Friday, December 20, 2013

Corn ethanol on the chopping block?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., are about as opposite politically as two people can be. Nonetheless, last week they joined forces to introduce a bill to repeal the federal requirement to blend corn ethanol into gasoline.

There's something in the ethanol mandate for almost everyone - but corn farmers - not to like. Supporters of the mandate meant well, but the law of unintended consequences has created an odd assortment of anti-ethanol bedfellows.

Environmentalists have turned on corn ethanol. It doesn't reduce greenhouse gases, they now say, and increased corn production has pumped more fertilizer into the water supply. Environmental Working Group Vice President Scott Faber told Congress that the corn ethanol Renewable Fuel Standard "is polluting America's air and water, contributing to climate change, hurting consumers and hindering the development of cleaner biofuels."

Big Oil doesn't like the ethanol standard. Federal automobile fuel-efficiency regulations have put a dent in the demand for gasoline. Oil companies already buy enough ethanol to blend 10 percent of it into gasoline; they are up against a "blend wall" - they have to buy more ethanol than they can use.

Big Food doesn't like the ethanol mandate; diverting roughly 44 percent of the corn supply to gas tanks has driven up the cost of livestock feed and people food. PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts the current renewable-fuel standards will increase costs to chain restaurants by up to $3.1 billion per year.

Antipoverty activists oppose the ethanol standard because of its effect on food prices and food supply. Oxfam America charges that the 2007 regulation has resulted in a 15 percent reduction in global corn supplies.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute and Taxpayers for Common Sense support the Feinstein-Coburn Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013.

According to conventional political wisdom, the Iowa presidential caucus has given ethanol an outsize advantage inside Washington. But the Environmental Working Group's Faber believes that theory doesn't hold water anymore. Former GOP nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney both opposed the scheme.

While voters in the Hawkeye State may support the Renewable Fuel Standard, Faber added, "corn ethanol is unbelievably unpopular" in three key primary states. In New Hampshire, voters blame it for engine damage. In South Carolina, it drives up the cost of raising chickens. There's "not a lot of corn grown in Nevada," but there is livestock.

In response to the growing resentment of the program, the EPA has proposed reducing the Renewable Fuel Standard's biofuels requirement in 2014. That's too little, too late. Feinstein predicts that under the proposed EPA regulations, gasoline prices still would rise, and California dairy farms still would struggle to stay in business.

Maybe there was a time when Washington's ethanol policies seemed smart and green. Now they carry the stench of failed ranches, high food prices and unnecessary environmental damage. So Congress should clean up after its mistake - and quickly.


How the EPA Plans to Kill Jobs and Reduce Your Income

How’s your heating bill? If you feel like you’re not paying enough, you’re in luck.

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pushing new regulations on power plants—regulations that will kill jobs, jack up your energy costs, and even end up reducing families’ income because of the impact on the prices of everything you buy.

As Heritage experts Nicolas Loris, Kevin Dayaratna, and David Kreutzer explain:

    "These regulations will act as a major energy tax that would negatively impact American households. Americans will suffer through higher energy bills, but also through higher prices for goods and services, slowing the economy and crippling the manufacturing sector.

    …It will cost more to heat, cool, and light homes, and to cook meals. These higher energy prices will also have rippling effects throughout the economy. As energy prices increase, the cost of making products rises."

The EPA’s war is against coal, which is the main source of electricity for 21 states. In their research, Heritage experts analyzed a phase-out of coal (thanks to the EPA’s regulations) between 2015 and 2038.

Here are their dire warnings. By the end of 2023, they project:

*    Employment falls by nearly 600,000 jobs (270,000 in manufacturing).

*    Coal-mining jobs drop 30 percent.

*    A family of four’s annual income drops more than $1,200 per year, and its total income drops by nearly $24,400 over the entire period of analysis.

And for what?

Certainly not helping the environment. The authors sum it up: “President Obama’s climate plan would have a chilling effect on the economy, not the climate.”

They explain that “regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions will have no meaningful effect on global climate change. The EPA admitted this in its own proposed rule.”

So—hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, thousands in lost income, higher prices across the board—and “no noticeable climate impact.” That’s what these regulations mean.

It’s important to remember that these rules are being developed by unelected bureaucrats at the whim of the Obama Administration. We’ve already learned that the Administration delayed a number of controversial regulations, including energy-related ones, conveniently until after the 2012 election. Why? Because they’re harmful to Americans.

