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Tag Archives: Fossil Fuels


What Caused Gas Prices To Jump?

A range of world actors and events share the blame for the run-up in prices.

By David R. Hendersondefining ideas

If you, unlike Michigan Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow, have bought gasoline lately, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen a sticker on the gas pump with a picture of President Biden saying, “I did that.” Typically, those stickers are placed by customers, not gas station owners, and for that reason, I’m against them: they violate the owners’ property rights.

But I’m more interested here in the substantive question: did Joe Biden “do that”? My answer is “somewhat.” It wasn’t Biden alone. The Federal Reserve had some role, and the recovery from the pandemic had a large role. But the many actions Biden took before Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and some of his actions afterwards have certainly caused the price of oil and gasoline to rise. Biden didn’t do all of  “that.” Other governments have contributed to the problem, and various US government restrictions in the oil and gasoline markets have also contributed.

More important, many of Biden’s actions, unless reversed, will contribute to high oil and gasoline prices in the future. We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, he and his employees John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, and Jennifer Granholm, secretary of energy, explicitly want a diminished role for fossil fuels in the near future. If future oil production falls, then, for a given demand for oil, oil prices will rise.

We need to separate two categories of gasoline price increases: increases due to inflation and increases due to actions specific to the oil and gasoline markets.

Inflation

Between January 2021, when Biden took office, and May 2022, the consumer price index (CPI), which is the usual measure of the inflation rate, rose by 11.7 percent. So, if gasoline prices had simply kept pace with the CPI, they would now be 11.7 percent higher than in January 2021. In January 2021, the average retail price of gasoline in the United States was $2.42. By the week of June 13, 2022, it had reached a whopping $5.11 per gallon. That’s up by $2.69. The 111 percent increase is, of course, much bigger than the increase in the CPI. Clearly, other factors besides inflation have caused gasoline prices to rise.

The major entity responsible for inflation is the Federal Reserve. In the 1960s, Milton Friedman famously stated that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” What he meant is that any persistent inflation that we have observed has been preceded by an increase in the money supply. That’s why a standard line that people have used is that inflation is due to too much money chasing too few goods.

There are several measures of the money supply. The one that monetary economists use most is M2, which includes M1 plus time deposits under $100,000 and shares in retail money market funds. M1, in turn, consists of currency and coins held by the non-bank public, checkable deposits, and savings deposits. In February 2020, just before the pandemic-induced lockdowns, M2 was $15.46 trillion. By April 2022, it had reached $21.73 trillion, an increase of 40.6 percent. Of course, we didn’t get close to a 40 percent inflation rate. The main reason is that Americans’ demand to hold money increased dramatically early in the pandemic. With fewer goods and services for people to buy, they (we) hoarded money. Now, with the pandemic largely behind us, our demand for money is slowly falling.

But why did the money supply increase so much? A major factor was the huge increases in pandemic-related federal government spending, during both the Trump and the Biden administrations. The CARES Act, which President Trump signed in March 2020, increased government spending by $2.2 trillion. To put that in perspective, total federal spending in FY 2019 was $4.45 trillion. And FY 2019 was not exactly a low-spending year, except in retrospect. Nor was Trump done. In late December 2020, he signed another spending bill that included $900 billion in further pandemic-related spending. Those spending increases weren’t enough for President Biden. In early March 2021, Biden signed a further $1.9 trillion pandemic-related spending bill.

All three of these spending measures massively increased the federal budget deficits for FY 2020, FY 2021, and FY 2022. That meant that the federal government had to borrow additional trillions of dollars. The Federal Reserve “monetized” a large part of that additional debt by buying federal government bonds that had first been sold to the public. According to Veronique de Rugy, of the $6 trillion in new federal debt issued during the pandemic, the Federal Reserve monetized $2.7 trillion, or 45 percent. That’s how the money supply increased.

So, if we’re going to blame the entities that caused inflation, they are, in order, the Federal Reserve, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden. On the plus side, we should give huge credit to Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, for standing strong against Biden’s further huge spending increase, misleadingly labeled “Build Back Better.”

The Oil Market

But the major cause of gasoline price increases, as the earlier data show, has not been inflation. The other causes are specific to the oil and gasoline markets.

