Mean House Republicans make Obama and Reid cry

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**Posted by Phineas

And they did it while pursuing intelligent, job-creating energy policy:

Defiant Republicans pushed legislation through the House Tuesday night that would keep alive Social Security payroll tax cuts for some 160 million Americans at President Barack Obama’s request — but also would require construction of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that has sparked a White House veto threat.

Passage, on a largely party-line vote of 234-193, sent the measure toward its certain demise in the Democratic-controlled Senate, triggering the final partisan showdown of a remarkably quarrelsome year of divided government.

The legislation “extends the payroll tax relief, extends and reforms unemployment insurance and protects Social Security — without job-killing tax hikes,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner declared after the measure had cleared.

Referring to the controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline, he added, “Our bill includes sensible, bipartisan measures to help the private sector create jobs.”

On a long day of finger pointing, however, House Democrats accused Republicans of protecting “millionaires and billionaires, ” and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., derided the GOP-backed pipeline provision as “ideological candy” for the tea party-set.

Harry’s just mad that the ball is in his court, now, and the situation is lose-lose for him and his Munificent Sun King. Here’s the background:

The Keystone XL pipeline would cross roughly 1,700 miles from Canada’s tar-sands deposits to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. In addition to giving us access to a reliable supply of oil from a nearby friendly nation, estimates are that the pipeline will create anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 jobs in the US, not to mention the consumer boost from disposable income. While there are environmental concerns, the State Department has declared them to be minimal. Sounds like a great deal, right?

Not if you’re Barack Obama and the Democrats, who need to pander to the environmentalist Left to shore up their base, it isn’t. Playing to the Green Luddites, Obama delayed a decision on Keystone until, oddly enough, after the election. I guess people who need jobs matter less than donations from the Sierra Club.

Back to the bill just passed.

Obama and the (Social) Democratic leadership had wanted a continuation of the payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment insurance (which, btw, only worsens unemployment), all paid for by increasing taxes on those evil rich folks. The Republicans, on the other hand, understanding basic economics, wanted instead to pay for the cuts by imposing a federal wage freeze. They also wanted to pass legislation mandating approval for Keystone, since, well, Republicans actually care about people who are out of work and obtaining a reliable source of energy for the US, which would otherwise go to China. (There’s that Smart Power diplomacy, again.)

Obama had threatened to veto any legislation extending the payroll tax cuts if it included authorization for Keystone XL. He gambled that Republicans wouldn’t dare let themselves be seen as allowing a tax increase and a cutoff of unemployment benefits, something he and his allies figured would redound to the Democrats’ benefit.

Well, the Smartest President Ever bet wrong.

Here’s why the Democrats now find themselves in a pickle: the Republicans have passed a bill that

  1. Brings reliable energy to the US
  2. Creates thousands of real jobs (far more than the Stimulus ever did)
  3. Extends unemployment benefits (1) and payroll tax cuts
  4. and pays for them with a fiscally responsible wage freeze.

Now Reid has to either kill all that in the Senate (2), which will hand the Republicans a large club to beat Democratic incumbents with in 2012, or he has to pass it and send it to Obama, who will then have had his bluff called and face an ugly choice: tell thousands of unemployed American workers you don’t get a good job and, oh, by the way, the unemployment checks are going to stop, or sign the bill and look weak while ticking off the same environmental groups he had just bent the knee to.

Like I said, “lose -lose” for them. Darn.

Well played, House Republicans. Well played.

via Doug Powers

Footnotes:
(1) Yeah, I just linked to an article showing how unemployment benefits retard job growth, but this is political reality. No party will vote to cut off those benefits in a rotten economy. And that’s why Obama will not veto this bill.
(2) Assuming he can hold his caucus together. Several of those vulnerable Democratic senators might well be tempted to defy their party leader and vote in favor of jobs “back home.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Hope for our energy future, but first we need Change

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**Posted by Phineas

Via Walter Russell Mead, news of a big oil strike off the coast of French Guiana:

A consortium of energy companies Friday reported a large oil discovery off the coast of French Guiana, opening up a potentially massive frontier of petroleum development along the northern coast of South America.

The discovery, made by Tullow Oil PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Total SA, could buoy hopes about the extent of the world’s untapped crude-oil reserves. Most of the barrels still underground are believed to be in the hands of a few countries that restrict access or are trapped in hard-to-exploit regions like the Arctic.

It’s estimated that 3.5 billion barrel of oil lie untapped at the site, though how much can be recovered remains to be seen. Nonetheless, this is a big find, comparable to estimates to the Bakken formation in the US. And its location makes it a double-boon for America, as Mead explains:

America’s geopolitical good luck seems to be continuing in the 21st century.  With very large deposits in Canada, the Gulf, Mexico, Venezuela and offshore Brazil, the US looks to have the most stable and secure oil supplies of any major world power.  Throw in new reserves here and the vast natural gas resources we keep finding, and the US energy picture seems to be getting brighter all the time.

And let’s not forget that estimates of oil and gas reserves within the US are growing, perhaps as high as 145 billion barrels of oil (Source in PDF):

U.S. proved reserves of oil total 19.1 billion barrels, reserves of natural gas total 244.7 trillion cubic feet, and natural gas liquids reserves of 9.3 billion barrels. Undiscovered technically recoverable oil in the United States is 145.5 billion barrels, and undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas is 1,162.7 trillion cubic feet. The demonstrated reserve base for coal is 488 billion short tons, of which 261 billion short tons are considered technically recoverable. …

Proved reserves are those amounts of oil, natural gas, or coal that have been discovered and defined, typically by drilling wells or other exploratory measures, and which can be economically recovered. In the United States, proved reserves are typically measured by private companies, who report their findings to the Securities and Exchange Commission because they are considered capital assets. In addition to the volumes of proved reserves are deposits of oil and gas that have not yet been discovered, which are called undiscovered resources. The term has a specific meaning: undiscovered resources are amounts of oil and gas estimated to exist in unexplored areas. If they are considered to be recoverable using existing production technologies, they are referred to as undiscovered technically recoverable resources (UTRR). In-place resources are intended to represent all of the oil, natural gas, or coal contained in a formation or basin without regard to technical or economic recoverability.

If those UTRR estimates become “proved reserves,” then we vault into the top-ten oil producers in the world — and bear in mind that those estimates could be too low, as well as too high.

Which brings us to fly in the ointment, that which makes Mead’s brightening picture something to look for several years down the road, not right now: we have to get rid of the Obama administration and all the anti-exploration and anti-drilling ideologues it’s put in positions of power. We could have all the oil in the world, and it would do us no good because of the Obama’s administration’s hostility toward responsible exploration and exploitation, both on- and offshore.

Let’s face it, the situation won’t improve until a new administration is in power that is not a slave to the Green Statist, eco-Socialist agenda and that will put an end to the administration’s insane permitorium. One that stops trying to strongarm the nation into “green technology” that isn’t yet economically viable and is a breeding ground for corruption.

Which, of course, means we need a new president. Someone with a commitment to free markets, limited government, and responsible energy development.

Gee, I wonder who comes to mind?

RELATED: Taking the brakes off exploration and development would do wonders for our jobs situation, too.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Why the Left’s global warming agenda is flat out wrong

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**Posted by Phineas

Here’s a neat video that summarizes the problems with the Left’s argument in favor of the existence of dangerous Man-caused global warming. (1) It’s narrated by Dr. Roy Spencer, a meteorologist and AGW-skeptic. I think it frames the issues nicely.

Produced by Encounter Books and Declaration Entertainment, a bit over nine minutes long.

Dr. Spencer has also written a few books you may find of interest. (2)

Footnotes:
(1) Also known as “The problem for which there is darned little evidence and which probably doesn’t exist.”
(2) Thank you, California, for sparing me the shame of earning any of that filthy lucre through those links.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

God bless Texas

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**Posted by Phineas

…for telling the federal government to take their incandescent light-bulb ban and shove it:

Texas could soon be in a position to turn the lights off on a federal plan to phase out certain light bulbs.

State lawmakers have passed a bill that allows Texans to skirt federal efforts to promote more efficient light bulbs, which ultimately pushes the swirled, compact fluorescent bulbs over the 100-watt incandescent bulbs many grew up with.

The measure, sent to Gov. Rick Perry for consideration, lets any incandescent light bulb manufactured in Texas – and sold in that state – avoid the authority of the federal government or the repeal of the 2007 energy independence act that starts phasing out some incandescent light bulbs next year.

