The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.
Where do people go when they leave California and why? – The Big Shrink that started in 2020 hasn’t stopped, and there are myriad draws to other states, from politics to finances
The top-line number was eye-opening: About 725,000 people moved out of California in 2020 to set up new lives in one of the 49 other states or Washington, D.C.
If that were the end of it, the number – derived from the Internal Revenue Service’s Migration Data for 2021 – would’ve represented the biggest single-year exodus in state history.
But it wasn’t the end of it. While experts say the reasons are more nuanced than the gross outflow of a single year, California’s population has been shrinking steadily since 2020. Recent state data shows California’s population today is a little under 39 million, after flirting with 40 million just four years ago.
A lot of other new data shows where people are going (Texas, Idaho and Florida, as well as neighboring Arizona and Nevada). Polling reports show who is leaving (higher-income, well-educated workers recently started to join a migration pattern that traditionally has been dominated by lower-income movers). And yet other data shows at least some of the financial and social challenges causing problems in California (rising home prices, stagnant wages, crime) aren’t so different in states wooing the most ex-Californians.
Bottom line: California’s population didn’t just grow more slowly in 2020 than it had previously, it actually contracted by nearly 359,000. That happened again in 2021, as California shrank by 114,000 people.
Then the pandemic ended but California’s population decline did not.
According to data released this month by the California Dept. of Finance, the shrink carried into last year, with the state losing about 139,000 people. State officials now estimate California’s population is about 38,940,231, the first time it’s been under 39 million since 2015.
All of which raises a question: Blip or trend?
“The state is projecting growth is going to resume,” McGhee said.
In the past year, immigration has started to pick up, and pandemic deaths have abated. But birth rates haven’t yet fully recovered, and a rise in something once unexpected – office workers telecommuting from out of state – has made the growing number of ex-Californians, like Higbee and her family, even more important. Read More > in The Mercury News
Why Did 352 California Companies Flee to Other States in Three Years? – Why are California businesses fleeing the once-Golden State in droves? Several articles this week answer that quite clearly.
“These exits negatively impact the state and particularly the local communities that lose these headquarters. Employees also leave, reducing demand within their former communities and reducing economic vibrancy. Jobs are not the only loss. There is also the loss of corporate income tax revenues, business property taxes, rents to property owners, payments to contractors, and fees to companies in the travel industry such as hotels and rental car companies,” Joseph Vranich and Lee E. Ohanian, reported in a study published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford in 2022.
The state’s population also dropped by more than 500,000 people between April 2020 and July 2022, with the number of residents leaving surpassing those moving in by nearly 700,000, the Globe reported in February.
Economist Art Laffer and Chapman Economics Professor James Doti lay out the numbers at the OC Register, and rightly declare that Gov. “Newsom doesn’t appear to see is the deleterious long-term effects of a highly progressive tax system. Case in point: The ‘one-percenters’ who pay 50% of the tax are voting with their feet by leaving California in droves.”
They explain that the ten states with the lowest income taxes including Florida and Texas, gained a cumulative net inflow from all Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) classes of $391 billion from California during the entire 2018 to 2021 period. Note that 2018 was the final year of Democrat Governor Jerry Brown. Gov. Newsom ran for governor in 2018 and was elected. He took office January of 2019, so the 2019-2021 belongs to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“The 10 states that ranked the highest in income taxes — California, New York and New Jersey are in this group — lost a cumulative net inflow in AGI of $391 billion. The fact that the 10 states with the lowest income taxes gained in AGI the same amount as the loss in AGI for the 10 states with the highest income taxes is not a coincidence.” Read More > at California Globe
California Spent $17 Billion on Homelessness. It’s Not Working. – The number of homeless people in California grew about 50% between 2014 and 2022. The state, which accounts for 12% of the U.S. population, has about half of the nation’s unsheltered homeless, an estimated 115,000 people, according to federal and state data last year. It also has among the highest average rent and median home prices in the U.S.
California spent a record $17 billion combating homelessness in the past four fiscal years. For the state budget year starting in July, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed another $3.7 billion.
Voters in Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have some of the largest homeless populations in California, were unhappy enough about it to approve taxes costing them billions of dollars to fund anti-homelessness programs and housing in recent years. So far, cost overruns and delays have left little to show for the money.
State and local officials have bickered over responsibility. Mr. Newsom late last year threatened to withhold funding from local governments that he believed weren’t attacking the problem aggressively enough. That included programs to move squatters, willingly or not.
