American Elephants

Obama’s Clean Energy Policy Makes No Sense. by The Elephant's Child

Oh my. The clueless Jay Carney, press secretary, slammed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget, taking particular aim at cuts to renewable energy programs.— a top priority for the Obama administration.

“You have to be aggressively and deliberately ignorant of the world economy not to know and understand that clean energy technologies are going to play a huge role in the 21st century.”

Jeff Zients, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a blog post that cuts to clean energy programs in Ryan’s plan would ruin “efforts to put a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, retrofit residential homes to save energy and consumers money, and make the commercial building sector 20 percent more efficient  by 2022.

GM’s Volt factory is shut down until the supply of Volts actually sells, if they can convince the public that it doesn’t catch on fire.  The Fisker Karma keeps just quitting, refusing to run.  The Tesla Roadster apparently turns into an unmovable  brick if the charge runs down. Other than that we’re supposed to have a million on the road by 2015. They are all nice looking, maybe they could retrofit them with gasoline engines.

The larger electric car problem is that they all run on electricity from coal-fired power plants which produce roughly half of our energy, and which Obama is aggressively trying to bankrupt or forcibly shut down. I don’t know if our current grid would support recharging a million electric cars, that is if they can get them running.

Headline: President Obama doubles down on efforts to boost solar energy. From today’s column from Michelle Malkin, by Doug Powers:

“Obviously, we wish Solyndra hadn’t gone bankrupt,” Obama said. “But understand: This was not our program per se.”

“Congress — Democrats and Republicans — put together a loan guarantee program because they understood historically that when you get new industries, it’s easy to raise money for start-ups, but if you want to take them to scale, oftentimes there’s a lot of risk involved, and what the loan guarantee program was designed to do was to help start up companies get to scale,” he said.

Remember all those cheering Republicans standing behind Obama as he signed the stimulus bill? Me neither. And now “This was not our program per se.”

The free market is messy. There are winners and losers. But the free market has a long record of creating wealth, making countries prosperous, and raising the standard of living for all. We also have long evidence of administrations, dictators and kings choosing the winners and losers in the marketplace, and it never, never works.  There are no experts that clever. But the decisions of millions of people in a free market —that’s real expertise.

Obama’s Energy Strategy: Posture, Pretend and Prevaricate! by The Elephant's Child

President Obama’s refusal to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline will go down in history as one of the dumber decisions ever made by an American president.  According to a recent Gallup survey, Americans favor the pipeline by 57% to 29%. Even a majority of Democrats favor the pipeline 44%-39%, Independents 51%-35%, and Republicans favor the pipeline by 81% to 9%. Obama does not change his mind; but he’s posturing, pretending and prevaricating as fast as  he can.

He has gone to Cushing, Oklahoma which is a kind of junction of pipelines. There is currently a glut of oil at Cushing because the pipelines to the coast are too small to carry all the oil from Oklahoma. The last third of the Keystone will remedy that.

So Obama has visited Cushing to “authorize” the lower third of the Keystone XL which goes from Cushing to Texas refineries. But this portion is an interstate pipeline and doesn’t need the president’s authorization nor any oversight by the federal government at all. The Army Corps of Engineers gives a perfunctory review, but any other permitting is done on the local level. Obama’s appearance is all for show. There is political pressure for the White House to appear to be doing something about high gas prices, so there he is— showing off. This is not a good-faith endeavor, and the people know it.

He uses the same canned energy speech. We’re producing more oil than ever before (due entirely to permitting done in the Clinton and Bush administrations) (and it is being produced on state and private land where the president has no control). He suddenly claims he has directed his administration to open up millions of acres for oil and gas exploration in 23 different states, and directed them to open up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources. There’s a big difference between saying you can look on these millions of acres (which may contain not a drop of oil) and approving the permits to drill that oil drillers have actually applied for.

He says “If you hear anybody on TV saying that somehow we’re against drilling for oil … they’re  not telling the truth. We’re drilling all over the place. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to reduce our dependence on foreign oil every year since I took office.  Whoah.

The reason “our dependence on foreign oil”is down, is because our economy is in the tank, and the number of unemployed who are so discouraged they are no longer looking for work keeps growing.

 [O]ver the last 36 years, there has been no connection between the amount of oil that we drill in this country and the price of gasoline.  There’s no connection.  And the reason is that we’ve got a worldwide oil market.  And so even if we produce more, the fact of the matter is we use 20 percent of the world’s oil.  And even if drilled But even if we drilled every square inch of this country, we’d still only have 2 or 3 or 4 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.

Major whopper. See here.

So what ends up happening is the price is impacted not just by us, but by everybody, in the amount of oil that’s used worldwide.  And that means if we don’t develop new sources of energy along with oil and gas, and if we don’t develop technologies to use less energy for the same amount of output, we’re always going to depend on other countries for our energy needs.

