Big Business, Big Oil want the help but not the bothersome control; The way to keep gas prices down is to consume less…

May 19, 2011

Big business, most notably at present, big oil, maintains it must have tax breaks, which one would presume comes at the expense of regular taxpayers, who have to make up the difference. But it puts forth the ingenious argument that actually regular taxpayers benefit because the extra profits that result go into the 401K retirement benefits of regular taxpayers, said  401K accounts having investments in big business, to include big oil.

So, apparently free enterprise only works when it is subsidized by the very BIG government it abhors. It wants help from government but not controls.

Trouble is, the people or the entity that pays the money must exert some control as to how their or its money is spent, or even whether it should be spent at all. That’s kind of the way it is in life.

It may be that it is to the benefit of the nation as a whole to subsidize some industries — that is at least arguable. But it does not seem like the ones that are receiving record profits or profits far beyond other businesses logically should be the beneficiaries of those subsidies.

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On a related subject, the best and surest way to make fuel prices come down is to consume less — it really works. Drive anything you want: big car, big pickup, SUV, minicar (whatever that is), big truck, just consume less — it really works. If all else fails and it is available to you, take public transit. The market forces sometimes, when not skewed by government meddling or monopoly manipulation, really do work. And even though I think most people have come to the only obvious conclusion that the oil monopoly does manipulate gas prices where and when it can, all the manipulation in the world is fairly ineffective if the buyers refuse to buy or buy as much.

P.s.

Back to the first point: A Democratic bill to eliminate oil company tax breaks was defeated in the Senate, with the help of some energy state Democrats, along with ever business-friendly Republicans.

A lot of people are employed by oil companies, or energy companies as they like to call themselves. That of course gives them a lot of clout among a large percentage of working people. I recall the internal consternation among U.S. Gulf Coast residents last year during the Gulf oil spill, when those worried about the fishery and the beaches and water and vacation business and the ecology thought one way, perhaps, and those dependent upon offshore drilling thought another way, perhaps.

And as I often  note, politicians respond to the big money interests because that is how they stay in office. The electorate does not pay close attention and does not analyze issues much. Instead, it responds more to the paid propaganda that even makes its way into the so-called free media (meaning news reports presented at no cost to those who benefit from the messages).

When it was discovered a couple of decades ago or so by the major media outlets that news content could be profitable if it could be turned into entertainment and if substance was sacrificed for style, we all lost.

Add to that the clever oil company lobby promotion on the airwaves that begins with the voices of purportedly regular citizens opining of the need to look for sources of alternative energy and such and how the oil companies should do something to help the economy (forgo the tax breaks, well that is not mentioned). And then the voice, running almost simultaneously, representing the oil companies saying they already are doing these things and suggesting “we should talk about more we can agree upon” (the presumption that there is any agreement between the average consumer and the oil companies).

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$5 gasoline can be a real boon to conservation and energy resourcefulness; is American-produced natural gas the answer??

March 7, 2011

Maybe the free market or private enterprise really is the way to solve the so-called “energy crisis”.

Right about now a lot of us are wringing our hands about the impending $5 per gallon gasoline (and diesel) that seems surly to return what with all the upheaval in the Middle Eastern oil lands.

So pay the $5, I say, if gasoline is what you need. The real problem will be when you need that gallon of gasoline but cannot get it for $5 or at any cost. And that day could come. But when it does, someone will come up with an alternative to gasoline.

Now of course it would seem more sensible to come up with the alternative before the supply runs out and it all turns into a real crisis, but maybe that is just not how things really get done.

So far in my lifetime (61 years plus), I don’t think any of the spikes in the oil market (oil being of course the raw ingredient for gasoline and diesel fuels), have been the result of actual shortages, instead they have been the result of some kind of situation that could be used as an excuse for claiming a shortage or the result of so-called Arab oil embargoes that purportedly caused shortages thus giving suppliers an excuse to raise the price of gasoline. Yes, I realize that in some cases through the years there may have actually been some temporary disruption and maybe a shortage of sorts in the oil supply, but overall, not so much.

