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  • Monsanto Biotech Monopoly, Courtesy of the EU

    January 22, 2007
    Today's Wall Street Journal has a feature (link here for subscribers) article discussing DuPont's renewed efforts on crop biotechnology. DuPont "announced it will shift about $100 million to [the biotech division of its subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred], laying off employees in other areas in the process." Why such a seemingly radical shift? To take advantage of new opportunities created by a growing demand for corn and other crops to produce ethanol. Now, it's true that biotech can help make ethanol production from crop plants much more efficient, but the demand for ethanol only exists due to government fiat. It's ironic that DuPont/Pioneer finds itself the odd man out in biotech seeds for essentially the same reason. Pioneer is a venerable old name in the crop seed biz -- arguably...
  • Useful Jargon

    January 19, 2007
    Al Gore's movie increases Informational and Reputational Cascades based on Availability bias... Hey, don't complain to me, but to Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute. Calls for silencing skeptics, abandoning journalistic norms and decertifying weather girls in the name of "scientific truth" are all simply calls to increase Availability Bias. Doesn't sound as high-minded now, does it? In the Eighteenth Century they might have called it Humbug.
  • Bad law breeds bad law

    January 19, 2007
    The scandal of the US ethanol program - a mandate, a subsidy and a trade barrier all rolled into one - is now having dire repercussions in Mexico, as Russell Roberts relates:
    President Felipe Calderon signed an accord with businesses on Thursday to curb soaring tortilla prices and protect Mexico's poor from speculative sellers and a surge in the cost of corn driven by the U.S. ethanol industry. The corn tortilla is the basic staple of the Mexican diet and is especially crucial for the poor...
    "The unjustifiable price rise of this product threatens the economy of millions of families," Calderon said. "We won't tolerate speculators or monopolists. We will apply the law with firmness and punish those who take advantage of people's need...
    The rise is...
  • Let 1,000 Starbucks Bloom

    January 19, 2007
    It had to happen. Jokes about Starbucks' ubiquity have become, well, ubiquitous, much like the coffee chain itself -- so it was only a matter of time before a Starbucks outlet opened in Beijing's Forbidden City. However, as the Financial Times reports, the Forbidden City Starbucks is facing a backlash, "following online protests sparked by a patriotic polemic published by a TV anchorman on his personal blog." Irrational? Yes. For a country reputedly confident thanks to its robust economic growth and growing international stature, it seems petty to get worked up about this as an "affront to Chinese culture." Indeed, as FT reporter Mure Dickie notes:
    It is unclear why Starbucks is drawing so much online ire now, given that...
  • Good News, Bad News on Food Biotech

    January 19, 2007

    Last year, global biotech crop acreage increased more than 13 percent from 2005. By year-end 2006, 10.3 million farmers in 22 countries were growing biotech crops on 252 million acres, according to a new study by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). That's good news. But the better news is that farmers in less developed countries are among the biggest beneficiaries. More than 9.3 million resource-poor farmers in 11 countries grew biotech crops last year, often on plots of just three to four acres. Closer to home, the USDA reports that 2006 biotech crop acreage in the United States increased by 9.6...

  • Imagine no FCC?

    January 19, 2007
    Jack Shafer ponders the case for abolishing FCC in Slate's blog.  He wonders what things would be like if the philosophy of FCC's control over telecommunications and spectrum applied to publishing and timber:
    Suppose Congress had established in the early 19th century a Federal Publications Commission to regulate the newspaper, magazine, and newsletter businesses. The supporters of the FPC would have argued that such regulation was necessary because paper-pulp-grade timber is a scarce resource, and this scarcity made it incumbent upon the government to determine not only who could enter the publications business but where. Hence, the FPC would issue publication licenses to the "best" applicants and deny the rest. Whenever an aspiring publisher pointed out that timber wasn't scarce, that huge groves of trees...
  • "Every day, in every way . . ."

    January 18, 2007
    The title says it all: The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet. Read spiked's review of Indur Goklany's latest book — and then read the book.
  • The Lord Brown Problem: Everybody wants to save the planet, but no one wants to help mom wash dishes!

    January 18, 2007
    The decision by the Board of British Petroleum to accelerate the switch from the current chairman, John Brown (Lord Brown), is indicative of a growing awareness in corporate circles that a preoccupation with political correctness can create real problems. Lord Brown became an admired businessman — in a world increasingly anti-capitalist. Why? Because, unlike his counterpart Lee Raymond of ExxonMobil, Brown saw the PC views of the European and American chattering classes as providing a wonderful opportunity to showcase his company — and himself — as somehow different. BP relabeled itself “Beyond Petroleum,” created a new sunburst logo that seemingly suggested renewable energy as the BP focus, and rushed to endorse every green slogan and idea under the sun. This Pharisee strategy (“Thank you Lord for making me better than these other sinners!”) is dangerous because...
  • Federal Judge postpones CA CO2 case

    January 18, 2007
    Several automakers and dealers are suing (warning: big PDF file) California to overturn the "landmark" (pro-Kyoto) legislation requiring new vehicles sold in the state to meet CO2 emission standards. The automakers are suing under the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which prohibits states from adopting laws or regulations "related to" fuel economy. The automakers correctly argue that CO2 standards are just fuel economy standards by another name. As EPA has explained, "No technology currently exists or is under development that can capture and destroy or reduce emissions of CO2, unlike other emissions from motor vehicle tailpipes. At present, the only practical method for reducing tailpipe emissions of CO2 is to improve fuel economy." Thus, although federal law expresses fuel economy standards in terms of miles per gallon, EPA measures...
  • Free trade gives way to labor protectionists

    January 17, 2007

    At a press roundtable today, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative John Veroneau said that the U.S. would be renegotiating three completed Latin American free trade agreements to add more labor provisions before submitting them to Congress.

    The FTAs with Peru, Colombia, and Panama already include extensive labor and environmental provisions that were mandated by the Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002. However, Democratic leaders — flush with their Congressional victories in late November — had written the USTR saying that more stringent labor provisions needed to be included in trade pacts before they would consider approving them.

    Here's an...

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