Walker Should Be Going to California Instead of Europe

Apparently the governor is trying to strengthen his foreign policy credentials with another trip to Europe.

Where he should be is in drought ridden California. As that state continues to impose water use restrictions and experiments with sea water desalination, Wisconsin is still a safe water haven (well ignoring the DNRs lack of over sight of factory farm operations that is).

Maybe he should be sweet talking California companies to consider moving to Open for Business Wisconsin, where they don’t (yet) have to worry about a water crunch. A few of those hip high tech companies just might see the advantages! Well, except for our conservative state house maybe. Just sayin’

Which Price War Is OPEC Actually Fighting?

All of us are aware of the decline in oil and gasoline prices that started late last year and promises to continue well into 2015. Reasons for the drop is attributed to declining demand from recessionary trends in parts of Europe as well as China and developing countries and general over world production. Under the normal oil price cycles, OPEC would be having a cartel meeting and decide to reduce production to bolster per barrel prices at their preferred level. But they aren’t doing that this time and continue to maintain the over supply of oil on the world market…letting the price continue to free fall to where no one knows. From a Bloomberg article titled: “How OPEC Weaponized the Price of Oil Against U.S. Drillers“:

If there ever was doubt about the strategy of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, its wealthiest members are putting that issue to rest.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait stressed a dozen times in the past six weeks that the group won’t curb output to halt the biggest drop in crude since 2008. Qatar’s estimate for the global oversupply is among the biggest of any producing country. These countries actually want — and are achieving — further price declines as part of an attempt to hasten cutbacks by U.S. shale drillers, according to Barclays Plc and Commerzbank AG.

The faster you bring the price down, the quicker you will have a response from U.S. production — that is the expectation and the hope,” said Jamie Webster, an analyst at consultants IHS Inc. in Washington. “I cannot recall a time when several members were actively pushing the price down in both word and deed.”

OPEC won’t reverse course even if oil prices fall as low as $20 a barrel or non-OPEC countries offer to help with production cuts, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said in an interview with the Middle East Economic Survey on Dec. 21. The kingdom may even bolster output if non-OPEC nations do so, he said. The global oversupply is 2 million barrels a day, or 6.7 percent of OPEC output, Qatar estimates.

Now the big boys are claiming that OPEC is gunning for US fracking interests. And certainly this is having a major effect on US producers and if the price decline continues for a prolonged period, new exploration and new wells may certainly go into hiatus. But it seems to me that if US frackers were the main target that they wouldn’t have waited until the summer of 2014 to fight back…they would have tried to nip the nascent industry in the bud long before now.

But there may be two other oil producing targets that OPEC may not want to talk about it…and claiming US producers are the enemy is safe because the US is unlikely to do anything about it…after all US production is aimed at energy independence and not controlling the world oil market (well at least in public that is).

One is the resurgent Russia which is supporting a number of sketchy players in the middle east, primarily Iran…but the emirates can’t be happy about increased Russian military activity in Ukraine and Crimea either. And the Russians are a soft target now that they are already in decline due to international financial sanctions. Every dollar drop in oil prices has to be costing them some real money. News reports suggest that some of their major banks and industrial leaders are on the verge of bankruptcy. A little push in lost revenues may cause Putin to pull back a bit.

The other target might actually be the Islamic State which has been supporting parts of its operations via black market oil sales from captured wells in Iraq and Syria. As legitimate oil markets sink, black market oil has to sink even further and at some point may not be even worth dealing with…no profits…or at least not enough profits for the buyers to take the risks. Another easy way to take on IS without a public commitment of arms and troops and publicity. It would be easier to just bankrupt IS as well!

But that’s still supposition on my part…OPEC still is accusing the US of over production and frackers have to be taken off line:

The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday that OPEC will no longer move to shore up crude prices, arguing that rising North American shale oil output needs to be curbed.

World prices have been falling since June but the pace of the slide accelerated in November when the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to maintain its production unchanged at 30 million barrels per day.

Analysts say that richer cartel members like the UAE have been ready to accept the price fall in the hope that it will force higher-cost shale producers out of the market.

“We cannot continue to be protecting a certain price,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said.

“We have seen the oversupply, coming primarily from shale oil, and that needed to be corrected,” he told participants in the Gulf Intelligence UAE Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Mazrouei said the UAE remains “concerned” about balance in the oil markets but “cannot under any circumstances be the only party responsible,” in reference to rising output from non-OPEC members.

Oil producers outside the cartel should be rational about their output, he said, adding that current prices are “not sustainable” for them.

“We are telling the market and other producers to be rational, to be like OPEC and look at growth in the market,” Mazrouei said.

He said that if OPEC had opted to cut production, other producers would have stepped in to make up the lost output and the cartel would have lost market share without any effect on prices.

Mazrouei said current prices were “not sustainable,” particularly for producers outside the Gulf region.

