|2007-03-08 Columns |
|under the hammer|
Under the Hammer - 3/8/07
|March 08, 2007|
Ethanol is being promoted as the answer to America's dependence on foreign oil. The assumption seems to be that if everyone in the US would use ethanol then we could kiss OPEC and the Middle East goodbye. It's a nice thought but according to studies done by Cornell University and the University of California at Berkley, if all the cars in the US used ethanol instead of gasoline we would actually have to import more foreign oil, not less. The reason is that it takes more energy to produce ethanol than ethanol produces.
One study shows that when you consider all the energy costs in growing corn – including fertilizer, wastewater treatment and transportation – it requires six times more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than a gallon of ethanol yields.
According to another study, 131,000 BTUs are used in the production of one gallon of ethanol, and a gallon of ethanol produces 77,000 BTUs.
In 2001 producing ethanol from corn cost about $1.74 per gallon and producing gasoline cost about 95 cents a gallon. The only reason ethanol can compete is because of heavy government subsidies. Since the price of oil has increased it might seem that the gap has narrowed, but it takes so much oil to produce a gallon of ethanol that the cost of producing ethanol rises along with that of oil.
Some studies show that producing ethanol from corn can actually result in a slight gain in energy, but even ethanol promoters are only claiming a slight gain, which makes you wonder if even in the best case scenario it is worth the effort.
For those who think that all cars should be run on ethanol, if that were the case, 97 percent of the landmass of the United States would have to be used to grow corn. That would mean goodbye to grassy yards and flower gardens – every spec of available land would have to be planted in corn. They'd probably even have to grow corn in the cracks in the sidewalks.
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So Scooter Libby has been convicted of obstruction of justice for evidently getting in the way of an investigation of a crime that was never committed. It's a little hard to follow, but then what in Washington isn't? The special prosecutor was investigating the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to the press, which would have been a crime except Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joe Wilson, was a CIA employee, not a covert agent. She worked for the CIA and evidently this was common knowledge among those who knew her, or those who saw her driving to and from work everyday.
If she wasn't a CIA operative, or in laymen's terms a spy, then no crime was committed in releasing her name to the press, and she wasn't a spy, she worked in the office. It seems like that would be pretty easy to determine, but instead it became the centerpiece of an investigation that cost the American taxpayers millions. The attempt was to catch President Bush's chief political advisor Karl Rove in a dirty-trick type crime, but that didn't happen. As it turned out the leaker was Richard Armitage, Secretary of State Colin Powell's number two man and a well known Washington gossip. He evidently was told that Plame worked at the CIA but was not told that she was a covert operative, perhaps because she wasn't, so it was just an interesting tidbit that he passed along to a columnist.
The original assumption was that the Bush White House had leaked the story about Valerie Plame to the news media in order to get back at Plame's husband, who the CIA sent to Africa to find out if Saddam Hussein had been trying to buy material necessary to make a nuclear bomb, and Wilson reported that Hussein had not.
The whole mess might have been avoided if Armitage had come forward and admitted that he leaked the information. Instead, he told Powell and a State Department attorney, who then told the White House attorney the bare minimum.
The lesson from all this is, don't appoint a secretary of state who is not on your team. If Powell had been a Bush supporter, much of this mess could have been avoided, because Powell would have told Bush that it was his guy who leaked the information, but it was an inadvertent mistake – not an attempt to get back at anyone. Powell and Armitage were both against going into Iraq, so they lined up on Wilson's side and against Bush.
Libby's lawyers are going to request a new trial, and if that doesn't work they will appeal, so it isn't over yet. If Libby actually lied under oath, then he deserves to be punished, but as one who deals in tips and information all the time, I can say that it is incredibly difficult to keep sources straight without notes. I tell people things I've heard and find out I heard it from the person I'm talking to. I also have people call me up and tell me things that I told them the day before. I don't know if Libby lied, but as I understand, it his defense was that he was confused about where he heard what, and that is extremely believable.
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It is unfortunate but I have not read about any big reforms in the state legislature in Raleigh. Former state House Speaker Jim Black has admitted to accepting bribes in men's restrooms, and bribing others in men's restrooms. I never knew that men's restrooms are the places that crooked politicians went to to hand over bags of cash. Are we to believe that the speaker was accepting bribes and bribing others and everyone else in Raleigh was conducting business honestly? It defies common sense.
If that is the way that Black conducted business in the House, and Black has admitted that it was, doesn't it seem reasonable to assume that others in the House in positions of power were doing similar things? Isn't it reasonable to assume that Sen. Marc Basnight from Manteo, who runs the Senate in the same iron-fisted manner that Black used to run the House would also be behaving in a similar manner in men's restrooms?
There needs to be a full-blown independent investigation of the House and Senate, because Black shouldn't have to go to jail alone. If all of these other characters down in Raleigh aren't up to the same tricks, why hasn't there been real reform?
One problem, according to state Rep. John Blust, is that there aren't any rules because the speaker is allowed to overrule any of the rules he doesn't like whenever it suits him. This means that although representatives are supposed to have a chance to offer amendments or comments on a bill, they aren't if the speaker doesn't want them to.
The very least the House needs are some rules where everyone is treated fairly.
The people of North Carolina consistently cast a majority of votes for Republicans in the state House, but because of the way the state has been gerrymandered by the Democrats, the Democrats continue to win a majority of seats in the House. If they don't start out with a majority, they bribe Republicans until they get control.
Blust also explained something about our roads, which I have found baffling for years. Once you get east of Raleigh it is like you have crossed a border and are in a state that has more highway money than it can spend. I have never been able to understand why, with the most heavily populated areas of the state west of Raleigh, the majority of the highway money was going east. Blust explained that the way the highway money is divided up favors land mass over population. Therefore the large eastern counties get buckets of money while the smaller and more densely populated piedmont counties get less than they need – because of the formula.
That formula makes no sense today, but with Basnight from Manteo running the state Senate, it isn't going to change. According to Basnight, a $150 million bridge from Manns Harbor to Manteo is far more important than a crowded dangerous interstate highway between Greensboro and Charlotte. So according to the state, having two bridges from Manns Harbor to Manteo is a priority, but having one safe bridge over the Catawba River is not. It appears the only way reform is going to come to Raleigh is if the people of the state refuse to vote for anyone who was associated with Black, which is a politically correct way of saying throw the Democrats out, because they are stealing the state blind.
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The left likes to talk about how the rich don't pay taxes, and I suppose folks like John Edwards, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton should know from experience just how much in taxes rich people pay. But the reality is that over 52 percent of all federal taxes are paid by the richest 10 percent of the people in the country.
The bottom 50 percent in the income bracket pay next to nothing, which means from 50 percent to 90 percent must pay about 45 percent. It really doesn't sound like the rich pay nothing.
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The Clintons are so despicably good at politics it is frightening. Imagine the audacity of the Clinton campaign demanding that Barack Hussein Obama apologize for a statement made by David Geffen and refund the money Geffen raised for him. I like one of Obama's statements that he wasn't sure how to apologize for something someone else said. The Clintons were, of course, big fans of whatever Geffen happened to be saying when he was raising $18 million for them. It is only when he is raising money for their opponents that he became a bad man.
But the Clintons get away with that kind of audacity because the press loves them. It does appear that the press might have to write about Bill Clinton's speaking schedule. The former president evidently will go anywhere and speak to anyone who will pay his exorbitant fee. Some of his speaking engagements in the Middle East could put the White House in a bad position if the White House were occupied by his spouse.