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“A Breed Apart”: So This Is What “Individual Liberty” Looks Like

I was minding my own business channel surfing when I stumbled upon a disturbing scene carried on (where else?) Fox News. More than 1,500 students from all over the world were gathered in Washington to attend what was billed as the Students for Liberty Conference, whose advertised aim was to “celebrate freedom.”

The part I saw had Fox Business host John Stossel, author of No They Can’t: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed, moderating a panel in which he asked students this bit of political trivia: How often is the word “democracy” used in the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence for that matter?

What came next was chilling. When students were given the correct answer – none – they cheered.

Stossel later explained why. These students, like the Founding Fathers, “understood that democracy may bring mob rule – tyranny of a majority. So the Constitution focuses on restricting government – to secure individual liberty.”

Thanks go to Chris Hayes of MSNBC for showing what this so called “individual liberty” sometimes looks like in real life.

Hayes profiled ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. As the head of the largest natural gas producer in the US, Tillerson is a vocal proponent of a controversial process known as hydraulic fracking.

It is so controversial, in fact, that many municipalities have begun passing local ordinances to place a moratorium on the practice until more is known about its long-term consequences. Exxon, for its part, has been just as active suing these cities and towns to have the ordinances overturned.

Then along comes another gas company with plans to construct one of these water towers needed for fracking — but this one near Exxon Rex’s 83-acre, $5 million horse ranch near Bartonville, Texas. Tillerson, of course, welcomes the new gas company to the neighborhood with open arms. Right?

Not on your life. Instead, Tillerson and his super-wealthy neighbors file a lawsuit which states that the fracking tower must be stopped since it might “devalue their properties and adversely impact the rural lifestyle they sought to enjoy.”

Further, as the Wall Street Journal disapprovingly reports, Tillerson and his neighbors filed suit, claiming that what the gas company wanted to do was illegal since it would create “a noise nuisance and traffic hazards” due to the heavy trucks hauling and pumping the massive amounts of water needed to unlock oil and gas from dense rock.

As Hayes succinctly put it: “Rex Tillerson is leading the fracking revolution — just not in his backyard.”

Adds Rich Unger writing in Forbes: “Sometimes, the hypocrisy expressed in real life is so sublimely rich that one could never hope to construct a similar scenario out of pure imagination.”

Being a vocal advocate for fracking is “a key and critical function” of Mr. Tillerson’s day job, says Unger. It is all he can do when he wakes up in the morning to “protect and nurture the process of hydraulic fracturing so that his company can continue to rack in billions via the production and sale of natural gas.”

So committed is Rex to the process of fracking, says Unger, “that he has loudly lashed out at those who criticize and seek to regulate hydraulic fracturing, suggesting that such efforts are a very bad idea, indeed.”

Except when the fracking is in Tillerson’s backyard.

The odium directed at Tillerson practically writes itself. But critics are wrong to call him a hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who subscribes to the notion that people are basically equal, who agrees that rules should apply equally to everyone, but who nonetheless insists on special privileges or exemptions for themselves.

Tillerson, and those of his kind throughout history, do not subscribe to such egalitarian — dare we say democratic — ideals as justice or fairness. They really do believe their wealth makes them a breed apart. And they really do think that rules which apply to everyone else do not apply to them, though they rarely admit that in public.

To Tillerson and his caste, double standards are the only ones worth having. Consequently, it is perfectly legitimate, in their view, to make billions of dollars supporting a fracking process they say is a danger to no one — except people who  own multi-million horse ranches in rural Texas.

I wonder if Stossel’s Students for Liberty cheered just as loudly once they learned the Constitution does not use the world oligarchy either?


By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, February 27, 2014

March 2, 2014 Posted by | Fracking, Oil Industry | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hooked On Oil”: No Magic Bullet For The Price Of Gas

As they ruminate at the pump, Americans may have finally figured out the new global deal on gasoline: there’s no magic bullet to bring prices down as long as the United States remains hooked on oil.

No matter how many billions of dollars oil companies rake in, the world market, not individual oil producers, sets the price of oil. Likewise, there is little, if anything, U.S. presidents—or their political opponents—can do to ward off $4 per gallon gasoline.

The reality is that oil supply concerns in Iran, Nigeria, and other trouble spots married with heightened oil demand in China, India, and other burgeoning nations will largely determine what Americans pay for gasoline. We can drill doggedly in our own backyards, but the price of gasoline will remain more a matter of speculation over externally-driven factors than tapping new sources of oil at home.

America is at an oil crossroads, emotionally and financially. We can continue griping about gasoline and maintain false hopes of controlling crude oil prices. Or we can face the truth, stop subsidizing oil with hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and abandon extreme efforts in search of new oil supplies. Surviving $4 gasoline depends on sipping oil and providing fuel substitutes, not subsidizing and promoting petroleum production.

