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The winners and the losers

Published: Saturday, Nov. 12 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Winner: We're not experts in biotechnology, but it's hard not to be impressed by two West High students who are using leftover cooking oil from a restaurant, methanol and potassium hydroxide to form a new type of fuel that could be cheap and effective. Using a tube narrower than a human hair, the students are causing the chemicals to mix and react without the use of heat. They also are extracting waste glycerol more quickly than through conventional processes. They have applied for a patent. Perhaps more importantly, they're hoping for an A this semester.

Loser: It's not clear who or what to blame for a huge fight that broke out among Occupy Salt Lake protesters in the early hours Thursday in Pioneer Park. Police ended up arresting four people for charges ranging from public intoxication to aggravated assault. It wasn't clear whether the assailants were part of the Occupy movement. Also, circumstances surrounding the death of a man in the park this week were cloudy. But police Friday were ordering everyone to quit camping out downtown. Salt Lake City has seen a commendable level of civility in its protest activities, especially when compared to Oakland and other cities. More than anything, this incident is evidence that Pioneer Park remains a dangerous place late at night.

Winner: If you rely on natural gas to heat your home in Utah, the news this week was good. Utah has the lowest natural gas rates in the country. No doubt this is due in part to the abundant supply of the stuff in our state, as well as its easy availability for extraction. This year's heating bills are expected to be about the same as last year, barring any unforeseen prolonged cold weather. That's at least one piece of good economic forecast at a time when the nation's economy appears to be moving like molasses.

Loser: The congressional "supercommittee" is careening toward a deadline for devising a way to bring the nation's federal budget under control. We note with dismay that nearly all the advocacy that crosses our desk, whether from interest groups or politicians, concerns cuts people claim must not be made. This week, the Sunlight Foundation reported that more than 200 groups filed lobbying disclosure forms indicating they want to lobby the supercommittee. It would be refreshing to hear, just once, someone of influence lobbying for ways to cut and reform costly government programs, rather than trying to protect their own turf. Americans have a history of banding together to sacrifice during tough times. That would be a good strategy today, too.

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