Commentary by Marita Noon
All of us loved less-than $2 a gallon at the pump. AAA reports: “Americans paid cheapest quarterly gas prices in 12 years” – which resulted in savings of nearly $10 billion compared to the same period last year. However, oil (and, therefore gasoline) has been creeping upward since the February low – topping $45 a barrel, a high for the year. And that could be a good thing.
While low prices at the pump have been a boon to consumers, the plunge in oil prices has been a bust for American producers.
You may not care about “big oil,” but there’s still reason to be positive about the rising prices.
There are several causes for uptick. First is the weaker U.S. dollar. As oil is traded in dollars, a weaker dollar means that it takes more of them to buy the same amount of oil.
Additionally, we are heading into a busy summer driving season and refineries are switching to the more expensive “summer blend.” The switch typically means a brief shut down for maintenance – which reduces the gasoline supply. Summer driving increases demand.
Globally, oil production is down due to a workers’ strike in Kuwait that took about 1.3 million barrels a day of production offline, and disruptions in Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the North Sea. Former investment advisor and financial writer Tony Daltorio writes: “That brought the total to roughly 3 million barrels a day that were offline.” In the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “oil production has fallen below 9 million barrels a day in recent weeks, down from a peak of 9.7 million barrels a day last April.”
These are all supply issues that can easily be eradicated with increased production – such as recently threatened by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Additionally, in the U.S., reports Bloomberg: “Drilled, uncompleted wells could return 500,000 barrels a day back to the market.” The potential for increased production has many, including Daltorio, predicting a fall in price from current levels.
Consumers like lower prices, but they signal economic concerns as the price of oil is directly connected to the global economy.
In February, a Citibank strategist warned that due to the extended oil price collapse, the global economy “appears to be trapped in a death spiral.” Eric Sharpe, Publisher at Energy Ink Magazine, states: “Citi’s assessment is clear, and easy to understand: weak global growth results in continued depressed oil prices as demand weakens under over-supply.”
This is why I posit higher prices are a good thing for everyone, not just the oil industry.
Simple economics are based on a supply vs. demand formula. So far, I’ve mostly addressed the supply side. But a careful read of the forecasts indicates an increase in the demand side. Sharpe points out: “The single most important factor for the stabilization of oil prices is for demand to outpace growth which it has not done for over two years. Though demand growth is slow, it is still climbing.”
On April 23, the Financial Times reported that commodities, led by oil, rallied “on signs of stronger growth” that bolstered demand. It also referenced: “better housing and infrastructure demand after China’s economy rebounded in March.”
On April 27, in a story about the price of oil hitting “another 2016 high,” WSJ addressed the fact that the Federal Reserve officials “left interest rates unchanged.” The last time the same decision was made, the statement included language that indicated the global economic and financial conditions posed risks to their outlook. This time, that was removed – “signaling less concern about risks posed to the U.S. Economy by global financial conditions.” In WSJ, Robert Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA, is quoted as saying: “The elimination of international elements in the language may mean that the market feels that the international situation is improving, and we’ll get a bit of demand from emerging markets which wasn’t there.”
Additionally, Phil Flynn, Sr. Market Analyst at the PRICE Futures Group, in his daily energy report, on April 22, wrote: “Demand is busting out all over.” He explains: “Low gas prices are causing a buying frenzy at the pump as gasoline demand in the month of March hit an all-time record high.” He continues: “it’s not just gasoline demand, it is oil demand all over. Not just here in the United States but also in China. China reported that crude-oil imports in March were up a whopping 21.6% from last year coming in close to 7.7 million barrels a day. …China’s demand for imported oil is stronger than it has ever been.” He also addressed; “the strongest ever volume increase in Indian demand.”
There is growing demand.
“The market is coming in better balance,” Jason Gammel, an analyst at Jefferies, stated, according to the WSJ. “We maintain the view that the current oversupply will flip into an undersupply in the second half of the year.”
While this is good news for the oil industry, it is also good for everyone – even though it means higher prices at the pump. If this optimistic view is correct, it means the global economy – despite the bad economic news on the American front – may be heading toward a net positive; that it is not “trapped in a death spiral.”
A growing economy needs energy and that is why higher demand – that equals higher prices – is good for everyone.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
Commentary by Marita Noon
Researchers have found that some buyers are willing to pay for environmentally friendly products because those products are “status symbols.” A report in the Atlantic states: “Environmentally-friendly behaviors typically go unseen; there’s no public glory in shortened showers or diligent recycling. But when people can use their behavior to broadcast their own goodness, their incentives shift. The people who buy Priuses and solar panels still probably care about the environment – it’s just that researchers have found that a portion of their motivation might come from a place of self-promotion, much like community service does good and fits on a résumé.”
With “green” having become a status symbol, the affluent can afford it. Yet, their desire to “broadcast their own goodness” actually results in higher costs to those who can least afford it.
Solar power is a great example. On the website for SunRun, a solar panel leasing company, through the story of customer “Pat,” they even encourage the “green status symbol” as a sales feature. While Pat may be happy with her solar panels and “hopes that all her neighbors will go solar, too,” her “green status symbol” costs all the utility’s customers who mostly can’t afford to “go solar.”
As I’ve written on many times, the idea of solar leasing works because of tax incentives and a system called “net metering.” First, those tax incentives are paid for by all taxpayers. Anytime the government gives something away, everyone pays for it. Net metering is a little harder to understand. In short, the utility is required by state laws to purchase the extra electricity generated by rooftop solar panels at the full retail rate – even though they could purchase it at a fraction of the cost from the power plant. As more and more people sign up for these programs, it increases the overall cost of electricity. Remember, however, those with solar panels could have a zero dollar utility bill but they are still using electricity from the utility company at night and generate additional customer service costs such as transmission lines. Ultimately, the cost of electricity goes up on the bills of non-solar customers. Due to this “cost shifting,” many states are changing the net metering policies so solar customers cover the unpaid grid costs. However, as has happened recently in Nevada, the revised programs change the economics and make it unprofitable for companies to operate in the state.
