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By Robert Rapier on Mar 11, 2008 with no responses

Today’s Stories of Interest

There were quite a few interesting stories today, so here are a few Drumbeat-inspired headlines and excerpts.

Gasoline: Painful, and getting worse

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — So gasoline prices are at an all-time high. But after adjusting for inflation, rising incomes and better fuel efficiency, how bad are they really? The experts’ answer: Bad. Nearly as bad as they’ve ever been, and not likely to get better anytime soon.

Gas prices rise to new national record

NEW YORK – The cost of filling up the family car jumped to a record high Tuesday, adding to the challenges consumers already face with falling home values and rising food prices.

Gas prices at the pump rose overnight to a record national average of $3.2272 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. That’s a tad higher than the previous record of $3.2265, set last May.

A year ago, rising demand and a string of refinery outages had raised concerns about supplies. Now, the soaring price of crude oil is the culprit, propelling gas higher even though supplies are at 15-year highs.

Michael J. Economides: Presidential Candidates Clueless on Energy

It is certain that the United States is in for an energy price and supply shock the likes of which we have never experienced or imagined. While high prices, to a reasonable extent can be tolerated, hell will break loose if massive supply disruptions emerge. We are much closer to them than people think. Those who think that we can conserve ourselves to energy independence need not read any further. They are vastly wrong and it is pointless to argue with them.

Corn-Based Ethanol Could Worsen “Dead Zone” – Study

WASHINGTON – Growing more corn to meet the projected US demand for ethanol could worsen an expanding “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that is bad for crawfish, shrimp and local fisheries, researchers reported on Monday.

Beef industry reeling from rising feed costs

Corn prices, which have more than doubled largely because of ethanol production, have the beef industry staggering. The price per pound for beef isn’t rising nearly as quickly as feed costs, and nationally some ranchers are reducing the size of their herds. That reduction of cows to slaughter was the main reason cited by the world’s largest meat producer, Tyson Foods, for shuttering a Kansas packing plant in January, leaving 1,500 middle-class workers jobless.

Weschenfelder and others in the cattle industry contend they’d be better off if biofuel subsidies weren’t driving up corn costs.”Corn is up and it’s staying up and, of course, everybody knows that it happened when they started this ethanol stuff,” Weschenfelder said. “Yes, it’s my preferred feed. I feed up to 400 tons a day, depending on what we’re doing. Right now we’re feeding 75 tons a day, and corn’s $225 a ton. Three years ago, I fed corn for $80 a ton.”

And how is this for irony? The Select Committee on Global Warming is holding a hearing to chastise oil companies for high oil prices:

Chairman Markey Announces Oil Cos. CEOs Hearing to Explore Oil Price Issues

Record Oil Prices Deserve Answers from Oil Companies

WASHINGTON (March 11, 2008) – It’s a broken record for a near-broken economy-oil hit another price record today, crossing the $109 threshold for a barrel of oil, and the price of a gallon of gasoline reached record prices overnight. One Congressional committee, not satisfied with America’s crude oil status quo, will seek answers from the biggest oil companies in the world.

The Select Committee plans on holding the hearing on Tuesday, April 1, 2008, the first day available to hold hearings after Congress returns from its Spring district period recess.

“This is not an April fool’s joke on Big Oil, because the prices at the pump are no laughing matter,” said Markey. “It’s time for these top oil company CEOs to look Americans in the face and tell them why they can’t support new solutions.”

Markey has got to be one of the biggest demagogues on oil prices. He should embrace higher prices as the fastest practical solution for slowing GHG emissions. Yet it’s a constant dog and pony show with him: Parade out the CEOs and demand that they answer for these oil prices. If I were a CEO of one of the major oil companies, I would tell Markey to make an appointment if he wants to talk, and then come see me. I would tell him that I am not at his disposal; I am too busy trying to make sure his constituents have gasoline. (Thanks to a reader for this one).