Nov 16 2008

Enough Already!

Published by under Energy Policy,Thoughts

Once again President Bush has shown us just how pathetic and partisan he really is. Here it is, September, very little time left in this congress to get much of anything done and the House of Representatives passes an energy bill that has bipartisan support. It includes a little of everything: it allows for offshore drilling, includes incentives for renewable energy, requires oil companies to drill for oil on lands that they already lease from the government, and requires the government to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). And what does President Bush and the White House call it? “A waste of time” that’s what.

President Bush doesn’t like it because allows drilling between 50 and 100 miles offshore…not the 3 mile limit that he and the Republicans prefer. President Bush doesn’t like it because it pays for itself through a repeal of some of the tax cuts that the energy bill from 2005 gives to the oil industry. President Bush doesn’t like it because it doesn’t give states an incentive to allow for drilling off their coasts. In general President Bush doesn’t like this bill because it doesn’t give his buddies in the oil industry (who are raking in money hand over fist while oil is high) a free reign to do whatever they want, wherever they want without any consequences.

Instead of thinking…”Gee…this is about the best we’re going to get with this Congress” he would rather spit on it and play the “Blame the Democrats” game by saying that the bill was laced with “poison pills” and that House Democrats “‘lack of seriousness about expanding access to the vast domestic energy resources’ off U.S. coasts” (CNN, “Administration rips Democrats’ energy bill as waste of time“, CNN.com, September 17, 2008 ). This has nothing to do with actually trying to break the gridlock and the deadlock in Washington politics. This is just stupidity on the part of a President who has managed to screw up America more than it ever has been in the past. I notice how people in my community get all worked up about how “bad Clinton was”…well, at least under Clinton we had budget surpluses, we were growing the economy, we were respected in the world community, and we were paying down the national debt. Bush has managed to erase all of that and more!. We borrow from the Chinese to pay the Saudis for their oil, we have budget deficits galore, the national debt has grown tremendously, we are not respected in the world, we are in the middle of war that we (and the rest of the world) were lied to in order to gain support, and our civil rights are being eroded daily.

It’s time that President Bush stop blockading any effort to achieve a bipartisan move forward on the energy issue and support what he can get rather than stonewall based on ideology and sheer stupidity. If he wants to save any part of his legacy (whatever there may be left) then he needs to get his head out of the ground and do something positive.

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Aug 18 2008

So Why Drill Offshore?

Published by under Energy Policy

So John McCain is going around the country, jumping up and down chanting the Republican party’s mantra “Drill Here! Drill Now!” at every opportunity. Barack Obama, while not a proponent of offshore oil drilling, has taken a more cautious approach — he admits that we may have to accept some offshore oil drilling as a short term solution for higher energy prices until we can get other renewable technologies online. Obama feels that if we can drill safely and effectively and provide some relief to the oil price pressure then it’s worth the risk. The problem John McCain is way off base and Barack Obama is also not on the mark but at least he’s more honest.

The Energy Department’s own Energy Information Administration reported in their Annual Energy Overview for 2007 that

The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017. (p59)

(Energy Information Administration,”Annual Energy Outlook 2007“, Department of Energy, DOE-EIA0383(2007), February 2007)

What’s worse is that the impact to the cost of crude oil on the market would be minimal at best

Because oil prices are determined on the international market, however, any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant. (p59)

(Energy Information Administration,”Annual Energy Outlook 2007“, Department of Energy, DOE-EIA0383(2007), February 2007)

But don’t tell President Bush and the Republicans in Congress. This is a minor detail in their plan. The fact is that this administration and apparently Senators McCain and Obama choose to ignore the truth when its inconvenient. The Bush administration has a long history of this behavior — everything from the situation in Iraq to global warming. And Senator McCain is falling lockstep behind the administration and the party in this regard as well which is a shame since he, in the past, was quite the maverick and bucked a lot of Republican trends. However, what I find most distressing is that Senator Obama also has bought into this mentality. Why he chose to endorse even limited offshore oil drilling is beyond me but probably goes down to the fact that he wants to defuse Senator McCain’s bogus attacks against him on this issue.

The fact is that offshore oil drilling will not bring us any relief from high crude oil prices. The only thing that will reverse that trend in the near term future is conservation, efficiency improvements and finally the transition of our energy supplies from a fossil fuel base to renewable energy supplies. I’m not saying that this is going to be easy…it’s not. And anyone who says it can be done easily is not being honest by any shade of the imagination. Change at this level takes time and effort. But it can be done.

