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Best Columns: Biofuel backlash, Courting consumers
People loved biofuels, says Roger Cohen in The New York Times, at least until
 

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iofuel’s bum rap

People loved biofuels, says Roger Cohen in The New York Times, at least until “everyone decided they were the worst thing since the Black Death.” Fuel made from crops and other plants is now being blamed for everything from “soaring global commodity prices” to “food riots in Haiti.” But that’s “hogwash and bilge.” Food prices are rising, but blame a huge increase in Asians “eating twice a day, instead of once,” rising oil costs, and the tanking dollar—rice is holding up much better in euros. Ethanol isn’t a “panacea,” but it is a “necessary bridge” to our energy future. It will be a viable one, too, if Europe and the U.S. drop their “skewed subsidies.”

The coming rebate race

The U.S. economy is “flirting with recession,” says Jane Porter in BusinessWeek.com, and struggling retailers “desperately want a piece” of your tax rebates. Stores like Sears, Kmart, and Kroger are offering to swap your rebate, plus 10 percent, for a gift card good at their locations. Other retailers, like Home Depot and other home-improvement chains “hammered by the housing bust,” are jumping in, too. Stores that sell “necessities”—groceries rather than “discretionary items”—will fare better. But with rising food and energy prices and a jump in credit-card debt, retailers have their work cut out. “Let the promotional wars begin.”
 

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