Environment Feed

We lost all our ornamental rosemary bushes in February's devastating winter storm. This debris pile is all that's left of them. (Kay Bell photo) February's surprisingly harsh winter storm has done a number on our yard. We are not alone. Major federal disaster areas were declared for parts of frozen Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. I've heard the same stories from my Austin neighbors, as well as friends in the Sooner and Pelican States. While some of our exterior flora made it through the subfreezing temperatures, quite a few of our plants succumbed. Our line of ornamental rosemary bushes in the... Read more →


Lyriq photo courtesy Cadillac Sometimes the obvious is, well, obvious. Until it isn't. Back in 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous intuitive declaration about knowing pornographic material when he saw it made things clear. Then on Jan. 11, 2015, we Dallas Cowboys fans, then belatedly the NFL, knew that Dez Bryant's touchdown catch was definitely a catch. Now General Motors (GM) and Uncle Sam are fighting over what, for most of us, is pretty clear, specifically what counts as an SUV. The government's final answer will affect the new Inflation Reduction Act tax credit for electric versions of sports... Read more →


The tax year is over. Long live the tax year. Taxes are, if nothing else, persistent. Sure, there are a few (or more) changes every year, even if it's only inflation adjustments. But even in years when the changes are negligible, they are back, starting to add up on the first of every January. That's why 2023 is the first By the Numbers honoree of this new year. The transition from an old to a new tax year is also the focus of this post. It's a look at six tax matters that affected or at least fascinated us in... Read more →


Kris Kringle, portrayed by Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 classic movie "Miracle on 34th Street." (via Giphy) I'm a Christmas traditionalist. OK, so I expand the traditional holiday season. We, at my urging, put up holiday decorations right after Halloween. We have a lot of them, so it takes time. Plus, I'm a fan and nonresident celebrant of Canada's Thanksgiving. Our neighbors to the north's celebration of the harvest and other blessings of the past year falls on the second Monday of October, following a more North American seasonal shift. Even better, it provides a welcome space between Turkey Day... Read more →


A heat pump's outdoor unit is pulling what warmth it can out of the air in freezing conditions. (Photo by Peter Eastern via Wikipedia Commons) North winds are gusting up to 30 mph right now here in suburban Austin, Texas. By sunset, we'll be at freezing, with temperatures in the area tonight expected to drop to between 10 and 15 degrees. Despite my alternately freaking out thanks to memories of 2021's snow, ice, and prolonged freezing temperatures that led to extended electric and water utility outages across most of Texas, ranting, and stuffing old hand towels into every new window... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is still working out how to implement the climate tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. The tax agency and its parent Treasury Department issued some preliminary guidance in August regarding the electric vehicle (EV) tax changes. The IRS also is seeking public comment on EV rules, as well as the other aspect of the other energy tax benefits in the new law. Meanwhile, states also are taking steps to deal with how the federal energy tax changes could affect their revenues. New state-level EV charges: "The increasing popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles is shrinking... Read more →


Updated Oct. 6, 2023, to reflect added Hurricane Ian tax relief and new filing deadline. Before you and your family celebrate Halloween, check out these October tax moves. Your calendar isn't wrong. We're already into the first week of October, the beginning of the fourth quarter of the year. Once you get through repeating (like me) "Already?", it's time for the annual fall push. Between picking out your Halloween outfit and locating a secure hiding place for the holiday treats that your family can't find, it's time to make some tax moves. Here are four tax tasks that you need... Read more →


Singer-songwriter James Taylor provided the soundtrack for the White House's Sept. 13 celebration of the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act. (White House photo via Facebook) The Biden Administration this week celebrated the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) with a ceremony on the White House lawn. And while a government report on inflation that came out the same day warned of continuing inflation costs, President Joe Biden and attendees didn't let the new dampen the festivities. The White House insists that the IRA will work as planned, and Biden touted the law's provisions, including the climate-change-prompted energy provisions,... Read more →


The good tax news for environmentally conscious drivers is that the electric vehicle (EV) tax credit is back. The bad tax news for environmentally conscious drivers is that it's not all that easy to claim the reworked $7,500 EV credit. The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service, however, are trying to smooth that road a bit. They've issued some initial guidance on the new EV tax credit changes. EV tweaks in the inflation bill: With President Joe Biden's signing yesterday, Aug. 16, of the Inflation Reduction Act, it's highly touted climate protection provisions will be taking effect. One followed closely... Read more →


More of my Austin, Texas, neighbors could be driving (and recharging) electric vehicles if the recently agreed-upon economic bill makes it into law. (Photo by Kay Bell) As the tax world frantically thumbs through the Democrats 725-page economic plan, one thing is clear. Makers of electric vehicles and the folks who want to buy them are winners. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the catchy (OK, as far as political monikers are concerned) new name for the measure that salvages some of President Joe Biden's retooled Build Back Better proposals, was worked out this week by Senate Majority Leader Chuck... Read more →


The state of Texas, which I celebrate personally in my house with many Lone Star-themed furnishings, shows a lot of love for businesses, but not so much for its residents, according to a recent CNBC analysis. (Photo by Kay Bell) The Lone Star State has a storied literary tradition, but it's a 19th century English writer's description that apparently now applies to Texas. It's the best of times for Texas businesses, but the worst of times for the state's residents, according to a Charles Dickens' echoing report by CNBC. The cable business news network scored all 50 states on 88... Read more →


