Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

The US: Massive energy resources and an incoherent energy policy

As Peter Glover says, writing in the Energy Tribune, this ought to be the lead story in every American paper and on every American news show.  But it’s overshadowed by Japan, Libya and other developments in the world.

America’s combined energy resources are, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CSR), the largest on earth. They eclipse Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th) and Canada (6th) combined – and that’s without including America’s shale oil deposits and, in the future, the potentially astronomic impact of methane hydrates.

The US and Russia are the two most resource rich countries in the world.  Here’s the chart that shows how huge our advantage is:

 

worldfossilfuel

 

Note it says “Oil Equivalent” on the left side.  That’s because it includes coal.  Yeah, that icky, nasty stuff that we’re trying to ban or make it supremely expensive to use.

The CRS estimates US recoverable coal reserves at around 262 billion tons (not including further massive, difficult to access, Alaskan reserves). Given the US consumes around 1.2 billion tons a year, that’s a couple of centuries of coal use, at least.

In fact, the US has 28% of the world’s coal.

Natural gas?

In 2009 the CRS upped its 2006 estimate of America’s enormous natural gas deposits by 25 percent to around 2,047 trillion cubic feet, a conservative figure given the expanding shale gas revolution. At current rates of use that’s enough for around 100 years. Then there is still the, as yet largely publicly untold, story of methane hydrates to consider, a resource which the CRS reports alludes to as “immense…possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels.” According to the Inhofe’s EPW, “For perspective, if just 3 percent of this resource can be commercialized … at current rates of consumption, that level of supply would be enough to provide America’s natural gas for more than 400 years.”

So, the possibility of 400 years worth of NG, a couple hundred years worth of coal – but what about oil?

 

americasoil

 

Well shucks, seems we have the potential to be quite free of foreign oil, doesn’t it?

While the US is often depicted as having only a tiny minority of the world’s oil reserves at around 28 billion barrels (based on the somewhat misleading figure of ‘proven reserves’) according to the CRS in reality it has around 163 billion barrels. As Inhofe’s EPW press release comments, “That’s enough oil to maintain America’s current rates of production and replace imports from the Persian Gulf for more than 50 years”

Of course that all assumes we do something about taking advantage of the resources we have and actually putting ourselves in a position where we’re not at the mercy of foreign sources of the same sorts of product.

Obviously and hopefully, we’ll come up with affordable and available renewable energy products while we’re doing that. 

However, we have no coherent energy plan from this administration.  Instead it seems to have gone to war with the oil industry and is doing everything it can to slow its ability to find and exploit these resources.  19,000 jobs and 1.1 billion in earnings have been lost since the imposition of the administration’s moratorium.  Both former Presidents Bush and Clinton have spoken out against the delays.   And the administration remains in contempt of a court order which ordered them to speed up the permitting process.  As a result the EIA has estimated a loss of 74,000 barrels a day of production due to the moratorium this year.

Meanwhile our President touts foreign oil, our investment in it and claims we’ll be its “best customer”.

As Glover says:

Meanwhile US energy policy persists in pursuing the myth that renewables are the economically viable future, with fossil fuels already, as the president said in January, “yesterday’s energy”. With 85 percent of global energy set to come from fossil fuels till at least 2035 no matter what wishful thinkers may prefer, current US energy policy – much like European – is pure political pantomime.

Couldn’t agree more.  We sit on a veritable treasure trove of natural resources which could actually make us energy independent and we have an administration which is doing everything in its power to not just keep us dependent on foreign oil, but to increase our dependence.

~McQ

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Old taxes never go away, they just reinvent themselves in a more intrusive way

With the debt and deficit problems our government has managed to accumulate, they’re always looking for new and more inventive ways to get in your wallet.  And it seems, technology may be the most productive way to do so.

You see, we’ve been paying taxes at the gas pump that pay for “transportation improvement projects”.  But there is a problem.  Government mandates that have raised gas mileage standards, hybrids and the possibility of masses of electric cars has suddenly given the tax takers the willies.  That may mean much less revenue originating at the gas pump.

What’s a looter to do?  Well turn to a different way of collecting that tax – tax total vehicle miles traveled (VMT).  Up to now that’s been problematic says the CBO.  But fear not, there’s a solution:

"In the past, the efficiency costs of implementing a system of VMT charges — particularly the costs of users’ time for slowing and queuing at tollbooths — would clearly have outweighed the potential benefits from more efficient use of highway capacity," CBO wrote. "Now, electronic metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option."

