Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fascism old and new

The Eternal Human explores the dehumanization in environmentalism. A remake of 'The Eternal Jew', the infamous Nazi documentary that dehumanized Jews.

Alaska argues polar bear not threatened

Judges  too respectful of officialdom

A LAWYER arguing for the US state of Alaska that polar bears are not a threatened species has run into sceptical appeals court judges.

Alaska, along with hunting groups and others, is appealing the 2011 decision by a federal judge that the government correctly listed polar bears as threatened, under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Polar bears are the first and only species listed solely on the basis of threats from global warming.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service says melting sea ice means two-thirds of the world's polar bears could be gone by 2050.

Murray Feldman, a lawyer from Boise, Idaho, who is representing Alaska and the other appellants, argued on Friday that polar bears are doing fine and don't need the protection of the threatened status.

"Polar bears occupy the entirety of their historic range, with population at an all-time high," Feldman argued in front of the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.

The three-judge panel did not immediately rule. But at least two of the judges were sceptical of some of Feldman's arguments.

Judge Harry Edwards sounded unimpressed with Feldman's claims that the Fish and Wildlife Service used flawed population forecasting models.

The judge said those models simply confirmed other findings and were not a key part of the decision to list the bears.  "It's beating up on something that appears not critical," Edwards said.

He and Judge Merrick Garland also questioned Feldman's repeated use of US Geological Survey statements to argue against the listing.  Edwards said that argument ignored the agency's conclusion that the bears should have been listed as not only threatened, but endangered.

Arctic sea ice melted to a record low this summer, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said the seasonal melting is more rapid than expected.

Polar bears spend much of their lives hunting seals from sea ice.

Biologists say the melting makes it harder to find the seals and forces the bears to swim tremendous distances between ice, putting them at risk for drowning.

Feldman, arguing for Alaska, told the judges that Fish and Wildlife used uncertain predictions and failed to connect the dots between habitat loss and the huge predicted drop in bears.

But Katherine Hazard, a lawyer for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the listing was based on decades of research and an extensive look at sea ice melting.  "They identified no science the agency should have considered and didn't," Hazard told the judges of the appellants' argument.

Energy prices: Turning up the political heat in Britain

Can the Prime Minister really do anything to lower households’ soaring gas and electricity bills?

Do not be surprised if a relation gives you a thick woolly jumper for Christmas – we are all going to be a lot colder this winter.  In the last week, three of Britain’s largest energy companies, British Gas, Npower and Scottish Power, announced rises in gas and electricity prices that will add between £80 and £110 to the typical annual household bill. The steep rise follows a similar increase at SSE, another of the UK’s “big six” energy giants.

Combined with rising food, petrol and rail prices, the energy hikes will pile financial pressure on families. By December average household bills will hit £1,312 a year, up from just £552 in 2004. Research has found that nine out of 10 households – some 22 million dwellings in the UK – plan to ration energy use this winter to save money, which may be good news for high-street knitwear retailers but will be less healthy for everyone else.

It was against this backdrop that David Cameron waded into the debate. In an attempt to turn the political thermostat up on the large energy companies, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons on Wednesday that firms such as British Gas will be required by law to give customers their lowest available tariffs. His announcement took everyone by surprise, including officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), who had not agreed on the policy. The Coalition spent yesterday frantically rowing back after a severe case of burst policy pipes across Westminster.

So what is the truth about energy prices? Is there anything that politicians can do to lower them? Or will consumers just have to put more money aside to cover the ever-increasing cost of heating homes?

There is no question that consumers are getting hammered. While average household incomes have risen by 20 per cent since 2004, average energy bills have risen by 151 per cent, according to, the price comparison website. An estimated 5.6 million households will be in “fuel poverty” next year – defined as those that spend over 10 per cent of their income on adequately heating their home – according to the charity National Energy Action.

Energy firms argue that they have had to raise prices due to the increased cost of gas and electricity on the commodity markets. They also blame the array of energy-efficiency taxes imposed by the Government. Figures from Ofgem, the regulator, partially back this up. The proportion of a gas bill made up by the wholesale cost has hovered between 50 and 60 per cent for the past five years. But environmental taxes have significantly added to a bill. Green taxes account for around £75 of a £1,000 bill and this is set to double to £150 over the next three years.

Energy companies argue that their profit margins are low at around 5 per cent, which is about the same as “pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap” supermarkets. But they are also masters of bamboozlement when it comes to the different tariffs they offer consumers, which in turn sow confusion, lack of trust and the suspicion that we are being ripped off.

Between them, the big six energy firms and the UK’s eight smaller providers offer around 80 tariffs. The public simply do not know whether they are getting a good deal. Just tapping details of my annual bill – £1,200 – and my south-west London postcode into a price comparison site brings up 54 alternative tariffs. Some claim to save me £222 a year while others will cost over £80 more.

None of the rates is simple to understand. Some of the “cheapest” deals come with hefty cancellation fees and will automatically dump me back into a more expensive tariff after just over a year. Certain cheaper deals also require me to manage the account online rather than by post or phone. Alternatively, some of the more “expensive” tariffs have no cancellation fees and offer fixed prices until 2015.

It was into the complex issue of tariffs that the Prime Minister stepped this week. Mr Cameron said that he would force firms to give every customer the cheapest deal possible. At the moment, homeowners are automatically placed in costly “standard” tariffs unless they have specifically asked for a cheaper deal. Such a move might save around 20 million homes up to £200 a year. However, Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, speaking the day after the PM’s intervention, said that rather than automatically place people on the cheapest tariff, firms must notify customers of the best available deals.

The difference in approach is subtle but huge. Mr Cameron’s scheme would mean state intervention in a free market and forcing companies to offer a fixed low price. Mr Davey’s approach is one step back from compulsion: it would put the onus on homeowners to shop around for the best deal, with a nudge from the suppliers. In the end, John Hayes, the Tory Energy Minister, said that Mr Cameron’s plan was one of a “number of options” under consideration.

The energy industry was incensed by Mr Cameron’s announcement, accusing him of forming “policy on the hoof”. Insiders said that even if Mr Cameron’s idea was put into practice, it might not make any difference. If firms had to offer the “cheapest” deal to householders, there would be nothing to stop them ditching their lowest tariffs so that more expensive deals became the “cheapest”.

“The danger is that they will pull their cheap deals and put everyone on more expensive standard tariffs, meaning that people will end up paying more,” said Mark Todd, director of

By the time the Government realised how tricky this proposed policy would be, the consumer group Which? was calling on the Prime Minister to “stick to the promise”. The timing of Mr Cameron’s intervention was unfortunate. Today, Ofgem will announce its plans to reform the household energy market by simplifying the number of tariffs on offer and making bills easier to understand. The bold statement from the top is likely to confuse this message.

The truth is that the Government’s hands are tied. While there is clear political capital in wanting to help hard-pressed families, the commercial realities limit its options.

First, the Government is partly to blame for the price rises due to its green taxes. Second, government intervention in a functioning and open market would probably be anti-competitive and would certainly go against the beliefs of most Tory and Lib Dem MPs. And third, George Osborne needs the firms to invest in next-generation energy provision – be it shale, wind or nuclear – before the lights go out. He needs their money, their goodwill and their co-operation. Telling them to fix their prices is certainly not the way to do this.

Some critics have called for a Competition Commission inquiry to force the big six to break themselves up, but this would be costly and take years. That said, the Government’s policy thus far has been about increasing competition, not meddling with prices. Last year, when Mr Davey was Consumer Minister, he told me that government intervention in the energy market was off the agenda.

“The only way to tackle [high prices] is to ensure that we have got competitive energy markets,” he said. “I would be surprised if The Daily Telegraph would be keen for us to intervene in the market. We have shown that it actually works the other way round – state intervention can be very inefficient and lead to higher prices. Competition is what you need to deliver.” What he said next tells you all you need to know about the Government’s power to reduce prices: “But we have also got to be realistic. A lot of these prices are global prices… we have to be modest about our ability to impact that.”

We should brace ourselves for many cold winters to come.

North Dakota to build first U.S. oil refinery in 30 years

America hasn’t seen a new oil refinery built in 30 years. That is until this upcoming year, when North Dakota will begin construction on a $400 million refinery.

Nine years ago, North Dakota’s Three Affiliated Tribes asked the Department of Interior to put land in a trust for the building of this refinery, which will be used to produce feed for the tribe’s buffalo herd.

Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Oct. 10 that the tribe will have control of the land and may begin constructing the refinery next spring.

Given the timing of this announcement, weeks before the presidential election, it begs the question was this decision politically motivated on the part of Team Obama or just mere coincidence?

