Study: Biofuels Worse Than Gas on Environment

Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years, compared with conventional gasoline.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.

The biofuel industry and administration officials immediately criticized the research as flawed. They said it was too simplistic in its analysis of carbon loss from soil, which can vary over a single field, and vastly overestimated how much residue farmers actually would remove once the market gets underway.

‘‘The core analysis depicts an extreme scenario that no responsible farmer or business would ever employ because it would ruin both the land and the long-term supply of feedstock. It makes no agronomic or business sense,’’ said Jan Koninckx, the global business director for biorefineries at DuPont.

Later this year, the company is scheduled to finish a $200 million-plus facility in the city of Nevada, Iowa, that will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol using corn residue from nearby farms. An assessment paid for by DuPont said that the ethanol it will produce there could be more than 100 percent better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

The research is among the first to attempt to quantify, over 12 Corn Belt states, how much carbon is lost to the atmosphere when the stalks, leaves, and cobs that make up residue are removed and used to make biofuel, instead of left to replenish the soil with carbon. The study found that regardless of how much corn residue is taken off the field, the process contributes to global warming.

‘‘I knew this research would be contentious,’’ said Adam Liska, the lead author and an assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. ‘‘I’m amazed it has not come out more solidly until now.’’

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News: Patrol Investigating Fatal Wreck Involving Deputy

The South Carolina Highway Patrol has begun reconstructing a fatal crash involving an Anderson County deputy responding to an emergency call, authorities said Sunday.

Frances Elaine Smith, 45, of Seneca, was killed when the deputy’s police cruiser crashed into a pick-up truck she was riding in Friday just before midnight on Clemson Boulevard, Anderson County Coroner Greg Shore said.

The driver and another passenger inside the pickup truck were transported to AnMed hospital after authorities had to use mechanical means to extract them, Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Tony Keller said.

The three were driving into town when the deputy lost control of a marked Ford Crown Victoria traveling through the intersection Clemson Boulevard and the East-West Connector and crossed the center line, Shore said.

The deputy, along with a reserved deputy inside the car, were responding to an emergency call at the Royal American Inn on Clemson Boulevard near Interstate 85, Shore said.

The road was wet, but Shore said he wasn’t sure if it had been raining at the time.

The deputy and reserve deputy were taken to AnMed with serious injuries, Shore said. The deputy was released from the hospital, and the reserve deputy remained hospitalized Sunday, Anderson County Sheriff’s Lt. Sheila Cole said.

Cole that the deputies were on their way to back up another officer at the Royal American Inn when the crash happened.

Cole referred questions about the crash, including how fast the cruiser was traveling, to the Highway Patrol.


Cyber Security to Cost S.C. $27 M in 2014-2015 Budget

South Carolina may spend $27 million next fiscal year on continued efforts to secure taxpayers' personal data and provide another year of credit protection following the 2012 hacking at the state's tax collection agency.

The state budget may also require all state agencies to adopt and implement cyber-security standards. Nineteen months after a cyber-thief stole unencrypted data of 6.4 million residents and businesses from the Department of Revenue, it's unclear how agencies are safeguarding their own data.

Budget and Control Board Director Marcia Adams says state law doesn't give her agency's information technology division the authority to assess agencies' progress or make policies mandatory. 

A clause in the House's budget plan for 2014-15 provides that authority. The Senate Finance Committee last week put a similar clause in its budget plan.


Celebrating The Most Pivotal Event in History

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3

Matt. 28

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


U.S. Relaunches Faith-Based Partnership Program

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced Friday the re-launch of its Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships for promotion of partnerships between businesses and community- and faith-based organizations aimed at job creation and economic growth.

The Center, one of 13 federal agency offices under the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, is housed within the Office of the Secretary, the Department of Commerce said in a statement.

Pritzker said she is "excited" to announce the new strategic direction the Center, which "plays an important role in connecting Commerce to local communities and ensuring the Department's "Open for Business Agenda" expands opportunity for all Americans."

The Center will help the Department of Commerce to achieve its mission of "promoting job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our nation's workers," Pritzker added.

On March 30, the Center co-hosted Business Sunday at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. to provide business leaders from congregations and communities around the country with the federal resources they need to start and grow their companies.