Charging a Chevrolet Bolt EV outside a Go Forth electric-car showroom in Portland, Oregon. (Photo courtesy Forth) Governments use a variety of tax breaks to help shape their citizens' actions. In addition to the perpetual debate as to whether this is good or bad public policy, there's also the matter of which tax benefits should be used. When it comes to electric vehicle (EV) purchases, a recent study found that those interested in the alternative fuel autos prefer rebates to existing tax credits. Plus, the different financial reward method would be more cost effective for Uncle Sam. Pay then claim... Read more →


The White House's proposed federal gasoline tax three-month holiday proposal is not just stalled. A metaphorical Congressional tow truck has pulled it from the legislative roadside where it was sputtering. The main reason is, as noted earlier, is surprisingly united Capitol Hill opposition to waiving the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax. In fact, lawmakers also have been united in refusing to increase it. It hasn't been hiked since 1993. Another reason is, despite the grousing and social media posts of auto fill-up pump prices, people are still hitting the roads, at least early this summer. That's taken some... Read more →


General Motors offered a sneak peek this week of the 2024 electric Chevrolet Blazer, due to be fully revealed next month. The above photo of the family-sized, SS performance Blazer EV model, expected to go on sale in spring 2023 starting at around $40,000, was tweeted by GM CEO Mary Barra. Regardless of what you think of Elon Musk, he's made Tesla the electric vehicle (EV). Even if you can't afford one, whenever someone says EV, it's the first vehicle most of us envision. Meanwhile, the other automakers are working to get some of the attention and, of course, customers.... Read more →


Electric vehicle charging in a workplace garage. (Photo by Kay Bell) One of our errands this week was getting the hubby's vehicle inspected. It's required to renew the auto's annual state registration. We get to repeat the process in six months for my car. But when it comes to my Chevy sedan, I soon might be writing the state of Texas a larger check. I drive a hybrid and there's renewed interest in adding an annual surcharge to vehicles that don't rely solely on fossil fuel. Welcome, but pay, please: Sure, Lone Star State officials were thrilled when Elon Musk... Read more →


The biggest nutritional problem the hubby and I have is deciding what to cook for dinner, and then who's going to cook it. Sometime we just opt for what we call foraging, with each of us finding something to eat that night on our own. We are lucky. Our meal hunts are easy, confined to our well-stocked kitchen. However, an estimated 800 million worldwide face food insecurity. That includes an estimated 38 million people, 12 million of whom are children, in the United States, according to 2019 data from the Department of Agriculture. As we celebrate today's 52nd Earth Day,... Read more →


Homeowners know that keeping a residence in shape is a continual effort. Most of the time, we're just trying to keep things running. That maintenance is necessary, but it doesn't do much for us when it comes to taxes. But if you decide that instead of just fixing that cranky old furnace, it's time to go greener, you could get a tax break. Geothermal heat pumps are just one of the home upgrades that qualify for the renewable energy tax credits. If you took advantage of any of them in 2021, be sure to claim them on the tax return... Read more →


Tanker unloading crude oil (Photo by Hervé Cozanet, Marine-Marchande/Wikipedia Commons) Energy is on a lot of folks' minds right now. Europeans are keeping even warier eyes on Russia's invasion of Ukraine after an attack set off a fire at the continent's largest nuclear power plant. The immediate not horrific news is that there's no sign of radiation leaks at the Zaporizhzhia facility. However, damages to the infrastructure have left the nearly 53,000 residents of the Ukrainian city of Energodar almost without heat. It's unclear what the Russians, who've taken control of the plant grounds, are planning to do with the... Read more →


These cattle out in the West Texas Big Bend area don't appear worried about much. Their owners, however, have a lot of concerns, including severe weather that could hurt their ranches' profitability. The IRS is once offering some ranchers and farmers special drought-related tax relief. (Photo by Kay Bell) I grocery shop every week and there are a few items that I always purchase. Beef is one of them. You're not surprised, are you? I am a Texan. That consistent shopping list means I get week-to-week comparisons of my regular items. And, as other shoppers have noticed, meat prices, particularly... Read more →


The Senate finally cranked the engine on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, but it's still got a ways to go before becoming law. One good thing about that extended journey is that it should give us time to read the legislative road map, aka the officially titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act's 2,702 pages. A bill that size offers a lot of detours. One that's getting some attention is the inclusion of a pilot program for a vehicle mileage tax, or VMT. The possibility of a VMT was broached, then dismissed, in early infrastructure talks. Basically, it's a fee... Read more →


Photo courtesy Zutobi Could it be? Is Infrastructure Week finally happening? Maybe. There are bills and revisions to bills and working groups and bipartisan agreements and partisan criticisms of agreements. The only thing that the, at last rough count, eight transportation-plus proposals floating around on Capitol Hill have in common is that none has the votes right now in either chamber to pass. But things are fluid and could change, for better or worse (depending on your political and fiscal position), at any time. The only certainty is that something must be done by the end of this 2021 fiscal... Read more →