Odds and ends number 29

Since I started cleaning out my video archives last night, today seems like a perfect time to do the same with my e-mail box. As always, these are interesting items but ones to which I need only devote a paragraph or two.

In the 2008 election I found the Club for Growth a valuable resource, as did Andy Harris (for a different reason.) And once again they are preparing white papers on each of the major GOP candidates; so far they have released two for Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty. Others on the horizon (once they officially announce) are Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain. (They may have to add Texas governor Rick Perry to that list.)

One thing which might be a campaign issue for the Club to consider is the price of gasoline. While it’s retreated slightly from its peak of a few weeks ago, there’s still a long way to go before we reach the price point of a couple years back when our current President took office. But instead of shifting blame, the problem could be solved in a matter of weeks according to the Heritage Foundation:

Others, like the American Petroleum Institute, are chiming in as well. The fact of the matter is that increasing our domestic production could assist in bringing down the price because over 2/3 of the price comes from the crude oil itself. More supply to meet the demand commonly means lower prices.

And maybe I should share this graphic with the Maryland General Assembly – I know a lot of them read here – since they’re trying to cut the western end of the state out of the Marcellus Shale bounty.

(Thanks to some good friends of monoblogue, Ericka Andersen and Jane Van Ryan, for sharing. I have another Maryland energy-related piece for tomorrow too.)

And then we have the newly redesigned fuel economy stickers for 2013 models. Now there’s a little bit of sense in trying to compare the apples and oranges of electric cars vs. conventional fuel models, but the EPA isn’t telling the full story. And considering their original intent of giving letter grades for fuel economy (with electric vehicles rating an A and SUVs generally getting a D) we can see how they’re trying to influence behavior of the carbuying public rather than letting the market determine our fate.

Let’s change the subject and return to someone mentioned above. Perhaps you recall how Newt Gingrich savaged the Ryan plan for Medicare, much to the chagrin of conservatives and others who feel Medicare is unsustainable. Well, in an e-mail to supporters and others who happen to be on his list, he furiously backtracked:

The only way our country can win the future is by engaging our fellow citizens in serious discussions about major reform—not by avoiding hard choices. Congressman Ryan has made a key contribution to entitlement reform, courageously starting the conversation about how to save and improve Medicare. And that’s exactly the kind of national conversation I want our campaign to be about!

There is a reason over 1.4 million Americans are joining me in the online conversation to help win the future.

Yes, Newt, you were busted. But it is interesting to know that you have 1.4 million on your e-mail list.

So my mailbox is now relatively clean, and hopefully you’re much more well-informed.

API conference call on energy companies and pension funds

I’ll admit it – to some a discussion of pension funds would rank behind watching paint dry on a list of favorite topics, particularly on a weekend where so much is going on locally. But the authors of a study on that subject wanted to make the point that over the last several years energy stocks have outperformed for these funds, and on Wednesday I participated in a blogger conference call on the topic.

My question was first out of the chute and asked, in essence, whether the same social do-gooders who were trying to get various pension funds to divest from politically incorrect companies and industries were succeeding in driving state pension funds away from these investments. It appears not, which to me is a good sign. (Granted, this is based on pension funds from just four states – Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. While they are expanding the study to 13 more states later this summer; alas, Maryland is not one.)

Presumably the goal would be to encourage more investment in this group of stocks, and while – as they always say – part performance isn’t necessarily an indicator of future results, perhaps these state pension funds should look into expanding their portfolio. Of course, there’s always the risk that government policy would dampen stock performance and other callers broached that subject.

Some may ask why this is important. Well, given the recent uproar about state pensions in general and employee contributions to same in particular, obviously API felt that it was an appropriate topic for their membership and wanted to state the case that the increased returns could conceivably assist in keeping these funds solvent.

You can check out the audio here at the Energy Tomorrow blog (as I said, I’m the first question) and transcript here. Thanks to Jane Van Ryan of API for the invitation!

Newt answered that question…

I love it when I’m ahead of the curve.

A few days ago I pondered the following as part of this post:

It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of push there is for something along the line of the ”drill here, drill now, pay less” campaign that got Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions group on the map.

