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Marketplace with host Kai Ryssdal produced and distributed by American Public Media focuses on the latest business news both nationally and internationally, the global economy, and wider events linked to the financial markets.
The only national daily business news program originating from the West Coast, Marketplace is noted for its timely, relevant and accessible coverage of business, economics and personal finance.
Monday, April 27, 2015 6:00am
The nation’s largest public utility is quietly scaling back expansion plans for nuclear power. Just eight years ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority was leading a nuclear renaissance, with plans to restart work on a handful of mothballed reactors. But splitting atoms to make electricity has become less attractive in the last few years.
The energy sector’s appetite for nuclear power has always ebbed and flowed. The plants are attractive because they create so much power in one place, but they’re also highly regulated by the federal government. They take many years to build and almost always cost more than anyone predicts.
And now there’s less demand for power.
“At least in the cases that we looked at, the need for a large base-load plant really doesn’t show up over time,” TVA vice president Joe Hoagland says of the utility’s new Integrated Resource Plan.
The new power predictions mean TVA will only finish Watts Bar Unit II, slated for completion later this year, after delays that span decades and cost overruns in the billions of dollars. Hoagland says demand just hasn’t picked up since the recession, and not just because big industrial customers went out of business—though they did. Consumers are more energy conscious, he says.
“The most obvious example of that would be the shift from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents,” Hoagland says.
Compounding the economic shift is the abundance of natural gas.
Richard Myers of the Nuclear Energy Institute says no one expected that the shale gas boom would be such a game changer.
“The volumes of gas that they found just truly blew everybody’s mind,” he says.
Utilities like TVA have been adding natural gas power plants, which are cheaper and more flexible than nuclear. But Myers figures nuclear’s time will still come.
“I think the new plants are going to get built when they’re needed, where they’re needed,” he says, noting that one in five U.S. households is powered by nuclear reactors.
Environmentalists who want to curtail the use of nuclear power in the U.S. agree with the assessment that the energy form will live on.
Don Safer of the Sierra Club says considering nuclear’s roller-coaster history, he figures it’s just a matter of time before the building boom resumes.
“It’s not over ‘til it’s over,” he says.
Monday, April 27, 2015 6:00am
A new report from InsuranceQuotes shows that North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maine have at least one thing in common: drivers there pay the least for auto insurance. In North Carolina, insurance rates ran 41 percent less than the national average. Highest was Michigan, where drivers paid more the double the national average for car insurance. There is a method to all of this insurance madness.
Next time you're in your car driving down the road, take a look at the billboards. Do you see a lot of ads for what are known as ambulance chasers? That might explain a thing or two about your insurance rates.
Robert Hoyt, who teaches risk management and insurance at the University of Georgia, says your state's legal environment has a lot to do with it. In other words, how likely drivers are to sue each other. Hoyt says when they're setting rates, insurance companies track all of this, even how often juries decide to award for damages.
Also, state laws factor in.
"The states that have the highest auto insurance costs do happen to be the no-fault states," he says. No-fault means your insurance company covers your injuries.
Laura Adams, senior analyst with InsuranceQuotes, says often it's just a matter of population density.
"The more cars, the more accidents that happen," she says.
She says that's why people in urban areas pay a lot more for car insurance.
Monday, April 27, 2015 6:00am
As it stands today, servicemembers who advance through the Department of Defense are entitled to a pension of 50 percent of their income at retirement after 20 years of service. But a new proposal making its way through Congress would lower that to 40 percent and add a 401(k) savings account.
Some veterans' groups, like the Military Officers Association of America, oppose the change and say the 20-year pension is an incentive for top officers to stay in the service.
"We're concerned that the commission's blended retirement benefit would fail to provide the necessary draw to retain those service members," says Col. Mike Barron, deputy director of government relations for MOAA.
But the report from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission suggested this plan as a way to both save costs and increase incentives for servicemembers who don't make it to 20 years. Other, more controversial proposals—like overhauling the TriCare health system used by servicemembers—are stalled.
Todd Harrison, Senior Fellow for Defense Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says it's clear that the 20-year pension isn't a good incentive, because only 17 percent of servicemembers get to that point.
"They are pushing out some of their best people with this inflexible, industrial age career model," Harrison says.
Harrison also notes that not all veterans' groups oppose the change; others, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, support it.
Monday, April 27, 2015 5:58am2 days
That's how much time passed between Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election and GOP media consultant Rick Wilson's first professional conversation about the 2016 election. In the months leading up to contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, presidential hopefuls compete in "the invisible primary," trying to gather enough money and media attention to run a viable campaign.40 percent
As it stands, servicemembers who serve over 20 years in the military are entitled to 50 percent of their income at retirement. But a new proposal would reduce that number to 40 percent, while adding a 401(k) savings account. The change has brought up strong opinions on both sides of the argument, with some worrying that it will lessen the incentive to serve those 20 plus years. But others argue that the low percentage of servicemembers who currently make it to that landmark proves that the current deal isn't working either.$25 million
That's how much Comcast spent on lobbying last year, trying to drum up support for its $45 billion merger with rival cable giant Time Warner. Comcast officially abandoned those plans Friday, amid regulatory scrutiny and consumer pushback. The NY Times looked into how such and elaborate and expensive lobbying apparatus could have failed to move lawmakers, when Comcast had been so convincing in their case to acquire NBCUniversal just a few years before.$2.4 million
That's how much someone made by buying up stock options in Altera, right as rumors were flying on social media that the company was about to be acquired by Intel. The deal moved faster than any human could have managed, and it wasn't a one-time thing. Slate explains how this is different from high frequency trading as we know it, and why traders are rattled.68 ingredients
That's how many total ingredients are used at Chipotle. And starting Monday, the fast food chain announced it will no longer use genetically engineered foods in any of its restaurants. As the NY Times notes, a similar chain to Chipotle uses 81 ingredients—less ingredients means its easier to make the switch. Among the biggest challenges: Chipotle used soy oil to fry its chips, and soy is largely genetically modified in the states. Opting instead for a slightly more expensive canola oil may show up in the price tag someday soon.
Friday, April 24, 2015 5:23pm
Joining Kai to talk about the week's business and economic news are Felix Salmon of Fusion and Jo Ling Kent of Fox Business News.
The big topics this week: Nasdaq's record high, Greece's meeting with eurozone finance ministers in Riga, Latvia and the collapse of the Time Warner Cable-Comcast merger.
Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.