Start with oil. The biggest factor in the increase in gasoline prices since January 2021 is the increase in the price of oil. Between January 2021 and May 2022, the price of West Texas Intermediate oil (a standard measure of prices) increased from $52.00 per barrel to $109.55, an increase of 111 percent. There are 42 gallons per barrel of oil. The $57.55 increase in the price of oil, the major input in gasoline, accounts for $1.37, or over half, of the $2.69 increase in the price of gasoline.

Before we turn to other factors that account for the gasoline price increase, let’s first consider who or what is responsible for the increase in the world price of oil. The major factor is the increase in worldwide demand as we make our way out of the economic collapse of 2020. We can’t have data on demand because demand is always a schedule: it gives the amount demanded at each price and all we observe at a point in time is the price and the quantity consumed. But here’s how we know that demand increased. Between the first quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2021, worldwide consumption rose from 93.9 million barrels per day (mbd) to 99.2 mbd. When both the consumption of oil and the price of oil rise, that necessarily means that demand increased.

Besides increases in demand, what factors have led to higher oil prices, especially in the past few months?

One factor is Biden’s and many European governments’ response in the oil market to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. They have colluded to keep Russian oil off the market. The Russian government has responded by selling oil to China and India that it would have sold mainly to European consumers. This could be just a game of musical chairs, with the qualification that the number of chairs equals the number of players. In such a case, the overall effect on the world oil market would be small. But the collusive agreement seems to be holding up. Why do I say that? Because the prices that Russia is charging China and India are deeply discounted from world prices. If the collusion had broken down, the prices would be close to equal. The EU and Biden have effectively segmented the world oil market. Chinese and Indian consumers move down their demand curve at the lower prices they pay, buying more than they would have, and we other consumers are bidding over a diminished supply. So, the EU and Biden have definitely contributed to the higher price of oil since the Russian invasion. 

Interestingly, Biden admits that his and the EU’s actions have increased oil prices. In a June 22, 2022, speech, Biden stated:

We cut off Russian oil into the United States, and our partners in Europe did the same, knowing that we would see higher gas prices.

Longer term, Biden will contribute to higher oil prices regardless of what happens with Russia and Ukraine. The reason is that he has signaled in many ways his hostility to US production of oil and natural gas. The American Energy Alliance has listed “100 Ways Biden and the Democrats Have Made It Harder to Produce Oil and Gas.” As with most such lists, some of the items seem minor. But the shocking thing is how many appear to be substantial. They include an executive order imposing a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on government lands and a proposed rule by the Securities and Exchange Commission that would require public companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions. No oil company decision maker could miss the overall negative tenor of the list. I recommend a quick perusal of the list of 100.

Interestingly, one of Biden’s cabinet members recently admitted her hostility to long-term production of oil and natural gas. In a June 15 interview with CNN’s John Berman, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm admitted that she and Biden want oil companies to produce more oil this year but not produce more in five to ten years. The video is priceless. You can tell by the look on Berman’s face and by his tone that he is skeptical that oil companies can be motivated to bear a lot of startup costs just to produce more oil for only a year or two. 

But you don’t have to go with tone or facial expression. Berman laid out the problem beautifully:

But that’s the problem for these companies. These companies are saying, you know, “you’re asking me to do more now, invest more now, when in fact five or ten years from now we don’t think that demand will be there, and the administration doesn’t even necessarily want it to be there.”

You might think that because oil prices are determined in a world market, US government actions that discourage domestic US production don’t matter much. But that’s not true. Because oil demand worldwide is fairly inelastic, small changes in supply can cause large changes in price.

Refining Capacity

As noted above, the increased price of oil between January 2021 and May 2022 accounts for $1.37 of the $2.69 increase in the price of gasoline. What about the remaining $1.32 of the increase? The problem is that the increased demand for gasoline is pushing against a very inelastic refining supply. Here’s how Debnil Chowdhury and Susan D. Bell put it in “Restart or remain shuttered—why rationalized US refineries will not come to the rescue” (IHS Markit, June 24), after noting the amount of refinery capacity that has been sidelined by storms or other incidents:

General market sentiment, our medium-term outlook included, is that the current high-margin environment [for refineries] will be fleeting. Recouping recommissioning costs will be difficult unless these strong margins are sustained beyond 2023. Refiners are unlikely to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in recommissioning costs for only one or two years of strong returns.

Getting permission to build a refinery in the United States is not easy. While the US Energy Information Administration lists thirteen US refineries that have been built since 1978, none of these has the capacity to refine more than 84,000 barrels per day. Compare that to the Marathon Oil refinery in Garyville, Louisiana, built in 1976, which has the capacity to refine 578,000 barrels per day. Oil company executives would have to think long and hard before applying for permission to build a new refinery or putting serious resources into expanding a refinery. You can bet that all of them heard, loud and clear, Granholm’s statement about not wanting so much oil in five or ten years. 

Conclusion

As I noted earlier, I’m not a fan of violating the property rights of gasoline station owners and so I would never put an uninvited sticker on a gasoline pump. But if I were to do so, the sticker would have a picture of Joe Biden saying, “I did some of that, and I’ll do more.”


The View Through Debbie Stabenow’s Windshield

By Peter RoffAmerican Liberty

The View Through Debbie Stabenow’s Windshield

Whether or not Marie Antoinette said rioting French peasants upset about the shortage of bread to feed their families should “eat cake” instead is not important. The idea that she did has been passed down, generation to generation, as the perfect illustration of how the isolated elites in a society can become hopelessly out of touch.

This is not just a problem for the rich but also for the powerful, who use their positions to grant themselves perks that alleviate the need for them to worry about the kinds of things that keep the rest of us at night.

Like whether we’re going to have enough gas in the car to get to work in the morning.

Since coming into office, the Biden Administration has been at war with the American energy sector. Following the President’s lead, they believe climate change is an existential threat to the continued well-being of mankind that can only be thwarted if Americans are forced to go green.

That’s what’s really behind the sudden, continuing rise in the price of gasoline. It’s not, as President Joe Biden continues to assert, a transitory thing caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It is the result of calculated policy decisions intended to roll back the energy independence that became a reality by the end of the Trump Administration.

There’s nothing wrong with green energy per se. Indeed, the United States would realize considerable benefit from the ability to rely on fuel coming from renewable sources like wind and solar and to be more efficient in the generation and use of power from fossil fuels so that less of it is wasted

All that can be achieved by market forces a lot faster and cheaper than by government mandates. The Biden Administration has chosen – regardless of the consequences – to force this upon us all, meaning that some people are now, in a period of inflation unseen for at least 40 years, to face the very real choice between putting gas in the car and food on the table.

Too many Democrats regard that as a good thing. They don’t blame the government for the problem. They blame the energy sector, which it criticizes for earning record profits because the price at the pump is up thanks to the shrinkage Biden and his cohorts have forced on the industry. The cancelation of new pipelines and oil and gas leases on federal lands are two among a handful of reasons domestic energy producers cannot respond to the increase in demand by increasing the supply to keep prices stable.

The energy markets are behaving as the President wants, given his belief, he can prioritize his strategy to increase the use of energy made from renewables and the need to bring down the price of gasoline.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre seemed badly ignorant of economic reality when she insisted during a recent press briefing that there was nothing inherently problematic with pursuing both objectives at the same time.

“What we’re trying to deal with right now is how do we lower costs for American families,” she said. “One of the things that we are seeing currently right now with oil refiners is they are using this moment,” she continued, “to actually make a profit.”

She can get away with shifting blame for a while but what does she suggest as an alternative? Does she think the energy sector should sell gasoline and other fuels at a loss? That’s a recipe for economic catastrophe, as would be the kind of nationalization of the sector that exists in so many other countries.

The problem is that Biden and Jean-Pierre and so many others are out of touch with what’s going on. The people aren’t rioting for gas yet, but it may just be a matter of time.

Consider the comments of Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who recently described a drive she made from her home state to Washington in an electric vehicle.

“After waiting for a long time to have enough chips in this country to finally get my electric vehicle,” the state’s senior elected Democrat said during a June 7 meeting of the Senate Finance Committee. “I got it and drove it from Michigan to here last weekend and went by every gas station and it didn’t matter how high it was.”

Stabenow doesn’t have to choose between putting food on her table and putting gas in her car. Rather than being grateful and understanding she’s insulated from reality because she enjoys elected privilege, she claims she’s mystified by the expressions of concern coming from the American people because they are routinely paying more than $100 for a full tank of gas. Wonderful.

