Archive for June 26th, 2011

By CFS

We all know that corn ethanol takes away resources from growing food, but by how much might astonish you.  According to author Alexis Madrigal in his book Powering the Dream, USDA statistics from 2010 show that fully 1/3 of the United States corn harvest went into our collective gas tanks.

That 1/3 of US corn production is akin to a subsidy for the wealthy.  You see, the more wealth and income a person has the more cars a person owns and consequently the more miles a person tends to drive (who wants to be on a bus with a bunch of stinky people), consuming proportionally more gas.  Conversely, the higher up the income scale one climbs the less a person spends on food as a proportion of their income.  The exact opposite is true of the lower-income scales, whome spend a much larger proportion of income simply feeding themselves and their families while spending less on transportation.  So, corn ethanol subsidies are essentially robbing from the poor and giving to the rich, a kind of reverse Robin Hood.

Bringing it down to the scale of Missoula, would you rather help out the people that live on the South Hills in Mansion Heights, or the people that live in doublewides in East Missoula?

Just how much is 1/3?  The US corn harvest in 2010 was 13.1 billion bushels.  Yes that is 13.1 with a B! A record-setting year in terms of acreage under production and yield even in the face of record grain prices.

So, fully 4.3 billion bushels of corn was converted into ethanol.  Those 4.3 billion bushels yielded 12.1 billion gallons of ethanol (based on my calculations from the ratio I derived thanks to this link) out of a total US supply of 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol which gives us 10% of the total gasoline supply.

That’s a lot of numbers… but bear with me.

So, to fill just 10% of our voracious appetite for fuel (18 million barrels of oil/day) uses roughly 26.4 million acres of American (Fuck Yeah!) farmland.  So while the addition of corn ethanol to our fuel supply hasn’t put much of a dent into American gas prices or our consumption of foreign oil, you can see in the chart below just how much biofuels have effected the price of corn.  The steep increase in price coincides nicely with the increase in total corn used for ethanol seen in the chart here (scroll down toward the bottom).

And also coincides nicely with the increase in the commodity price of beef.  Beef, it’s where most of the corn goes.

Obviously, the increase in price isn’t all due to increases in the amount of corn ethanol produced, but the pattern fits nicely together.  The real point of all these numbers I’ve thrown in front of you is to show the sheer scale of the impact that ethanol has on the food market (quite a lot) and the extent of the impact on the fuels market (almost non-existent).

In the end ethanol subsidies are part of the larger package of policies in this country that give breaks to those with an excessively disproportionate share of this country’s wealth.  These subsidies might not be that large in the scheme of things relating to our total budget deficit, but they are symptomatic of our larger cultural tendency to reward the rich and punish the poor.

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by jhwygirl

Mainstream media will be all a-buzz with deficit/raising the debt ceiling talks this week, so don’t expect too much coverage on two bills that are of major interest to progressives (like me).

On Tuesday, Ms. Kris Carpenter, Founder/CEO, Sanctuary Spa and Salon in Billings will testify before the Senate Committee on Finance on “Complexity and the Tax Gap: Making Tax Compliance Easier and Collecting What’s Due“.

Hearings to look at the tax gap and tax complexity? Who doesn’t have something to say these days about that?

Interested citizens or groups have two weeks from the close of the hearing to submit comment.

Don’t forget – our very own Sen. Max Baucus is chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Also on Tuesday is a hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for The DREAM Act.

Yep. The Dream Act isn’t dead – and Sen. Durbin, it looks, is going to make sure of that.

I poked around that website and couldn’t find information on how to submit comment. If anyone else figures that out, please post that info in comments.

By CFS

Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming a part of people’s daily life and when it comes to politics, social media is an indispensable tool for organization, spreading information, and connecting people of like-minded attitudes.  But few politicians are actually making good use of these new tools.  Rather sadly, many politicians are using the tools to their own detriment or are simply using them to insulate and shut out criticism.

 

Here in Montana, politicians are beginning their primary pushes which means the long process of building a support network and raising funds, and in today’s age that means using twitter and Facebook to directly connect with as many people across the state as possible.  But so far this cycle our would-be political representatives seem a bit clueless.

Here are my suggestions of how our crop of Montana politicians can use social media effectively:

  1. Engage, engage, engage.  If you are using Twitter as a repository of press release like boring links, don’t even bother… I’m looking your way @DennyRehberg.  Twitter is a continuous conversation, be part of it, open your ears, and actually have a back and forth.
  2. Get rid of the staff.  I know social media can be a time-suck, but it is disingenuous to represent yourself on twitter and have a staff be the one tweeting.  If its overwhelming, have two accounts, one for the campaign run by a staffer, and a personal account that is solely yours.
  3. Don’t mass follow people… it just looks desperate and is akin to what sleazy internet marketers do.  That means you Franke Wilmer, who followed me the other day.  The first politician to seek me out for a follow.  Your followers, whether on Twitter or Facebook should come organically and not be sought after.  If you are a good candidate people will naturally gravitate to you.
  4. Make it personal, but not too personal.  Followers should feel as though they have an in on who you are and what your campaign is about that they can’t get via the television news, blogs, or newspapers.
  5. Google search for James Knox (R) Billings.  Look at his use of social media, then proceed to do the exact opposite.  Threats, crazy assertions, and lying in the social media sphere only get you ridicule and draw people’s attention who then quickly tear your arguments apart and make you look like the fool you are.
  6. Have a filter.  Before you hit that send button, think for a second whether you really want to put what you just typed out their.  As a politician you should realize that many of your followers are probably reporters, bloggers, and political insiders that will make as much noise and trouble for you given any opportunity.
  7. Be creative and witty.  Social media is geared to short bits of information, and to get attention you need to put out creative and authentic updates, being boring will kill you.
  8. Finally, study what people have done right.  For Montana, that means taking a look at how state legislators Ellie Hill, Bryce Bennett, and Mike Miller have used social media, especially during the hectic legislative session.  They were the best source on how things were shaping up at the capital and even during the busiest of times, kept their followers in the loop on legislative developments.  For my money, they are the best examples of politicians using Twitter effectively.

Other than that, good luck to all our candidates, except for Denny Rehberg, may Tester bitch slap you with his two-fingered hand.

For those of you interested in getting more information on our crop of Montana candidates take a look at the list I have compiled below.

Senate:

John Tester (D): Campaign site, @jontester, Facebook
Denny Rehberg (R): Campaign site@Rehberg2012, Facebook

Congress:

Franke Wilmer (D): Campaign site@Franke4Congress, Facebook

Dave Strohmaier (D): Campaign site@DaveForMontana, Facebook

Steve Daines (R): Campaign site@DainesforHouse, Facebook

Kim Gillan (D): Campaign site

Governor:

Rick Hill (R): Campaign site@RickHill2012, Facebook

Ken Miller (R): Campaign site, Facebook

James O’Hara (R): Campaign site, Facebook




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