Your daily briefing for all the top news in Energy, Technology, Finance, and Politics.


SCOTUS turns gaze to energy cases as new term starts
Erica Martinson and Alex Guillén
The Supreme Court’s new term begins Monday, and though the high court won’t entertain any challenges yet to the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas rules, it will pore over some issues that could have widespread impacts across the energy industry.


India’s mixed climate change forecast
That is why we hope the signals Mr. Modi sent on his way out of Washington, following meetings with President Obama, better represent his attitude. He and Mr. Obama pledged to expand several climate initiatives. Top of the list is a U.S.-India partnership on nuclear power that has been held up until now. It would be an authentic accomplishment if Mr. Modi got that back on track, because nuclear reactors produce huge amounts of electricity for near-zero carbon dioxide emissions. Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama also agreed to limit hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse-gas emissions, through the Montreal Protocol, which is perhaps the most effective environmental treaty ever signed. Other parts of Mr. Modi’s platform offer some encouragement. He wants to invest more in renewable energy, particularly solar, though still relatively modest amounts.


Congress should fix the gas tax
The underlying problem is that gas tax revenue, the foundation of the federal Highway Trust Fund, is no longer sufficient to finance the nation’s roads and rails. That’s in part because Congress hasn’t raised the tax since 1993. The Senate bill would do so in two steps, then index the tax to inflation, a long-term plan lawmakers should have adopted years ago.




Regulation Clips Wings of U.S. Drone Makers
Jack Nicas
The U.S. introduced drones to the world as machines of war. But as unmanned aircraft enter private industry—for purposes as varied as filming movies, inspecting wind farms and herding cattle—many U.S. drone entrepreneurs are finding it hard to get off the ground, even as rivals in Europe, Canada, Australia and China are taking off. The reason, according to interviews with two-dozen drone makers, sellers and users across the world: regulation.


Henry Waxman Has a Plan to Save Net Neutrality
Brendan Sasso
In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Waxman said the FCC should reclassify broadband Internet as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act. … The plan would use Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act (the same provision the FCC used for its 2010 regulations) to bar Internet providers from blocking websites, throttling traffic, or creating special fast lanes for websites that pay more. Waxman would waive all of the controversial sections of Title II, such as price controls and requirements to provide universal access. By invoking both provisions at once, the FCC would be using a light-touch approach that could still hold up in court, Waxman said.


Uber chief aims to steer taxi app group off collision course
Sally Davies
Mr Kalanick now believes that both he and Uber are “maturing”, and need to strike a more sensitive tone with regulators when moving in to new markets.


Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem
There is a lot that the education system and the government need to do to get more women and minorities interested in science and technology. But the technology industry can start tackling its diversity problem right now.


Compromise needed on smartphone encryption
A police “back door” for all smartphones is undesirable — a back door can and will be exploited by bad guys, too. However, with all their wizardry, perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant. Ultimately, Congress could act and force the issue, but we’d rather see it resolved in law enforcement collaboration with the manufacturers and in a way that protects all three of the forces at work: technology, privacy and rule of law.


Technology Takes the Wheel
Aaron M. Kessler
Google’s driverless car may still be a work in progress, but the potential for semiautonomous vehicles on American roads is no longer the stuff of science fiction. By the end of the decade, a growing number of automakers aim to offer some form of hands-off-the-wheel, feet-off-the-pedals highway driving where a driver can sit back and let the car take control.


New wireless technology could help drastically reduce vehicle crashes
Mary Barra
The United States could be on the cusp of a great leap forward in automotive safety. All that’s required is for the auto industry to rally behind the scientists and engineers who have spent the past decade developing a wireless technology called V2X. This catch-all term refers to two closely related systems: vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications.


Hewlett-Packard Plans to Break in Two
Joann S. Lublin, Dana Mattioli and Dana Cimilluca
Hewlett-Packard Co. plans to separate its personal-computer and printer businesses from its corporate hardware and services operations, the latest attempt by the technology company to improve its fortunes by breaking itself in two. The company intends to announce the move on Monday, people familiar with the plan said. It is expected to make the split through a tax-free distribution of shares to stockholders next year, said one of the people. If the division goes off as planned, it would give rise to two publicly traded companies, each with more than $50 billion in annual revenue.




Regulatory Capture 101
Once one understands the inevitability of regulatory capture, the logical policy response is to enact simple laws that can’t be gamed by the biggest firms and their captive bureaucrats. This means repealing most of Dodd-Frank and the so-called Basel rules and replacing them with a simple requirement for more bank capital—an equity-to-asset ratio of perhaps 15%. It means bringing back bankruptcy for giant firms instead of resolution at the discretion of political appointees. And it means considering economist Charles Calomiris’s plan to automatically convert a portion of a bank’s debt into equity if the bank’s market value falls below a healthy level. Fifty years ago, Stigler described academics in a way that might also apply to much of today’s press corps: “The economic role of the state has managed to hold the attention of scholars for over two centuries without arousing their curiosity.”


More Jobs, Flat Incomes
The decline in the unemployment rate to 5.9% is welcome, though not as good as it looks because the labor force fell by 97,000. The labor participation rate thus fell again for the second month in a row to 62.7%, remaining at levels last seen in 1978, while the share of the population employed stayed at a very low 59%.


