Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM
It's still too soon to say who is responsible for the bombing of the subway in St. Petersburg, Russia--but it wouldn't be surprising if international terrorists were responsible. Russia is fast replacing the United States as the No. 1 enemy of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other Sunni jihadist groups motivated by violent and puritanical Salafist ideology.
This shift is rooted in recent Russian actions in the Middle East--including its escalating intervention in Syria and its moves toward intervention in Libya with the recent deployment of special forces to an air base in Egypt--that have drawn the ire of militant Sunnis worldwide and elevated Russia as the jihadists' top target. And if the Islamic State's "caliphate" in Syria collapses and foreign fighters, an estimated 2,400 of whom are from Russia, attempt to return home and fix their sights on the Kremlin, the situation could dramatically worsen for Moscow.
Terrorist groups have made their changing priorities clear. In an ISIS video titled "Soon Very Soon Blood Will Spill Like an Ocean," an ISIS fighter threatens Russian leader Vladimir Putin directly, citing the country's intervention in Syria and its growing alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Iran and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah as proof that Moscow is the chief proponent of a growing Shiite axis throughout the Middle East. Forty other Syrian rebel groups have concurred, pointedly saying that "any occupation force to our beloved country is a legitimate target."
Russia has been the primary force propping up the Assad regime, which has waged a bloody six-year war against anti-government insurgents, most of whom are Sunnis. The political and military alliance between Russia and Iran is also deepening as the countries work together to help Assad reclaim pockets of territory from rebels. Russian Special Forces and warplanes have served as a force multiplier for Hezbollah fighters who have bloodied Sunni militants in battle, most recently in Palmyra.
Whether he meant it all to go exactly the way it did or not, President Obama had a very good WoT.
Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM
The answer lies in Assad's refusal to compromise or offer any significant concessions since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, and later morphed into a civil war. Assad overplayed his hand this time, after being emboldened by recent statements from White House officials that it was time for Western powers to accept the "political reality" of Assad's continued dominance. Assad likely decided to test those boundaries, not expecting Trump to respond militarily because the U.S. president has made it clear that he sees fighting Islamic State as his highest priority in Syria and Iraq.
Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM
PLEASE, STOP SPEAKING:
White House Press Secretary and noted buffoon Sean Spicer really fell into a swimming pool of pig shit this afternoon when remarking on Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons.
"Someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't sink to the level of using chemical weapons [in World War II]." Spicer vomited out.
But don't worry, he tried clarifying his comments by saying Hitler "was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing" and that Hitler instead brought Jews to "the Holocaust center." According to Spicer, Hitler didn't use chemical weapons "in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought -- so the use of it."
Here's a quick history lesson: German scientists at the Nazi-linked chemical and pharmaceutical company IG Farben actually developed the notorious chemical weapon Sarin -- the same weapon Assad likely used in his recent attack on innocent civilians. In fact, the highly lethal nerve agent is named after the last names of the scientists who discovered it: Schrader, Ambros, Ritter, and von der Linde.
Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM
TAX WHAT YOU DON'T WANT:
Economists widely agree that carbon pricing is the most efficient and least costly way to reduce U.S. emissions. Based on a 2016 U.S. Department of Treasury analysis, if the U.S. were to implement an economy-wide carbon tax starting at $49 a ton in 2019, we could reduce carbon emission by 21 percent by 2028 and raise over $2.2 trillion in revenue over the next ten years.
The macroeconomic trade effects of a unilateral carbon tax on employment, investment, and competitiveness for large, diverse economies like the U.S. would be small (see for instance these studies: 1,2,3). However, certain sectors would likely suffer, and in order to gain broad, bipartisan support, any carbon tax proposal would likely need to include a carbon border tax.
Border carbon adjustments (BCAs) are taxes on energy intensive imports and rebates on the carbon tax paid on energy intensive exports. These carbon adjustments mean that carbon emissions are taxed based on where the goods are consumed rather than where they are produced. Border tax adjustments level the playing field between U.S. firms in energy-intensive, trade-exposed sectors and competitors from countries that don't have a carbon price in place.
Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM
OBAMA DERANGEMENT SYNDROME:
A new Washington Post-ABC poll on President Trump's missile strike in Syria has an interesting partisan breakdown when compared to hypothetical support for strikes by President Obama in 2013:
Democratic support: 38% support in 2013, 37% support in 2017
Republican support: 22% support in 2013, 86% support in 2017
Posted by orrinj at 3:33 PM
DONALD WAS AN ANCHOR, NOT A SAIL:
According to a Morning Consult poll of more than 85,000 registered voters across the United States, Republican governors get the most thumbs up by their residents -- and it's not even close.
Toping off the list is Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who boasts a 75 percent approval rating, with only 17 percent disapproving of his job performance. Closely behind Baker is Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Of the top five most popular governors, three are Republicans in solid blue states.
With Jeb or Kasich at the top of the ticket the GOP would have saved a number of seats.
Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM
ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:
"Let's hope members of Congress, the members that Allegheny College has already honored-Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain, [and] the women of the Senate, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham-let's hope that they, and others of good will, will lead in restoring harmonious work ways," Ginsburg said.
Posted by orrinj at 12:10 PM
While the event is still on for Monday, The New York Times reported Tuesday that it will be far smaller and less extravagant than it's been in years past.
The White House was so late on announcing the roll that it nearly missed the manufacturing deadline for the commemorative eggs, prompting the company that supplies the eggs to send a reminder to Trump and the first lady via Twitter...
Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM
GREATEST WAR EVER:
Russia's Defense Ministry said on April 11 that two of its soldiers had been killed in a mortar attack in Syria while a third was seriously wounded, Russian news agencies reported.
Posted by orrinj at 10:07 AM
IF YOU CAN KEEP IT...:
Brutus is not inclined to tyranny. He is in fact a good republican and would never become another Caesar. And yet, what is to be done with his superiority, which brings him Caesar's esteem as well as the trust of the republican conspirators? He does not lay down his superiority, since he exercises his influence over Cassius without the least reticence, but wraps it in an exclusive concern for "the common," in which every person's position, beginning with his own, becomes invisible. He is the most virtuous of Romans, but also the least self-knowing, or the one who knows least what he is doing. He does not manage to discern or produce action or conduct to match his capacities and deserts under the conditions determined by Caesar's exorbitant power. He can neither ally himself with Caesar, nor prepare himself to succeed him, nor kill him in a useful way.
This political and moral analysis runs counter to the mimetic interpretation of the tragedy proposed by René Girard. The core of Girard's thesis, and for me the stumbling block, is the characterization of Cassius as the "mediator of hate." I find the expression abstract, that is, apolitical. It neglects or rather dismisses the concrete reality of the action. Cassius is first of all the one who begins. He takes the initiative, pushed by no one, but he pushes all the others. Girard discerns well that Cassius is the "true father" of the conspiracy, the arch-actor who must persuade the other potential actors to join him. That he is particularly envious of Caesar is a secondary factor in comparison to the fact that Cassius initiates the action. This matters politically. The term "hate," employed by Girard, is otherwise perfectly adequate. There is no doubt that Cassius hates Caesar. But the word "hate" is so imprecise!
Unless we think that all hatreds are alike, that all hate is the same sin--and this may indeed be Girard's view--we will be led to distinguish between hatreds, and the qualities that hatred can take on. I will go so far as to say that there are noble and base hatreds. A very honorable political and moral tradition, one, I must emphasize, that is Christian as well as pagan, holds that hatred for the tyrant is a noble hatred, and that it belongs to the virtue of the good citizen. We might make all we can of the role of personal resentment in Cassius's hatred (which in any case he does not let us ignore). We can say that Caesar's tyrannical character is a matter of debate. But we cannot entirely pass over the meaning the actors give to their action or overlook the fact that the person who is the object of hatred is considered to be a tyrant by some of the most competent and honorable citizens. If we neglect this fact, we will be obliged to say, or at least to think, that hatred has settled on Caesar by chance.