This is clear to see in overall rising electric costs – about 3 percent per year according to the Institute for Energy Research – despite the main fuel costs (coal and natural gas) being at all-time lows.
Earlier this month, Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) addressed another interesting angle: “Green energy can’t compete with $30 oil.” The only way for “green” energy to survive, it says, is: “by the government forcing people to buy them and jacking up electricity and heating prices to families and businesses.”
A new study from the University of Chicago, referenced by IBD, concludes that for an electric vehicle to be cheaper to operate than the modern internal combustion engine, “the price of oil would need to exceed $350 a barrel.” The IBD states: “without massive additional taxpayer subsidies to companies such as Tesla, the price of oil would have to not just double or triple, but rocket more than 10-fold before battery-operated cars make financial sense.”
Yet, sales for the Tesla Model S, the International Business Times (IBT), reports: “actually rose 16 percent last year, in part because they serve as status symbols or appeal to the environmental concerns of well-to-do drivers.”
On March 11, in the Wall Street Journal, columnist Holman Jenkins writes: “Voters should be mad at electric cars.” Why? Because, as he explains: “how thoroughly Tesla’s business model depends on taxpayer largess.” Jenkins states: “Tesla’s cars have status cachet, yes. Even some middle-class customers might be attracted, notwithstanding low gas prices, as long as helped by an enormous dollop of taxpayer favoritism.” As he lays out for the reader the “absurdity of their subsidy regime,” Jenkins concludes: “And you wonder why, on some level voters sense that our political class has led America into a dead-end where the only people doing well are the ones who have subsidies, regulation and political influence stacked in their favor.”
Alternative fuels have also taken a hit with low oil prices. According to IBT: “corn ethanol and algae-based diesel need oil prices at around double today’s levels – or higher – to compete with fossil fuels.”
Another fixture of the “green” social movement that has taken a toll in the low oil-priced environment is, surprisingly, recycling. Calling recycling a “$100-billion-a-year business,” National Public Radio reporter Stacy Venek Smith, points out: “Plastic is made from oil, so when oil gets cheap, it gets really cheap to make fresh plastic. When the price of oil gets really low, using recycled plastic can actually be more expensive because it has to be sorted and cleaned.” In Salt Lake City, KUTV reported: “Many businesses are finding it cheaper to manufacture new plastic than to use recycled materials.” In Montana, according to the Philipsburg Mail, plastics are no longer being picked up for recycling “because the price per pound was so low, it didn’t cover the cost of gas and mileage to make the trip.”
The problem is international. Germany has a reputation as a recycling model with a goal of 36 percent of its plastic production coming from recycled materials and “German consumers finance recycling via licensing fees, which are added on to the price of the products they purchase,” says Deutsche Welle, Germany’s leading organization for international media development, in a report titled: “Low oil prices threaten Germany’s plastics recycling.” It states: “For manufacturers with eyes firmly fixed on costs, opting for cheaper new plastics would be the more economically attractive option.” However, many companies, wanting to appear “environmentally friendly” will still “pay up for recycled plastics, despite higher costs” – meaning higher consumer prices for the plastics they produce.
Addressing the recycling problem, The Guardian states: “Recycling only works when there’s someone on the other side of the equation, someone who wants to buy the recycled material.”
Fortunately for the recycling industry, but bad for consumers who pay higher prices for plastic products, the Philipsburg Mail concludes: “A lot of Fortune 500 Companies still want to purchase recyclables to meet sustainability goals.”
Despite claims of “green prosperity” that implies such policies can “fight poverty and raise living standards,” the opposite is true. Everyone pays more – even those who can least afford it – so the elites, seeking green status symbols, can feel good and appear to be community leaders.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
Flip-flopping like a fish on a hook, Barack Obama once again turned the spigot off on the prospect of oil and natural gas exploration offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. It proves once again that the claims he’s made advocating an “all-of-the-above” energy policy are just more lies and that he’s not interested in helping our nation prosper by tapping into its vast energy resources.
It also proves that those who use the scare tactics of making people believe that oil spills are a daily occurrence, rendering the Gulf of Mexico a permanently fouled body of water, have managed to grab the attention of the powers that be. Consider the opposition that was drummed up to offshore seismic testing over the last few years as oil exploration was considered – but not a peep when it was done to locate sites for wind turbines. Either marine life is important or it isn’t.
It’s been my contention that the defense of “well, there really isn’t that much oil out there to bother with” is conveniently based on information that’s 30 to 40 years old, and as technology has improved the amount of oil believed to be recoverable invariably goes up. We could have far more available to us than we have been led to believe, and I think that is what scares the environmentalists more than the (very remote) prospect of an oil spill. The larger the oil supply, the more reasonable the price and the less incentive to turn our energy future over to unreliable solar and wind power.
So why does this tick me off so much? As I see it, America is in a position where we can be energy-independent to the extent that we need not import from overseas. Our continent has plenty of resources if we just get the desire to use them to both power our capitalist system and create thousands of good-paying jobs. It’s all about creating value, and a resource that is useless to us if kept in the ground becomes the fuel for our economic engine once extracted. A barrel of oil could be used in so many ways – as fuel, a lubricant, raw material for plastics, and so forth. Our usage of it assigns its value, and we use that resource to create still more value, whether through transport, extending the life of components, molded into consumer products, or traded as an export. We also use natural gas to create electricity, particularly as a backup fuel for those frequent times when wind or solar power is unavailable. For all its uses, electricity is not as easily transported as oil or natural gas is – normally there’s a loss of a few percentage points for long-distance electricity transport.
Taken to a local level, anything that can diversify the economy from chicken, government jobs, and tourism should be encouraged. We have been sold the pie-in-the-sky promise of being a leader in building wind turbines, but there’s no real market for that without a hefty subsidy. So we’re not building them. I don’t think we will have the saturation level of energy jobs that are present along the Gulf Coast, but even if it’s in the hundreds that would be an economic shot in the arm for the region. Thus, the news this week of yet another delay in Atlantic drilling means a longer economic drift for the region. It also gives the environmentalist wackos – most of whom are from out of the area and don’t care about anything but our financial support – more of a platform to try and drive other businesses away, such as the poultry industry. Their ultimate goal is Delmarva as a “wildlands corridor,” because as you know people are a burden to this earth.
