Thursday Roundup: Oil Cos. Fight Ethanol

Restaurants fund FFA through "thank you notes" to farmers • New Yorkers stand in line to stand in "rain" • FCC to consider changes in E-Rate program • W.V. senator says EPA nominee is "highly qualified" and hel'll vote against her on principle.

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Oil Companies Start Anti-Ethanol Campaign. The  American Petroleum Institute is launching a national ad campaign against the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, the law that requires refiners to produce alternative  fuels like ethanol.

Don’t look for the ads in Iowa, though. The Des Moines Register reports that the ads won’t appear in the Hawkeye State, the nation’s largest ethanol producer. Iowa has 41 ethanol plants and produced 3.7 billion gallons in both 2012 and 2011.

The ads play up concerns that higher ethanol blends like E15 will hurt car engines, even though E15 is not part of the current law. “Your engine won’t like it [E15], but your mechanic will,” the ad says. The ad urges viewers to call President Obama to oppose the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The Renewable Fuels Association says the ad campaign is misleading and inaccurate.

(For an economic analysis of the Renewable Fuels Standard, see  this Daily Yonder article by C. Robert Taylor and Ronald D. Lacewell.)

A Note of Thanks. Culver’s restaurants are running a thank-you-farmers campaign. For each thank-you note to a farmer sent via their Facebook app, Culver’s will send $1 to the National FFA Organization, which used to be called the Future Farmers of America.

Raining on the Inside. New Yorkers are waiting up to five hours to experience a Museum of Modern Art exhibit called the “Rain Room,” the New York Times reports. You stand in a room that simulates rain, but you don’t get wet. And it costs $25.

E-Rate Proposal Expected Friday. The FCC will announce proposed changes Friday in E-Rate, the federal  program that helps schools pay for broadband connectivity. The proposed changes dovetail with President Obama’s announcement that he wants to get 99% of the nation’s schools online with high speed connections within five years.

E-Rate is funded through a 30-cents-per-phone-line fee, which subsidizes school broadband connectivity.

Getting America’s classrooms online requires more than getting a fast connection to the principal’s office, however. Recent discussions have acknowledged that providing young people with access to high-speed data also requires local equipment, devices to use in the classroom, training and other steps.

Ronald Brownstein sums up the challenges in a National Journal column:

Even with more money, this ambitious vision faces many hurdles. Administration officials acknowledge that the upgrade won’t be affordable unless schools negotiate more effectively with telecommunications providers (some of which have faced persistent charges of failing to provide the E-rate’s mandated discounts) and device manufacturers (which have not yet provided educators with mass low-cost options.) Software companies must develop more-sophisticated digital content, and teachers will need training to get the most from the new tools. Schools will need to teach “digital literacy and digital citizenship, and not just plunk a kid in front of a computer screen for seven hours a day,” says James Steyer, a member of the  [bipartisan Leading Education by Advancing Digital] Commission and founder of Common Sense Media, a group that monitors media’s impact on children.

But the payoff for overcoming these hurdles will be huge, Brownstein says.

Rural schools presumably would benefit, since rural broadband access rates are generally lower than urban rates.

And May the Best Nominee Lose. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) says he’ll vote against Gina McCarthy’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency because he thinks that agency is engaged in a war on coal. “My fight is not with [McCarthy],” Machin said in a floor speech, as reported by Ken Ward in the Coal Tattoo. “My fight is truly with the agency itself, with the EPA and the president himself.”

Machin said McCarthy is highly qualified for the job and might have been nominated by Mitt Romney if he had won the 2012 election. McCarthy advised Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.

“It really doesn’t matter that much who is sitting as administrator of EPA,” Manchin said. “It is the president who will be calling all of the shots in the administration.”

 

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