An elected official, whose annual salary is just shy of $200,000, is driving a car that cost more than most Americans make in a year that the taxpayers probably pay for her to use, thinks high gas prices aren’t a problem because she doesn’t have to pay them anymore. That’s the kind of leadership that causes politicians to lose their heads.


Biden’s New Year Of Living Dangerously

By Richard A. EpsteiinHoover Institution

In the period since President Joe Biden marked his hundredth day in office, his popularity as president has tumbled about thirteen points from the mid–50 percent range to the low 40s. The most precipitous drop occurred in late summer 2021, around the time of the Afghanistan debacle. Although it is easy to explain why Biden continues to lose the trust of a majority of Americans, at year’s end he retains the support of a significant minority who still endorse his basic worldview and think that casting further aspersions on Donald Trump will somehow deflect attention from Biden’s own record.

Going into 2022, that deflection will not work. Biden is likely to lose his precarious control over both the Senate and the House unless he can confront and correct his hapless record of misguided priorities. Start with his self-inflicted Afghan meltdown and its repercussions. Before September 1, 2021, there was no reason for the United States to cut and run in Afghanistan. The heavy losses were in the past. Troop levels were low (around 2,500). Casualties were even lower: zero. A coordinated strategy was in place for the Afghans to take the military lead. Biden was consumed by his desire to score political points by pulling out before the symbolic date of September 11, 2021, even though the Taliban were not holed up in their winter caves but were still active in the field. When Biden cut off supplies and logistics, the Afghan army folded. Now, after the Taliban takeover, the risk of starvation, religious intolerance, and subordination and degradation of women are the order of the day.

Biden might describe this debacle as a “success” but it is turning out to be the opening round of a further array of setbacks in other areas. No ally can trust him fully. No foreign aggressor need fear that a strategic Biden pulled out of Afghanistan to save scarce military assets for use in other dangerous theaters. If anything, more resources must now be devoted to the Middle East as Iran, Russia, and Turkey—all with severe problems of internal stability­—regard Biden as an easy mark to be toyed with rather than a serious adversary to be avoided. And so, look forward to further Russian incursions in Ukraine and intensified activities in remote places like Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, where US Secretary of State Antony Blinken finds it difficult to tell friend from foe. China’s aggressive intentions toward Taiwan are also fueled in part by Biden’s squeamish attitude.

Given these hostile developments, some expansion of military forces, especially naval and air, seems to be imperative, but Biden is more concerned with long-term climate change and a dangerous flirtation with woke politics in the military. The Defense Department’s bold words on our national preparedness are belied by the 1.6 percent budget increase, a below-inflation increase, which is likely to cause systematic programmatic delays that go hand-in-hand with increased tensions across multiple theaters.

Similarly, Biden’s energy policy reflects systematic presidential overreach, starting with his opening day executive order that unilaterally revoked the permit for the long-overdue Keystone XL pipeline. That decision was an open affront to our Canadian allies, who are far less likely to put their trust in the United States going forward. But more important, it was the first step in the president’s concerted plan to slow-walk the continued development of US fossil fuel sources, relying on the vain hope that increased production of wind and solar will somehow offset those hefty losses. But when the shortages start to set in and the gas prices go up, Biden engages in a “grand” strategic gesture to release some fifty million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum reserve, which will cover less than three days of domestic supply. At the same time, he issues his marching orders to the FTC to investigate the oil companies for alleged price fixing, only to find oil prices dropping shortly thereafter.

Biden’s initial energy blunders have led to further adverse consequences. His appeal to OPEC and others to increase the output of crude oil to offset shortages in the domestic production have fallen on deaf ears. Worse, Biden might well adopt suggestions from Senator Elizabeth Warren to ban or cut back on foreign exports, which could only make matters worse, in part, by slowing down the replacement of dirtier coal with cleaner natural gas. Any export ban would also lead to a decline in domestic production overall, idling refining capacity. These two factors in combination could lead to job and revenue losses, as dirtier foreign energy displaces cleaner domestic production. Biden’s first priority should be to unleash, not stifle, domestic activity.