In the meantime don’t run out and buy a new SUV, the President advises against it:

But President Barack Obama is warning Americans that this won’t last forever.

In an interview with The Detroit News’ David Shepardson, Obama said Americans should use the savings wisely.

“I would strongly advise American consumers to continue to think about how you save money at the pump because it is good for the environment, it’s good for family pocketbooks and if you go back to old habits and suddenly gas is back at $3.50, you are going to not be real happy,” Obama told The Detroit News.

Some More Highlights From The Keystone XL Discussion

This morning I posted a bit on the ruling from the Nebraska Supreme Court that gives the Canadian oil company the right to seize American assets to complete the Keystone XL pipeline. But there are a few other nuggets to be mined from the original article as well. Let’s see what we find!

First, this isn’t necessarily an American idea. And this may seem obvious but it bears remembering later in the discussion:

The international (emphasis mine) pipeline is a cornerstone of the new GOP agenda in Congress.

But this oil of course will lower gas prices in America, right?

The $8 billion project, one of the largest infrastructure projects proposed for the United States, would carry oil from the tar sands of Canada through the nation’s heartland and eventually to the Gulf Coast. Much of the oil would be exported (emphasis mine).

Yes, it will in fact help the American market and help us reduce dependence on foreign oil. Just look:

But supporters argue that development of the pipeline will wean the country from foreign oil suppliers and create needed domestic jobs.

Wait wait wait…I just remembered…these are CANADIAN tar sands oil…and so far Canada, no matter how friendly they are with the US, is a FOREIGN country. So we are weaning ourselves from one foreign oil to another…assuming of course that the oil were actually staying in the USA! But I quibble…what about those jobs?

Well this article says that 42,000 construction jobs will result in completing the pipeline. That seems like an incredible amount…and other articles in the past have questioned that number as well…but it will certainly produce substantial long term jobs, yes?

While the State Department estimates that about 42,000 jobs would be created during the construction of the pipeline, permanent jobs would be fewer than 50. The 800,000 daily gallons of oil expected to be pumped are a blip on the climate change radar.

Fewer that FIFTY jobs? Really? From the ruckus in Washington you’d think this was the next major industrialization of the gulf coast…I mean really…it’s less that fifty jobs?

And I kinda glossed over that last part a little bit. Does that say 800,000 GALLONS of oil? I thought we were talking hundreds of thousands of barrels…but it’s 800,000 gallons.

So let me summarize what I understand from all of this: some foreign oil company gets to seize American property to pump 800,000 gallons of pretty mucky oil across thousands of miles of the United States…to the gulf coast so a handful of Americans can refine it and load it on tankers to send overseas?

Court Affirms Foreign Corporation’s Right Of Eminent Domain in US

In the continuing saga of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that Canadian oil company TransCanada could essentially use eminent domain to seize right of ways on American owned property to complete the Keystone XL pipeline. Continued proof that money knows no borders:

Removing a major roadblock, Nebraska’s Supreme Court threw out a challenge to a proposed route for the pipeline, even though four judges on the seven-member court agreed that the landowners who sued should have won their case.

Their lawsuit challenged a 2012 state law that allowed the governor to empower Canada-based TransCanada to force them to sell their property for the project.

But because the lawsuit raised a constitutional question, a supermajority of five judges was needed to rule on the law, meaning “the legislation must stand by default,” the court said in its opinion.

hmmmm…four out of seven justices agreed with the landowners yet ruled the other way.

Pope Francis to issue edict on climate change

As reported by The Guardian, Pope Francis is set to issue a Papal Edict on climate change ahead of next year’s UN climate meeting in Paris, in an attempt to influence the dialogue at that meeting.

He has been called the “superman pope”, and it would be hard to deny that Pope Francis has had a good December. Cited by President Barack Obama as a key player in the thawing relations between the US and Cuba, the Argentinian pontiff followed that by lecturing his cardinals on the need to clean up Vatican politics. But can Francis achieve a feat that has so far eluded secular powers and inspire decisive action on climate change?

It looks as if he will give it a go. In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions.

The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope’s wish to directly influence next year’s crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions.

“Our academics supported the pope’s initiative to influence next year’s crucial decisions,” Sorondo told Cafod, the Catholic development agency, at a meeting in London. “The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion.”

Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated in 2012 by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners.

If Pope Francis does issue a Papal Edict on climate change, it follows that the conservatives who comprise the religious right will renew their criticisms of him, especially given his previous criticisms of the “cult of greed” and his call for greater economic equality and less of a focus on wealth. After all, greed and a focus on wealth seem to be cornerstones of the Republican Party’s rhetorical support for and legislative efforts on behalf of the richest individuals and biggest corporations in our country.

I’m encouraged by Pope Francis’ decision to share his thoughts on global climate change, because his words and deeds have weight – as evidenced by the important role he played in the historic change in relations between the United States and Cuba – so perhaps his efforts to influence the dialogue on global climate change will yield positive results as well.