And what government would do is mandate metering equipment be installed on all new cars and trucks:

"Having the devices installed as original equipment under a mandate to vehicle manufacturers would be relatively inexpensive but could lead to a long transition; requiring vehicles to be retrofitted with the devices could be faster but much more costly, and the equipment could be more susceptible to tampering than factory-installed equipment might be," CBO said.

So how would it be collected?

The report added that VMT taxes could be tracked and even collected at filling stations. "If VMT taxes were collected at the pump, each time fuel was purchased, information would be sent from a device in the vehicle to a device at the filling station," it said.

CBO also suggested different VMT tax rates might be assessed to different vehicles because heavier vehicles do more road damage, and rates might change depending on whether miles are driven at peak use times or during less congested hours.

Of course, the obvious solution is to just collect at the pump for others at an ‘average’ rate.

What about electric cars?

Yeah, haven’t figured that one out yet, have they?

CBO did acknowledge that privacy concerns may be a hurdle to implementing a VMT tax because electronic tracking of miles driven might provide too much personal information to the government. However, CBO noted that some have proposed restricting the information that would be transmitted to the government.

Well I feel better already. 

Technology is a wonderful thing.  It has given us a way of life and benefits that previous generations most likely couldn’t even imagine.  But there’s a downside to it too.  Especially when government gets its hands on it and uses it as a tool to intrude into your privacy.  Another mandate designed to help government better keep track of  your travels and ensure you pay your “fair share”?  Yeah, no echoes of Big Brother in that at all, huh?

~McQ

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Meanwhile in Egypt …

I hate to throw out the old “I told you so”, but it appears Egypt is trying to go according to my prediction.  That is, the Muslim Brotherhood – the best organized of the opposition forces – would take the lead in forming the “new” Egypt and the military – which has held power for 60 years – would find a way to retain its power.  The New York Times reports that’s exactly what seems to be happening:

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

Emphasis mine.  As I’ve mentioned previously, “secular” may not mean what you think it means in an Islamic country.  And I’ve all but worn out the David Warren quote, but again which group has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision?”  That means:

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

Indeed, my guess is that the moment is lost for them for good.  Why?  Because it isn’t in the best interest of either the MB or the military to let that particular “political force” reemerge.  So:

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

And there you have it.  Result?

“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone.”

So much for the “Twitter” revolution.

~McQ

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The UK government apparently “gets” how to help create jobs

Much more so than does the President of this country apparently:

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a number of measures to try to help business in his Budget.

Corporation Tax will be reduced by 2% from April 2011, rather than 1% as previously intended, and fall by 1% in the next three years, to reach 23%.

Mr Osborne also said that he was looking to boost enterprise and exports, as part of a Budget "for making things".

He said he also wanted the UK to be the best place to establish a company.

"Cuts in the burden of corporation tax, that will be worth around £2bn per annum when implemented over the coming years, are likely to be particularly beneficial for big multinational companies," said BBC business editor Robert Peston.

"And a significant lifting of planning constraints will delight much of the corporate sector."

He added: "With the corporation tax changes – and the recent pledge by Vince Cable to slash red tape – they represent a loosening of alleged shackles on the corporate sector."

And business body the CBI said the Budget would help business grow and create jobs.

Wow … what a concept.  Cut business taxes and attract businesses, create jobs and actually increase government revenue.

Now, there’s a “jobs bill” for you.

Meanwhile in the US:

 

Corptax

 

‘Nuff said.

~McQ

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Is a “humanitarian crisis” developing in Libya?

One of the stated goals of this war on Libya has been to “avert a humanitarian crisis”.  But the Washington Post seems to believe such a crisis is now being precipitated there:

Aid organizations scrambled Wednesday to prepare for large-scale relief operations in Libya, as fears grew of a potential humanitarian crisis in a key city besieged by government forces.

International military forces on Wednesday stepped up attacks on government troops in Misurata, 131 miles east of Tripoli. The airstrikes seemed to bring a temporary respite from the fighting that had raged for six days between forces loyal to Moammar Gaddafi and rebels, as government tanks retreated from the city center.

But after nightfall, the tanks returned and resumed their attacks, according to a doctor at the city’s main hospital. “They are shelling everywhere,” he said by telephone.

Patients were being treated on the floor, medical supplies were falling short, fuel for the generator was running low, and water had been cut off, said the doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation by Libyan forces.

What I’d guess the coalition will learn eventually is you can’t stop what is going on in Libya from 30,000 feet, no matter how many coalition members and aircraft you use.  He who is on the ground, and controls it, determines who can be on the ground with him. 

