/* */ /* Mailchimp integration */
154
paged,page-template,page-template-page-archive,page-template-page-archive-php,page,page-id-154,paged-3,page-paged-3,stockholm-core-1.0.8,select-child-theme-ver-1.1,select-theme-ver-5.1.5,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,menu-animation-underline,header_top_hide_on_mobile,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.0.2,vc_responsive

2023 – A Great Year!

As we look back on 2023, a lot has happened at A Better Delaware = all of it good!!

Kathleen Rutherford is forging a new path with her consulting company but remains engaged with us. Ethan Lang joined us as Executive Director and remained until he returned to school. He is now a senior at Dartmouth. We wish him the best and look forward to the exciting contributions he will make to our state.

We added several members to our advisory board, including John Marinucci, who retired from the School Board Association and has an excellent background in the dynamic, economic facets of education, as well as Beth Conaway, who served as a teacher and principal in Sussex County for number of years.

In April Jane Brady came on as a Co-Chair with founder Chris Kenny, bringing a number of years of experience in public policy and advocacy as well as a familiarity with the law related to many of the issues with which A Better Delaware deals. In September, founder Chris Kenny stepped back from the organization and Jane became Chair of A Better Delaware. Chris remains vitally interested in the well- being of our state, and we all hear from him regularly.

Our mailing list has grown, and frequently has had more than 10,000 people open one of our weekly emails. For the last three months, we have been publishing at least one comprehensive issue- based blog a week. If you are not receiving our email, we invite you to go to our website, www.abetterdelaware.org  and sign up!

We also established a membership program which will give our members, (for an annual fee), the opportunity to participate in Members Only briefings and discussions with our experts on the issues facing Delaware.

ABD’s newly launched Dinner and a Movie series has been a huge success! We offer organizations the opportunity to learn about the inspiring and successful effort of a single mom in Washington DC who advocated for her son and other children in the district to be able to attend better schools than those to which they were assigned. If you would like us to bring the program to your organization, let us know. The next showing is scheduled for January 22, 2024, at the Congo Legacy Center, located at 501 W. 28th St. Wilmington. You can sign up here.

We advocated against overreach by government. Together with the Caesar Rodney Institute, we advocated for a rational and science-based approach to wind power and fought back against the course that the state is taking which will increase costs to consumers and make the provision of power less reliable. And, again with others including CRI, we vigorously opposed legislation that would have required union contractors on all state construction contracts, making those jobs more costly.

As we look forward to 2024, there are many exciting projects we are preparing.  Our members-only speaking series, a podcast, expanded publishing and increased visibility.

We encourage you to join us. We offer substantive and researched information and advocacy on a variety of topics, including education, health care, workforce development, energy, taxes and fiscal policy, and government accountability and transparency.

We are constantly working to improve the lives of Delawareans, as well as the business and political climate here and to make your government more transparent and responsive to the views of you, the citizens it represents.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Board and Staff of A Better Delaware

Delaware Citizens to Become Californians

By: Hon. William L. Witham, Jr., Advisory Board Member, A Better Delaware

It would appear that Delaware is embarking on directly controlling the technological development of transportation for Delaware citizens. We may be faced, if the current Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) plans are adopted to be treated as if we are residents of California without our consent. I will not deal with the obvious legal issues with this concept since the rules in question are not the same ones unveiled for public comment and discussion under the state administrative procedures act. This fact may very well undermine the ability of DNREC to impose the proposed regulations.

DNREC seeks a goal for zero- emission vehicles by 82% by 2035. This is only about 11 years away. The plan is to have car manufacturers sell only emission- free vehicles by this date with only 18% allocated to traditional gas-powered vehicles. This seems to be an impossible task since this will cause an economic upheaval to say the least.

What is remarkable is that DNREC admits that thousands of Delawareans submitted comments, attended public meetings, and responded to polls and the result? The people have spoken – they oppose this radical agenda. Our tone-deaf DNREC bureaucrats say they are doing this for our own good – such hubris and arrogance cannot be ignored.

Increasingly, all Americans are rejecting the aim to electrify transportation, home heating, and all appliances and rely on power mostly generated by wind and solar. We all know for a fact that currently this is not possible without fossil fuels as backup for wind and solar. The most economically emission free fuel is nuclear, but the environmentalists refuse to consider this source. Despite pushing generous subsidies, EVs are piling up on dealer lots. Recently 3,881 car dealers signed a letter pleading with the President to back off on the unrealistic government electric vehicle mandate. Initially, there was great public interest in the new technology of electric vehicles.  They seem to work well for commuter buyers with short distances to travel with easy access to charging in garages overnight or at work with a second car, usually gas-powered for longer trips.