It is a mistake to confuse the crystallization of the conspiracy with the contagion of hatred. Hatred is not contagious like an infectious disease. Cassius, moreover, does not awaken the hatred of the conspirators, who, with the exception of Brutus, already hate Caesar; he convinces them to act according to their hatred, which is something different, and which requires something besides hatred. In any case, Brutus, who will take the lead in the conspiracy, does not hate and will never hate Caesar. It is impossible to say why Brutus decides to participate in the action. One thing alone is clear: As tormented as he is before the decision, he is no less implacably resolute once it is taken. As I have emphasized, it is Brutus who knows himself the least. He is perfectly aware that the reason he cannot sleep is that Cassius "did whet" him "against Caesar." But he was troubled long before Cassius's devices. Again, Cassius does not awaken Brutus's hatred for Caesar, but sets off the desire to participate in the plot. How?
According to Cassius (an excellent observer of men and their actions by Caesar's own testimony), what is important for Brutus is the high opinion of him in Rome, the greatness of his name. Cassius holds a mirror up to Brutus: He must see himself as Rome sees him. His name fills Rome as much as Caesar's does. His name fills Rome, and Rome fills his soul. Caesar no longer really exists. So Brutus, like a logician who cannot be stopped, will soon distinguish the real Caesar that he continues to love from the possible Caesar that he is resolved to kill. One clarifies nothing by making Caesar, in Girard's words, "an insurmountable obstacle, the skandalon of mimetic rivalry." This leaves out the third term, which is Rome, the common or shared thing, the res publica. Rome comes between Brutus and his friends. Brutus loves Cassius but despises him because he is too human. He loves Caesar still more, but he kills him because he might become inhuman. He wants to have no moral relation except with what he calls the "general." The mechanism singled out by the mimetic theory is not at work here. The opposite is the case. Membership in the republic implies an enlargement that links the individual to the "common," and in republican form there is an unequal enlargement of souls that nourishes in some a legitimate and dangerous pride. The great citizen is not only greater or smaller than another great citizen. He is also greater than himself, for he has another body and another soul, that of Rome. This enlargement is bearable or controllable only when everyone acts under the view of the shared, of the republic, and with respect for its laws and institutions, as difficult as this may be, as the example of Coriolanus attests.
Caesar's disproportionate ascent, so well diagnosed by Cassius, has rendered this mediation of greatness by the common impossible. Since the real and effective shared has withered, Brutus allows himself to be carried away by an imagined universal in whose name he sacrifices a Caesar he himself has declared to be imaginary. His hand does not tremble, because, rather than carrying out a terrible action, he is presiding over a rite of his own invention.
The republic is the regime that allows and encourages the most action. This can be seen in Rome, and we see it in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a "republic disguised under the form of monarchy," as Montesquieu put it. We see it in America's founding, an extraordinary founding, and we see it in France in the great movement of '89, especially if this movement is understood to include, as it ought, the adventure of the empire.
Today we expect from a republic the opposite of a republic. We demand from it the least possible action, or what we call "freedom." For us, freedom is a world without commandment or obedience.
Posted by orrinj at 9:37 AM
GLOBALIZATION IS ANGLOPHICATION:
Research shows a direct correlation between the English skills of a population and the economic performance of the country. Indicators like gross national income (GNI) and GDP go up. In our latest edition of the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), the largest ranking of English skills by country, we found that in almost every one of the 60 countries and territories surveyed, a rise in English proficiency was connected with a rise in per capita income.
Posted by orrinj at 9:27 AM
The process is bogged down as a result of micromanaging by the president and senior staff, turf wars between the West Wing and Cabinet secretaries and a largely inexperienced and overworked staff, say more than a dozen sources including administration insiders, lobbyists, lawyers and Republican strategists.
Trump personally oversees the hiring process for agency staff by insisting on combing through a binder full of names each week and likes to sign off on each one, according to two people with knowledge of the administration's hiring process. Also weighing in on the names -- and not always agreeing on final picks -- are leaders of sometimes warring factions, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior strategist Steve Bannon, Cabinet secretaries and, sometimes, the White House's top lawyer, Don McGahn.
