Free Markets, Free People

Economy

China Buying Oil Leases Off American Shore?

That’s the word from Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner:

Gas prices here in the U.S. are creeping back up towards the $3-per-gallon mark even as news breaks today that China’s state-owned energy firm just closed a deal to buy interests in four development leases on the American Outer Continental Shelf (OTS) in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deal, which requires approval of the U.S. government, is between Norway’s Statoil and China National Off-Shore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). This is the same CNOOC that would have bought Unocal four years ago for $18.5 billion but for pressure from Congress, according to The New York Times, quoting an energy industry trade publication.

Because it must be approved by the U.S. government, the Statoil/CNOOC deal puts President Obama and Ken Salazar, his Secretary of the Department of the Interior, which controls OTS leasing, in a difficult position.

Really? Why does it put the government in a “difficult position”? Oh, you mean the apparent willingness to sell these leases to foreign entities vs. opening them up to domestic American exploration?

The deal also focuses renewed attention on Salazar’s slow-walking of a new plan for approving energy exploration and development in the OTS, which includes approximately 1.7 billion acres, and, according to Interior, holds up to 86 billion barrels of recoverable oil and more than 400 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The administration is moving much too slowly to open more of the OTS to development for domestic U.S. uses, according to Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute …

But it apparently isn’t moving too slowly to open up the OTS to foreign competitors.

In the meantime:

If the administration approves the deal, it will be more vulnerable to charges that the White House is being careless with U.S. national security issues in the energy sector, and that it is putting the interests of a foreign power before those of U.S. energy consumers.

If Obama and Salazar reject the deal, it will likely complicate relations with China, the emerging Asian superpower that defense experts predict will be able at will to challenge U.S. legitimate national security interests around the globe in the near future.

Oil isn’t going away anytime soon and its use is critical during any transition to alternate energy sources (which, for the most part are vaporware). Additionally, the charge that the Obama administration is playing fast and loose with US national security will resonate if the public becomes aware that domestic producers have been barred from OTC production but foreign producers are given access.

So the dilemma facing the administration is one of its own ideological making. Its “slow walking” of the plan for domestic producers to explore the OTC is a decision it made to thwart the desires of a majority of the nation to secure those assets for the US’s use. And now it’s going to hand them over to China?

That will not play well in at all in middle America.

~McQ

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Stimulus Funds For Mapping Radioactive Rabbit Feces

I‘m not kidding.  So says none other than the New York Times:

A Week Mapping Radioactive Rabbit Feces With Detectors Mounted On A Helicopter Flying 50 Feet Over The Desert Scrub. … $300,000 In Federal Stimulus Money.” … “A government contractor at Hanford, in south-central Washington State, just spent a week mapping radioactive rabbit feces with detectors mounted on a helicopter flying 50 feet over the desert scrub. … the helicopter flights, which covered 13.7 square miles and were paid for with $300,000 in federal stimulus money, took place in an area that had never been used by the bomb makers. … Marylia Kelley, the executive director of a California group called Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, said the rabbit cleanup was ‘kind of funny, in a sick way.”

A great way to stimulate the economy, no?

No?

Well how about this:

“President Obama’s Stimulus Plan… Is Now Paying Americans To Buy That Great Necessity Of Modern Life, The Golf Cart.”…“Thanks to the federal tax credit to buy high-mileage cars that was part of President Obama’s stimulus plan, Uncle Sam is now paying Americans to buy that great necessity of modern life, the golf cart. The federal credit provides from $4,200 to $5,500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, and when it is combined with similar incentive plans in many states the tax credits can pay for nearly the entire cost of a golf cart.”

Let’s not forget that our president is a great fan of golf afterall. What better way can you think to stimulate the economy?

Oh, how about this?

“The other third of the stimulus, government infrastructure spending, has been the most controversial from the start. Some proposals have been criticized as wasteful, Such as a $6 million snowmaking facility in Duluth, Minn.”

A snowmaking facility in Duluth, MN – the 15th “snowiest” city in America. Why that’s a perfect way to stimulate the economy.

But if that doesn’t resonate, there’s this:

“A big chunk of the money that will pay for a new spring-training baseball complex on Ttribal land in the East Valley will be delivered via a financing program that’s part of the Federal Economic-Stimulus Plan. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community says it may borrow as much as $30 million of the estimated cost of the $100 million complex near Scottsdale that will become the spring home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.”

