Ed’s Daily Notes for September 27th   12 comments

Wall Street Journal: Saving the Sequester

This should come as no surprise:

One cost of the media circus around Ted Cruz is that almost no one is following the classic Washington misdirection play over the automatic sequester spending cuts. While right and left are preoccupied with their hero or bugbear, the politicians are attempting to break the spending caps.

…The spending cap for 2014 is pegged at $967 billion. Republicans in the House—at the behest of defense hawks—have already made the mistake of raising that number to $986 billion in the continuing resolution budget bill that the House passed last week. The House earmarks all of that extra $19 billion for defense, as it should, but Senate Democrats will shift most of that to domestic spending.

House conservatives were so busy patting themselves on the back for adding the ObamaCare provision that they failed to notice the higher spending level. Or maybe they didn’t care. One of the “defund” ringleaders in the House is Georgia’s Tom Graves, who is now in favor of the extra $19 billion. It’s no accident he’s on the Appropriations Committee that decides where the spending goes.

Meanwhile, as the ObamaCare histrionics continue in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to raise the caps for 2014 by as much as another $70 billion to closer to $1.058 trillion in discretionary spending. That was the spending marker that Democrats put down earlier this year in their 2014 budget resolution (which was never reconciled with the House). By focusing so much on the futile effort not to fund ObamaCare, Republicans may let Democrats gut their single biggest fiscal achievement since 2010.

I see the teenagers in Washington are trying to get hold of the public credit card again…

Bloomberg: Renewable-Fuel Mandate Freeze to Be Discussed in Congress

Speaking of “Stupid Congress Tricks”:

Makers of renewable fuels are set to meet with congressional negotiators today, as lawmakers try to pull together compromise legislation that would freeze the U.S. mandate for corn-based ethanol.

Representative Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Henry Waxman, the panel’s top Democrat, are negotiating changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard that would keep the ethanol requirement at this year’s level for the next two years and add incentives to boost low-carbon biofuels, according to people familiar with the moves who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive talks.

Corn producers and ethanol makers have resisted legislative changes to the current requirements, which escalate each year through 2022. Officials from their Washington-based trade groups are set to meet with Upton’s staff members today to discuss a possible freeze in the share of ethanol required, two of the people said.

…Under the Renewable Fuel Standard, refiners such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) must use a certain amount of those fuels each year, with their target determined by their share of the fuel market. The Environmental Protection Agency and renewable-fuel makers argue it spurs production of domestic fuels and cuts greenhouse-gas emissions by reducing use of gasoline or diesel.

The 2007 law mandates the use of 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol this year and 14.4 billion gallons in 2014 and 15 billion in 2015. Lobbyists for refiners such as Valero Corp. (VLO) say that requirement is too high, and have pressed Congress to scrap the program.

The additive is typically sold at filling stations, mixed in a formula of 10 percent ethanol to 90 percent gasoline. Oil industry proponents have said that the escalating requirements of ethanol to be added would force them to sell blends exceeding 10 percent, a phenomenon known as “hitting the blend wall.”

If the lawmakers agree to cap the ethanol mandate as a percentage of gasoline use, which is what Waxman and Upton are discussing, refiners wouldn’t face that blend wall constraint. The lawmakers also want a study of renewable fuels by the National Academy of Sciences, the people said.

My guess is that Congress will walk away from this with some nice campaign contributions, and nothing will be changed. However, we can always hope for a sensible solution from the money leeches in Congress…

France 24: Cuba expands list of allowed private sector jobs

Cuba on Thursday expanded the list of occupations open to the communist-ruled island’s fledgling private sector as part of a gradual reform of its Soviet-style economy.

The Communist Party daily Granma reported that among the 18 newly authorized private sector occupations is that of real estate agent, in keeping with an earlier decision to legalize private real estate transactions.

Vendors of agricultural produce and telecommunications salespeople also have been added to the list.

Admittedly, these are baby steps, but they are still a move in the right direction. Maybe in a decade we might be discussing Cuba as a potential investment?

