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From QE3, to FEC, to EHR, to Fracking and the Coal Industry…Impact

05 Oct 2012

From QE3, to FEC, to EHR, to Fracking and the Coal Industry…Impact

FED MINUTES SHED LIGHT ON QE3 DECISION-MAKING. Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest policy-setting meeting, released Thursday, shed light on the range of factors the bank weighed before launching an aggressive, open-ended round of bond-buying last month. Although concerns ranging from the potential difficulty the Fed could face when it later attempts to tighten policy to skepticism that a new round of asset purchases would help the economy were aired, most members of the policy committee ultimately decided the flexible nature of the new program made those risks manageable.

FEC DEADLOCKS ON DISCLOSURE RULES In a 3-3 vote on Thursday, the FEC stalled in its attempt to decide whether to issue new disclosure rules for outside spending groups. The standoff means outside groups can avoid disclosing advertising donations as long as the donations are not earmarked specifically for advertising.

DISAPPOINTMENT ON ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS The case for electronic health records (EHR) are obvious. But there’s little evidence that the technology has lived up to its promise. While large, integrated systems with years of experience, such as Kaiser Permanente, have improved quality and reduced costs, hospitals and doctors outside that model have not seen the same results. Several studies fail to find a clear link between EHR and lower costs and some associated them with higher costs. Moreover, the technology has also been used to increase hospitals’ profits, as the Center for Public Integrity and The New York Times have highlighted. But advocates say it’s too early to fully understand their impact. The problem may be the health system, not the technology.

FRACKING PUSHING NATURAL GAS ABOVE COAL The fracking boom has natural gas supplanting coal as the nation’s primary energy resource. And nowhere is that shift felt more keenly than in West Virginia. As National Journal reports from the Mountain State, the decline of coal and the rise of natural gas are reshaping the state’s economy. While it may not seem true to West Virginia’s coal miners and hardcore environmentalists, natural gas could be an economic savior for the state—and the country as a whole.

WHAT JAY ROCKEFELLER’S EVOLUTION ON COAL MEANS. To track Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s attitude toward the coal industry over the past three years is to witness the slow death of a relationship between one of West Virginia’s most well-respected lawmakers and the state’s most influential industry. Rockefeller’s evolution on the coal industry reverberates outside the Mountain State as well, because it’s a case study of the growing challenges facing the industry nationwide and the polarizing effect coal can have on the lawmakers representing its interests in Washington.

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