Local leaders said the Newsom administration hasn’t provided enough stable funding for programs to treat and house the homeless. “These systems are made effective when they are tethered to the resources necessary,” said LaTonda Simmons, Oakland’s acting homelessness administrator. “Oakland and many other cities are experiencing the same sort of bottleneck in terms of being able to move people through the system.”
“Our North Star is getting as many people out of encampments as quickly as possible, because nothing healthy, nothing safe happens there,” said Jason Elliott, a deputy chief of staff to the Democratic governor. “Their refusal to take [offers of housing] does not create an inalienable right to…continue to live in unsafe circumstances.”
Talya Husbands-Hankin, an activist who often delivers food and supplies to residents, said authorities are stuck in a cycle of clearing out encampments and scattering people who find another spot to gather.
“Money is being wasted,” she said, “consistently pushing people around.” Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
SPECIAL: We Can End California’s Homeless Crisis in One Year – These Blue States Show Us How – …The facts are unmistakable. The way to end our homeless crisis—is to end our drug crisis.
We can end our homeless crisis in one year with a new approach that takes a modest step in the direction of these other progressive states. Here’s how:
First, prosecutors would have the discretion to charge hard drug possession as a new class of crime called a “treatment mandated felony.” The judge would have the final say on whether the defendant should be charged in this manner. The factors that the prosecutor and judge would consider in the decision would include:
- The defendant’s prior history
- The quantity of drugs in the defendant’s possession
- The defendant’s amenability to drug treatment
- Other offenses coupled with the drug possession such as illegal weapons possession
If the defendant is charged with this new, “treatment mandated felony,” an addiction specialist would be assigned to provide a complete suite of services to the defendant including:
- Drug and mental health treatment (outpatient whenever possible)
- Job training
Decades of research have proven that drug treatment in the criminal justice system works. And there are countless shelter beds available from our billions in housing spending. But many of the beds remain empty because we have no system to incentivize people to get the help they need.
If the defendant successfully completes drug and mental treatment, they would receive full expungement of the drug charge. If the defendant refuses drug treatment, they could receive up to 18 months time served. The defendant can short-circuit this sentence at any time by choosing the treatment path instead. If the defendant is re-arrested for hard drug possession, they would be eligible for a complete do-over of the treatment path for as many times as it takes until they get better.
The goal of this proposal is to treat drugs and mental health as the humanitarian crises that they are–to get people the help they need–not to punish them, and to simultaneously reclaim the safety of our communities. But under the current legal framework, there is no accountability in the law when people refuse to get help. New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, and Illinois understand this. That’s why they created tougher hard drug laws—and it has worked. The result has been exponentially lower homelessness in these states than in California. Read More > at California Globe
California transit systems’ pleas for aid haven’t moved the Capitol – California’s public transit systems say they are facing a “fiscal cliff” as ridership continues to lag behind pre-pandemic levels and federal emergency aid expires.
If the state doesn’t cough up billions of dollars to underwrite bus and rail systems – they want $1 billion a year for at least five years – their managers say they will have no choice but to reduce service and/or raise fares, mostly affecting low-income Californians.
On Tuesday, transit system leaders, their unions and supportive legislators staged an “emergency press conference” near the Capitol to raise the issue’s profile, as legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom work on a state budget that must be passed by June 15.
“It’s a do or die moment for transit in California,” state Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, said.
Transit’s pleas haven’t fared well so far. Newsom’s revised budget this month brushed them off with a vague pledge to work on the problem later.
Transit has some support in Assembly and Senate budget blueprints, but looming over the situation is the same cloud that affects every other budget interest group this year – a massive deficit.
Newsom pegs the gap between income and outgo at $32.5 billion – up $9 billion from his initial budget – while the Legislature’s budget analyst, Gabe Petek, says it’s several billion dollars higher and that deficits will plague the state for several years to come.
The deficit is not the only hurdle. While transit leaders say the money is needed to maintain service while ridership rebuilds, there’s no particular reason to believe that it will return to pre-pandemic levels. Read More > at CalMatters
Is It OK to Track Your Spouse’s Location? – Many couples use their phones to track each other. They share locations automatically, giving partners a window into their travels, including every trip to Target or Starbucks.
Married and unmarried couples say they do it mostly for safety. Some do it so they can have dinner ready when their partner gets home from work. Others just find it easier than texting or calling.