Here’s hoping the new administration points things back in the right direction and allows the energy companies to get a foothold offshore. Let’s see what’s really out there.
Commentary by Marita Noon
There is no shortage of news stories touting the splits within each party.
The Democrat divide is, as NBC News sees it, between dreamers and doers—with the International Business Times (IBT) calling it: “a civil war over the party’s ideological future.” The Boston Globe declares that the “party fissures” represent “a national party torn between Clinton’s promised steady hand and Sanders’ more progressive goals.”
The Republican reality is, according to IBT, a battle between moderates and conservatives. The party is being “shattered” by the fighting between the establishment and the outsiders. The New Yorker said the days following the Detroit debate have “been the week of open civil war within the Republican Party.” Former standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, laid the foundation for a floor fight at the party’s Cleveland convention. Peggy Noonan, in the Wall Street Journal, states: “The top of the party and the bottom have split.” She describes the party’s front runner this way: “He is a divider of the Republican Party and yet an enlarger of the tent.”
Candidates from both sides of the aisle claim to be unifiers. But when it comes to energy issues, each party is already unified—though each is totally different.
Generally speaking, the Democrats want more government involvement—more government-led investment and federal regulation. In contrast, Republicans want the free market—consumer choice—not government to determine the winners and losers.
The next president will have a significant impact on how America produces, uses, and distributes energy.
In response to frequent questions from talk show hosts regarding the candidates’ energy plans, now that the field has winnowed, I set out to write a review. However, my research revealed that a candidate-by-candidate analysis would be repetitive. Instead, I’ll lay out the distinctive direction each party would drive energy policy and highlight the minor differences within the candidates.
First, one must look at climate change, as, despite repeated failed predictions, it has been the driver of energy policy for the past decade.
The Democrat candidates believe that climate change is a crisis caused by the use of fossil fuels. Therefore, both Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton opposed the Keystone pipeline and lifting the oil export ban. Each supports restricting drilling on federal lands and federal hydraulic fracturing regulations to supersede the states’ policies. At Sunday’s CNN Debate, both opposed fracking—though Sanders was more direct about it. Sanders and Clinton favor increased Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to encourage the use of renewable energy sources.
They would continue the policies, such as the Clean Power Plan, advocated by President Obama—with Sanders being more progressive than Clinton. He wants to institute a tax on carbon emissions, ban all drilling on federal lands, and has sponsored the “keep it in the ground” bill. She would “phase out” hydraulic fracturing on public lands, end tax credits for fossil fuels and increase government fees and royalties. Both support tax credits for renewable energy.
In the transition away from fossil fuel use, Clinton would utilize nuclear power, while Sanders would put a moratorium on nuclear plant license renewals. She supports hydropower.
Over all, the Democrats approach can be summed up as anti-conventional fuels—resulting in higher costs for consumers.
USNews states: “Clinton and Sanders also have expressed frustration with their political colleagues who deny the link between fossil fuel combustion and climate change.”
The four remaining Republican candidates have slightly differing views on climate change—though, unlike their “political colleagues,” none bases his energy policies exclusively on it.
Donald Trump is the biggest opponent of climate change having called the man-made crisis view a “hoax” and tweeting that the Chinese started the global warming ruse “in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” In his book, Crippled America, Trump opens his chapter on energy with a tirade on climate change in which, talking about historic “violent climate changes” and “ice ages,” he acknowledges that the climate does change, but concludes: “I just don’t happen to believe they are man-made.”
Senator Ted Cruz is next. He’s stated: “If you’re a big-government politician, if you want more power, climate change is the perfect pseudo-scientific theory … because it can never, ever, ever be disproven.” He, too, supports the view that global warming is a natural phenomenon rather than man-made.
Senator Marco Rubio believes the climate is changing. He’s said: “The climate’s always changing—that’s not the fundamental question. The fundamental question is whether man-made activity is what’s contributing most to it. I know people said there’s a significant scientific consensus on that issue, but I’ve actually seen reasonable debate on that principle.” He’s added: “And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.”
Governor John Kasich’s views cut “against the grain in the Republican Party” in that he believes climate change is a problem—though he doesn’t support curbing the use of fossil fuels. His state, Ohio, is rich with coal, oil, and natural gas and he believes low-cost reliable energy is “the backbone of America’s economy.” The Hill quotes him as saying: “I believe there is something to [climate change], but to be unilaterally doing everything here while China and India are belching and putting us in a noncompetitive position isn’t good.”
Regardless of their specific views, none of the Republican candidates sees climate change as an “existential crisis,” as Clinton called it on Kimmel Live—and their energy policies reflect that.
All four agree the Keystone pipeline should be built, are critical of the EPA’s aggressive regulations (instead, they support the regulation of energy production at the state and local level), and want to spur economic growth by increasing American energy production and reducing our reliance on foreign sources.
Though Kasich signed legislation freezing Ohio’s law requiring increasing use of renewables, Kasich is the most supportive of them saying: “I believe in wind and solar, there are big subsidies on it but that’s okay.” He also acknowledged that mandating 20-25 percent renewables by a set date is “impossible” and will “throw people out of work.” Cruz and Rubio have voted against production tax credits for wind and solar and against setting a national renewable energy standard. In Iowa, Cruz stood up to the ethanol lobby (he’s repeatedly called for an end to the ethanol mandate), while Trump pandered to it. Rubio and Kasich would allow the ethanol mandate to sunset. In his book, Trump states that the big push to develop “so-called green energy” is “another big mistake” that is “being driven by the wrong motivation.” He calls renewables: “an expensive way of making the tree huggers feel good about themselves.” In contrast, he’s promised to “revive Kentucky’s coal industry.”
Overall, the Republicans views can be summed up as embracing the positive potential of America’s energy abundance—resulting in lower energy costs.
