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Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released proposed targets for blending biofuels with gasoline and diesel for 2014 (18 months late) and for the current year (6 months late).
“Corn ethanol is a done deal…. There’s no stopping it.”
Princeton University scholar, Tim Searchinger, on The Grist blog in 2009
In response to this year’s severe drought and surging corn prices, the governors of North Carolina and Arkansas asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the mandate for blending ethanol into gasoline. Governor Perry of Texas filed a similar request during the price spikes of 2008 that the EPA rejected. After that, global debate over the implications of crop-based renewable fuels for food prices and climate change escalated. Some policymakers responded, but only by tinkering around the margins: the US Congress allowed $6 billion in subsidies to expire last year in the face of intense budget pressures, and the European Commission recently proposed halving its mandate for food-based biofuels.
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of mobile phone subscriptions in developing countries increased from 215 million to 4.1 billion. From a luxury for the rich, the mobile has become a ubiquitous presence in rural and urban areas alike, even in some of the most fragile countries in the world. Afghanistan saw 38 subscriptions per 100 people in 2010, an average of more than one phone per household. And while ubiquity in Afghanistan is evidence enough that mobile phone access hardly guarantees quality of life or sustainable development, mobiles have proven themselves powerful tools to improve
American taxpayers can celebrate the expiration at the end of 2011 of more than $6 billion in subsidies for ethanol and other biofuels, but other absurdities and distortions remain. For example, as Matthew Wald recently reported in the New York Times, fuel producers will pay penalties to the U.S.
As the troubling details of the Department of Energy's loan program continue to roll out, I can’t help but think of another beleaguered agency…USAID. And, I also wonder if, in thinking how to generate new clean energy technology at home, we might also find insights to better promote development abroad? Here’s how: