Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: February 15, 2010

The Future Consequences Of Energy Stupidity

I’m not sure how else to characterize this in a strategic and national security sense:

Canada, faced with growing political pressure over the extraction of oil from its highly polluting tar sands, has begun courting China and other Asian countries to exploit the resource.

The pressure is coming from the United States. The “pollution” is carbon. But the bottom line is the tar sands are going to continue to be exploited in Canada. The question is, to whom will the oil extracted go?

With the US backing away, the answer, apparently, is China.

In the most significant deal to date, the Canadian government recently approved a C$1.9bn (£1.5bn) investment giving the Chinese state-owned oil company Petro­China a majority share in two projects. Prime minister Stephen Harper said: “Expect more Chinese investment in the resource and energy sectors … there will definitely be more.” China’s growing investment in the tar sands is seen in Canada as a useful counter to waning demand for tar sands oil from the US, its biggest customer. The moves, which have largely gone unnoticed outside north America, could add further tension to efforts to try to reach a global action plan on climate change.

[…]

The projects, which will begin coming on line over the next decade, are seen as crucial to a long term strategy of finding new sources of energy as China’s economy continues to expand.

How about that … a country with a “long term strategy” in which it seeks sources of new energy for future growth. Not so in the US where Ken Salazar’s Interior Department seems to be using every means available to it to slow down the possibility of finding and bringing new carbon based resources on line for future consumption:

The Interior Department has informed Congress that it will take over two years to complete an environmental study needed to allow major seismic surveys of Atlantic coast oil-and-gas resources – a timeline that industry groups allege is too slow.

In an early February letter to House and Senate appropriators, Interior provides a timeline for completing a “programmatic environmental impact statement” on the effects of seismic testing and other assessment techniques.

It anticipates a “record of decision” – which is the final agency sign-off – in mid-April of 2012.

If I’m not mistaken, that will put us 4 years into the decision to allow drilling in the OCS. And, of course, seismic surveys and their effects are well known and have been for decades. The seismic surveys would update decades old surveys.

The point, of course, is these new Interior requirements completely derail the timeline established by the Interior Department in 2007:

Interior’s 2007-2012 offshore leasing plan calls for a lease sale off Virginia’s coast in 2011, although the sale could be delayed.

No company is going to bid on leases until those seismic surveys are complete.

The long range consequences for the US of these sorts of short sited policies should be obvious. And I don’t expect them to get any better any times soon despite the promises President Obama made in his State of the Union address.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Terrorism = Burglary

Counterterrorism Czar John Brennan made a comparison this weekend that has landed him in hot water. Speaking at the Islamic Center at New York University on Saturday and apparently in response to a question about recidivism among the Gitmo inmates who had been released, he said the rate was about 20%.

Ok, that’s arguable, but it is a number that has been tossed around by any number of people. That isn’t what got him in trouble. If we stipulate that the 20% of terror suspects released have returned to extremism or outright participation in terror activities, most would consider such a rate unacceptable. In fact, most would not be happy with recidivism at all, but understand that 0% is most likely an unrealistic expectation.

But Brenan thinks 20% isn’t so bad:

“People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, say ‘Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity,'” Brennan said. “You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”

Indeed, the recidivism rate for property crimes is quite high according to the Department of Justice:

Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).

But violent crime, more akin to terrorism – not so much:

Within 3 years, 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide.

This apparent acceptance of 20% recidivism by terrorists has to inspire tremendous confidence in the public to know the guy who is supposedly engaged in fighting terrorists equates them with the kid who popped the lock on your car and stole your GPS and finds the 20% rate nothing to get excited about . Yes, to him a burglar and someone who blows up embassies are pretty much the same. And he’s quite satisfied that only 20% are going back to burglary, er, blowing up Americans.

Quite satisfied.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

The Purpose Of The Health Care Summit?

Any number of people, myself included, have warned that the upcoming health care summit isn’t something the GOP really wants to involve itself in because it is a setup for something else. There’s something fishy about it. Other say those advising against it are paranoid and that the event provides Republicans with a great venue for making it clear they have always had plans and ideas concerning reforming health care.

I think it is becoming increasingly obvious the skeptics are most likely right. A very closed process – in which the GOP was excluded and closed-door meetings and backroom deals were common – is now suddenly open? And televised? It makes no sense except as a move to set up another move.

What would that other move be? Well first, consider the fact that the president and Democrats are unwilling to even consider scrapping the present Senate version of the bill and start over. If that doesn’t raise red flags everywhere, I’m not sure what would. Why, if the idea of the summit is to discuss everyone’s plans and ideas for health care reform, wouldn’t a clean slate be necessary?

Quite simply because that’s not the real purpose of the summit. The purpose of the summit is to justify reconciliation. There, I’ve said it. What Democrats need is cover to do what they feel they need to do in order to pass the Senate bill intact and then have the Senate use the reconciliation process which only requires a simple majority to fix certain parts of the bill to the House’s liking.

But publicly that’s a highly unpopular idea. That doesn’t change the fact that it is the only way Democrats can do this. So they need a demon. They need “obstructionists”. They need “the party of ‘no'” to be as uncooperative as they can make them and have that on public display.

Republicans seem to have at least an inkling of this. They know, or at least are pretty sure, that the Democrats have already agreed among themselves to use the reconciliation process. The latest member of the GOP to point to this was Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he questioned the sincerity of Democrats and the president concerning this planned summit. In this case I think his political instincts are good. I think the GOP should hold out for some major concessions prior to any such meeting.

However all of that, one of the advantages of the invitation – given the desired outcome – is it becomes a win-win for Democrats even if Republicans don’t show up, at least by their calculation. They want a “party of ‘no'” and not showing up would demonstrate that even more handily than showing up would. Politically it is a very smart move.

The GOP needs to be ready to handle that sort of negative publicity when it comes as it most assuredly will. They need to point out what the real purpose of the summit was, that there was no desire on the part of Democrats to negotiate (given their pre-summit stance) or actually include Republican ideas and that Republicans simply chose not to participate in a sham designed to make them look uncooperative and justify the use of an unpopular procedure.

Not an easy roe to hoe, is it? Politically, the move by Obama and the Democrats is brilliant. The question is, will it actually bear the fruit that he and the Democratic leadership hope it will? While all of that political theater may work exactly as they wish, Nancy Pelosi may not have the votes necessary to pass the Senate bill.

That could end up being the final irony – the bill fails in the House because of the reelection concerns of members in marginal districts and a Democratic distrust of their colleagues in the Senate.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!