Wonkbook: A sanctions tit-for-tat between the U.S. and Russia

March 21

Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here.


(Photo by Alexei Nikolsky/EPA)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 11 percent. That's the percentage of long-term unemployed workers who were in steady, full-time jobs after 16 months had passed in a new study.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: Affordable Care Act at age 4: More disapproval than approval.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Obama, Putin trade sanctions; (2) Obama can't do much on economy; (3) Americans still cool on Obamacare; (4) don't count out alternative energy yet; and (5) what a court's voter-rules decision means.

1. Top story: Obama, Putin exchange sanctions

Obama expands sanctions against top aides, associates of Putin over annexation of Crimea. "President Obama expanded sanctions against top aides and reputed financial associates of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin on Thursday as punishment for the annexation of Crimea, and laid the groundwork for far broader measures against 'key sectors of the Russian economy' if Putin further escalates his actions in Ukraine. The broad measures potentially include Russia’s financial services, energy, mining, engineering and defense sectors, according to language in what was Obama’s third executive order in two weeks. If implemented, he acknowledged, they would not only significantly affect the Russian economy, 'they could also be disruptive to the global economy'...For now, the measures target Putin’s inner circle and stop well short of the kind of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Those would be triggered only by a wider military incursion....And although Putin has said Russia has no further territorial designs on Ukraine, he has proved indifferent to Western threats. Russia promptly retaliated by banning nine U.S. lawmakers and officials from entering the country." Karen DeYoung and Will Englund in The Washington Post.

Primary source: The full text of President Obama's latest executive order.

Explainers:

The list of people Russia sanctioned in response. Steven T. Dennis.

5 tough steps Obama could take with Putin in Russia. Justin Sink, Jeremy Herb and Erik Wasson in The Hill.

Was Romney right on Russia? Jaime Fuller in The Washington Post.

Lawmakers take sanctions as badge of honor — but they're still stuck on Ukraine aid. "Members of Congress who were hit Thursday with sanctions by Russia celebrated their standing as a badge of honor, pledging to continue pressing for Ukraine from their spot on President Vladimir Putin's enemies list....The lawmakers' bravado comes despite the failure of Congress to approve a bipartisan package of loans for the new Ukrainian government and sanctions on Russian officials." Lisa Mascaro in the Los Angeles Times.

House planning Ukraine aid bill without IMF reforms. Reuters.

Quotable: "'I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen,' Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said after the announcement." Igor Bobic in Talking Points Memo.

Obama targets inner circle of Putin in latest round of sanctions. "The new list reads like a who's who of Putin's inner circle. Save for the notable absence of the heads of Gazprom and Rosneft, Alexei Miller and Igor Sechin, some of Putin's most trusted courtiers are blacklisted. Sergei Ivanov, Putin's hawkish chief of staff sits alongside more shadowy figures such as the Rotenberg brothers and Gennady Timchenko, who have known Putin for decades. They are as close to 'friends' as Putin has — they go back years and still play regular ice hockey games together. Given Timchenko's long-standing ties to Putin, and the extraordinary rise of Gunvor from obscurity to one of the world's leading oil trading companies, the company has long been subject to rumours of Putin's involvement as a beneficial owner." Shaun Walker and Alec Luhn in The Guardian.

Surprise! Russians reject Western sanctions as illegitimate, ineffective. Sergei L. Loiko in the Los Angeles Times.

But Russian stocks in New York tumbled. "Russian stocks traded in New York fell the most in two weeks as President Barack Obama imposed financial sanctions on a wider swath of Russian officials, including billionaires close to President Vladimir Putin." Halia Pavliva in Bloomberg.

Well, so much for that idea: Fed custody holdings increase, damping speculation of Russian selloff. "U.S. government securities held in custody at the Federal Reserve increased, damping speculation that last week’s record drop reflected Russia shifting its holdings out of America amid the threat of sanctions." Susanne Walker in Bloomberg.