Lo and behold, in my weekly update on everything Newt I read this:

As we see gas prices inching higher again, we think it is time for the return of Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less to fight the Obama administration’s war against American energy.

That’s why we’re re-launching Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less with a brand new website.

Please visit americansolutions.com/drill, sign the petition, and tell your friends, family, and co-workers about our effort.

The new website also has a number of tools to help our nation to drill here and drill now. You will be able to use the website to get key facts and information about the importance of domestic drilling, contact your Congressman and Senators, write a letter to your local paper, and get a “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.” bumper sticker for your car.

It’s just a slight variation of domain name from the 2008 effort, but the idea is the same. (It even leads to the same site.) Even after Congress allowed an offshore drilling ban to expire later in 2008 we haven’t made much progress in the last three years thanks to the occupant of the Oval Office.

As many recall in the 2008 campaign, the conventional wisdom six months out was that high gas prices could become an issue in that November’s election. Instead, we ended up pretty much with Tweedledum vs. Tweedledee as the Presidential race insofar as energy policy was concerned (Sarah Palin did the most to keep the drilling issue alive, but she was only a vice-presidential candidate) and the steep decline of the economy in September of that year actually make a difference in the respect that oil and gas prices returned to a more affordable level – therefore, the issue went by the wayside in discussions about TARP and bailouts.

At the moment, we stand even further away from the 2012 elections – needless to say, a lot can change in the course of a week, let alone 20 months. A week ago when I wrote the NozzleRage post, the Fukushima nuclear plants were intact and the Japanese were living life as normal – in the Japan disaster’s wake the price of oil plummeted sharply.

Even so, it doesn’t mean we should abandon efforts to secure our own supplies. While some say we have but a tiny percentage of oil reserves, they conveniently forget that much more is locked away by shortsighted federal restrictions on land use. American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard recently opined:

The administration is well on its way toward creating higher gasoline prices for Americans.

To get more oil and gas, we need more access.  Placing more government lands and waters off-limits and forcing companies to focus on areas that may show little promise even if already under lease will not solve our energy challenges.

The best thing the administration can do on gasoline prices is to encourage greater oil production and greater fuel efficiency here at home.

While I’d personally prefer the market set fuel efficiency standards, I agree with Gerard on the idea of encouraging more drilling. For example, the Bakken Formation in North Dakota has an estimated 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil – ramping up production there could easily make a dent in the 616 million barrels of oil we imported from the Persian Gulf in 2009. Even better, oil shale in Western states could hold up to 1.5 trillion barrels of oil. With that, we could fill up our Ford Explorers on the cheap for years to come and break OPEC’s back.

All it takes is some people with the stones to tell the environmentalist wackos to pound (oil) sand. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have that leadership in Washington and it may be ten years or more before this bears fruit – remember, we have to get rid of activist liberal judges who place the interest of critters over creators.

So we may be stuck with high pump prices for now – but the groundwork needs to be done for future prosperity. What we said three years ago still holds true – drill here, drill now, and pay less.

What’s overlooked in the top story

Today it was announced that the Gulf oil spill, better known around these parts as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, was voted the top news story of 2010 in an annual AP poll of editors and news directors.

But there’s an overlooked element of the story that may last longer than the effects of the light sweet crude which spewed from the ruins of a wellhead (and has mainly either dissipated in the seawater or been removed as tar balls onshore.)

It was the perfect excuse for the Obama Administration to place a lengthy ban on giving out new permits for offshore drilling and then rescind the plans for new drilling leases in offshore waters. In turn, that’s costing our economy thousands of jobs, as Jack Gerard of API points out:

“The oil and natural gas industry is a reliable vehicle for growing the economy and creating good-paying jobs. This decision (to cancel new offshore leases) shuts the door on new development off our nation’s coasts and effectively ensures that new American jobs will not be realized. It will stifle investment, deny billions in revenue for critical government services and increase our dependence on foreign energy sources.

