“Drill, Obama, Drill” Won’t Save You at the Gas Station

Republicans have a problem. The economy is improving…under President Obama’s watch.

And it is precisely because the economy is improving, both here and abroad, that gasoline prices are rising.

Because they can no longer blame him for slow growth or rising unemployment, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich are now blaming the President for high gas prices, which is a little like blaming him for a strong economy, a charge he’d gladly plead guilty to.

So here’s my question for the candidates: If Democratic policies are responsible for oil that now costs $102/barrel, does that mean that Republican policies were responsible for oil that cost $145/barrel back in 2008?

In fact, George W. Bush oversaw the largest rise in oil prices in American history, from $20/barrel in 2001. And you know what? It wasn’t his fault either.

Demand is growing, and supply can’t keep up. Global production has been flat since 2005. No president can change that.

But you can’t say Barack Obama hasn’t tried.

President Obama has overseen the largest rise in drilling rigs in American history, from less than 200 in April 2009 to over 1,200 today. American oil production is the highest it’s been in eight years. We now import 15 percent less oil than we did in 2005. For the first time since 1949, the United States is a net exporter of gasoline, diesel, and other fuels.

There was a time, not too long ago, when none of this was true. Back then, during the last presidential campaign, we were told that “drill, baby, drill” was the answer to our woes.

Well, we’ve tested their theory. We’ve ramped up drilling exponentially. We’re living through a mini-boom in oil production. And gas prices keep rising.

The skeptics have been vindicated.

But old slogans die hard.

No amount of drilling can bring back the good old days. According to economist James Hamilton, “The 138 million barrels produced in North Dakota and Montana in 2010 is about half of what the state of Oklahoma produced in 1927 and a fifth of what the state of Alaska produced in 1988.”

Increasing production in new oil fields only replaces declining production elsewhere. That’s why American oil production has fallen from 10 million barrels per day in 1970 to 6 million today.

Even with new shale oil in North Dakota and further exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, the International Energy Agency predicts we’ll never produce more than 6.7 million barrels per day. Even if the President opened the Outer Continental Shelf to exploration, the best we could expect is another 0.5 million barrels per day.

That may sound like a lot, but it’s a drop in the bucket on the world stage, where prices are set. If we opened every possible region to oil exploration, the Energy Information Administration estimates that gas prices would fall two cents per gallon.

But not until 2030.

Because drilling takes a long time.

That’s why, when the Washington Post fact-checkers tried to figure out how the Keystone XL pipeline might affect gas prices, they reported: “We could not find any experts…to say that the prospect of the pipeline being built in the future would somehow impact the price of gasoline today.”

Two cents per gallon, eighteen years from now. Is that what our environment is worth? Is that what the safety of our workforce is worth?

After the worst environmental disaster in American history.

After a record-setting fourteen billion-dollar weather disasters last year.

After the highest Arctic temperatures and the lowest Arctic sea ice volume on record.

After fourteen dangerous leaks at the first Keystone pipeline.

Can we not say we’ve been warned?

But the Republican candidates don’t care. If they really cared about rising gas prices, they wouldn’t be beating the war drums against Iran. Time and time again, conflict in the Middle East has inflated the price of oil.

Just ask George W. Bush. Okay, so maybe it was his fault after all.

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This op-ed was published in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

What to Read on the Fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi

The Libya War Argument — Glenn Greenwald

[Gaddafi’s] demise [tells] us very little about the key questions surrounding the war: how many civilians…died and [will] die in the future? What [will] be required to stabilize [Libya]? How much more fighting [will] be unleashed? What precedents did the attack set? What regime [will] replace [Gaddafi] and what type of rule [will] it impose, and to whom [will] its leaders be loyal?

Of course the U.S. participation in [the Libya] war is still illegal. It’s illegal because it was waged for months not merely without Congressional approval, but even in the face of a Congressional vote against its authorization. That NATO succeeded in defeating the Mighty Libyan Army does not have the slightest effect on that question, just as Saddam’s capture told us nothing about the legality or wisdom of that war.

[The] real toll of this war (including the number of civilian deaths that have occurred and will occur) is still almost entirely unknown, and none of the arguments against the war (least of all the legal ones) are remotely resolved by [Gaddafi’s fall from power].

History Repeats Itself, with Mistakes of Iraq Rehearsed Afresh — Robert Fisk

No one is going to make the same mistakes we made in Iraq. And no boots are on the ground. No walled-off, sealed-in Green Zone Western zombies are trying to run the future Libya. “It’s up to the Libyans,” has become the joyful refrain of every State Department/ Foreign Office/Quai d’Orsay factotum. Nothing to do with us!