Because, of course, MLB is going broke.

You can read the whole disgusting list here.

Wasn’t Joe Biden going to police this?

Oh wait, I forgot – he and John Kerry are preoccupied deciding our new strategy in Afghanistan.

Yeah, nothing can go wrong with that, can it?

~McQ

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Don’t Tell Anyone, But The Recession Is Still With Us

Despite all the happy talk from the administration and the lap-dog press eagerly parroting the “good news” that the recession is over, the numbers just don’t support the talking point.  Liam Halligan delivers the news:

So I was pleased last week when I heard that, after four successive quarters of contraction, America’s economy grew by an impressive 3.5pc between July and September, compared to the quarter before. “The US is out of recession” numerous newspaper headlines screamed. No wonder share prices surged.

As ever, the numbers warrant a closer look. For one thing, this is annualised data. So the US economy actually expanded by only 0.9pc during the third quarter – a fact most newspaper reports ignored. What growth we did see resulted from a 3.4pc annualised rise in US consumption between July and September, which was in turn caused by a 22.3pc spike in spending on consumer durables.

As mentioned here that “spike” was driven by “cash for clunkers” and the $8,000 first time homeowners tax exemption. Halligan agrees. It wasn’t a trend, it was exactly what Halligan reported – a spike. So digging into it, what are the real numbers?

In other words, this latest US growth spasm stemmed from one-off government “giveaways” – with the public only able to take advantage of such gimmicks by going deeper into debt. The rise in US consumption coincided with a 3.4pc fall in household disposable income and a plunging savings rate too. With government and household debt spiralling anew, America’s so-called “return to growth” is nothing but a return to higher leverage. [emphasis mine]

Not quite what the administration cracked it up to be, is it? And Halligan reminds us:

Over the last 40 years, all US slumps have been interrupted by at least one quarter of positive growth, followed by a renewed downturn.

Of course, with an administration desperate for any good news, ignoring history is to be expected. After all, they’re quite the masters at ignoring the laws of economics and expecting results which run counter to them, aren’t they? Why shouldn’t they believe that one quarter of government give-aways equals pulling out of the recession? Can’t wait to hear the excuses when we’re back in the negative GDP growth trend next quarter. And you can also expect to hear the inevitable cries for a second stimulus (Porkulus II) crescendo.

~McQ

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White House Stuck On Stupid

Well, über defensive and stupid, to be more accurate. At least with its war on Fox News there was some calculated ability to garner sympathy and support from the fevered progressive masses. Taking on one of the most reputable reviewers of the car industry, when it’s giving you good news, is just plain idiotic:

It is an odd, and we’d say regrettable, pattern of this White House that it lets itself get dragged down into fights with specific media outlets.

[...]

But in addition to Fox News, now The White House is going after highly-respected and influential car site Edmunds.com.

They’re actually using The White House blog to dispute the site’s analysis of Cash-For-Clunkers (via Detroit News).

The post is snarkily titled: “Busy Covering Car Sales on Mars, Edmunds.com Gets It Wrong (Again) on Cash for Clunkers”

For its part, Edmunds.com responded with a sober yet forceful smackdown. After pointing to the obvious flaws in the White House’s (defensive) thinking, they put the once-venerable office to shame:

With all respect to the White House, Edmunds.com thinks that instead of shooting the messenger, government officials should take heart from the core message of the analysis: the fundamentals of the auto marketplace are improving faster than the current sales numbers suggest.

Isn’t this a piece of good news we can all cheer?

I’m not sure which is more pathetic: the fact that the White House clearly lost a blog war, or that it is stupid enough to get involved in one in the first place.

Venezuela – Hugo’s New Shower Rules

Hugo Chavez and his socialist government have handled everything so well that they’ve decided to go green and show the world how it is done:

Turn out the lights, shorten the shower to three minutes, buy a portable generator.

That is President Hugo Chávez’s message to the citizens of energy-rich Venezuela, where the “socialist revolution” has brought power cuts, water shortages and collapsing public services.