U.S. businesses mostly expressed sighs of relief. "Business groups expressed relief Thursday at the White House’s new round of sanctions against Russia, arguing they strike the right balance between punishing Vladimir Putin and protecting the economy. Lobbyists for U.S. firms had been urging Congress and the administration to take a measured approach to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and warned against broad unilateral measures such as sanctioning the Russian central bank or blocking imports.Erik Wasson in The Hill.

Obama's nuclear gamble on Russia. "The Obama administration claims it isn’t worried that escalating tensions with the Kremlin over Crimea will wreck U.S.-Russian cooperation in other parts of the world. But there are already signs pointing in the other direction. And that could be very bad for any attempts to solve the civil war in Syria or keep Iran from going nuclear. Closing U.S. officials at this week’s talks with Iran in Vienna admitted that they were worried the process, which is now in the second round, could fall victim to the greater dispute over what’s going on in Ukraine....  One Pentagon analyst on Russia told The Daily Beast that the intelligence community was divided to date on Russia’s response when it comes to Iran and Syria....But four senior Obama administration officials said Thursday that they were not going to blink in the face of the Russian threat to undermine the Iran talks. They argued that the Russians should be just as worried about a nuclear Iran as the West is." Josh Rogin and Eli Lake in The Daily Beast.

Why Europe hasn't been more aggressive. "In theory, Europe is in a stronger position than America to punish Russia's ruling elite because many of Russia's richest families and institutions own property or investments across the continent. But Europe is far more reliant on Russian oil and gas, and leaders fear further disruptions to their fragile economies after years of a debilitating regional debt crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the continent's most powerful leader, signaled that Berlin was not prepared yet to seek economic and financial sanctions. She has said that might happen if Russia destabilizes regions beyond Crimea — comments widely interpreted to mean eastern and southern Ukraine." Kathleen Hennessey, Paul Richter and Henry Chu in the Los Angeles Times.

Why the U.S. bans crude oil exports. "Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said earlier this month that the oil industry hasn’t yet made a convincing argument for why the U.S. should lift the ban. Several legislators, including Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have asked the Energy Information Administration this month to study the potential economic effects of authorizing more crude oil exports. Independent refineries are lobbying to keep the ban in place, so they can continue to export their refined and finished products at a premium price. Environmentalists, too, argue to keep the ban to curb further increases in fossil fuel-production. And now Russia’s invasion of Crimea has entered into arguments to lift the ban, to the effect that the U.S. could export natural gas to Europe and reduce the region’s dependence on Russia. Essential to the debate, and often missing, is why the U.S. bans most crude oil exports. Congress passed EPCA to stifle the impact of future oil embargos by foreign oil producing countries. Ford signed the bill after the 1973 Arab oil embargo shook the U.S. with high world oil prices. The law requires the president to ban crude oil exports but left room for exceptions." Meagan Clark in International Business Times.

Other foreign policy reads:

Corruption in Afghanistan could kill U.S. progress. Jordain Carney in National Journal.

Missing airliner complicates Obama’s plans to visit and increase ties with Malaysia. David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

Senators see U.S. aid to Israel staying firm despite cuts. Reuters.

McFAUL: Debating Obama's weakness only makes our entire country weak. "The record is clear and consistent. Whether Democrat or Republican, no U.S. president has ever succeeded in deterring Soviet military intervention in Eastern Europe over the last 70 years. American responses to intervention, however, did vary radically....It is on this debate — how to make Putin pay for his actions — that our national leaders should focus. Debating the extent of sanctions against Russian officials, arguing over the size of the economic assistance package to the new Ukrainian government, debating greater military assistance to the Ukrainian army, considering how large the increase should be of scholarships for Ukrainians to study in the U.S. over the next decade, or jousting over how large the plus up should be for the Freedom Support Act should be in next year’s budgets — these are the important policy questions of our moment. Debating Obama’s weakness only makes our entire country weak." Michael McFaul in Time Magazine.