Fox News: Apple Maps app directs drivers to runway at Alaska airport; 2 end up on tarmac

A glitch in the Apple Maps app on newer iPhones and iPads guides people up to a runway at a major Alaska airport instead of sending them on the proper route to the terminal, an airport official said Wednesday.

The map actually stops at the tarmac, but twice this month, wayward drivers have continued across an active runway.

“It doesn’t actually tell you to cross, but the problem is, people see the terminal then at that point, because they are right there, and they just continue across,” said Fairbanks International Airport spokeswoman Angie Spear.

There were no injuries in either the Sept. 6 incident or the second one last Friday, mainly because they both happened early in the morning, between flights.

…To be fair, the drivers deserve some blame.

The maps stop at the runway, but the drivers continued about a mile through a gate, past warning lights, numerous signs and painted concrete markings saying not to proceed.

“All of these things were disregarded because people simply trusted their device more than they trusted what they were seeing,” she said.

Who ya gonna believe? Your iPhone, or your own lying eyes?

Bad map app + stupid people = potential Darwin Award winners.

Seriously though, comedy gold mine aside, Apple still needs to work on their map app, or else throw in the towel and admit Google Maps is better. If one of Apple’s more stupid customers gets killed using Apple Maps, that would be bad PR.

Speaking of Google…

Forbes: Google Celebrates Its 15th Birthday With A Doodle Game

Happy 15th birthday Google!

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Posted September 27, 2013 by edmcgon in News, Politics, Stocks, Technology

12 responses to “Ed’s Daily Notes for September 27th

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  1. 🙂

    One of your better ones Ed

    • Zosa,
      Thanks! Any particular part, or the post as a whole? 🙂

      • The entire post was up to your usual excellent standard, but I especially liked your equation regarding Darwin Award Winners.

    • If those stupid people actually cross in front of a plan taking off it won’t only be the people on Darwin’s list that will suffer.
      Those people should be charged and big time media should get into it to hopefully discourage other people from doing stuff like that.

  2. Morning Ed and all…

    If we wind up using a blend that is higher than 10% Ethanol, would folks, including myself who have had their vehicles for 12+ years be affected in some way?? Buy a newer vehicle or some gizmo???

    • Sorry STL, but you’re out of my range of expertise with that question. I’ll leave it to some of the other folks here.

    • STL

      There is no gizmo and it’s not going to affect 12+ year old cars only. Here’s a link to an article about a study that FEV did recently. FEV is a well-respected consulting firm that I have worked with in the past. Also, they have done project work for the EPA, so there is no hidden agenda.

      http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1076240_e15-ethanol-fuel-can-damage-engines-new-automaker-study-says

      Ethanol is especially hard on 2-stroke engines usually found in light-duty yard tools like blowers and weed-wackers. Ethanol is an alcohol that will attack rubber and plastic components in the engine, gas tank, fuel lines, etc. especially if the tools are used intermittenly. I flush my tools with pure gasoline when I store them over the winter.

      IMO, ethanol is a terrible idea for a fuel for a number of reasons (food prices, CO2 production, less energy/liter of gasoline, etc.).

  3. How about some LOL for today!
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/101067873 Martha Stewart takes on Apple on Twitter

  4. Half the world is starving to death and we burn corn in our
    SUV’s – no wonder we’re hated.

    • And we are using our limited water supply to do it (not to mention trying to feed the whole world).
      Make no mistake, I think it is a stupid idea to use corn as fuel, but corn is also used in almost everything you name, it isn’t limited to this use case.

      It might sound unkind, but the reason for half the world starving has nothing to do with what the US does with its resources.
      It has to do with they are having too many babies for the resources they have.

      The US is perfectly happy to sell them grain, but they don’t have the money for it (and if the price goes up because of any given use of it, well that is a mistake not because of the price (higher prices is an incentive to produce more), it is a mistake because people don’t realize that it not the best use of our limited resources).

      Somewhere, someone came up with this idea that if people wanted to over populate the world, it was the US’ responsibility to feed them for free.
      It is not.

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