American Elephants

There’s a Bloodbath in Syria! by The Elephant's Child
April 26, 2011, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Islam, Middle East | Tags: , , , , ,

In Syria, the Assad regime made a fateful decision this week.  They used their army —even including tanks —to kill civilians protesting peacefully.  Bashar Assad made the decision that it was better to kill hundreds of unarmed Syrian citizens than to risk the fall of his regime.  This is the man whom Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton thought was a peaceful reformer. As Elliott Abrams says:

In Syria and Lebanon, there is confusion about the American position. Many believe we are Assad well-wishers, and certainly Obama’s policy for 2009 and 2010 lent credence to that view. Now, the administration is coy: It talks of new sanctions but does not impose them yet. It talks of U.N. action but it is the U.K. and France that introduce the resolution, not the United States. It will not recall the U.S. ambassador who was so foolishly dispatched to Damascus late last year.

Two weeks ago, al Jazeera turned against Assad and is doing what it did in Egypt — broadcasting whatever it can get its hands on about the brutality of the regime and the courage of the protesters.  The Amir of Qatar owns the station.

Syria is closely allied with Shia Iran, and with Hamas and Hezbollah, but the Syrian population is 74 percent Sunni. If the Alawite regime were to fall, it would be widely interpreted as a step toward the fall of the ayatollahs, so what happens in Syria is hugely important for American interests in the region.  The president is, um, testing the wind, thinking about sanctions. He could recall our ambassador. He could pressure Turkey very hard to distance itself from the regime.  He did say that Mubarak and Quaddafi must step down, he hasn’t even suggested that Bashar should.

He did issue a travelers’ warning.

High Gas Prices? EPA Bans Drilling in Alaska. by The Elephant's Child

Coming home this afternoon, the Shell station near my house posted regular gas at $4.01.  That 1¢ is interesting, isn’t it.

After five years and four billion dollars, Shell Oil Company thought they were close to bringing in the estimated 27 billion barrels of oil waiting to be tapped in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska.  One would assume that was a good thing. The Environmental Protection Agency is withholding the necessary air permits because of a one-square-mile Innuit village of 245 people a mere 75 miles from the drilling site.

Fox News’ Dan Springer reported:

The EPA appeals board ruled that Shell had not taken into consideration emissions from an ice-breaking vessel when calculating overall greenhouse gas emissions from the project. Environmental groups were thrilled by the ruling.

“What the modeling showed was in communities like Kaktovik, Shell’s drilling would increase air pollution levels close to air quality standards,” said Eric Grafe, Earthjustice’s lead attorney on the case.

Springer identified the people who made the decision:

The Environmental Appeals Board has four members: Edward Reich, Charles Sheehan, Kathie Stein and Anna Wolgast.  All are registered Democrats and Kathie Stein was an activist attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund.  Members are appointed by the EPA administrator.

In his weekly address on Saturday, President Obama said that “there’s no silver bullet that can bring down oil prices right away. But there are a few things we can do.  This includes safe and responsible production of oil at home, which we are pursing.” Then he attacked the oil companies for the $4 billion in subsidies that they receive from the government. The oil companies are making too much profit, he thinks, and that has to stop.

Unfortunately, as usual, the words of the president’s mouth are unconnected to his actions. Permits are not being issued. Every kind of roadblock is being thrown in the path of oil companies ability to bring in our own oil.  He claims to be for “safe, responsible production of oil” but the Obama administration  has imposed a months-long moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling that has slowed domestic production and sent some seven drilling rigs off to other more friendly countries.

There may not be the proverbial “silver bullet” but history shows that removing the roadblocks to production helps the price to come down. The futures market is worried about all the turmoil in the oil producing Arab states.

Obama’s lectures on gas prices usually contain several myths.  “We can’t escape the fact that we control only 2% of the world’s oil.” False. We have more than three times as much in the ground as Saudi Arabia. “Industry holds leases on tens of millions of acres both offshore and on land where they aren’t producing a thing.” In first 100 days, Ken Salazar cancelled 77 leases for oil and gas drilling in Utah. A year later he cancelled 61 more leases in Montana. “Last year…our oil production reached its highest level in 7 years.” Obama is trying to take credit for actions of previous administrations and production in the Dakotas where most drilling is occurring on private land.  The EIA projects a decline in production of 220,000 barrels of domestic oil per day in 2011, and in 2012, 150 million fewer barrels in the Gulf of Mexico because of Obama’s policies to discourage or ban domestic drilling.

President Obama emphasized once again, his major theme:”Instead of subsidizing Yesterday’s Energy Sources, We Need to Invest in Tomorrow’s.” Except there’s no tomorrow in his pursuit of wind, solar, ethanol and electric cars.  He’s funding a fantasy. But he has EPA activists to do his bidding.

ADDENDUM: In July, 2008, when world oil prices rose to $145 a barrel, President Bush ended the moratorium on offshore drilling by executive order.  Oil prices began falling the next day. No silver bullet indeed!

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