novatownhall blog

Where you are held accountable for your convictions and record

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You all should know well by now that I am no fan of unions. I don’t like their focus, their tactics, the politics or their ways of doing business. Here is yet another example. The dock workers and longshoremen in Tacoma and Seattle, now also LA and San Diego, have been working without a contract since July 1st. That they continue to work under an old contract is admirable. To slow things down to get their way is not. Yes, they do have the option to strike, which would probably speed negotiations up since it is believed that each day of a strike could cost a billion dollars or more. That ain’t chump change. The ports handle about 29% of our GDP and that is a force to be reckoned with. It appears that there are other contributing factors at work here, and have been for many years. That a letter was sent to the Obama administration for arbitration is a good thing. That they have waited this long is not. Many businesses are and have been suffering because of this slowdown, through no fault of their own. Unions don’t seem to really care about who they hurt at times. In a time of plentiful cheap labor (being pushed by big business and Obama), the unions seem to be cutting their own throats. But that seems to be what big business wants. Who will win in the end between big business and unions is anyone’s guess. The losers will be small business and consumers. That never bodes well for the economy.

I’m talking trains. I have always loved trains as most boys do. I have many trains myself. I bought property that was in ear-shot of trains whistles for its soothing affect. Trains get a bad rap for derailments, slowness, and lack of effective access. We had businesses in Vienna, Herndon and other places that use to rely on freight trains for their business. That’s right–the W&OD line, which functioned up to the mid-seventies. What happened? Trucks having more access and being cheaper, some bad management in railroads, and actual petitions to reduce/stop train traffic as suburban “sprawl” occurred. The lines were left with more priority passenger runs and bulk minerals and agriculture which, as of yet, has no equal in any other transportation mode. But those woe-be-gone days seem to be at an end. Rail is making its comeback.

We, as a nation, transpired to an economy of “I need it now”, which translates to accommodation by business/industry and the costs associated with those accommodations. Rather than utilizing all facets and modes in transportation, businesses became site specific where trucks and planes carried the load. Even the shipping industry showed a reduction is certain goods as they could be transported quicker by air. Quicker. That doesn’t equate to economically but the contrary. Do we really need most things now or is a day or two okay? And the way that rail customers are demanding more of railroads in the aspect of “on time” deliveries, railroads are structuring to accommodate. That means the cost savings is transmitted to the end user. It lessens the demand in some other transportation modes (mostly trucks) but that also comes to a cost savings to taxpayers since the over burdened roads won’t need as much repair as before, and commuters/travelers will have fewer trucks to worry about.

Another thing I have noticed is the increase in planning/building of more inland ports. These terminals accept long haul freight and then disseminate it for local distribution, which is a much better and economical usage of transporting goods. Now I believe that trains need to take some of the load in transportation. No one is being left out of their share of the pie and all modes have their distinct use and purpose. What will come with increased train usage are track problems, frequency of crossing waits due to larger and more frequent trains, and mishaps/derailments. Safety and preventive maintenance only goes so far which is why there are sometimes “accidents”.. The only issue stopping this long awaited and necessary comeback would be the fed. They have a habit of stifling and ruining anything good.

It’s about time they did something. The Chinese are sending ships to patrol off the Horn of Africa, in an attempt to quell the pirate shenanigans.

My initial reaction is, this will not be a good time to be a pirate. I think pirates are actually a delicacy in China.

Recently I read an article on oil imports and domestic ethanol production that piqued my curiosity. The article appearing in Popular Mechanics, discussed the impact on U.S. oil imports by the increases in domestic ethanol production. What I found was that ethanol may not be providing sufficient energy dependence relief to justify what it is costing us.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, 2007 ethanol production was 6.5 billion gallons, up from 4.8 in 2006. A barrel of crude oil, according to our DOE, yields 20 gallons of motor fuel. Looking at oil imports over this same period, 2007 U.S. oil imports were 4.9 billion barrels, down from 5.003 billion the previous year. Eureka ! Ethanol is working !

But is it ? The American Coalition for Ethanol puts it this way,”Ethanol comprises about 3.5% of total annual U.S. gasoline consumption “. The cost of this 3.5% savings is 23% of our national corn crop, and 13% of our soybean harvest. The GAO estimates that by 2012, 30% of our domestic corn crop will be used for ethanol production. What does this mean to us ? Higher food prices, we are all feeling this, and will continue to feel this for the foreseeable future. Yes, high fuel prices are an impact, but for me, I fill up my tank every 10-12 days. I have to fill up my family of four three times a day. Forget this ethanol experiment, roll these corn and soybean crops back into the food supply, rollback food prices, I will come out ahead, and very likely so will you.

Biofuels have been touted as the answer to climate change owing to the decreased CO2 emissions. This is true on the consumer end, but again, we are not being told the complete story. Ethanol proponents fail to factor in the environmental impact of production, and most importantly, clearing the land for corn production. Some studies have shown that clearing grassland can release 93 times the amount of greenhouse grasses saved by the fuel produced from the crops grown on that land.

A recent report published by P.J. Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, and colleagues concluded that environmental impact studies have underestimated the amount of nitrogen oxide, a greenhouse gas, released by the use of nitrogen fertilizers. If this study is correct, ethanol made from nitrogen fertilized corn will produce more greenhouse gas than the equivalent amount of gasoline.

“People are getting smarter. People are beginning to see that the damage ensuing from producing agrofuels by far outweighs any possible benefits,” says Tad W. Patzek, a professor of geoengineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a prominent biofuels sceptic.

Yes, we need to be smarter, we need to declare this Iowa Experiment as a complete failure. We need to undo the methanol mandates of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and we need to do it now.

“Rushing to turn food crops… into fuel for cars, without first examining the impact on global hunger, is a recipe for disaster,” the UN rapporteur on food said in his report to the UN General Assembly. “Agrofuel production is unacceptable if it brings greater hunger and water scarcity to the poor in developing countries,” the report says. The report concluded with calling for a five-year moratorium on biofuel production while new biofuel technology is under development.

This is one of those very rare occasions where I happen to agree with the U.N. .

If it says “Made in China” and includes fur, you might want to check your moral compass before purchasing.

Lest we go too far falling all over ourselves to welcome China into the first world, here’s a news item on the area where culture and economics intersect. Cheap ain’t always worth the price (and everything that PETA investigates is not misguided).

Not for the squeamish. Seriously.

Don’t click to read the rest unless you have a solid existential position vis a vis pure evil.

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Tom Mabe, we are not worthy ….

Dan posted the following comment under the post Words of the Sage:

One thing that we cannot overlook, in the rush to a global economy, we forget about our standard of living. Many feel that a global economy will not work in the absence of a more balanced global standard of living.

Will a global economy reduce the standard of living we have become accustomed ? We will know the answer to this experiment in due time.

I thought the concern wide-spread enough that it deserved a a full-blown post in response.

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