Environmentalists and energy advocates agree: Ethanol reform now

Commentary by Marita Noon - We all expect to pay a price for missing deadlines—fail to pay a ticket on time, and you may find a warrant out for your arrest. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can apparently miss deadlines with impunity.
      For the past two years, the EPA has failed to meet the statutory deadline under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), requiring the agency to tell refiners how much ethanol to blend into the nation’s motor fuels.
      In November 2013, the EPA attempted to announce the proposed 2014 blend levels, which by then came months past the legally mandated deadline. The EPA surprised and pleased RFS opponents when it utilized its authority by taking market conditions into consideration to adjust levels. The agency set the proposed 2014 standard to a level lower than 2013’s, even though the law requires increasing amounts. Ethanol producers, expecting the usual uptick, loudly opposed the reduction. They made so much noise, the EPA agreed to reconsider. To date, the 2014 standards have not yet been announced.
      Then, on November 21, the EPA announced it would make a decision next year on how much ethanol refiners had to add to gasoline this year. Yet, if refiners don’t meet the unknown requirement, they get fined. That’s akin to handing out the class syllabus after the students have failed the final exam.
      With the goal of reducing foreign oil imports, Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 and revised it in 2007—which also provided incentives to America’s fledgling ethanol industry. At the time, gasoline demand was rising to an all-time high and oil imports comprised more than 58 percent of U.S. oil consumption. No doubt Congress believed it was saving American consumers from their addiction to oil.
      Then the world changed. The U.S. economy plunged into a terrible recession, unemployment soared, and gasoline demand fell sharply. Meanwhile, advanced drilling technologies, including the long-used hydraulic fracturing and newer horizontal drilling, began producing oil and natural gas from U.S. shale formations—previously uneconomic to develop—leading to America’s 21st-century energy boom.
      Today the U.S. stands as the world’s largest natural-gas producer, projected to pass Saudi Arabia as the number-one oil producer. With crude-oil supplies flooding the market, prices have been cut in half. Although fears over foreign-oil dependence have abated, the U.S. remains stuck with an outdated, unworkable, and even harmful—to vehicles, engines, and the environment—ethanol mandate. Read full Marita Noon column on Breitbart.com
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Swickard: Being superstitious about rain in New Mexico

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.   Christmas time is magical with the Christmas superstitious advice, "You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why..." It is a belief in goodness and the hope Santa can see goodness in each of us. The main point of the season in my family is the birth of Jesus. But we also enjoy Santa.
      As a child I understood the birth of Jesus, but to me the Santa story had to be taken entirely on faith. As a child I started my lifelong superstition that I somehow had control over things that were beyond control.
      This fall I have a dilemma. My windshield wipers are just barely working but I have a good reason to not change them. No, I am not cheap, this is more important. It has to do with the bountiful rain we are receiving this fall.
      It seems there are two types of people: those who confess to being superstitious and those who won't admit it. I identify with a scene in the movie, Bull Durham when the character played by Kevin Costner says, "I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak... You know why? Because they don't happen very often."
      Like everyone I have good days and challenging days. When I have two good days in a row I am on a streak and I try to remember how I got on the streak. So my windshield wipers are really worn out. I still see to drive in the rain but normally I would change them in a heartbeat. But months ago I noticed they were marginal because, surprise, it rained.
      The superstitious part of me noticed when it rained two days in a row. I knew I should go put on a new set of wipers but gosh that rain was sure nice. So for all of these months the windshield wipers have languished. But the rain is wonderful.
      I might get help from Superstitious Anonymous, but it is still raining. When the rains stops as we know it will, then I will have new wipers. I park when it rains now. No Santa, don't bring me wipers, we are on a streak. Merry Christmas. Read the full column

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State senator wants to help students pay loans

Senator Jacob Candalaria
From KOAT-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —New Mexico students default on their college loans more than students in any other state. Now, a state senator wants to help combat that problem this legislative session.
      Jacob Candalaria is a state senator from Albuquerque. He said this is a difficult problem to tackle in the Land of Enchantment. “We actually see a lower percentage of students in New Mexico borrowing money than the rest of the country,” Candalaria said. “The problem is once they do borrow money, they’re more likely to be unable to pay it back.”
      Candalaria is the youngest state senator in New Mexico. He’s a second-year law student at the University of New Mexico. As a student himself, Candalaria said he listens to his peers worry about student loans.
      National numbers reveal New Mexico has the highest percentage of student loan default rates. The national average is 13.7 percent. New Mexico sits close to 21 percent. So the senator is proposing a state-based tax credit for students. It would offset some of the costs of paying back student loans after college.
     The Department of Education released the national default rates in September. The study looks at the rates from 2010. More
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Forest Service: Decorating national forest trees could be harmful to wildlife

From KOB-TV.com - It's become a holiday tradition in some New Mexico national forests, but now the U.S. Forest service say it needs to stop.
      The Forest service says for years, trees in the national forest have been decorated with tinsel, garland and edible decorations, but decorations are being left as trash and could be dangerous to wildlife.
      While it may look festive, the forest service says none of it is good for wildfire and the edible treats aren't part of their natural diet, which could be harmful.
      There are prohibitions against littering. Individuals could face a fine of $150 or more for leaving litter on the National Forest. More
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Swickard: Come now to the aid of our oil patch

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - Now is the time for all New Mexicans to come to the aid of our oil patch. The New Mexico oil patch has sustained us in New Mexico for decades both in products we use and as the prime financial support of our public education system. Unfortunately, with the global drop in prices our oil patch is going into a hard time.
      New Mexico has been politically pushed to fund green energy projects which do not have the generation density to be cost-effective and useful. Our oil patch has long funded the public schools, the green energy projects fund the politicians. We need public schools more than we need politicians. We will eventually abandon all of the green projects when we run out of money we wish to spend on politics.
      However, the oil patch is the real deal for New Mexico. Therefore in this price drop we New Mexicans need to recognize the opportunities an oil price war provides our state. When the New Mexico oil patch prospers, so do all New Mexicans.
       This war for market share has happened before. And therein is a lesson: Congressman Steve Pearce had a company in the oil patch when oil prices declined to the point the oil patch essentially shut down. That is where we are headed so we need to take a page from Pearce's playbook.
      Steve Pearce and wife Cynthia had a well service business with dozens of employees when an oil price fluctuation stalled production in New Mexico and West Texas. They went against conventional wisdom and keep all of their employees on the payroll unlike other companies who quickly trimmed their workforce because there was no work.
      Those workers who were let go went on unemployment and then drifted into other lines of work. Steve and Cynthia's workers kept busy working in the company. They based their extraordinary risk on their personal faith and their sense of the value of their workers.
      Early on they decided to go to the very ends of their savings. It was close. Within a couple months of when they would have to shutter the company the oil patch suddenly lurched to life because prices shot up. Their crew was ready and able to work the first day those services were needed. For that giant bet on the future, there was quite a reward for Steve and Cynthia as the only company ready the first day the oil patch revived.
        The future of our public schools and much of our state's economy hangs in the balance. For the public schools there is nowhere else to make this money. Come now to the aid of our oil patch and we all will prosper together. Read full column

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Sources: DA anticipates charging APD officers in Boyd shooting

From KRQE-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s office anticipates pursuing open counts of murder against the two Albuquerque police officers who shot homeless camper James Boyd in the Sandia Foothills on March 16, KRQE News 13 has learned. 
      It is a preliminary decision, made several weeks ago, based on multiple reviews of more than 1,000 pages of evidence and nine DVDs containing recordings from APD’s investigation of the shooting, which police turned over to prosecutors in early October, multiple sources have told KRQE News 13.
     Brandenburg has said she expects to make a final decision in the spring on whether to pursue charges against the two officers — Keith Sandy, who has since retired from APD, and Dominique Perez of the SWAT team — in one of the most controversial in a long string of police shootings in New Mexico’s largest city.
     Prosecutors have a somewhat unorthodox plan for the Boyd case, the sources said. Rather than using a grand jury session, which is conducted in secret, they anticipate presenting the charges during a preliminary hearing in open court, where a judge would decide whether there is probable cause to go on to trial.
     By presenting open counts of murder, prosecutors would give jurors in a trial a range of charges to choose from, all of which are predicated on the theory that the officers killed Boyd intentionally. The stiffest of those charges is first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence. At the other end of the spectrum is voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum of six years in prison.
     Pursuing charges against police officers in a shooting would mark a significant departure for Brandenburg. In 14 years as DA, she has declined to prosecute each of the roughly 100 police shooting cases that have landed on her desk. More