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Aug 02 2008

Doesn't He Get It?

Published by under Energy Policy,Thoughts

President Bush has used his weekly radio address today to, once again, slam Congressional Democrats and tout the need for opening up the coasts of America to offshore oil drilling.

To reduce pressure on prices, we need to increase the supply of oil, especially oil produced here at home

Bush, George, W., Weekly Radio Address, August 2, 2008 as quoted in “Bush pushes offshore drilling
“, MSNBC.

Interestingly, he acknowledged that it would be years before any of the oil found offshore could be pumped and made available to the market. So, in essence, he’s admitting that opening up offshore oil leases will do NOTHING to alleviate the situation today. But, and here’s the rub, he gives us a little insight into his reasoning for pushing this idea so vehemently:

lifting the ban would create new opportunities for American workers and businessmen

Bush, George, W., Weekly Radio Address, August 2, 2008 as quoted in “Bush pushes offshore drilling
“, MSNBC.

Now we have the truth — which we’ve really known all along. It’s not about oil prices at all…rather it’s about making his buddies in the oil business more money regardless of the environmental impact. Who cares if a little oil spills here and there and kills some fishes or coral reefs…at least his friends in Exxon-Mobile and Conoco-Phillips will make more money and their companies will make more obscense profits at the expense of the American economy and environment.

Fact is, President Bush is a one-trick pony. And just like he’s managed to put us into this mess, now he wants Congress to give him a shovel to dig even deeper. In fact, energy experts and the government’s own research agency at the Energy Dpartment have said that drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf would have no impact on current gasoline prices and probably would have none for years. (“Bush pushes offshore drilling“, MSNBC, August 2, 2008 ).

But, like the good partisan politician that he is, President Bush wastes no opportunity to blame the Democrats for the problem. Somewhere in Texas a village is missing it’s idiot.

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Aug 01 2008

Here We Go Again

Published by under Energy Policy,Thoughts

In another push to put the blame of high oil and gas prices on the Congressional Democrats President Bush yesterday urged congress to move quickly on lifting the ban on domestic offshore oil drilling. The Senate is currently gridlocked on a variety of energy bills with the Republicans claiming that they want an “open debate” and accuse the Democrat majority in the Senate of limiting amendments to avoid a vote on offshore drilling (Moscrip, Lara, “Bush pushes Congress on oil drilling“, CNN Money, July 30, 2008 ).

The President remarked: “American drivers are counting on Congress to lift the ban and so are American workers…I’ve lifted the ban, I’ve done my part, all Democrats have to do is allow a vote, they should not leave Washington without doing so.” (Moscrip, Lara, “Bush pushes Congress on oil drilling“, CNN Money, July 30, 2008 )

Sorry Mr. President…you haven’t done your part. Your part was to devise an energy policy for the 21st century that would have us weaning ourselves off of oil and gas and moving to more renewable energy technologies. Your administration has failed miserably at that part and now, when the chickens come home to roost, you want to blame Congressional Democrats for the whole situation. Remember, the Democrats have only controlled Congress for just under 2 years. You’ve been at the helm of the ship for almost 8 years. Our reliance on oil and foreign energy sources should have become painfully obvious after September 11, 2001 and you had the opportunity to lead us away from that reliance to a more independent energy future. But you chose not to. If anyone is at fault it is your administration and the Republican Congressional majority (as well as previous administrations and their failure to act as well).

Now the Congressional Democrat response is pretty lame as well. Senator Harry Reid suggested that the President “focus on releasing oil from the strategic oil reserve, speeding up production in areas already open for drilling and cracking down on oil traders.” (Moscrip, Lara, “Bush pushes Congress on oil drilling“, CNN Money, July 30, 2008 ) To me this sounds so weak as a response. Releasing oil from the strategic oil reserve will do nothing to really impact the cost of a barrel of oil and cracking down on oil traders falls into the old argument that it’s the “evil” oil speculators who are responsible for the current cost of oil. No Senator Reid…it’s something called supply and demand market forces. Stop playing populist politics at the level of the President and rise above the fray. Be honest.