We are now learning of the myriad of problems associated with EVs. They are expensive to build and purchase, thus the governmental subsidies. They have a more limited range and greater weight than cars or trucks. Large trucks would require larger batteries, less space for cargo and go fewer miles, thus increasing the transportation costs for all Americans. Unreliability is a key factor. According to a study by Consumer Reports, many EVs are less reliable than gas or diesel engines or hybrids. They have higher repair costs. A battery replacement can cost over $20,000. They do not do well in accidents. On average, they cost 23% more to insure than gasoline- powered cars and when they catch on fire, it is burn, baby burn! The fires are very difficult to put out.

On average an EV with a sticker price of about $53,000, would cost about $100,000 without government incentives to the purchaser and manufacturer. The main reason you see these vehicles on the road is not because of a generalized consumer choice, but government mandates.

We have not touched upon the economic hardships that dealers, repair shops, supply chains, and trucking industries will face. With an 82% reduction of gas-powered cars by 2035, We do not have the necessary infrastructure to support the effort. Slow and inefficient chargers will not help. We will experience once again, long lines at gas stations in the 70s. The demand on our energy grid will increase and make electricity more expensive.

Automakers are already responding by cutting back on EV production. Ford revealed that its EV division posted a quarterly loss of $1.33 billion and lost $1.08 in the previous quarter. The same for GM. Their losses total $1.5 billion in profits this quarter. These losses will continue so long as our government enforces unsustainable mandates to implement fossil fuel-free or “net Zero energy systems. Delaware has yet to address the significant economic, societal, or environmental consequences of a near-total reliance on renewable energy and the required battery-backup that is necessary to transition to a fossil fuel free future.

Witham is a recently retired Kent County Resident Judge and has served over 40 years in Delaware’s justice system. He is also a former leader in the US Army Reserve and National Guard with 34 years of service.

 

EV MANDATES: NOT JUSTIFIED BY TECHNOLOGY OR REALITY

By: Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware

There’s a lot happening in the world of electric vehicle (EV) mandates, so now is a good time to take a check on where we stand, nationally and in Delaware.

Recently, the day after the Governor of Connecticut revoked a mandate establishing deadlines for compliance with minimum sales and registration requirements for EVs in his state, Governor Carney signed an executive order adopting the recommended regulations from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) that impose such a mandate in Delaware.

This, despite the vocal and nearly universal opposition from the thousands of citizens who opposed the mandate. Despite the inadequacy of electric vehicles for long trips and hauling a trailer or RV. Despite the lack of infrastructure to support the consistent and reliable transmission of electricity to charge the vehicles, Despite the lack of availability of charging stations to charge EVs. Despite the cost.

The Governor of Connecticut conceded there was significant opposition to the mandate, based on the practical realities and yes, the current state of the science.

One of the most significant factors in public opposition to the mandate has been concern about being able to, literally, make it from here to there. Better infrastructure would give drivers more confidence that they would be able to find chargers along the route that would allow them to reach their final destination. And of course, do it in an efficient amount of time.

Recognizing that need, in 2021, Congress passed the infrastructure bill that included a $7.5 billion investment in electric vehicle chargers. Since then, not a single charger has been built. Zero. The objective was to have over 1 million public chargers available by 2030 to further the goal of the government that half of all new vehicles sold in the United States would be electric by that year. Some of the money has been authorized, but most states that have asked for grants to build the EV chargers have not yet let bids for construction and not a single charger has been constructed from those funds. It has been reported that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that to alleviate drivers’ anxiety about the range of EVs, the government would need to construct 25 million public charging units by 2030 with the cost greatly exceeding the number provided for in the infrastructure bill.

Part of the opposition to EV mandates is the cost, and they may have just gotten a lot more expensive. Many drivers who have purchased EVs have been motivated by the subsidies provided by the government, approximately $7500 per car. Recently, however, in response to outcry about the uneven application of the laws related to imported goods, the IRS and Department of Energy have proposed rules that would prohibit the subsidy for any EV with battery components assembled or manufactured by a “foreign entity of concern.” China has been designated as a foreign entity of concern and manufactures the overwhelming majority of electric vehicle batteries.

Absent the subsidy and facing increased costs of production if the batteries are manufactured in this country, demand will decrease. And, in a process that has been furthered largely by executive order both at the state and federal level, finally the peoples’ representatives might get a say. The US House of Representatives, just this week, passed the Choice in Automobile Retail Sales (CARS) Act, which would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing the rules it has adopted that would restrict or limit the types of cars American consumers can purchase.

Although the government, both the White House and the Governor, have consistently contended that there is a rapidly growing demand for EVs, the reality is that there is a great deal of hesitancy and strong public opposition to a mandate. Recent decisions by car manufacturers reflect that reality. Demand is not keeping up with expectations, forcing them to revise their EV manufacturing plans.

