5:29 PM, Apr 20, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The original corn laws put tariffs on imported grain in an effort to help domestic producers. That was nearly two centuries ago, in England, and the experiment is taught as an example of bad economic policy. But people never learn and in this country, today, we have the renewable fuel mandates which have been a boon to corn farmers in Iowa (among other states) where presidential candidates are obliged to speak in favor of a policy that is a drag just about everywhere else in the country. The ill effects include higher gas prices, poor engine performance in automobiles, and damage to smaller engines found in chain saws, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers.
So, as Amy Harder at the Wall Street Journal writes,
In a report published Thursday, Harvard University professor Jim Stock, who served on President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers in 2013 and 2014, proposes several reforms to the biofuels mandate, known as the renewable fuel standard, including some requiring congressional approval.
Just as policy, how bad is the current scheme?
Under the law, which was expanded in 2007, the standards require refineries to blend an increasingly large amount of biofuels into gasoline to reach 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022. No more than 15 billion gallons of that total can come from corn, which today is within one billion gallons of that limit.
The additional 21 billion gallons by 2022 are supposed to come from advanced biofuels made from non-corn products, but that sector is falling far short of producing what Congress had envisioned. The industry produced 1.9 billion gallons of fuel in 2014, with 1.7 billion gallons coming from biodiesel and 180 million gallons from other alternative fuels—far less than the 3.75 billion gallons the 2007 law had initially required for the year.
The EPA is almost two years behind issuing the requirements for 2014 and at least six months late with the 2015 requirements, partly a recognition that the biofuels market has not performed as the law assumed. Bound by a legal agreement announced last week, the agency is planning to propose the levels for 2014-2016 by June 1.
Other than that ...
The five hidden ways you’re paying to subsidize renewable power. Apr 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 31 • By BRIAN H. POTTS
Do you want to know how to beat the stock market? In 46 of America’s 50 largest cities, installing a fully financed, typical-sized, residential solar power system will do just that, according to a Department of Energy-backed study released earlier this year. In other words, by investing in solar panels, most homeowners will save more in electric costs over the next 25 years (the approximate life of the system) than they would earn from investing the same money in the stock market over that same time period.
The Hawkeye state is first, don’t think about cutting in line. Big corn will crush you.1:05 PM, Mar 22, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Iowa took umbrage, last week, over something an operative for Scott Walker said. Or, to be precise, something she once tweeted. For her indiscretion, Liz Mair was forced to resign from Walker’s political action committee. Walker is not yet an officially declared candidate for president but that is just political coyness.
1:05 PM, Mar 20, 2015 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
In his annual statement marking the Persian new year, President Obama said he believes that Iran and the U.S. “should be able” to resolve the dispute over the mullahs’ nuclear program “peacefully, with diplomacy.”
12:55 PM, Mar 20, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
To hear administration officials tell it, the "fourth quarter" of the Obama presidency will be focused on economic growth and what the president calls “middle-class economics.” Brian Deese, senior advisor to the president on climate and energy, emphasized this at a Friday breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
Time to counter the Saudis with a tariff? Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
We are in a war with Saudi Arabia—and losing. The Saudis aim to regain substantial control of our oil supply by driving from the industry many of our shale-oil-producing frackers who have reduced the power conveyed to the kingdom’s rulers by the underground ocean of oil on which their palaces sit. And we seem prepared to let them do just that, by failing to do what is necessary to prevent a reversal of the major strides we have made to get out from under the boot of an avaricious oil cartel.
3:54 PM, Dec 19, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Thanks to (mostly) fracking you can not only drive to work for less than before, you may now be writing a smaller check to cover the mortgage. As the Wall Street Journal reports:
2:43 PM, Dec 16, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
As if the plunging price of oil were not enough to doom the market for electric and hybrid automobiles, there is this from ABC News:
9:21 AM, Nov 5, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
While the nation was focused on the mid-term elections Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the Johns Hopkins School