A failed southeast Georgia ethanol factory was sold Tuesday for pennies on the dollar after squandering tens of millions in federal and state tax dollars. Range Fuels, a bankrupt U.S. cellulosic ethanol company, sold its only factory, located in Soperton, Georgia, to LanzaTech, a biofuel company based in New Zealand.
Backed by California billionaire Vinod Khosla, who also bankrolled Range Fuels and lobbied for its federal loans, LanzaTech paid a meager $5.1 million for the deal — a tiny fraction of the financial support it received — and plans to convert the ethanol plant into a factory that will generate chemicals from biomass, in another effort to "transform" the alternative energy industry.
"We have been doing a lot of work on steel mill gases and other gases to ethanol mostly, but in the laboratory we have shown that we can make chemicals," LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said Tuesday in a phone interview. "We don’t have any assets where we can control the feedstock that are large and are able to help us scale up." While the company plans to use the factory to produce biochemicals, it has partnerships in Asia that deal mainly with converting steel mill gases into ethanol, Holmgren added.
The Washington Post’s editorial celebrating the ending of ethanol subsidies iterated the same free-market positions taken by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and other Austrian school economists about those subsidies. Calling the 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit supporting U.S. corn-based ethanol production and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol “two of the most wasteful subsidies ever to clutter the Internal Revenue Code,” the Post estimated that ending those subsidies will save the U.S. taxpayer approximately $6 billion this year.
German airline carrier Lufthansa warned passengers on Monday that the European Union’s (EU) new carbon tax on airlines will translate into higher fares, as the carrier plans to avoid shouldering new costs generated from an EU carbon trading scheme. Analysts say Lufthansa is among the airlines most influenced by the measure, along with rival carriers British Airways, United Continental (the two have merged), Air France, and Singapore Airlines.
Beginning January 1, 2012, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) requires airlines to hold emission rights in the form of CO2 certificates for all flights traveling in and out of Europe. Under a directive intended to tackle alleged climate change, airlines flying in and out of the 27-nation European Union and three neighboring countries will be subjected to CO2 regulations as part of an expansion of the world’s largest carbon market. Any emissions beyond selected allowances must be paid for, while airlines are allowed to trade permits among themselves.
India, China, and a handful of other nations including the United States have protested the measure, as the Obama administration, the aviation industry, and various free market groups have expressed firm discontent. A legal challenge against the ETS, triggered by a handful of U.S. airlines, failed in December when the European Court of Justice shot it down. Some opposing countries have taken actions to combat the initiative:
Even the left-leaning Washington Post has acquired a sour taste over the Obama administration’s deplorable investment in Solyndra, the defunct solar-panel maker that reaped more than $500 million in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees. The administration’s fervor for the so-called "green" energy program, the newspaper noted in a recent article, was "infused" with political motives that spawned reckless policymaking and resulted in millions of wasted taxpayer dollars.
"Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e-mails," the article reads. "Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and officials at the White House."
"The records, some previously unreported, show that when warned that financial disaster might lie ahead, the administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra."
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy just released a study showing that by the time all federal and state loans, grants, subsidies, and tax credits are figured in, each Chevy Volt costs taxpayers upwards of $250,000.
James Hohman, the center’s assistant director of fiscal policy, counted a total of 18 government “deals” but didn’t include the fact that one-quarter of Volt’s manufacturer, General Motors, is owned by the federal government.
He counted not only incentives offered directly to GM or to the ultimate buyer, but also those offered to suppliers of parts and technology for the Volt. The Department of Energy, for example, awarded a $106 million grant to GM’s Brownstone plant that assembles the Volt’s batteries. The State of Michigan awarded $106 million to GM to retain jobs in its Hamtramck assembly plant. And Compact Power, the company that makes the Volt’s batteries, received $100 million in “refundable battery credits.”
Some of the subsidies and credits are extended over varying periods of time and some are dependent upon certain production “milestones” being achieved. He counted them all along with subsidies to companies vying to provide batteries for the Volt such as the support provided to A123 Systems. A123 lost the battery contract to Compact Power, but Hohman included their subsidies in his study as well.
As the debate over the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear technology heats up, commentators are pointing out that just a few years ago, then-President George W. Bush was supplying know-how through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Middle Eastern governments that have a cozy relationship with Iran. In 2008 and 2009, for example, the Bush administration negotiated and signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” to help the sheikdoms of the United Arab Emirates develop nuclear energy capabilities. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finalized the atomic cooperation deal in January of 2009.
The controversial agreement allowed the sale of U.S. nuclear technology and hardware, which can be useful in atomic weapons programs, to the UAE. And the governments of the Emirates as well as the national government have a history of allowing sensitive technologies and materials to flow into the hands of the Iranian regime and other unsavory rulers, according to analysts, who cite lax export-control laws. Several Emirates-based entities have also been implicated in supplying military equipment to Iran.
The Bush administration insisted the security risk of nuclear cooperation with the Emirates was low. Despite concerns in Congress, however, President Obama has largely maintained the same stance.
Due to new federal air pollution regulations, more than 32 power plants across the country will be forced to close their doors, according to a recent Associated Press survey. Those plants, which are mostly coal-fired, discharge enough electricity to supply more than 22 million households, the survey notes, and their closure will lead to job layoffs, depleted tax revenues, and a considerable hike in electric bills. The areas that will be hit hardest are the Midwest and in the coal belt (Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky), where dozens of plants will likely be retired.
Two regulations are in question: One aims to curb air pollution in states downwind from pollutant-heavy power plants; and the second, which was finalized last week, would enact the first standards for mercury, acid gas, and other pollutants from plant smokestacks. In total, the new regulations could eliminate more than eight percent of coal-fired generation nationwide.
AP’s survey, the first of its kind, looked at the analyses by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of plant retirements and interviewed 55 power plant operators about the effects on power supply and about their plans to deal with the new regulations.
The current political debate over “jobs” ignores a vital component of jobs and the economy: Government make-work jobs are simply another form of welfare; jobs produced by the private sector that help the economy are productive jobs. In places like North Dakota, where the economy is now benefiting from an oil boom, the importance of genuinely productive labor has been understood from the beginning of frontier America. The winter wheat farmers of the Dakotas led an unglamorous like of rising before dawn, eating a big breakfast by a hard-working wife who herself had worked long, hard days, and then turning the land into crops. These families created wealth; they work produced goods and services that people wanted.
Perhaps no job in America is more important than generating energy. Yet many parts of West Virginia today have high unemployment because the environmental regulations have made it virtually impossible or cost-prohibitive to extract coal, despite the fact that our nation has a huge reserve of this proven fuel. Oil, however, is considered the most vital fossil fuel for our nation.
Increasing the domestic production of oil would allow our nation to pursue a foreign policy guided only by our wish to remain independent, free, and peaceful. Buying more of our own oil, and less foreign oil, would lower America’s balance of trade as well. Expanding the supply of oil also would put downward pressure on the price of this vitally important product.
The synergetic bond between former House Speakers Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi extends well beyond the 2008 climate-change commercial that has stirred heated criticism among conservatives, as the GOP presidential hopeful has cosponsored 418 bills in Congress with Pelosi. Such a revelation, particularly when coupled with Gingrich’s Freddie Mac connections, liberal-leaning views on illegal immigration, and support for an individual healthcare mandate, underscore Gingrich's waning support for true conservative principles.
Reports indicate that the predominant costs of implementing the Environmental Protection Agency’s new "green" economy regulations are job loss (as coal plants are forced to close) and mass blackouts. President Obama admitted in a 2008 interview that he is intent on shutting down the U.S. coal industry: