Tag Archive: oil

Why the Dems Lost Middle America and Might Never Win Again

Friends, this past election cycle was a devastating one for Democrats nation-wide. Really, we got trounced. Our butts were handed to us. The numbers speak for themselves. From the poor counties of rural Kansas to the stark plains of Texas, from the coal country communities of Kentucky to the streets of Harrisburg PA, we got crushed. So to my East and West coast Democrats who are wondering why – why people to whom it would seem opposition to Republicans and their policies would be a fundamental part of life, would possibly carry them to victory – you need to understand the new math in town. It’s been creeping up on us for a while, but now it’s arrived. It’s Energy – fossil fuel energy, to be precise.

For Boomers and Millennials here on the East Coast, we’ve been taught two overarching, nearly sacred ideas when it comes to Fossil Fuel energy. The first, and this has been ‘drilled’ in our brains since elementary school, is that we’re running out. We’re running out of Oil and Gas globally, nationally, and locally. The Second, of a more recent cast, is that Fossil Fuels are rapidly turning the Earth into a nearly uninhabitable, apocalyptic planet. Now here’s the interesting part: I’m not going to comment on the veracity of either assumption. That’s not what this short blog is about. It’s about how any Democrat worth his or her weight doesn’t stand a snail’s chance of winning any electoral race, from Senate to Dog Catcher, in any Midwestern state, Alaska or Texas if he/she strolls in and discusses carbon tax, carbon emission limitations, or declaring war on “Big Oil.”

America is a big country, and there is a new truth in the land. It’s a truth that is now as much of a factor in our economy as the automobile industry was in the 1950’s, or whale oil a century before that. America is on the cusp of becoming the world’s foremost producer and exporter of fossil fuels and related products. America is no longer some huge version of Industrial England. It’s becoming, economically speaking, a gigantic, colossal version of Saudi Arabia.

The Oil and Gas are not running out. No, to the contrary, they are bursting from our lands, being extracted by entirely new and arguably destructive technologies and methods. And this factor, coupled with the reality of a booming, energy-hungry South and East Asia, will potentially bring in an unprecedented amount of wealth to some of the poorest parts of our nation, an event not seen in over a century. The people of Bismarck, North Dakota and Louisville, Kentucky know this well. They see the changes in town. The new construction. The $20/hr wages at Walmart. They see jobs, jobs, jobs. And localities and counties see revenue, revenue, revenue.

Here in Depression-plagued New Jersey we don’t see these changes. We don’t venture into our nation’s interior much these days. We prefer to fly over it on our journeys west to California and beyond. But ignoring it won’t make it go away.

So, fellow Democrats and environmentalists, keep attending your public viewings of movies like “An Inconvenient Truth.” Keep watching your documentaries on how the Earth is slowly transforming into another version of the hothouse that is Venus. Continue to write your blogs that stipulate that if we continue to consume fossil fuels at the present rate, entire nations will find themselves submerged by the sea within the next few decades. You may be right; you probably are right. And that approach will win you accolades in our universities, it will win you new friends on the streets of Manhattan and San Francisco; it will win you standing ovations in the United Nations. But from now on, it won’t win you elections in most parts of the United States. No way.

On Syria

Peace Dove pinYesterday at lunch, my friend asked me what I thought of Obama’s decision to order airstrikes in Syria. I had to think about it for a while, because my thinking on it is far from settled.

I wish I had the freedom to decide on the merits whether I think ISIL/ISIS represents a threat to us necessitating air strikes. But the truth is I’m having trouble evaluating current threat clearly because past threat has been sold to us by liars at the highest level. Condoleezza Rice and her mushroom cloud. Shock and awe. Colin Powell and the lie of WMDs. Fox News and the misinformation campaign to convince Americans (including some in my family) that Saddam Hussein ordered 9/11.

Add to that, bonanza profits for war privatizers.  Cost of war in the trillions. Cost of life in the hundreds of thousands. And most of all the failure to spend our treasure on education, American infrastructure, preventative public health, improving the safety net for people struggling here.

The news tells us Americans are war-weary. Is that true of you? Where that shows up for me is concern about missing a real threat because my government has cried wolf for so many years. Is ISIL real threat, or more of the same?  

Sit Tight on Ukraine, but Aid New Jersey’s Cities

It’s been a rapid-fire collection of events over the past week in (far) Eastern Europe. The bully/former president of Ukraine was removed from power by both demonstrators in Kiev’s central square and the Ukranian Parliament itself. Ukraine took rapid steps towards reorienting itself toward Europe and, more consequently, the United States.

But that wasn’t all. Ukraine’s former president was declared a fugitive from justice, wanted forcrimes against his own people. He vanished for a few days, then turned up in southern Russia only to declare himself not deposed.

Then the situation turned really weird. The Russians invaded the Crimean peninsula, a Russian-majority, autonomous region in the far south of Ukraine. Though the Russians claim that they’ve done so to protect their already sizable military assets in the territory, it is obvious that they seek to pry the peninsula away from Ukraine. If not through outright annexation, then perhaps by the establishment of some kind of proxy republic along the lines of what’s occurred in Georgia.

