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Ethanol Loses its Few Friends

By Marita Noon - oilpro.com Posted November 16th, 2015
Member, Our America Initiative Advisory Council on Energy & Environment

Early in his campaign, now top-tier Republican presidential candidate, Ben Carson, supported ethanol—a position for which I called him out. It has long been thought, that to win in Iowa, a candidate must support ethanol.


However, in a major policy reversal, Carson told a national audience during the CNBC GOP debate that he no longer supports subsidies for any industry, including U.S. ethanol producers: “I have studied that issue in great detail and what I’ve concluded, the best policy is to get rid of all government subsidies and get the government out of our lives and let people rise and fall based on how good they are.”


Plainly irritated, the ethanol industry shot back immediately, saying it receives no government subsidies. But it neglected to mention a very important fact. Instead of subsidies, ethanol producers get something better: a mandate that orders refiners to blend ethanol into motor fuels which forces consumers to buy their product. A federally guaranteed market beats a subsidy every time.


The ethanol industry also benefits indirectly from agriculture programs that support farmers who grow corn for ethanol. And recently, the Obama Administration announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering $100 million in grants tosubsidize the installation of blender pumps at gas stations all over the country.


In attempt to push more ethanol into the motor fuel market, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) readily admits it plans to “drive growth in renewable fuels by providing appropriate incentives. (Italics added.)”


Carson, and a majority of Republicans and many Democrats, knows the ethanol mandate is a do-gooder program that has gone horribly wrong.  Enacted by a well-meaning Congress, in a different energy era, it is part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires refiners to add biofuels to gasoline and diesel—ostensibly to reduce imports of foreign oil. This multi-headed hydra is siphoning money from consumers’ pockets.


The ethanol mandate has been blamed for rising food prices—particularly for beef and poultry—because it has increased the cost of animal feed. Ethanol-blended fuel provides fewer miles per gallon because ethanol contains only two-thirds as much energy as gasoline, forcing motorists to fill up more often.


The mandate puts at risk millions of vehicles owned and operated by private citizens and fleets. Ethanol is corrosive. In tests, it has been proven to eat engine components, including seals and gaskets, causing expensive repairs. The government does not reimburse motorists for their loss; rather it is allowing—in fact, encouraging—the sale of fuels containing more and more ethanol.


Most vehicles on the road today can withstand E10, a gasoline blend containing up to 10 percent ethanol, but the EPA has granted a “partial waiver” for the sale of 15 percent blends. AAA advises owners of non-flex-fuel vehicles to avoid E15, warning that manufacturers will void their warranties. Although the EPA maintains that 2001 model-year and newer vehicles can safely use E15, studies by the prestigious Coordinating Research Council found that E15 caused engine damage to some of the EPA-approved vehicles, leading to leaks and increased emissions.


Likewise, marine engine makers also caution boat owners to avoid E15. During winter storage, they suggest pouring a fuel stabilizer into built-in gas tanks to avoid problems. A survey of boat owners has shown ethanol-related repairs cost an average of about $1,000.


These days, ethanol has few friends. Opponents include such strange bedfellows as the petroleum, restaurant, livestock and auto industries—and environmental groups.


Despite government claims to the contrary, studies show ethanol also harms the environment. Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) discovered the EPA grossly understated the amount of carbon spewed into the air by the expansion of corn farming. This month, the EWG found the corn-ethanol mandate is discouraging advanced biofuels development, which could have environmental benefits.


These are just some of the problems. There’s also the EPA’s complicated Renewable Identification Number (RIN) trading scheme, which allows refiners to buy ethanol credits when not enough is available for purchase. This poorly managed program has allowed phony ethanol companies to sell fictitious credits and abscond with millions of dollars. And then there were the huge fines levied against oil companies for failing to add cellulosic ethanol to gasoline although the advanced fuel did not exist in commercial quantities—even according to the EPA’s own data.