Yet other couples think anyone who tracks his or her spouse is crazy. They say that tracking itself can be a safety concern. Not to mention that some marriage counselors say this location dependency is unhealthy—shouldn’t marriage have a little mystery?
When it comes to tracking your partner, nearly everyone has an opinion and many don’t want to budge.
There are many ways to track one another these days. You can attach AirTags to keys and wallets to locate them and their owners for altruistic or nefarious purposes.
You can look at an app to see how fast your children are driving. Teens can find each other on Snapchat’s Snap Map. But the convenience can come at the cost of privacy—and sanity.
Some people really do have something to hide. I spoke to one woman who says she figured out her husband was cheating on her when Life360 revealed him stopping for lengthy periods at locations he didn’t have good reason to be. (She shared screenshots with me.) She confronted him, he confessed and now they are getting divorced, she says. Tracking can also provide a way for one partner to exert control in an abusive relationship.
Traci Ruble, a marriage and family therapist in San Francisco, says not much good can come from tracking your spouse. “A healthy relationship needs healthy differentiation,” she says.
Besides, she adds, knowing every single thing about your partner, down to when he’s buying milk, is a passion-killer. “Passion is rooted in novelty and distance,” Ruble says. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
Castroville vs. Coachella: Battle heats up to grow the perfect California artichoke – Quietly, over the last two decades, the beloved California artichoke has undergone a radical transformation.
It’s not always easy to see from the outside – a studied eye can spot it – but an ambitious program to produce high-yielding, year-round artichokes has altered the flavor, color, texture and even the shape of them.
This revolution has uprooted thousands of acres of heirloom artichokes across Castroville — the “Artichoke Center of the World” — and replaced them with hybrids. Now, it’s pitting technology against tradition and playing out at farm stands and on dinner tables across the country.
The new varieties are cheaper to grow, have a longer shelf life and resist diseases, said Steven Fennimore, a UC Davis plant science professor.
But what about flavor?
“You can argue about taste all day,” he said, “but I won’t get into that.”
But, alas, the original Castroville artichoke revered for its umami nuttiness and big tender heart – the “Green Globe heirloom” – is a vanishing breed, raised now on just a few hundred acres here. Grown from the same root stock imported by Italian immigrants a century ago, this heirloom once dominated tens of thousands of acres in Monterey County.
Now, some of the best of the new varieties are grown not in the coastal mist of a Castroville spring, but during the fall and winter, in – of all places – the desert of Southern California’s Coachella Valley.
Some of the new varieties are quite tasty: Spring is the natural harvest season, but artichoke lovers can enjoy the “Desert Globe” in the winter that is meaty and flavorful. Sometimes in the summer, however, shoppers can be stuck with rock hard, softball-shaped hybrids with tight leaves that couldn’t boil their way to tenderness. Choosing an off-season artichoke can require the same scrutiny and finesse as detecting the perfect avocado. Read More > in The Mercury News
State Farm won’t insure new California customers amid wildfire risks – State Farm says it’s no longer accepting homeowner insurance applications in California due to “historic increases in construction costs outpacing inflation” and “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure” to extreme weather events like wildfires.
Why it matters: Multiple studies show climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, increasing the risk of wildfires and also the proportion of storms that reach major hurricane status of Category 3 or above.
- With more severe and frequent severe weather events and extreme weather swings, the resilience of homeowners and communities is on the line and how lenders, insurance companies and others incorporate escalating risks is a key issue, per Axios’ Andrew Freedman.
Zoom in: State Farm, the top home insurance firm in California, stopped accepting new sales Saturday. The American International Group announced last year it was pulling policies in the state amid wildfire risk concerns.
- California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara moved to protect homeowners by introducing insurance pricing regulations, including a one-year moratorium preventing homeowner insurance cancellations and non-renewals in some fire-affected counties.
Zoom out: It’s not just California. Some insurers pulled out of Louisiana and Florida last year after forecasters warned of “another active Atlantic hurricane season,” per Bloomberg.
- Florida is facing an insurance crisis ahead of the official start of the hurricane season on June 1, when property insurance companies in the state to get their reinsurance in place, Axios Miami’s Deirdra Funcheon reports. Some companies have gone insolvent and rates have skyrocketed. Read More > at Axios
Yet another home insurance giant quietly stops writing new policies in California – Allstate has stopped writing new homeowner, condominium and commercial insurance policies in California, the company confirmed to The Chronicle.