"It's like a medieval court," said one person advising potential nominees through the confirmation process. "The White House meets once a week to go over personnel in some attempt to create uniformity, but in this White House, you just have to smile at that. ... It's hard to impose uniformity among the White House's different coalitions."
The only uniformity is that potential hires must show fealty to the president. One person close to the White House said a sense of "paranoia" has taken over amid fears that disloyal hires might undercut Trump's agenda or leak to the press.
Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM
WHO KNEW THEY EVEN HAD SHOWER CURTAINS?:
Boeing Co hired Norsk Titanium AS to print the first structural titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner, a shift that the Norwegian 3-D printing company said would eventually shave $2 million to $3 million off the cost of each plane.
The contract announced on Monday is a major step in Boeing's effort to boost the profitability of the 787 and a sign of growing industrial acceptance of the durability of 3-D printed metal parts, allowing them to replace pieces made with more expensive traditional manufacturing in demanding aerospace applications.
Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM
THE HELPFUL FASCIST INTERLUDE:
The story of Chile's success starts in the mid-1970s, when Chile's military government abandoned socialism and started to implement economic reforms. In 2013, Chile was the world's 10th freest economy. Venezuela, in the meantime, declined from being the world's 10th freest economy in 1975 to being the world's least free economy in 2013 (Human Progress does not have data for the notoriously unfree North Korea).
Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM
NO SURPRISE THE ANGLOPHERE IS TAXED THE LEAST:
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development analyzed how 35 countries tax wage-earners, making it possible to compare tax burdens across the world's biggest economies. Each year, the OECD measures what it calls the "tax wedge," the gap between what a worker gets paid and what they actually spend or save. Included are income taxes, payroll taxes, and any tax credits or rebates that supplement worker income. Excluded are the countless other ways that governments levy taxes, such as sales and value-added taxes, property taxes, and taxes on investment income and gains.
Guess who came out at the top of the list? No. Not the U.S. At the top are Belgium and France, while workers in Chile and New Zealand are taxed the least. America is in the bottom third.
Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM
WINNING THE WoT:
Saudi Arabia opened books for its first dollar-denominated Islamic bond, people familiar with the matter said, as the country seeks to plug a budget deficit caused by a collapse in oil prices.
Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM
hISTORTY eNDS EVERYWHERE:
There are four major and many minor Somali clans, each with its own traditions and territories. Clan divisions have had a significant impact on Somalia's status as a fragile state.
By 2012, and with help from the U.N., the clans agreed to a power sharing formula to allocate parliamentary seats. The agreement helped the clan elders come together and led to the first formal parliament in 20 years.
Elections followed, but cautiously. The 2016 parliamentary elections and the 2017 presidential elections built on the formula created in 2012, but with more delegates participating to elect the parliament. To avoid violence from the clans or Al Shabab contingents, the vote for president was limited to members of the upper and lower houses of parliament, the members of which were chosen by the clans. They cast ballots at a heavily guarded air force base in Mogadishu.
Citizen response to the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was enthusiastic. He took office on Feb. 8, 2017, in a smooth transition from the former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. He declared an era of unity. Farmajo's experience of living in the United States - he holds dual citizenship and graduated from SUNY, Buffalo - and remittances from the Somali diaspora may help the economy grow and democratic values take hold.
The new president is representative of the almost two million Somalis who left the country, many between 1990 and 2015, and the significant number who have returned from abroad. Somalia is home again to many former refugees to the U.S., Canada and Europe who have dual citizenship and good educations. Many of these returnees have shown an interest in politics.
Indeed, one-third of the elected candidates in the 2016 parliamentary election hold foreign passports. Out of the 275 members of the Somali parliament, 22 are Somali-Americans and 29 are British Somalis. The 48-year-old prime minister, a former senior official in the Soma Oil and Gas exploration company, is a dual Somali-Norwegian citizen.
Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM
NO ONE HATES JUST MEXICANS:
The White House hosted a Passover Seder Monday night -- continuing a tradition started in 2009 by then-president Barack Obama -- but US President Donald Trump did not attend.