Trying to sort “white from red” as one of the DoD briefers termed it (civilians = white/Gadhafi troops = red) is exceedingly hard, especially in an urban area.  While it may be clear that the red guys are shooting up the place, they’re mixed in with the white meaning any strike against them has a very great possibility of killing a whole bunch of civilians.

U.S. and allied warplanes on Wednesday aimed their attacks on Gaddafi’s ground forces in Misurata and other key cities but were constrained by fears that strikes in heavily built-up areas could cause civilian deaths.

“It’s an extremely complex and difficult environment,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gerard Hueber, the chief of staff for the coalition.

So that speaks to the limits of what the present plan (pure “no-fly zone”) can accomplish, especially considering the “no boots on the ground” promise by most of the coalition members, to include the US.  Or so we’ve been told numerous times. 

International aid organizations have been unable to deliver relief goods to Misurata and other contested towns. Asked whether the U.S. military might play a role in distributing emergency relief, one American official said, “All options are on the table.” He declined to comment further.

Oh. Wait.  I thought that option was definitely off the table.  Mission creep?  Or maybe not, since no one has yet to be able to define the mission in any clear and understandable way.  Not the goals of the UN resolution – the mission of the US military committed to the war in Libya. 

~McQ

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The “Obama Doctrine?

It sort of works out like this – if you’re Libya, look out but if you’re Iran or China, don’t worry about it.  Allahpundit explains:

Via Greg Hengler, it’s simple as can be. If (1) there’s a preventable humanitarian crisis looming and (2) the benefits of intervention outweigh the costs and (3) there’s international support for intervening, then “go for it.” Question: What if (1) and (2) are satisfied but not (3)? Just … let ‘em die, then?

For instance, how about Syria?

At least 10 people have been killed and dozens wounded after Syrian police opened fire on people protesting against the deaths of anti-government demonstrators in Deraa, witnesses say.

Hundreds of youths from nearby villages were shot at when they tried to march into the centre of the southern city.

A Syrian human rights activist told the BBC that at least 37 had died.

Troops also reportedly shot at people attending the funerals of six people killed in a raid on a mosque overnight.

Why that sounds almost exactly like things that happened in Libya prior to the international coalition finally taking action.  Again, just as in Libya, we have “civilians” being killed by their government.

Time to apply the Obama Doctrine?   Is that crickets I hear?

If you think that I’m making this up – about the Obama Doctrine that is – here’s Andrea Mitchell to explain it to you:

 

So who gets the full Monty and what popular uprising gets ignored by the doctrine? We know Iran gets a free pass.  And apparently so does Syria.  Who else? 

~McQ

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WTF? Quote of the Day – Obama lets others volunteer our military edition

I have no idea how else to introduce this latest Obama quote – from our erstwhile CiC – during his stop in El Salvador:

And that’s why building this international coalition has been so important because it means that the United States is not bearing all the cost.  It means that we have confidence that we are not going in alone, and it is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions that are important not only to us, but are important internationally.  And we will accomplish that in a relatively short period of time. [emphasis added]

I can’t tell you how many ways that is just wrong.  Seriously.  

And if he “misspoke” or said it incorrectly, or didn’t mean it that way, then I want to see a clarification.  But it appears, in the case of Libya, that what he said is precisely what happened.  We got “volunteered” and he went along with it.

This is what I mean by lack of leadership.  He actually thinks this is a good thing, I assume.  And it is a tip of an iceberg of which we don’t want any part.

Obama has, during other press opportunities, made the point that the US has “unique capabilities” within its military that allow it to do things others can’t. 

And he’s allowing others to “volunteer” it?

Oh, but don’t be too concerned, he’s rationalized it all out for you:

Now, with respect to our national interests, the American people and the United States have an interest, first of all, in making sure that where a brutal dictator is threatening his people and saying he will show no mercy and go door-to-door hunting people down, and we have the capacity under international sanction to do something about that, I think it’s in America’s international — in America’s national interest to do something about it. (emphasis added)

Really?

How so?

~McQ

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Capitalism 101–why profits are important and why government mandates against profits are bad news …

And why when government tells you how you must spend your money a certain, the unintended consequences are usually terrible:

 

 

Look, this isn’t rocket science, and the business owner in this video explains very well what happens when government dictates how you will spend any profits you make.  Take a moment and listen to what he has to say near the end of the vid especially.  He talks hard numbers and why, if forced to do what the government dictates, it will cost future jobs.

One of the things I’ve always said throughout this health care debate is health insurance should be something someone buys outside of employment.  If Congress would deregulate the industry to the point that buyers were able to shop across state lines for a competitive insurance policy to cover their family and be a part of a huge nation wide pool to boot, prices for insurance would come down.