But, of course, the massive presence of Western diplomats, oil-mogul representatives, highly paid Western mercenaries and shady British and French servicemen — all pretending to be “advisers” rather than participants — is the Benghazi Green Zone. There may (yet) be no walls around them but they are, in effect, governing Libya through the various Libyan heroes and scallywags who have set themselves up as local political masters. We can overlook the latters’ murder of their own commanding officer — for some reason, no one mentions the name of Abdul Fatah Younes any more, though he was liquidated in Benghazi only a month ago — but they can only survive by clinging to our Western umbilicals.

How to Avoid Bush’s Iraq Mistakes in Libya — Juan Cole

  1. No Western infantry or armored units should be stationed in the country.
  2. As much as possible of the current bureaucracy, police and army should be retained.
  3. Some Libyans are complaining about the prospect of retaining the same police as in the old regime, and want local security committees instead. A compromise would be to establish a strong civilian oversight over police,
  4. Avoid being vindictive toward former Qaddafi supporters, and avoid purging all but the top officials from the body politic.
  5. Avoid a rush to privatize everything.
  6. Consult with Norway about how it is possible for an oil state to remain a democracy.
  7. Use the Alaska dividend system to share the oil wealth with Libya’s 6.5 million people.
  8. Democratization and economic growth cannot be attained through oil exports alone. …use the petroleum receipts to promote other industries and services.
  9. Recognize Berber as a national language.
  10. Once it gets on its feet socially and economically, Libya should go forward with bruited plans to get into solar and wind energy big time.

Obama’s NATO War for Oil in Libya — Robert Dreyfuss

[The] rebel leader who heads the opposition Libyan oil company, which was formed with support from the Arab Gulf kleptocrats, says that Libya’s new leaders, a combination of wealthy defectors, tribal chieftains, and Islamists, plan to favor their NATO backers when handing out access to Libya’s oil.

Helpfully, the Times points out: “Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with.”

 

What to Read on Rick Perry

In Texas, Perry Rides an Energy Boom — Clifford Krauss

[The] state’s economic health came at a steep price: a long-term hollowing out of its prospects because of deep cuts to education spending, low rates of investment in research and development, and a disparity in the job market that confines many blacks and Hispanics to minimum-wage jobs without health insurance.

When Mr. Perry succeeded Mr. Bush, a barrel of oil was $25. [During] his first term, global market forces began driving oil prices up. They peaked at $147 a barrel in 2008 and have largely remained above $80 over the last two years.

The oil and gas industry now delivers roughly $325 billion a year to the state, directly and indirectly. It brings in $13 billion in state tax receipts, or roughly 40 percent of the total, financing up to 20 percent of the state budget.

The federal government has also helped support Texas. Federal spending in the state, home of NASA and large Army bases, more than doubled over the last decade to over $200 billion a year.

[Before Perry entered office,] the Legislature enacted tight restrictions on mortgage lending, which helped Texas avoid the kind of real estate bubble that devastated states like Florida and Arizona.

The Ten Weirdest Ideas in Rick Perry’s “Fed Up” — Matthew Yglesias

10. Social Security is evil.
9. Private enterprise blossomed under conscription and wartime price controls.
8. Medicare is too expensive but must never be cut.
7. All bank regulation is unconstitutional.
6. Consumer financial protection is unconstitutional.
5. Almost everything is unconstitutional.
4. Federal education policy is unconstitutional.
3. Al Gore is part of a conspiracy to deny the existence of global cooling.
2. Not only is everything unconstitutional; activist judges are a problem.
1. The Civil War was caused by slaveowners trampling on Northern states’ rights.

Rick Perry’s Neocon Friends — Robert Dreyfuss

…Perry declares that “exceptional” America has to be prepared for war with China and India.

Perry is consorting with left-over neocons from the Bush administration,…such as Douglas Feith, the uber-hawk who oversaw the war in Iraq, and Bill Luti, Feith’s compatriot in the Bush White House, who joined with Vice President Cheney to persuade Bush that an unprovoked attack on Iraq was the right thing to do, and Dan Blumenthal, another Bush veteran…

Rick Perry’s Budget Sleight-of-Hand — Suzy Khimm

The Texas governor…used accounting sleights-of-hand that deferred payments and papered over enormous expenditures that will soon come due…though not until the 2012 election is over.

Perry’s budget assumes that the student population will remain constant, when more than 160,000 new students are projected to enroll in Texas public schools over the next two years.

Perry’s budget only covers Medicaid funding through the spring of 2013, coming up $4.8 billion short.