I’ve probably used this little story before, but it once again seems appropriate: During one of those so-called oil shortage crises (was it Desert Storm? — don’t recall for sure), my late wife was working for a fuel distributor. She told me that each morning her boss would call his fellow distributors (other companies) and ask them what they would be charging for gasoline that day, and that is how the wholesale price was set (sounds like price fixing to me). I did not hear about any real disruption in supply but the news of world events made it seem so, and in turn the suppliers apparently took advantage of it.

But of course today, regardless of what the actual availability is, there is pressure on the market, with emerging economic powerhouses, such as China and India, sucking up more and more of the energy supply, so prices are bound to go up — higher demand, higher prices. And when you add a political crisis in the oil lands — Libya most notable at the moment — to the equation, that is going to have an effect.

It would be better for the economy of the United States not to be so dependent or dependent at all on Middle Eastern oil or any foreign source of energy. But so far, apparently, the movers and shakers in the economy have not found it necessary or even prudent to move away from that model, despite calls to do that from various quarters ever since the first Arab oil embargo of the early 70s.

There is much resistance to our government forcing the issue on free enterprise, even though that same free enterprise, and the populace as a whole, will scream bloody murder and for help if the current supply runs out and will blame the government for the situation.

One suggestion has been the so-called drill-baby-drill option in which we totally exploit our own oil resources. To the extent we can do that without totally upsetting our environment — keeping that all-to-recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in mind — there is much sense to that. I personally don’t like the sight of oil platforms off the coast and am not sure whether it is really necessary to drill there. I think aesthetics are a vital part of life, but just as importantly, so is the eco-system, and drilling in sensitive areas poses a grave threat to life on earth. Destroying our planet in an attempt to preserve our way of life does not seem wise to me. But it does seem like there is room for a compromise or a logical risk/benefit assessment here.

Diverting food resources, namely corn, to ethanol (either by taking away animal feed or direct human feed) seems senseless, especially when, as I understand it, ethanol does not improve gasoline mileage or help the environment. But the farm lobbies and their compliant legislators have put the fix in on that one.

And currently in the news, the Obama administration is being pressured by some lawmakers and others and is considering opening up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ease the pressure on the oil market. It seems to me that such a move would be premature at this time, and obviously it is not a long-term solution for our energy problems, such as they may be.

And what I am trying to say here in all of this is that a little pain at the pump is a sure fire way to promote energy conservation and resourcefulness — remember how gasoline consumption dropped sharply and how everyone was parking and/or selling their gas guzzlers the last time gas hit $5?  I really could have just written that preceding sentence and not the rest — but I like to write.

And that brings me to a point: energy policy or at least the basis for making it should be the purview of actual scientists using objective reasoning, rather than what would be good for say, the corn market, or the natural gas market, or the oil market, or the wind machine producing market. But the powers that be tend to put the kibosh on publicly-funded research as much as possible, favoring biased commercial research (where you pay for the answer you want).

And speaking of natural gas — well I did mention it in the previous paragraph — KGO Radio, San Francisco’s Dr. Bill Wattenburg is pushing something he in turn said was suggested by radio land investment expert Bob Brinker, that is making the best use of a resource the U.S. purportedly has an abundance of, natural gas. Brinker suggests a quick and easy way to get the ball rolling without any new taxes or any requirements on business or the public by the government would be for the president to issue an executive order to convert the federal fleet of vehicles to natural gas. They claim that would spur the car companies to produce new vehicles that could run on either gasoline or natural gas and that in turn would make such vehicles widely available to the public at its own choosing.

Personally, I don’t have a clue, but here is a link to a letter they think you should send along to Obama (and I suggest you just skip the biased introduction and read the text of the letter, for what it is worth): http://www.uncoverage.net/2011/02/dr-bill-wattenburgs-solution-to-lower-gasoline-prices-by-2gallon/

 

P.s.