Business Sunday is a collaboration between the Minority Business Development Agency and the Small Business Administration to help connect people to valuable technical assistance, grant information and other resources.

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County Boasts Record Number of Employed Citizens

In March, South Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 5.5 percent in February’s rate of 5.7 percent. The last time the Palmetto State’s rate was at this level was in March 2008. From February to March 2014, the number of unemployed persons declined by 5,077, to a level of 119,058.

Anderson County's rate moved up slightly, from 4.5 percent in February to 4.7 percent, however the numbers do not reflect the fact that a record number of Andersonians, 83,144 were employed in March 2014. The previous employment record of 82,908 was in June 1999. The uneployment rate rose slightly due to an increase in the number of people in the labor force, those seeking work in the county, jumped by 915.

“I am happy to see these numbers, but we can’t ease up on our economic development efforts”, said Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn.  “In today’s world you can go down as quickly as you can go up, so we can’t afford to be complacent.   I am confident we are up to the challenges that lie ahead.  I want to thank my fellow Council members and the entire community for their continued support of our economic development strategy.” 

The estimated number of employed persons in March was 2,046,002, up 6,560 since February. This is the eighth consecutive monthly increase and marks a state historic employment high. From March 2013 to March 2014, an estimated 32,555 people have found work.

The labor force increased slightly in March, up by 1,483 to 2,165,060. Since March 2013 the labor force has declined by nearly 23,982 people.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent in March. 


Dustin Owens and First Amendment to Perform

Dustin Owens and the First Amendment will be playing live at Rainbow Records Saturday from 12:30-2 p.m. for Record Store Day, and at the Merck Mountain Music Festival from 7:30-8:30 as a fund raiser for Helping Hands of Clemson.

More Information Here


Report: State Budget Projections on Target

State economic advisers said Thursday their tax collection projections for South Carolina are on target.

The Board of Economic Advisors made no changes in its revenue projections. That means the Senate Finance Committee gets no additional money to spend as members craft their state budget proposal for the fiscal year starting July 1. The committee will finish its work after next week's legislative break.

Chief economist Frank Rainwater said the state's economic outlook is positive.

"Things are generally running on track," he told board members. "Overall, I think it's positive, but we could get a surprise one way or the other."

State coffers have $63 million more than estimated through March. But Rainwater said much of that is due to the timing of tax season this year. Personal income taxes are a major source of state revenue. The annual filing deadline was Tuesday. Refunds going out to taxpayers will bring earlier income tax estimates in line, Rainwater said.

Adjusting for that and other factors, such as additional lawsuit settlements, puts revenues at $27.5 million above estimates, he said.

The board does not meet again until May 21, two weeks before the legislative session is scheduled to end. That could be as the House and Senate are in negotiations to reach a compromise between their separate budget proposals.

The House passed its $7 billion budget plan for state taxes in March.


S.C. Man Fined $525 for Soda Refill at VA Gets Pardon

A man who faced a $525 fine for refilling an 89-cent drink at a Veterans Affairs hospital apparently will get off with a warning.

When Christopher Lewis of North Charleston, S.C., refilled his drink without paying Wednesday, a federal police officer gave him a ticket. Lewis is a construction worker and says he never noticed the signs and has refilled his drink before without paying.

VA spokeswoman Tonya C. Lobbestael said after reviewing what happened at the Ralph C. Johnson Center in Charleston, officials decided a warning was sufficient.

Lobbestael says the cafeteria at the center has signs posted in the drink machines indicating the cost of refills. Failing to pay for the refills is considered shoplifting.


Doctorow Wins Library of Congress Prize for Fiction

America's "very own Charles Dickens", EL Doctorow, is set to be honoured with the Library of Congress prize for American fiction this summer.

Doctorow, whose career spans 50 years and whose acclaimed novels include Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and World's Fair, said that winning the award would help to – momentarily – soothe his "self-doubt". 

"I was a child who read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually, I asked of a story not only what was to happen next, but how is this done? How am I made to live from words on a page? And so I became a writer myself," said the author. "But is there a novelist who doesn't live with self-doubt? The high honour of the Library of Congress Prize for AmericanFiction confers a blessed moment of peace and resolution." 

Established to mark the career of an American writer whose work "is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but for its originality of thought and imagination", the prize has previously gone to Don DeLillo, and in its previous format as the Library of Congress Creative Achievement award for fiction to John Grisham, Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison and Philip Roth. 