The insurer, the fourth largest property and casualty insurance provider in the state in 2021, paused new policies “so we can continue to protect current customers,” spokesperson Brittany Nash wrote in an email to the Chronicle.
The pause began last year but appeared to receive only a passing mention in industry publications. The Chronicle learned of the development this week, after reviewing an Allstate rate increase request to the California Department of Insurance.
It was not immediately clear what prompted Allstate’s pullback on new policies. But State Farm, the largest provider of property and casualty insurance in California, made waves in late May by announcing it would stop issuing new homeowner policies in the state due to inflation, wildfires and rising reinsurance costs.
That Allstate quietly did the same thing last year signals that insurance woes in the state may be more severe than the public is aware of. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle
Just Because You Think You Are Tipping a Service Worker Doesn’t Mean You Are – Two recent California food service cases vividly illustrate some of the challenges facing those who make that industry hum: the workers.
In the first, a judge found that a San Francisco hotel for years illegally kept service-charge money from banquets — roughly $9 million in all — that should have gone to workers. The presiding judge ruled that “a reasonable customer” would have assumed the service charge was a gratuity for the food and drink servers.
In the other case, which is still unfolding in Los Angeles, the city attorney is investigating allegations that the operator of five upscale restaurants pocketed a 5% service fee that was added onto every diner’s bill. That would be a direct violation of a city ordinance requiring all of the money to go to the restaurants’ workers.
The cases aren’t identical, and the L.A. investigation centers on laws that are distinct to the city. But each in its way speaks to a contemporary problem facing food and drink servers and preparers across the state: Their customers often no longer understand who they’re paying.
That is the state of food service — not just in California, but around the country. A years-old slow-roll change in how restaurants pay their workers, with many adding or substituting mandatory fees beyond tips, went into hyperdrive during and after the pandemic as owners tried to stay in business. The fallout is still being felt.
At many establishments, service fees have become the norm. But whether those fees are meant to replace tips is often a question left either unanswered or only partially explained. Some restaurants make clear that a mandatory fee, anywhere from 2.5% to 20%, has been added to offset the cost of providing health care to employees or to ensure adequate wages for all their workers. Others levy a “service charge” without an explanation attached, and leave in place a line for including a gratuity.
It’s often left to the customer to muddle through what to do. Increasingly, workers say, the resulting confusion leads to lower tips in a business that, despite the shift toward add-on fees, still drives significant money to employees through gratuities. Read More > at Capital and Main
No kidding: California overtime law threatens use of grazing goats to prevent wildfires – Hundreds of goats munch on long blades of yellow grass on a hillside next to a sprawling townhouse complex. They were hired to clear vegetation that could fuel wildfires as temperatures rise this summer.
These voracious herbivores are in high demand to devour weeds and shrubs that have proliferated across California after a drought-busting winter of heavy rain and snow.
“It’s a huge fuel source. If it was left untamed, it can grow very high. And then when the summer dries everything out, it’s perfect fuel for a fire,” said Jason Poupolo, parks superintendent for the city of West Sacramento, where goats grazed on a recent afternoon.
Targeted grazing is part of California’s strategy to reduce wildfire risk because goats can eat a wide variety of vegetation and graze in steep, rocky terrain that’s hard to access. Backers say they’re an eco-friendly alternative to chemical herbicides or weed-whacking machines that are make noise and pollution.
But new state labor regulations are making it more expensive to provide goat-grazing services, and herding companies say the rules threaten to put them out of business. The changes could raise the monthly salary of herders from about $3,730 to $14,000, according to the California Farm Bureau.
Companies have historically been allowed to pay goat and sheepherders a monthly minimum salary rather than an hourly minimum wage, because their jobs require them to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But legislation signed in 2016 also entitles them to overtime pay. It effectively boosted the herders’ minimum monthly pay from $1,955 in 2019 to $3,730 this year. It’s set to hit $4,381 in 2025, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations.
So far the herding companies, which have sued over the law, have passed along most of the increased labor costs to their customers.
But in January, those labor costs are set to jump sharply again. Goatherders and sheepherders have always followed the same set of labor rules last year. But a state agency has ruled that’s no longer allowed, meaning goatherders would be subject to the same labor laws as other farmworkers.
