NFIB Cheers Jindal's Snub

  Gov. Bobby Jindal's statement that he may refuse part of President Barack Obama's stimulus package earned him critics as well as fans. Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial says Jindal is grabbing headlines at the expense of Louisiana's poor and allowing his presidential ambitions to cloud his judgment. Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, meanwhile, says Jindal should take any and all financial assistance offered to Louisiana. A group of state lawmakers expressed similar misgivings about the governor's decision. President Obama's stimulus package directs about $3.8 billion to Louisiana in aid and tax breaks, but Jindal says he plans to turn down $98 million in unemployment assistance. The governor says the cash comes with costly strings that would require the state to change its laws and possibly hike business taxes. Renee Baker, Louisiana director of the National Federation of Independent Business, says Jindal is doing the right thing and is protecting small businesses. "This is a one-time shot in the arm that would cost Louisiana money in the long run," Baker says. "Once the money runs out, in about two years, Louisiana would have to raise payroll taxes in order to fund the expanded benefits. That would make it even harder for small businesses in particular to afford the employees they have." Currently, you must be a laid-off, full-time worker to be eligible for 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. Under the federal economic stimulus package, Baker says Louisiana would get $98 million for unemployment insurance as long as the state expands coverage to include part-time workers, workers displaced because his or her spouse moves for work and workers who lose their jobs because of a family emergency. — Alford

Blended, Not Splashed

  Last week, we reported that ethanol interests are pushing for higher blends than the currently allowed 10 percent cap on the amount of ethanol that can be used in vehicles. Increasing the cap would be a boon for the ethanol industry. The Environmental Protection Agency has been testing higher blends for some time, and EPA officials announced recently that Kaplan-based Renergie has been approved for a related test program — the first of its kind in the United States. Through its decentralized network of small biofuel manufacturing facilities, Renergie produces ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. Under the test program, Renergie will use "variable blending" pumps, rather than "splash blending," to precisely dispense hydrous ethanol blends of E10, E20, E30 and E85 into test vehicles. The company will look at fuel economy, engine emissions and vehicle drivability. Sixty vehicles will be tested over the course of 15 months. "Louisiana is the first state to enact alternative transportation fuel legislation that includes a variable blending pump pilot program and a hydrous ethanol pilot program," says Meaghan M. Donovan, founder of Renergie. "By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline via blending pumps at its gas stations, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, competitively priced, cleaner and more efficient than unleaded gasoline." In the United States, splash blending is the primary method for blending ethanol into gasoline. The ethanol is "splashed" into the gasoline either in a tanker truck or sometimes in a storage tank of a retail station. Donovan says the inaccuracy and manipulation of splash blending may be eliminated by precisely blending the ethanol and unleaded gasoline at the point of consumption. She adds that a variable blending pump would ensure the consumer that E10 means the fuel entering the fuel tank of their vehicle is 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, rather than the current arbitrary range of 4 percent to 24 percent ethanol that results from splashing. — Alford

Worker Program More Competitive

  The state is continuing to build its Incumbent Worker Training Program by directing available grants to high-growth industries. Last month, the Louisiana Workforce Commission announced more than $2.7 million in grants that will be used to train more than 2,300 employees at 21 businesses. The targeted industries include aluminum fabrication, engineering, oilfield services, food-service equipment manufacturing and nursing. LWC executive director Tim Barfield says the program's primary objective in coming years will be to reach out to these high-demand fields. "While this makes the application process more competitive, we believe it also ensures we are aligning available resources with our workforce development priorities to make sure the expenditures have the maximum impact on our job market and our economy," he says. While the program is chiefly a partnership between the state and private businesses, it also offers up a role for Louisiana's community colleges to play. The employees selected in this most recent round of grants will be trained by providers such as Louisiana Technical College's Ascension campus, LSU Alexandria Continuing Education, Louisiana Delta Community College, LSU-Shreveport and L.E. Fletcher Technical Community College. — Alford