“The oil and natural gas industry is committed to safe and environmentally responsible operations, and both the industry and regulators have added new safeguards to ensure such operations. This reversal on new lease sales off America’s coasts comes on top of a de facto moratorium, which has all but stopped new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Obviously the story focused on the economic damage to the Gulf seafood industry. Indeed, it was a very tough blow to their finances but for many assisting BP or filing claims for damages with them, they were made as whole as possible. Yet taking away the livelihoods of thousands of oil company workers didn’t seem to be nearly as high on the priority list, and little attention was paid to their demands when they had their own “Rally for Economic Survival” back in July.

Yet where the energy industry is allowed to do its job, there are jobs being created. An oil boom in, of all places, North Dakota has led them to the lowest unemployment rate in the nation (3.8% in November) and the state is doing its best to encourage the Williston Basin boom. And private industry is following suit – see how this works?

On the other hand, so-called ‘green’ jobs tend to be one-time production jobs for the components and limited-duration construction jobs for installations. Once you set a windmill or solar panel, it’s not going to create any new jobs.

It seems to me that the government is quite happy to create or save jobs in the pencil-pushing field, but when it comes to promoting employment by making stuff and extracting natural resources within our borders they seem to fall short (even if they have the prospect of being their precious union jobs.) We’ve lost something around 8 million jobs since the employment peak a couple years back, and while the energy industry might not be able to bring them all back we certainly can make a dent in the number.

That is the story which needs to be reported. Spread the word.

Friday night videos – episode 52

Well, this should be fun. I don’t mind collective bargaining, but now Big Labor is big business. So how do they spend their money? Certainly not on dividends.

Can you say right-to-work? Sure you can.

It’s not big business, but small business that bears the brunt of estate taxes. And they’re back with a vengeance in 2011, as this video from ALG shows.

Obama’s ‘Midterm State of Denial’ is the title of this week’s ‘Freedom Minute.’

They always run a little over a minute, don’t they? But that’s okay, I don’t mind.

My friend Jane Van Ryan of API gets the hat tip for this video.

Isn’t government overreach fun? The only good job seems to be a government job.

It was sort of a slow week for videos, but I decided to do this version of FNV because I didn’t want to wait another week or two to spring this on you again. I dig this version of the song.

I’m not going to have a FNV next week (come on, it’s Thanksgiving weekend – you’ll be lucky to get a daily post) so look for the next edition in 2 weeks!

Friday night videos – episode 36

Kicking back and relaxing on a warm summer night – take your time with these videos. Perhaps you’re like me and do a lot of your web surfing outside.

You know, that Joe Sestak job offer scandal is still percolating around Washington, casting a shadow on the Obama Administration.

I know the Center for Individual Freedom generally exceeds its “Freedom Minute” but it’s worth watching.

Something that probably won’t be worth watching is an upcoming Comedy Central show called “JC.” It’s a show I wrote about for Patriot Post and begs the question – is America ready for more Christian-bashing out of a network which was afraid to portray the prophet Muhammad? (Probably NSFW if you’re there.)

Yeah, that was pretty disgusting. Speaking of disgusting, let’s have the reaction of folks on the left to this guy becoming violent at a Tea Party protest in North Carolina.

Oh, I forgot, it’s the Tea Partiers who are violent. That might be the next thing Obama blames Bush for, and the background music is priceless. (I actually used the Smokin’ Gunnz version of the song a few weeks back.)

Yeah, I got that from Eric Cantor’s office. But it was good. On a more serious note (and since Obama referred to the Deepwater Horizon spill) the next two videos feature American Petroleum Institute chief economist Dr. John Felmy discussing the effects of the Gulf drilling moratorium.

Of course, some of these jobs could’ve gone to newly minted graduates – ALG talked to some recent ones about the youth job situation and 26.4% unemployment.

As always, let’s close with a song. Local artist Bryan Russo has a jazzy flavor on this song as he takes a trip to the ‘Smokey Cafe.’ Don’t think I’ve ever embedded a Vimeo before.

With that, another episode of FNV is a wrap.