If you believe that effective, efficient, economic energy is the lifeblood of the American economy, you know how to vote in November. The contrast is obvious.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
I really had to blow a lot of dust off this series – its last installment was in July of 2013 – but I will be on the internet radio tomorrow morning at 11:00 thanks to radio hostess (and new monoblogue contributor) Marita Noon. She asked me to come on this week’s installment of her “America’s Voice for Energy” program to discuss a post I did last year.
It came about because she was doing a piece on where the candidates stood on energy (which will be her debut post here tomorrow morning) and I noted to her via social media that I had done quite a bit of research last summer on that very topic as part of my “Dossier” series. She wanted to discuss that piece and other thoughts I had on the subject, thus early this morning we recorded my segment of her show, which will be the opening segment. Thirteen minutes may seem like a long time to fill on the radio, but we were rolling so well I almost didn’t get to promote my site.
Yet there are some other things which were sadly left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Something I would have liked to fill her audience in on further but didn’t have the time to this morning was the unique situation we have here in Maryland with regard to energy. I did get to discuss a little bit about the proposed offshore wind that Martin O’Malley was trying to push, but I wanted to mention that there are hundreds of other jobs at stake in Maryland’s energy industry. (I actually did a little looking up last night because I was curious.)
According to the most recent state report available (2013) there are 401 coal mining workers in the state of Maryland, all based out of Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland’s western panhandle. No, we’re not West Virginia or Kentucky by any stretch of the imagination but the Obama administration’s “war on coal” isn’t going to help their employment situation, particularly since these coal fields lie close to shale deposits ripe for fracking – unfortunately, a short-sighted General Assembly and Hogan administration put that resource development on hold until 2017.
The other fascinating thing I didn’t get to was the fact that cities up and down the coast are being intimidated into opposing seismic exploration of the ocean floor for the purposes of oil and gas exploration - but had no objection when they went out and did the same thing to map the ocean floor for siting wind turbines. Apparently that was a noble enough cause to kill a few fish over. Honestly, I think the opponents are very aware what is really out there and that’s billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, all within easy reach of our shoreline and extractable at a cost that would blow the renewables out of the water. (Yes, the pun was intended.)
So take a listen, either live as it happens or later on when it becomes available as a podcast. I believe there are three other guests on the show, so I’ll be curious to see what they have to say as well when I catch the podcast (I’ll be at work when it’s on live.)
Let’s just hope that the long radio slump is over. Thanks to Marita for having me on as a guest, albeit a little reluctantly since I have been under the weather the last few days. But I managed to avoid a Hillary-style coughing jag and pushed through.
It’s Leap Day, so why not use the occasion to put up the odds and ends cluttering up the mailbox? After sifting through the stuff I thought might be useful but is now pretty much irrelevant, I’ve still come up with a post’s worth of things that take a sentence to a couple paragraphs to deal with.
As you may know, here in Maryland we have passed the halfway point of the “90 days of terror” I call the General Assembly session. While several of the items I cite aren’t on the agenda, I think you can file them under the “bright idea” category, as in “don’t give them any bright ideas.”
While the first idea (one of many Daily Signal items that caught my eye) isn’t really on the table in the state, locally they are kicking around the thought of assisting local students who want to attend Wor-Wic Community College. But Louisiana’s program is breaking the state, so it may be a cautionary tale for the county.
Look, you begin with one college campus and recent high school graduates but then the folks at Salisbury University will want in, then there will be a clamor to include other groups and schools. With any government program, mission creep is a concern and this is no exception. It’s a natural lead-in to an excellent piece by James Bovard at Mises Daily (for this the hat tip goes to my friends at Americans for Limited Government.) Once we set the precedent of free tuition, will the county ever get off the hook?
“(Politicians) realize that addicting citizens to government handouts is the easiest way to breed mass docility and stretch their power,” writes Bovard, and he is absolutely correct. Why do you think I advocate so much for starving the beast? It’s the only way out of this mess we have created.
But as the Daily Signal adds in another great piece, Republicans who want limited government find it a tough sell in minority communities despite the evidence that shoveling money into the welfare system isn’t helping. Perhaps this is because conservatives are losing the battle for debunking the lies being sold to the minorities and youth, despite Dan Bongino’s best efforts to change the narrative at the Conservative Review.
Then again, when you have the dissent-free atmosphere of college campuses these days (again from the Daily Signal), it’s easier to see why the “skulls full of mush” remain in their state.
Something that is on the docket in Maryland once again is a “death with dignity” bill. But my final piece from the Daily Signal points out that if you took Oregon’s assisted suicide rate and extrapolated the numbers nationwide, 10,529 people annually would take their own lives. By comparison, in 2013 just over 33,000 people died as a result of vehicle accidents and roughly the same number perished in firearm-related deaths. But the majority of those firearm deaths were suicides, with 11,208 being homicides. (Table 18 way back in this government report.)
So what we would be doing is likely reducing the firearm death figure by a little bit, but increasing the suicide rate by giving it less of a stigma. I’m not sure I agree with this because in this day and age it’s easy for the greedy grandkids to convince their rich grandma she is bound any day to catch Alzheimer’s and struggle on for years afterward. Why not save us, uh, we mean yourself the trouble, they would ask.
I wanted to bring up one more seeming juxtaposition in Maryland politics before I switch gears. A couple weeks back there was a candidates’ debate for the Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat (way too) long held by Barbara Mikulski. I believe there were five candidates present of the fourteen who filed, but the most notable absentee was Delegate Kathy Szeliga. As she noted, there was a Maryland GOP event held that same night. Under the heading of “An Amazing Event!” she wrote:
Thursday night, I was able to attend an event with three great governors… Bob Ehrlich, Charlie Baker (Mass. GOP Gov.), and Larry Hogan even stopped by! These men know how to win and govern in blue states.
We will win our U.S. Senate campaign the same way – by being authentic and showing voters that we truly care about our state and nation. Our ideas work and empower people over big government.
