SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: United States dollar

201

Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) meant to improve health and raise revenue are being adopted, yet evaluation is scarce. This study examines the association of the first penny per ounce SSB excise tax in the United States, in Berkeley, California, with beverage prices, sales, store revenue/consumer spending, and usual beverage intake.

Concepts: United States, U.S. state, Macroeconomics, United States dollar, Indirect tax, Taxation in the United States, Consumption, Consumer spending

44

Mercury pollution poses risks for both human and ecosystem health. As a consequence, controlling mercury pollution has become a policy goal on both global and national scales. We developed an assessment method linking global-scale atmospheric chemical transport modeling to regional-scale economic modeling to consistently evaluate the potential benefits to the United States of global (UN Minamata Convention on Mercury) and domestic [Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS)] policies, framed as economic gains from avoiding mercury-related adverse health endpoints. This method attempts to trace the policies-to-impacts path while taking into account uncertainties and knowledge gaps with policy-appropriate bounding assumptions. We project that cumulative lifetime benefits from the Minamata Convention for individuals affected by 2050 are $339 billion (2005 USD), with a range from $1.4 billion to $575 billion in our sensitivity scenarios. Cumulative economy-wide benefits to the United States, realized by 2050, are $104 billion, with a range from $6 million to $171 billion. Projected Minamata benefits are more than twice those projected from the domestic policy. This relative benefit is robust to several uncertainties and variabilities, with the ratio of benefits (Minamata/MATS) ranging from ≈1.4 to 3. However, we find that for those consuming locally caught freshwater fish from the United States, rather than marine and estuarine fish from the global market, benefits are larger from US than global action, suggesting domestic policies are important for protecting these populations. Per megagram of prevented emissions, our domestic policy scenario results in US benefits about an order of magnitude higher than from our global scenario, further highlighting the importance of domestic action.

Concepts: United States, Million, U.S. state, Ratio, Freshwater fish, Nazi Germany, Minamata disease, United States dollar

38

Cadmium telluride, CdTe, is now firmly established as the basis for the market-leading thin-film solar-cell technology. With laboratory efficiencies approaching 20 per cent, the research and development targets for CdTe are to reduce the cost of power generation further to less than half a US dollar per watt (ref. 2) and to minimize the environmental impact. A central part of the manufacturing process involves doping the polycrystalline thin-film CdTe with CdCl2. This acts to form the photovoltaic junction at the CdTe/CdS interface and to passivate the grain boundaries, making it essential in achieving high device efficiencies. However, although such doping has been almost ubiquitous since the development of this processing route over 25 years ago, CdCl2 has two severe disadvantages; it is both expensive (about 30 cents per gram) and a water-soluble source of toxic cadmium ions, presenting a risk to both operators and the environment during manufacture. Here we demonstrate that solar cells prepared using MgCl2, which is non-toxic and costs less than a cent per gram, have efficiencies (around 13%) identical to those of a CdCl2-processed control group. They have similar hole densities in the active layer (9 × 10(14) cm(-3)) and comparable impurity profiles for Cl and O, these elements being important p-type dopants for CdTe thin films. Contrary to expectation, CdCl2-processed and MgCl2-processed solar cells contain similar concentrations of Mg; this is because of Mg out-diffusion from the soda-lime glass substrates and is not disadvantageous to device performance. However, treatment with other low-cost chlorides such as NaCl, KCl and MnCl2 leads to the introduction of electrically active impurities that do compromise device performance. Our results demonstrate that CdCl2 may simply be replaced directly with MgCl2 in the existing fabrication process, thus both minimizing the environmental risk and reducing the cost of CdTe solar-cell production.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Cadmium, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Cost, Cadmium telluride, Cadmium sulfide, United States dollar

36

Mexico implemented a 1 peso per liter excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages on January 1, 2014, and a previous study found a 6 percent reduction in purchases of taxed beverages in 2014. In this study we estimated changes in beverage purchases for 2014 and 2015. We used store purchase data for 6,645 households from January 2012 to December 2015. Changes in purchases of taxed and untaxed beverages in the study period were estimated using two models, which compared 2014 and 2015 purchases with predicted (counterfactual) purchases based on trends in 2012-13. Purchases of taxed beverages decreased 5.5 percent in 2014 and 9.7 percent in 2015, yielding an average reduction of 7.6 percent over the study period. Households at the lowest socioeconomic level had the largest decreases in purchases of taxed beverages in both years. Purchases of untaxed beverage increased 2.1 percent in the study period. Findings from Mexico may encourage other countries to use fiscal policies to reduce consumption of unhealthy beverages along with other interventions to reduce the burden of chronic disease.