The industry side

As you likely know, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy President Obama placed a halt on proposed oil exploration off the Virginia coast, among other places. While some shortsighted elected officials in Washington cheered the news, the actual producers of society were not as pleased. One example is Jack Gerard, President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute:

“We understand the concerns many people have about offshore drilling in the wake of this incident, and the frustration many feel toward oil companies. But this issue is much larger than the oil industry, since access to affordable energy impacts every sector of our economy, every state in our nation and every American family. Further, thousands of products – from toothpaste to iPods, cell phones to computers, and vitamins to vegetables – use oil and natural gas as a feedstock in the manufacturing process.

An extended moratorium on safely producing our oil and natural gas resources from the Gulf of Mexico would create a moratorium on economic growth and job creation – especially in the Gulf States whose people and economies have already been most affected by the oil spill – by undercutting our nation’s access to affordable, reliable, domestic sources of oil and natural gas.

Deepwater development is a key component of domestic energy security. In 2007, deepwater provided 70 percent of the oil and 36 percent of the natural gas from overall federal Gulf of Mexico production. The 20 most prolific producing blocks in the Gulf are located in deepwater.

Additional moves to curtail domestic production by postponing exploration and development off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia, as well as areas in the Gulf, have the potential to significantly erode our energy and economic security.

Decisions that impact the industry’s ability to produce the oil and natural gas this country needs in every sector of our economy and in every household in this country will affect the lives of every citizen, every day. We will encourage the administration and Congress to reconsider any decisions that would place previously available lease areas off limits, and to ensure that there is a process and a timeline for revisiting decisions that impact our energy and economic future.” (All emphasis in original.)

There’s no question that what happened to the Deepwater Horizon was unprecedented (not to mention tragic, as the 11 people who perished in the explosion seem to have become but collateral damage to the overall cause of killing the energy industry) and will be catastrophic for some time to the Gulf region. But on balance, the region has been helped more than hurt by the oil and natural gas industry for decades, and thousands of rigs have and continue to work safely despite the onset of hurricanes and shutdowns for routine maintenance for years. There’s 3,500 rigs out there in the Gulf.

In my view, this ban is akin to not rebuilding the city of Salisbury after the Great Fire of 1886 or abandoning the space program after the Challenger disaster. In both instances, we took a short pause to learn from the mistakes but redoubled our efforts for improvement. We didn’t simply throw in the towel and persuade ourselves that it can’t be done.

Yet, because the environmentalists want to preserve their precious ocean view and push drilling 50 miles or more offshore, the vast majority of the areas they allow oil exploration within will have these same issues of deepwater drilling. Two-thirds of the area off Virginia where Lease Sale 220 was to occur has ocean depths of 5,000 feet or more, similar to the Deepwater Horizon’s wellhead. (But they don’t complain as much about windmills which would be much closer to shore and tower close to 150 feet over the waterline as well – never mind their real threat to bird life.)

If President Obama and his minions use the Deepwater Horizon incident for a complete stoppage of oil exploration, not only would gasoline suddenly become more expensive but thousands of workers would be placed on the unemployment line. There’s no way we have nearly enough “green” jobs online for these specialized workers to take, but no one feels sorry for those future unemployed – especially in comparison to the sympathy being drummed up for the watermen along the Gulf coast. Certainly this is a tough row to hoe for those who make their living harvesting shrimp, but in many respects they are having the sort of year a farmer does when the skies don’t open up and pour rain on the crops.

One has to wonder what the true motivation is behind the reaction to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and ponder what other leaders would do in such a situation. If offshore drilling is such a bad deal, then perhaps it’s time to look at other methods of getting oil and natural gas like taking advantage of oil shale out west or even the natural gas from the nearby Marcellus formation which crosses the western edge of our very state. Streamline the processes for getting that done instead of putting up roadblocks.

Perhaps the most bitter irony about a Gulf drilling moratorium (should one occur) is that it won’t stop other players like Mexico or Cuba from exploring in their waters. In fact, they may exploit our hesitation to increase their efforts and they’re truly not going to care about the risk of environmental damage to nearly the extent we take care to prevent it.

Until April 20, the American oil industry in the Gulf had a stellar record of safety. Let’s allow them to get back on the horse and do what’s best for our economy.