Nonetheless, Biden has doubled down on his anti-fossil-fuel policies. His misnamed Build Back Better (BBB) program contains a long list of taxes, fees, and regulations that are intended to stifle the production of fossil fuels, which compounds the energy market distortions created by offering a dizzying array of subsidies for solar and wind. These latter sources are not the pollution-free solutions that they are often advertised to be, including, for example, the deforestation in the Philippines in order to mine the larger quantities of nickel needed by solar power systems. Yet Biden is strangely unaware of the downside to alternative energy sources and thus has plunged forward with his recent “Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability.” His program targets zero-emissions programs for electricity generation, automobile fleets, and physical plants. His order does not make the slightest effort to put a cost estimate to the program or to make the elementary calculation on whether a higher rate of return can be achieved through greater efficiency in fossil-fuel production. His program purports to set federal policy for “a carbon-pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050,” which both sidesteps Congress on the one side and seeks to bind future presidents and future Congresses on the other. Ironically, Biden thinks he can achieve savings “through use of full lifecycle cost methodologies”—the case with nickel could easily point against wind and solar.

Furthermore, although the particular impact of this program on the overall economy is unclear at best, nothing in his executive decree addresses the level of inflation, which reached 6.8 percent in November 2021. The Democratic faithful, such as John Cassidy of the New Yorker, spin a happy tale that the crux of the difficulty lies in a combination of supply chain problems and the COVID pandemic, so that when these quiet down, inflation can subside to its former 2 percent level. But Biden is not wise to pin too much hope on this theory, which rids his administration of responsibility even as it battles its own ill-conceived COVID policies, including the increasingly unpopular vaccine mandates being clobbered in the courts. Rather, the large increases in money supply, spurred by government spending and the purchase activities of the Federal Reserve, are key parts of the inflation story.

The biggest inflationary threat comes from the combination of taxation, public expenditures, and regulations associated with “Build Back Better.” At this point, it looks as though that new bill will not make it past the Senate, which Biden should regard as a blessing in disguise. He can then campaign on the platform that our current economic woes were intensified by the failure of the Senate to engage in much-needed public investment, while breathing a sigh of relief that matters did not get any worse.

But they can. A quick look at trade policy suggests how matters can unravel with another round of government meddling. The strongest rap against Donald Trump was the constant fear that his meddling in international markets could lead to trade wars and dangerous protectionism. But now the Biden administration has moved into a protectionist stance, including gratuitous spats with Canada (yet again) over a proposed tariff increase on Canadian softwood lumber, which will only slow down growth in the domestic construction industry. Biden has lost sight of the central principle of trade policy, which is never to arrange tariffs for concentrated domestic industries; the high costs will hurt consumers and export markets that depend on the use of cheaper inputs to remain competitive in markets. 

It is therefore no surprise that Biden finds voters pessimistic about both his limited leadership capabilities on the one hand, and his economic policies on the other. Candidate Biden ran on bold promises that helped get him elected. But President Biden has fallen short. Almost a year remains for him to set his house in order in time for the congressional elections, but he shows little inclination to become more moderate, rendering it all the more likely that on the day of reckoning he will have little personal esteem or political support.


Mariner East charges point to public office activism

By George LandrithDaily Local News

In his final attempt to torpedo Pennsylvania’s Mariner East II Pipeline, now-former Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan filed criminal charges last month against security contractors hired to secure pipeline construction sites. Sadly, the accusations are merely another publicity stunt in the DA’s crusade to upend the permitted project rather than an honest effort to serve the public. Pennsylvanians deserve better than this kind of gamesmanship that puts political agendas ahead of residents’ welfare.

The charges accuse several security personnel employed by Mariner East of paying state constables to provide security for the pipeline during construction. The constables’ authority, Mr. Hogan alleges, was used as a “weapon” to “intimidate citizens.” But the facts of the situation tell a different story—one that when coupled with the DA’s record of claims against the Mariner East point a finger back at Mr. Hogan for politicizing his public office.

It’s not uncommon for businesses of all industries to employ private security. That’s especially true for energy developers and operators, who regularly hire personnel to not only protect their investments, but also to ensure individuals are not inadvertently injured by equipment or ongoing construction around infrastructure sites.

Long before the Mariner East developers contracted the security personnel now under scrutiny, they consulted local law enforcement about the possibility of using state constables. Those authorities raised no concerns. And it’s hard to imagine why they would.