In unusual omission, no Trump-Pope meeting planned during Italy G7 (Philip Pullella, 4/11/17, Reuters)
U.S. President Donald Trump has not asked to meet Pope Francis during his visit to Italy next month for the Group of Seven summit, sources said on Tuesday, in what would be a highly unusual omission.
Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM
PITY THE POOR MALTHUSIANS:
World stockpiles of corn and wheat are at record highs. From Iowa to China, years of bumper crops and low prices have overwhelmed storage capacity for basic foodstuffs.
Global stocks of corn, wheat, rice and soybeans combined will hit a record 671.1 million tonnes going into the next harvest - the third straight year of historically high surplus, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). That's enough to cover demand from China for about a year.
In the United States, farmers facing a fourth straight year of declining incomes and rising debts are hanging on to grain in the hope of higher prices later. They may be waiting a long time: Market fundamentals appear to be weakening as the world's top grain producers ponder what to do with so much food.
It's impossible to overstate deflation.
Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM
WE ARE ALL NEOCONOMIST NOW:
Here are four of the best ones that the Trump administration is reportedly considering:
1. Eliminate the payroll tax. This is the tax that's ostensibly dedicated to Social Security. Every employee in the country pays a 6.2 percent tax rate directly, and then their employer pays an additional 6.2 percent rate on what they pay the employee. [...]
2. A border adjustment tax. This is an idea that's been pushed by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.): Introduce a new deduction into the corporate tax code that allows U.S. companies to deduct the costs of the goods they export, while they still have to pay a tax on the goods they import. It's estimated to raise $1 trillion in revenue over a decade. And it would grant a tax advantage to all economic activity that shrinks the U.S. trade deficit rather than widens it. [...]
3. A carbon tax. This would be a tax penalty levied on all energy sources that produce CO2, in an effort to discourage carbon emissions and encourage clean energy use. The Trump administration is infamous for scoffing at climate concerns, so this might seem like the last thing they'd pursue. And indeed, after reports surfaced that they were looking into a carbon tax, a White House spokesperson denied it was "under consideration."
But a carbon tax would make a certain amount of sense. Among business-friendly types who admit climate change is a problem, the carbon tax is seen as a vastly more market friendly solution than the regulations the Obama administration was pursuing. Gary Cohn, head of Trump's National Economic Council and a former president of Goldman Sachs, is a fan of the idea. It's Stephen Bannon, the reactionary nationalist on Trump's team, who opposes it -- and Bannon's star is reportedly waning.
So a carbon tax could be a politically useful way to find some revenue, possibly bring Democrats on board, and make Trump's approach to climate change look less appalling.
We should be taxed for consuming, not for earning or saving/investing.
Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM
OLD FOUNDATIONS; NEW FURNISHINGS:
Students in professor Chad Pecknold's newest class come from Canada, Uruguay, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and all across the United States, but two things unite them all - a printed copy of St Augustine's "City of God" and their Twitter accounts.
Pecknold teaches a doctoral seminar on what is one of the saint's greatest theological works at The Catholic University of America in Washington. On a whim, he decided at the beginning of this semester to post the seminar reading schedule on his personal Twitter account, and invite people to read along and have an occasional discussion.
Expecting about a dozen people to respond, Pecknold was shocked to find thousands of people showed interest in doing this online study of Augustine.
About 120,000 people viewed his invitation shortly after he posted it; more than 2,000 committed to buying the book and reading along. Pecknold had to quickly figure out how to accommodate such a large volume of people, and decided to dedicate a two-hour period on Thursday evenings to the study of "City of God."
During his first class on January 12, Pecknold sat down with several different translations of the book, which had all of his handwritten marginal notes from about a decade of teaching the text. He tweeted out his commentary on book one through the Twitter app on his iPhone, and since Book 1 is 33 chapters, he wrote about 150 tweets in two hours. [...]
Following the surprising number of responses that he received for the course, Pecknold said he started to wonder, "Why this? Why now? Why the response?"