It’s interesting she points this out since we didn’t get to hear her ideas in the debate. On the other hand, fellow candidate Richard Douglas chided Szeliga indirectly by stating:
I am delighted to be participating in the Goucher College Republican candidate’s debate for the U.S. Senate on February 18, 2016. Only a serious family emergency could keep me away. Over many weeks, College Republicans and some of Maryland’s most devoted grassroots Republican activists have devoted enormous effort to this useful event. I warmly commend them for this effort, and from the beginning, my participation was never in doubt. Service in the armed forces and with two U.S. Senate committees teaches a vital lesson: people come first. I took that lesson to heart in Iraq, on a Navy submarine, and in the U.S. Senate as it reacted to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will never make party or President higher priorities than the people of Maryland.
As you recall, there were a series of questions I sent out to 12 of the 14 candidates (two had bad e-mail addresses so their mail bounced.) I mention this because I received Douglas’s answers yesterday as the second response to come in – haven’t heard from Szeliga yet.
Finally, if there were a third person I would like to add to monoblogue (at least on a weekly basis) it’s this lady. Each time I read Marita Noon’s posts on the political aspects of energy I nod my head in agreement, and this one was no exception – it even ties in to the lunacy on college campuses these days because this is what some of these crackpots do after college. I give you the movement to “keep it in the ground”:
“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.
For example, there’s the case of Sandoval County, New Mexico, which has potential to be a wealthier county but can’t even give permission to drill an exploratory well without angst:
In the past few years, when oil prices were higher, Encana and WPX drilled some 200 wells in the same geology, 70 of them in Sandoval County. Not one single instance of any interference, damage, or invasion of fresh water aquifers has occurred. For that matter, over the past 50 years of production in Sandoval County, even with technology and safety standards that were not as advanced or rigorous as todays, there has not been one instance of aquifer harm.
One “small drilling well” outside of a community on the edge of Albuquerque that could create jobs and help the local and state economy could be blocked because of a few dozen agitators who could cause the county to “keep it in the ground.”
When I read this it makes me think of the short-sightedness of several regional governmental bodies that have expressed their opposition to the simple act of seismic surveying of the waters off the coast, citing harm to marine life. (This didn’t seem to be a problem in 2013 when it was done to place wind turbines, though.)
I suppose they would rather wreak havoc on the migratory bird population with wind turbines, but I think both oil platforms and wind turbines can co-exist – an “all of the above” strategy if you will. It’s just that one will prove to be a boondoggle without subsidies and one won’t.
So as we wrap up this Leap Day, here’s hoping Donald Trump is the first to take a flying leap – to where I don’t care.
For awhile I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to the 80th edition of this longtime monoblogue series but I have finally arrived with more tidbits that require only a few dozen words to deal with.
Since this category has the item I’ve been sitting on the longest, I’m going to talk energy first. Some of my readers in the northern part of the state may yet have a little bit of remaining snow from the recent blizzard, snow that may be supplemented by a new blast today. But the fine folks at Energy Tomorrow worry about a regulatory blizzard, and with good reason: Barack Obama has already killed the coal industry, states are suing for relief from the EPA, and a proposed $10 a barrel oil tax may further hinder the domestic oil industry already straining under a price war with OPEC. So much for that $550 annual raise we received, as Rick Manning notes in the latter story I link – for the rest of us, that’s like a 25-cent per hour raise without the increased taxation that normally comes with a pay increase. Yet that quarter would be lost to taxation under the Obama scheme.
It’s interesting as well that the Iowa caucus results favored Ted Cruz over Donald Trump despite their competing stances on ethanol, as Marita Noon wrote, but Cruz’s Iowa win also emboldened others to speak more freely about rescinding the ban.
Speaking of Cruz and Iowa, over the last week we’ve heard more about third-place Iowa finisher Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, as Erick Erickson predicted we would. It’s obvious to me that the media is trying to pick a Republican candidate for us, so they have been pushing either Donald Trump (who is far from conservative on many issues) or Marco Rubio (who has been squishy on immigration and perhaps can be rolled more easily on the subject again.) Or, as Dan Bongino writes, it could be the left’s divide-and-conquer strategy at work once again.
It seems to me that today’s New Hampshire primary should bring the race down to about five participants on the GOP side. The herd will almost certainly be culled of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Jim Gilmore based on results, polling, and financial situation, and that would cut it down to six. The loser between Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich should whittle the field to five in time for South Carolina and we will begin to see if Donald Trump’s ceiling is really about 25 percent.
Trump’s popularity has been defined by a hardline approach to border security, but once again I turn to Rick Manning who asks what Trump would do about Obamacare, He also shrewdly invokes Bobby Jindal’s name, since the policy wonk had a conservative approach:
Jindal understood that the Obamacare system has put down some roots, and tearing it out was not going to be an easy task that could be glibly done with the wave of a wand or a pronouncement from a podium. He understood that whatever health care system replaced Obamacare would set the tone for whether or not the federal government continued its expansion in scope and power. He understood that what we do about Obamacare is likely to be one of the most important domestic policy decisions that any president will make. So, he laid out his vision for what health care should look like in America. (Link added.)
Yet on another domestic issue New Hampshire’s neighbor Maine is making some serious steps in cleaning up their food stamp rolls. It’s a little scary to think that the Millennials and Generation X decided keeping the “free” stuff wasn’t worth actually getting a job (or taking alternate steps to improve themselves or their community.) Perhaps it is fortunate that these are childless adults.
Turning to our own state, Maryland Right to Life was kind enough to inform me that a rebadged “death with dignity” assisted suicide bill was introduced to the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate (HB404 and SB418, respectively.) The 2015 rendition never received a committee vote, but it also had a late hearing – this year the setup is a little bit more advantageous to committee passage and the number of sponsors (all Democrats) has increased. They thought they had enough votes to get it out of committee last year, and chances are they are correct.
I have postulated on previous occasions that this General Assembly session is the opportunity to plant the seeds of distrust Democrats desperately need to get back that which they consider theirs in 2018 – the Maryland governor’s chair. It will likely be a close, party-line vote but I suspect this bill will pass in order to make Governor Hogan either veto it (which, of course, will allow the press to make him look less than compassionate to cancer sufferers such as he was) or sign it into law – a course for which he will accrue absolutely zero credit from Democrats for reaching across the aisle but will alienate the pro-life community that is a vital part of the GOP.