Announcing that the judging panel of authors and critics had decided on Doctorow as this year's winner, librarian of congress James Billington described the author as "our very own Charles Dickens, summoning a distinctly American place and time, channelling our myriad voices". 

"Each book is a vivid canvas, filled with colour and drama. In each, he chronicles an entirely different world," said Billington. 

Doctorow told the New York Times that his focus on American history was "not a conscious decision, but somewhere along the line I must have realised a slice of time was as valid an organising principle for a novel as a bit of acreage".

"The great Faulkner might have Yoknapatawpha County but I could have the first decade of the 20th century," he said, referring to Ragtime. 

The prize, which specifically seeks to reward "strong, unique, enduring voices that – throughout long, consistently accomplished careers – have told us something about the American experience", will be given to Doctorow on 30 August at the Library of Congress National Book festival. 

Doctorow's prize will join his previous awards, including the National Book Award for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner award.


8 Million Now Signed up for Obamacare

Barack Obama declared on Thursday that 8 million Americans have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and called on Republicans to abandon what he described as “endless, fruitless” attempts to unravel his signature health reforms.

Congressional budget forecasters had predicted that about 7 million people would enrol through the act's healthcare exchanges. The administration surpassed that benchmark despite disastrous technical problems that afflicted the central healthcare website, rendering the insurance exchanges practically unusable at its launch in October last year.

For the third time in as many weeks, Obama sought to seize on the better-than-expected enrolment figures to declare that his flagship health law had defied its critics.

“They still can’t bring themselves to admit the Affordable Care Act is working,” Obama said of his Republican opponents. “They said nobody would sign up; they were wrong about that. They said it would be unaffordable for the country; they were wrong about that.”

House Republicans have held more than 50 symbolic votes to repeal the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, passed almost four years ago.

GOP strategists have have already made Obamacare the focus of two election campaigns, in 2010 and 2012, and are planning to campaign heavily on the issue in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

Political analysts are divided over the impact the ACA will have on the Republican campaign to take control of the Senate. However, Democrats hope the unexpected turnaround in enrolment figures will undermine Republican attempts to focus on an issue many voters say they are growing tired of.

Obama used Thursday’s announcement at the White House to implore Republicans to move on. “I know that every American isn’t going to agree with this law," he said. "I think we can agree it is well past time to move on as a country, and refocus our energies on the issues the American people are most concerned about.”


Proposal Calls for Alternative-Fuel School Buses

A state budget proposal approved Wednesday would provide new buses that run on alternative fuel to South Carolina school districts willing to foot some of the bill, as part of efforts to get decades-old, polluting school buses off the road.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the pilot program for up to three districts. The alternative-fuel buses are expected to cost roughly $10,000 more than the $82,000 average for regular-route buses.

In South Carolina, the education agency buys, owns and maintains the statewide school bus fleet. The fleet of 5,500 buses is among the nation's oldest with 1,215 buses that are between 21 and 26 years old, according to officials.

Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, said agency officials opposed the pilot as it passed the House, due to the extra up-front costs, but have agreed to the Senate compromise.

It requires districts to fund the difference in the bus' cost, pay to train the state-paid bus mechanics working on the buses and be responsible for having a local fuel source.

"I'm glad to see locals having some skin in the game," said Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. "If they're not willing to put skin in the game, they're not interested."

The Senate plan specifies that between 5 percent and 10 percent of whatever's designated in the state budget for new buses go toward those that run on alternative fuels such as natural gas and propane — provided, obviously, that a district decides to participate.



S.C. Bill Banning Abortion Stalls in Senate

A bill banning abortion in South Carolina beyond 19 weeks of pregnancy has stalled in the state Senate, with lawmakers raising concerns that the bill also bans contraception.

A Medical Affairs subcommittee postponed a vote Wednesday. Senators said the bill is too broad. Debate will likely continue later this month.

The bill that passed the House last month asserts a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks old. Supporters argue the procedure is cruel and painful after 19 weeks. Opponents say whether a fetus can feel pain at that stage is questionable.

Under the bill, doctors who disregard the ban could be charged with a felony. It provides an exception only when the mother's life is endangered.

Opponents say the bill violates the Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion.