American Elephants

A Permit! A Permit! The Administration Moves. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama Administration has approved the first deep-water drilling permit since last April’s Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, in the face of rising political and legal pressure to reopen the Gulf to oil exploration as crude oil prices rise.

The administration’s has decided to grant a permit to Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. to restart a well located about 7o miles southeast of Venice, La. in 6,500 feet of water. After a year of federal foot-dragging, posturing , court orders, contempt of court orders this is a milestone of sorts.  On Friday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said huffily, that he would not respond to political pressure to issue new offshore permits.

The American Petroleum Institute said “This slow-moving process continues to stifle domestic production and puts thousands of jobs at risk in the Gulf and around the country.” Senator David Vitter (R-LA) said he won’t release a hold he has put on the president’s nominee to head the Fish and Wildlife Service until the Interior Dept. issues at least 15 new deep water permits.

The administration’s moratorium on deep water drilling was lifted last October, but in spite of Industry innovations to prevent the kind of damage that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon spill, has dithered and fussed about safety and capabilities and possible accidents, and made it fairly clear that they are interested in discouraging petroleum production by putting both coasts, the eastern Gulf coast and the Alaska coast “off-limits” for the next seven years.

This is not the action of an administration that wants to see that the American people have the energy that they need.  One must conclude that in their determined pursuit of a fantasy of a green energy economy, they are attempting to force Americans to accept their notions.

A study by economic consultants Verso Economics says that Scottish government support for the renewable energy sector is costing more jobs than it creates.  It said that 3.7 jobs were lost for every one created in the UK as a whole, and that political leaders needed to engage in honest debate about the issue. The Scottish renewables sector is dependent on subsidies from the rest of the UK.  Across Europe, countries are dumping their renewable energy efforts, as financial realities force budget realities.

Obama, we are told, does not change his mind.  His ideas are set in concrete.  If he said in 2008 that he wanted to”bankrupt the coal industry,” he still does.

Government Waste? Lots and Lots of It! by The Elephant's Child

The nonpartisan General Accounting Office (GAO) has found a massive amount of government waste as a result of way too many people doing the same things.  Why are we not surprised?  They have identified 34 areas where Congress can make significant savings. The GAO study was ordered in an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) attached to last years’ debt limit resolution.  Coburn estimates that it could be as much as $200 billion — the “mother lode of government waste.”

“This report confirms what most Americans assume about their government,” Coburn said. “We are spending trillions of dollars every year and nobody knows what we are doing.  The executive branch doesn’t know.  The congressional branch doesn’t know. Nobody knows.”

Coburn predicted that the findings would “make us all look like jackasses” and would contain enough actionable information to “keep Congress busy for the rest of the year.”

  • Eight federal agencies oversee 80 programs to provide “transportation for the transportation disadvantaged.”  23 of these programs The agencies don’t often track transportation costs from other program costs, but 23 of these programs were allotted $1.7 billion in 2009.
  • The Department of Transportation funds more than 100 surface transportation” programs overseen by five different agencies (and 6,000 employees) at an annual cost of $60 billion.  “The current approach to surface transportation was established in 1956 to build the Interstate Highway System, but has not evolved to reflect current priorities in transportation planning.”
  • At least five departments, eight agencies, and more than 24 presidential appointees have been tasked with coordinating an effective defense against a biological terror attack, at a cost of $6.5 billion.  But, the report concludes, “There is no national plan…and the U.S. lacks the technical and operational capabilities required for an adequate response.”
  • Domestic ethanol tax expenditures, totaling close to $6 billion, are largely unneeded today to ensure demand for domestic ethanol production.”
  • Ten agencies oversee 82 distinct programs on “teacher quality” at an annual cost of more than $4 billion.  “There is no government wide strategy to minimize fragmentation, overlap or duplication among these programs.”
  • Federal data centers grew in number from 432 in 1998 to more than 2,000 in 2010, cost up to $450 million annually.  The government could save between $150 billion and $200 billion over the next decade by consolidating these centers.
  • Nine federal agencies operate 47 job-training programs,44 of which overlap with at least one other program. These programs cost $18 billion in 2009, but GAO found that because they duplicate each other, little is known about their effectiveness.
  • Twenty federal agencies run 56 programs designed to promote “financial literacy,” but nobody knows how much they cost because agencies do not have an estimate for spending on “financial literacy.”

Here’s the full report from the General Accounting Office, if you want to be surprised at government waste or conversely, have your worst suspicions confirmed.

Leave Charlie ALONE! by American Elephant

Leave Charlie Alone

You knew somebody was going to do it — might as well be me. Besides, hysterics notwithstanding, the guy had a point — it’s not nice to kick people when they’re down.

The Next Energy Frontier: It’s Not Offshore Wind! by The Elephant's Child

I posted this map of shale formations in the U.S. about ten days ago.  Note the Marcellus Shale, the biggest of the red areas. The subsurface area comprises about 50 million acres, and the economic outline  encompasses an area of about 18 million acres. That’s big.

The United States consumes 22 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas per year — estimates for recoverable reserves are that it will produce something in the neighborhood of 489 trillion cubic feet.  Recent reported recoveries suggest that this may be very conservative. The Marcellus will provide more than 20 years of consumption for the entire country, as well as more than 100,000 new high paying jobs which are being created in an economically depressed rural area of Pennsylvania.

American natural gas was in long term decline prior to the advent of significant production from the new Shale programs. The rise of production from the Shale Fields beginning in 2006 changed everything, and we are now seeing increasing production, a halt to imports and decreasing natural gas prices. What’s not to like about that?

U.S. Monthly Gas Production

A few encouraging facts from Gregory R. Wrightstone. You might want to keep them in mind when you hear the pronouncements  from the EPA, Interior, DoE, and all the varied bureaus and offices of the Obama Administration.

The Obama administration recently told Congress that accelerated permitting and financial incentives have helped to fuel a booming interest in developing wind, solar and geothermal power on public lands, but continuing and future development will depend on a strong commitment and dependable incentives from Congress.

Read that again.  Because the government is giving away permits and grants and startup money people are interested in developing  inefficient power, but if Congress doesn’t keep supplying the commitment in the form of loan guarantees, the grant program, and permitting that is deliberate, careful and on time — whoa.

Wasn’t there something about permitting in the Gulf of Mexico that is so far overdue that a federal judge is having to issue demands to Salazar to act within 30 days or face the consequences?

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