Time For A Fiscal Diet?

The Stanford University Public Policy and International Studies Programs just published a study that rates the relative fiscal health of national economies around the world.  How did the U. S.  rate?  According to the Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index (SFRI), the United States ranks 28th out of the 34 countries studied.

*** Results Here ***

The fiscal diet solution?  As usual, the diet is simple:  spend a lot less public money.  It’s interesting to note that Scandinavian counties and former British colonies (like Australia and New Zealand) have led the world by passing fiscal reforms that limit government spending.

More about SFRI:

“Our fiscal index provides unique and useful insight into the fiscal sustainability of countries across the globe by incorporating a wide range of important factors,” said David M. Walker, the Founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative. “It is clear that there is great potential for a fiscal crisis in many countries, including the United States, if they don’t start addressing the structural deficit challenges that lie ahead. The index reinforces the fact that the U.S. needs to engage in comprehensive and timely reforms to restore fiscal responsibility and sustainability and to avoid a debt crisis that would be felt around the world.”

Walker continued, “The index also shows that countries that engage in dramatic and comprehensive reforms can dramatically improve their fiscal prospects. New Zealand ranks number two after engaging in such reforms in the early 1990s when it faced a currency crisis. And the U.S. ranking would improve to number eight if the Congress and the President worked together to enact fiscal reforms that had the same ‘bottom line’ impact as those made by the National Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Commission.”

The SFRI is the result of a Master’s Thesis project completed by a team of Stanford University graduate students under the guidance of the Hon. David M. Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States. The SFRI incorporates both quantitative and qualitative metrics, based on several authoritative sources, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to define ‘fiscal responsibility’ and carry out cross-country comparisons. Specifically, this index was intended to illustrate where the United States is, where it is headed, and how it compares to other nations in the area of fiscal responsibility and sustainability.

Forest Biomass, Algae and Oil

Utilizing forest biomass for energy production is in vogue in the Pacific Northwest right now.  Nippon Industries in Port Angeles, WA is moving toward building a 20 megawatt project.  One recurring theme seems to trip-up this sort of energy solution:  CO2 is a primary by-product of the generation process.  While some argue that burning biomass is still carbon neutral since CO2 is released from the biomass over time anyway, it remains an issue if you’re a member of the camp that wants to reduce CO2 emissions NOW.

One possibility to greatly reduce emissions in biomass energy production is algal synthesis.  MBD Energy is currently working on pilots to turn power plant CO2 emissions into oil, feedstock and water.  The development hurdles are enormous but potentially do-able.

Professor Chris Rhodes of the U. K. had these observations about algae:

Nonetheless, there is a consortium (National Algae Association) in the U.S. that is actively seeking a future in which algae are grown on a large scale and converted to oil-alternative fuels. Certainly, it is likely that algae will become an essential component of the mix of means to keep transportation going by means other than crude oil.

The claims of the NAA are undoubtedly true, that ultimately the supply of petroleum must decline, oil prices will continue to be volatile with knife-edge consequences for the world economy, and a wholesale industry based on algae would provide precious and needed jobs and economic development in the U.S. The approach could be introduced on necessary levels for all nations and even a village “pressure cooker” to provide algal fuels for small communities.

More news at 11 . . . . .