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Politics and Economics Headlines - 16 August, 2005


Facing Our Energy Dependency
Rising gasoline prices? Terrific! Let's raise them some more

Dave Richards, SF Chronicle (Open Forum)
OK, I realize everyone is worried about rising oil prices, and the painful news you get at the gas pump every time you fill up that 24-gallon behemoth you use to go shopping and pick up your kids. Heck, even filling up your Prius these days can be a harrowing experience.

But let's stop for a moment amid our fear and embrace it. Let's stand still and wonder how we can turn this oil-mad conundrum on its ear and use it to our benefit.

What if we, as Californians, put a huge tax on gasoline, and the federal government followed suit, and so did all the other states? I mean a significant tax, say $6 or $7 a gallon. Make gasoline cost $10 a gallon at the pump. Ouch. Suddenly that SUV costs 240 bucks to fill up. Scary to think about, and what a horrible thing that would be, right?

But let's follow this for a moment and look at the repercussions. With the tax money from gasoline flowing into the state's coffers, suddenly little pesky problems like schools, mass transit, bridges, highways and police officers all go away. For the first time in decades, both the state and federal finances are in order. Fewer cars on the roads mean less stress on resources such as police and fire departments, as well as highway-repair crews.

...we will be paying 8 or 10 bucks a gallon soon enough, much sooner than you might want to believe. The question is whether we want to pay ourselves or Exxon/Unocal/Shell/OPEC/fill-in-the-blank. The plan to become less dependent on gasoline, to remove the rope around our neck held by the oil- rich companies and countries, must be authored by ourselves, and waiting until the price of gas is $10 a gallon makes less sense than collecting that money now, and building a society where we know our neighbors and walk to the store, just as we did way back when.
(14 August 2005)


Judge Bars New Coastal Oil Drilling

Kenneth R. Weiss, LA Times
A federal judge effectively blocked new oil drilling off the California coast, ordering federal officials not to allow exploratory wells or other activity until they conduct a more extensive study of the environmental risks — a process that could take years.

The federal government wants to extend leases on 36 offshore tracts between Oxnard and San Luis Obispo so that oil companies can turn them into working oil fields. State officials and environmental groups have been fighting the plan on several fronts. Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken came a day after the California Coastal Commission raised official objections to the same federal plan.

The judge's ruling at a hearing Friday in Oakland came as a surprise to federal officials, who scrambled for clarification.
(13 August 2005)
Another example of an emerging political theme -- central governments seeking to override local government on energy issues. It's especially ironic coming from the Bush administration, given the traditional Republican stance of states rights and criticism of Big Government.


End the drilling delusion

Editorial, SF Chronicle
IF A LIST of dumb ideas for California were ever engraved in granite, offshore oil drilling would go near the top.

Neither Republican nor Democratic leaders want to see derricks dotting the coast. There isn't much oil out there. State agencies, local leaders and environmental groups are ready to rumble at the first sign of a drill bit. The topic is a complete nonstarter for public decision-makers and the average California resident.

Why, then, is the White House continuing to push an idea with all the appeal of a dead gull? The state's Coastal Commission was left scratching its collective head last week as it voted unanimously to oppose federal plans to extend offshore oil and gas leases.
(15 August 2005)


What is the US Military Doing in Paraguay?

Benjamin Dangl, Dissident Voice
The U.S. military is conducting secretive operations in Paraguay and reportedly building a new base there. Human rights groups and military analysts in the region believe trouble is brewing. However, the U.S. embassy in Paraguay denies the base exists and describes the military activity as routine. According to an article in the Bolivian newspaper, El Deber, a U.S. base is being developed in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia. The base will permit the landing of large aircraft and is capable of housing up to 16,000 troops. A contingent of 500 U.S. troops arrived in Paraguay on July 1st with planes, weapons, equipment and ammunition. (1)

With Bolivia’s recent uprisings, their enormous gas reserves, and a presidential election on the way, this questionable activity could pave the way for a U.S. intervention. Rumors of Al Qaeda training grounds near Paraguay may also work to the Bush administration’s advantage as it makes a case for military operations in the region.
(6 August 2005)
Recommended by Big Gav at Peak Energy (Australia). Check out Big Gav's astute comments on energy issues around the world; he's been hot lately:

Apparently Al Qaeda is reported to be setting up bases in the region. Troublesome lot, those South American muslims, though they obviously keep a very low profile, given the apparent misconception that Latin America is full of Catholics.


Thanks to BC Libs, Texans control our gas profits, and supply
How We Got Screwed on Terasen Deal

Rafe Mair, The Tyee (British Columbia)
I am just a poor one time lawyer, one time politician and part time environmentalist who does a bit of broadcasting and writing. I know nothing about oil and natural gas except what it costs me. But I do know bullshit when it wafts my way, especially if the source is anywhere near where politicians ply their trade, PR people hang out (usually the same place) or when CEOs of large companies tell us about the huge social benefits they are about to confer on our province by reason of their utterly unselfish corporate policy.

So, when the government and a CEO tell me that the sale of what was once BC Gas to Kinder Morgan, a Texas company in the pipeline business, is a great deal for me, knowing the sources, I ask: How?
(16 August 2005)


Governor's close ties to gas lobby
Past, present advisers hired to help push offshore terminal

Christian Berthelsen, SF Chronicle
Sacramento -- Energy companies have yet to sell a drop of imported liquefied natural gas in California. But their quest to ship huge volumes into the state is proving lucrative for firms with close ties to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

BHP Billiton, an Australian energy giant and leading contender to build a liquefied natural gas processing terminal off the California coast, has hired a lobbying group overseen by George David Kieffer, a Los Angeles lawyer so trusted by Schwarzenegger that the governor asked him to help recruit staff for the administration. He also has served as a personal lawyer to the governor's wife, Maria Shriver.
(15 August 2005)


High gas prices fuel fear of financial hardship

Seattle Post-Intelligencere
...Richard Curtin, director of consumer surveys for the University of Michigan, said high gas prices can dampen enthusiasm even when the rest of the economy is good.

"It has a rather large effect on the public's mood about the economy, especially among lower-income households," he said. "It directly reduces their spendable income, because they are not able to conserve their use of gas very easily -- their trips to work and to the store."

Only about a third in the poll said they think President Bush is handling the nation's energy problems effectively, while almost six in 10 disagree. When asked whom they blame most for the rise in gas prices, people were most inclined to blame the oil companies, followed closely by politicians and countries that produce oil.
(13 August 2005)

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