APPLEBAUM: Russia will never be like us. " In many European capitals, the Crimean events have been a real jolt. For the first time, many are beginning to understand that the narrative is wrong: Russia is not a flawed Western power. Russia is an anti-Western power with a different, darker vision of global politics. The sanctions lists published in Europe this week were laughably short, but the fact that they appeared at all reflects this sea change. For 20 years, nobody has thought about how to “contain” Russia. Now they will. In any case, even the new and longer U.S. sanctions list is only a signal. Far more important now are the deeper strategic changes that should flow from our new understanding of Russia." Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Obama should keep tightening the sanctions on Russia. "Mr. Obama should get credit for leading the Western response to Mr. Putin....But the U.S. sanctions still fall far short of what is needed to inflict the “massive” damage to the Russian economy threatened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, much less force a retreat from Crimea....The administration has declined to provide military aid to the Ukrainian army, irking some critics. But even with such assistance, Ukrainian forces would be unable to stop a Russian invasion; the economic tools at the West’s disposal have more potential punch. Mr. Putin and his political elite appear drunk with euphoria over their successful seizure of Crimea and skeptical about the West’s will to push back. If the latest sanctions do not quickly sober them up, Mr. Obama must not hesitate to expand the range of sanctions from Mr. Putin’s inner circle to the pillars of the Russian economy.Editorial Board.

IOFFE: These sanctions against Russia will hurt, and it's the Russian liberals who will suffer. "These people aren't just multi-billionaires, but men who, because of their closeness to Putin, control much of the Russian economy: railroads, banks, construction, media....These sanctions will not just ban travel to the U.S. or freeze assets (most of which these guys keep in Europe and in various tax shelters around the world), but will effectively bar them from participation in the world financial system. That is going to sting and it's going to hurt, and it's going to hurt in the exact right places. Sources inside the administration say that Europe's list of sanctions, which is forthcoming, overlaps very significantly with the American one....And, as the White House has emphasized repeatedly, this is only the beginning. But there are people who are not on the list who are already cringing at the anticipation of the blow: Russian liberals." Julia Ioffe in The New Republic.

HIRSH: After Ukraine, will U.S. become a energy superpower? "In truth, there is probably not much the U.S. can do in the immediate future to shift the economic dependence for Europe dramatically; the necessary plants and facilities will take years to build. The more realistic question is longer term: whether such a strategy should become a kind of energy analogue to Cold War containment policy, in part to counter what now looks like a long-term Putin strategy toward reasserting Russian influence in the former Soviet sphere. America's rise to energy independence and exporter status would achieve the multiple aims of undermining the sources of Putin's power and influence, drawing Western Europe closer, keeping China from allying its own future too closely to Moscow's (despite persistent wooing by Putin), and further freeing America of dependence on another region that has become increasingly fractious and undependable: the Arab world." Michael Hirsh in The Atlantic.

KRAUTHAMMER: Obama's pathetic response to Putin's invasion of Crimea. "As I’ve argued here before, there are things we can do: Send the secretary of defense to Kiev tomorrow to negotiate military assistance. Renew the missile-defense agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic. Announce a new policy of major U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas. Lead Europe from the front — to impose sanctions cutting off Russian enterprises from the Western banking system. As we speak, Putin is deciding whether to go beyond Crimea and take eastern Ukraine. Show him some seriousness, Mr. President." Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post.

ASH: America's challenge in Ukraine. "Vladimir Putin knows that this crisis is about the whole of Ukraine. Ukrainians know it too. And the West must not forget it. There is nothing to be done to restore Ukrainian control over Crimea. The crucial struggle now is for eastern Ukraine. If what remains of the nation participates in a peaceful, free and fair presidential election on May 25, it can survive as one independent country (minus Crimea). It also will be back on an unambiguously democratic, constitutional path. In everything the European Union and the West do over the next two months, that should be the first priority." Timothy Garton Ash in the Los Angeles Times.

WOLOSKY: How to sanction Russia — and why Obama's Iran-like approach won't work. "Economic sanctions and visa bans have been central to the U.S. policy response in Ukraine for two reasons. For one, there aren’t any realistic military options for countering Russian adventurism in the former Soviet sphere. But more important, comprehensive economic sanctions have had remarkable success in recent years, including in Iran. Unfortunately for the United States and its allies, Iran-like sanctions are currently neither feasible nor prudent in dealing with the Russian interference in Crimea." Lee S. Wolosky in Foreign Affairs.

Top opinion

KRUGMAN: The timidity trap. "There don’t seem to be any major economic crises underway right this moment, and policy makers in many places are patting themselves on the back. In Europe, for example, they’re crowing about Spain’s recovery: the country seems set to grow at least twice as fast this year as previously forecast. Unfortunately, that means growth of 1 percent, versus 0.5 percent, in a deeply depressed economy with 55 percent youth unemployment. The fact that this can be considered good news just goes to show how accustomed we’ve grown to terrible economic conditions. We’re doing worse than anyone could have imagined a few years ago, yet people seem increasingly to be accepting this miserable situation as the new normal. How did this happen?" Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

RAMPELL: Income inequality isn’t about the rich. It’s about the rest of us. "People don’t hate you because you’re beautiful. People hate you because they are getting uglier. Use that logic, substituting income for attractiveness, and you’ll have a better grasp of why the 99.9 percent really resent the 0.1 percent." Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post.

SOLTAS: It's OK if the economy overheats a bit. "The Fed isn’t likely to embrace an explicit policy of overshooting, which would strike its critics as a willingness to tolerate above-target inflation. But advocates are right in one respect: The costs of giving up too early are surely greater than the risk that the recovery boils over a bit. Current monetary policy already reflects that — just not to the extent that doves might like. Markets expect interest rates to stay near zero for a year and a half more. By then, the unemployment rate will probably be just below 6 percent — which means the Fed will have waited far longer than it usually does before making its exit. So long, in fact, that the U.S. will be at the Fed’s own assessment of 'full employment.' That’s a quiet admission that some overshooting is all right." Evan Soltas in Bloomberg View.

BLOOMBERG VIEW: The misguided war on Common Core. "What can't happen is ditching the idea of higher uniform standards altogether. The Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have begun a national advertising campaign in support of Common Core, aimed primarily at state Republican lawmakers, and local business organizations are also getting involved. Because even though education is a local responsibility, it is a national priority. The value of the Common Core standards is that they recognize both of these realities: They're universal standards that came from the bottom up, not the top down. They can be unraveled the same way. That would be more than a pity. Without higher standards, U.S. students will continue to fall behind their peers overseas — and the U.S. economy will suffer the fallout." The Editors.

VINIK: The Great Recession's most frightening result: Jobless Americans who have given up. "This is the most frightening consequence of the Great Recession: working-age, able-bodied Americans who have given up. Instead of contributing to the economy, they will collect benefits from the government, such as Social Security Disability Insurance, for decades to come. Congress can prevent this. On the supply side, unemployment benefits keep the long-term unemployed in the labor force by requiring them to continue searching for work if they want to collect unemployment. House Speaker John Boehner is blocking an extension of unemployment insurance for no legitimate reason. On the demand side, Congress could offer employers financial incentives—like a tax credit—for hiring the long-term unemployed. Even better, the government could set up a jobs program that targets the long-term unemployed. Neither side seems particularly eager for that. For political reasons, Democrats and Republicans have both moved on to different issues." Danny Vinik in The New Republic.

MATTHEW KLEIN: Fed shouldn't sweat the market reaction. "Nobody really knows how monetary policy works, which is something to keep in mind while reading commentary about the jump in interest rates and the decline in stock prices right after yesterday's statement and news conference by the Federal Reserve. Many have interpreted the moves as a sign that the Fed is heading in a hawkish direction. More than anything, the market reaction simply reflects heightened doubt about the Fed’s next moves." Matthew C. Klein in Bloomberg View.

'Wheel of Fortune' interlude: One of the most amazing solves ever.

2. Why Obama can't do much by himself on jobs, pay or the economy

Explainer: Obama's incredible underwhelming executive orders. "President Obama tried to boost the fortunes of the aspiring middle class late last week by issuing an executive order to rewrite regulations that dictate which type of workers can collect overtime pay. It was a valiant effort on the part of the administration — and the president's second, recent attempt to prod the economy to work better for a wider swath of people, not just the uber-rich. Yet over the next year, these moves will help only a fraction of working Americans....Obama's not entirely to blame for small-bore policies that fail to produce significant change. After all, Congress still controls the levers of government spending, and we know how well the White House and Capitol Hill get along. With no breakthroughs in this hyper-partisan environment, though, this is where we find ourselves — staring dumbfounded at a yet-to-recover labor market and leaning on marginal moves to prop it up." Nancy Cook in National Journal.

But the politics of the efforts are clear. Exhibit A: Equal pay. "President Obama needs women this fall, and on Thursday, he made the case that they need him, too. Addressing students, mothers, teachers and workers at a community college here, Obama began a months-long focus on women’s issues ahead of the fall midterm elections, emphasizing how his administration’s proposals — including raising the minimum wage and strengthening equal-pay laws — would help women....Obama and his advisers described the focus on women as a response to challenges in the real economy, but the politics of the effort were clear. Democrats are focusing on bread-and-butter issues such as the minimum wage and equal pay for women to draw a contrast with Republicans." Zachary Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

Jobless claims, Mid-Atlantic factory activity suggest stronger economy. "The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits was near a three-month low last week, and factory activity in the Mid-Atlantic region rebounded this month, suggesting the economy is regaining strength after being weakened by severe weather. While other data on Thursday showed home sales at a year and a half low in February, the limited stock of houses on the market that has constrained sales eased for a second consecutive month." Reuters.

Uneven wage gains restrain recovery. "Wages are booming in some of the hottest segments of the economy, but those gains are masking an otherwise bleak picture for American incomes five years after the recession ended....Chances of the recovery kicking into a higher gear rest heavily on the ability of workers across more industries to secure wage gains. Stagnant incomes have restrained the American consumer for years, creating a vicious circle that has left businesses waiting for stronger spending before they rev up hiring and investment....Federal Reserve officials are monitoring wage measures particularly closely to gauge the health of the economy and guide interest-rate policy. Wages are currently 'signaling weakness in the labor market,' Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen told reporters Wednesday after the central bank's policy meeting." Jonathan House in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: 5 reasons why the long-term unemployed don't matter to the economy. Ylan Mui in The Washington Post.

Other economic indicators:

Gauge of U.S. economic health posts solid February gain. The Associated Press.

Veterans unemployment edges down but remains high. Tom Raum in the Associated Press.

Existing home sales edge down to 19-month low in February. Reuters.

All banks but one pass Fed's stress test. Emily Stephenson in Reuters.

Mortgage rates fall but could be headed up soon. Kathy Orton in The Washington Post.

Other economic policy reads:

Map: How much stimulus spending did your district receive? Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post.

Americans again give environment edge over economic growth in poll. Eyder Peralta in NPR.

Yellen drives dollar toward strongest week in two months. Masaki Kondo in Bloomberg.

Yellen's focus at meeting: Consensus. Jon Hilsenrath and Theo Francis in The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. keeps AAA by Fitch as debt pact raises outlook. John Detrixhe in Bloomberg.

Former Obama adviser: We should have done more. Ben Casselman in FiveThirtyEight.

Feel-good story interlude: Boston Marathon bombing survivor dances again.

