Entries in Economy (16)


Oil Drillers Find Massive Deposit in US

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Drillers in Utah and Colorado are poking into a massive shale deposit trying to find a way to unlock oil reserves that are so vast they would swamp those of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC.

A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that if half of the oil bound up in the rock of the Green River Formation could be recovered it would be "equal to the entire world's proven oil reserves."

Both the GAO and private industry estimate the amount of oil recoverable to be 3 trillion barrels.

"In the past 100 years — in all of human history — we have consumed 1 trillion barrels of oil. There are several times that much here," said Roger Day, Vice President for operations for American Shale Oil (AMSO).

But along with the potential for success comes many hurdles. The cost of extracting the Green River oil at the moment would be higher than what it could be sold for. And in an environmental sense, the operation might require so much water it would compete with Denver and agriculture for vital supplies, the GAO report warned. The extraction could pollute underground streams, affect fish and other wildlife, and kick up so much dirt it would leave national monuments in a cloud of dust.

Nevertheless, the federal government has authorized six experimental drilling leases on federal land in an effort to find a way to tap into the riches of the Green River Formation.

GAO's report says commercial development of oil shale is "at least 15-20 years away."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is the Texas Twang Dyin', Y'all? Other Accents Blend In -- J.R. and Sue Ellen had it on Dallas. The Texas twang. The "y'all" and the "howdy" -- that slow drawl that is part Southern charm, part Western swagger and pure Texas.

Yes, oil is still king in Texas, and it's easy to find a Longhorn (cow or football player), cowboys and a rodeo if you are in the mood. Neil Armstrong's first words from the Moon were "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed."

Barbara Voyce is a transplant from Illinois, and she quickly learned how to say "y'all." "It replaces the Midwestern 'you guys,'" she says. Her two children grew up saying "y'all." At her favorite coffee shop, pretty much everyone she meets has learned to adapt.

But the accent is fading, as people move here from elsewhere, and as media homogenize all regional accents into one American English sound.

Stephen Murdoch, a Rice University professor who once ran the U.S. Census Bureau, understands the demographics of what has happened in Texas.

"The population in Texas has exploded because of migration from other states and other countries," he said. "It most certainly affects the Texas twang because so many of the newcomers are Hispanic and live in the urban cities of Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio."

But says Murdoch, if you are really longing for a down home Texas accent, go west to towns like Amarillo or Lubbock. The rural areas of Texas that depend on ranching and farming and oil exploration haven't grown as rapidly so you are more likely to hear a drawl.

Country star George Strait understands the power of the Texas twang -- it is integral to his music and his identity. His lyrics celebrate the Lone Star State's identity:

"There wouldn't be no Alamo
No Cowboys in the Super Bowl
No 'Lonesome Dove,' no 'Yellow Rose'
If it wasn't for Texas."

Blame the economy. It is so much better in Texas than other parts of the country. Because of the oil and natural gas boom, people are flocking to Texas for jobs. The lure of jobs makes up for the traffic and the 100-degree summer heat.

Politicians understood the power of the drawl -- on both sides of the aisle, from President Lyndon Johnson to former Speaker of the House Tom DeLay to Gov. Rick Perry. Former Gov. Ann Richards delighted the Democratic National Convention in 1988 with this zinger about the Republican presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush: "Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." It was her Texas accent that made the punchline so memorable.

Yes, real Texans do talk like that. Lyle Lovett certainly does. Not so much actors like Jim Parsons, who hails from Houston, or Renee Zellwegger, from the town of Katy, Texas. Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith of Charlie's Angels were both Houston girls but didn't really drawl. But they were actors, so it didn't pay off as much as it does for a musician or a politician to maintain that Texas persona.

The beauty of a state like Texas is this: It embraces all comers. Come on down, make yourself at home, get a job, and make a fortune.

So even though most of the newcomers to Texas don't drawl yet, there is still time to learn the lingo. You know the saying, "I may not have been born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could." Which means you still have time to learn how to say y'all.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Relaxing Deportation Rules for Younger Illegal Immigrants

Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is relaxing rules for younger illegal immigrants who haven't broken the law since coming into the country as children.

The Homeland Security Department will no longer deport those immigrants, and work permits will be given to them, administration officials confirmed to ABC News.

The widening pathway to citizenship is similar to the proposals in the Dream Act, legislation supported by Obama but blocked in Congress. Obama is scheduled to speak about the change this afternoon, effectively bringing the issue of immigration back into the 2012 race.

"Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. "But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here."

The Obama administration is likely to deny that politics played a role in the announcement, but the timing is ideal for the president's reelection campaign. In the GOP primary, Mitt Romney adopted strictly conservative positions against illegal immigration in his effort to woo right-wing voters. He backs a strong fence along the border with Mexico, opposes most amnesty and boasts of his move as Massachusetts governor to deny in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

Democrats have said they plan to hold Romney to those positions, painting him as a candidate with extreme views on immigration. Romney's campaign stumbled last month when the Republican National Committee's director of Hispanic outreach told reporters that Romney was "still deciding what his position on immigration is," fueling the notion that he holds few true convictions.

Obama's announcement today is likely to curry favor with Hispanics, a key growing voting bloc who could determine the winner in November in important states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada. The president currently beats Romney among Hispanics in polls, but most Latinos say they disapprove of his deportation policy. Obama also plans to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Florida next week, as will Romney.

Under the new rules, up to 800,000 immigrants will be affected. Deportation will no longer apply to immigrants who came into the country before they were 16 and are now under 30, have lived here for five straight years, have never been convicted of a crime, graduated from high school or got a GED, or have been in the military.

Those immigrants will be allowed to apply for a two-year work permit that can be renewed unlimited times.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


More Americans Than Ever in Poverty

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Great Recession has changed the face of poverty in America.

More people -- 46.2 million - live in poverty today than at any other time in American history. And compared to the 1990s they are more likely to be white, live in the Midwest, have a high school diploma and own a home, according to a Brookings Institute report released Thursday.

“This has been a really tough decade economically,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, an author of the Brookings Institute report. “After two economic downturns and falling incomes over the 2000s, we’ve seen that [poverty rate] push back up. It’s likely that we have not seen the last of the increases in America’s poor population.”

With manufacturing jobs disappearing and unemployment sticking above nine percent, poverty rates in some Midwest cities, such as Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, have doubled over the last decade. And in the South, poverty in some metro areas, such as El Paso, Texas and Baton Rouge, La., has increased by more than a third, according to the report.

“These communities tend to have higher crime rates, worse health outcomes for residents, schools are often poorer performing and there are fewer job opportunities and networks to connect people with jobs,” Kneebone said.

But despite these recent increases, America has seen darker days when it comes to people in poverty.

“Obviously we are not in a Great Depression,” said Linda Barrington, the managing director of Cornell University’s Institute for Compensation Studies. “We cannot make a comparison to what was happening then. But that doesn’t give us a lot to celebrate about.”

While there was no official poverty measure during the Great Depression, scholars estimate that about one-third of American families were critically poor. That is more than double the 15.1 percent poverty rate in 2010. However, because the population has nearly tripled since 1940, there is a larger number of Americans in poverty today than during the Great Depression.

“The point is [that] it is really high,” Barrington said. “But it’s not historically high.”

In fact, since an official poverty line was developed in the 1960s, the poverty rate has peaked above 15 percent only twice, in 1993, when it was also 15.1 percent, and in 1983, when it hit 15.2 percent.

To be classified as impoverished, a family of four has to earn less than $22,314 and an individual has to make less than $11,139, or about $30 per day.

“In the United States today, [poverty] doesn’t necessarily mean children starving in the streets and homeless people, although they are a small part of the poverty story,” said Shawn Fremstad, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “It is more about struggling, and running up debts, and cutting corners and all sorts of those things because of economic pressure.”

Both Fremstad and Barrington said the best way to lower the poverty rate is to jump-start the economy so it creates more jobs.

“The single most important thing is getting a job,” Barrington said. “If you’re poor and don’t have a job, you don’t have savings. You have to get money to get above the poverty line and you get money by working.”

While the national poverty rate is above 15 percent, only about seven percent of people working full time are below the poverty line.

“You can get the rate down from 15 to five by getting a lot more people employed,” Barrington said. “So jobs are the first thing.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Citing Budget Woes, N.C. Town's Police to Cut Back on 911 Responses

Thinkstock/Getty Images(SMITHFIELD, N.C.) -- The police department in Smithfield, N.C., has said it would no longer respond to all 911 calls and would stop pursuing some misdemeanor crimes if the town didn’t approve a measure to increase the department’s budget for gasoline, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

Police Chief Michael Scott will ask the town council to allow him to reallocate some of his $30,000 office supply and equipment repair funds to compensate for the shortfall in the gas budget. Smithfield reportedly cut the fuel budget by 14 percent — or by about $10,000 — from the previous fiscal year, according to the paper. Without an increase, the department runs out of gas by February 2012.