Obama warned Russia not to do this. Our president wasn’t very specific about what the consequences of such action would be, of course, but he dared Putin to cross a line, which Putin promptly crossed. Though I doubt that the world will soon be enveloped in a thermonuclear war on behalf of Ukraine, it looks like we’re on the verge of some kind of classic, Cold War-like showdown. If some of the editors at the National Review had their way, we’d probably have troops on the ground in Kiev at this moment. So in the middle of this whirlwind of revolution, diplomacy and war, to those who are demanding American boots on the ground and the U.S. Navy to blockade Russian ports, I say this:

Calm yourselves.

We need to remember some facts about Ukraine that many Americans – most, in fact, are completely ignorant of. First, the country’s borders, particularly concerning Crimea, are a result of internal wrangling in the former Soviet Union. The Communist party originally transferred Crimea as a ‘gift’ from then-Soviet dominated Russia to the then Soviet-dominated Ukraine. Since both regional jurisdictions back then were irrelevant, the move was strictly and strangely symbolic. Now we’re coping with the legacy of this move.

Secondly, Ukraine is a demographic mess. Its larger western portion is dominated by Ukrainians, who despise Mother Russia as the Poles, our allies, do. Any Ukrainian would tell you that they hold Soviet Russia rightfully responsible for the genocidal famine of their land in the 1930’s, and the subsequent Nazi invasion of the same land a decade later (due, mainly, to Stalin’s indifference and negligence toward the Ukrainians under his rule). Now to my American readers, I know that these historical facts seem rather trivial, but believe me, in Ukraine, they’re not. They’re everything.

Ukraine’s eastern portion, including Crimea, is ethnically dominated by Russians. This large population is a result of Stalin’s “Russificiation” policies of the former Soviet Union, which aimed at thinning out the native populations of the non-Russian portions of the Soviet Union. It was a failed policy, of course, but its legacy is still felt in every former Soviet republic, from Estonia to Latvia to Ukraine to Georgia.

Putin’s intentions thus far seem pretty limited, even in Ukraine. The Russian leader may talk tough, but even he knows the limitations of his armed forces and national budget. Occupying small portions of Ukraine dominated by Russians is one thing, but chancing a long and dangerous guerilla war with the majority of Ukrainians, while earning the enmity of all Europe is quite another. In short, I don’t think that Putin is interested in conquering and forcefully annexing all of Ukraine.

I could be proven wrong, of course, over the next few weeks or even days of events. Therefore right now I believe that though we ought to continue to denounce the Russians for their actions, which are illegal under international law, the U.S. and its Western allies need to sit tight. This is because we need to remember something important: we won the Cold War. Aside from Ukraine and tiny Moldova, which are ethnically troubled to be sure, all of Eastern Europe sits safely under NATO’s protective umbrella. American fighter jets and those of its allies fly daily over the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. American and allied troops sit at the ready not in Germany, Britain and France, but in Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey and, of course, the Baltic States.

Russia is a flailing, Third World military power. This is not the Soviet Union at its peak. Russia’s population is in steep decline. Its overdependence on funding its government though the selling of its natural resources has proven dangerous in this time of steadily falling gas and oil prices. Believe me, the American discovery and extraction of usable fossil fuels in places like North Dakota and Alaska pose far more of a danger to Putin’s Russia than many people realize.

Russia is also geographically overextended and domestically troubled. Putin’s own government, if certain trends in fuel prices and demographics continue, has a troubled future, if it has a future at all.

Again, I’m not stipulating that Putin loves democracy, or is some kind of moral leader and incapable of doing harm. He’s a bully and aspiring dictator. But he’s got limits. And we do too. For those Americans who are now calling for a fast, $15 billion grant to Ukraine, I ask this: have you seen Trenton lately? Visited Newark or Paterson? Perhaps a few billion should be thrown in their direction before we start writing checks to Kiev.  

East Coast Oil Drilling

Eight months ago, we grumbled when the Obama Administration announced its plan to expand offshore oil drilling to the East Coast. Today, that drilling plan died quietly, with happy statements from Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Representative Pallone that their opposition was successful.

Good for them, but the bigger lesson is that adopting John McCain and Sarah Palin’s policies in exchange for no support at all from Republicans in Congress is doubly stupid: Once for not getting what you want, and second because most such conservative policies are inherently bad. I like Obama the man, but I sure wish I felt the lesson had been learned.  

Edward James Olmos on the Definition of “Insanity”

Yesterday, the NRDC Action Fund launched a campaign featuring a powerful new ad by renowned environmental activist and celebrated actor, Edward James Olmos. In the video, which you can view here, Olmos explains what makes people – himself included – “locos” when it comes to U.S. energy and environmental policy. Now, as the Senate moves towards a possible debate on energy and climate legislation, we need to let everyone hear Olmos' message.

