Odds and ends number 46

This morning most of my usual rundown of items that, as always, don’t merit a full post but perhaps 1-3 paragraphs, concern the goings-on here in the great state of Maryland. (Note: additional update at bottom.)

I’ve heard so much over the last week about the gas tax: first it was off the table in favor of an income tax hike, and now it’s just being backed up to the end of the General Assembly session. The Senate Republican slate is still pressing the anti-gas tax website, though, also making the point that the Transportation Trust Fund is about the least trustworthy option for placing extra revenue.

And gas prices aren’t just a state issue. The Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative Congressional Republicans, raises a valid argument:

Oil production on private and state-owned land – land beyond the federal government’s grip – grew 14% last year. At the exact same time, production on federal land fell 11%. Gas prices have nearly doubled since Obama’s inauguration, and energy analysts predict that more Americans than ever before will pay $5.00 per gallon this year.

The President’s response to soaring gas prices is to shrug his shoulders and say, “There’s not much we can do.” And his Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has actually called for raising gas prices to European levels. Italians currently pay about $9.00 per gallon!

This isn’t the energy policy Americans deserve. Aggressively increasing our energy production will help lower gas prices and create more jobs. To do it, we must unlock more areas for exploration, cut through the red tape that slows production, and green light common sense projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.

The smart and responsible path to American energy security is clear, and the Republican Study Committee’s Jobs Through Growth Act shows the way. We quite literally cannot afford to wait. (Emphasis mine.)

Read that first sentence again – oil exploration on private land grew, but public lands waned. And the Democrats’ response? They want to once again raid the Strategic Petroleum Reserve rather than admitting their culpability in holding up production for a decade or more – oil which could have already been on the market.

I’m a strong believer in the concept of “highest and best use” when it comes to land, although I adapt it somewhat to consider the resource value. Furthermore, I feel that recreational usage, preservation, and energy extraction need not be mutually exclusive over large tracts of land. It wouldn’t be any worse to see an oil well or fracking operation than to have a wind turbine hovering hundreds of feet in the air, either offshore or land-based, or a field full of solar panels.

As an example of how energy is becoming a national campaign issue, even in local races, I can direct you to Second District Congressional candidate Larry Smith, who both put forth his energy plan and challenged opponent Dutch Ruppersberger to” support the Keystone XL pipeline” and “stand up to President Obama and the special interest groups in Washington. It is time for him to fight for the people of his district and begin taking constructive measures to help end the pain at the pump.”

It’s good that Smith is another Maryland Republican who is taking the fight to the Democrat rather than his primary opponents. We can leave that for the other side, even when they’re correct in pointing it out.

Another race where this is occurring is the U.S. Senate race, where both the leading contenders are hammering the opponent. Dan Bongino recently called Ben Cardin the “milquetoast senator.” Bongino continued, “I like to say that Maryland is missing two senators because they just vote the party line. No reason for Maryland to get any national interest because there is no diversity of political thought.”

Richard Douglas called Maryland “desperate for leaders” and blasted the state’s junior Senator for being out of touch:

For most Americans, longevity brings wisdom. In Congress, longevity brings isolation. Isolation from the people invites tyranny. Such isolation is visible in Baghdad’s fortified ‘Green Zone,’ whose original architect was Saddam Hussein, not the American soldier. America must not tolerate creation of a Green Zone around Congress by politicians-for-life.  A Senate leader who is truly concerned about the interests of his state and nation knows this. Like General Washington, he understands the critical value to the nation of a Farewell Address. He leaves on a warhorse, not a gurney.

Ben Cardin has held elected office since 1967. His time is up.

Indeed, it is time for a change, and these two gentlemen lead a group which would do a far better job representing the true interests of Marylanders.

And Free Staters could be well served without the need for tax increases, simply by adopting a more austere budget than the one proposed by Governor O’Malley. But it certainly wouldn’t be bare-bones, says Delegate Justin Ready.

Negotiations are taking place to avoid what liberal interest groups are calling a doomsday budget – one that would reduce approximately $500 million from Governor O’Malley’s proposed $36 Billion budget.  A reduction of 1.4% out of the largest projected budget in Maryland history does not sound like doomsday to me, it sounds like a very good idea to get our state’s finances back on track.