The authority to make such sweeping changes doesn’t belong to these unelected bureaucrats, the Heritage experts say. Congress should take back its power and prevent these rules from inflicting harm on the economy—and our wallets.


Superpowers Strike Deal Over Fracking

The United States and China have agreed an unprecedented partnership on fracking to accelerate the energy revolution promised by previously unreachable gas reserves.

Under the terms of the deal, agreed after Joe Biden, the US Vice President, visited Asia this month, America will share its expertise to help to promote “sound and rapid” development of Chinese exploration for shale gas.

America’s “shale gale” has already started to alter global dynamics profoundly but the next chapter could prove to be the most spectacular, creating the conditions for co-operation between two superpowers, challenging Russian and Middle Eastern dominance of energy markets, and offering at least a short-term gain in the battle to respond to climate change.

The partnership comes as David Cameron fears that the EU may kill off investment in fracking at a critical moment by demanding new laws to regulate the industry. The UK Government believes shale gas could support 30,000 jobs and cut household bills.

Mr Cameron wrote to José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, warning that “our main competitors are already ahead of us”, citing the US and China.
Fracking is not new — the first experiments using high pressure water jets to open up stubborn layers of sedimentary rock began in the 1940s.

Since 2008, from North Dakota to the Appalachians, forgotten backwaters have become boomtowns as the drillers moved in.

America has gone from paranoia about its dwindling energy supply to the prospect of an abundance of fuel — there is enough shale gas to last a century, according to Government estimates.

Sarah Ladislaw, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, who co-authored a report this year on the potential of fracking in the US, says the resource is enormous and readily available, but people can exaggerate the industry’s importance. “We have climbed down from the peak of hype — it is interesting, but there are limits — shale is not going to save the US economy on its own.

“The biggest significance, is that it has dampened this notion of the US in decline, a predominant theme in a lot of other countries who have been asking, ‘what does it mean if the US is less powerful?’ It tells us, don’t under-estimate the US, because things can happen that even the US didn’t think possible.”

She likens the energy boom to a second stimulus package for the US economy. Fracking probably won President Obama a second term as cheaper fuel bills pushed household disposable income up by $1,200 a year and kept unemployment below the 8 per cent mark, which has been fatal to presidents seeking re-election.


72% of Britons say living standards more important than climate change

Whilst two-thirds of the British population intellectually accepts the reality of manmade climate change, many deny some or all of the associated feelings and responsibilities needed to deal with the issue, according to a new report.

A YouGov poll commissioned for the study found that only 37% of respondents agree their actions are part of the climate change problem. This denial makes it very difficult to create the political will necessary to decarbonise the economy at the scale and speed required, it said.

Additionally, almost two thirds (61%) of participants said economic growth should be a priority even if it has a negative impact on the climate and 72% said their own standard of living was more important than climate change.

The responses suggest that the public is detached from the effects of climate change and don’t realise it poses a threat to public health, national security and the global financial system. This could be linked to that fact that only 60% of respondents had ever talked about climate change, with 71% of these speaking about it for less than ten minutes.

The report, A New Agenda on Climate Change, written by the RSA’s Social Brain Centre, calls for the climate change debate to be reframed and demands that politicians and businesses take leadership on the issue.

Dr Jonathan Rowson, author of the report and director of the RSA Social Brain Centre, commented, “The human response to climate change in unfolding as a political tragedy because scientific knowledge and economic power are pointing in different directions.

“There is a moral imperative to act, and the main barriers are not those who question the scientific consensus, but those who ‘get it’ but don’t give their politicians the mandate they need to act with strategic conviction.”

The report argues that the solution not only needs governments to connect with the public but that citizens need to challenge governments more in order to make changes to the energy supply of the country. Public action is hindered by six reasons, according to the study, including the belief that climate change doesn’t really matter in the UK and that actions will have no impact

Rowson added, “It’s not about being ‘green’, it’s about being more honest and strategic about the causes and impacts of the problem.”

The report concluded that a mixture of vested interests, political paralysis and civic ambiguity has caused the lack of progress on climate change.


China Discovers Major Methane Hydrate Reserve In South China Sea

 China said it has identified a major gas hydrate reserve in the northern part of the South China Sea, joining a small group of nations in the world seeking to tap a potentially vast future source of energy.