It won’t be pretty, but I’m thinking that in the end the free market will solve or resolve the energy crisis. In general, people will no longer use what they cannot afford and will gravitate toward what works for them and at the same time energy suppliers or would-be energy suppliers will do what they can to meet the demand. I do think the government has a role in funding unbiased and practical research (funded at least in part by existing road and/or energy taxes).


A false story on China drilling in Gulf of Mexico becomes true — even if false

July 11, 2010

Back in 2006 and since then, former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that Red China (to use the old term) was drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and what with drilling restrictions, we, the U.S., were in danger of losing out on the hunt for this precious resource in our own backyard.

Lately, some Republicans, and I suppose others in the drill baby drill crowd, have been repeating this line.

Several months ago I picked up on the rumor and mentioned it in my blog, although I looked back and saw that I had said it was apparently a false rumor by Cheney. Nonetheless I asserted that if it was true we might have a case for asserting our Monroe Doctrine which calls for keeping foreign powers out of our hemisphere.

So, when I read yesterday an item from the McClatchy news service that the rumor of Chinese offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Florida, was false, I initially thought: didn’t I write about that as being true or at least thought to be true?

So, temporarily I fell for the rumor I had already asserted was false.

We all can’t remember the source of everything we hear and read about or recall the credibility of it all. And that is what those who like to play fast and loose with the truth depend upon.

Now to be clear, I still am not sure about the status of Chinese oil exploration and actual drilling here or anywhere else. I have read several times and commented on Chinese oil activities in Iraq where the Chinese have taken no risk and where the U.S. has spent so much blood and treasure.

(And now that we have been told that Afghanistan might be sitting on a wealth of valuable minerals — maybe not oil — I have read the Chinese are attempting to make deals on that.)

I have always been dubious about the advisability in terms of environmental risks posed by offshore drilling. And when I travel past those rigs near Santa Barbara, Ca. and that beautiful coastline, I dread — what if?

There is hope expressed today from BP that even though it has just let that disastrous oil flow in the Gulf of Mexico go full blast temporarily, it might actually get it plugged up by Monday if its latest gambit to recap it works — let’s hope so.

A lot of environmental damage has been done already. Nature does have a way of restoring itself, but how long will it take? And will it be in our lifetimes or your lifetimes or your children’s or grandchildren’s?


Frankly I don’t care if Gulf residents don’t want drilling stopped or not…

June 17, 2010

There seems to be a conflict between people on the Gulf Coast and even in the life of individuals themselves when it comes to this BP oil blowout.

While the oil polluting the waters is devastating the fishing and tourist industry, the moratorium on underwater drilling (a direct result of the unfolding environmental disaster) is throwing large numbers of people out of work, since the oil economy is so big down there. In fact, it is reportedly much bigger than the fishing industry.

So while everyone is ragging on President Obama to stop the oil — everyone from die-hard environmental-denying right wing Republicans to fishermen to even oil drilling workers to the average American, he is taking heat for doing the prudent thing, shutting down drilling until we can be sure it’s safe — the oil’s killing us, but don’t stop it.

I can see the quandary or dilemma here. On the one hand, we have to stop the oil from polluting our ocean and since we thought things were safe before, but they were not, it only seems reasonable to stop things for now until we can get a handle on it all. But meanwhile in the middle of the Great Recession we are throwing thousands out of work.

And then today on the radio (and most of the talk on radio is reactionary right wing) they are saying that a majority of folks in Louisiana do not approve of the way Obama is handling things and that they don’t like the moratorium on underwater drilling — even as the sea turns red and marine life dies off as in some biblical plague — and right there, isn’t that ironic, since the right wing loves so much to spout off or refer to biblical prophecy — maybe this is part of what is foretold in the Book of Revelation.

Maybe you bible-quoting right wingers who seem to worship the god of oil money and comfort more than God Almighty himself, are reaping what ye have sewn — may ye drown in a barrel of oil.

But seriously, I don’t care what the people of Louisiana think, necessarily. It’s not their Gulf or their ocean; it is all of ours’.