All of these costs have an impact on consumers who buy fuel and for taxpayers who pay the salaries of the bureaucrats who administer the RFS program. Yet the RFS continues to stumble along because Congress has not mustered the will to repeal it.


By November 30, the administration must finalize the amount of biofuels that must be blended into motor fuels in the next couple of years. A pitched battle is developing on Capitol Hill. On one side are those who want an even larger market share for ethanol. On the other side are those who see the program for what it is—a massive payout to one allegedly “green” industry.


The latter group includes more than 180 Washington lawmakers, including Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), who have sent a letter to the administration asking it to “limit the economic and consumer harm this program has already caused.” Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT.) was more direct. “We’ve got to just acknowledge that the corn-based mandate is a well-intended flop,” he said.

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By  - fff.org Posted November 16th, 2015

Many in the media and some among the voting public are focused, now, on the field of candidates who are offering themselves as the presidential nominees of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Every few weeks those on the Republican side have been confronting each other in television news-bite talking sessions that are loosely called “debates.” The candidates lash out at each other with one-line zingers and frequent insults; they search for rhetoric-filled summaries of how each differs from the others on various “hot-topic” issues from immigration and foreign policy to getting government spending under control; at the same time they assure the viewers that each of them has the silver bullet to “create jobs,” make America strong, and restore the American dream.

Republican Contenders Begging to be Chosen

One presents himself as a loud-mouth boor; another as a born-again “saint”; another as a tough as nails business executive who knows how to cut other world leaders down to size; still others assertively say they have the hard won “experience” to do what is necessary since they have been a state governor or a senator in Congress – as if being a professional politician should be considered a positive employment recommendation!

This is often wrapped in accounts of the life stories of their families, their careers, and how qualified they are to “lead” the country back to “greatness.” Their voices often quiver with the desperate attempt to persuade the viewer-voters that they are really qualified to become president of the United States and “run the country.” Their faces sometimes pathetically cry out, “Please, please, pick me, pick me.”

How sad to see human beings so anxious to win and fearful of losing the chance to sit in that chair in the Oval Office of the White House. Watching some of them becomes uncomfortably embarrassing as they either grovel or arrogantly cling to the hope of becoming “history.”

Democratic Contenders Pursuing Power and Fantasies

The Democratic candidates offer a slightly different variation on this theme. With lies, deceptions, and corruption dripping in her wake, the leading Democratic hopeful acts with occasional false modesty that she has a “right” to win the race to the White House. After all, is she not a women and isn’t time for the female affirmative action quota to take the presidential oath of office? Besides, she “earned” it; didn’t she suffer the humiliation of that philandering and power-lusting husband of hers? This is national “pay-back” for those eight long years in the White House as First Lady. Plus, that power-lusting desire, after all, seems to run in this family.

Then there is the almost comical throwback to the 1970s notion of “socialism with a human face.” Babbling on about ‘fairness” and “social justice,” he lives in a la-la land of ideological fantasy and deep psychological denial about how reality works if you actually want freedom and prosperity. He lives in a dream world in which government control and command is made to seem to have nothing to do with the use of force without which his egalitarian utopia cannot be successfully imposed.

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Terrorism Deaths Quadrupled Under President Obama

By Chriss Street

Under President Obama’s Administration, the worldwide number of annual terrorist has more than quadrupled since he was inaugurated in January 2009.  

Deaths from terrorism increased 80 percent last year to an all-time-record of 32,658 people killed, compared to 18,111 in 2013. The number is up about 426 percent from the 7,654 killed by terrorists in 2008 under President Bush, according to the latest report from ‘Vision of Humanity.’

The 2014 economic cost of 13,370 terrorist attacks in 93 countries, included property damage, medical costs, lost income for victims, and indirect costs of preventing and responding to terrorist acts. The annual “Global Terrorism Index” report estimated those costs hit an all-time-high in 2014 of $52.9 billion.

Boko Haram and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant were jointly responsible for 51 percent of all claimed global terrorist fatalities in 2014. About 57 percent of all the attacks and 78 percent of all the deaths occurred in the five nations of Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.


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Putting Income Inequality in Perspective

By CHELSEA GERMAN and MARIAN L. TUPY - cato.org Posted November 10th, 2015

Debates about income inequality, “the top 1 percent,” and poverty typically examine those issues within the context of a single country. But, consider a global perspective. This web tool lets you find out which income percentile you belong to relative to all the other people in the world. If you make more than $32,400 per year, you are in the top 1 percent of the richest people in the world! 

And, bear in mind that the world is more prosperous than it has ever been in the past. Compared to you, the vast majority of people who have lived on this planet were desperately poor. Poverty, as Cato’s David Boaz put it in this online lecture, used to be ubiquitous. “Why are some people poor? That’s always the wrong question. The question is why are some people rich? Poverty is the natural condition of mankind, but it’s easy to forget that.” 

Fortunately, prosperity is rising and global inequality decreasing. Even as the world population has exploded, the number of people living in poverty has fallen. As a result of spreading prosperity, infant mortalityilliteracy, and malnutrition are in decline, and people are living longer. Extreme poverty’s end is in sight.

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Free Trade Has Destroyed American Manufacturing

By Gary North - garynorth.com Posted November 4th, 2015

This criticism of free trade is wrong.

To understand why it is wrong, first consider this chart of the per capita output of American manufacturing. It is not a chart that most Americans have ever seen. Economist Mark Perry has provided it.



He also provides another chart that shows manufacturing output in the five major manufacturing nations.



American manufacturing is a remarkable success. Yet it flourishes within a low-tariff/sales tax framework. It gets more efficient. Firms hire fewer workers to maintain their productivity. That is what efficiency is all about: a reduction in the the price of inputs for any level of output.

Nevertheless, there are never-ending demands from protectionists, who want the federal government to impose sales taxes on imported goods. These demands go back to 17th-century mercantilism. They believe that higher taxes promote economic prosperity. Politically conservative protectionists know that their call for higher taxes will be resisted by other political conservatives, so they do not call these sales taxes "sales taxes". They call them tariffs. By concealing the economic growth-reducing nature of these sales taxes behind a politically and traditionally acceptable word, they gain support from conservatives who have never studied free market economics, beginning with their complete ignorance about Adam Smith's anti-mercantilist book,Wealth of Nations (1776).

Here is what protectionists focus on: only about 10% of the American economy is based on manufacturing.

To understand the importance -- meaning unimportance -- of this statistic, look at this chart. It is posted here.

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TGIF: Trump's Operation Police State

By Sheldon Richman - sheldonfreeassociation.blogspot.com Posted November 13th, 2015

If elected president, Donald Trump says he would create a "deportation force" to carry out his pledge to expel more than 11 million people from the United States merely because they lack government permission to be here. "We have no choice if we're going to run our country properly and if we're going to be a country," he said during the Republican debate Tuesday night.

Wrong on both counts.

Of course we have a choice. We can choose not to deport the 11 million individuals, the vast majority of whom have never harmed anyone. On the contrary, they've produced and purchased goods and services, not to mention enriching their communities. And the last time I looked, the presence of those peaceful folks has not kept us from being a country. (If not being a country means there's no government to bomb and deport people, then put me down for that.)

Once again, Trump's words bear no resemblance to reality. We should be used to this by now. He's the Bullshitter-in-Chief.

Fortunately, most if not all of his rivals think mass deportation is an insane idea -- not that they're any great shakes on immigration. They all support "securing the border," and I can't recall any of them condemning government sanctions for private enterprises that hire people who lack government papers (E-Verify).

Before continuing with Trump's horrendous proposal, we ought to acknowledge that Ted Cruz also distinguished himself on this issue during the debate when he said, to hearty applause:

I understand that when the mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn't often see it as an economic issue. But, I can tell you for millions of Americans at home watching this, it is a very personal economic issue. And, I will say the politics of it will be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande. Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press. Then, we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation. [Emphasis added.]

If, as I've been told, Cruz in his younger years attended seminars on free-market economics, we can chalk up his nativist fear-mongering to sheer demagoguery (or perhaps poor memory) rather than economic illiteracy. Where is this economic calamity from immigration? If you think immigrants generally and substantially depress wages, see Bryan Caplan hereBen Powell here, and Dave Bier here. Spoiler alert: the leading anti-immigration labor economist says the worst harm is a long-run 4.8 percent wage decline for high school dropouts; gainers include high-school graduates and those with some college education. As an economist friend says, if an unskilled Mexican who can't speak English threatens your job, you've got a bigger problem than immigration. (See more articles here. If you like video, see this.)

But back to Trump and mass deportation. The first thing to note is that it would cost a hell of a lot of money. Ben Gitis andLaura Collins of the American Action Forum write,

Depending on how the government conducts its apprehensions, it would need to spend $100 billion to $300 billion arresting and removing all undocumented immigrants residing in the country, a process that we estimate would take 20 years. In addition, to prevent any new undocumented immigrants going forward, the government would at a minimum have to maintain current immigration enforcement levels. This results in an additional $315 billion in continuing enforcement costs over that time period.
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A Libertarian Platform for Silicon Valley

By Ryan Hagemann 

Libertarians have a tech problem.

Although many stalwarts of the “digerati,” such as Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen, have publicly declared their sympathies for libertarian ideas, libertarians have largely failed to capture the attention of Silicon Valley. And Silicon Valley has in turn failed to capture the attention of libertarians. The reason for this east-west coast divide is multi-pronged.

On the one hand, west coast libertarians are doers. These are the tinkerers, hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and generally non- or less-political libertarian types. The gamut of education ranges from self-taught high school dropouts to Ivy League valedictorians; they can be both graduates (like the aforementioned Thiel) and dropouts (such as Elizabeth Holmes, another billionaire tech entrepreneur) of Stanford University. Their creations and products help drive the modern digital economy, and their beacons are disruptive and innovative change.

Alternatively, east coast libertarians tend to fall more into the thinkers category. This is to say that they are, by and large, more academic, focused on research and writing, and much more engaged in the political process. Their brand of libertarianism is focused far more skewed in engaging with governing networks, power structures, or the media as a means of fostering changes in the public consciousness.

How then do east coast and west coast libertarians bridge these gaps? The truth is that  east coast libertarians have largely failed to effectively and properly engage their west coast brethren.

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The Americans with Disabilities Act: Failure at Its Supposed Public Policy Purpose

By Brian Doherty - Reason.com Posted November 17th, 2015

Economist Scott Sumner takes a look at the success of the Americans with Disabilities Act in its own terms and finds it wanting.


I noticed this in a paper by David H. Autor and Mark Duggan:

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) forcefully articulates this contemporary view of disability: "Physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person's right to fully participate in all aspects of society... The Nation's proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals."

Later they report the effects of the legislation:

As documented in Figures 6a and 6b, the employment rate of males in their forties and fifties with a self-reported disability fell from 28 percent in 1988 to 16 percent in 2008 (approximately a 40 percent decline). The employment rate of comparably aged males without a disability held roughly constant at 87 to 88 percent. For females in this same age range with disabilities, the employment rate declined slightly (from 18 to 15 percent) while the employment rate of their counterparts without a disability rose from 66 to 76 percent.
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This Isn't America's First Freakout Over Refugees

By Jesse Walker - Reason.com Posted November 17th, 2015

As refugees flee the brutal chaos in Syria, their plight has prompted a lot of talk about the Jews who fled Germany in the Nazi era. Sometimes the people who raise the topic are highlighting the parallels; other times they're trying to draw distinctions. But one similarity between the situations hasn't gotten as much attention as it should. Both crises fed the fears of foreign infiltration that havelong lurked within American culture.