China started studies of gas hydrate in 2002 when the government listed it as a national research project.

There is currently no technology to commercially unlock the energy also known as “flammable ice”, gas frozen in ice-like crystals buried deep under the oceans and experts say commercial, scaled development could be beyond 2030.

China’s Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) announced on Tuesday it had found a gas hydrate reserve that spans 55 square kms (34 square miles) in the Pearl River Mouth basin with controlled reserve equivalent to 100-150 billion cubic metres (bcm) natural gas, according to a report carried on the ministry’s website (

That would be the size of a major conventional natural gas field, like in China’s top gas province Sichuan.

Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey Bureau, an MLR unit, collected samples of “high purity” gas hydrates over nearly four months of surveys and drilling of 23 wells in the waters off south China’s Guangdong province.

Two gas hydrate layers with a thickness of 15-30 metres were found just below the seabed, which was at a depth of 600 to 1,000 metres.

“It marks a breakthrough in investigating the resource and proves that the Pearl River Mouth basin is rich in gas hydrate,” the report said, adding China becomes the fourth country in the world to have collected sample of the methane hydrate after the U.S., Japan and India.


Australian Greens ignore Israel's rights

The Australian Green party is full of old Commos and Trots  -- JR

WHEN Norman Finkelstein, an icon of the anti-Israel movement, blasted the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign as a "duplicitous, disingenuous cult", his words were met with a great sense of betrayal among the campaign's adherents. After all, Finkelstein was once revered as a veteran campaigner who, among many other things, called Israel a "satanic state".

Finkelstein had experienced no great awakening. At the centre of his disassociation with the BDS movement, which has hijacked the Palestinian cause, is what he calls a "deliberate ambiguity" on Israel's basic right to exist. In Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, Australia has its own longstanding supporter of the anti-Israel movement. Unfortunately, the leaders of BDS in Australia have yet to heed Finkelstein's advice to be open about their aims and to cease their selective application of international law.

During a typically vitriolic and hateful speech in the Senate earlier this month, Rhiannon urged Australia "to cease military co-operation and trade with Israel ... as a small but significant step". In a new and bizarre line of attack, Rhiannon justifies this call on the basis that Israel perpetuates war and conflict to battle-test its weapons for "public marketing by the Israeli arms industry" as a means of boosting its sale of weapons to countries like Australia.

In her latest allegations, one detects a near pathological aversion to the Jewish state. As one would expect from Rhiannon, nowhere does she recognise that Israel has a very real and genuine need to defend itself. Nor does she entertain the idea that the Israeli army could have any legitimate defence function whatsoever.

To be sure, Israel exists only because it has defended itself from three invasions, two intifada, Iranian proxy campaigns, numerous border incursions, and the constant threat of war from enemies who do not bother to veil their desires to destroy Israel in the misappropriated language of human rights. This is the function of the Israeli army.

While presented as a pacifist's rebuke to militarism, Rhiannon's argument is steeped in double standards. If she opposes militarism in all its forms, why is Israel the only country with which Australia should sever military ties? If indeed her message is one of peace and demilitarisation, one could have expected her to start by calling for the disarming of a state less vulnerable than Israel.

There is also an uncomfortable inconsistency between Rhiannon's assault on Israel's means of defence and her history of support for the Soviet Union, which built and maintained an empire through force and coercion and whose arms exports had a uniquely deleterious impact on the world, not least in the Middle East. In the 1980s, shortly after Rhiannon led solidarity delegations to the Soviet Union, Moscow was responsible for 34 per cent of the world's arms trade, and supplied such states as Libya, Syria and Iraq. This is precisely the sort of hypocrisy to which Finkelstein refers.

While the anti-Israel movement goes to great lengths to demonstrate that its hatred of the Jewish state should not be mistaken for a hatred of the Jewish people, it is deeply troubling that Rhiannon's latest assault casts the Jewish state in a historically dubious and familiar light. The image of the Jew as a war profiteer, conspirator and driven solely by money is steeped in anti-Jewish tradition and it is alarming that such accusations have now been evoked and transferred to the Jewish collective, the state of Israel. Senator Rhiannon and her peers in the anti-Israel movement should recognise that advancing Palestinian rights does not need the denial of Israel's right to exist as a national home for the Jewish people.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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