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Archive for July 2008

Most Popular Posts For July

Here are the five most popular posts for July:

Thanks for a great month, all. There is plenty more to come.

Written by walonline

July 31, 2008 at 10:16 am

Posted in Housekeeping

Tagged with

Algae Based Biofuels Are The Future

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As noted a number of times previously at this blog (recently and in April), Corn and other plant-based (in this context meaning seed, dirt, sprout, etc.) biofuels are not efficient. The are horrible polices that help politicians get elected, but ruin all sorts of markets.

The blog Triplepundit has a very interesting article on biofuel that could potentially help our fuel issues with the benefits of far less-destructive environmental and world food market effects. Here are some of the Algae details:

It also produces lipids, or the equivalent of vegetable oil. Depending on the species, 50% of it’s body weight is these lipids. And they can select for certain algae strains that are particularly suited for making jet fuel or diesel, which most long haul trucks use.

[…]

Algae, even in a regular, horizontal, open pond system, can produce up to 20,000 gallons of oil per year.

Based on previous parts of the article, this system is assumed to take up one acre of land, as comparisons have been 18/gallons from corn and 700-800 from palm oil. All of the waste can be reused as well:

With algae biofuel production, they can take what remains after extracting the oil, and put it to use as feed stock for animals, as a component of fertilizer, and even to produce even more biofuel.

I believe most people would be in favor of fuel that is cleaner on a lifecycle basis, and has less of a wide-ranging impact. Algae, at this point, looks to do just that, and would be a very valuable addition to our nation’s energy “portfolio.”

Written by walonline

July 31, 2008 at 8:16 am

Theme Change

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This evening I changed the theme/layout/design of the website. Its another cookie cutter, but I think this one fits. Its simpler and doesn’t have problems with the right navigation bar. There is no custom header image, but that’s just fine.

Thoughts?

Written by walonline

July 30, 2008 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Housekeeping

Tagged with

Open Thoughts

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I’m not normally the one to dream up conspiracies. For example, I’ll call you delusional if you’re one of the folks that believes the Bush Administration set up the attacks on 9/11. On the other hand, people would probably call me crazy for saying “Wag the Dog” and Bill Clinton’s interesting tendency to make military strikes when the heat was on him for, er, domestic issues, are strikingly similar–more so than Oliver Stone‘s movie could ever be.

My thoughts:

Used under a Creative Commons License. Crooked Door by Skinnyde (Flickr)

What chance is it that there are politician motivations for the indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens to take the heat off Justice Department employees embroiled in the politically-motivated hiring policies of the Gonzalez Justice Department?

Politics is far reaching, and a connection here–although it wouldn’t really matter or be significant–would not surprise me one bit. I probably am going crazy, though. If some of these stories surrounding Stevens are true, he needs to go:

On Tuesday a federal grand jury charged Stevens with failing to report gifts from Veco, including cars and free labor for a home in Girdwood, Alaska the senator called “the chalet.”

Maybe it will serve as an example for other Politicians and they’ll at least be a little more careful to conceal their dealings. In fact, the article I linked to above speculates on the involvement of other officials:

[Stevens] isn’t the only U.S. lawmaker whose fortunes are likely threatened by his ties to an obscure oil services company […].

Am I going crazy, or just being a little too cynical? Any thoughts of your own on this?

Also, I’m adding a new category for just this sort of discussion (because it makes me all sorts of angry): “Crooks!”

UPDATE 7/31 @ 8:50a: It appears that I’m not the only one that thinks this. White Collar Crime Prof Blog has been considering whether this indictment was used to take the head off the Department of Justice also.

Written by walonline

July 30, 2008 at 7:08 pm

Some People Finally Get It

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Gristmill, an environmental news blog, has an interesting post on the inefficiencies of gasoline blended with ethanol and how more people are catching on:

In Oklahoma, some vendors are refusing sell ethanol-spiked gasoline. And they’re winning customers with signs like “No Corn in Our Gas” and “Why Do You Put Alcohol in Your Tank?” the Times claims. In Oregon, new rules requiring the state’s fuel supply be E10 — a mix of 90 percent ethanol and 10 percent gasoline — are being associated with sputtering boat engines and failing weed whackers.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Gasohol (Ethanol)" by Todd Ehlers (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Gasohol (Ethanol)" by Todd Ehlers (via Flickr).

The idea that ethanol is less efficient than straight gasoline is easy to document: drive your car to or from a state with an ethanol blend from one with the opposite. Check your milage going either way. Even with other factors (such as wind), you’ll notice a marked difference. I did this at the beginning of the month, travelling from the Minneapolis area to Nebraska and back.

This is nice to hear, since I wrote on this back in April. And my accounting theory professor railed on it numerous times last fall. Gristmill also gets into it. What makes this policy so sickening are the huge amounts of taxpayer dollars being poured into a policy that raises food prices. This effects our nation’s (and the world’s) poorest people–not exactly something any politician would consider politically expedient. Portfolio.com‘s Felix Salmon is writing today with regards to a World Bank report sayng that:

The combination of higher energy prices and related increases in fertilizer prices and transport costs, and dollar weakness caused food prices to rise by about 35-40 percentage points from January 2002 until June 2008.

Salmon also notes:

According to Chakrabortty, World Bank president Bob Zoellick tried to suppress publication of the report – something which, if true, probably only served to draw further attention to it.

Its not exactly like I was expecting a World Bank president clean of politics.

Written by walonline

July 30, 2008 at 12:40 pm

One Question

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Can you buy expansion packs?

Constructable Drinking Straw.

Written by walonline

July 30, 2008 at 11:54 am

Posted in Life, The Web

Tagged with ,

Irony?

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An interesting bit from the Freakanomics blog at the NY Times, which pointed out some of the companies mentioned in the book Good to Great:

[…] I began reading the book on the very same day that one of the eleven “good to great” companies, Fannie Mae, made the headlines of the business pages. It looks like Fannie Mae is going to need to be bailed out by the federal government. If you had bought Fannie Mae stock around the time Good to Great was published, you would have lost over 80 percent of your initial investment.

Another one of the “good to great” companies is Circuit City. You would have lost your shirt investing in Circuit City as well, which is also down 80 percent or more. Best Buy has cleaned Circuit City’s clock for the last seven or eight years.

It seems the lesson that should be drawn from this is twofold: the stock price does not necessarily reflect a good (if high/rising) or bad (if low/falling) company and it depends on which time period is observed. Maybe Good to Great needs a second volume for co’s dealing successfully with this period. Maybe these companies indicate a systemic problem.

At the base of it, Fannie Mae (details on the scandal are near the bottom of the Wikipedia entry) should have been cut from the book when the company’s leadership (Raines, Howard and Spencer) were accused of 101 counts of manipulating earnings for the sake of their bonuses. Surrounding this was also a $6.3 billion earning restatement.

Also, this may be a lesson that serves to discourage people from buying best-seller management books.

Written by walonline

July 29, 2008 at 7:15 pm