Hi, I'm Edward James Olmos. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I guess that's what makes Americans “locos.” We keep yelling “drill baby drill” and expecting things to turn out ok. But the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is nothing new. The oil industry has been poisoning our oceans and wilderness for decades. It's time to regain our sanity. America doesn't want more oil disasters. We need safe, clean and renewable energy now. Think about it.

Sadly, Olmos' definition of “insanity” is exactly what we've been doing for decades in this country — maintaining policies that keep us “addicted” to fossil fuels instead of moving towards a clean, prosperous, and sustainable economy.

As we all know, dirty, outdated energy sources have caused serious harm to our economy, to our national security, and of course – as the horrible Gulf oil disaster illustrates – to our environment. In 2008 alone, the U.S. spent nearly $400 billion, about half the entire U.S. trade deficit, importing foreign oil. Even worse, much of that $400 billion went to countries (and non-state actors) that don't have our best interests at heart.

As if all that's not bad enough, our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels also has resulted in tremendous environmental devastation, ranging from melting polar ice caps to record heat waves to oil-covered pelicans and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

As Edward James Olmos says, it's enough to drive us all “locos.”

Fortunately, there's a better way.

If you believe, as we passionately do, that it's time to kick our addiction to the dirty fuels of the past, then please help us get that message out there. Help us air Edward James Olmos' ad on TV in states with U.S. Senators who we believe can be persuaded to vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. If we can convince our politicians to do their jobs and to pass comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation this year, we will be on a path to a brighter, healthier future.

Thank you for your support.

NRDC Action Fund

Not even the worst Oil spill in history can stop Jon Runyan from wantng to Drill baby Drill

Despite the worst oil spill in history, Jon Runyan still wants to drill baby drill. You wonder what it would take to change his opinion and I can’t imagine beach residents in Ocean County are going to like this position:

Since the disaster, Runyan said he still favors drilling off New Jersey’s coast.

“We have to sit down and get our regulations straight and make sure they are applied, and once that’s done, I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.

Adler has already tried to point to the difference in positions:

Minutes after Runyan won the June 8 GOP primary, Adler was on NJN public television from Washington saying he was “very, very surprised” that Runyan supported drilling off the Jersey coast.

Adler’s distinction is that he opposes drilling off the Jersey shore and Virginia coast, but if they want it in the Gulf that’s their call. As Oil continues to flow into the gulf, you wonder if this position will hurt Runyan with the voters particularly in the shore areas of his district. Here’s a live camera shot of the oil flow:

Live Streaming by Ustream.TV

With tar balls now hitting the Texas beaches, the impact of this oil spill has been felt by every state touching the Gulf. The two candidates will have their first debate on the Michael Smerconish show tomorrow morning and I’m sure this issue will come up.

Stop Off Shore Drilling

Scott Garrett wants to drill off the coast of New Jersey. Most people in New Jersey have been against this idea. Well now we have the numbers to back it up.

The northern Atlantic Ocean, including the Jersey Shore, holds more economic value for activities such as commercial fishing and tourism than it does for oil extraction, according to a report released today by the New Jersey Sierra Club.

For every dollar an oil company would make from drilling off the North Atlantic coast, the more environmentally friendly pursuits of fishing and tourism would generate $12, making sustainable uses of the ocean more prudent than offshore drilling, the report said.


More numbers:

The report said New Jersey was responsible for generating $11.5 billion of the estimated $61 billion generated by leisure and hospitality and recreational and commercial fishing among the seven states in the North Atlantic region. The suspected oil and natural gas in the region is estimated at $5.1 billion, according to the report

Lautenberg: Don’t worry about the Oil Companies, they’ll take care of themselves

As oil still flows into the Gulf with no end in sight, the President is planning to go on the offensive this week in prime time:

President Obama will give BP an ultimatum this week: show me the money, or else.

Obama will deliver a prime-time speech on Tuesday and face down BP executives on Wednesday to show them, and his legion of critics, that me means business.

White House officials said they want BP to hand over billions of dollars into an escrow account run by an independent third-party panel.

The aim is to guarantee a mountain of claims left behind by the endless stream of oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico will be paid.

Meanwhile over in the US Senate, they want BP to set up a $20 billion account for the oil spill. But then we also had Senator Murkowski of Alaska trying to push through an amendment that would have limited the power of the EPA on regulating carbon emissions. That prompted this comment from Senator Lautenberg urging a no vote:

But even as this all goes on, oil still flows into the gulf and estimates continue to rise:

Days after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sunk, the first official estimate of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico was 200 barrels a day. It then changed to 1,000 barrels, and then 5,000. Now, scientists are talking about 20,000 barrels a day, or 30,000, or 40,000, or even 50,000.

To put that into perspective, thats up to an Exxon Valdez every 10 days. The magnitude of this disaster is far from being known, but it’s larger than ever seen. This may be a dumb question, but until you know the size of the problem, how can you even begin to estimate the cost of the solution?