As for speeding up production in areas already open for oil drilling…that I agree with. Oil companies are sitting on a lot of leases and doing nothing with them because they figure that the President and this administration will do everything in their power to get them more land (whether it’s offshore or not)…and then they can sit on that as well. The oil companies are raking in the profits at this point…why would they want to see the price of oil go down? Consider that Exxon-Mobil just announced that their second quarter profit rose 14% to 11.68 billion dollars (Werdigier, Julia, “Rising Oil Prices Lift Exxon to Record Profit“, The New York Times, August 1, 2008 ) Even if Congress repealed the ban on offshore oil drilling it would have zero impact on prices at the pump today. It takes years to develop a new oil field to the point that the oil reaches the market and on top of that, remember that this is a global market. The oil found in any new offshore field could just as easily be sold to India or China or to some other country who’s willing to pay top dollar for that oil. Americans need to tighten our belts, conserve, and develop and deploy new automotive technologies like better hybrid cards, electric cars, wind power and solar power to help reduce our consumption of oil and gas. That’s the long term solution to this energy crunch. But don’t ask the President or Congress to act…they’re much more interested in playing politics than doing something substantive to address this crisis.

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Aug 01 2008

Oil Drilling or Afghanistan

Published by under Energy Policy,Thoughts

The latest Tom Friedman op-ed points out an interesting fact. Both Republicans and Democrats are fixated on two primary, though different, issues. The Republicans are fixated on offshore oil-drilling and the Democrats are fixated on the war in Afghanistan. For the Republicans, and for President Bush, the only solution they can come up with for the current energy crisis is the idea that we need to open up the nation’s shorelines to the oil companies for exploration and development. Never mind the fact that it would take years for any new field discovered to be developed to the point that the oil extracted would be available at the pump. Never mind the fact that this could potentially lead to an environmental disaster. Never mind the fact that the oil that would be found would be sold on the open market for the going market rate. No…those are merely minor issues. The Republican motto seems to be — “When in doubt…drill offshore!”

But wait, the Democrats, while not supporting the idea of offshore oil drilling, have their own issue that they’re fixated on. Troop levels in Afghanistan. See the Republicans have managed to shape the view of Democrats, and Senator McCain is trying extremely hard to make this view stick to Senator Obama, as being soft on defense and on terrorism. So, in knee jerk fashion, the Democrats feel that they must focus on sending more troops to Afghanistan since, as Tom Friedman remarks, it’s considered “‘the good war’, as opposed to Iraq.” (Friedman, Tom, “Drilling in Afghanistan“, The New York Times, July 30, 2008 )

The problem that the Democrats need to ask themselves (and especially Mr. Obama) “Can we really win the war on terrorism by sending more troops to Afghanistan or am I (or we) doing it just to make ourselves look tough enough?” As Friedman points out sending more troops to Afghanistan is not going to really do anything as the problem is not the terrorists — they’re the symptom — the problem is the failure of the Arab-Muslim world to join the rest of the world in the 21st century. The Arabs still have this vision of a global (or regional) caliphate where Islam is the dominant religion and all others are either ejected, eliminated, or reduced to “dhwimmi” status (basically less than second-class citizens). The fact is that the Arab regimes use authoritarian rule, religion and a shift of blame to the “West” for all of the ills of their population as a way to maintain control. Until there is serious and concerted political reform in the Arab world that takes these factors off the table we will always have a serious problem with Arab-Muslim terrorism. The only way to do that is to ensure, as Tom Friedman notes, that there is “decent and consensual government in Baghdad or Kabul or Islamabad” (Friedman, Tom, “Drilling in Afghanistan“, The New York Times, July 30, 2008 ).

However, we are faced with a quandry here. We need to help stabilize these governments and that takes a military presence for now. But by having a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan we inflame the indiginous population. In Iraq, the Iraqis have gotten the message and are willing to stand up and fight for their new government; in Afghanistan — well, we’re not doing so well there. Our presence inflames the Afghans and is used for political reasons by the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. Tom Friedman, in his opinion piece “Drilling in Afghanistan” quotes Thomas Schweich, a former Bush administration counternarcotics official focused on Afghanistan, and his article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine:

Karzai was playing us like a fiddle: The U.S. would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure improvement; the U.S. and its allies would fight the Taliban; Karzai’s friends could get rich off the drug trade; he could blame the West for his problems; and in 2009, he would be elected to a new term.

