🌎 #288: What $200,000 buys you

Quinn Emmett
August 19, 2022
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Welcome back, Shit Givers.

Taking the kids up to DC soon, let me know any recs!

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E-bike rider


Starting from scratch

The news: I want to caveat everything below by reiterating that:

  • I fuuuuuucking love my e-bike
  • Our culture, roads, cities, and suburbia are unnecessarily and destructively dependent on cars and trucks
  • We used highways to redline cities
  • We need more walkability and micromobility tax benefits and infrastructure

So: Here's the latest on cars and trucks after Ira went live:

  • Ira will hopefully "turbocharge" sales of electric trucks, buses, and charging systems
  • Heavy trucks and buses are super polluters, especially in those redlined/marginalized neighborhoods
  • Charging infrastructure has taken in almost $5 billion this year in new money (before Ira)
  • Which is great because thanks to permit and zoning red tape, there aren't enough public chargers yet, and a lot of chargers don't work
  • That's just not the way you inspire people to ditch gas
  • And we'll need even more of that sweet lightning juice, because the DOT just released another $1.6 billion to electrify municipal bus fleets and facilities
  • Thanks to sales caps that haven't expired yet and progressively strict battery requirements, some EV models are eligible for tax rebates, some are not (tool below)
  • Some EV manufacturers with domestic assembly operations are better prepared than others (GM, Tesla)
  • Some, like Ford, are selling green bonds to fund EV's
  • Mark it down: the new domestic battery supply chain these rebates require will take a while, and then rewrite geopolitics -- and maybe domestic politics across the heartland (please baby jesus)

⚡️What We Can Do: Please listen to a very-Ira episode of "The Coolest Show" with Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, friend of the pod Rhiana Gunn Wright, Dana Johnson, and Bishop Marcia Dinkins as they explore the bill through the lens of historical and future environmental justice efforts (Spotify, Apple Podcasts). We've got a lot of work to do.


Doctor typing into computer


Vaccine Equity Update 8-19

Data is plural

The news: Welcome back to choose your own COVID adventure, the US edition!

As we ship kids back to school and an organic medley of farm-to-table subvariants continues to course through the population, the CDC -- amid concessions that "I don't know maybe all of this could be better handled next time" (more on that below) -- has advised most Americans exposed to COVID to mostly do...nothing.

Understand it: Yes, deaths are WAY down because we've built up a wide variety of immunity, current vaccines mostly prevent severe illness and death, and new ones are theoretically coming, but these are still top-down mechanisms.

We're still failing to do the basic shit that protects an entire population from the ground up, much less the immunocompromised, because public health officials are following the lead of a public made up of individuals that don't care anymore.

Masks mandates are long gone. If quarantine and isolation are going away, too, we're about to find out just how fast this thing can go, and how much cases really matter in the long-term. 

But: Maybe the virus runs out of "fuel", the subvariants slow, and deaths drop to almost nothing. I will be the first to hit the dance floors with Renaissance on repeat (I'm kidding, I go to bed at 8, pandemic or not). Doubtful! But maybe.

So what have we learned for "next time"? 

Well, the fractured collection of almost 1000 American health systems, 6000 hospitals, and at least 10 mostly not interoperable electronic health record providers aren't really talking to each other about monkeypox, despite the helpful new emergency declaration and two years of trying to stand up centralized data reporting for testing, treatments, and vaccine orders.

There's no good time for another outbreak but if anything, the recent ones should reinforce how much better our data efforts can be.

The good news: Countries and cities are building "supply side" wastewater data systems that can provide baseline and peaks for many diseases (like, say, polio) at once. All you've gotta do is flush (please flush).

⚡️What We Can Do: Our World in Data published a COVID dataset of sequences by variant and country. Check it out.


Rhine river


Feeling parched

The news: I want you to know that I work really hard to put a future-positive spin on the news whenever I can, but some areas are more difficult than others, and water is one of them.

So please read water news with the understanding that water is a human right, and there's a lot of folks working so hard to build a more sustainable water economy, but guaranteeing that right and access is going to require hard questions and a hell of a lot of work from all of us.