Finally, Perry’s budget ignores a $4.5 billion structural deficit that happens every year due to a 2006 tax reform that’s never generated as much revenue as expected.

Rick Perry’s Environmental Record — Dylan Matthews

[Unlike] Mitt Romney, [Perry] does not believe in the science behind climate change…

He filed a lawsuitagainst the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions regulations on behalf of the state, a suit widely expected to fail. Perry has said that he prays daily for the EPA rules to be reversed. He has consistently defended oil and coal interests in Texas, notably dubbing the BP oil well blowout an “act of God” and opposing the Obama administration’s efforts to regulate offshore drilling in the wake of the disaster. He also fast-tracked environmental permits for a number of coal plants in 2005, cutting in half the normal review period. His transportation agenda similarly does not reflect any concern about emissions, as he did not compete for federal high speed rail funding and has kept state funds focused on roads rather than mass transit.

Rick Perry’s Medicaid Record — Sarah Kliff

Perry [said] that he’d “like to see the states be given the opportunity to opt out of the Medicaid program that we are looking at today.”

In 2008,…Texas applied for a waiver allowing it to limit the number of beneficiaries and create a comparatively sparse benefits plan, among other changes.

The Bush administration rejected Texas’s…waiver request. There was “no precedent,” an administration official said in explaining the decision, in approving an “annual benefit limit as low as” the Perry administration proposed.

Perry Threatens Bernanke — ThinkProgress

…Perry said, “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.” Treason is a capital offense.

What to Read on Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman on the Issues — Ezra Klein

So he doesn’t oppose cap-and-trade because global warming is a hoax, or the science is unsettled. He opposes it because a) any solution will have to be international and b) we need to be worried about the economy right now. He’s not against stimulus in theory, but he thought the specific stimulus Obama passed was poorly designed. He doesn’t defend the specifics of Ryan’s changes to Medicare, but supports them because the mounting national debt has forced us to consider “proposals that would’ve been laughed out of the room” at another time.

Romney Doesn’t Scare Obama. This Guy Does. — Chris Jones

He was hugely popular in his home state, pursuing an agenda of fiscal conservatism and social semimoderation — he supports civil unions for gay couples and believes climate change is an urgent issue but remains staunchly pro-gun and antiabortion.

He says that from China, he gained a different perspective on America and its place in the world. He saw two countries, one on the rise, ascendant, and the other on the brink of economic collapse, crushed by debt and overregulation and taxes. He talks about sparking a new “industrial revolution,” mostly through energy technology, reducing our reliance on oil.
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He said he believed the United States should start a significant withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan immediately. He also would not have intervened in Libya — “We just can’t afford it.” And he would seek to make serious cuts to the military’s budget. “If you can’t find anything there to cut, you’re not looking hard enough.”

Polls Find Huntsman Unacceptable to Many in Republican Base — Nate Silver

About half of the views Republicans expressed about Mr. Huntsman were negative…

…they almost certainly reflect the fact that Mr. Huntsman has taken a number of positions that are bound to be unacceptable to large swaths of the Republican electorate. Among them are expressing support for Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, endorsing an individual mandate for health insurance, and securing Utah’s participation in a regional cap-and-trade program. Mr. Huntsman also holds a moderate position on gay marriage, having endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples. And he served as President Obama’s ambassador to China.

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Sarah Palin and Froot Loops

by Norman Horowitz

Almost all Americans are familiar with Sarah Palin (SP) and Froot Loops (FLs), but not everyone notices the similarities:

  • Both SP and FLs are good to look at.
  • Both SP and FLs come in a variety of colors.
  • Both SP and FL’s look sweet but have little “nutritional value.”

SP was and is a fanatic supporting “drill, baby, drill.” FLs (and Kellogg’s) are, I gather, silent on this issue.
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SP continues her rants in support of big oil and regularly repeats this in paid speeches.

Glibness is easy. Specificity, not so easy.

Taking cheap shots at the President is also easy. Creating alternative economic policies for the country is not so easy.

SP is still a very young woman who has (for whatever reason) captured the “hearts” of many Americans; however, in my view, she will never capture those who as a rule do not consider eating FLs. I’d prefer some granola, oatmeal, or Cream of Wheat.

Bottom line: Had either Al Gore (AG) or John Kerry (JK) been elected President  our dependence on foreign oil would have been reduced. AG has spent a lifetime warning about the polluting and economic dangers of dependence on foreign oil. JK is battling today to wage war against climate change and unshackle the potential of new energy sources. They were right all along. They should have been heard long ago. They should be heeded today.
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