I need to read more about this all, but one headline I read hit what has occurred to me — what if the leak or gusher or whatever you call it cannot be stopped?

Will the people who call you a tree hugger or crazy hippie environmentalist still deny it all? No, they’ll blame it on Obama or Bill Clinton or maybe they’ll go way back in time and blame it on Jane Fonda.

I say it’s Sarah Palin’s fault!

P.s.

In the interest of balance, I note that Mr. Obama did some God talk himself in his Oval Office address. Of course he is not politically right wing — but even though we all have a right to refer to God, don’t tell that to the Christian right — they think they have exlusive rights on the subject.


As the oil spreads, how long before mockers quit mocking?

June 11, 2010

The oil keeps spreading like a virus.

It’s as if we are being attacked and can’t do anything about it.

We’d like to sick the Coast Guard on it. But what are they supposed to do? Shoot it?

I’d like to see the president, the commander and chief, take charge. He’s supposed to save us. I think it’s in the job description.

He says he is in charge. Has been since Day One. In fact I read in the last day or so that actually President Obama was briefed early on that the problem was not going to be easily nor quickly fixed.

Obama has played it mostly cool, although I just read on a blog on the Daily Beast site that he succumbed to the demand to get mad, so he dutifully said on one of the morning shows that he was ready to “kick ass”.

But at any rate, from all the news I hear, it seems BP still has a lock on a lot of the info and is in fact using its money to even try to control internet access to the news or at least pollute and dilute the media with its propaganda.

Although I’ve heard the reports that the oil has spread beyond Louisiana and is making its way onto Florida beaches and I’ve seen all the photos of oil-soaked birds and turtles and dead fish and distressed fishermen and so on, I still don’t seem to have a handle on how bad the kill off of wildlife is. Just heard a report on a Public Radio show that so far it is not as bad as was the case in the Exxon Valdez incident, but the potential is a lot worse. The Valdez was a tanker with a known amount of oil. This underwater gusher is virtually limitless.

And before I forget, something occurred to me. This incident was man caused. But could such a thing happen naturally? I mean couldn’t there be some type of underwater earthquake or something that could cause oil to gush out?

And then there’s the politics of it all. Now the right wingers usually mock any concern over the environment. But now some have taken to criticizing their arch-enemy, Obama, for not acting quickly enough to save us all. Well if environmental concerns are so silly, what’s the problem?

Also there is the paradox of people wanting the oil leak stopped and criticizing Obama for not stopping it but at the same time complaining about him putting a moratorium on new underwater drilling — we need the jobs.

I would think we as the American people have every right to be angry at BP for not taking necessary safety precautions and Obama has expressed that anger himself. But one right-wing business above all radio pundit was distressed because Obama had talked mean to or about BP. That would be Tom Sullivan. He also agreed with a caller that Obama in trying to put too much blame and liability and hurt on BP was risking sending that company into bankruptcy and then who would pay for the whole thing?

I don‘t think the rhetoric will throw BP into bankruptcy, but the cost of this whole catastrophe might well do it.

And someone I was listening to pointed out that BP tried to save costs and thus improve its bottom line by skipping safety precautions and in the end its safety failures may well lead to its bankruptcy.

Under no circumstances will BP actually pay all of the true costs. The biggest costs will be paid by those directly affected, those whose lives and livelihoods are ruined, such as the fishermen.

It costs the government because of all the attention it must put on the problem and of course it will cost the whole economy one way or another.

The eerie thing about all of this is that we really do not know when and if that oil will stop flowing.

It spreads like a cancer on a world that neglected to take care of itself and mocked those who have been concerned for all these years.

If the oil leak is plugged soon things might go back to normal fairly soon, except for those whose lives and livelihoods have been wrecked and the dead animals.

But if it is not and the oil keeps spreading, how long will it take for the mockers to quit mocking and start yelling in distress for someone to save them?


