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 →


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 →


The Biden Administration has made no secret of its support for electric vehicles. President Joe Biden emphasized that commitment, as well as his general love of motoring, when he took the wheel of Ford's new electric pickup truck at the Michigan plant on May 18. Now Congress is following up on the White House electric auto initiative. $5,000 EV credit hike: Part of the Clean Energy for America bill would boost the current maximum electric vehicle (EV) tax credit from $7,500 to a potential $12,500. It cleared the Senate Finance Committee on May 26. The added $5,000 in tax credits... Read more →


Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer across the United States. It's also a time for sales tax free shopping in two states. Here in Texas, my neighbors and I get the long weekend to pick up some water and energy efficient appliances without owing the state's 6 percent and local sales taxes, which could afford up to another 2 percent in tax savings. My friends and former neighbors in Florida also get a sales tax holiday this coming holiday weekend and longer. Last week, the Sunshine State's governor signed into law the state's 10-day-long 2021 Disaster Preparedness... Read more →


President Joe Biden's heart may belong to his 1967 classic Corvette Stingray, but he's working to make Uncle Sam's 600,000 automotive fleet electric. (Photo by Adam Schultz via Flicker) Much of the focus on the new White House understandably has been on President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief package. But Biden also has been pushing his alternative energy plans, specifically a move to electric vehicles (EVs). Just days after his inauguration, he vowed to replace the bulk of the federal government's fleet of vehicles with made-in-America EVs. On Tuesday, March 2, Biden met virtually with executives in the EV charging infrastructure... Read more →


No, there isn't an electric version of Chevrolet's iconic Corvette (because who would want that!), but you have lots of other electric vehicle options that could get you not only a new car, but a nice federal tax credit. There are a couple of television commercials I look forward to every holiday season. There's the Corona Extra "Oh Tannenpalm" spot that's been airing for 30 years. And, of course, there's Hershey's Kisses handbell choir, which has been running even longer. Not as welcome, but as inescapable this time of year are the automaker ads with cars bearing giant bows. I've... Read more →


These West Texas cattle don't appear worried about much. Their owners, however, have a lot of concerns, including severe weather that could hurt their ranches' profitability. If drought has caused problems, the IRS is offering them some tax relief. (Photo by Kay Bell) When we city folks think of disaster preparation and animals, we're worrying about how to keep our pets safe during and after a major Mother Nature event. It's a bit more complicated when the animals are part of your livelihood. That's why farmers and ranchers in the path of potential disasters, like the flooding that now's across... Read more →


No gasoline necessary for electric vehicles like this Chevrolet Bolt, which instead is plugged in to recharge for the road. If you opt for an IRS-certified electric auto or light truck, you might get some tax break help on your purchase. Climate change is getting more coverage lately. People are paying attention to what's happening with Mother Nature here in the United States thanks to the opposing environmental takes by the two presidential contenders. On a more personal level for many Americans is that we're in the midst of one of the most active hurricane seasons ever — we're already... Read more →


To make sure you, not the U.S. Treasury, gets more of these, don't overlook possible tax deductions and credits. At tax time, filers are always searching for ways to reduce their final tax bill. You can claim deductions, either by itemizing if that gives you more than your standard deduction amount or by claiming some income adjustments, still referred to (by me, at least!) as above-the-line deductions that reduce the amount of income that's taxed. There also are tax credits, which are even better because the directly reduce what you owe Uncle Sam dollar-for-dollar and in some cases could produce... Read more →


These West Texas cattle don't appear worried about much. Their owners, however, have a lot of concerns, including severe weather that could hurt their agribusiness operation. In the case of drought, they might get some tax relief. (Photo by Kay Bell) "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it," observed Hartford Courant editor Charles Dudley Warner back in the late 1800s. More than a century later, that meteorological quip is still applicable. Long-time readers know I'm one of the guilty weather complainers. Heck, I do it so much that it's earned its own category on the ol'... Read more →


Today I'd rather be in the Midwest, say northern Ohio or Michigan, at least as far as the weather. Yeah, it's chillier than I like, but at least it's not so dang windy. As the screen shot above of the live wind map wind shows, the rest of the country is dealing with some strong gusts. Locally, we're at around 13 mile per hour sustained wind, with gusts up to 30 mph. Where wind pays: You'd think I'd be used to the wind. I did, after all, grow up in West Texas, where the wide-open spaces are perfect to spin... Read more →


Teslas are the most popular electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States. Creator Elon Musk, however, isn't riding on his EV's laurels. The space exploration and auto impresario says some unusual custom horn sounds are coming. That's right, the honk of your high-dollar Tesla soon could replicate fart and goat noises. That should spark more potential owner interest, although the biggest market for this change, 9-year-old boys, can't drive. Still, Musk knows he needs to do something to keep interest in Teslas high since the EVs no longer qualify for the federal tax credit. Worse, a new report from an... Read more →


These pups probably would be cooler inside under the A/C instead of atop the condenser. As a general rule, your cooling system works better when you keep the outside air conditioning unit clear of everything, including pets! Summer's been official for just a week, but folks in many areas have been dealing with hot temperatures for a while. Some, including my neighbors who've had air conditioning repair trucks parked in front of their houses for what seems like weeks, already are feeling the often costly effects of warmer weather. That's why it's a good time to think about tuning up... Read more →


Happy Earth Day 2019 Earth Day was created in 1969 by environmental activists in response to an oil spill in waters near Santa Barbara, California. Since then, it has expanded each year as a day to emphasize environmental issues and inspire an appreciation of our planet. With this year's celebration falling on a weekday, many folks are looking for ways to incorporate their pro-Mother Earth efforts into their daily lives. Well, nothing is as incorporated into our day-to-day existences as our taxes. So on Earth Day 2019 and every day this year, here are 4 tax-saving environmental options. 1. Electric... Read more →