Heh … Chavez actually did try to push the green theme in his radio address discussing showering and turning off the lights. But it was a facade designed to hide the fact that the infrastructure is collapsing. As you might imagine, that’s sparking more than a little unrest:

“We’re accused of wasting electricity, but the fact is the government didn’t plan, didn’t invest and didn’t carry out maintenance,” Aixa Lopez, president of the Committee of Blackout Victims, told the TV news channel Globovisión.

In fact, as with all marginal leaders, Chavez blames all of his problems on others:

In early 2007, after winning re-election, Chávez decreed the nationalization of those parts of the electricity industry still in private hands — notably the Caracas power company EDC. Since then, there have been seven national power outages. In most parts of the country, weary consumers have grown used to frequent, unscheduled blackouts lasting hours.

This month, the president admitted there was a crisis in both the power and water industries. This came on the heels of a similar admission regarding healthcare. He put the blame mainly on the El Niño phenomenon for producing drought — Venezuela is 70 percent dependent on hydro power for its electricity — and on consumers for their wasteful habits.

Much of his ire was aimed at shopping malls because, he said, they foment capitalist values. “They’re going to have to buy their own generators,” he threatened, “or I’ll cut off their electricity.”

Ordinary Venezuelans have been urged to use less water and turn off the lights. “Some people sing in the bath for half an hour,” Chávez told a recent cabinet session, broadcast live. “What kind of communism is that? Three minutes is more than enough!”

Formal water rationing has now been introduced, government departments have been told to reduce their electricity consumption by a fifth, and the president has created a new Electricity Ministry in a tacit admission that the state has failed to manage the power industry correctly.

In fact, both the Water and Electricity Ministry are in a shambles:

According to Víctor Poleo, who was deputy minister for electricity at the beginning of the Chávez era, despite huge sums of money allocated, little has actually been done.

“My guess is that of every $100 pumped into [electricity] generation and transmission since 2003, $75 has been stolen by the politicians,” Poleo said.

Venezuela is a oil rich state from which 90% of its foreign earning are garnered. Chavez called his socialist economy “bulletproof”. However, it is now deep in recession:

Worse still, its shrinking economy has done little to blunt inflation, which is running at close to 30 percent a year — around three times the regional average. And the economic downturn is having a predictable effect on the government’s popularity, just as it gears up to fight crucial legislative elections next year.

The latest data from polling company Datanálisis shows voters evenly split, for the first time since mid-2004, over whether the president has been good or bad for “national wellbeing.” Only 17.2 percent say they would vote for him if the presidential election were imminent — down from over 31 percent in September.

Of course, as the article points out, the opposition is “incoherent” and unable to provide unified opposition at this point. But those sorts of things have a way of rectifying themselves if the economic and infrastructure problems continue. Chavez may have figured out how to position himself to be president for life on paper, but remaining president for life with the problems Venezuela is now beginning to face (and may see compounding) may be tougher then he thought.

~McQ

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GDP Growth – Real or Memorex?

My guess is you’re looking at GDP numbers that are about as accurate as the stimulus saved and created job numbers the administration put out recently.  Or perhaps a better way of saying it is they’re as deceptive as those job numbers.

The GDP is the combination of consumer, investor and government spending.  We know pure consumer spending is down.  We know that investor spending is down.  And we also know that government spending is way up.  That spending has spending has urges some consumers to spend – cash for clunkers and the $8, 000 incentive for first time home buyers.  But a spurt of government spending which encouraged a spurt of consumer spending does not a recovery make:

The nation’s gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the three months ending in September, matching the economy’s average annual growth rate from the last 80 years. But the end of government programs to encourage spending on things like cars and houses, alongside employers’ continued reluctance to hire more workers, means the recovery may not last, economists say.

The recovery will happen when investors invest, businesses hire and finally, consumers buy – not for a quarter, but in a constant and increasing manner. Until that happens, until we see the job numbers begin to lessen considerably, this is just a lot of hoopla over a quarterly blip driven by government spending.

~McQ

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India: We’re Not Hurting Our Economy For “Climate Change”

The Copenhagen summit is in December and yesterday UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said he didn’t expect a binding agreement to come out of the meeting, dashing the hopes of environmental extremists that the nations of the world would agree to binding reductions of so-called greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Today India, apparently speaking for, or speaking with the approval of, the world’s developing nations (of which China considers itself one):

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday that the world’s poor nations will not sacrifice their development in negotiations for a new climate change deal.