"My sense is it benefits from coming off of a bruising election in which people feel the political order is shaky, however you think that shakiness manifests itself," Pecknold said. "And when people feel that the structures are shaky, they intuitively want to go down to the foundations to see what is there."
Posted by orrinj at 5:33 AM
HOW hISTORY eNDED:
: review of Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World by Alec Ryrie (Hamilton Cain, April 10, 2017, Barnes & Noble Review)
The baptism of the spirit, the sacrament of Communion, the strife between modernity and orthodoxy -- these bones of contention have hammered together a broader Protestant identity even as it's splintered into numerous denominations, in the wake of Martin Luther's famous Ninety-five Theses, nailed onto a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The Reformation allowed believers to shake off the strictures of Catholicism, opening the door to personal relationships with God.
An ordained Anglican minister as well as an academic, Ryrie celebrates this pluralism; as his subtitle suggests, his book emphasizes Protestantism as a catalyst for Enlightenment thought, scientific discovery, and the birth of representative democracy. Catholicism, in his view, was always defined by hierarchy and corruption, from the pope on down. The first page announces his critical insight: "Protestantism is a religion of fighters and lovers. Fighters because it was born in conflict, and its story can be told as one long argument . . . But it is also a religion of lovers. From the beginning, a love affair with God has been as its heart. Like all long love affairs, it has gone through many phases, from early passion through companionable marriage and sometimes strained coexistence, to rekindled ardor."
Ardor clings like perfume to Ryrie's vivid, graceful account; and one can almost forgive him for elevating the love affair over the bloody conflicts waged by Protestants over the centuries. He writes with passion and persuasion, drawing fine distinctions as the Reformation unfolded in myriad forms throughout Europe, and charting the complicated (at times contradictory) influences of Calvinism. He's adept, too, at laying out the early religious history of Colonial America, how pluralism begot pluralism in the New World, the Puritans staking their ground but then ceding it to other groups, such as the Quakers in Pennsylvania, the Anglicans in Virginia, and a mélange of Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists in the South.
The important factor is that Protestantism is democratic/equalitarian, not authoritarian/hierarchical.
Posted by orrinj at 5:25 AM
WE ARE ALL NEOCONOMIST NOW:
"If Trump does not go down the path of a carbon tax, we should not lose our resolve. We should stick to our values as Canadians to do something to protect the environment." -- Michael Crothers, Canada, November, 2016
"Climate change is happening. We think a broad-based carbon price is the right answer." -- Steve Williams, Canada, May, 2015
"Carbon pricing systems encourage the quickest and most efficient ways of reducing emissions widely." -- Ben van Beurden, the Netherlands, October, 2015
"A global carbon price would help to unleash market forces and provide the right incentives for everyone to play their part. History has shown the power of market forces in making economies less energy intensive as people have found more efficient ways to use energy." -- Bob Dudley, Britain, February, 2015
"One option being discussed by policy makers is a national revenue-neutral carbon tax. This would promote greater energy efficiency and the use of today's lower-carbon options, avoid further burdening the economy, and also provide incentives for markets to develop additional low-carbon energy solutions for the future." -- Darren Woods, United States, February 2017
So, what's the big deal? Support for putting a price on carbon emissions is hardly newsworthy. Virtually every environmentalist thinks it's crucial; many believe it's the single most important thing we could do.
But Michael Crothers doesn't work for an environmental organization. He's the president of Shell Canada. Steve Williams is head of Suncor, Canada's largest oil company. Ben van Beurden is chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell. Bob Dudley is chief executive of BP.
Darren Woods? That statement was part of his first blog post in his new job: chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, replacing Rex Tillerson, the new secretary of state -- who also endorsed a carbon tax.
All of these energy companies favor a tax on every ton of carbon emissions, which is one of two ways to price emissions. The other way is called "cap and trade" -- creating a market in emissions by imposing a maximum. Companies who want to exceed the level can buy the right from others who pollute less.
U.S. carbon emissions from energy dropped another 1.7 percent in 2016, largely because natural gas and renewables are displacing coal in power production, data from the federal Energy Information Administration shows.