Try as they might, the Democrats could not bait Hogan into addressing social issues during his 2014 campaign but that doesn’t mean they will stop trying.
On a much more somber note insofar as good government is concerned, the advocacy group Election Integrity Maryland announced they were winding up their affairs at the end of this month. As EIM president Cathy Kelleher stated:
The difficulty of maintaining a small non profit was a full time job and the responsibility fell on the same few individuals for far too long.
We can proudly say that in our 4+ years of operations, we made a difference in the way citizens view the record maintenance of the State Board of Elections and had an impact in the legislative process.
The problem EIM had was twofold: first, a lack of citizens interested enough to address the issues our state has with keeping voter rolls not just up to date, but insuring they are limited to citizens who are eligible to vote; and secondly just an overwhelming task considering there are over 3 million voters registered in Maryland. And for some of the counties that are more populous, the powers that be didn’t much mind having inaccurate voter rolls that may have had a few ineligible voters among them just in case they needed a few extra on election night.
And it’s that prospect of fraud which is among the reasons not to adopt National Popular Vote, as Natalie Johnson notes at the Daily Signal. It’s a good counter to an argument presented in the comments to one of Cathy Keim’s recent posts. After the angst of Bush vs. Gore in 2000, could you imagine the need for a national recount with states hanging in the balance?
I think the system can be improved, but there’s a time and place for that proposal and it’s not here yet. There’s also a time and a place to wrap up odds and ends, and we have arrived.
With the winds of Jonas howling around us last night, I decided it was a good night to clean out the old e-mail box. One result of that is the Liberty Features widget I placed in my sidebar. They have a lot of good content I use for these “odds and ends” posts as well as other content – that and once upon a time I was a writer for them. You just never know when doors may open back up.
On Tuesday last I alerted readers to the Maryland Senate bill that would allow Wicomico County to determine whether or not they want an elected school board. It’s doubtful they picked up on the coincidence that their hearing will occur in the midst of National School Choice Week. But we deserve a choice, so there’s just something appropriate about this – it may even occur during the #schoolchoice Tweetup occurring Wednesday afternoon.
Teachers may be gaining a choice in how they wish to be represented thanks to an upcoming Supreme Court case. Here’s hoping the side of right prevails and teachers are freed from paying excessive union dues to support political causes they don’t agree with.
And since a lot of my cohorts in the region are using their heat, it’s a good time to talk a little about all the energy news that’s been piling up. For example, energy writer Marita Noon recently detailed the Obama administration’s War on Coal. She quotes one Pennsylvania United Mine Workers officer who says, “Obama’s actions have alienated those who work in the industry from Democrats in general.” I think someday there may be thousands of workers in the green energy field, but for now the people who work in the coal mines are looking desperately for jobs.
On the other hand, if the government showers you with favored status, you have a golden ticket. Noon also wrote about the subsidies and rent-seeking that green energy company Solar City is in danger of losing in several states.
Our fracking boom has gone bust, though, since oil has approached $25 a barrel. Some of those furloughed employees could be rehired to pump oil for export, but this game of chicken between OPEC and American producers shows no sign of ending soon.
Those would-be workers could also be good candidates for rebuilding American manufacturing – if any jobs were to be had, that is. Over at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Scott Paul notes:
I know I don’t have to tell you how important manufacturing is. More than 12 million Americans are directly employed in manufacturing, and many more are employed indirectly.
These good-paying manufacturing jobs are key to a healthy middle class. It’s no coincidence that the middle class is shrinking at the same time manufacturing is struggling.
Manufacturing certainly faced a tough 2015. There were only 30,000 new jobs created nationwide. We still only have gained back 40 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession.
They ponder what the 2016 Presidential candidates will do and invite you to ask for yourself (through their form letter, of course.) The valid question is:
What will you do differently? How do you plan to help spur manufacturing job growth and grow the middle class?
Perhaps Larry Hogan’s plan is one answer, although federal intervention may be needed to bring jobs back from overseas. Maryland, though, could create the conditions for growing new companies.
Finally, I wanted to give a shout out to a long-distance supporter of mine over the last several years, one who has decided to make the leap and run for public office. Jackie Gregory threw her hat into the ring for Cecil County Council back in November, running as a Republican in the county’s District 5. That district covers the central part of the county, from the town of North East south along the Elk Neck peninsula.
If you are in the area, she’s having a breakfast next weekend in North East so I would encourage you to drop by and give her some support. Cecil County has been an interesting subject to me for several years, with Gregory’s Cecil County Patriots group being an advocate for change.
So my 79th edition of odds and ends comes to a close as my heater kicks on again. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for summer. By the way, I also finally finished my updates to the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame so the page is back up. I’m not sure it’s odd, but it is the end.
A couple weeks ago I pointed out that about two dozen bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year were still pending after Larry Hogan had his final bill signing session May 12. Here was the list of bills I urged him to veto:
- House Bill 51 (Circuit Court fees)
- House Bill 54 (Circuit Court fees)
- House Bill 345 (flexible leave)
- House Bill 449/Senate Bill 409 (fracking regulations)
- House Bill 838/Senate Bill 416 (mandated IVF coverage)
- House Bill 862/Senate Bill 743 (birth certificates)
- House Bill 980/Senate Bill 340 (ex-felons voting)
- Senate Bill 190 (travel tax)
If he wishes to let the decriminalization of marijuana become law without his signature, that’s quite all right.
So I’m very disappointed to report that the deadline came and went while Hogan was away in Asia, and only two of those bills were properly vetoed: HB980/SB340 and SB190.
Yet while he turned aside the travel tax, Governor Hogan increased a number of court fees and kept an additional O’Malley fee increase scheduled to sunset this year for another five years.
The governor who claims to be business-friendly and who wanted to create jobs went against the wishes of his party on flexible leave and thwarted the introduction of fracking to Maryland for another two years. This after announcing during the campaign:
States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.
Now we have our own knee-jerk reaction.
He also added yet another unnecessary mandate to health insurance with in-vitro fertilization coverage for same-sex couples, and if Bruce, uh, “Caitlyn” Jenner were born in Maryland s/he could legally have his/her birth certificate changed to reflect the “fact” he bills himself as a female.
