A Federal Energy Policy: Can It Happen Here?

Petroleum and Natural Gas Watch
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
July 27, 2007, Vol. 6, Number 9
Of all the issue areas that Congress dives into from time to time, none reveals the inability of our legislative branch to fashion an internally consistent national policy quite like energy. The usual items in an energy bill–tax credit extensions, fuel subsidies, fresh regulatory requirements (and loopholes), new rules on offshore drilling, etc.—are designed to reward specific industries and influential constituencies. This year’s energy bill promises to follow that timeworn path left by Congresses of yesteryear.

But an energy bill has to be more than the sum of its subsidies to constitute effective policy. This is especially true as we enter a time of growing resource and environmental limits that threaten to bite us in the collective behind if we don’t curb our profligate consumption of energy.

Now is not the time to continue subsidizing every form of energy that can be produced in the United States, as the current Congress seems intent on doing. In previous bills, Congress has taken great pains to make sure that every energy constituency—coal, oil, nuclear or renewables–gets its fair share of the federal pie, regardless of need or environmental impact. This is the cheap energy paradigm at work—promoting economic growth by artificially lowering energy prices.


A Conversation with Kip Hawley, TSA Administrator

Bruce Schneier:

In April, Kip Hawley, the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), invited me to Washington for a meeting. Despite some serious trepidation, I accepted. And it was a good meeting. Most of it was off the record, but he asked me how the TSA could overcome its negative image. I told him to be more transparent, and stop ducking the hard questions. He said that he wanted to do that. He did enjoy writing a guest blog post for Aviation Daily, but having a blog himself didn’t work within the bureaucracy. What else could he do?
This interview, conducted in May and June via e-mail, was one of my suggestions.

Tax Code Sausage Making – for the Rentier Class

NY Times Editorial:

The corrosive effects of that trend were detailed in The Times yesterday by Alex Berenson, who examined the fallout of the Orwellian-named American Jobs Creation Act of 2004. Pitched by tax-axing lawmakers as a way to generate cash for new hiring, it allowed American companies to bring foreign-held profits back to the United States in 2005 at a discount of up to 85 percent off the normal tax rate. Some 100 companies repatriated about $300 billion, avoiding about $90 billion in taxes.
But instead of hiring more workers, many of the participating multinationals had mass layoffs, especially drug companies. Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, repatriated $36 billion at the discounted rate, while laying off 8,000 employees in 2006 and announcing layoffs of 10,000 more. Eli Lilly and Schering-Plough also repatriated billions while laying off thousands. Technology companies did the same. Hewlett-Packard, for example, repatriated $14.5 billion in 2005 and laid off 14,500 workers. In some instances, the corporate tax savings were more than enough to cover the severance costs and other expenses of the layoffs.

Our good Senators, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl supported this massive giveaway. Rentier

Madison Ron Paul Supporter Sighting

Ron Paul has been getting some attention lately:

  • The Economist:

    Paul the Apostate.
    Is this would-be president brave or crazy?
    RON PAUL, a libertarian Republican congressman from Texas, likes to say what he thinks. And among the things he thinks is that the census is a violation of privacy. He has opted out of the congressional pension programme. He claims never to have voted for a tax increase, or for an unbalanced budget, or for a congressional pay rise and never to have gone on a congressional junket. He wants to return to the gold standard. Most notably, he strongly opposes the Iraq war and has from the beginning.
    Mr Paul is running for president. And according to the latest report from the Federal Election Commission, he is in better financial shape than John McCain, once the front-runner. Mr Paul raised $2.4m in the second quarter of the year, has roughly that much on hand, and has no debts. Mr McCain raised far more money but spent it just as fast, ending the quarter with $3.2m on hand but with $1.8m in debt.