Scott said the department already had to cut back on patrols — and has even halved the number of patrol cars on the roads at times.

The town recently experienced a series of crimes – an armed robbery of a convenience store, a theft of tires and rims from an auto shop — that Scott said could have been prevented by heavier patrolling.

He also said that the department had been fielding complaints about the lowered police presence, and that some callers had even asked if they should buy guns to protect themselves.

City council members reportedly asked Scott to study alternatives to his plan to shift funds from one part of the budget to another. The alternatives that the police chief plans to present Tuesday are unprecedented. According to the News & Observer, department officials said that detectives would be asked to investigate only felony crimes and would be forced to drop misdemeanor investigations for now.

The plan also means that 911 calls made from hotels and pay phones would be ignored when they were followed by hang-ups, “as a very high percentage of these calls are errors in dialing.” Police would also stop responding to burglar alarms, because of the high number of false alerts. Patrolling would also stop on the southern and western sections of town, according to the paper, because these are not areas of violent crime.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Halloween the New Christmas?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In days of old, the sight of houses covered in over-the-top light decorations, miles of yard displays and extravagant spending on sweets meant only one thing: Christmas was near.

Now, the celebration begins two months earlier, in October, for Halloween.

The holiday that once meant just quaint trick-or-treating and a costume contest or two is now second only to Christmas when it comes to celebrating, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

Nearly 69 percent of Americans say they intend to celebrate the holiday this Monday, Oct. 31, the highest amount in the survey’s nine-year history.

Nearly half of those celebrating will decorate their homes and/or yard, and each will spend an average $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy -- a figure second only to the amount spent by individuals on Christmas décor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hunger and Children in America: a Slow and Steady Starvation

George Doyle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A little two-year-old boy came to the hospital hungry, not just for dinner, but every day of his young life. He is smaller than he should be and his organs, including his brain, are not developing fully. And he lives in Boston, one of America's most prosperous cities.

Doctors at Boston Medical Center's Grow Clinic, which provides assistance to children diagnosed with "failure to thrive," say they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of children they treat who are dangerously thin.

"What's so hard is that a lot of families are working so hard," said Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at BMC. "They are working jobs. They are earning money and their dollars just don't go far enough."

That is life for nearly 15 million children living in poverty in the U.S., according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Some of their stories were depicted in first-person picture stories by 40 women in Philadelphia who documented their family life for a project called "Witnesses to Hunger." It was a graphic record of what it is like to live in crowded bedrooms and open a largely empty refrigerator and pantry.

Pauline S. told ABC News that while she had some macaroni, Spaghetti-Os, noodles, and peanut butter and jelly in her pantry Wednesday night, the food would be gone by next week.

"It really hurts being a mother to see and to feel the hurt for my children," she said. "Not being able to give them what they want and not being able to have everything that other children have -- it hurts a lot."

The number of children living in poverty in the U.S. is up nearly 20 percent from 2000, according to the NCCP, because of higher unemployment and foreclosures. It's a problem across the nation but children are the worst off in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. They fare better in New Hampshire, Minnesota and Massachusetts.

U.S. food banks say they face slow and steady starvation rather than sudden African famine.

"We talk about global hunger and we have extended tummies and we have sad eyes," said Marie Scannell, executive director of the Food Bank of Somerset County in New Jersey. "That's not what you'll see. For instance, in Somerville, N.J., you'll see sadness in the children's eyes. That's really the worst part for us."

Across the country, nearly 5.5 million children live in families that have lost homes to foreclosures, and eight million children live in families in which at least one parent has lost a job, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


For President in Down Economy, Praise Is Hard to Come By

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- Praise is hard to come by for a president in a bad economy.

An open-ended question in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll asked Americans what Barack Obama has done particularly well lately, and what he’s done especially poorly – and then, which of the two is more important.

It’s the follow-up that marks the president’s challenges. Whatever they say he’s done, the public by 56 to 40 percent also says the negative answer – what the president’s handled poorly lately – is more important than the positive, what he’s done notably well.

As to the answers, nearly 1 in 4 (23 percent) volunteer the economy or jobs as Obama’s greatest failing, with other responses in single digits, led by items such as international issues, 8 percent; spending and the deficit, 7 percent; and healthcare, also 7 percent.

On the positive side, there’s the killing of Osama bin Laden, cited by 29 percent as the president’s best recent accomplishment. But his bin Laden bounce in approval already has vanished.