Mixed messages in the continuing Gulf of Mexico oil disaster; Obama should address American people directily (past news conferences) …

May 29, 2010

UPDATE: So what now? plan C or D? (I can’t keep track) The top kill and junk shot techniques have not worked, so now BP will try once more to cap the underwater well that is spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but that could take up to a week, it was reported Saturday evening. And still no solid feeling that the United States government is really on top of something that should be considered national emergency number one at the current time.

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Short of war, the BP Gulf oil disaster may become the longest running news story on record. Just checked the web and the news was that once again efforts to plug the underwater gusher have been halted. It seems that throwing mud and cement and golf balls and everything but the kitchen sink into the hole is not yet doing the trick.

Meanwhile, millions of gallons of oil are polluting thousands of square miles of the Gulf of Mexico and the threat is that it will spread as the result of the BP underwater oil well blowout. And scientists are saying that underwater plumes of oil are posing an invisible or hidden threat as well.

But the messages in all this are mixed (beyond oil and water). Even though residents of the areas affected so far in Louisiana desperately call for help and blame President Obama for not acting quickly and forcefully enough, there are also concerns expressed that a shut down of offshore oil drilling would endanger the area’s economy, just like the oil spill at sea endangers it too.

And while Republicans (well not all) claimed George W. Bush did what was called for during the Katrina incident, and Democrats (and others) claim he did not, now Republicans are criticizing Obama for not doing enough (and so do many Democrats), while Obama claims he has been in charge of the emergency response from day one.

While conservatives rail against big government, some of them now take the opportunity to criticize Obama (whom they see as liberal) for not using all the power of big government to deal with the emergency, and while they are usually against big government interfering with business, many think he ought to take over the emergency effort from BP, which is seen as not acting quickly or effectively enough.

I also read a column by one of those writers who makes it his profession to oppose nearly all things Obama criticizing his moratorium on new offshore drilling. He said that restrictions on offshore drilling closer to the coastlines, but somewhat safer because they are in shallower water, and on-land drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge is what has prompted drilling further out to sea and a mile deep into the ocean where things are harder to control, as BP was doing, and where, indeed, they can’t yet control things.

And while we hear the cries of devastation to beaches (resort areas) and ecologically valuable and sensitive wetlands, we also hear the complaints that while only three beaches on the Gulf are affected right now, all the negative news has discouraged tourists throughout the Gulf region to the detriment of the tourist trade.

And the fishing industry in the Gulf is shut down and in peril of being destroyed forever or for at least a generation.

Although Obama made his second trip to the Gulf Friday, he was immediately criticized by some for not staying longer and still not sounding all that convincing that he is on top of things and is in charge — even though he said he is in charge and is willing to take the blame — the buck stops here and all — in the response.

Meanwhile, BP had stopped the top kill efforts, for 16 hours, as I understand it, to shut down the underwater gusher and no one outside of BP, not even the government, it seemed was aware of it. It was also reported that BP put on a show of white-jump suited for-hire clean up workers on the beach when Obama was present and then sent them home once he had gone (BP subsequently vowed the cleaners would be back in the morning, it was reported).

But from what I am hearing and reading, I get the impression BP is still leading the government around by the nose.

As I blog this, this thing has been going on for more than five weeks and although the top kill and junk shot techniques BP is said to be using now — pouring mud and cement and golf balls and old tires and stuff down the hole — may be working (well I just learned they are not at this time), they may also not be and it might all go on until August when it is said the relief wells could be finished — or it might go on for decades (at least one scientist I heard said).

We’ve all learned a lot. We’ve learned that the governmental agencies, most notably the Minerals and Mining Management Agency (or whatever it is called) is corrupt with inspectors taking payoffs and with personnel going back and forth in employment between the industry and government. We’ve found that BP went out and drilled a mile deep without enough knowledge or even concern as to what to do should it hit a gusher and things got out of control. We’ve found out that no one was in charge and no one knew what to do on that Deep Horizon oil platform (well that’s what the headlines said) on which eleven men were killed. That’s not a criticism of the poor workers (and it’s a dangerous job and accidents will happen). It’s an indictment of BP, notorious for playing fast and loose with safety procedures and environmental concerns over the years.