The issue of how to share the burden of fighting global warming has divided the developing and industrialized worlds as they prepare to negotiate a replacement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol at a December summit in Copenhagen.

“Developing countries cannot and will not compromise on development,” Singh told an international conference on technology and climate change.

Naturally he threw a little diplospeak out there to soften the refusal to play the game:

However, even poorer countries need to “do our bit to keep our emissions footprint within levels that are sustainable and equitable,” he said.

Riiiight. And that means they’ll decide what constitutes “sustainable and equitable” as it applies to their economy, not the targets some world body wants to put on them. Both India and China, two of the largest emitters of GHGs in the world have repeatedly said no to binding reductions and international monitoring. But they’re up for a little friendly looting:

Developing countries want financial aid for their climate change efforts, and Singh said wealthy nations have an obligation to ensure they get access to new, clean technology that will cut emissions and increase energy efficiency.

“We need technology solutions that are appropriate, affordable and effective,” he said.

I certainly don’t blame them a bit for refusing to hurt themselves economically in the name of specious “science” (thankfully, Americans are beginning to figure out the scam). And the fact they won’t do so should confirm to even the most fanatic global warmist that attempts to cut GHGs will indeed cause major economic distress. Additionally, as pointed out here and elsewhere, cap-and-trade attempts in Europe and elsewhere have been a disaster with no net reduction in such emissions observed.

I look for Copenhagen to be a bust and am quite happy about that, frankly. The US will show up empty handed with nothing but promises (Waxman-Markey thankfully not having passed yet), the UN will play the international “Chicken Little”, 3rd world “developing” countries will have their hands out as usual and industrialized nations won’t be able to agree on much of anything.

Perfect.

~McQ

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Spinning A 1.4 Tillion Dollar Deficit

The Washington Post is just shameless. How else would you describe this:

The federal budget deficit soared to a record $1.4 trillion in the fiscal year that ended in September, a chasm of red ink unequaled in the postwar era that threatens to complicate the most ambitious goals of the Obama administration, including plans for fresh spending to create jobs and spur economic recovery.

Still, the figure represents a significant improvement over the darkest deficit projections, which had been as much as $400 billion higher earlier this year, when the economy was wallowing in recession.

Or said another way, 1.4 trillion in new debt isn’t so bad – some guy earlier this year thought it would be 1.8 trillion.

Here, let’s do the graphics and decide how much of a “significant improvement” this is:

budget deficit

A few paragraphs later after trying to sell everyone on how this chasm of difference has actually ended up being beneficial, the Post mentions:

At about 10 percent of the overall economy, the gap between federal spending and tax collections is the largest on record since the end of World War II, and bigger in nominal terms than the past four years of deficits combined. Next year is unlikely to be much better, budget analysts say. And Obama’s current policies would drive the budget gap into the trillion-dollar range for much of the next decade.

Geithner is mentioned saying that “deficits are too high” and Peter Orszag is quoted saying:

“The president recognizes that we need to put the nation back on a fiscally sustainable path.” As Obama draws up his second budget blueprint, due to be delivered to Congress in February, Orszag said, “we are considering proposals to put our country back on firm fiscal footing.”

Are “we”? Cap-and-trade. The take-over of the health care system. Government owned auto companies. Trillion dollar deficits for at least a decade. A doubled money supply and $533,000 jobs?

The Post manages to destroy all the happy talk, though, in what must have been an inadvertent fit of journalism contained in one sentence:

Orszag has already instructed federal agencies to identify spending cuts for next year’s budget, but the report comes as lawmakers contemplate proposals that would drive spending even higher.

And, of course, the guy right smack dab in the middle of encouraging all of that higher spending is the same guy Orszag is claiming wants to put the country back on “firm fiscal footing”.

If double-talk were money, this administration would be running a surplus. And the Washington Post isn’t so bad at it either.

~McQ

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Your Government BS Statistic Of The Day – “Saved” And Created Jobs

The Magic Unicorn and Snake Oil show that is the federal government has invented a new statistic for your entertainment, because it certainly has no real meaning. Why do I say that, you ask?