That would mean goatherders would be entitled to ever higher pay — up to $14,000 a month. Last year a budget trailer bill delayed that pay requirement for one year, but it’s set to take affect on Jan. 1 if nothing is done to change the law. Read More > in the AP
NASA’s SLS rocket is $6 billion over budget and six years behind schedule – NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket designed to take astronauts to the moon is over budget and far behind it’s original schedule, according to a scathing new audit from NASA’s Inspector General. Furthermore, the report foresees “additional cost and schedule increases” that could potentially jeopardize the entire Artemis mission if problems aren’t handled.
NASA’s spending on the Artemis Moon Program is expected to reach $93 billion by 2025, including $23.8 billion already spent on the SLS system through 2022. That sum represents “$6 billion in cost increases and over six years in schedule delays above NASA’s original projections,” the report states.
The SLS, which finally launched for the first time in November 2022, uses four RS-25 engines per launch, including 16 salvaged from retired Space Shuttles. Once those run out (all engines on SLS are expendable), NASA will switch to RS-25E engines being built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, which are supposed to be 30 percent cheaper and 11 percent more powerful. It also uses solid rocket boosters provided by Northrop Grumman.
The older technology isn’t helping with the budget as NASA expected, though. “These increases are caused by interrelated issues such as assumptions that the use of heritage technologies from the Space Shuttle and Constellation Programs were expected to result in significant cost and schedule savings compared to developing new systems for the SLS,” the audit states. “However, the complexity of developing, updating, and integrating new systems along with heritage components proved to be much greater than anticipated.” Read More > at Engadget
Amidst Dreams of Green Energy, Regulators and Industry Warn of Summer Blackouts – The regulatory body that oversees the nation’s power grid cast a bit of a chill over the coming warm months when, in mid-May, it cautioned that the country might not generate enough electric power to meet demand. Coming after multiple warnings from regulators, grid operators, and industry experts that enthusiasm for retiring old-school “dirty” generating capacity is outstripping the ability of renewable sources to fill the gap, the announcement is a heads-up to Americans that they may want to make back-up plans for a power grid growing increasingly unreliable. It’s also a reminder that green ideology is no substitute for the ability to flip a switch and have the lights come on.
“NERC’s 2023 Summer Reliability Assessment warns that two-thirds of North America is at risk of energy shortfalls this summer during periods of extreme demand,” the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a nominally non-governmental organization with statutory regulatory powers, noted May 17. “‘Increased, rapid deployment of wind, solar and batteries have made a positive impact,’ said Mark Olson, NERC’s manager of Reliability Assessments. ‘However, generator retirements continue to increase the risks associated with extreme summer temperatures, which factors into potential supply shortages in the western two-thirds of North America if summer temperatures spike.”
This is not the first time we’re hearing that the power grid isn’t up to meeting demand for electricity. Nor is it the first time we’re told that renewable sources such as wind and solar are coming online more slowly than power-generation capacity based on fossil fuels is being retired. Read More > at Reason
New Wolves, Cougar Cubs Discovered in California – Spring is bringing all sorts of new wildlife to the Golden State. In the past few weeks, both Northern and Southern California have had some exciting animal discoveries, as the state’s gray wolf and mountain lion populations make a comeback.
New Wolves Confirmed in Northern California
On May 24, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that two new groups of gray wolves have been discovered in the counties of Tehama and Lassen. If the wolves are officially designated as “packs,” they would mark the fifth and sixth packs in California since the gray wolf’s eradication a century ago.
“It brings me great joy to see California’s wolves continue to increase in number, aided by the strong state and federal protections here,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves rewild the landscape and that’s good not just for the wolves but for entire ecosystems.”
Cougar Cubs Discovered in Simi Hills
Scientists have also confirmed the birth of three mountain lion cubs, who were recently found nestled in the hills between the Santa Susana and Santa Monica mountains in Ventura County.
The cubs are all adorable, healthy females. They have been named P-113, P-114 and P-115. Their mother, P-77, is believed to be about 5 to 7 years old and has been tracked by biologists since November 2019.
The cubs’ birth follows the demise of California’s most famous cougar, P-22, last year. Read More > at California County News
Beyond ‘Quiet Quitting’: Another Workplace Trend Is Making Employers Even Angrier – In the summer of 2022, 24-year-old engineer Zaid Khan inadvertently went viral and set off a new workplace trend with a short TikTok video about how he was “quitting the idea of going above and beyond” at work.