What is being mandated here puts no pressure on insurance companies to be competitive but it does require companies who are presently unable to provide it to do so.  That will have an impact in employment.  Owners like the one featured here will figure the cost per employee and most likely reduce the employee pool at a point where he thinks he can manage the mandate and still make a profit.

Of course he most likely won’t make the profit he was and so more restaurants won’t be built and more people won’t be hired.

The solution for lower cost health insurance does not lie in more government control or mandates.  It is to be found in a real market that allows buyers the leverage they need to force health care insurance providers to field a competitive product.  Until that happens, none of the solutions tendered through ObamaCare will increase coverage and decrease cost.   It is an absolute impossibility the way that law is structured.

~McQ

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Libya–what is the mission? (update)

The supposed mission is to “protect civilians from their own government”.  And we’ve been told that the mission is not “regime change”.  Except, maybe it is:

“As long as Gadhafi remains in power — unless he changes his approach provides the Libyan people the opportunity to express themselves freely and there are significant reforms by the Libyan government, and he steps down — there’s still going to be a potential threat to the Libyan people,” Obama told reporters at a news conference here, his final stop on a five-day tour of Latin America. “We will continue to support the efforts to protect the Libyan people, but we will not be in the lead.”

So … we’ll fly until and “unless he changes his approach provides the Libyan people the opportunity to express themselves freely and there are significant reforms by the Libyan government, and he steps down”?

Uh, hate to break it to everyone but that sounds like “regime change” to me.  It also sounds like a pretty open ended commitment.  The Hill is also confused about the rhetoric it is hearing.  It too thinks it sounds like "regime change”.

Then there’s this:

“When this transition takes place, it is not going to be our planes that are maintaining the no-fly zone,” Obama said. “It is not going to be our ships that are necessarily involved in enforcing the arms embargo. That’s precisely what the other coalition partners are going to do.”

Great and wonderful I guess.  But if the president thinks this is akin to Pilate washing his hands of Jesus and walking away, that’s not going to happen.  While it is nice to see Europe step up, this is and always will be considered an action by the US on the “Arab street”.

And about mission creep?  Well, consider this:

As the coalition military effort has unfolded in recent days, it has been unclear how closely it would coordinate with opposition or armed rebel forces in Libya. Obama did not rule out the possibility of arming the rebels.

“Obviously, we’re discussing with the coalition what steps can be taken. I think that our hope is that the first thing that happens once we have cleared this space is that the rebels are able to start discussing how they organize themselves, how they articulate their aspirations for the Libyan people and create a legitimate government,” the president told CNN.

Arming the rebels (which the administration admits they know almost nothing) would be picking sides.  In a rebellion/civil war.  Given the description of how the country breaks down tribally, we’d immediately alienate half the Libyans.   And we’d then have manufactured a vested interest in seeing the future Libya shaped in our imagined image. 

Any idea of how the “optics” of such a mission creep would be viewed by the rest of the ME?  And it would apparently be creep since the commander on the scene does not think it is part of his mission:

Gen. Carter F. Ham, who is leading the U.S. effort in Libya, said today that the mission is "not to support opposition forces," but later added that the coalition will not support rebels if they take offensive action against Gadhafi’s regime, only if they are attacked.

Or perhaps they will per Obama not ruling out the possibility of arming the rebels, a very short step from supporting “opposition forces”.  In fact it would be “supporting opposition forces” for anyone objectively viewing the situation.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says:

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to stop the assaults on those population centers and get the Gadhafi forces to stop their offensives there, their shellings of those civilian areas and their potential attacks on civilians in those areas; and then have a no-fly zone in place that can ensure that Qadhafi is not using any of his air assets or substantial military assets to launch offensives against his own people,” Rhodes said.

But their air assets really never were used very much or very effectively.  Admiral Sam Locklear yesterday at a DoD briefing:

Qadhafi’s air force was never the epitome of potency, Locklear said Tuesday; before the alliance attacked last weekend, Libya had some old broken-down jets and a few dozen helicopters it used in its campaign against the rebel alliance. Almost all of those aircraft are now destroyed or weren’t operational in the first place, Locklear said, meaning they’re now a non-issue: "I am completely confident that the air force of Colonel Gadhafi will not have a negative impact on the coalition, and that … if there were anything that we didn’t see or that we [weren’t] able to influence by our initial campaign, that we’d be able to manage that."