  • Christopher Caldwell, writing in the NYT Magazine:

    Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a “declaration of virtual war.” Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. “I voted for the authority and the money,” he now says. “I thought it was misused.”
    There is something homespun about Paul, reminiscent of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” He communicates with his constituents through birthday cards, August barbecues and the cookbooks his wife puts together every election season, which mix photos of grandchildren, Gospel passages and neighbors’ recipes for Velveeta cheese fudge and Cherry Coke salad. He is listed in the phone book, and his constituents call him at home. But there is also something cosmopolitan and radical about him; his speeches can bring to mind the World Social Forum or the French international-affairs periodical Le Monde Diplomatique. Paul is surely the only congressman who would cite the assertion of the left-leaning Chennai-based daily The Hindu that “the world is being asked today, in reality, to side with the U.S. as it seeks to strengthen its economic hegemony.” The word “empire” crops up a lot in his speeches.

Young Adults are Given Newspapers Scant Attention

Tom Patterson: 230K PDF

Based on a national survey of 1800 randomly sampled teens, young adults, and older adults, this report examines the amount of daily news consumed by young people. The evidence shows that young Americans are estranged from the daily newspaper and rely more heavily on television than on the Internet for their news.
A few decades ago, there were not large differences in the news habits and daily information levels of younger and older Americans. Today, unlike most older Americans, many young people find a bit of news here and there and do not make it a routine part of their day.

Justin Jones:

The results were especially grim for newspapers. Only 16 percent of the young adults surveyed aged 18 to 30 said that they read a newspaper every day and 9 percent of teenagers said that they did. That compared with 35 percent of adults over 30. Furthermore, despite the popular belief that young people are flocking to the Internet, the survey found that teenagers and young adults were twice as likely to get daily news from television than from the Web.

Barry Ritholtz’s related post offers some useful comments, including several whose only print subscription is the excellent Economist (I, too read the Economist).
Terry Heaton:

At the LATimes, second quarter revenue was down 10% and cash flow down 27%. In his call for front page ads, Publisher David Hiller noted it was one of the worst “ever experienced” by the paper.

A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet

Bill Marsh:

THOSE eight daily glasses of water you’re supposed to drink for good health? They will cost you $0.00135 — about 49 cents a year — if you take it from a New York City tap.
Or, city officials suggest, you could spend 2,900 times as much, roughly $1,400 yearly, by drinking bottled water. For the extra money, they say, you get the added responsibility for piling on to the nation’s waste heap and encouraging more of the industrial emissions that are heating up the planet.
But trends in American thirst quenching favor the 2,900-fold premium, as the overflowing trash cans of Central Park attest. In fact, bottled water is growing at the expense of every other beverage category except sports drinks. It has overtaken coffee and milk, and it is closing in on beer. Tap, if trends continue, would be next.
Now New York City officials — like the mayors of Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and San Francisco — are campaigning to get people to reverse course and open their faucets instead of their wallets. The city Health Department, mindful of high obesity rates, says water is more healthful than many other, sugar-filled drinks. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection touts its low environmental impact. Both note that it’s practically free (leaving aside those New Yorkers for whom paying extra is a lifestyle choice).

China’s Online Population Explosion

Deborah Fallows:

There are now an estimated 137 million internet users in China, second in number only to the United States, where estimates of the current internet population range from 165 million to 210 million. The growth rate of China’s internet user population has been outpacing that of the U.S., and China is projected to overtake the U.S. in the total number of users within a few years.
The influx of tens of millions of new online participants each year can be expected to have far-reaching consequences for the Chinese population, for China itself and for the larger world. At the very least, the internet will offer ever greater numbers of Chinese a much more sophisticated information and communications world than the one they currently inhabit. And because the Chinese share a single written language, despite the multiplicity of spoken tongues, it could have a unifying effect on the country’s widely dispersed citizenry. An expanding internet population might also increase domestic tensions that could spill over into China’s relations with the U.S. and other countries while the difference between Chinese and Western approaches to the internet could create additional sore points over human rights and problems with restrictions on non-Chinese companies.