Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday roundup and branding -- the Gazette, and beyond...

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HB 808 finally passes: As we stated yesterday, the political landscape has changed now that the Montana House has passed a reasonable version of HB 808. Now that all 8 appropriations bills have been passed by the House in accordance with House rules, the Senate has the duty of going to work on them.

Democrats aren't too happy that the GOP managed to put a bill together without their help, with Sen. Mike Cooney making the disparaging comment that it was "too little, too late."

Again, Democrats complained about the contents of the bill, but have no excuse, since amendments and votes would have been welcomed. It has been pretty easy to be a Democratic House member this session when it comes to the grind of appropriations bills and the appropriations committee -- just mindlessly vote "no," and leave the work of amending the bills into workable compromises in content to the Senate.

Speaking of the Montana Senate...: Charles Johnson has this to say about the Senate's version of partisanship, and we hope that it holds true in the coming weeks:

The Senate, thank goodness, is still the Senate, the good old reliable Montana Senate. Through thick or thin, whether Democrats or Republicans are in control, the two sides in the Senate can disagree on issues, but usually do so in an agreeable way.

Most senators even seem to actually like and respect most of their counterparts on the other side of the aisle. As an example of the Senate's collegiality, the one party had takeout dinners delivered to the other party during the long days right before the transmittal deadline last month. The next night, the other side reciprocated.

If that happened in the House, nobody would touch the food. They'd be afraid the other party had sprinkled arsenic on it.

Biodiesel hazards: Alternative energy sources are a must for America. Wind, geothermal, biodiesel, you name it. Alternative energy sources that arise competitively in the open market without the need for government subsidies are of course the most desirable, since they will be financially sustainable.

Tom Howard's piece demonstrates the complexities of the issue of biodiesel. The most important section of the piece is right at the end, however:

Ultimately, economics could derail Montana's efforts to develop biodiesel, Ulledalen said. Most plants producing ethanol and biodiesel are being built in the Midwest, where corn and oilseeds are plentiful and rail traffic is readily available.

There is a simple reason why corn and oilseeds are plentiful in the Midwest: rain. Corn ethanol production in particular is , if anything, destructive to Montana agriculture, since we are a state of corn consumers, not corn producers. The ethanol industry gets a 51 cent/gal. tax credit -- let the implications of the enormity of that subsidy sink in for a minute. This is driving up the price of corn for Montana's livestock producers.

Biodiesel has more promise, since dryland crops can be put to use in producing it, but we suspect that it is probably still a pipedream to have much bio-fuel coming from Montana. We should concentrate on what we do have: Wind, oil, coal, and gas -- traditional as well as "clean and green."

The Bitterroot truth: It seems that Steve Woodruff of the Missoulian is giving Ed Kemmick of the Gazette a run for his satirical money. Good stuff.

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