fired generation. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The report, Low Carbon Jobs: The evidence for net job creation from policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy, said, “‘Green’ sectors account for as many as 3.4 million jobs in the EU, or 1.7 percent of all paid employment, more than car manufacturing or pharmaceuticals. Given the size of the green jobs market, and the expectation of rapid change and growth, there is a pressing need to independently analyse labour market dynamics and skills requirements in these sectors. What is more controversial is the question of whether policy-driven expansion of specific green sectors actually creates jobs, particularly when the policies in question require subsidies that are paid for through bills or taxes. Politicians often cite employment benefits as part of the justification for investing in clean energy projects such as renewables and energy efficiency. However, other literature is more sceptical, claiming that any intervention that raises costs in the energy sector will have an adverse impact on the economy as a whole.”

The report focused not simply on job creation, but on net job creation, subtracting the number of fossil fuel-based jobs that could potentially be displaced by spending on green infrastructure projects. It also employs “counterfactuals”: what other power generation sources would have been built instead without green policies. It says that over-optimistic green jobs figures don’t take this into account. But it also says that jobs skeptics tend to be overly broad in their application of counterfactuals.

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Obamacare Premiums Falling in Major Cities

obamacareA new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that, on average, premiums for Obamacare’s benchmark silver plan are falling by 0.2% across 48 major cities.

Vox: “Falling is not a word that people associate with health-insurance premiums. They tend to rise as regularly as the morning sun. And, to be fair, the Kaiser Family Foundation is only looking at 48 cities, and the drop they record is modest (though this is the same methodology they used in 2014, and to good results). But this data, though preliminary, is some of the best data we have — and it shows that Obamacare is doing a better job holding down costs than anyone seriously predicted, including Kaiser’s researchers.”

“Keep in mind that the 0.2 percent drop is the average across all the measured cities. There are places where prices are skyrocketing (like Anchorage, AK, where they’re rising by 28 percent; or Minneapolis, MN, where they’re rising by 18 percent) and places where prices are plummeting (in Jackson, MS, prices are falling by 24 percent; and in Denver, CO, they’re falling by 15.6 percent). So the average here masks considerable variation. Someone going to buy insurance in Minneapolis isn’t going to feel like Obamacare is holding down costs — because it isn’t. But someone going to buy insurance in Denver is in for a very pleasant surprise. On average, though, Obamacare is holding down insurance costs — and that’s a surprise.”


L.A. mayor trumpets jobs to be created as energy use is cut

windmillsMayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that Los Angeles could reap thousands of jobs from its commitment to cutting energy consumption by 15% across the city.

If L.A. meets that goal — which Garcetti and Department of Water and Power officials declared the most ambitious goal set by a major municipal utility nationwide — it would have the same effect on carbon emissions as pulling 440,000 cars off L.A. streets annually, officials said Monday.

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New consumer protections for prepaid cards

cfpb-logoWASHINGTON (AP) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is extending many of the financial protections of bank accounts to prepaid cards.

New rules proposed Thursday by the federal regulator would require that prepaid card users be protected against fraudulent charges and provided with free monthly billing statements. The rules come as more Americans are using “reloadable” prepaid cards as a substitute for checking accounts. Consumers have gone from loading less than $1 billion onto their cards in 2003 to nearly $100 billion through 2014.

More than 2 million households without bank accounts relied on prepaid cards last year, according to a survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The cards can be used to make payments, store funds, make ATM withdrawals and receive direct deposits. The market has also expanded to include electronic services such as PayPal and GoogleWallet, CFPB director Richard Cordray noted in a speech to be delivered Thursday in Delaware.

“Many of these prepaid consumers are living paycheck to paycheck, and are engaged in a constant battle to make ends meet,” Cordray says in a prepared text of the speech.

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We Have A Deal: The U.S. And China Agree To Historic Emission Reduction Targets

AntarcticaThe United States and China, the world’s two biggest contributors to climate change, have struck a new, more ambitious deal to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping jointly announced the deal Wednesday morning, the New York Times reported. The agreement marked the culmination of nine months of quiet dialogue between the two countries, capped off in recent days by Obama’s visit to China.

The pledge commits the U.S. to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025. This builds on the current target of a 17 percent reduction below that baseline by 2020, and could actually double the pace of emission cuts set by that initial goal — from 1.2 percent a year to as high as 2.8 percent per year. The White House has actually been looking into the possibility of expanding beyond the 2020 target since 2013, and has been involved in occasional interagency meetings to that effect.

For its part, China is committing to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030, and to peak its overall carbon dioxide emissions that same year. China’s construction of renewable energy capacity is already proceeding at a furious pace, and this deal will require the country to deploy an additional 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of zero-carbon energy by 2030. For comparison, 800 to 1,000 gigawatts is close to the amount of electricity the U.S. current generates from all sources combined.


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Binghamton finds housing for homeless veterans

homelessBINGHAMTON – A commission created by the city in September to end homelessness among local veterans has found housing for all 21 identified homeless veterans in Binghamton, Mayor Richard David said Wednesday.

The feat makes the city the first in the country to report it has met a challenge laid out by the White House in June, according to Holly Leicht, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regional administrator for New York and New Jersey.

Binghamton signed on to the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness two months ago, with David announcing the creation of a 15-member commission of local leaders and experts that would work with HUD to connect displaced or homeless veterans with a place to live.

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China, America and Our Warming Planet

smokestack2John Kerry: Our Historic Agreement With China on Climate Change

BEIJING — The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies, two largest consumers of energy, and two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Together we account for about 40 percent of the world’s emissions.

We need to solve this problem together because neither one of us can solve it alone. Even if the United States somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, it still wouldn’t be enough to counteract the carbon pollution coming from China and the rest of the world. Likewise, even if China went down to zero emissions, it wouldn’t make enough of a difference if the United States and the rest of the world didn’t change direction.

That’s the reality of what we’re up against. That’s why it matters that the world’s most consequential relationship has just produced something of great consequence in the fight against climate change.

Today, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are jointly announcing targets to reduce carbon emissions in the post-2020 period. By doing this – together, and well before the deadline established by the international community – we are encouraging other countries to put forward their own ambitious emissions reduction targets soon and to overcome traditional divisions so we can conclude a strong global climate agreement in 2015.

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