Views from elsewhere in Tennessee

Views from elsewhere in Tennessee

By: AP

The following is a roundup of recent editorials from Tennessee members of The Associated Press. In some cases, the editorials have been edited for length. They do not reflect an editorial position of the AP but represent the opinions of the newspapers from which they are taken.
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The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, Dec. 24
Congress passed an energy bill that focused more attention on controversial fuel economy standards for the nation’s automotive fleet.
Slipping in under the radar was another major provision that requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be produced by 2022. Of that, 21 billion must be from advanced biofuel — not from corn, in other words — and 16 billion of that amount must be cellulosic biofuel.
Hello, Grassoline.
That’s the University of Tennessee’s trademarked name for a product under development that could provide a major boost to agriculture in Tennessee.
UT is in the process of contracting with farmers to grow about 8,000 acres of switchgrass over the next three years for its new $40.7 million biofuels plant in East Tennessee. Tennessee corn growers, of course, also stand to gain from passage of the energy bill, which mandates an increase in corn-based ethanol production by 15 billion gallons a year.
Alternative fuels are all very much in the early stages of development, with questions still being raised about large-scale corn-based ethanol production’s effect on food prices and the environment as well as its reliance on energy and fertilizer made from natural gas, oil and coal.
In Tennessee, the transition is seen as a potential boon to the economy. The Grassoline plant in Monroe County is expected to be operating by 2009.
Tennessee also is playing a national role in the development of biofuels at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where a $125 million Bioenergy Research Center is being developed to conduct the basic research to improve the method of converting switchgrass to ethanol.
It’s far from a sure bet, but it is reassuring to know that at Oak Ridge some of the country’s most talented scientists are on the case. Grassoline could produce a win-win situation for both the nation and the state.
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The (Murfreesboro) Daily News Journal, Dec. 21
It has been a good week for the cause of more open government, with promising signs on the state and national levels that at least some elected officials understand the importance of the public’s right to know what its government does. Nationally, Congress overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation that toughens the 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and increases penalties on agencies that don’t comply with open records requests. This marked the first makeover of FOIA in a decade and would go a long way toward bringing back some balance to what has been a disturbing trend toward secrecy in the federal government in general and the Bush Administration in particular. Among the improvements to the act: a 20-day deadline for responding to FOIA requests; refund of search and duplication fees for noncommercial requesters if the deadline is not met; a system for media and the public to track the status of FOIA requests.
This bill is a strong step toward keeping our federal government open and accountable.
Meanwhile, it was good to hear that state Sen. Randy McNally is hesitant to sponsor legislation that would change the state’s open government laws. We still feel the proposed changes would be atrociously damaging to the state’s open government laws and should be strongly rejected.
McNally, R-Oak Ridge, chaired the study committee that handed down its final recommendations this week. The panel is recommending, among other things, that up to three members of a government body be allowed to meet in private and even decide on how they would vote. That’s absolutely foolish and detrimental to open local government.
He should go a step further and recommend the panel reassembles, perhaps with a different makeup, and craft recommendations that protect citizens, not politicians.
Published in The Messenger 12.27.07

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