The Governor should abandon the mandate and explore promoting such options as hybrids and natural gas and allow the science and technology to develop to accommodate our citizens’ needs, while continuing to further his objectives regarding clean and green energy.

Jane Brady serves as Chair of A Better Delaware. She previously served as Attorney General of Delaware and as a Judge of the Delaware Superior Court. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lack of Freedom Limits Delaware’s Prosperity

 By: Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware

Recently, the Cato Institute did a study on freedom in each of the 50 states, measuring economic freedom and personal freedom indicators. The Cato approach is more to the libertarian view of government intervention, and I part ways on the issues of marijuana and some incarceration policies, but the standard they apply is consistent: less government interference through regulation, taxation, and social policy means more freedom.

The study measured each state on multiple criteria over the period from the year 2000 to 2023. Delaware did not fare well, and ranked, overall, 44 out of 50. Indeed, the report noted that Delaware had an “all around poor performance” on all three dimensions of freedom that were measured.

One measurement of economic freedom was fiscal policy, such as the tax burden on citizens and businesses, how much of the budget the government “consumes” and how large the government workforce is. By their measure, the states with lower taxes and smaller government rank higher, and higher is better. Delaware is at the bottom and ranked 47th out of the 50 states. Our tax burden is high, and our overall tax burden is worse than average, about 12.7% of adjusted personal income. The State of Delaware is our largest employer, and a huge percentage of our budget goes to government programs. In fact, of all the categories, this is Delaware’s worst performance.

The second measurement of economic freedom was regulatory policy, including consideration of such factors as land-use restrictions, healthcare, labor regulations, like occupational licensing requirements, and policies related to the ease of bringing lawsuits. They compare the regulations in the states to the state and federal constitutional guarantees. When the regulations restricted those guarantees the impact of that restriction was weighed as greater than others. Delaware fared a little better in this category coming in at 33 out of 50, giving us an overall economic freedom rating of 42. But the authors noted that much of Delaware’s “touted advantage of corporate laws now is significantly overstated.” Our business climate is not what it once was. And the report noted our certificate of need requirements for health care facilities.

The evaluation of personal freedom included such factors as incarceration rates, gambling freedom, gun rights, tobacco freedom, education choice and marijuana freedom. Delaware ranked number 43 in the area of personal freedom, even with our expansive marijuana, marriage, and abortion laws. That means that a lot of our personal decisions are regulated by the government in Delaware. Our land-use and energy freedom has declined because of an aggressive, renewable portfolio standard.

We are ranked below average on gun rights. Our laws on gambling, and our expanded legal sports betting are rated high. Our civil asset forfeiture law is tied for the worst in the country with few protections for innocent owners of property seized by law enforcement. Everyone should care about these issues. Importantly, fiscal, and regulatory policies affect specific groups, certain types of businesses, or particular types of transactions, but personal freedom measures government intervention that affects every citizen.

A Better Delaware advocates for lower taxes, less regulation, and more open and transparent government. We believe that the gross receipts tax and transfer taxes on real estate transactions should be lower. We believe the obstacles to small businesses forming and thriving should be removed, and we believe that economic prosperity is adversely affected when government is the largest source of employment and contractual work in the state. We believe in school choice, and advocate against a certificate of need requirement.

A Better Delaware also advocates for transparency and accountability in government. While it is important to know the numbers in this report and to identify the issues holding Delawareans back from better economic success, it is critical that you can know the rules by which to seek and implement any change. Government transparency and accountability are essential to assure an informed citizenry and a responsive elected government.

I encourage everyone to read the report and to consider how government intervention has affected your life and work. Then, contact your elected officials and tell them you want more freedom, fewer taxes, and a more open and transparent process in our government so you can know what action is being considered and how you might affect it.

Jane Brady serves as Chair of A Better Delaware. She previously served as Attorney General of Delaware and as a Judge of the Delaware Superior Court.

EV BUSES—INVESTOR BEWARE

By: David R. Legates

 In August, Governor Carney signed into law House Bill 10, which “establishes targets for annual purchase of electric school buses through fiscal year 2030.”  Like Delaware’s school bus fleet, many transit agencies are moving to battery-powered buses as a result of the Biden Administration’s goal of having all transit and school buses be zero-emission vehicles by 2030.  So, if you are a venture capitalist, or just a kitchen table trader, maybe you thought that investing in a high-profile electric bus manufacturer might be a good bet.

And a pioneer and leader in the electric bus business, Proterra, might have been an excellent choice.  Proterra has been around for nearly twenty years, and it is so well-connected that the Biden Administration in February appointed Proterra’s CEO to serve on the White House Export Council, the principal national advisory board on international trade.  Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm served on Proterra’s Board of Directors and owned shares of the company even after being confirmed to head the US Department of Energy.  In numerous speeches, the President has praised Proterra as a success story in the green energy movement; to wit, both the Vice President and the Transportation Secretary toured their facility.  Moreover, $5.5 billion was provided by the bipartisan infrastructure law and billions more through other federal grant programs to convert diesel-powered fleets to electric buses.

But hopefully you didn’t buy stock in Proterra because you certainly would have lost your investment.  In August, Proterra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  Its stock, which was selling at $7.30 a share in November of last year, is now worth $0.03 a share just a year later — much less than 1% of its peak value.  It had federal funding, it had administration backing, it had state and local legislation on its side.  So, what went horribly wrong?

Proterra noted that “contracts signed in 2021 proved to be priced below where the manufacturing costs were ultimately realized in 2022”. They also argued that transit companies want specialized buses, not simply ones available “off the shelf.” This requires tailoring each order specifically to the consumer which inflates costs.

But the real reason is that their buses have been plagued with problems.  Buses caught on fire or frequently broke down, batteries froze in the cold weather, and the drivetrains had issues pulling a bus load of children up hills.  But the most prevalent issue associated with Proterra’s buses is that when they break down, replacement parts are so difficult to get that the buses sit idle for months at a time.  Not very helpful—and potentially dangerous—when your children are forced to ride in electric buses to get to school.

State Representative Gray noted that two electric buses are required to replace a single diesel bus because it is impossible to recharge the bus from its morning run before the afternoon return run begins.  This would cost Delaware taxpayers an additional $2.6 million during just the first two years of HB10’s implementation.

Delaware’s legislature and the Governor’s Office has pushed electric vehicles as a way to make Delaware’s environment clean and green.  Although touted as being “clean and green,” electric vehicles aren’t. The process to mine the rare earth elements that are needed for the batteries creates copious amounts of toxic waste, destroys land and ecosystems through surface mining where vast amounts of rock and soil are removed, and utilizes child and slave labor in poor areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and southeast Asia.

Proterra joins Solyndra, A123, Pink Energy (Power Home Solar), and Lordstown Motors (an EV truck manufacturer) on the ever-growing list of high-profile, federally backed companies that have wasted taxpayer money and gone the way of the dinosaur.  Our Delaware state legislature must learn that the free market is better at selecting true winners than a legislator or bureaucrat throwing away our hard-earned tax money by investing in these fly-by-night schemes.

David Legates is a retired tenured professor of climatology, geography, and spatial sciences in the Department of Geography at the University of Delaware and a retired adjunct professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics. Currently Legates serves on the Advisory Board for A Better Delaware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consequences of Banning Greenhouse Gases

 By David R. Legates        

You have often heard: “As greenhouse gas emissions from human activities increase, they build up in the atmosphere and warm the climate, leading to many other changes around the world.”  We are told these consequences always will be devastating and, of course, they will become worse if we don’t take draconian efforts to stop the emission of greenhouse gases now.

This last session, the Delaware legislature passed, and Governor Carney signed into law House Bill 99.  Known as the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023, the law implements Delaware’s Climate Action Plan to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to 50% by 2030 and to 0% by 2050.  State agencies must “consider climate change in decision-making, rulemaking, and procurement,” which puts the decisions into the hands of state bureaucrats.

Greenhouse gases are called “trace gases” for a reason—they make up very little of the dry atmosphere by volume.  The three gases targeted by House Bill 99 are carbon dioxide (0.04%), methane (0.00019%), and nitrous oxide (0.00000015%).  Together, these three molecules comprise so little of our atmosphere that in a stadium of 100,000 people, the composition of these three molecules in the atmosphere would be the equivalent of just 40 people.

Moreover, these gases are not pollutants; in fact, an increase in carbon dioxide has been a huge benefit to the entire planet.  Over the last forty years, the majority of the planet has greened significantly.  Simply put, carbon dioxide is plant food—commercial greenhouses increase carbon dioxide concentrations by a factor of about four to enhance plant growth as plants grow faster under higher carbon dioxide concentrations.  In addition, plants use water more efficiently when carbon dioxide concentrations are higher.

But the Delaware General Assembly has labeled these gases as pollutants and has prescribed that we take draconian steps to curb their production. The electric vehicle mandate prescribes that we reduce the number of gasoline and diesel automobiles sent to dealers to zero by 2035.  House Bill 10 requires the phase in of electric school buses, House Bill 11 demands new commercial buildings be able to support rooftop solar panels, and House Bill 12 incentivizes the purchase and lease of electric vehicles through a rebate program.  Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 103 calls for all newly constructed single- and multi-family residences in the State to include electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  All these bills are now the law in Delaware forcing Delawareans to solely rely on wind and solar energy. At the same time, Delaware’s Federal delegation and the Biden administration are pushing for restrictions to the production of NMP, (N-Methyl pyrrolidone) which is an essential processing aid for lithium batteries that are key to energy storage and electrification storage. Without batteries to store this energy, our houses go dark and cold when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.

So, why demonize fuels that have made energy inexpensive and have led nearly seven billion people out of poverty?  As a climatologist, I can tell you that our climate is not becoming more deadly or more extreme because of increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  For this small fraction of gases, we are proposing to devastate our economy, send billions of people to live below the poverty level, and destroy our way of life. What are we thinking?

David Legates is a retired tenured professor of climatology, geography, and spatial sciences in the Department of Geography at the University of Delaware and a retired adjunct professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics.

 

 

 

Why Hydrogen in Natural Gas Pipelines Makes No Sense, Particularly in Delaware

By: Lindsay Leveen

Okay, you are going to need to recall a little science for this one! Remember electrons? They are the little electrified bits of energy that circle the nucleus (center) of an atom. Atoms make up the elements of gas, liquid, and solids (for real geeks, the Periodic Chart may come to mind!)

Why do we need to revisit science class? Well, there is an effort to retrieve electrons from atoms of Hydrogen gas and add them to natural gas to make a “greener” supply of energy.  Delaware is among the seven states in the US which were awarded federal support to develop a “hydrogen hub”, which Delaware will share with New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Several companies with ties to Delaware, including Bloom Energy and Air Liquide are involved in the effort.

The project has identified three classifications of hydrogen electrons they will seek to isolate: pink, which will be sourced from the nuclear power plant in New Jersey; green, which will use wind and solar sources from the three states; and orange, which will be retrieved by injecting water into deep hot iron formations in the earth.

There are significant issues that prevent this from making any practical sense at all. First, the plan is to use the existing pipelines for natural gas. The existing metal composition of the steel natural gas pipelines is incompatible with hydrogen, which will permeate the metal and cause the steel to become brittle, and which will, ultimately, cause the pipelines to rupture.  Replacing the pipelines has been deemed to be too expensive and, therefore, to preserve the pipes for use, only a small fraction of hydrogen will be added to the natural gas. That could be as little as only 1%.

And the use of the “clean” electrons is somewhat limited.  Using electrons in water electrolyzers loses half of the energy within the incoming electrons.  While some companies, including Bloom, claim 85% efficiency, they do not account for the energy lost in the steam nor the energy needed to compress and dry the hydrogen to make it useful.  Wet electrolyzers, such as those utilized by Bloom, produce wet hydrogen, at low pressure. This hydrogen is useless in that state. Any value in hydrogen is after it has been dried and compressed.

In this area of the country, the best return is to use these electrons for two things.  The first is for heat pumps.  Electric heat pumps gain energy from the surroundings and multiply the kilowatt hours of useful warming heat delivered.  This area of the country is ideal for heat pumps as the winters are not too severe.

The second, although not ideal, is electric vehicles.  The compressed hydrogen in the proposed hub will be used in part to power buses in Philadelphia.  However, these expensive hydrogen fuel cell buses are only 50% efficient.  Using renewable clean electrons for hydrogen manufacture, and then to fuel buses, yields only 25% of the electrons giving a return on the effort, that is, actually propelling the wheels.  It is less expensive to buy battery powered electric buses, as the return on those yields 90% of the electrons propelling the wheels.

But none of this really makes practical sense. Hydrogen only has a third of the energy per unit volume as natural gas, based on the higher heating value of natural gas.  Clients in the US who use natural gas are already overpaying by some 10%, since the real heating value of natural gas is approximately 90% of the higher heating value used to bill customers.  Hydrogen billing will be even more unfair to gas consumers, as the lower heating value of hydrogen is only 80% of the higher heating value that consumers will be charged.

The cost to provide a minuscule amount of hydrogen into natural gas to, in effect, pretend is it “greener” than simply using natural gas, is not justified.  The increased costs to customers are not providing a better service or product. The federal government’s support of this project will cease, and it will not be cost-effective for private industry to continue to provide hydrogen injected gas.  Consumers should object to these projects now, before we spend more money on a useless effort with no return to the consumer.

Lindsay Leveen has more than 40 years of experience in chemical engineering and executive management in high value-added process industries that extract value out of processes that transform chemicals, energy, labor, and capital into products that society needs and consumers will buy. He has consulted and worked in the areas of energy deregulation, alternative energy generation, traditional energy generation, power transmission and distribution, power quality and reliability systems, and on hydrogen and sustainability Lindsay received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an MBA from University of Witwatersrand, S. Africa and a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Iowa State .His book on the hope and hype of hydrogen is translated into Japanese and is used in Japan as a university text for students of energy policy and sustainability. In 2011, the Northern California Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) gave Mr. Leveen their Professional Development award for his lifetime of work in the field of chemical engineering.

 

More Options Necessary to Meet Electric Demands

By: Kenneth J. Reuter, Jr.

