Essays on "Personal Finance And Personal Opinion" In Financial Planning Subject Assignment

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{Place holder for title page, edit according to submission requirements}IntroductionYahoo! Finance offers the knowledge and opinions on a wide range of topics by 17 different money experts. Their advice is often scholarly, practical, and thought-provoking, but one thing it is not is contradictory. There are few if any columns that offer conflicting opinions on even broad subjects. There are, however, a few columns that address related topics, or different aspects of the same topic, and if taken together these can provide invaluable insights into certain areas of personal finance. Energy and the environment are concerns for every person on the planet, and are also a source of opportunities and pitfalls for those who are simply trying to manage their personal finances.

This paper will examine four columns by Yahoo’s financial experts that discuss different sides of the energy issue: “A Second Look at Ethanol Investing” by David Jackson; “Readers Turn Green, Save Same” by David Bach; “Oil’s Increasing Threat to the US Economy” by Dr. Jeremy Siegel; and “A Cold, Hard Fact: Prepare for Higher Heating Costs Now” by Suze Orman. Whether one is a big-time investor or just trying to make the most of a weekly paycheck, these articles are relevant and helpful and well worth a closer look. “A Second Look at Ethanol Investing” by David JacksonIn his article of February 14, 2008, David Jackson takes a look at some of the issues affecting investing in ethanol.

Ethanol, of course, is big news, and has been since 2005, according to Jackson; its main use, apart from being the intoxicating element in alcoholic beverages, is as an additive to fuel.

This presumably helps reduce the amount of oil used by consumers, and is more environmentally-friendly. Jackson explains that the U. S. Congress mandate that the country consume seven-and-a-half billion gallons of ethanol by 2012 was seen as a financial boon by many, and the ethanol industry initially enjoyed a huge windfall of investment money. The realities of ethanol production and use, however, have in Jackson’s words “sobered up” some investors, so that some ethanol-related companies suffered a quick decline in their stocks. Jackson points out that rational discussion of the issue is affected by many vested interests and passions, and so states that the purpose of his article is to attempt to provide an objective picture, since he has no personal stake in the ethanol industry. The picture that Jackson presents of the use of ethanol is largely negative.

He describes three types of ethanol production – from corn, sugar, and waste products – and points out that the energy, cost, and environmental benefits of each are subject to wide debate. Corn-based ethanol, which is mostly produced in the U. S., may in fact be an energy-negative process, meaning that a gallon of ethanol yields less energy than it takes to produce it.

In addition, the conversion of land for corn crops may actually contribute to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, something the use of ethanol is intended to prevent. Sugar-based ethanol, produced and used widely in Brazil, has a better energy output than corn, but is expensive in the U. S. due to high tariffs meant to protect the domestic sugar industry. And in both the case of corn and sugar ethanol, the use of these crops for fuel drives up their prices, which in turn affects food prices.

The third method, using waste products to produce ethanol, seems more promising, but is technically challenging to produce on a commercial scale. Jackson concludes his article by stating that there is no clear favorite as yet among the three ethanol options, and implies that the very idea may not actually be a very good one.

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