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OpenMarket: Brian McGraw

  • Peer-to-Peer Visa Payments Coming to the U.S.

    March 18, 2011
    Assuming this system works well, it will have an enormous impact on cash transfers -- revolutionizing the way Americans dine out, the amount of cash we carry, etc. The friend who promises to pay you back when you're out to eat but never actually does? He will need to come up with a new excuse. It's amazing that this is the first time such a (useful) idea will potentially become widespread in the United States, as it already exists in other countries:
    But our long national post-meal nightmare may be nearing an end. On Wednesday, Visa announced a new person-to-person payment system that could transform how we pay our babysitters, split our checks, and reimburse our friends. Starting...
  • Labor Unions Join Fight Against EPA Regulations

    March 17, 2011
    This is a few days old, but it's worth mentioning: "EPA Tangles With New Critic: Labor."

    The labor unions were supportive of the Waxman-Markey bill in the House, and are clearly much more aligned with Democrats than Republicans, especially given the collective bargaining issues that have emerged in the past month. However, they aren't supportive of EPA's current efforts to regulate...
  • Pro-Ethanol Legislation Introduced in the Senate

    March 14, 2011
    Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) introduced legislation last week to provide more support to the biofuel industry. This would counter a number of bills introduced recently intending curb biofuel incentives (here, here). Fortunately, support for this kind of bill does not seem to be in the pipeline, so it must mostly be for show.

    The "Securing America’s Future with Energy and Sustainable Technologies Act" (SAFEST) is bold. Rather than picking one or two things the ethanol industry was interested in, it throws them everything they've ever dreamed of.

    Let's look at a few...
  • Unintended Consequences, Low Flush Toilets

    March 11, 2011
    In yet another example of why prudence is necessary on the behalf of law makers, who might have a little more faith in the market getting it right the first time:

    San Francisco spends $14 million on bleach after eco toilets cause a stink

    Less water per flush means less water pushing sludge along through sewers. Now California has spent $14 million (aside from $100 million in previous attempts to deal with this problem) on bleach that will eventually flow into the San Francisco bay. That doesn't sound very environmentally friendly.

    See Rand Paul's questioning earlier this week on the issues of low-flush toilets and efficiency standards for light bulbs here. "We don't even save money. We flush 'em ten...
  • Bill Introduced to End Ethanol Tax Credit

    March 10, 2011
    Via The Hill's Energy blog:
    “The ethanol tax credit is bad economic policy, bad energy policy and bad environmental policy. The $6 billion we waste every year on corporate welfare should instead stay in taxpayers’ pockets where it can be used to spur innovation, stimulate growth and create jobs,” Coburn said in a statement Wednesday.

    The bill would repeal the VEETC. As before, a broad coalition emerged in support of the legislation.

    CEI's Marlo Lewis commented on the idea that ethanol is an infant fuel that needs protection:
    Henry Ford built his first car, the Quadricycle, to run on pure ethanol. That was...
  • WSJ Revisits Ethanol

    March 4, 2011
    The Wall Street Journal interviewed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who suggested the ethanol industry might be able to wean itself off of federal subsidies. Not too quickly, obviously.

    The WSJ took this as a positive sign:
    Still, Mr. Vilsack may be the first Agriculture Secretary in generations to concede that ethanol subsidies are not immutable. That's progress.

    I do not share their view that this is progress. As they admit, there's a chance the industry will receive new forms of support without ditching the old. Obama will still have a potentially tough re-election in 2012. Virtually all of the potential Republican candidates have praised the industry, and Obama will certainly acquiesce and do the same.

  • What Comes with Public Sector Collective Bargaining

    March 3, 2011
    The left has been successful in framing Governor Walker's efforts to end collective bargaining rights in the public sector as an...
  • Goverment Waste: From the Horse's Mouth

    March 1, 2011
    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in the past few days to "identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives, either within departments or governmentwide, which have duplicative goals or activities." They identified 34 areas where agencies have overlapping missions or provide similar services to similar populations. They also identified 47 other areas where Congress might be able to reduce the cost of providing government services.

    Some of the areas for improvement don't actually involve consolidating programs, and just represent programs that even the GAO is willing to concede are poorly thought out. Ethanol policy gets a nod at $5.7 billion. Consolidating Department of Defense procedural medical operations could save as much as $470 million annually. Certain farm subsidies are included at an...
  • House De-Funds Ethanol in Budget Bill

    February 22, 2011
    During the annual National Ethanol Conference, where ethanol rent-seekers enthusiasts from around the country gather to discuss achievement of the still-out-of-reach goal of making significant amounts of ethanol commercially viable. It's always just a few years away.

    Very early that morning, the House voted to de-fund EPA's program to implement E15 throughout the country as well as funding for the installation of blender pumps. Growth Energy responded, "OPEC Wins, America Loses in House Vote." Explaining his amendment, Jeff Flakes stated...
  • Government Motors Joins Anti-Ethanol Crusade

    February 18, 2011
    This might make things interesting, as the past few years have demonstrated the extent to which certain aspects of G.M. have clout in Washington: Automakers want House to block 15 percent ethanol blend. Also consider the obvious irony of a partially government-funded/owned company opposing policy supported by the Obama administration -- the "slam on the breaks while hitting the gas approach."

    The Big 3 hadn't been too loud on this issue, though they did join a lawsuit attempting to prevent EPA from approving the fuel late last year. Representative Sullivan (R-OK), as previously mentioned...

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