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OpenMarket: Brian McGraw

  • Biofuels and the Military: Reality Strikes Back

    January 25, 2011
    Lots of news bits over the past few years have covered the military's PR effort to produce a significant amount of biofuels for its own use. The idea is that being able to produce biofuels will make the military more energy independent and reduce the number of lives lost securing fuel in dangerous areas. See here, here, here, here, here,...
  • Regulations and Small Business

    January 24, 2011
    A theme of President Obama's State of the Union speech tomorrow is the idea that we need to make America more competitive in the global economy. To help acheive this end, Obama recently named Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, to head his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Unfortunately, Immelt more fits the mold of a political rent-seeker rather than a successful businessman who thrives on competition.

    The Council on Jobs and Competitiveness will be nothing more than a bland PR effort which will do little to help make our economy more competitive. Obama's op-ed last week in the Wall Street Journal brought a promise of ending costly, ineffective regulations...
  • EPA Approves Increased Ethanol Blend

    January 21, 2011
    Today the EPA gave initial approval of E15 blends for use in vehicles made in or after 2001, an extension of an initial ruling in October of 2010 that granted approval of E15 in vehicles model year 2007-2011. Predictable cheer-leading erupted from Growth Energy:
    The EPA’s long awaited decision came in response to Growth Energy’s Green Jobs Waiver, a petition we filed in March of 2009 to raise the “blend wall”—the artificial limit on the ethanol market—and create new market opportunity for the industry.

    Let us never forget the delicious irony of an ethanol trade association whining about the unfair government regulations that impede the development of their industry, when the majority of ethanol...
  • New York City Taxi Alliance Opposes Competition

    January 20, 2011
    From their webpage, we see a press release denouncing Mayor Bloomberg's decision to allow livery cars (limousines, personal hired cars, etc.) to pick up residents outside of Manhattan, in areas that aren't well-served by taxis or mass transit. From their press release:
    We are stunned by the Mayor's proposal to turn liveries into taxis in the outer boroughs.  Legalizing an illegal activity because it's been done for so long will immediately cut into fares, especially during the rush hours when yellow cab drivers who live in the outer boroughs pick up fares at the beginning or end of their shifts.  And as liveries bring more riders into Manhattan, what guarantee do we have that the city will stop the...
  • EPA to Re-Brand Mortality Risk Reduction

    January 19, 2011
    A recent paper published by the EPA provides up to date governmental thoughts on attempts to put a value on a statistical life (VSL) in the context of "good" and "bad" environmental regulation. From the intro:
    Valuing the reduced risks of mortality, 4 in particular, poses a special set of conceptual, analytical, ethical and empirical challenges for economists 5 and policy analysts. This white paper addresses current and recent U.S. Environmental Protection 6 Agency (EPA) practices regarding the valuation of mortality risk reductions...

    One of the biggest problems associated with VSL estimates are that the general public really dislikes the idea that the government is willing to put a monetary value on a human life. In 2003 the Bush administration caught flack from the...
  • Clarifying For Media Matters

    January 14, 2011
    Media Matters for America is an organization dedicated to "comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." They didn't, in my opinion, do a very good job in their recent piece on CEI and energy subsidies.

    They write about Neil Cavuto recently hosting Chris Horner on a discussion over federal energy subsidies, and imply that CEI is supportive of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, by noting that they fund us (and that Horner didn't discuss subsidies to the fossil fuel industry). CEI is, of course, against all energy subsidies. This doesn't mean that we get to discuss our opposition to them on television whenever we want.

    They are correct that the fossil fuel industry receives more...
  • When the Green River Runs Dry

    January 13, 2011
    Jobs created become jobs destroyed.

    Two recent articles highlight the struggle that renewable energy companies run into when taxpayer subsidies are tightened.

    The first, a solar panel company in Massachusetts, having received over $50 million in subsidies, is cutting 800 jobs as it struggles to compete with Chinese solar panel production.
    Evergreen Solar Inc. will eliminate 800 jobs in Massachusetts and shut its new factory at the former military base in Devens, just two years after it opened the massive facility to great fanfare and with about $58 million in taxpayer subsidies.

    The company announced yesterday that it will close the plant by the end of March, calling itself a victim of weak demand and competition from cheaper suppliers...
  • Troubles in Central Planning: New York City Cabs

    January 12, 2011
    Via the New York Times, an article with empirical evidence that regulatory incentives encourage cabs to disappear around 5pm, just when they are needed most.

    The article places blame on the fact that most cabs are leased by larger companies and typically operate 24 hours a day via employees trading off 12 hour shifts, and notes that the regulatory commission has attempted to fix the problem by raising fares during rush hour. The real problem, of course, is that New York City strictly limits the number of cabs allowed in the city and requires that they all be uniformly painted yellow.

    Taxi medallions in New York are strictly limited (a medallion is required by law to operate a cab) to the extent that they sell for over...
  • New Jersey Quietly Approves Online Gambling Bill

    January 11, 2011
    Yesterday the New Jersey Assembly voted to approve a bill that would allow for residents of New Jersey to participate in some forms of online gambling offered through casinos licensed in Atlantic City. It will become law pending Governor Christie's approval within the next few months.

    With the failure of Harry Reid's attempt in late 2010 to pass national legislation easing burdens on the internet gambling industry, advocates have been increasingly hopeful that states will begin to pick up the slack. Aside from New Jersey, online gambling bills have been considered in Florida,...
  • The Fate of the Renewable Fuel Standard

    January 10, 2011
    As this article in Wired notes, the U.S. has effectively hit the "blend wall" for domestic ethanol production in the short term. Given current levels of fuel consumption in the United States (about ?140 billion gallons/year), current economic and policy realities limit consumption of domestically produced ethanol. There is no present economic reason for consumers to purchase E85, its price is similar to regular gasoline and it requires an expensive investment into a flex-fuel vehicle. E15 is marred with problems and is unlikely to allow for a large increase in ethanol production.

    The next few years will be critical for the future of biofuels in the United States. A number of potential things could happen: the VEETC, etc. will expire and corn ethanol will be limited to its...


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