Tribal Chairman Tex Hall told the Associated Press that the refinery will process about 20,000 barrels of oil daily into diesel fuel, gasoline, jet fuel, propane and naptha, as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek.

The state of North Dakota is now the nation’s No. 2 oil producer; producing an average of more than 700,000 barrels of oil each day.  Salazar estimates that this new refinery will create 140 new jobs for the state.

While it’s exciting for the state of North Dakota and even the nation to have a brand new oil refinery it seems a bit out of character for this administration to approve of this project.

“This wouldn’t be the first time Obama has taken politically motivated actions,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).  “If history is any judge, it is unlikely that the EPA and other regulators in a second Obama term would ever let this refinery open its doors.”

After all, it seems the desire of many elected legislators, government bureaucrats and radical environmental groups is to rid Americans of their oil-dependent lifestyles.

California illustrates this perfectly.  The state has some of the most stringent fuel regulations in the nation, thanks to its accommodation of radical environmental policies. Due to these regulations, when a couple of its refineries went down due to maintenance and pipeline misfortunes, the price of gasoline hit an all-time high, as no other market could ease the burden.  In fact, The Wall Street Journal reports that “over the last two decades four refineries in the state have shut down rather than invest in expensive upgrades to comply with fuel regulations.”

However, this problem doesn’t just plague the Golden State.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn’t exactly rallied behind the oil industry either.  Restrictions on refinery upgrades and construction, constraints on moving crude oil to East Coast refineries, and other compliance costs all create further strain on refineries. In fact, three East Coast refineries have already closed, costing thousands of jobs and causing the Department of Energy to warn that pump prices are likely to soar even higher in Eastern states.

Meanwhile rather than tackling the high prices of fuel, this current administration busily works on energy alternatives like biofuels and electric vehicles by way of the taxpayer dime.

There is a huge demand for this refinery in the oil-producing state of North Dakota.  And because the refinery is on tribal land, transportation costs of the refined diesel fuel will be lower as the state’s normal 23-cents-a-gallon tax will not apply.

As the Department of Interior seems to be on board with this one refinery, imagine if this same door opened for other companies wanting to build refineries? With more American oil and gas going to market, prices will be lowered across the board and many more American jobs would come available.

Even if politically motivated, allowing this refinery to be built is a step in the right direction.

Gas Prices Are Up Because of Obama's Offshore Ban

In the Hofstra presidential debate, President Obama said: "when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse." Wrong. Prices collapsed because we signaled to the world that we were finally moving forward with developing America's massive offshore oil and gas resources - and they shot back up when Obama reimposed the offshore ban.

Obama's ridiculous story that the doubling of gasoline prices under his watch is a result of economic recovery doesn't fit the facts. According the National Bureau of Economic Research, responsible for officially designating when recessions start, the recession began in December of 2007. The average price for a gallon of gasoline that month, according the Energy Information Administration, was $3.02. The price rose for the next seven months with the country in recession. The price peaked in July of 2008 at $4.06 a gallon, more than half a year into recession, exacerbating economic pain and spurring the national protest movement that gave us "Drill Here, Drill Now" and "Drill, Baby, Drill."

That July 2008 peak coincided with a critical policy change. On July 14, 2008, President Bush lifted the executive branch moratorium on offshore drilling that his father had put in place. That indicated a consolidation of support for offshore drilling that stalled the run-up in prices at the pump. In the next two months, the average price dropped more than thirty cents to $3.70.

Grassroots activists pressed even harder, demanding Congress lift the remaining barrier to offshore drilling, the appropriations rider that had been in place since 1981. The pressure on Obama was so intense that he even reversed his opposition, claiming on August 1, 2008, that he would support offshore drilling under some circumstances.

Meanwhile, activists ratcheted up pressure on Congress and the White House, urging Congress to let the ban expire. Facing organized opposition in Congress, a Bush veto threat, and overwhelming public opinion in favor of drilling, Nancy Pelosi caved. After 27 years, the ban on offshore drilling was officially lifted on October 1, 2008.

With the moratorium lifted, markets anticipated future production of the estimated 19.1 billion barrels of oil (equal to 30 years of imports from Saudi Arabia) in the Outer Continental Shelf. Market psychology abruptly reversed, and the price at the pump dropped sharply.

It reached a low of $1.79 in January 2009, the month of Obama's inauguration. That's no coincidence.