Perhaps you believe Hogan was making the political calculation about whether a veto could be sustained. With the Senate in Democratic hands by a hefty 33-14 count, it’s not likely a veto could be sustained there. However, a 50-seat group of Republicans in the House only need seven Democrats to keep a veto in play, and given enough political pressure there are still a handful of centrist Democrats who could go along with the governor.
These were the House votes on the eight measures I advocated a veto for. I’m also adding the votes on the handful of bills he vetoed for policy reasons.
- House Bill 51 passed the House 97-40. It would have difficult to uphold this one.
- House Bill 54 passed the House 82-58, after originally failing on third reading. This veto could have been sustained.
- House Bill 345 passed the House 86-52. This one was right on the cusp of a maintaining the veto; definitely doable.
- House Bill 449 passed the House 93-45, and its crossfiled SB409 passed 103-36. But if Governor Hogan had vetoed this and put the whip to his department heads to come up with regulations by next January they may have upheld this veto.
- The margins on HB838/SB416 were 94-44 and 93-45, respectively. That’s iffy but the onus should have been placed on the General Assembly to vote on it again.
- Similarly, HB862/SB743 only won the House by margins of 85-50 and 91-49. Still unlikely to hold, but should have made them vote again.
- HB980/SB340 only had 82 votes apiece in the House, which makes these good candidates to be upheld.
- SB190 only passed 84-56, which means it’s also a good possibility to be sustained.
- SB517, which decriminalized marijuana possession but was vetoed, is right on the cusp of overturn as it passed 83-53.
- Similarly, SB528, which dealt with seizure and forfeiture (also vetoed), passed the House 89-51 so it’s also a possible overturn.
I suppose I should be happy with the half a loaf I have received from Governor Hogan considering the absolute disaster we’ve had to endure under eight years of Martin O’Malley. But the leftists are crowing about the fracking ban, and see it as just an initial step to a permanent halt.
The only way to curb an ambitious, leftist agenda is to put up a conservative one of your own and stomp out any attempt to sneak things through. Instead, what we are receiving is a leftward drift in lieu of pedal-to-the-metal liberalism. However, to borrow the words of a former governor, we really need to turn this car around and not using the veto pen as much as it should be won’t get us going in the correct direction.
Okay, now that I have your attention, allow me to add some context. If I did show prep for Rush Limbaugh, this story would be placed in the “lighthearted stack of stuff.” (This explains why I kept it around for a couple weeks.)
Back on April 20 – which somehow seems appropriate – the Washington Times ran the story I allude to in the title. It detailed an April 6 lecture by “a key figure behind New York’s statewide ban on fracking.” Biologist Sandra Steingraber said the following:
“Fracking as an industry serves men. Ninety-five percent of the people employed in the gas fields are men. When we talk about jobs, we’re talking about jobs for men, and we need to say that,” Ms. Steingraber says in a video posted on YouTube by the industry-backed group Energy in Depth.
“The jobs for women are ‘hotel maid’ and ‘prostitute,’” she says. “So when fracking comes into a community, what we see is that women take a big hit, especially single women who have children who depend on rental housing.”
Needless to say, if a conservative said that women were only qualified to be prostitutes and hotel maids, we would have that splashed all over the front pages for months on end. Instead, it took two weeks to leak out to the Washington Times and, aside from that, it’s barely been mentioned. A cursory news search for Ms. Steingraber only found a few articles on smaller outlets about upcoming speeches and minor reaction to this story.
The Times also quotes another anti-fracking activist who compares the procedure to rape:
Ms. Steingraber’s speech, titled “Fracking is a Feminist Issue: Women Confronting Fossil Fuels and Petrochemicals in an Age of Climate Emergency,” comes after Texas anti-drilling activist Sharon Wilson was criticized for comparing fracking to rape in a March 30 post on Twitter and her blog.
“Fracking victims I have worked with describe it as a rape. It is a violation of justice and it is despoiling the land,” Ms. Wilson said in her blog, TXSharon’s BlueDaze. “Victims usually suffer PTSD.”
I tell you, Valerie Richardson’s story could be comedy gold – but these people take this stuff seriously, and that’s a shame.
While the oil and gas industry isn’t female-dominated by any means, it’s often a function of physical strength and skill level – the women who are coming into the field aren’t typically found at the wellhead but in what the industry calls “downstream” jobs. None of them involve prostitution or scullery work, but they’re usually not going to get their hands overly dirty at the jobsite because they are the technicians and engineers as opposed to the guys doing the drilling and extraction. And that’s just fine – they’re making an honest living. So Steingraber may be right in the specific that nearly all wellhead jobs are held by males, but as an industry she’s well off base.
Yet the problem with this line of thinking is that it pervades the brains of liberals who occupy places of power, such as the EPA or, closer to home, the Maryland General Assembly. The Radical Green leftists in the MGA still haven’t received the “war on women” meme, but they don’t have to be as sly about it, either.
As you are likely aware I am currently working on the 2015 monoblogue Accountability Project, and some of my venom is saved for the idiocy which passes for oil and gas industry expertise. Pro-abortion legislators are continually trying to strangle Maryland’s fracking industry before it even makes it to the crib, as you’ll see when I wrap up the mAP in the next few weeks.
One good example is a proposal on the waste products of fracking, which is originally proposed would have made it illegal for a person to “accept, receive, collect, store, treat, transfer, or dispose of, in the state, waste from hydraulic fracturing.” Well, that pretty much covered it: a backhanded ban on the practice. I have at least one other example in the mAP, so be watching.
For America to prosper, we need to create our own energy. And when we have the bountiful resources that we do and can extract them at a reasonable, market-based price, why not do so? You can see the depths opponents have to reach to make their point, which means their argument is a futile one. Drill, baby, drill!