As the world’s largest oil consumer, home to a transportation system that is a whopping 94 percent dependent on oil, the United States is precariously positioned. Conventional thinking—the more we drill at home, the better off we’ll be—is dangerously misguided. No matter where in the world oil is found, the price is tied to the global market.

Moreover, much of the heavier new oil supplies found in the western hemisphere yield diesel and fuel oil that is destined primarily for export markets. New heavier oils are not well suited for consumption by American cars and jets. So drilling closer to home will do much more to pad the oil industry’s deep pockets than bring down prices at the pump.

Since business-as-usual isn’t likely the answer, and may make matters worse, it’s time for unconventional thinking.

America is desperately in need of an oil policy that reduces dependence on petroleum, regardless of the source. The more fuel efficient our cars become and the faster we diversify into new transportation fuels, the brighter our energy and economic future will be.

President Obama already set in motion the first part of the solution. Tomorrow’s cars and trucks will consume less fuel than those they replace. And despite rising gas prices—or perhaps because of it—automakers’ new vehicle line-ups contain some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in industry history.

In the next five years, new cars and trucks will use 20 percent less fuel per mile driven. And by 2025, new cars will average about 50 miles per gallon, nearly double levels initially mandated for 1985. Sticking to the president’s plan, or even accelerating it, will be key.

But there is much more to be done. America can no longer rely on oil alone to fuel mobility. We need to step up the transition to oil alternatives by moving to hybrid-electric and electric vehicles, and using advanced biofuels.

Electricity can be generated by a diverse array of clean energy sources, leaving oil out of the power mix. And biofuels can be made from many different nonoil sources, including algae, grasses, woody crops, wastes, and various other nonfood feed stocks.

High gasoline prices help motivate the shift away from oil. But a market transformation will take direct policy action, for example, through a price stabilizing oil security fee or other fiscal measures. Oil is entrenched in America. Moving away from perpetual oil dependence to a robust, diversified fuel system will take clear, enduring policy action.

Americans are justifiably anxious about what the future holds when it comes to gasoline prices. But many motorists are beginning to appreciate that anger over pump prices will not relieve pain at the pump. Nor will political promises.

Oil markets have globalized to the point where prices are beyond our control. Given oil’s dangerous monopoly power over our mobility, it’s time to entirely reinvent our habits, innovate technologically, and adopt bold new policies aimed at reducing the use of oil and substituting instead of subsidizing and searching for oil. This is how America will ultimately survive $4 gasoline.


By: Deborah Gordon, U. S. News and World Report, March 22, 2012

March 23, 2012 Posted by | Energy, Oil Industry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speculators, Hedge Fund Managers And “Gas Wars”

Nothing drives voter sentiment like the price of gas – now averaging $3.56 a gallon, up 30 cents from the start of the year. It’s already hit $4 in some places. The last time gas topped $4 was 2008.

And nothing energizes Republicans like rising energy prices. Last week House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans to take advantage of voters’ looming anger over prices at the pump. On Thursday House Republicans passed a bill to expand offshore drilling and force the White House to issue a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The tumult prompted the Interior Department to announce on Friday expanded oil exploration in the Arctic.

If prices at the pump continue to rise,  expect more gas wars.

In fact, oil prices are rising for three reasons — none of which has to do with offshore drilling or the XL pipeline.

The first, on the supply side, is Iran’s decision to cut in oil exports to Britain and France in retaliation for sanctions put in place by the EU and United States. Iran’s threat to do this has been pushing up crude oil prices for weeks.

The second, on the demand side, is rising hopes for a global economic recovery – which would mean increased oil consumption. The American economy is showing faint signs of a recovery. Europe’s debt crisis appears to be easing. Greece’s pending bailout deal is calming financial nerves on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Bank of England and European Central Bank are keeping rates low. At the same time, China has decided to boost its money supply to spur growth there.

Neither of these would have much effect were it not for the third reason — overwhelming bets of hedge funds and other money managers that oil prices will rise on the basis of the first two reasons.

Speculators have pushed crude oil to $105.28 per barrel, up 35 percent since September. Brent crude, Europe’s benchmark, is now $120.37 a barrel – also worrisome because many East Coast refineries use imported oil.

Funny, I don’t hear Republicans rail against speculators. Could that have anything to do with the fact that hedge funds and money managers are bankrolling the GOP as never before?

But that’s okay. The gas wars may come to a screeching halt before too long, anyway. So many bets are being placed on rising oil prices that the slightest hint the speculators are wrong – almost any sign of expanding supply or declining demand – will set off a sharp drop in oil prices similar to the record one-day fall on May 5 of last year.