The term “quiet quitting” was thus born and, nearly a year later, raging debates on whether this means setting up professional boundaries after years of being underpaid and underappreciated or simply slacking off at work continues.
According to a wide-scale study conducted by consulting firm Deloitte, 46% of polled Generation Z workers and 37% of millennials said that they worked a second part-time or even full-time job in tandem to their main work.
As first reported by Fortune Magazine, some of the most popular side hustles include selling online products, delivering food orders or working for a ride-share company and writing marketing materials on the side.
“The cost of living has been [the workers’] top concern for two consecutive years now, and finances are consistently their top stress driver,” Michele Parmelee, who heads global people and purpose at Deloitte, told Fortune. “Interestingly, these concerns are really consistent across both generations, so it’s not just a matter of Gen Zs being young and just getting started in their careers.”
Another study by financial services platform Bankrate.com calculated that 39% of employed Americans adults are currently working a second gig on the side and bringing in an extra $810 a month on average.
They are, largely, keeping the projects quiet rom their main employer. The trend is also common across most Westernized countries. Read More > at TheStreet
U.S. Faces Massive Shortage Of Prescription Drugs – Record drug shortages across the United States are delaying potentially lifesaving treatments for thousands of patients around the country.
Congress and the White House are scrambling to address a shortfall in prescription drugs — everything from painkillers to cancer treatments.
“Hospitals all across the country, on a regular basis –sometimes weekly — have to review which drugs are in short supply or not available that week.” Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) said in an interview with MSNBC.
The shortage is being most acutely felt in the generic drug market, which accounts for nearly 90% of U.S. prescriptions. The exact number of drugs being affected depends on who you ask — according to a Senate report at the end of last year, the U.S. reached a peak level of 295 active drug shortages, although as of March, the FDA claims there are 130. The American Society of Health reports 301 drug shortages as of the first quarter of 2023.
According to the FDA, the average drug shortage lasts for about 18 months, but some shortages have stretched on for over 15 years.
Some of the medicines that have been in short supply include Adderall, Tylenol, various antibiotics including amoxicillin, saline mixtures used in IVs, and almost two dozen kinds of anti-cancer drugs. Read More > at The Daily Wire
Thousands of ‘ghost students’ are applying to California colleges to steal financial aid. Here’s how – Months after a mysterious check for $1,400 landed in Richard Valicenti’s mailbox last summer, the U.S. Department of Education notified him that the money was a mistake — an overpayment of the $3,000 Pell grant he had used to attend Saddleback College in Orange County.
“I told them I never applied for a Pell,” said Valicenti, a 64-year-old radiation oncologist at UC Davis who had never even heard of Saddleback.
Valicenti’s name is among the stolen identities used in thousands of fraudulent attempts to enroll in community colleges in California and across the country since classes shifted online during the pandemic. The aim is to steal financial aid.
Fake enrollments also crowd out legitimate students and create hours of work for colleges trying to eliminate “ghost students.” One strong incentive to catch the bad apples is that colleges disbursing grants to fraudsters are on the hook to repay the feds.
Today, about 20% of California’s community college applications are scams: more than 460,000 of the 2.3 million requests to the state’s online application system since July alone, says the state Chancellor’s Office, which oversees the 116 campuses. Social Security numbers aren’t required to apply. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle
Lab-Grown Meat Has a Big Problem Very Few People Know About – In spite of advances in making laboratory-cultured meat products taste like the real deal, we’re yet to see a single factory pumping chicken nuggets out of a vat.
That might not be such a bad thing, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of California, Davis (UCD), and the University of California, Holtville.
They warn current production methods of lab-grown meat could end up being way worse for the environment than beef farming, despite being touted as a sustainable alternative.
Their life-cycle assessment of current meat-growing processes – which has yet to be peer-reviewed – found cultured meat production could emit between four to 25 times more carbon dioxide per kilogram than regular beef and all its hidden costs, depending on the techniques used.
“This is an important conclusion given that investment dollars have specifically been allocated to this sector with the thesis that this product will be more environmentally friendly than beef,” UCD food scientist Derrick Risner and colleagues write in their paper.
