At the beginning of this year, many Americans opened their paychecks to find that their take-home pay was suddenly less than it had been the previous month. The payroll tax cut had expired, resulting in the average American worker owing an additional $700 in payroll taxes this year compared to last.
For a two-parent household, that's $1,400 less with which to pay the bills, put food on the table, and fill up the gas tank. But it's far from the only added expense straining family budgets. Oil prices, in particular, have skyrocketed over the past decade, imposing higher direct and indirect fuel costs on families during already tough economic times.
Just like the payroll tax increase, increased fuel costs in the form of high gasoline prices are eating up paychecks while providing no additional economic benefit or utility. In 2012, the average household spent a record $2,912 on gasoline. Compared to the 2002 average of $1,235, that is an extra $1,677 that families have been forced to spend on transportation costs. That's money that could otherwise be saved or used to grow the economy, such as by starting a new business. more >>
Super Typhoon Haiyan and the anniversary of super storm Sandy should remind all of us of the tragic suffering that is part of living in the post-fall world, affected by both human sin and the divine curse (Genesis 3).
But is Rev. Darren A. Ferguson, of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Far Rockaway, NY, whose home and church Sandy destroyed, right to insist that "climate change" made Sandy stronger than it otherwise would have been?
Assume for a moment (though there is good reason to doubt it) that the world's been warming rapidly and beyond the bounds of natural variability and that, as he put it, "we are the primary cause." Does that entail that Sandy was more powerful because of it? more >>
Controversial televangelist and former head of the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, recently told a viewer of his program that they should ask their gay son if he was molested by a coach.
During the "Bring It On" segment on "The 700 Club" that aired earlier this week, Robertson was asked by a viewer, identified as "Fields," as to what should be done about their 16-year-old son who has come out as a homosexual.
"I think you need to pray for him and I think you need to counsel with him and see--you know, is there really a biological thing going on?" replied Robertson, openly pondering if "a coach" might have influenced the teenager's decision. more >>
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is raising emergency donations for close to 4 million children believed to be affected by the catastrophic typhoon Haiyan, which has caused widespread damage and killed thousands.
"We are rushing to get critical supplies to children who are bearing the brunt of this crisis," said UNICEF Philippines Representative Tomoo Hozumi.
"Reaching the worst affected areas is very difficult, with limited access due to the damage caused by the typhoon to infrastructure and communications. But we are working around the clock to find ways to get these supplies to children as quickly as conditions allow." more >>
The Republic of Cyprus has entered the maelstrom of the world's most volatile region thanks to new-found gas and oil reserves combined with an erratic Turkish foreign policy and a civil war in Syria. Even as leaders of this Mediterranean island show skill dealing with these novel threats and opportunities, they need support from a strong U.S. Navy, something not now available.
Cypriot underwater gas and oil discoveries follow directly on ones found earlier in Israeli seas, located adjacent to them and uncovered by the same American (Noble) and Israeli (Delek, Avner) companies. The current estimate of 5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) as well as some oil has a value estimated at US$800 billion, a huge sum amount for a small country whose current GDP is a mere $24 billion.
The great majority of this energy will likely be exported to Turkey or Europe. A pipeline to Turkey would be cheapest and easiest but so long as Turkish troops continue to occupy 36 percent of Cyprus, this will not happen. A recent court decision permitting the Israeli government to decide what quantities of energy to export now offers other possibilities: Cyprus could swap gas with Israel that then goes to Turkey or the two allies could jointly build a liquefied natural gas terminal in Cyprus. more >>
A heated battle is taking place in Arizona between the fledgling solar industry and APS, the state's largest energy company, which enjoys a state-granted near-monopoly over energy. In sunny Arizona, it is peculiar that solar energy is being portrayed as the bad guy. Since Arizona is a Republican-dominated state, APS is sneakily buying up influential Republicans, both directly and indirectly, to perpetuate its crony capitalism. The Washington Post refers to these Republicans as "some of the best pollsters and consultants money can buy."
The spin goes like this, "stop subsidizing the solar industry." The word "subsidy" is used to scare Republicans. The solar companies are being compared to Solyndra, the green energy company that went bankrupt despite receiving more than $500 million in loans from the Department of Energy.
The reality is, the solar industry is not being "subsidized." Energy users who do not use APS power, but use their solar panels instead for power, are simply not being double-charged. When they are not using APS power, but are instead sending unused solar power energy back to the grid for others to use, they receive a rebate. This is known as "net metering" and has been in place since 2009. APS wants to eliminate this, which will essentially have the effect of charging solar users for APS power they do not use. Instead of receiving 15 cents per kilowatt-hour rebates for power the solar users send back to the grid, APS wants to reduce the rebate to 4 to 10 cents. This would add $50 to $100 a month to the power bills of solar users. The utility also wants to start charging solar users a monthly maintenance fee. more >>