By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, February 20, 2012

February 27, 2012 Posted by | Energy, Oil Industry | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Gasoline Conspiracy To Set Fire To The Obama Administration?

I’ve never been much of a conspiracy theorist as it is not my inclination to see evil lurking behind every bush (no pun intended.) More times than not, things are—for the most part—pretty much as they appear to be.

However, there is a strange anomaly occurring on the highways of America and in the boardrooms of some of our largest investment institutions that has caused me to consider whether a plan is afoot that, if successful, could represent the best possible strategy for ending the presidency of Barack Obama.

According to the Automobile Club of America, gasoline prices have risen, on average, 13.1 cents in the past month—despite the fact that gas prices traditionally fall in the month of February as people drive fewer miles during the wintery month.

What’s more, virtually every projection out there suggests that gas prices are about to make a dramatic rise to, potentially, record levels with some suggesting that $5.00 a gallon gas or more —double the prices of just a few months ago—could very well be in our future.

This becomes a particularly odd statistic when one considers that Americans are using less gasoline than they have at any time in the last fifteen years. Currently, we burn up 8 percent less gas than we did during the peak year of 2006 while most experts expect the trend to continue to where we will be using 20 percent less gasoline by 2030.

Says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service,

Strangely, the current run-up in prices comes despite sinking demand in the U.S. Petrol demand is as low as it’s been since April 1997. People are properly puzzled by the fact that we’re using less gas than we have in years, yet we’re paying more.

How can this be explained?

Certainly, concerns of a potential conflict in Iran, and the impact such an event would have on the world oil market, would drive prices up.  Adding fuel to this gasoline fire are the seeds of uprising that are ripening in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia where most of the nation’s oil reserves are located.

And, to be sure, an improving domestic economy typically results in higher oil prices as demand begins to rise. However, experts seem to agree that even this will not return us to our high’s of 2006.

Experts agree that even when the economy rebounds from the recession, gasoline usage will remain below the 2006 figure, which should remain forever untouched barring any massive economic boom periods or drastic fuel price cuts. That reduction can be attributed to a number of factors such as higher fuel efficiency fleet figures for manufacturers, a higher use of hybrids, an increase in bio-fuels like bio-diesel and ethanol, and continued high gas prices, among other factors.

There has to be something else at work here.

According to Kloza, a healthy percentage of the increase is the result of speculative money flowing into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly coming from hedge fund and big money mangers. “We’ve seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures,” Kloza says. “Each of the last three weeks we’ve seen a record net long position being taken.”

These record positions that are driving up prices could certainly be the result of speculators’ legitimate belief that Middle Eastern instability and an improving economy at home make higher prices a good bet.

And yet, Middle Eastern instability is nothing particularly new. Even if speculators see an Iranian crisis putting more pressure on the oil markets than in days gone by, it is difficult to rationalize how this would result in a 100 percent increase in prices at the pump, particularly in view of the fact that we use less gasoline today than at other times of crisis.

While Wall Street’s ‘priority one’ is to make money, it is clear that, for this year, priority two is the destruction of Barack Obama’s presidency. Accordingly, from a Wall Street point of view, it certainly is a happy coincidence that that priority one, making big money on oil speculation, could directly lead to accomplishing their second highest mission.

I am left to wonder whether this is a happy Wall Street coincidence or a clever strategy that could pay off big-time come November.

Gasoline prices have a ‘real time’ impact on middle-class voters. Can you imagine a better way to make voters good and angry than to insure that they are paying five bucks a gallon for the gasoline that will be powering them to the voting booth in November? And if you subscribe to the theory that the President’s opponents would like to keep economic growth down until the election is over, what better way to accomplish such a goal than to force a precipitous rise in gas prices?

Maybe what we are seeing is nothing more than the natural and completely explainable reaction to events in oil producing countries and the promise of an improving domestic economy.

However, when you consider that we’ve faced these uncertainties more than once in the past fifteen years, and combine that with the understanding that we are currently consuming less oil products than at any time during that period, it is difficult to come up with a rational explanation as to why gas prices would nearly double in so short a period under these circumstances.

Am I simply getting paranoid as the election season is upon us?

Maybe. But there is no disputing that the higher gasoline prices go, the lower the odds that President Obama will be returned to office for a second term.

So, I’m just saying’…..

As a result of what is coming, it might be a good idea for the Obama Administration to start talking about the reasons for rising gas prices and I’d start talking about it now.  This is one instance where silence is anything but golden and without a plausible explanation as to why the Administration is not responsible for what might be a dramatic rise in gas prices, it may be Pesident Obama who is left holding the pump nozzle come December.


By: Rick Ungar, Washington Monthly, February 17, 2012

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Middle East, Oil Industry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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