Influential voices who have the ears of policy makers are advocating solar and wind generation to provide electricity supply to meet our country’s demands.  But it is important to respect the fact that technology must drive electric generation supply solutions, not government mandates.  This same notion also applies to the demand side of electricity as well.  For example, mandating EV’s by a certain date is also misguided.  Electric supply and demand must evolve and be driven by available and under-development technology. We also need to understand that our electric grid currently lacks the capability and stability to support a rapid, forced transition. Facts and science must shape our path forward to transition to our electric energy future. This article focuses on how best to address electric generation to support future US demand.

The US generates electricity from four sources distributed approximately as follows: Natural Gas (40%), Renewables (22%), Coal (20%) and Nuclear (18%) with coal as the most polluting.  As solar and wind technology emerge and evolve, we are expanding their deployment.  Both are renewable and neither emit pollution.  As beneficial as these emerging renewable sources have become, they will not solve the growing and massive US demand for a reliable supply. Generation cannot be dependent on daily amounts of sun and wind.  Primary generation must be supplied by predictable, reliable, and cost-effective power plants also known as base-load plants.  We know that coal is the most problematic with respect to pollution.  Clean coal and scrubbing solutions are under refinement.  But there are better solutions that can be further expanded or in development that show great promise.

If we want to meet the very aggressive goal of zero emissions by 2050, coal is not the answer.   It is, however, abundant, and inexpensive.  China’s reliance on coal gives them a huge economic competitive advantage over the US.  As a result, China is also by far the world’s single largest polluter. We are in a global competitive environment and cost is very important to ensure our competitive place in the world economy.

Natural gas, by a wide margin, produces a fraction of pollutants than that of coal by a wide margin does.  And when designed in Combined-Cycle (CC) configuration, meaning using that fuel to spin a generator and then capturing the heat emitted to spin another generator, is very cost-effective producing significantly lower pollutants to the atmosphere.

In highly populated coastal environments, wind has been proposed as a source of electric generation. If you   compare the cost of building a Combined-Cycle (CC) natural gas plant versus an Offshore Wind Farm, (OSW).  A 600 MW CC natural gas plant can be built for approximately $750 Million.  A 600MW Offshore Wind Farm costs in excess of $2 Billion and with much higher maintenance costs.  And remember, all these costs are built into the rate base which drives cents per KW at the meter.  The US has been expanding natural gas CC plants and decommissioning plants that are coal fired.  We have seen greater than a 65% drop in overall emissions from 2005 to 2019 and a 32% drop in CO2 emissions shifting from coal to natural gas. We need to continue the transition from coal to natural gas.

In order to provide consistent base-load electric power to meet future demand we must also revisit nuclear! Nuclear power is clean, emits no pollutants and can run base-load full power for extended periods without the need for refueling.  Most operators elect to refuel every 18-24 months. Nuclear technology is safe, effective and by far the cleanest, most efficient and the most non-polluting answer for us to reach our goal of Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW per unit, which is about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors. SMRs, which can produce a large amount of low-carbon electricity, are:

  • Small – physically a fraction of the size of a conventional nuclear power reactor.
  • Modular – making it possible for systems and components to be factory-assembled and transported as a unit to a location for installation.
  • Reactors – harnessing nuclear fission to generate heat to produce energy.

Many of the benefits of SMRs are inherently linked to the nature of their design – small and modular. Given their smaller footprint, SMRs can be sited on locations not suitable for larger nuclear power plants. Prefabricated units of SMRs can be manufactured and then shipped and installed on site, making them more affordable to build than large power reactors, which are often custom designed for a particular location, sometimes leading to construction delays. SMRs offer savings in cost and construction time, and they can be deployed incrementally to match increasing energy demand.

No one generation solution is the answer.  The right answer?  All of the above, driven by technology, is the right mix of generation to meet both the growing US demand for electricity and strive to reach a Zero carbon emissions goal by 2050.

Kenneth J Reuter, Jr., has a BS In Economics and Business from the University of Delaware and  an MBA in International Finance from Northeastern University. He has worked for the past 40 years in the electric industry dealing with all methods of generation, transmission, and distribution. He has held positions as an engineer, Director, VP and CEO in global energy companies. He continues to consult globally through his business, Resilience Energy, LLC. 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospital Price Transparency in Delaware: The Ideal and the Reality

By: Dr. Stacie Beck

You usually know what you are going to pay for purchase before you buy. That makes sense. But have you ever tried to determine how much a medical procedure is going to cost before you undergo anesthesia? It can be frustrating.

Well, at last, the federal government has come to the rescue – sort of. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now requires hospitals to post all their prices in a machine-readable file (for the highly computer literate) and a selection of “shoppable services” (essentially, non-urgent procedures) in a consumer-friendly format (for the rest of us).

We compared the CMS ideal and the Delaware reality by pricing three procedures that may be familiar to readers: a colonoscopy, vaginal delivery of a baby without complications and a simple cardioversion. The third is an electric shock administered externally to the chest while under anesthesia to restore a regular heartbeat to a patient with a heart flutter.

The Ideal

              The CMS requires that a common price list of 70 shoppable services (or as many as the hospital provides) to be posted. An additional 230 or more, totaling 300 services, chosen by the hospital, must also be posted, reflecting the most common procedures done at the hospital based on local demographics or hospital specialization. Of the three procedures we considered, two (colonoscopy and vaginal delivery) are on the required list and one (cardioversion) is not.

The format can be either a cost estimator tool or a ‘flat file’ with links prominently displayed on the hospital website. The hospital is not allowed to require you to set up an account, use a password or any personal identifying information to access the list.  Four prices should be displayed: the cash price, the payer-specific price, and the minimum and maximum prices negotiated by the hospital with all its payers. ‘Payer’ usually means a health insurance company. Medicare/Medicaid prices are not required to be displayed because they are publicly available elsewhere, although CMS encourages these to be included.

Hospitals must identify and include ancillary services, such as laboratory tests, radiology, drugs, anesthesia services, etc., it provides as part of a shoppable service. Beware: hospitals differ in the ancillary services that are included. Moreover, their negotiated contracts with payers could differ in ancillary services that are included. Though not required, CMS ‘strongly encourage(s) and recommend(s), …(hospitals) indicate any additional ancillary services that are not provided by the hospital but that (hospitals) know the patient is likely to experience as part of the primary shoppable service, and to indicate that such services may be billed separately by other entities involved in the patient’s care’ that are not employed by the hospital.

CMS helpfully suggests a format for each situation, as depicted below.

If all ancillary services are included in the contract negotiated with Health Insurer X:

If ancillary services are included but negotiated separately by the hospital with Health Insurer Y, then:

If only some ancillary services are included by hospital in its contract with Health Insurer X:

While a health insurance plan member may be able to request an estimate of total cost from the insurer, the self-paying patient must be savvy enough to request the cost of all services: those provided by the hospital and those billed separately. The latter requires the patient get the contact information of those the hospital has contracted with (e.g., pathology and/or anesthesia practices, etc.).

The Reality

The hospitals surveyed here are: Christiana Care, Bay Health, Beebe, Chester County-Penn Medicine, and UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.

The good news is that all have links to a cost estimator tool on their main websites. However, they are mostly buried under obscure headings, sometimes at the top or bottom of the page in small print, e.g., Billing and Financial Information (Bayhealth) or Resources (Beebe). Christiana Care buries it the deepest, and one has to know whether a colonoscopy or vaginal delivery is an in-patient or out-patient, medical or surgical service. Upper Chesapeake’s link for ‘guests’ is inoperative.

It is important in most cases to have the billing (CPT or DRG) code rather than the procedure name. For example, there are several types of colonoscopies. Most cost estimator tools include statements that certain services may be billed separately, such as physician and anesthesia, but are not specific by procedure. No name or contact information for these outside services is listed, despite being contracted by the hospital, except for Bayhealth in an online brochure.

Few follow CMS’s suggested formats. Below the colonoscopy (CPT 45378) estimate for a self-paying patient is shown for our sample hospitals.

Christiana Care:

It appears that all ancillary services are included in the self-pay price but this is not clear. The cost of vaginal delivery (CPT 59400) without ancillary services is $4,430 and no estimate is provided for a cardioversion (CPT 92960)

Bayhealth

It is not clear what ancillary services are included from this estimator tool. No estimate was available for vaginal delivery and cardioversion costs $1737.

Beebe

No estimate was available for vaginal delivery and cardioversion costs $652. Again, it is not clear what specific ancillary services are included for each procedure from this estimator tool.

Chester County Hospital (Penn Medicine)

Penn Medicine provides estimates specific to each location (here Chester County Hospital) whereas Christiana Care and Bayhealth do not. However, it was easier to find the flat file than the estimator tool. Notice that the prices appear to be far apart for the cash-paying patient from each source. No estimate was available for vaginal delivery and cardioversion costs $688. The latter estimate was available in the ‘flat file’ but not the estimator. There were three entries under cardioversion (CPT 96920) with prices ranging from $1264 to $4477.

UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center The cost estimator tool is unavailable to non-patients. Only the rather useless chargemaster list is accessible as a machine-readable file.

Conclusions

The CMS has made a valuable advance in health care price transparency. However, our local industry is dragging its feet in obeying the spirit as well as the letter of the law. All the hospitals here list phone numbers for patients to get more precise estimates, however this does not fulfill the intent of the regulation. The ideal is for information to be conveniently available for comparison shopping. Other industries with multiple and complex inputs, e.g., construction, education, etc. have achieved this. The health care industry can too.