Antipathy toward the president is high enough that 16 percent of Americans volunteer that he’s done “nothing” especially well recently. On the other hand, that’s nearly balanced by the 12 percent who say he’s done nothing poorly.

Majorities of Democrats and liberals (59 and 61 percent, respectively) say the thing he’s done well recently is more important to them than the thing he’s done poorly. But larger majorities of Republicans and conservatives (74 and 71 percent) say the thing he’s done poorly is more important. And among independents and moderates, 58 and 53 percent, respectively, say what Obama has done poorly recently outweighs what he’s done well.

In another comparison, nearly a quarter of Republicans say he’s done nothing well recently, while only 5 percent say he’s done nothing poorly – a net 18=percent negative. It’s 19 percent “nothing well” vs. 7 percent “nothing poorly” among independents, also negative, by a net 12 points. Only Democrats are positive on this comparison; 23 percent say Obama’s done nothing poorly, vs. 6 percent who say he hasn’t done anything especially well lately.

Maintaining popularity at a time of 9.1 percent unemployment is a steep challenge for any president. One approach can be to suggest that recent positive achievements outweigh continued problems. These results – with the 2012 election looming – show how tough that sale may be.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Poll: Persistent Economic Discontent Casts Continuing Political Pall

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A month after voters chucked the Democrats out of control of the House of Representatives, a boost in political optimism is nowhere to be found. While a plurality of Americans -- 41 percent -- see the House switch as a good thing, that's fewer than the number of Americans who said so the last two times it's happened, in 2006 and 1994. And 67 percent say the country's seriously off on the wrong track.

The reason is plain: A record 71 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they've been hurt by the recession, with nearly four in 10 hurt "a great deal." Fifty-seven percent say the economy has not yet begun to recover -- up eight points from a year ago. One in three reports a job loss in their own household within the past year; equally remarkably, 72 percent say a close friend or relative has lost a job or been laid off. Both are new highs since the recession began.

The economy aside, the federal budget deficit doesn't help the public's mood, and in that regard this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds some potential room to move: In order to address the deficit, nearly half of Americans, 48 percent, say they'd support gradually increasing the age at which people can receive full Social Security benefits.

On average this year, 38 percent of adults have called themselves independents, matching the average in 2009 as the most on record. That compares to 32 percent who call themselves Democrats and 24 percent who call themselves Republicans -- among the worst years in historical terms for both parties. Only in one previous period, 1994-95, did independents top the political chart.

The impacts of economic discontent appear in other ways. Barack Obama has a 72 percent job approval rating among people who say an economic recovery has begun, vs. 33 percent among those who say it has not -- a dramatic 39-point gap. His approval overall has slipped under 50 percent for just the second time in ABC/Post polls; it's 49 percent now.

And Obama's gone from a 35-point advantage over the Republicans in trust to handle the economy when he took office to +11 points last spring to -1 now, its first foray into negative territory. The GOP also runs essentially evenly with the president in trust to handle the issues of taxes and terrorism, and it leads, by the widest margin of his presidency, in trust to handle the deficit.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Plans for Noah's Ark Replica Promises Jobs, Sparks Outrage

Photo Courtesy - ARK Encounter/Creation Museum(CINCINNATI) -- Disneyland has its castle and Epcot has its ball, but the centerpiece of a planned theme park in Kentucky will be something altogether different -- a full-scale replica of Noah's Ark.

Developers in Kentucky are drawing up plans for a $150-million theme park called the Ark Encounter, to be built on a biblical scale. The ark alone will be taller than a three-story building, the deck longer than 35 tennis courts. Constructed out of timber using dimensions from Genesis, planners say it will be big enough to fit 600 train cars inside.

The park won't have any rides, but plans suggest that there will be plenty to do. In addition to the full-scale wooden ark, there will be live stage shows, museums, theaters, a petting zoo, and even a Tower of Babel.

While the Bible says it took Noah 100 years to build his ark, the Kentucky version should take closer to three years. Though its creators are just now settling on a site for the park, they say it should open in the spring of 2014 near Williamstown, in northern Kentucky.

Kentucky's Democratic governor has signed on to the plan, promising almost $40 million in tax breaks for a project that is expected to create 900 jobs. According to a feasibility study for the park, 1.6 million visitors could show up in the first full year alone, and the project could generate $250 million in state revenue.

The governor describes it as a lifeboat for his struggling state, but not everyone is aboard. The ark has opened up the floodgates of controversy, with critics charging that it's a direct violation of the separation of church and state.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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