Bad Credit? Big Problem
Millions of Americans have lousy credit. Some lost their jobs in the 2008 financial crisis and survived on credit cards. Some left college buried in loans. Others live in minority neighborhoods that are preyed upon by unscrupulous lenders. Still others had the bad luck to be sick and uninsured. Does membership in the undiscriminating club of beleaguered borrowers inevitably make someone a risky hire or an unreliable employee? Hardly. Does it justify the increasingly common practice of employers using credit checks to reject prospective hires? No.


Bernanke, Paulson and Geithner Face Grilling Over AIG Bailout
Leslie Scism
Out of office and six years after the events unfolded, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and other architects of the U.S. government’s response to the financial crisis are likely to get their toughest grilling yet this week. The questions won’t be from government investigators or lawmakers. Instead, they will come from prominent lawyer David Boies as he pursues a lawsuit brought by former American International Group Inc. Chief Executive Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg is challenging the terms of the 2008 bailout for the company he built into a global financial-services powerhouse before being pushed out in 2005.


Keeping Credit Cards and Bank Account Data from Hackers
Room for Debate
As fraud losses continue to rise as a result of data breaches, what will it take to make bank accounts or credit cards secure?


The new era of muddle-nomics
Robert Samuelson
We’re muddling through. Economics has become muddle-nomics. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with experimentation, especially if it leads to better policies. But this is hardly guaranteed. Most advanced nations — the United States, Japan and many European countries — seem trapped between high debts and deficient demand. The resulting debate has pitted those who advocate added debt (a.k.a. “stimulus”) to strengthen demand against those who fear more debt. Similar disputes engulf central banks’ easy-money policies.




Kansas Surprise: Orman Leads Roberts by 10 in NBC/Marist Poll
NBC News
Carrie Dann
Independent candidate Greg Orman is leading incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas by 10 points, while Democrats have a slim lead in North Carolina’s contest and both candidates are in a dead heat in Iowa’s Senate race, new NBC News/Marist polls find.


Democrats start to point fingers
Alexander Bolton
The behind-the-scenes tension broke into the open last week when former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) questioned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) decision not to endorse Democrat Rick Weiland in South Dakota’s Senate race. Pro-immigrant advocacy groups, meanwhile, are saying Democrats should not blame them if Hispanic voters don’t turn up to the polls on Election Day. They say President Obama made a tactical blunder by postponing an executive order easing deportations.  And grassroots organizers are grumbling about Alison Lundergan Grimes’s bid to take down Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), arguing her campaign has been disorganized.


A campaign about nothing is still about Obama
Dan Balz
Doug Rivers, a Stanford University professor and one of the pioneers of Internet-based polling, offered a succinct description of this campaign year at a conference hosted by the Hoover Institution last week. “There is no overriding issue other than that Republicans don’t like Obama and Democrats are lukewarm about Obama,” he said.


Axelrod: Obama’s comments a ‘mistake’
Cameron Joseph
President Obama’s former top adviser said it was a “mistake” for the president to say “every one” of his policies was “on the ballot” this election, admitting the line hurt Democrats’ chances at holding the Senate. “I would not have put that line in there,” former Obama adviser David Axelrod said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning. “It was a mistake.”


Tom Wolf poised to buck trend, unseat Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett
Dave Boyer
In a race that breaks sharply with the state’s electoral pattern, Democratic businessman Tom Wolf, a virtual unknown in Pennsylvania politics at the start of this year, is poised to win the governor’s seat next month in a race that is shaping up as a referendum of unpopular Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Mr. Wolf, 65, who has never held elected office, is leading Mr. Corbett in polls by an average of more than 15 percentage points.


As Supreme Court term begins, prospect of a gay-marriage ruling looms large
Robert Barnes
The 10th edition of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. begins work Monday with the prospect of a monumental ruling for gay rights that could serve as a surprising legacy of an otherwise increasingly conservative court.


Minimum Wage, Maximum Politics
Andy Puzder
But here’s what middle-class business owners, who live in the real world, will do when faced with a 40% increase in labor costs. They will cut jobs and rely more on technology. Such changes are already happening in banks, gas stations, grocery stores, airports and, more recently, restaurants. Almost every restaurant chain in the country from Applebee’s to McDonald’s is testing or already implementing automated ordering with tablets or kiosks. The only other option is to raise prices. Yet it would be near-impossible to increase prices enough to offset the wage hike, particularly given today’s economic conditions. More important, price increases burden consumers, particularly those with low incomes who are supposed to be helped by a minimum-wage increase.


Obama’s false victory over the deficit
Fred Hiatt
The real choice for the Democratic Party is whether it settles in as a reactionary defender of ever-rising payments to the older generation, no matter how well off it is, or whether it will fight for a balance between protecting the elderly and boosting the next generation with the science, schools and infrastructure the country needs to be competitive. It is sad that Obama, never to face the electorate again, is squandering his chance to push in the right direction.


Paying for wars against the Islamic State, Ebola and more
Congress should follow the recommendation of the National Defense Panel and restore the defense budget to the levels Mr. Gates recommended in 2011. Then it should provide the revenue to cover those costs and those of the new war. A substantial part of the fiscal trouble the country faces was caused by Congress’s choice to authorize more than a trillion dollars in war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan without raising revenue or making compensatory budget cuts. That mistake should not be repeated.