It’s been awhile since I looked at the energy industry, what with legislation, riots, and other general mayhem. Fortunately for me, I have several sources in that industry to return me to speed and one is writer Marita Noon, whose piece on NetRightDaily today detailed the efforts of forward-thinking states to repeal their renewable energy mandates - some by whopping margins in their legislature. In those states, the market-bending allocations to renewable energy are coming to an end, leveling the playing field and perhaps saving their taxpayers millions of dollars.
Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t one of those states rolling back its mandates; in fact, the only piece of legislation dealing with the renewable portfolio was a liberal Democrat-backed scheme to expand it some more. House Bill 377 and Senate Bill 373 both were aimed at significantly increasing the percentage of renewables up to 40% by 2025 – current law peaks renewables’ share at 20% by 2022. (Both these figures are a pipe dream.) The Senate version lost in the Finance Committee by an 8-3 vote, and the House version was withdrawn before it was voted upon.
It was good that a bad bill was thwarted, but it was unfortunate that no bill was introduced to repeal these mandates. Maryland would be in far better shape energy-wise, eventually with lower utility rates, if true reform was achieved: repeal of the renewable energy portfolio, the withdrawal of the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, repealing the subsidy for offshore wind, and encouraging energy production from hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling.
Over the course of the O’Malley administration, energy companies took the brunt of new regulations and changes in the market; in particular, their cost of doing business was affected by the renewable energy portfolio and the RGGI. If you assume the goal of the utility is to provide energy as cheaply as possible to make a profit – while keeping prices low enough to maintain and grow a customer base – having the dead expenses of the “alternative compliance payment” made necessary by falling short of renewable goals and the CO2 allowances auctioned off by RGGI as a sweet redistribution scheme aren’t helping the cause. Meanwhile, more exploration and investment in energy infrastructure could bring Maryland closer to being at least even as opposed to a net energy importer.
I wouldn’t expect any repeal of these bills to pass on the scale that they’ve moved through some state legislatures, but 71-70 and 24-23 are perfectly fine margins to me. It would also likely require getting around the committee process and bringing the package directly to the floor. (The portfolio repeal, RGGI withdrawal, and repeal of the offshore wind subsidy could be one bill: call it the Maryland Energy Reform Act of 2016.)
The trick is getting the right people to advocate for the changes by showing how much can be saved by consumers. That portion seems like a job for a group like the Maryland Public Policy Institute, while the lobbying on the part of the energy providers should include a pledge of reducing rates. Shaving 2 cents a kilowatt hour off the bill may not sound like much, but it translates to about $216 a year based on average residential usage of about 900 kWh a month. I don’t know about you, but an extra $18 a month would be nice for me. Just think of the economic benefits we received last year when gasoline skidded to $2 a gallon – benefits being lost now as prices have edged back up over $2.50 a gallon.
To help in prosperity, Maryland needs cheap energy. As it stands now, we don’t have it but I think we can get it if the political will is there.
Simply put, March was not a good month for job creation around the country. Numbers were down markedly from previous months while, as the Americans for Limited Government advocacy group pointed out, the labor participation rate tied a 37-year low.
The news was even worse in the manufacturing sector, where it contracted by 1,000 jobs. While Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing blamed the strong dollar, calling it “a big loser for factory jobs in the United States,” it’s only a piece of the puzzle.
Paul would favor a more interventionist solution, adding:
There’s plenty that could be done to turn this around. The Treasury should crack down on currency manipulators, the Federal Reserve shouldn’t act prematurely, USTR should be assertive about enforcing our trade laws, and Congress must address currency and trade enforcement in the context of new trade legislation.
Based on Barack Obama’s promise to create a million manufacturing jobs in his second term, he needs to add 628,000 in the next 21 months – a Herculean task for any president, and almost impossible for this one. Let’s consider a few facts:
First of all, the continued low price of both oil and natural gas has tempered the energy boom to some extent. According to Energy Information Administration data, the number of oil and natural gas rigs in operation last week was 1,048. In terms of oil operations, the number is down 45% from last year and for gas it’s down almost 27%. While gasoline in the low $2 range is good for the overall economy, oil prices need to be between $60 and $80 a barrel for operators to break even, and the benchmark price has held lately in the high $40s.
As I noted, low energy prices are good for some aspects of job creation, but the energy boom is on a bit of a hiatus and that affects manufacturing with regard to that infrastructure. Throw in the unfair competition we’re receiving when it comes to OCTG pipe and it doesn’t appear this will be the cure to what ails us as far as job creation goes.
More important, though, is the financial aspect. Our corporate tax structure is among the most punitive in the developed world, which leads to capital flowing offshore despite the “economic patriotism” appeals of our government to demand it come back. Once you have the opportunity to take advantage of other countries’ willingness to charge 20% or even 15% tax, why should you willingly pay a 35% rate? Their slice of the pie may be less, but they get a lot more pies this way.
And then we have the aspect of regulations, particularly when it comes to the financial restrictions that Dodd-Frank places on the lending industry and the environmental mandates an overzealous EPA is putting on industry – look at coal as an example. If we went back to the conditions of 2006 the environment would likely not suffer serious harm and companies would have a much easier time with their accounting. I haven’t even touched on Obamacare, either.
Not all of this is Obama’s fault, but the majority of these problems can be laid at his feet. Alas, we have 21 months left in his term so many of these things will not change despite the presence of a Republican Congress which will be blamed for any setbacks.
So the question becomes one of just how many employers in general, not just in manufacturing, will be able to weather this storm. Even the recent news that both Walmart and McDonalds will be increasing their wages brought out the cynics and doubters. But it’s worth pointing out that both Walmart and McDonalds have stated they wouldn’t oppose a minimum wage hike. Such a move makes sense for them because their bottom lines can more easily manage a modest wage hike for their employees and they know their local competitors can’t. Both also have the flexibility to adopt more automation where they used to have a row of low-wage employees. As an example, most of the local Walmarts adopted a number of self-serve checkout lanes over the last year or so. If you hire a dozen fewer cashiers it’s easier to give the others another dollar an hour.
Change is a constant in the labor market, and we know this. But there are some circumstances under which businesses thrive and others where they struggle, and history has gone long enough to suggest the broad outlines we should follow. It’s unfortunate that some want to blaze a new trail when we know where the correct path is.