Well read this and tell me what you think:

The first direct stimulus reports showed that stimulus contracts saved or created just 30,083 jobs, prompting more Republican criticism of the $787 billion package.

The data posted Thursday was the result of the government’s initial attempt at counting actual stimulus jobs. Obama administration officials stressed that data was partial — it represented just $16 billion out of the $339 billion awarded — but they said it exceeded their projections.

Two points – we have no idea, given that number, what percentage were “saved” and what percentage were created. But it is clear that the claim of saving a job is a useful tool to pad the total. Even then, however, that means that each “saved” or created job cost you, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, $533,000 per job. And yes, that’s for those “saved” as well.

Doesn’t government efficiency just dazzle the heck out of you?

Fear not, though, you haven’t seen all the magic unicorns or snake oil yet. Feast your eyes on this:

“All signs — from private estimates to this fragmentary data — point to the conclusion that the Recovery Act did indeed create or save about 1 million jobs in its first seven months, a much needed lift in a very difficult period for our economy,” said Jared Bernstein, the chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden.

According to the White House recovery office’s rough calculations, the 30,083 jobs number projects out to a total of 1.2 million jobs saved or created by the stimulus through September.

Yessiree – when they get into the projecting business, why it’s even better than they thought. It seems – according to those wonderful projections – that we’ve been able to “save” or create 1.2 million jobs, at least in the world of statistics. Again, how many are “saved” vs. created seems to be an unknown. But whatever the mix, 1.2 million seems to be the number they’ll be crowing about.

Of course what they’ll be trying to forget are those other numbers they originally promised when they were selling the magic unicorns and snake oil called “the stimulus”. Seems the rubes were told that passage of that fantastic piece of legislation would most certainly “save” or create 3 to 4 million jobs.

Oh … that and keep unemployment under 8%.

Drink up folks – Dr. Obama’s elixer is guaranteed not to slip, rip, tear,  get rusty or roll down the hill sideways. Helps your wallet, does you good and makes child birth pleasant, besides the benefit you get from it. Now who’ll have another bottle of Dr. Obama’s Magic stimulus tonic?

Ah, Dr. Krugman wants more, doesn’t he?

~McQ

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CBO Outs Cap-And-Trade Lies – Democrats Don’t Care

Which lies?  Well in this case I’m talking about the lie that cap-and-trade will be a green job bonanza and an overall job producer and that it will stimulate the economy. Not so says the CBO:

So, instead of stimulating economic growth, it will slow it and instead of creating net jobs, it will be a job killer. Tell me again how that’s a “good thing” in a recession?

A House-passed bill that targets climate change through a cap-and-trade system of pollution credits would slow the nation’s economic growth slightly over the next few decades and would create “significant” job losses fr-om fossil fuel industries as the country shifts to renewable energy, the head of the Congressional Budget Office told a Senate energy panel Wednesday.

CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf emphasized that his estimates contained significant uncertainties and “do not include any benefits from averting climate change,” but his message nevertheless contrasted sharply with those of President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders, who have suggested that a cap on carbon emissions would help revive the U.S. economy.

How much will it slow the economy? Elmendorf’s estimates:

Elmendorf testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the cap-and-trade provisions of the House bill — in which emitters of greenhouse gases would be able to buy and sell pollution credits — would cut the nation’s gross domestic product by 0.25 to 0.75 percent in 2020 compared with “what it would otherwise have been,” and by 1 to 3.5 percent in 2050.

That in the face of growing skepticism over the science supporting the premise that a) man is causing the climate change problem and b) that man can actually “change” nature’s direction in that regard.

But that doesn’t matter. Reps Waxman and Markey have decided that it is necessary regardless of the science, cost or what you want. They have a planet to save you see and it’s all our fault we’re in the situation we’re in now:

“The harsh reality is that America’s global warming and energy challenges are just too important for us to keep mailing it in by not enacting a comprehensive energy and global warming bill.”

So they plan on passing this tax which will slow growth, increase joblessness and impact most those who can afford it the least. Why would they concern themselves with that when the possibility exists they might be able to save a couple of polar bears.

Congress’s approval ratings effectively reflect their priorities – and as you can tell, constituents have figured out their priorities have nothing to do with the needs of constituents or the nation.

~McQ

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