Dr. Stacie Beck is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Delaware. She has a BS in economics from Boston College and a PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been published in many peer review journals and currently serves as an editorial board member of Eastern Economics Journal.

 

 

 

Health Care Commission: Lack of Independence from the Governor

By: Alexandre Kittila

The Delaware Healthcare Commission (DHCC) is the executive authority on healthcare in the state of Delaware. When it was established in 1990, the founding legislation stated that the Commission shall “serve as the policy body to advise the Governor and General Assembly.” To meet the DHCC’s important duties, members are “to collaborate with other state agencies and the private sector, to initiate pilots, and to recommend policy changes to the Governor and General Assembly.”

A substantial addition to that mission occurred in 2022, when the legislature granted additional authority to the Commission to “be responsible for establishing and monitoring the State of Delaware Health Care Spending.” Giving the Commission direct control over establishing pilot programs and affecting spending, grants what was an advisory board much more influence than the term “commission” would lead you to believe.

A real concern is not the establishment of the DHCC, nor its duties, but, rather, the fashion in which its board members are selected, and who is selected to serve. An executive commission separate from the branches of the Delaware government to establish pilots and spending could encourage decisive action and less entanglement in the bureaucracy; in its current state, however, it simply works as an extension of the Governor’s power over the healthcare industry in Delaware. Separation of the commission from the influence of bureaucrats in our government is crucial to ensure its proper function and fidelity to the goal of meeting the health care needs of Delawareans.

There are eleven members of the Commission. They are: the Insurance Commissioner, a representative of the Speaker of the House, a representative of the President Pro Tempe, the Secretary of Finance, the Secretary of Health and Social Services, the Secretary of Services for Children and Youths, and five individuals who are chosen by the Governor. Therefore, fully eight out of the eleven members are directly selected by the Governor. This compromises the independence of the Commission and can lead to the Commission becoming simply a rubber stamp for the Governor’s preferred policies and spending priorities.

If we truly want the best outcome for Delaware citizens who seek health care, the Commission should be a think tank to consider how we can best provide timely access and quality care at a fair and reasonable price. That is, the best way to spend the taxpayers’ money.

There is potential for independence of the Commission from the Governor in a provision of the Delaware Code that requires that “no more than 3 of the Commission members appointed by the Governor shall be of the same political party.” Of course, in Delaware, for nearly a decade now, the leadership of the House and Senate, and the Insurance Commissioner, have all be of the same political party as the Governor, And, given that the three cabinet members are appointed by the Governor, they will likely be of the same political party.  So, while the law may seem to create balance, consider that, even adhering to this requirement, the balance of the Commission could be 9-2. And, even if the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tempe of the Senate, and the Insurance Commissioner are all of the opposite party of the Governor, and two of the five individuals selected by the Governor are of the opposite party, the balance would still be a majority of the Governor’s party, 6-5.

So, has the government followed their own laws? Currently, the cabinet members and government officials holding the designated positions are all members of the Democrat Party, and 4 of the 5 persons named by the Governor are Democrats, the only exception being the former Democrat mayor of Lewes, Theodore Becker, who is now registered as a “NO PARTY.” There clearly is no balance.

Additionally, many members of the Commission have a vested interest in the outcome of the decisions the Commission makes because they are affiliated with a health care provider or service in Delaware.  The Commission is mandated, in 16 Del. C.  §9903(e)(3) to act “in such a way that fosters creative thinking and problem solving.” A commission in which a nearly singular policy affiliation reigns does not “foster creative thinking”, but rather becomes an echo chamber effect, not receiving or considering competing or alternative viewpoints.

An executive authority on healthcare is not inherently a bad idea but the fact that nearly every member serves, for all practical purposes, at the pleasure of the Governor makes it dangerous. It allows the Governor and the government a more heavy hand into places it ought to be restrained. The Commission needs to be nonpartisan and independent, and motivated by the best interests in meeting the health care needs of our citizens.

So, what would be the best solution?  Perhaps we should make the five Commission members currently chosen by the Governor, selected and voted on by the General Assembly. Perhaps adopt an ethics rule to eliminate self-interest. Maybe allow a single selection by the Governor, other than his cabinet members, similar to the ones for the President Pro Tempe and the Speaker of the House.

All of those ideas will improve the Commission’s ability to meet the statutory mandate. But the most important takeaway is that since the DHCC is meant to be for the people, it should also be by the people. Establishing the DHCC in a more balanced structure will not only lead to more ideas, but also better ideas, hopefully leading to better healthcare for everyone in the state of Delaware.

.Alexandre Kittila is Senior at Tower Hill School. Kittila served as an intern for A Better Delaware in the summer of 2023.