“Let there be light,” state Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, wrote on Facebook after the bill passed. “It will allow the continued manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs in Texas, even after the federal ban goes into effect. … It’s a good day for Texas.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group, is calling on Perry to veto the bill.

I suspect Perry will sign the bill, since it would be popular given the increasingly “small l” libertarian mood of the country these days, and those folks would be Perry’s core audience in a presidential run. The article goes on to quote an NRDC spokesman arguing that the bill cannot be implemented in a practical manner (What? They can’t build a light bulb plant in Texas?) and that it wouldn’t be in the “best interests” of Texans.

How… patronizing and condescending. We can’t let people decide for themselves what kind of lighting is best, after all. That’s better left to bureaucrats and panels of experts. That’s the “progressive way.”

To which I reply, “go Texas!”

Anyway, this law poses interesting constitutional issues, and I fully expect it to wind up in the courts. There’s the much-abused Commerce Clause, which has been stretched into near-meaninglessness to allow Washington to do whatever it wants. If the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 rests even in part on regulating interstate commerce (i.e., because the bulbs are manufactured in one state and shipped to another), then strict constructionists could argue that, since the economic activity (manufacturing and sale) takes place within one state, Congress has no power to regulate it. Under the 10th amendment, therefore, the power to do so is reserved to the states, and Washington can take a hike.

Given the legal history of Commerce Clause interpretation, and especially with horrible precedents such as Wickard v Filburn, I doubt this argument would win, but it sure would be interesting to watch. I will note, however, that a refining of the Commerce Clause to clearly prohibit Congress from regulating intra-state activity is one of the amendments in Professor Randy Barnett’s proposed Bill of Federalism.

Meanwhile, I may be looking at a quick trip to Texas to pick up a case of 100-watts.

via The Jawa Report

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Israel as a major oil exporter?

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**Posted by Phineas

This could be a potential game-changer both in the Mideast and globally:

Look Out, Saudis? Israel Is Sitting On Huge Oil Shale Deposits

The World Energy Council has determined that about 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem, in the Shfela Basin, there are oil shale deposits with the potential to yield 250 billion barrels of oil. This represents the world’s third-largest quantity of oil shale behind the US and China. Oilprice.com notes that both those countries would consume almost all their own production, so Israel could conceivably become the world’s largest exporter of shale oil.

(…)

Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves are 260 billion barrels, so we would appear to be in the running as an energy giant — particularly in view of the enormous natural gas finds at the Tamar and Leviathan fields. But there’s quite a distance yet to travel. For one thing, extracting oil from shale isn’t the same as drilling it out of the ground. It’s more difficult and more expensive.

This comes on the heels of major natural gas finds off Israel’s northern coast.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of these two finds for Israel, which could easily meet its own energy needs, and for the America and the West, which would love to have a major friendly supplier of oil and gas that’s both outside of OPEC (1) and not Russia. Granted, development is years off and shale oil is more expensive to extract than drilled oil, but author Judith Levy points out that an Israeli start-up company has developed a way to extract the oil for only $35-$40 per barrel, an eminently economical cost.

(In fact, it would be really keen if we could share in that technology, given the huge shale-oil reserves we possess. Good thing we have an administration that’s worked day and night to stay friends with Israel. )

Levy provides a map that also shows major shale oil deposits under Jordan, whose generally pro-Western government has been dependent on aid from both America and Saudi Arabia. This would be a potential boon for them, too, giving them their own source of revenue and jobs, and making them less dependent on Saudi Arabian money and gas from an Egypt that’s trending toward Islamism.

Like the massive finds of shale oil in the US, these discoveries carry the possibility of a major realignment of economic power in the world. But, unlike the US until at least 2013, we can be sure the Israelis will exploit them.

via Baseball Crank

Footnotes:

(1) Come on. Does anyone really think the Arab-dominated OPEC will let al Yahud join? Or that Israel would want to?

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Obama: “Drill there, drill now!”

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**Posted by Phineas

This continuing self-inflicted wound on the American economy via the administration’s refusal to tap our own resources has to be deliberate, a matter of ideological choice. How else does one explain Obama’s demand that others pump more oil, but not us?