In North America:

  • Increased consumption and decreased precipitation in Mexico has led made water a "sacred commodity"
  • US cotton farmers are collecting insurance and expected to write off almost half of what they planted
  • Hydropower is increasingly under threat in the west and Texas (driving more gas use) just as it gets (very) hot
  • The seven states that depend on the Colorado River failed to agree on cuts, so the federal Bureau of Reclamation could hand some down

In Europe:

  • Half of England is in drought as crop failures mount
  • Privatized water utilities are getting the stink eye from investors in the UK, where almost 3 billion liters leak every goddamn day
  • Ancient underwater bridges in Italy are surfacing as often as bodies in the US
  • Levels in the Rhine were just 13 inches this week, halting shipping

In Asia:

  • Rolling blackouts in China shut down factories as planes seeded clouds to catalyze rainfall to the parched Yangtze

In Africa:

We have to do the hard things together, and I'm proud you're here to help us do them.

⚡️What We Can Do: For today, setup a monthly donation to charity: water and help bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.


Insulin pen


It's one insulin shot, Michael. What can it cost?

The news: Our new friend Ira isn't just a massive thumb on the scales of clean energy, among other health benefits, it also:

  • (Finally) allows Medicare to negotiate prices for (some TBD) drugs
  • Penalizes drugmakers that escalate prices too quickly like assholes
  • By 2025, caps Medicare drug costs per person at $2000

Understand it: Like I said a couple weeks ago, Big Pharma is predictably pissed. Eight of 13 drugs launched in 2022 are priced over $200,000 a year. 

You read that correctly. So when they inevitably sue the government, how will they argue?

Per STAT News, probably that:

  • The Fifth Amendment "prohibits the government from taking private property “for public use, without just compensation"
  • Or maybe the Eighth, which says that (in reference to penalties for refusing to negotiate prices) “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

But the people LOVE Ira:

  • 76% support caps on drug price increases
  • 73% are for Medicare's ability to negotiate

Like the energy side, I'd have written a far more progressive bill, but politics is politics and the hell if I thought we'd even make it this far.

⚡️What We Can Do: Call your senators and urge them to support a new vote this fall for the INSULIN Act to cap costs for everyone who needs it.


Person voting in silhouette


Protect integrity and democracy, send tweet

The news: There's just 81 days until November 8th and the US midterm elections.

With 2020 barely in the rearview mirror and the FBI investigating that year's loser, the House, the Senate, and a bajillion state and local offices are up for grabs.

Which means social platforms are back on the hook to keep democracy from imploding all while respecting free speech.

From Axios:

"Several Big Tech firms debuted new midterm-election policies in the past week, designed to give political campaigns time to adapt to the changes as campaigns ramp up.

- TikTok doubled down on its ban on paid political ads, including paid influencer content

- Meta vowed to remove any misinformation about voting and said it will reject ads encouraging people not to vote or calling into question the legitimacy of the election

- Twitter last week said it would beginning enforcing its civic integrity policy"

Understand it: That's not gonna cut it, of course, but at least there's a level of self-awareness that wasn't there before. 

⚡️What We Can Do: Semi-related to this and my insistence on a new cybersecurity force, the White House has three new key cyber leaders and last month announced a campaign to encourage employers to recruit cybersecurity apprentices.

Per IT Brew, interested cyberparties (not those cyberparties) can visit apprenticeship.gov to be paired with support partners and experts.

🗣 Got feedback or thoughts on this issue? Members can comment here. Not a Member yet? You're just $5 away from joining up.


  1. Is private equity short-changing autism treatments?
  2. Why (the excellent) For All Mankind solved for nuclear fusion
  3. Why environmentalists keep buying unsustainable clothing
  4. Indigenous leaders launched a new site to support the Secure Indigenous People’s Rights in a Green Economy (SIRGE) coalition
  5. Fracking is associated with childhood cancer, of course
  6. Asian consumers can order takeout leftovers to fight food waste
  7. Shot: Beyond Meat sales are slowing as consumers opt for lower-priced protein. Chaser: Shrinking U.S. cattle herd signals more pain from high beef prices
  8. Scotland is the first country to make menstrual products free
  9. Synthetic biologists fed up, make their own biomarkers, because apparently you can do that
  10. Planned Parenthood will spend $50 million on the midterms

Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving a shit. Have a great weekend.

-- Quinn

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