Colin Carter and Henry Miller, Corn for Food, Not Fuel
The drought has now parched about 60 percent of the contiguous 48 states. As a result, global food prices are rising steeply. Corn futures prices on the Chicago exchange have risen about 60 percent since mid-June, hitting record levels, and other grains such as wheat and soybeans are also sharply higher. Livestock and dairy product prices will inevitably follow.
More than one-third of our corn crop is used to feed livestock. Another 13 percent is exported, much of it to feed livestock as well. Another 40 percent is used to produce ethanol. The remainder goes toward food and beverage production.
Previous droughts in the Midwest (most recently in 1988) also resulted in higher food prices, but misguided energy policies are magnifying the effects of the current one. Federal renewable-fuel standards require the blending of 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol with gasoline this year. This will require 4.7 billion bushels of corn, 40 percent of this year’s crop.
Other countries seem to have a better grasp of market forces and common sense. […] Our government could learn from the Brazilian approach and direct the E.P.A. to waive a portion of the renewable-fuel standards, thereby directing corn back to the marketplace. Under the law, the E.P.A. would first have to determine that the program was causing economic harm. That’s a no-brainer, given the effects of sharply higher grain prices that are already rippling through the economy.
The price of corn is a critical variable in the world food equation, and food markets are on edge because American corn supplies are plummeting. The combination of the drought and American ethanol policy will lead in many parts of the world to widespread inflation, more hunger, less food security, slower economic growth and political instability, especially in poor countries.
Any defense of the ethanol policy rests on fallacies, primarily these: that ethanol produced from corn makes the United States less dependent on fossil fuels; that ethanol lowers the price of gasoline; that an increase in the percentage of ethanol blended into gasoline increases the overall supply of gasoline; and that ethanol is environmentally friendly and lowers global carbon dioxide emissions.
The ethanol lobby promotes these claims, and many politicians seem intoxicated by them. Corn is indeed a renewable resource, but it has a far lower yield relative to the energy used to produce it than either biodiesel (such as soybean oil) or ethanol from other plants. Ethanol yields about 30 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly. Finally, adding ethanol actually raises the price of blended fuel because it is more expensive to transport and handle than gasoline.
But do you hear any of our leaders calling for these sensible policy changes? Not with the energy and agribusiness lobbies throwing money at them.
Positive thinking is negative:
When you walk through the self-help aisle of any bookstore, you are likely to see plenty of books based on the notion that positive thinking is the key to getting what you want. The message is clear: if you want to achieve something, just keep telling yourself “I can!” and envision yourself accomplishing your goals. Success will surely come your way. Not so, says years of psychological research. Certain kinds of positive thoughts, known in the research as fantasies, can actually be detrimental to performance.
(h/t imp kerr)
In all the mountains,
In the treetops
Not a breath of wind.
The birds are silent in the woods.
Just wait: soon enough
You will be quiet too.
Arroz de Pato
Chef George Mendes (Aldea, NYC)
calaspara rice 8 oz
sofrito (recipe below) 1.5 oz
duck stock 2.5 cups
salt to taste
fresh white pepper to taste
onion 1/4 cup
garlic 3 cloves
tomato, peeled, diced 1
pimenton 1 tbsp
saffron, threads pinch
olive oil 2 tbsp
duck legs 2
onion 1/2 peeled, sliced
carrot, peeled and sliced 1
celery, sliced 1 rib
garlic, cloves, sliced 3
duck fat 3 cups
white peppercorn 1 tbsp
coriander 1 tbsp
star anise 2 pc.
thyme 1/4 bunch
kosher salt and pepper to taste
duck breasts, skinless 2
duck fat 1 tbsp
chorizo, sliced 1/4 cup
black olives, pitted and sliced 2 tbsp
apricots, dry 1/2 cup
white wine 1/4 cup
sherry vinegar 1 tbsp
duck skin, crisped in oven
(use skin from breasts) 2
Method: Make the duck confit: Set oven to 300 degrees F. Season the duck legs with salt and pepper on both sides and then sear in a tbsp of duck fat until golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until tender. Next add the the coriander, white peppercorn, star anise and herbs (all tied in cheesecloth—sachet)
Continue cooking for additional 5 minutes. Add the duck fat, melt, and then transfer all to oven-proof casserole. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 6-8 hours, until duck meat falls off the bone.
When cool enough to handle, pull the duck meat of the bone, discard the bones and be careful of loose cartilage.
Make sofrito: Over medium-low heat, sweat onion and garlic in the olive oil until just slightly golden brown. Add the saffron threads and cook 2 minutes more. Then, add the diced tomato and cook over medium heat until all moisture is gone. Add the pimenton. Set aside.
Make the apricot puree: In medium saucepan, combine the apricots with the white wine and cook over medium-high heat until wine is reduced by half. Add the sherry vinegar then puree in vita-prep at high speed until smooth.
Pre-cook rice: Place the 1.5 oz of sofrito in heavy-bottomed rondeau. Add additional 1/4 cup of olive oil. Place over medium -low heat. Add the rice and toast, constantly stirring with rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Add 12 oz. of the stock and mix well. Let cook stirring to avoid sticking for about 8-10 minutes. Remove rice from pan and spread onto parchment paper-lined sheet pan. (Pre-cooking the rice is a step we take at ALDEA to expedite the service, but rice can also be finished at this point, add the the additional stock as well as garnishes)
Cook duck breasts: Season duck breasts with salt and pepper. Vacuum pack with the duck fat and cook in water bath at 65 degrees celsius for 20 minutes.
To finish: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. In large paella pan, Spread rice along the bottom in even layer. Add the duck confit, chorizo, olives, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and flatten out again. Add the additional 6 oz of stock and place in oven. Cook for 7 minutes until rice is crisped around the edges and a “soccarat” has formed on the bottom of pan. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes covered with aluminum foil.
To serve: Dish out onto plates and garnish with the sliced duck breast, crisped up skin, and the apricot puree. Or place entire rice at center of table with garnishes on top and let guests serve themselves.
- Senator Orrin Hatch (R - Utah)
The GOP has finally come out of the closet about health care: they are no longer even mouthing the words that everyone should have health care in America, and they continue to lie to the American public that we have the ‘best’ healthcare system in the world and that Obama wants to destroy it:
Take this exchange between Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this month, just after the Supreme Court upheld most of President Obama’s health law.
Wallace: “What specifically are you going to do to provide universal coverage to the 30 million people who are uninsured?”
McConnell: “That is not the issue. … The question is how can you go step by step to improve the American health care system? It is already the finest health care system in the world.”
Wallace: “But you don’t think that 30 million people who are uninsured is an issue?”
McConnell: “Let me tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to turn the American health care system into a Western European system. That is exactly what is at the heart of Obamacare. They want to have the federal government take over all of American health care.”
By “Western European,” McConnell means government-run or primarily government-run. Western European countries also pretty much don’t have people who don’t have health insurance. And by the way, there are closer to 50 million Americans without health insurance; 30 million is the number the health law is estimated likely to cover.
Well, at least they consistent in the class war they are fighting. It makes it very easy to despise them.
How To Predict The Future In 3 Simple Steps - Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry via Forbes
Every once in a while, forget everything you know. Every once in a while, you have to look at what you’re obsessed about like you don’t know anything about it.
As the weather spins into the post-normal — more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) — our aging infrastructure is failing, and we are going to see much more serious disruptions in the future because our governments a/ don’t want to talk about the climate (too scary) and b/ are laying off the workers that we should be using to fix the power lines, train tracks, roadways and bridges.
Matthew Wald and John Schwartz, Rise in Weather Extremes Threatens Infrastructure via NYTimes.com
The frequency of extreme weather is up over the past few years, and people who deal with infrastructure expect that to continue. Leading climate models suggest that weather-sensitive parts of the infrastructure will be seeing many more extreme episodes, along with shifts in weather patterns and rising maximum (and minimum) temperatures.
“We’ve got the ‘storm of the century’ every year now,” said Bill Gausman, a senior vice president and a 38-year veteran at the Potomac Electric Power Company, which took eight days to recover from the June 29 “derecho” storm that raced from the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard and knocked out power for 4.3 million people in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
In general, nobody in charge of anything made of steel and concrete can plan based on past trends, said Vicki Arroyo, who heads the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, a clearinghouse on climate-change adaptation strategies.
Highways, Mr. Scullion noted, are designed for the local climate, taking into account things like temperature and rainfall. “When you get outside of those things, man, all bets are off.” As weather patterns shift, he said, “we could have some very dramatic failures of highway systems.”