Pipelines have become targets for environmental extremists, and reports of sabotage and other criminal activities against energy infrastructure have grown in recent years. In fact, one disgruntled Central Pennsylvania landowner even lured bears to pipeline work sites, set fires near equipment, and harassed workers in an unlawful attempt to halt the pipeline. Another group admitted to sabotaging equipment in Southeast Pennsylvania. It’s a sad reality that pipeline operators often need extra security to prevent senseless attacks, and based on past criminal activity, it’s necessary for the Mariner East builders to take additional precautions.

It’s also important to understand the function of Pennsylvania’s constables. Like a sheriff, a constable is an elected or appointed position in the executive branch of government. Primarily, they serve at the direction of the courts to issue summons and warrants and the like, but they are fully empowered to enforce both criminal and civil laws.

Unlike most law enforcement officials, constables do not receive a set salary. They are compensated by assignment at rates established by state law. As public peace officers, constables are employed by a third party—never directly, as a security guard would be. In that way, Mariner East’s situation is not unusual: The developer hired a private contractor to secure the construction sites. The contractor then enlisted the support of state constables.

John-Walter Weiser and Philip Intrieri, the president and the solicitor of the Commonwealth Constable Association, respectively, recently called out the absurdity of the Chester County DA’s claims. “It is frankly offensive to accuse a constable of ‘selling his badge,’ when he is only operating under a fee-driven system he did not create, and which is intended to save our tax dollars,” Weiser and Intrieri wrote last month. “Filing felony charges of law when that law is unclear is a grievous abuse of power.”

It’s impossible to reconcile the precautions taken to add extra security around the Mariner East Pipeline with the charges now being leveled. Instead, the evidence points to a pattern of abuse of public office to wage an ideological campaign against midstream energy infrastructure. Mr. Hogan has criticized Mariner East of environmental crimes and has promised that other charges are “coming down the line.” In his statement announcing the most recent allegations, Mr. Hogan goes so far as to accuse Governor Wolf of being “asleep at the wheel.” All this was said and done as Mr. Hogan was leaving office.

The DA’s attacks against the Mariner East Pipeline seem to peel back the true motives behind these latest charges—which are to derail energy infrastructure deployment in Pennsylvania. But these accusations are too serious for residents to accept as politics as usual. As Hogan’s successor Deborah Ryan takes office, it is critical that Pennsylvanians are afforded an open debate about the Commonwealth’s energy security—not policy by litigation that, apparently, will readily sacrifice those who find themselves on the wrong side of the agenda of those in power.


A slippery slope in bringing criminal charges in pipeline probe

By George LandrithDaily Times

Pipeline
The Mariner East pipeline traverses both Chester and Delaware counties.
SUBMITTED PHOTO

In his final attempt to torpedo Pennsylvania’s Mariner East 2 pipeline, now-former Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan filed criminal charges against security contractors hired to secure pipeline construction sites. Sadly, the accusations are merely another publicity stunt in the D.A.’s crusade to upend the permitted project rather than an honest effort to serve the public. Pennsylvanians deserve better than this kind of gamesmanship that puts political agendas ahead of residents’ welfare.

The charges accuse several security personnel employed by Mariner East of paying state constables to provide security for the pipeline during construction. The constables’ authority, Mr. Hogan alleges, was used as a “weapon” to “intimidate citizens.” But the facts of the situation tell a different story – one that when coupled with the D.A.’s record of claims against the Mariner East point a finger back at Mr. Hogan for politicizing his public office.

It’s not uncommon for businesses of all industries to employ private security. That’s especially true for energy developers and operators, who regularly hire personnel to not only protect their investments, but also to ensure individuals are not inadvertently injured by equipment or ongoing construction around infrastructure sites.

Long before the Mariner East developers contracted the security personnel now under scrutiny, they consulted local law enforcement about the possibility of using state constables. Those authorities raised no concerns. And it’s hard to imagine why they would.

Pipelines have become targets for environmental extremists, and reports of sabotage and other criminal activities against energy infrastructure have grown in recent years. In fact, one disgruntled central Pennsylvania landowner even lured bears to pipeline work sites, set fires near equipment, and harassed workers in an unlawful attempt to halt the pipeline. Another group admitted to sabotaging equipment in southeast Pennsylvania. It’s a sad reality that pipeline operators often need extra security to prevent senseless attacks, and based on past criminal activity, it’s necessary for the Mariner East builders to take additional precautions.