There are also reports coming in that the attacks in civilian areas have not been halted, but instead continue

Last night, there was no sign the heavy Western bombardment had shifted the balance decisively in favour of the poorly armed anti-Gaddafi forces. Libyan government forces were fighting back last night on the eastern front line near the key city of Ajdabiya. The counter-attack followed the failure of rebel forces to take the city on Sunday despite air attacks having destroyed regime tanks and artillery. By yesterday evening, there were reports that the regime’s troops were moving south once again to threaten the route to Tobruk and the Egyptian border.

So now what?  And a question that comes to mind – what if we arm the rebels and they begin to drive on Tripoli and in so doing, begin killing civilians?  Show stopper?  Do we intervene then too?

Finally the new coalition command structure appears to be one of compromise which may or not function well.  NATO appears it will have a role because of its supposed superior “command and control capability”.  But the French also want a lead roll and certainly the Arabs want a say so. 

The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, told the French parliament yesterday that a compromise deal would see a "political steering group" of coalition foreign ministers plus the Arab League take over political direction of the air campaign.

And anyone who has made a study of war knows that such a structure (I hesitate to call it a command structure) is fraught with many downside possibilities, one of which is an inability to quickly make decisions, especially with the necessity to consult with a “political steering group” first.  It will be more like war by committee.   Yeah, nothing could go wrong with that, could it?

UPDATE:  The UK’s Daily Mail provides a Libya update bullet list:

  • Tensions with Britain as Gates rebukes UK government over suggestion Gaddafi could be assassinated
  • French propose a new political ‘committee’ to oversee operations
  • Germany pulls equipment out of NATO coalition over disagreement over campaign’s direction
  • Italians accuse French of backing NATO in exchange for oil contracts
  • No-fly zone called into question after first wave of strikes ‘neutralises’ Libyan military machine
  • U.K. ministers say war could last ’30 years’
  • Italy to ‘take back control’ of bases used by allies unless NATO leadership put in charge of the mission
  • Russians tell U.S. to stop bombing in order to protect civilians – calls bombing a ‘crusade’

Looking good, no?  You can read all about it at the link.

 

~McQ

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Seriously?! Obama offers Brazil our technology (and money) for their oil?

This should go a long way toward breaking our dependence on foreign oil, shouldn’t it?

“By some estimates, the oil you recently discovered off the shores of Brazil could amount to twice the reserves we have in the United States.  We want to work with you.  We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.  At a time when we’ve been reminded how easily instability in other parts of the world can affect the price of oil, the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy.”

That’s what the President of the United States said on March 19th in Brazil.   He’s all for Brazil developing its oil reserves, but here at home?   Not so much.

And in case you missed this late last year, it’s also telling:

The U.S. is going to lend billions of dollars to Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, to finance exploration of the huge offshore discovery in Brazil’s Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s planning minister confirmed that White House National Security Adviser James Jones met this month with Brazilian officials to talk about the loan.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank tells us it has issued a "preliminary commitment" letter to Petrobras in the amount of $2 billion and has discussed with Brazil the possibility of increasing that amount.

So we’ll “invest” in Brazil’s oil industry, but essentially shut ours down?

Brilliant strategy, Mr. Obama.  Outstanding energy policy, Mr. President – all but shut domestic oil down, outsource oil jobs to Brazil (plus subsidizing it) and make us more dependent on foreign oil.

As API’s President Jack Gerard said:

“It is beyond comprehension the administration would encourage trade for Brazilian oil while obstructing U.S. oil and natural gas development, eliminating related jobs here at home, and decreasing oil and natural gas revenues to the U.S. Treasury when the government is trillions of dollars in debt. The message from the White House to America’s oil and natural gas workers: we’re going to outsource your job.”

“The administration is missing the obvious: what makes sense for Brazil also makes sense for the United States. Like every other nation, we should be developing our own oil and natural gas resources. It’s good for energy security, good for the economy, good for jobs, and it will help bring down our deficit.”

“The administration says it supports more oil and natural gas development here in the United States, then at every turn discourages it. And today, the White House is making a deal with Brazil for the oil it is not allowing companies to produce here. There’s nothing wrong with buying Brazilian oil, but there’s a big problem when we’re forced to because we’re held back from producing our own.”

This is simply unbelievable.  Investors Business Daily wraps it up for you:

Obama wants to develop Brazilian offshore oil to help the Brazilian economy create jobs for Brazilian workers while Americans are left unemployed in the face of skyrocketing energy prices by an administration that despises fossil fuels as a threat to the environment and wants to increase our dependency on foreign oil.

That nails it.

Whose president is he again?

~McQ

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