The world price of oil is determined by the futures price on the commodities market. Not on “speculators” as Obama would have it, but by the estimate of what the future price will be by people looking at events in the world that may affect the price of oil.  When Iran threatens to close the Straits of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil supply passes, investors worry. When instability in the Middle East increases they worry, and the price goes up.

The price at the gas pump is not based on how much the station owner had to pay for the last tanker load, but on what he will have to pay for the next one — else he would not be able to pay for the next one. If the president had approved the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, the price would go down because the future outlook had just improved.

What the president actually believes about energy is a mystery. He talks about alternative sources of clean energy, and rushes off to a solar array which the government is subsidizing in one way or another. (Has wind finally lost favor?)

He talks about biofuels, but the only one we have is corn ethanol which is more polluting than gasoline, contains less energy, and is doing damage to the food supply. Biofuel from forest waste and plant material or switchgrass is mandated, with big fines if not, yet there isn’t any. The process hasn’t yet worked.  Solar energy heats water successfully, but produces little electricity, wind produces little electricity. The electric cars are so far a flop.  He’s now big on algae, but that is probably 30 years away from development, and unlikely anyway because producing any quantity just takes too much land.

Solar remains wishful thinking. Master Resource explains the history of the wishful thinking that over and over goes nowhere. The president is claiming a great accomplishment by extending the Keystone XL from Cushing to the Gulf, and the compliant media dutifully reports his words. He adds that he simply couldn’t allow the northern part to be built until it was not a danger to the American people. What an absolute crock.

“This administration’s record speaks for itself. For more than three years, President Obama has implemented a three part energy strategy: delay, deny, and deceive.”  — IER President Thomas Pyle

The Supreme Court Unanimously Scolds the EPA by The Elephant's Child

Here is the basic case. In 2005, Mike and Chantell Sackett bought a small piece of land in Priest Lake,  Idaho — up in the Idaho panhandle.  Running their own small business, living in a rented home, building their dream house with a view of the lake launched this unsuspecting couple on a nightmare journey that led them to the United States Supreme Court, to finally meet their destiny on Wednesday.  The video, below will give you a sense of their story.

Here is the piece I wrote last October about the case, which includes the Pacific Legal Foundation brief and their pathway through the courts.

I have no brief for the EPA, which I consider an out-of-control agency that is causing far more trouble for America than it is cumulatively worth. Here in the Seattle area, under current EPA thinking, almost anyone’s home could be considered a wetland— at least a good part of the year.  It does rain a lot.

Wednesday, a Unanimous Supreme Court ruled in favor of the property owners in Sackett v. EPA.  The opinions in the case (an opinion for the court and two concurring opinions by Justices Ginsburg and Alito) are available here. Justice Alito’s concurring opinion offers a very clear description of what was at stake;

The position taken in this case by the Federal Government—a position that the Court now squarely rejects—would have put the property rights of ordinary Americans entirely at the mercy of Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) employees.

The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear. Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the Act, and according to the Federal Government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency’s mercy. The EPA may issue a compliance order demanding that the owners cease construction, engage in expensive remedial measures, and abandon any use of the property. If the owners do not do the EPA’s bidding, they may be fined up to $75,000 per day ($37,500 for violating the Act and another $37,500 for violating the compliance order). And if the owners want their day in court to show that their lot does not include covered wetlands, well, as a practical matter, that is just too bad. Until the EPA sues them, they are blocked from access to the courts, and the EPA may wait as long as it wants before deciding to sue. By that time, the potential fines may easily have reached the millions. In a nation that values due process, not to mention private property, such treatment is unthinkable.

The court reached its decision on statutory grounds, ruling that the property owners are entitled to judicial review of their case under the Administrative Procedure Act. It did not, therefore get into the issue of whether such review is also required by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which states that the government may not deprive individuals of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

Justice Alito went on to explain that “the combination of the uncertain reach of the Clean Water Act and the draconian penalties imposed for the sort of violations alleged in this case still leaves most property owners with little practical alternative but to dance to the EPA’s tune.” The justice also urged Congress to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act, and the draconian penalties imposed for the sort of violations alleged in this case.Scroll down to the end of the decision to see what Justice Alito had to say to Congress and the EPA.

This is a strange, and seemingly unnecessary, case caused by sloppy legislation that provided that the Clean Water Act covers “the waters of the United States.” Ambiguous, and Justice Alito suggests that Congress and the EPA both need to clean up their overreach and get precise. “But far from providing clarity and predictability, the agency’s latest informal guidance advises property owners that many jurisdictional determinations concerning wetlands can only be made on a case-by-case basis by EPA field staff.”

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