In the late 1930s and early '40s, Americans saw Nazi agents everywhere. In August of 1940—more than a year before Pearl Harbor—Gallup's pollsters knocked on people's doors and asked, "Without mentioning any names, do you think there are fifth columnists in this community?" Forty-eight percent said yes, some of their neighbors were probably secret agents; just 26 percent said no. Those suspicions often extended to the refugee population. The Saturday Evening Post told its readers that Nazis "disguised as refugees" were working around the world as "spies, fifth columnists, propagandists or secret commercial agents." Similar stories appeared in such organs as Reader's Digest and American Magazine, with the latter running a feature that bore the calm, collected headline "Hitler's Slave Spies in America."

The idea in that piece was that the agents among the refugees didn't want to do Hitler's bidding. They simply had no choice, because otherwise their relatives back home would be in danger—an approach the article called a "blitzkreig of blackmail." This theory was endorsed by no less than President Franklin Roosevelt, who said at a press conference that refugees ("especially Jewish refugees") could be pressed into Nazi service with the words "we are frightfully sorry, but your old father and mother will be taken out and shot."

Constitutional Educational LeagueThose worries turned out to be overblown. In Insidious Foes: The Axis Fifth Column and the American Home Front, the historian Francis MacDonnell concludes that "Axis operations in the United States never amounted to much, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation easily countered the 'Trojan Horse' activity that did exist....Though the Germans practiced espionage, sabotage, and subversion in United States, their efforts were modest and almost uniformly unsuccessful." InAmerican Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933–1945, Richard Breitman and Alan Kraut point out that "fewer than one-half of one percent of all refugees arriving from Nazi-Soviet territory in 1940" fell under enough suspicion to be brought in for questioning; just a fraction of those were indicted, and "most of those were violation of immigration regulations rather than espionage."

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Smart on Crime

By: Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) - Honorary Board Member of Our America Initiative
I put forth realities on how we could have safer and more crime-free communities by being Smart on Crime.  What follows are specific things we all can do to achieve those goals:
1.        Stop "Over-criminalization!"  Many jurisdictions have turned their police and traffic laws into fundraising mechanisms.  Not only does this frequently weigh disproportionally upon the poor, it also directly results in anger and distrust against law enforcement in general.  In addition, large fines, coupled with additional penalty assessments, often result in unpayable amounts of money being owed by many people.  And if it is not paid, that inevitably results in additional fines and even being subject to arrest.  So the cycle perpetuates itself.
2.       Arrests should be seen as a last resort, just like in medicine, where surgery is seen as the last resort.  Furthermore, if people are arrested, bail should be reasonable.  That includes the proposition that suspect who are not a threat to anyone and are highly likely to appear in court should be released upon their written promise to appear.  (Actually, this is the normal rule of law, but often bail is still required.)
3.       Repeal Mandatory Minimum Sentences.  No one can determine in advance a reasonable punishment without knowing who the perpetrators are, their backgrounds, who the victims are and how badly, if at all, they were harmed.  But these "automatic" punishments often result in obscenely long sentences that are truly unfair to the defendants, their families and also the taxpayers.
4.       Body cameras on the uniforms of the police result in better conduct both by the police and also by the people in the community.  And that frequently also results in the exoneration of police officers who are charged with misconduct.
5.       Community Policing.  Get the police back to being peace officers instead of law enforcement officers.  That includes repealing the failed policy of the so-called War on Drugs, because that often results in the police treating drug violators like the "enemy."
6.       Repeal "Policing for Profit."  In other words, change the civil asset forfeiture laws to require a criminal conviction before anyone's property can be forfeited to the government.  And when this does occur, the forfeited property must be placed into the general fund instead of police coffers.  Clearly our police must be fully funded for the protection of us all, but they should not have a financial incentive to forfeit property.
7.       If non-violent offenders have drug addiction or mental illness problems, but otherwise are not hurting anyone but themselves, they should be referred to medical assistance, not the criminal justice system. 
                Being Smart on Crime by providing reasonable assistance to help people live more productive lives, as well as bringing our police back into the peace officer business, will not only enhance Liberty for everyone, it will make all of us safer and even reduce taxes along the way.
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