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Lawmakers to consider state children’s song

From KRQE-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – New Mexico has an official state tie, the bolo tie. There’s the state question, red or green? The state even has its own song. But what about an official state children’s song?
      It’s one of the bills lawmakers could make into law next month. Mesilla Elementary music teacher, Melanie Williams wrote the song three years ago for a third grade program on food.
        “There wasn’t really anything out there about green chile. I thought that was a shame, so I wrote a song for my students to sing,” Williams said.
        Now her song could become a part of New Mexico history. A student’s mother talked to Dona Ana County State Representative Bill McCamley who wants to make it the state’s official children’s song.
       Both houses would have to approve McCamley’s bill in the upcoming session. Representative McCamley hopes its one bill lawmakers can agree on. “We’re celebrating who we are as people. Celebrating our food, celebrating our culture, celebrating our children,” McCamley said.
      Williams no longer teaches but says she’s honored her song will even be considered. More
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Marita Noon: Germany’s “energy transformation” — unsustainable subsidies and an unstable system

Commentary by Marita Noon - Perhaps when Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was a child, she attend a party and was the only one who came without a present, or wearing inappropriate attire—and the embarrassment she felt haunts her to this day. That’s how psychodynamic psychology (Freud) might explain her December 3 decision spend more money on Germany’s failing energy experiment to avoid, as Reuters puts it: “the embarrassment of missing her government’s goal of a 40 percent reduction of emissions by 2020.”
      As Europe’s biggest economy, Germany has also embraced the biggest carbon dioxide reductions through a program known as “Energiewende”—or, in English, also called energy change, shift, or transformation. Energiewende was launched in 2000 under Merkel’s predecessor who offered subsidies for any company that produced green energy.
       While the European Union (E.U.) has committed to carbon dioxide cuts of 40 percent by 2030, Germany’s national goal aims to get there a decade sooner—which may have seemed achievable early in the program. After the 1990 reunification of Germany, the modernization of East Germany brought rapidly reduced emissions. However, the program’s overall result has raised costs and the emissions the expensive programs were designed to cut. Read full column
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NM Supreme Court: Judge removed by voters must leave bench

From KOB-TV.com - A New Mexico judge who attempted to stay in office despite being ousted by voters must go, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.
      District Judge Sheri Raphaelson did not receive enough retention votes in the November election. In 2009, she was appointed to fill a vacancy for a term that began in 2008. Raphaelson then won a 2010 election.
      Raphaelson argued that under law, she must serve a complete six-year term that began after the 2010 election.
      But the Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the state Attorney General's Office says she inherited a six-year term that started in 2008.
      Justices voted unanimously on Monday that she must leave the bench at the end of the year. More
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NM Airlines plans to resume flights

From KOAT-TV.com - New Mexico Airline planes remained grounded Friday after the airline voluntarily parked the fleet for mechanical issues this week.Flights have been canceled until further notice.
      Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Lynn Lunsford wouldn't say what mechanical issues New Mexico Airlines was working on. The airline made the decision several days ago, and Lunsford said all five planes operated by the airline were still being worked on.
      Passengers expressed frustration at the Albuquerque International Sunport Thursday after landing for connecting flights with New Mexico Airlines, only to learn they were canceled. New Mexico Airlines says they would reimburse passengers whose flights were cancelled.
      CEO of Pacific Wings Greg Kahlstorf, who runs New Mexico Airlines, says the mechanical issues are a temporary issue and expects his fleet to be up in the air again soon.
      New Mexico Airlines’ destinations include Albuquerque, Los Alamos, and Carlsbad; their main hub is at the Albuquerque International Sunport. It primarily flies smaller aircraft that seat up to nine passengers.
      Kahlstorf said flights from Los Alamos to Albuquerque will resume in the future, but added that the company will suspend flights to their Carlsbad destination indefinitely until the FAA addresses safety issues at the airport there.
      Carlsbad Airport is an uncontrolled airfield and has no tower because of its low volume of traffic, according to the FAA. Kahlstorf said there is a helicopter operation next to the airport that imposes safety hazards to his planes when they land and when they take off.
      Kahlstorf didn't give an exact date of when New Mexico Airlines will begin resuming flights to their Los Alamos and Albuquerque destinations. More
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