Randy ShumwayNearly 85 percent of the electricity generated in Idaho comes from renewable sources—a higher percentage than any other state in the country.

Over 130 dams and hydro projects provide Idahoans some of the cheapest electricity in the nation, translating into a direct economic value of more than $400 million. Significant savings on energy throughout the state attracts businesses and creates jobs.

Recently, however, growing demand for electricity has outpaced hydroelectric expansion in Idaho. While several potential dam sites could be leveraged, many would have significant environmental costs, such as increasing water temperatures and impeding salmon migratory patterns.  These consequences could potentially outweigh the benefits of providing more cheap, green energy.

By looking to solar energy power plants, Idaho can continue to be a leader in renewable energy.  While the state currently has no utility-scale solar plants, Idaho Power has 13 projects in the works that should be completed by the end of 2016, which in aggregate will supply 400 MW of electricity to the state.

Idaho also has substantial potential for wind projects, and a number of wind projects already exist. By initiating in-state energy projects, Idaho will decrease its reliance on imported carbon-intensive coal, thereby supplying citizens with more jobs and cleaner energy.

U.S. Economic Outlook

Short-Term Outlook. U.S. gross domestic product expanded at an annualized rate of 1.5 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the advance estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The Federal Reserve reports that while the economy is growing at a moderate pace, it has slowed since the previous quarter, during which GDP expanded at a 3.9-percent annualized rate. While consumer spending remains strong, several key factors have contributed to the apparent economic slowdown: oil prices, global economy, and dollar strength.

First, low oil prices have decreased profits and business expansion in the energy and manufacturing sectors. Demand for oil has not increased at the same rate as supply, although sales of higher-margin, higher fuel-consuming vehicles have increased. Total miles driven since November 2007 have fallen 3.65 percent. Although consumers are saving money on gasoline, revenues for transportation-related items have decreased. Some businesses have seen higher profits as fuel and transportation costs have declined, but oil exploration and development companies have seen lower profits, and some have been forced to downsize.

Second, the global economy has been sluggish at best. The European Central Bank began a quantitative easing program in March and plans to make purchases of €60 billion each month until September 2016. Although this monetary policy has not raised inflation to the target of nearly 2 percent, the recovery has been trending positively.

Third, the U.S. dollar continues to be strong in relation to foreign currencies. A stronger dollar makes foreign goods less expensive than domestic goods, ultimately decreasing exports and increasing imports. As exports decline and fewer goods are sold overseas, U.S. businesses lose profits, particularly in manufacturing.

The bright spot in the U.S. economy is consumer spending. Americans are spending more on food away from home, hotels and travel, and cars. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, which means that increases in consumer spending boost the economy overall. Consumer spending grew 3.2 percent in the third quarter after growing 3.6 percent in the second quarter. Likewise, the personal consumption expenditures price index rose 1.2 percent after rising 2.2 percent in the second quarter.

The simultaneous rise in consumer spending and drop in manufacturing and exports indicates that some aspects of the U.S. economy are recovering, some are declining, and some are just continuing to plug along.

Long-Term Outlook. As a key U.S. trade partner, China is a major player in the long-term economic outlook of the United States. Recently, China’s economy has experienced volatility as it moves toward a market-based approach to interest rates, investing, and policy. China has long used monetary policy to control interest rates and money flow, but now it is retooling its framework at a critical time that will impact European and U.S. markets. Lately, China is using monetary policy as a tool to jumpstart its economy, but to little avail.  At the end of October, China cut interest rates for the sixth time this year to stimulate its economy. Although the specifics are difficult to predict, China’s economic policy will certainly have far-reaching effects on the long-term U.S. economy.

Nearly 85 percent of the electricity generated in Idaho comes from renewable sources—a higher percentage than any other state in the country. Over 130 dams and hydro projects provide Idahoans some of the cheapest electricity in the nation, translating into a direct economic value of more than $400 million. Significant savings on energy throughout the state attracts businesses and creates jobs.

Recently, however, growing demand for electricity has outpaced hydroelectric expansion in Idaho. While several potential dam sites could be leveraged, many would have significant environmental costs, such as increasing water temperatures and impeding salmon migratory patterns.  These consequences could potentially outweigh the benefits of providing more cheap, green energy.

By looking to solar energy power plants, Idaho can continue to be a leader in renewable energy.  While the state currently has no utility-scale solar plants, Idaho Power has 13 projects in the works that should be completed by the end of 2016, which in aggregate will supply 400 MW of electricity to the state.

Idaho also has substantial potential for wind projects, and a number of wind projects already exist. By initiating in-state energy projects, Idaho will decrease its reliance on imported carbon-intensive coal, thereby supplying citizens with more jobs and cleaner energy.

U.S. Economic Outlook

Short-Term Outlook. U.S. gross domestic product expanded at an annualized rate of 1.5 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the advance estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The Federal Reserve reports that while the economy is growing at a moderate pace, it has slowed since the previous quarter, during which GDP expanded at a 3.9-percent annualized rate. While consumer spending remains strong, several key factors have contributed to the apparent economic slowdown: oil prices, global economy, and dollar strength.

First, low oil prices have decreased profits and business expansion in the energy and manufacturing sectors. Demand for oil has not increased at the same rate as supply, although sales of higher-margin, higher fuel-consuming vehicles have increased. Total miles driven since November 2007 have fallen 3.65 percent. Although consumers are saving money on gasoline, revenues for transportation-related items have decreased. Some businesses have seen higher profits as fuel and transportation costs have declined, but oil exploration and development companies have seen lower profits, and some have been forced to downsize.

Second, the global economy has been sluggish at best. The European Central Bank began a quantitative easing program in March and plans to make purchases of €60 billion each month until September 2016. Although this monetary policy has not raised inflation to the target of nearly 2 percent, the recovery has been trending positively.

Third, the U.S. dollar continues to be strong in relation to foreign currencies. A stronger dollar makes foreign goods less expensive than domestic goods, ultimately decreasing exports and increasing imports. As exports decline and fewer goods are sold overseas, U.S. businesses lose profits, particularly in manufacturing.

The bright spot in the U.S. economy is consumer spending. Americans are spending more on food away from home, hotels and travel, and cars. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, which means that increases in consumer spending boost the economy overall. Consumer spending grew 3.2 percent in the third quarter after growing 3.6 percent in the second quarter. Likewise, the personal consumption expenditures price index rose 1.2 percent after rising 2.2 percent in the second quarter.

The simultaneous rise in consumer spending and drop in manufacturing and exports indicates that some aspects of the U.S. economy are recovering, some are declining, and some are just continuing to plug along.

Long-Term Outlook. As a key U.S. trade partner, China is a major player in the long-term economic outlook of the United States. Recently, China’s economy has experienced volatility as it moves toward a market-based approach to interest rates, investing, and policy. China has long used monetary policy to control interest rates and money flow, but now it is retooling its framework at a critical time that will impact European and U.S. markets. Lately, China is using monetary policy as a tool to jumpstart its economy, but to little avail.  At the end of October, China cut interest rates for the sixth time this year to stimulate its economy. Although the specifics are difficult to predict, China’s economic policy will certainly have far-reaching effects on the long-term U.S. economy.