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March 2008
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May 2008

Siphoning Off Corn to Fuel Our Cars

Interesting article in the Washington Post on the consequences of pushing for more ethanol in gasoline. Keeps the price down for cars (good for votes) and makes farmers richer (the "corn lobby" is very strong in the US).

Link: Siphoning Off Corn to Fuel Our Cars -

Across the country, ethanol plants are swallowing more and more of the nation's corn crop. This year, about a quarter of U.S. corn will go to feeding ethanol plants instead of poultry or livestock. That has helped farmers like Johnson, but it has boosted demand -- and prices -- for corn at the same time global grain demand is growing.

This is part of a series. The article refers to a publication in Science (Feb 29/08):

Although ethanol was once promoted as a way to slow climate change, a study published in Science magazine Feb. 29 concluded that greenhouse-gas emissions from corn and even cellulosic ethanol "exceed or match those from fossil fuels and therefore produce no greenhouse benefits." By encouraging an expansion of acreage, the study added, the use of U.S. cropland for ethanol could make climate conditions dramatically worse. And the runoff from increased use of fertilizers on expanded acreage would compound damage to waterways all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

An abstract of the article is here, and a link to the podcast -live or transcript, is here.

New Scientist has a good summary of this too, here.

The New York Times has a related Op-ed - "Dumb as we wanna be" - discussing the proposal by Clinton and McCain to just cancel Federal gas excise taxes for the summer. Would stave off rising food prices somewaht, and also let American's drive to the cottage worry free this summer. Crisis? What crisis? Article says in part: 

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.

When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.

The NYT also has an article on Obama's postition that this is only a short term fix:

Mr. Obama derided the McCain-Clinton idea of a federal tax holiday as a “short-term, quick-fix” proposal that would do more harm than good, and said the money, which is earmarked for the federal highway trust fund, is badly needed to maintain the nation’s roads and bridges.

The Speech Police Tackle a Subdivision

Found this in The Washington Post. Apparently when two or more people associate in Colorado to advocate a political position, and spend more than $200, they become an "issue committee".

Link: George F. Will - The Speech Police Tackle a Subdivision -

Ugly locutions often crop up in the promotion of ugly politics. Consider the threat of "scrutinization." It has been made against some residents of Parker North, Colo., who expressed a political opinion without first getting their state government's permission for political activity. Herewith another example of what is being done around the nation in the name of political hygiene, as that is understood by "campaign finance reformers," those irksome improvers whose animating ideology is McCainism.

The downside of that free Crackberry from your boss

This was an interesting letter to "The Corporate Governess", asking for advice on when to turn off that link to the corporate demands. 

Link: No time out and there's no time like the present.

A recent British study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard concluded that the barrage of e-mails, calls and instant messages modern workers experience can lower IQ by 10 points on average—about the same as when you don't get a good night's sleep. As a matter of fact, a good sleep is something most BlackBerry addicts could use.