It’s important to note that a cut of $500-$700 million out of Gov. O’Malley’s proposed FY2013 budget would still leave Maryland’s state government spending more than in last year’s budget.  That’s not an unreasonable request to make of our government in a time when families have seen their budgets reduced dramatically.

So we would STILL spend more, but that’s not good enough for Annapolis liberals. They seem to want the whole enchilada, middle class (and everyone else not on the government teat) be damned.

But before I get to my new links, I wanted to add a quick news update: Mitt Romney won the Washington caucuses, although in truth it doesn’t mean much because the hard work of picking delegates to the national convention comes later on. Of course, I’m waiting for the Ron Paul cult to tell me that he’ll end up with all the delegates despite the fact he finished a distant second.

But there’s a simple truth at play: even if Paul got EVERY delegate from EVERY caucus, he would still be far short of the number needed for nomination. And getting 10 percent of the primary vote in a particular state isn’t going to get it.

I have one new link to share. She’s a California-based conservative who is most famous for the message below.

She’s also spoken about the Sandra Fluke imbroglio in this classic, no-holds-barred style. Her name is Kira Davis, and her website is quite interesting, so check it out.

And to close, another sad note of passing. Fellow Maryland blogger T.J. Grogg (The Grogg Report) passed away last week. She was 68.

Update: I had to add this in because Robert Stacy McCain just destroys Sandra Fluke and her $3,000 for birth control argument.

Harris: “I support an ‘all of the above’ energy approach”

This found its way to my inbox yesterday from the office of our Congressman:

(Yesterday,) as a member of the Natural Resources Committee Rep. Andy Harris participated in a hearing focused on America’s rising energy prices. Oil prices have recently passed $100 per barrel for the first time since 2008. Gasoline prices have increased 77 cents since this time last year. According to an analyst from Cameron Hanover, there is an additional cost to consumers of $4 million dollars per day for every penny increase in fuel costs. Last week, Rep. Andy Harris sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu requesting immediate action on rising fuel costs. 

“Too many times during past energy crises we have failed to act definitively,” said Rep. Andy Harris. “I support an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy approach that emphasizes American-produced oil, natural gas, clean coal, and nuclear, and  renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal.  This approach will lower prices, create new American jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, strengthen our national security and raise revenue to help tackle the $14 trillion debt.”

A recent Congressional Research report indicated that our combined recoverable coal, oil and natural gas reserves total 1.3 trillion barrels of oil equivalent – the largest in the world. In addition to these resources, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates oil shale reserves could be greater than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil. These numbers indicate that we have the resources to produce our own energy and the latest technology to do it safely. We should strengthen our national security by ending our dependence on foreign energy and create American jobs while doing it.

So that’s what he said; here’s what I have to say.

Unfortunately, Andy, you can send a truckload of these letters to Steven Chu’s office and all you’ll get is a forest’s worth of dead trees. He’s truly gulped a large pitcher of the global warming Kool-Aid. For all his talk about embracing nuclear power despite the Japan crisis, for example, we haven’t seen much action toward building new plants in the last two years – or the last fifteen, for that matter (the last new U.S. nuclear power plant came online in 1996.) Instead, the Obama administration is hot and heavy into forcing our nation to adopt solar and wind as renewable energy sources. They only prefer ‘some of the above,’ ignoring the fact that we have a mature market in fossil fuels and supplies, as you point out, are still plentiful. (They’re the government’s own estimates, for gosh sakes!)

Would it be possible to be completely energy independent? Perhaps, but I think the more realistic goal would be to depend only on one or two outside sources. Just cutting out the need to ship oil across the ocean would be a boost, and that may be doable since Canada and Mexico export a large percentage of the oil we use across their borders with us.

But it’s interesting to note that much of the advancement and infrastructure in the oil and natural gas industry is funded by the industry itself as opposed to the government, while the inverse seems to be true for wind and solar power. After all, what market would the offshore wind farms proposed off Ocean City have if it weren’t for government putting a fat finger on the scale?

So Harris is relatively correct in his assessment, although I’d love to have some followup on what he sees as government’s proper role. Certainly he has solid facts and figures, but Andy needs to share what specific solutions he would advocate in each area in order to address this crisis. The more it depends on the private-sector market, the better I’ll probably like it.