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 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.
Fraudulent 2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill Claims6:10 PM, Feb 20, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
A former IRS tax examiner was indicted Friday along with three conspirators
Secessionism on the left.Feb 23, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 23 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
Rivers have rights, they say down in Mora County, New Mexico—“inalienable and fundamental rights,” beyond the power of any government to touch. Aquifers, too. Wetlands, streams, ecosystems, and even “natural communities,” whatever that undefined term means: All of them have rights to “exist and flourish.” The land itself has an “intrinsic right” to “exist without defilement.”
12:01 AM, Feb 7, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
We should “stop thinking about the economy as being in a perpetual crisis” commented Charles Plosser, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, after the government announced on Friday that the private sector added 267,000 jobs in January, and that upward revisions to November and December data brought total job creation in 2014 to over three million.
The politics of oil Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
"We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” As recently as two years ago, that’s what the president was saying—with his usual self-assurance—about the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and on oil in general. And he wasn’t the only one. The line was widely echoed on the political left, where the instinctive feeling is that petroleum is poison. It helped that the opposition, led by archvillainess Sarah Palin, was meanwhile chanting, “Drill, baby, drill.”
What more proof was needed?
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.
2:22 PM, Feb 3, 2015 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI AND STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Following the death of King Abdullah Bin Abd Al-Aziz, at 90 or 91, on the night of January 22-23, Saudi Arabia is very likely to continue its policies of opposition to Iran and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and its participation in the coalition effort against the Islamic State. These alignments are not an expression of mere rivalry between Sunni Saudis and Shia Iranians, or between Saudi fundamentalists and ISIS radicals.
2:33 PM, Dec 30, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The economic news has been getting better, especially regarding the price of oil. Which the consumer sees as what he forks over at the pump. And that, as we all know, is one price the trend of which we follow every day.
2:29 PM, Dec 29, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
We’re hearing from all over just how good things are – and are becoming ever more so – and how on top of the game the president is. There is that 5 percent GDP growth last quarter and an unemployment rate that has dropped below 6 percent (the bar has, obviously, been lowered) and the stock market is burning it up.
7:35 AM, Dec 27, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
An estimated 90 million of us will drive 50 miles or more during this holiday season, and recent years’ gnashings of teeth at the pump are being replaced with smiles. The price of gasoline is down 36 percent since April, to a national average of around $2.40 per gallon, with some cities reporting prices of below $2.
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:
9:31 AM, Dec 18, 2014 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
The fiesta is over. Mexico, a remarkably important nation of some 120 million people—indeed, the world’s fifteenth largest economy—is descending into crisis. Students have been slaughtered en masse with the complicity of a corrupt police force. The country’s young president and his finance minster are embroiled in a corruption scandal. And the recent fall in oil prices—which looks set to continue—only portends further suffering.