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Mikal B. Aune

Can We Really Be Energy Independent?

By | 2013, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments
U.S. Energy Production is on the RiseMajor developments that have led to a boom in the energy industry have placed the United States on track to becoming the largest energy producer in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.1

 

In the State of the Union address, President Obama indicated that “we’re finally poised to control our own energy future.  We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.”2

 

According to a Citigroup report titled Energy 2020: Independence Day, “U.S. oil and gas production is evolving so rapidly—and demand is dropping so quickly—that in just five years the U.S. could no longer need to buy oil from any source but Canada.”

 

The International Energy Agency predicts that “the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer before 2020, and will be energy independent 10 years later.”

 

New technologies like hydraulic-fracturing, or “fracking,” have made the extraction of oil and gas from shale rock profitable.

 

In Utah, towns like Vernal and Roosevelt have had an influx of workers as oil companies race to develop new oil wells. The energy boom in Utah is just a microcosm of what is happening in the nation. More energy production creates jobs, which pump money back into the economy.  It reduces our reliance on foreign countries, which allows us to control our own future.

 

Unfortunately, energy independence by itself may not lead to lower gas prices. Canada is completely energy independent, yet their gasoline costs about the same as ours. This is because there is a global market for oil and there is one price at which it is sold.3 We may only see a decrease in prices if the cost of oil drops globally.

 

Fracking also gives us access to vast natural gas reserves. Some estimates indicate we have over a 100- year supply if consumption remains at 2010 levels.4 Higher supply and lower prices are leading to more manufacturing in the United States.

 

Many power companies are switching to natural gas to fuel their electric plants. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal. Therefore, it is easier for power plants to meet emission standards. This abundance of natural gas has also made energy bills more palatable for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

 

The potential benefit of energy independence is not without its hurdles. Environmental concerns, limited infrastructure, and water restrictions have slowed progress. Despite these hurdles, the race towards energy independence sprints forward. Energy independence has become a reality that may improve the economy and your pocketbook.

 

(1) Mark Thompson, “U.S. to Become Biggest Oil Producer – IEA,” CNNMoney, 11/12/12.
(2) http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/02/12/remarks-president-state-union-address.
(3) David Kestenbaum, “Energy Independence Wouldn’t Make Gasoline Any Cheaper”, NPR, 10/26/12.
(4) Gerri Willis,”What Obama Can’t Take Credit For in SOTU,” Fox Business, 1/24/12.
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IRA Charitable Distributions Are Back!

By | 2013, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

For those of you over age 70 ½, a very beneficial tax law is back in the books thanks to the agreement reached by Congress on January 1, 2013. The tax break allows you to donate IRA money directly to a charity and avoid paying any tax on the distribution. Even better, the distribution still counts toward your Required Minimum Distribution.

This tax break was off the books for all of 2012 and then retroactively added in January of 2013 (too little too late). Those who took advantage of it in 2011, or before, will be glad it is back. Officially it is called a Qualified Charitable Distribution or QCD.

So, what is the difference between making a QCD directly to a charity or taking the money and then donating it to the charity personally? Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say Henry decides to withdraw the money first and then donate to a charity. If his required minimum distribution was $10,000, he would have to take the distribution and withhold taxes. For this article, let’s assume Henry must withhold 15% for federal tax and 5% for state tax, or $2,000 in taxes. That means he would get a check for $8,000. Henry would then deposit that check in his checking account and write out a personal check to his charity. Next year Henry would get to include the $8,000 as a deduction on his taxes. However, the deduction only reduces his taxes a fraction of the $8,000.

The other option is for Henry to donate the $10,000 directly to a charity. He doesn’t have to pay anything in taxes and his charity is benefited by the full $10,000. The decision seems to be fairly easy.

If you plan to donate money to a charity and you have to take a Required Minimum Distribution this year, give us a call so we can help you take full advantage of this reinstated tax law.

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