Amid a surge in the cost of gasoline, President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is calling on major oil producers such as Saudi Arabia to increase their oil supplies and lower prices, warning starkly that lack of relief would harm the global economy.

“We are in a lot of conversations with the major oil producers like Saudi Arabia to let them know that it’s not going to be good for them if our economy is hobbled because of high oil prices,” Obama said in an interview with a Detroit television station.

His remarks signaled a broad new appeal in the face of skyrocketing gasoline prices in the United States and they came on the same day that he reiterated a call for Congress to repeal oil industry tax breaks.

This comes on the heels of Shell’s decision to abandon drilling in Alaska because of the EPA’s refusal to grant needed permits:

Shell Oil Company has announced it must scrap efforts to drill for oil this summer in the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Alaska. The decision comes following a ruling by the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board to withhold critical air permits. The move has angered some in Congress and triggered a flurry of legislation aimed at stripping the EPA of its oil drilling oversight.

Shell has spent five years and nearly $4 billion dollars on plans to explore for oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. The leases alone cost $2.2 billion. Shell Vice President Pete Slaiby says obtaining similar air permits for a drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico would take about 45 days. He’s especially frustrated over the appeal board’s suggestion that the Arctic drill would somehow be hazardous for the people who live in the area. “We think the issues were really not major,” Slaiby said, “and clearly not impactful for the communities we work in.”

If the EPA and the Obama administration are so concerned about polluting our own shores, what kind of rank hypocrisy is it to demand more oil from places where environmental standards are far lower? And how mean a con to pull on the American people, to say with one breath that we have to do something about higher gasoline prices out of one side of the mouth and then block any attempts to develop America’s own resources?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a president or administration more hostile toward its own nation’s interests, nor more sanctimonious in the surety of its own superior wisdom.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The grenade in your lamp

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**Posted by Phineas

Hey, you know those twisty compact fluorescent bulbs we’re being “encouraged” to buy because incandescents are so evil? You know, the light bulbs that are going to save the planet, because they’re (begin pious look) sustainable (sigh wistfully, end pious look)?

They can explode and burn your house down:

A compact fluorescent light (CFL) on the ceiling burst and started a fire in a home in Hornell, N.Y. December 23, 2010. “Those are the lights everybody’s been telling us to use,” said Joe Gerych, Steuben County Fire Inspector. “It blew up like a bomb. It spattered all over.” Fire Chief Mike Robbins said the blaze destroyed the room where the fire started and everything in it, and the rest of the house suffered smoke and water damage. The Arkport Village Fire Department as well as the North Hornell Fire Department required about 15 minutes to put out the fire.

Bulb explodes without warning,” reported NBCactionnews.com, May 21, 2010.
“Tom and Nancy Heim were watching TV recently, when Tom decided to turn on the floor lamp next to his recliner chair. ‘I heard this loud pop…I saw what I thought was smoke, coming out of the top of the floor lamp,’ says Tom. Nancy suddenly found glass in her lap. She says, ‘I did not see it. I just heard it, and I noticed I had glass on me.'”

On February 23, 2011, TV NewsChannel 5 in Tennessee covered “a newly-released investigators’ report that blames a February 12 fatal fire in Gallatin on one of those CFL bulbs.” Ben Rose, an attorney for the rehabilitative facility in which Douglas Johnson, 45, perished, said, “This result is consistent with our own private investigation. …We have heard reports of similar fires being initiated by CFLs across the country.”

Read the whole thing, and remember to ask your congressman and state legislator, who are probably so proud of how “green” they are, why they are trying kill you.

via Watt’s Up With That, which has more about why these things can go boom.

RELATED: Snopes on the mercury hazard of CFLs.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The future of US nuclear power after Japan

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**Posted by Phineas

Reason Magazine has a good article online looking at the the implications for the just-reviving nuclear power industry in the wake of the Sendai earthquake and tidal wave. After reviewing the damage at the Fukushima plants (they actually withstood the temblor surprisingly well, but the tidal wave that killed power to the cooling systems was the back-breaker) and the situations of nuclear plants in the seismically active American West (including California’s San Onofre), Ron Bailey examines newer technology that would make for safer reactors, even in the event of a huge natural disaster:

One hopeful possibility is that the Japanese crisis will spark the development and deployment of new and even safer nuclear power plants. Already, the Westinghouse division of Toshiba has developed and sold its passively safe AP1000 pressurized water reactor. The reactor is designed with safety systems that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for human intervention and operate using natural forces like gravity instead of relying on diesel generators and electric pumps. Until the recent events in Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was expected to give final approval to the design by this fall despite opposition by some anti-nuclear groups.

One innovative approach to using nuclear energy to produce electricity safely is to develop thorium reactors. Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive element, which, unlike certain isotopes of uranium, cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction. However, thorium can be doped with enough uranium or plutonium to sustain such a reaction. Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) have a lot to recommend them with regard to safety. Fueled by a molten mixture of thorium and uranium dissolved in fluoride salts of lithium and beryllium at atmospheric pressure, LFTRs cannot melt down (strictly speaking the fuel is already melted).

Because LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure, they are less likely than conventional pressurized reactors to spew radioactive elements if an accident occurs. In addition, an increase in operating temperature slows down the nuclear chain reaction, inherently stabilizing the reactor. And LFTRs are designed with a salt plug at the bottom that melts if reactor temperatures somehow do rise too high, draining reactor fluid into a containment vessel where it essentially freezes.

While recent research shows that the United States has far greater reserves of coal, oil, and gas than previously thought, nuclear is still the cleanest economical alternative energy source around and has to be a crucial part of any coherent* national energy strategy. Rather than react in panic (as we did after Three mile Island) and again cripple the development of nuclear power, we must recognize that there is no risk-free magic solution and should instead draw the appropriate technological, engineering, and disaster-planning lessons from Japan’s trauma, apply them to our own situation, and keep on a rational path toward energy self-sufficiency.

Our future prosperity and national security depend on it.

*While I give Obama props for sticking by nuclear power, his energy policy is anything but coherent or rational.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

But… But… But I thought wind power would save the planet!

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**Posted by Phineas

Apparently they don’t do well in harsh winters, which isn’t good for their customers:

A $200-million wind farm in northern New Brunswick is frozen solid, cutting off a supply of renewable energy for NB Power.

The 25-kilometre stretch of wind turbines, 70 kilometres northwest of Bathurst, has been shut down for several weeks due to heavy ice covering the blades. GDF Suez Energy, the company that owns and operates the site, is working to return the windmills to working order, a spokeswoman says.

“We can’t control the weather,” Julie Vitek said from company headquarters in Houston.

No, really?

Let’s see. Wind power has been sold to us by the Green Statists as one of the perfect solutions for a problem that does not exist, anthropogenic global warming. Trouble is, wind turbines are no good when the wind is too slow or too fast. They still require old-fashioned electrical power stations to be online constantly as backups. They are sound neither from an economic nor an engineering standpoint. The need lavish subsidies to turn a profit at all.

And now they can’t keep the heat running when you need it most.

Genius.

via Fausta

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

California: In which I contemplate becoming a criminal

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**Posted by Phineas

Sadness. My last 100-watt incandescent light bulb burned out, but I can’t buy another to replace it. Nanny Sacramento has decreed that I may buy no more, in order to save save us from the overuse of energy, a problem government and the environmentalist movement created by doing all they could to stymie new power plants in this state.

But, wait! I can use the Nanny-approved compact fluorescent light! Nick Gillespie tells us why we should be grateful:

Hmmm… I guess they aren’t as wonderful as Nanny told us.

It’s nice to know, with the state in an economic depression and fiscal collapse looming on the horizon, that our masters, the Mandarins of the Green Dome, still think it’s important to regulate the most minor facets of our daily lives. And just to show what good little Green Statists they are, they had to impose our ban a year ahead of similar federal law.

I’m sure they were hoping for a cookie and a pat on the head from Pelosi and Waxman.

Of course, there could be profit for me in all this: smuggling illegal incandescent bulbs from overseas, cleverly hiding them in the trunk under innocuous bags of cocaine and harmless-looking  radical imams. Like a modern Prometheus, I’ll bring cheap light to the people of California! Call me “the Light Bulb Bandit!” No one will suspect me of being a criminal…

Wait. “Criminal?” Make that “freedom fighter!”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)