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United States - June 17

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McCain calls for more offshore oil drilling

Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle
Republican Sen. John McCain said Monday he supports lifting the federal moratorium on offshore drilling - a position that sets him at odds with most California officials, including his ally Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who see the ban as the best way to protect the state's coast.

The announcement was a move to the right for McCain, who has courted environmentalists by opposing drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and backing climate change legislation. But conservatives have been clamoring for more domestic oil and gas drilling, and GOP strategists believe the issue plays well with voters as gas prices hit record highs.

McCain's plan, which he will highlight in a speech to oil industry executives in Houston today, would end the 27-year-old moratorium and allow states to choose whether to allow drilling off their coasts. States that did so would be offered what he called "financial rewards" - likely a share of the oil and gas royalties.
(17 June 2008)



More drilling won't help

Michael Abraham, Roanoke Times (Virginia)
In your series of commentaries collectively titled "Fueling the Fury," it's easy to get the impression that the escalating price of gasoline has filled the air with delusion dust (Horizon, June 8). Failing to understand the source of our predicament and perpetuating false myths impede the path to progress. Trevor Roe, in "Meddling is worse than fiddling," and Jessee Ring, in "Domestic production is the answer" do just that.

Before I rebut, what do we agree on?

Roe says, "Increasing demands and decreasing supplies are the problem." Ring says, "Gasoline, like everything else on the market, follows the law of supply and demand." Correct. Pricing is a momentary contract between a seller and a buyer to exchange a good or service for an amount of currency. A barrel of oil is worth what the market is willing to pay for it. Why would producers sell it for any less? They have us over a barrel, as it were.

The price of gasoline is escalating because of the dynamics on both sides of the equation.

Domestic demand has always been high, but economic powerhouses China and India are consuming increasing quantities to fuel their burgeoning economies.

The supply side is even more problematic, traceable to the concept of Peak Oil, mentioned in neither commentary.

... Barring the emergence of a miracle fuel, solutions on the supply side are temporal and counterproductive. We need to begin thinking not how we will continue to fuel all the cars on more domestic gasoline or on alternative fuels, but how we will feed, clothe, house, educate and recreate ourselves with lots fewer of them.

Answer: Discourage automobile travel, rebuild railroad networks, and build transit, bicycling and pedestrian amenities to re-localize our communities.

Abraham is a businessman and writer who lives in Blacksburg.
(17 June 2008)



U.S. cities for the 21st century

Amanda Paulson, Christian Science Monitor
Experts call for a new federal role in metropolitan development, one with fewer strings attached.
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Over the next two years, Chicago plans to introduce a pilot high-speed bus program, complete with dedicated lanes and permanent boarding kiosks, as well as a downtown congestion pricing plan for those who still drive - all paid for with a $153 million federal grant the city received.

It's the sort of federal incentive that some urban experts would like to see more of: designed to help spur large-scale, creative thinking about a metropolitan area's infrastructure or economic development without dictating the form it should take.

Crafting a new federal role for metropolitan America - one that recognizes the importance not just of cities but entire metropolitan areas, together with the idiosyncrasies and differing strengths of each region - is at the heart of a major report the Brookings Institution released Thursday at a summit of mayors, county officials, and business and civic leaders in Washington.

Ultimately, its goal is to revolutionize the way the US views its metropolises.
(12 June 2008)



A Bridge to Somewhere: Rethinking American Transportation for the 21st Century

Robert Puentes, Brookings Institute
If transportation policy is going to achieve critical national objectives around economic competiveness, environmental sustainability,and social equity in an era of fiscal constraints it will require a 21st-century transportation vision.

By concentrating reforms on three major policy areas-federal leadership, empowerment of metropolitan areas, and optimization of the program-federal transportation policy can move from the anachronistic structure that exists today to something that actually works for the nation and metropolitan America.

From the full report:
There is growing concern about a “perfect storm” of environmental and energy sustainability, and the role transportation plays. The continued growth in driving is projected to cancel out both the benefits from vehicle efficiency and fuel alternatives. At the same time, the U.S. is still overly dependent upon petroleum-based fuel imported from unstable nations.

Finally, a large portion of the American workforce is concerned about the size of household spending on transportation-related items such as gasoline. Transportation is now the second largest expense for most American households, consuming on average 20 cents out of every dollar. Only shelter eats up a larger chunk of expenditures, with food a distant third.
(12 June 2008)
PDF of the 12-page report.

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