(Friedman, Tom, “Drilling in Afghanistan“, The New York Times, July 30, 2008 )

In addition Friedman quotes Afghan expert Rory Stewart’s July 17 Time magazine cover story from Kabul:

A troop increase is likely to inflame Afghan nationalism because Afghans are more anti-foreign than we acknowledge, and the support for our presence in the insurgency areas is declining … The more responsibility we take in Afghanistan, the more we undermine the credibility and responsibility of the Afghan government and encourage it to act irresponsibly. Our claims that Afghanistan is the ‘front line in the war on terror’ and that ‘failure is not an option’ have convinced the Afghan government that we need it more than it needs us. The worse things become, the more assistance it seems to receive. This is not an incentive to reform.

(Friedman, Tom, “Drilling in Afghanistan“, The New York Times, July 30, 2008 )

Before the Democrats and Mr. Obama go off and commit more troops to Afghanistan, they need to determine whether this is really going to be beneficial in the overall picture. The Democrats need to find a more comprehensive picture to winning the war on terrorism — they need to be more inventive than the Republicans. Commiting more troops to Afghanistan has become a political ploy to counter the Republican assertion that the Democrats are “soft on terrorism and defense.”

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Jul 21 2008

Another Bush Energy Policy Gaffe

Published by under Energy Policy,Thoughts

Tom Friedman has written another insightful post that pretty much states how President Bush and the Bush administration has once again failed to lead when we need leadership the most. In his latest opinion column here Tom describes how, once again, President Bush has shown no inventiveness and no orginality in his energy policies. When oil peaked over the past two weeks around $145 per barrel, what was the President’s “response”? To rescind the executive order that has been in place since Bush I’s administration that banned drilling for oil and gas off the coast of the United States on the continental shelf. Of course there’s also a law on the books that bans that as well (and has been on the books since the early 80s) so in effect what President Bush has done is a) meaningless, and b) partisan (in a major way).

How is it partisan? I’m glad you asked. Well this way President Bush can shift the blame on Congress which just happens to be controlled by the Democrats. He now “demands” that Congress rescind the ban on offshore oil drilling that has been on the books since the early 80s in order to bring the price of oil down. And partisan? Just look to see what he said in the Rose Garden back on June 18th:

“If congressional leaders leave for the 4th of July recess without taking action,” Bush said Wednesday in a Rose Garden appearance, “they will need to explain why $4-a-gallon gasoline is not enough incentive for them to act. And Americans will rightly ask … how high gas prices have to rise before the Democratic-controlled Congress will do something about it.”

“Bush leads calls to drill off U.S. shore”, Chicago Tribune, June 19th 2008, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-oil-politics-19-jun19,0,728128.story

How lame to use the blame the current pain Americans are feeling at the pump and in their pocketbooks solely on the Democrats.

And his solution? More drilling! Mind you, it takes years to bring an oil field on-line and in production to where it will add to the oil reserves. So in essence this would do nothing for the price of gas at the pump right now. Interestingly enough even President Bush admits that it won’t have an immediate effect. As his own spokesman pointed out:

“Anyone out there saying that something can be done overnight, or in a matter of months, to deal with high gasoline prices is trying to fool people. There is no tool in the toolbox out there that will lower gas prices overnight, or in weeks, or probably not even in months.”

White House spokesman Tony Fratto, White House Press Briefing, June 18, 2008, from http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/080618/20080618006247.html?.v=1

And President Bush himself has said that it would take years for production to start. But those would be wasted years where we could focus on alternative, renewable energy technologies and efforts that get us off the OPEC needle and reduces our carbon output. Only last Thursday, former Vice President Al Gore called for the U.S. to be completely carbon free in our energy production and consumption within 10 years. 10 years! That was the same time frame John F. Kennedy set for putting a man on the moon. And we did it in less time than that…Kennedy made that call in May of 1961 and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon in July of 1969! Just a little more than 8 years later. We can do the same with our energy infrastructure if we put our minds and our efforts toward that goal. But not with a George W. Bush or a John McCain at the helm. McCain himself has said that lifting the ban will be a key part of his energy policy should he be elected President (“Bush Urges Congress to Lift Offshore Drilling Ban”, Federal News Radio, June 18, 2008, http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=78&pid=&sid=1423781&page=2).

More drilling is not the answer. We need a much sounder policy that focuses our efforts on renewable energy and energy conservation. But what can you expect from a President who, he himself, admits that he doesn’t read the newspapers. Hopefully Barack Obama does.

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