The first order of business for Ken Salazar, Obama's new secretary of the Interior, was to stop the pending opening of the former moratorium waters - supposedly temporarily. That announcement was made on February 10, 2009. By April, prices were back over two dollars. By June, when the recession officially ended, the price was $2.63 - up more than 80 cents from when Obama took office while the economy was still in recession.

Prices spiked up again starting in May of 2010, which is when Obama and Salazar imposed an illegal moratorium (literally; Salazar was held in contempt of court because the moratorium was based on a politically corrupted report) in the Gulf of Mexico as an overreaction to the BP spill.

By December of 2010, Obama had fully and permanently reimposed the old moratorium that Bush and Congress had lifted in 2008. So now we're back where we were in summer of 2008, with prices around four dollars and vast offshore American energy resources locked up by politicians. The facts are clear - the pain at the pump is not, as Obama suggested, a result of a supposedly strong economy. It is a result of his own disastrous policy.

Getting to the bottom of America’s oily debate

In the second presidential debate, President Obama and Gov. Romney had a difference of opinion on the facts about America’s energy development.

President Obama: “So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.”

Gov. Romney: “… the president’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters.”

So who is right about what? What is the truth about America’s energy production?

Well, they’re both right.  President Obama is correct when he makes a blanket comment such as America’s oil production is up. And Romney is correct also when he says that oil production is up on private lands but down on federal lands.

“… the federal government owns and completely controls almost 2.5 billion acres of land and offshore zones, including our Outer Continental Shelf, an area that is actually larger than the entire land mass of the United States. What’s been happening with oil production there? The government’s own director of the Bureau of Land Management, Bob Abbey, testified to Congress on this very point recently: Oil production is actually down 14 percent on federal property and down 17 percent offshore from a year ago.”

Need further proof? The Energy Information Agency (EIA) chart reflecting crude oil and lease production from federal and Indian lands shows a definite drop in production on offshore federal lands between 2010 and 2011.

Though that same figure did increase in 2009 and 2010, it must be remembered that those increases are due to permit and leasing decisions by Obama’s predecessor — not because of any action taken during this current Administration.

As far as current offshore oil production, Obama has greatly limited permits to the Gulf since the BP oil spill in 2010.  In fact, permitting in the Gulf of Mexico is still more than 40 percent below levels prior to the oil spill.  Given that the majority of oil production on federal lands—around 80 percent—is located in offshore waters, it is little wonder that production on these lands is dropping.

Though when Obama says oil production is up, he is correct. Looking at the big picture of U.S. oil production, the numbers are up.  And again, Gov. Romney is correct when he said the numbers are only up on private land — where the federal government doesn’t have near as much control.

“Comparing the loss in federal oil production to production in the oil producing states, we find the decrease expected in oil production from the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico between fiscal years 2010 and 2012 of 112 million barrels is about equal to the oil produced in the state of North Dakota in 2010 (113 million barrels) and it is 50 percent higher than the oil produced in the state of Oklahoma in 2011 (74 million barrels).”

According to CRS [Congressional Research Service], 96 percent of the increase in oil production between fiscal years 2007 and 2012 came from private and state lands and production there increased 11 percent in fiscal year 2011 from fiscal year 2010 levels. Oil producers prefer to explore for oil and drill on private and state lands because there is a lot less red tape involved and much shorter approval times, which means it is less costly to invest and drill for oil on state and private lands than on federal lands.”

North Dakota alone has become the nation’s No. 2 oil producing state and next year will start construction on the first new oil refinery built within the U.S. in 30 years.

It takes roughly a week to less than a month in states like North Dakota, Ohio and Colorado to be approved for an oil drilling permit.  On the other hand, in 2012, it can take close to a year for that permit to be approved for use on federal lands—a time increase of 100 percent since 2005, according to IER.

It is clear President Obama has not increased oil production and instead seems to have stifled its growth on federal lands.

But maybe the most convincing argument as to why President Obama isn’t the oil man he claims to be—his record, his policies and his appeasement to the radical environmentalist agenda.  He loves his windmills, solar panels and electric cars—despite the heavy toll these unsustainable, unaffordable and unrealistic energy sources have had on the American taxpayers.

With gas prices on the rise in states like California and throughout the country, it is clear any increase in oil exploration is in spite of Obama’s policies, and that this Administration would rather invest in highly speculative “green” energies instead.   Unless, of course, he is engaging in a debate where his answers determine his future employment—at that point, Obama tries to morph into America’s oilman.


Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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