3. Nearly four years in, Americans still tepid on health care law

Obamacare almost 4 years old — but will anyone notice? "This Sunday marks the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act becoming law – and the public has almost never been more bored with health care news. The public's attention to health care has fallen off sharply since the all the technology problems nearly doomed HealthCare.gov and the president's health care program, according to a new Pew Research Center report....The findings suggest that people accept that the law, for better or worse, isn't going anywhere." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Primary source: The full Pew Research Center report.

Other key findings from the report:

Latinos souring on Obamacare. Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Obamacare opinions holding steady despite problems. Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Quotable: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the health care law is a 'winner'...'You’ll have to ask the member, but I believe it’s a winner,' she told reporters as she marked this Sunday’s fourth anniversary of the law’s passage....'And by the way, it’s called the Affordable Care Act,' she told a reporter, repeating the law’s name several times." Paige Winfield Cunningham in Politico.

Obama makes Obamacare sales pitch on 'Ellen.'

Video: Portion of Ellen DeGeneres' interview with President Obama.

Oregon's Obamacare exchange is a mess. More heads just rolled there. "Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) has fired the head of the state’s online health-care exchange — the second to leave the organization in three months — after chronic technical issues that left uninsured residents unable to purchase insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act....Oregon has spent more than $150 million on outside contractors to build the Web site, though it still cannot process online enrollments. Despite the Web site failures, Oregon has signed up 157,000 residents for health-care plans, including 49,000 in commercial plans, Kitzhaber said." Reid Wilson in The Washington Post.

Explainer: How Oregon wound up with the nation's worst Obamacare website. Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Other health care reads:

How the GOP is using Obamacare to restrict abortion coverage. Dylan Scott in Talking Points Memo.

The satisfied unsubsidized: Obamacare's hidden winners. Andrew Sprung in The Atlantic.

Long read: FDA review of new sunscreen ingredients has languished for years. Brady Dennis in The Washington Post.

Speaking the language of health care. Sophie Quinton in National Journal.

Poll: Majority oppose employers opting out of Obamacare contraception mandate. Mark Murray in NBC News.

Ellen DeGeneres interlude: President Obama jabs at Ellen for shattering his retweet record.

4. Despite absence of policies, don't count out alternative energy just yet

In shift, Exxon agrees to report on carbon asset risk. "Energy companies have been under increasing pressure from shareholder activists in recent years to warn investors of the risks that stricter limits on carbon emissions would place on their business. On Thursday, a shareholder group said that it had won its biggest prize yet, when Exxon Mobil became the first oil and gas producer to agree to publish that information by the end of the month. In return, the shareholders, led by the wealth management firm Arjuna Capital, which focuses on sustainability, and the advocacy group As You Sow, said they had agreed to withdraw a resolution on the issue at Exxon Mobil’s annual meeting....The shift is a sign of a growing acceptance among investors and companies that the value of fossil fuel assets may be out of line with evolving policies on global warming." Diane Cardwell in The New York Times.

What's at stake. "The United Nations concluded in its blockbuster climate report last September that much of the world’s remaining fossil fuels would have to stay in the ground if there was to be any hope of keeping warming to 2C and avoiding extremes of sea-level rise, heat waves, droughts and other effects of climate change. The International Energy Agency was even clearer on that threshold, finding: 'No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2C goal, unless carbon capture and storage technology is widely deployed.'" Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian.

Report: Renewable energy dominating new electrical capacity additions. "The overwhelming majority of new U.S. electrical capacity is coming from wind and solar, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission....But the U.S. is a massive energy consumer, the largest in the world. To reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we will need to keep up this pace of renewable expansion while simultaneously taking coal-, oil-, and gas-burning plants offline. That can only be accomplished through a combination of higher prices for fossil fuels and reduced consumption through efficiency." Ben Adler in Grist.