“My concern would just be scaling this up too quickly and doing something harmful for the environment,” Risner elaborates. Read More > at Science Alert
How much does and Electric Semi really cost? – Information on real-world electric truck prices is notoriously difficult to come by. This is especially true for biggest and baddest of them all: the electric semi. While there have been several high-profile deliveries of electric semi-trucks in the past few years, their purchase price has largely been kept under wraps as the market scales up. The trouble is, the cost calculus for fleet owners hinges on exactly how much more it costs to buy an electric truck than a diesel truck—and how fuel and maintenance savings may make up the difference.
We can glean a few ballpark numbers from press releases. For example, the Port of Oakland recently acquired 10 Peterbilt 579EVs at a cost of $5.1 million. If this represents the true upfront purchase price—not including a maintenance contract, for example—it would translate to $510,000 per semi-truck. Another example: back in 2020, Lion Electric received a $20 million order for 50 8T electric trucks, working out to $400,000 per truck. Meanwhile, Tesla has been advertising a mind-bogglingly low price of $180,000 for their yet-to-be-delivered 500-mile electric semi.
There’s a lot of guesswork involved in determining real-world purchase prices, so rather than relying on public announcements, we made our own estimate from the bottom up. For major e-truck components, such as the battery, fuel cell stack, and electric motor, we used average cost estimates from our recent literature review. For the remaining costs, we used component-by-component cost estimates for diesel, battery electric, and hydrogen fuel cell trucks from an ICCT-commissioned analysis by Ricardo Strategic Consulting. We chose vehicle specs that are representative of models currently advertised in the North American market—a 350 kW electric motor, 70 kg hydrogen tank, and 180 kW fuel cell stack—as well as a 600 kWh battery to represent longer-range battery-electric models like the Freightliner eCascadia and Nikola Tre. We applied an overall 36% markup from direct manufacturing costs for all trucks, plus an additional 10% for zero-emission trucks to cover research and development, retooling, and overhead costs.
The figure below shows how much we estimated a zero-emission truck would cost:
Based on these numbers, we’d expect a 2022 battery electric truck to cost two to three times it’s diesel counterpart before incentives; and make that three to four times for a fuel cell truck. Luckily, there are purchase incentives: California’s HVIP program offers $120,000 vouchers for the purchase of zero-emission tractor trucks and Washington state offers a commercial vehicle tax credit covering up to $100,000 of the incremental cost for new alternative fuel vehicles. With incentives like these, a battery electric truck in 2025 could cost nearly the same price as a diesel truck. A fuel cell truck could cost only 50%–70% more. Read More > at The ICCT
California’s latest environmental regulation may have unintended consequences for truckers – Electrifying trucks at California’s ports could be the secret to the future. Picture it: We would continue to import and export every imaginable good (Jet fuel! Nintendo Switches! Canned peaches!). Truckers working at fleets would move these containers full of stuff from the terminal yards to railroads or highways or warehouses or all of the above, without spewing toxic emissions into local communities. Charging depots and the power grid and truck manufacturers would have scaled up to meet this demand. And, unlike previous regulations, we wouldn’t have accidentally kicked off a scheme in which trucking companies buy clean trucks (discounted with taxpayer funds) only to force their truck drivers to pay off the extra costs. We can have our cake and eat it too.
Or it could be a huge mess. Folks like Chris Shimoda, the senior vice president of government affairs at the California Trucking Association, are betting on the latter. “We’re talking about a transition that is on the order of when we traded in the horse and buggies for diesel trucks,” Shimoda said. “It’s that consequential. We just do not have the technology figured out.”
Unfortunately for Shimoda, the first steps toward decarbonization are coming. Fast. And they’ll be legally mandated. The California Air Resources Board, also called CARB, has required drayage fleets — the types of trucking companies that operate in ports — to only buy zero-emissions trucks starting Jan. 1, 2024. By 2035, drayage fleets must be entirely zero emission.
The public and private sectors involved in enacting this regulation say they’re preparing for this first step to transitioning to electric trucks. The state has furnished beaucoup bucks for fleets to buy their own trucks and build their own charging depots. And utility providers say they’re scaling up too. An estimated 1,000 zero-emissions trucks will come online in 2024, eventually scaling up to 35,000 electric trucks to operate in United States’ largest container ports by 2035.
Still, months before this regulation comes into effect, folks on the ground say key infrastructure and concerns haven’t been furnished. California must prove to the nation (and the world) that an electrified trucking fleet can underpin a major port — without hurting a group of workers that already has the cards stacked against them. Read More > at Freight Waves