"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Iowa - protecting the farmer's fuels and the Smithsonian

They were dancing in the streets of Des Moines, Iowa (pic) when US Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), respectively chairman and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Biofuels for Energy Security and Transportation Act of 2007” (S.987). Thus effectively putting a floor under the price of corn, farmers earnings, land values, and boosting the US agrochemical industry and the farm machinery makers.

Following on POTUS's call in the State of the Union speech for the use of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017 they have framed a requirement that increases the required renewable fuel standard from 8.5 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons in 2022 which they place a national upper limit on the use of corn for ethanol of 15 billion gallons and remainder from biomass such cellulosic ethanol, biobutanol and other fuels derived from unconventional biomass feedstocks - crop residue, switchgrass and forestry waste.

Whilst they have stretched the POTUS's time frame by 5 years they do not include coal derived fuels, as he suggested.

Naturally the far sighted farmers of the mid-west have more immediate concerns such as the extending the tax credits that subsidize ethanol and biodiesel and increasing the number of service stations that actually sell the finished product - vehicle fuels with 15% ethanol, or E85 - not that they intend to pay for them - they expect the mineral oil distillers and refiners to sell the stuff in competition to their gasoline.

Corn growers naturally see a 15 Billion gallon limit as unhelpful - "Over the long haul, to say that once we get 15 billion gallons (of corn ethanol) we really don't want any more is not a good thing to do," Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said on hearing the details of the proposed bill.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R and Sen. Tom Harkin, D both representing Iowa ,being good country farmer boys were cautious and protective , Sucking on a corn stalk , "Any focus on making our country less dependent on foreign sources of oil is beneficial as long as it doesn't harm or handcuff the existing industry that is making great strides toward energy independence," said Grassley .

Tom Harkin likes the idea but wants more folks selling the stuff and the car industry (if there is any left by 2017 ) should be made to build more flex-fuel vehicles. Judging by the way they have refused to cut fuel consumption of new vehicles for the last 20 years , he is SOL on that one.

Don't expect this one to swish through on the nod ...there are lots of vested interests at work here, oil, coal, agriculture to name the smaller ones - as well as the Indiana boondogglers building ethanol refineries like Levittowns.

Small problem at the Smithsonian

It's good to see Charles Grassley in the news again - last week he got the Senate to freeze a $17 million Smithsonian budget increase (70% of their funding is federal - US$715 Mn. last year) when he exposed their spending habits , in a report which he had demanded as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee;

Lawrence M. Small, who was previously an executive at Citibank and Fannie Mae, is only the second non-scientist to serve as Smithsonian secretary in the organization's 160 years. On appointment, the Board of Regents said, " his business acumen would help improve the organization's finances."

Well certainly Small saw his finances improve , he saw his salary raised from U$330,000 to US $915,968 (more than the President of Harvard which has endowments 30 times the size of the Smithsonian) and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements for personal expenses, revealed by Inspector General, A. Sprightley Ryan .These included chandelier cleaning and pool heating at his home, payments for a notional mortgage on his home (he owned it outright) chartered jet travel, his wife's trip to Cambodia, hotel rooms, luxury car service, catered staff meals and expensive gifts adn meals a deux with his wife at NY's swanky Cosmos Club . He also received US$1.15 million for making his house available for official functions.

4 days later, on Monday, Small.. er..resigned and Smithsonian Regent Patricia "Patty" Stonesifer, who is also co-chairwoman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and like her husband an ex-Microsoft employee, will head the new Smithsonian governance committee.

PS. "Women of Biofuel" the 2007 calendar still available here BUY NOW (pictures unsuitable for this blog! -WARNING)

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