New wind-power technologies are helping industry compete on price. "The wind industry has gone to great lengths over the years to snap up the best properties for its farms, often looking to remote swaths of prairie or distant mountain ridges to maximize energy production and minimize community opposition. Now, it is reaching for the sky. With new technology allowing developers to build taller machines spinning longer blades, the industry has been able to produce more power at lower cost by capturing the faster winds that blow at higher elevations. This has opened up new territories, in places like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, where the price of power from turbines built 300 feet to 400 feet above the ground can now compete with conventional sources like coal....Prices have fallen so low — in some cases to about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour — that utilities have been increasing the amount of wind energy they want to buy through long-term contracts, with regulators saying it is their cheapest option. At the same time, though, the push has spurred some opposition in these new areas from residents who object to the tall, industrial wind turbines." Diane Cardwell in The New York Times.

Other energy reads:

Oil industry and biofuel boosters scrap over mandates. Jennifer A. Dlouhy in the Houston Chronicle.

U.S. energy boom to aid manufacturing jobs to 2020, report says. Reuters.

Americans choose savings at the pump over oil exports, poll says. Selam Gebrekidan in Reuters.

Long read: Solar industry frets over Wyden. Corbin Hiar in SNL Energy.

Science interlude: What would happen if you were to stop drinking water?

5. What will high court's voter rules decision do?

Explainer: How voter ID laws will impact the 2014 elections. "Adding obstacles to voting is clearly something that's a problem for individual voters. However, the cumulative impact of voting-rule changes on determining the winner of key races looks more likely to be hit and miss in 2014....For 2014, only a handful of states will be operating under new voting rules, and most of those already lean solidly toward the GOP. Indeed, in most of those states, relatively few significant races are expected to be competitive enough for changes in the voting laws to sway election results." Louis Jacobson in Governing.

Arizona and Kansas win court approval on voter rules. "A federal judge in Kansas on Wednesday ordered federal election authorities to help Kansas and Arizona require proof of citizenship of registering voters, in a decision that could well set a trend for other Republican-dominated states. Judge Eric F. Melgren of United States District Court in Wichita ruled that the federal Election Assistance Commission had no legal authority to deny requests from Kansas and Arizona to add state-specific instructions to a national voter registration form. The states sued the agency to force the action after it had turned them down." Fernanda Santos in The New York Times.

What this ruling means. "The upshot of this opinion, if it stands on appeal, is that states with Republican legislatures and/or Republican chief election officials are likely to require documentary proof of citizenship for voting, making it harder for Democrats to pursue a relatively simple method of voter registration....I do not know how this case will fare as it works its way up on appeal.  I can see the arguments on both sides here — but this is exactly the path I feared after Inter Tribal. In the meantime, in states which impose citizenship requirements, the streamlined path of voter registration just got a whole less streamlined." Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog.

Astronomy interlude: Ball of fire illuminates Earth in unbelievable photo taken from space.

Wonkblog roundup

Could your bank survive the zombie apocalypse? Danielle Douglas.

Obamacare turns 4: Will anyone notice? Jason Millman.

How Oregon wound up with the nation’s worst Obamacare Web site. Jason Millman.

Why banning cars may not reduce pollution. Emily Badger.

Five reasons why the long-term jobless don’t matter to the economy. Ylan Mui.

Map: How much stimulus spending did your district receive? Christopher Ingraham.

The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers. Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin.

Why Britain should stop wasting money designing coins and let the forgers win. Max Ehrenfreund.

Et Cetera

SEC said to be examining hidden electronic bond trading prices. Lisa Abramowicz in Bloomberg.

Toxics agency chief resigns after clashes over Camp LeJeune problems. Mike Magner in National Journal.

Some big U.S. companies dodge state income tax, study says. Reuters.

U.S. debates fiscal impact of Fannie and Freddie. Gina Chon in The Financial Times.

Reid asks CIA to let Senate investigators inspect computers. Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

States outflank GOP on food-stamp cuts. Russell Berman in The Hill.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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