Adaptation efforts are taking place nationwide. Some are as huge as the multibillion-dollar effort to increase the height of levees and flood walls in New Orleans because of projections of rising sea levels and stronger storms to come; others as mundane as resizing drainage culverts in Vermont, where Hurricane Irene damaged about 2,000 culverts. “They just got blown out,” said Sue Minter, the Irene recovery officer for the state.
In Washington, the subway system, which opened in 1976, has revised its operating procedures. Authorities will now watch the rail temperature and order trains to slow down if it gets too hot. When railroads install tracks in cold weather, they heat the metal to a “neutral” temperature so it reaches a moderate length, and will withstand the shrinkage and growth typical for that climate. But if the heat historically seen in the South becomes normal farther north, the rails will be too long for that weather, and will have an increased tendency to kink. So railroad officials say they will begin to undertake much more frequent inspection.
Some utilities are re-examining long-held views on the economics of protecting against the weather. Pepco, the utility serving the area around Washington, has repeatedly studied the idea of burying more power lines, and the company and its regulators have always decided that the cost outweighed the benefit. But the company has had five storms in the last two and a half years for which recovery took at least five days, and after the derecho last month, the consensus has changed. Both the District of Columbia and Montgomery County, Md., have held hearings to discuss the option — though in the District alone, the cost would be $1.1 billion to $5.8 billion, depending on how many of the power lines were put underground.
Even without storms, heat waves are changing the pattern of electricity use, raising peak demand higher than ever. That implies the need for new investment in generating stations, transmission lines and local distribution lines that will be used at full capacity for only a few hundred hours a year. “We build the system for the 10 percent of the time we need it,” said Mark Gabriel, a senior vice president of Black & Veatch, an engineering firm. And that 10 percent is “getting more extreme.”
Even as the effects of weather extremes become more evident, precisely how to react is still largely an open question, said David Behar, the climate program director for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “We’re living in an era of assessment, not yet in an area of adaptation,” he said.
The biggest problem is that people’s mindset is stuck in the old days, and I don’t just mean their expectations about ‘normal’ weather. No, the worst is that people can’t accept the reality that in the post-normal we will never have the luxury of time to assess and then adapt. Linear, problem-solving approaches will simply not work anymore.
But this is not a call for more old world leadership, characterized by moving fast, and looking for permanent ‘solutions’ to well-defined and researched ‘problems’. Instead, we need leaders demonstrating the ‘VUCA Prime’ characteristics, as Bob Johansen has styled it.
Leslie Caron makes the break between the old world and the new one very clear:
We are moving from a world of problems, which demand speed, analysis, and elimination of uncertainty to solve, to a world of dilemmas, which demand patience, sense-making, and an engagement of uncertainty.
So, in this context, there is no ‘solution’ to infrastructure stress and failure based on more violent weather. We are stuck in a next context which is fundamentally unsolvable, but we have to try to make sense of this in the context of the larger world.
For example: the financial constraints of our weakened economy mean that we may not be able to repair the interstate highway system, but we might extend and maintain the train system for people moving. Do we have the foresight to disinvest in the highway system? Can we shift from a truck-based logistics system to boats, trains, and airships long-distance hauling?
We are just as trapped in our thinking as we are in a rapidly changing global weather system, and without leaders with the mindset and skillset geared for the post-normal world, we will never find out way out.
They were words no one ever expected Sanford I. Weill — the man who helped usher in the age of the financial supermarket — to utter.
“What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking,” Mr. Weill, former Citigroup chief executive, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. “Have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not going to be too big to fail.”
His words were essentially a call for a return to Glass-Steagall, the financial regulation that for decades separated commercial banking from investment banking in an effort to keep the financial world safer and easier to regulate. And it was an admission rich with irony.
For it was Mr. Weill, the empire builder who progressively turned an insignificant Baltimore-based lender into the towering financial services provider named Travelers and who erased Glass-Steagall with the $70 billion union of his firm with Citicorp in 1998.” —
- Michael De La Merced, Weill Calls for Splitting Up Big Banks via NYTimes.com
Sandy Weill says that we should break up the banks. Hmmm. I think we should break them up, and nationalize the parts that make a market for municipal bonds, mortgages, and almost anywhere that the banking cartel makes money based on financial market places.