But let’s get back to the big government thing. Very few people would say they are in favor of “big government”. But in a disaster, suddenly big government becomes desirable, a necessity. But how do you just create big government suddenly when you need it.

And in a world where we still value wealth and comfort and status over everything else, corruption flourishes.

I am fortunate to currently live in a place in Northern California far away from oil spills and to have one of the best views of nature anywhere in the world.

But the money-first pave-everything-over crowd is always ready to destroy it all.

And if they got their way, too many people locally would support them under the mantra: “We must have jobs”.

And one more thing, there are reports that some are getting sick in the cleanup efforts, presumably from the oil and oil mixed with toxic chemical dispersant.

I am not at all convinced that we have to spoil our nest to survive — that seems sort of a contradiction anyway.

P.s.

Just what does it take to get Barack Obama excited? And why doesn’t the leader of the world’s only superpower take it directly to BP (in person)? He should demand that the CEO meet with him (summon him, so to speak) and there should be a photo op of both of them together. And Obama should take that opportunity to say (demonstrate) that he really is in charge. I also think a television address directly to the people (aside from a news conference) on this one would be in order and quite valuable.

P.s. P.s.

I realize there is some reluctance by Obama, probably, to take complete ownership of this thing because then when things go from bad to worse he takes all the blame and it also might leave BP and out in future legal claims — but the facts are plain to see — it is all BP’s fault and liability, but the government has to be there to protect the interests, the life of the people.

OH, AND HAVE A NICE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!


Obama makes his case on oil disaster; I set my own record straight…

May 27, 2010

UPDATE:  It’s on again for the top kill technique of dumping mud and cement down the hole to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, it is now being reported (7:21 p.m. PST). It had been halted for some time due to technical reasons. I don’t plan to keep updating this blog post by the hour, but I was surfing the web and saw the news — if you have not read this post, please do. I have some thoughts on the subject:

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Just watching — still am listening to questions and answers — President Barack Obama’s address to the nation about what he is doing about the BP Gulf oil leak disaster. He presented a pretty good case that the federal government has been in charge and he has been on it from day one and that everything is being done that can be done. And he allowed as how his administration is not perfect and some mistakes were made.

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ADD 1:  I think commentator David Gergen described Obama’s address as a little flat and low keyed. And I have to say it seems that Obama as president tends to be deliberate in his actions and plays the role to some extent as a consensus builder — I’m not sure this works so well in a big time emergency. I’d rather have someone with the attitude (if not the way of thinking) of the late “I’m in charge” Gen. Alexander Haig. Obama the candidate was a little more forceful and single minded.

Obama’s cautiousness and pragmatism may be good for long-range policy making but no so good for immediate action. And despite his claims to the contrary today, it does not seem that the government took full charge from the beginning. But in the end, actions will speak louder than words.

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It’s pretty apparent from just following the news day to day — and what are we? a month and a week or more past the beginning of the disaster? that everyone was caught off guard.

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CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION:  And for anyone who reads this blog regularly, I want to note that I had in a previous blog questioned the legal jurisdiction in the incident and even suggested it was in international waters. More careful checking — which was only a click to Wikipedia away — tells me that it was some 40 miles off shore and in U.S. territorial waters, and clearly the news has indicated from the start that the U.S. assumes jurisdiction. Thank you.

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Obama admitted that there were deep flaws in government environmental and safety oversight, and of course that has been the case long before he took office.

He also said that although he is placing a moratorium on new offshore drilling he still believes the nation has to continue offshore drilling to meet its energy needs, but the disaster points to the fact it needs to work harder on developing alternative energy.

My personal feeling is that offshore drilling should be halted — it’s not worth the environmental risk. But polling shows that feeling is not shared by a majority of the electorate — and maybe they are more practical-minded that I.

It is strange that some on the right who complain about an overbearing government are now calling for bigger and bolder action by the government. It shows how disingenuous they are and what lengths they will go to oppose the middle and the left and Obama.

I’ll blog more on this and other things later today — I hope.