Concepts: Medicine, Implementation, Drink, Tax, Public finance, United States dollar, Indirect tax, Excise

20

Digital currencies have emerged as a new fascinating phenomenon in the financial markets. Recent events on the most popular of the digital currencies - BitCoin - have risen crucial questions about behavior of its exchange rates and they offer a field to study dynamics of the market which consists practically only of speculative traders with no fundamentalists as there is no fundamental value to the currency. In the paper, we connect two phenomena of the latest years - digital currencies, namely BitCoin, and search queries on Google Trends and Wikipedia - and study their relationship. We show that not only are the search queries and the prices connected but there also exists a pronounced asymmetry between the effect of an increased interest in the currency while being above or below its trend value.

Concepts: Value, World Wide Web, Stock market, History of the Internet, Store of value, United States dollar, Currency, Exchange rate

16

The prevalence of corporal punishment is high in the United States despite a 1998 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement urging against its use. The current study tests whether the socioeconomic difference in its use by parents has changed over the past quarter century. It goes on to test whether socioeconomic differences in the use of nonphysical discipline have also changed over time.

Concepts: United States, Saudi Arabia, Poverty in the United States, U.S. state, Economic inequality, Caribbean, Humid subtropical climate, United States dollar

13

In agroecosystems worldwide, bats are voracious predators of crop pests and may provide services to farmers worth billions of U.S. dollars. However, such valuations make untested assumptions about the ecological effect of bats in agroecosystems. Specifically, estimates of the value of pest suppression services assume bats consume sufficient numbers of crop pests to affect impact pest reproduction and subsequent damage to crops. Corn is an essential crop for farmers, and is grown on more than 150 million hectares worldwide. Using large exclosures in corn fields, we show that bats exert sufficient pressure on crop pests to suppress larval densities and damage in this cosmopolitan crop. In addition, we show that bats suppress pest-associated fungal growth and mycotoxin in corn. We estimate the suppression of herbivory by insectivorous bats is worth more than 1 billion USD globally on this crop alone, and bats may further benefit farmers by indirectly suppressing pest-associated fungal growth and toxic compounds on corn. Bats face a variety of threats globally, but their relevance as predators of insects in ubiquitous corn-dominated landscapes underlines the economic and ecological importance of conserving biodiversity.

Concepts: Agriculture, Evolution, Insect, Fungus, Bat, Suppression, Suppression of dissent, United States dollar

11

Despite strong evidence that increasing alcohol taxes reduces alcohol-related harm, state alcohol taxes have declined in real terms during the past 3 decades. Opponents of tax increases argue that they are unfair to “responsible” drinkers and those who are financially disadvantaged. The objectives of this study were to assess the impact of hypothetical state alcohol tax increases on the cost of alcohol for adults in the United States on the basis of alcohol consumption and sociodemographic characteristics.

Concepts: United States, Wheat, Saudi Arabia, U.S. state, Public transport, United States dollar, Taxation in the United States, Mixed economy

11

The ability of the United States to most efficiently make breakthroughs on the biology, diagnosis and treatment of human diseases requires that physicians and scientists in each state have equal access to federal research grants and grant dollars. However, despite legislative and administrative efforts to ensure equal access, the majority of funding for biomedical research is concentrated in a minority of states. To gain insight into the causes of such disparity, funding metrics were examined for all NIH research project grants (RPGs) from 2004 to 2013. State-by-state differences in per application success rates, per investigator funding rates, and average award size each contributed significantly to vast disparities (greater than 100-fold range) in per capita RPG funding to individual states. To the extent tested, there was no significant association overall between scientific productivity and per capita funding, suggesting that the unbalanced allocation of funding is unrelated to the quality of scientists in each state. These findings reveal key sources of bias in, and new insight into the accuracy of, the funding process. They also support evidence-based recommendations for how the NIH could better utilize the scientific talent and capacity that is present throughout the United States.

Concepts: Scientific method, United States, Science, Research, U.S. state, Minority group, Legislature, United States dollar

10

Trees remove air pollution by the interception of particulate matter on plant surfaces and the absorption of gaseous pollutants through the leaf stomata. However, the magnitude and value of the effects of trees and forests on air quality and human health across the United States remains unknown. Computer simulations with local environmental data reveal that trees and forests in the conterminous United States removed 17.4 million tonnes (t) of air pollution in 2010 (range: 9.0-23.2 million t), with human health effects valued at 6.8 billion U.S. dollars (range: $1.5-13.0 billion). This pollution removal equated to an average air quality improvement of less than one percent. Most of the pollution removal occurred in rural areas, while most of the health impacts and values were within urban areas. Health impacts included the avoidance of more than 850 incidences of human mortality and 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

Concepts: United States, Pollution, Value, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Volcano, United States dollar