Changing The Conversation On Climate Change Part II

Published today by the Associated Press, a little article about Democratic Mayors fighting climate change at the local level in spite of Republican governors remaining skeptics. So yes, as I stated earlier, things can be done without convincing everyone that they need to believe that climate change exists:

For coastal cities such as Galveston, Houston and New York City, as well as more arid regions of the country, such as Phoenix and Sacramento, California, there is no time for debate — climate change’s effects are real.

Galveston’s seawall didn’t stand up to Hurricane Ike in 2008, partly because of the sea level rise that allowed the storm’s surge to reach inner areas. Officials began to rethink protections, leading Galveston and nearby coastal communities to collaborate with The Nature Conservancy to restore oyster reefs and wetland habitats that could better help protect communities.

New York learned similar lessons after Superstorm Sandy. Quickly after, it became clear some man-made solutions — such as seawalls or underwater fencing — are expensive and not always effective. The city also asked the Nature Conservancy to study how built defenses could be combined with “natural infrastructure” to buffer a city that’s becoming more vulnerable.

Howard Beach, a low-lying, flat area of Queens, was pounded by Sandy. The Nature Conservancy’s report concluded that significant, cost-efficient defenses could be achieved by re-vegetating shorelines and restoring mussel beds and wetlands in combination with more traditional solutions, such as sea walls.

Heat and debilitating drought is worsening in some parts of Arizona and California. Sacramento is using trees for part of the solution, and the city has outlined a detailed “climate plan” for the coming decades.

Bill Finch, the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and co-chair of the conference’s climate task force, said some mayors in mid- and large-sized cities have had a climate plan for about seven years. Party politics are irrelevant, he said, pointing out that his co-chair on the committee is Carmel, Indiana, Republican James Brainard.

Carmel put roundabouts at 84 intersections. Studies have shown such traffic patterns can cut down on emissions. Now, Finch plans to implement a similar plan in his community.

“Mayors have to go to the grocery store and listen to families complain about kids with asthma … that their flooding is getting worse,” Finch said, pointing out that the steps in the resolution would also give cities more parks and green space.

“This is not a cause for mayors. This is a pragmatic problem that requires pragmatic solutions,” Finch said.

Although it sounds like Democratic mayors are leading the charge, Republican mayors are also supportive as long as any changes aren’t mandated…simply suggested. Go figure:

Attendees of the U.S. Conference of Mayors will vote Monday on a resolution that encourages cities to use natural solutions to “protect freshwater supplies, defend the nation’s coastlines, maintain a healthy tree cover and protect air quality,” sometimes by partnering with nonprofit organizations.

It’s being backed by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton — all Democrats.

Since the conference is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and the resolution only “encourages” steps rather than mandating action, Leffingwell believes it will easily be approved Monday since it quickly passed through the committee on Friday.

“The best strategy is not to get involved in partisan politics,” said Leffingwell, who noted that Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be a climate-change skeptic, but he still supported the state’s move to invest $2 billion in water infrastructure after a debilitating drought in 2011.

“He doesn’t have to acknowledge climate change to know that the facts are there. … We want to take the steps that would advance the things that we all believe in without getting into some ideological argument,” Leffingwell added.

Sounds like a plan…good work!

Changing The Conversation On Climate Change

There are two types of climate change deniers. The first ones deny that climate change even exists, and the second group accept climate change but deny man’s contribution to the problem.

The first group should be totally ignored. They will not be swayed and won’t accept climate change as reality until they are treading water. Just forget about them.

The second group can be allies. Even if they aren’t convinced of man’s influence on climatic changes, there are a lot of things that still need to be accomplished that they would probably be amenable to work on. For instance, rebuilding the various coastlines to accommodate higher sea levels, higher tides and more severe hurricanes. There will certainly be opportunities to work on ways to remediate continued and more severe inland droughts and the desertification of larger parts of currently arable land. The Sahara just keeps creeping south for instance. There will need to be a solid consensus to make those type of projects viable.

And at some point they may even accept that reducing man’s carbon footprint may help, even if they don’t believe mankind is the cause.

Just a little thinking out loud on a Saturday night…

VIDEO: Bernie Sanders calls out Marco Rubio for embarrassing the nation on climate change

During a recent appearance on The Ed Show, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont responded to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s complete denial of climate change science by saying, “I gotta say this, Ed. I really gotta say this. Look, you and I have all kinds of differences with Republicans, but to totally reject what the scientific community is saying is really embarrassing for our nation, frankly.”

Here’s the video of Sen. Sanders’ appearance (discussion of climate change begins at approximately 2:38 of the video).

I think John Oliver, the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, summed up climate change deniers best when he said, “You don’t need people’s opinions on a fact,” adding, “You might as well have a poll asking which number is bigger — 15 or 5?”

Watch for yourselves.