It’s also important to understand the function of Pennsylvania’s constables. Like a sheriff, a constable is an elected or appointed position in the executive branch of government. Primarily, they serve at the direction of the courts to issue summons and warrants and the like, but they are fully empowered to enforce both criminal and civil laws.

Unlike most law enforcement officials, constables do not receive a set salary. They are compensated by assignment at rates established by state law. As public peace officers, constables are employed by a third party – never directly, as a security guard would be. In that way, Mariner East’s situation is not unusual: The developer hired a private contractor to secure the construction sites. The contractor then enlisted the support of state constables.

John-Walter Weiser and Philip Intrieri, the president and the solicitor of the Commonwealth Constable Association, respectively, recently called out the absurdity of the Chester County D.A.’s claims. “It is frankly offensive to accuse a constable of ‘selling his badge,’ when he is only operating under a fee-driven system he did not create, and which is intended to save our tax dollars,” Weiser and Intrieri wrote last month. “Filing felony charges of law when that law is unclear is a grievous abuse of power.”

It’s impossible to reconcile the precautions taken to add extra security around the Mariner East Pipeline with the charges now being leveled. Instead, the evidence points to an ideological campaign against midstream energy infrastructure. Mr. Hogan has criticized Mariner East and has promised that other charges are “coming down the line.” In his statement announcing the most recent allegations, Mr. Hogan goes so far as to accuse Gov. Tom Wolf of being “asleep at the wheel.” All this was said and done as Mr. Hogan was leaving office.

The D.A.’s attacks against the Mariner East Pipeline seem to peel back the true motives behind these latest charges – which are to derail energy infrastructure deployment in Pennsylvania. But these accusations are too serious for residents to accept as politics as usual. As Hogan’s successor Deborah Ryan takes office, it is critical that Pennsylvanians are afforded an open debate about the Commonwealth’s energy security – not policy by litigation that, apparently, will readily sacrifice those who find themselves on the wrong side of the agenda of those in power.


When Normality Became Abnormal

By Victor Davis HansonAmerican Greatness

Donald Trump is many things. But one thing he is not is a defender of the 2009-2016 status quo and accepted progressive convention. Since 2017, everything has been in flux. Lots of past conventional assumptions of the Obama-Clinton-Romney-Bush generation were as unquestioned as they were suspect. No longer.

Everyone knew the Iran deal was a way for the mullahs to buy time and hoard their oil profits, to purchase or steal nuclear technology, to feign moderation, and to trade some hostages for millions in terrorist-seeding cash, and then in a few years spring an announcement that it had the bomb.

No one wished to say that. Trump did. He canceled the flawed deal without a second thought.

Iran is furious, but in a far weaker—and eroding—strategic position with no serious means of escaping devastating sanctions, general impoverishment, and social unrest. So a desperate Tehran knows that it must make some show of defiance. Yet it accepts that if it were to launch a missile at a U.S. ship, hijack an American boat, or shoot down an American plane, the ensuing tit-for-tat retaliation might target the point of Iranian origin (the port that launched the ship, the airbase from which the plane took off, the silo from which the missile was launched) rather than the mere point of contact—and signal a serial stand-off 10-1 disproportionate response to every Iranian attack without ever causing a Persian Gulf war.

Everyone realized the Paris Climate Accord was a way for elites to virtue signal their green bona fides while making no adjustments in their global managerial lifestyles—at best. At worst, it was a shake-down both to transfer assets from the industrialized West to the “developing world” and to dull Western competitiveness with ascending rivals like India and China. Not now. Trump withdrew from the agreement, met or exceeded the carbon emissions reductions of the deal anyway, and has never looked back at the flawed convention. The remaining signatories have little response to the U.S. departure, and none at all to de facto American compliance to their own targeted goals.

Rich NATO allies either could not or would not pay their promised defense commitments to the alliance. To embarrass them into doing so was seen as heretical. No more.

Trump jawboned and ranted about the asymmetries. And more nations are increasing rather than decreasing their defense budgets. The private consensus is that the NATO allies knew all along that they were exactly what Barack Obama once called “free riders” and justified that subsidization by ankle-biting the foreign policies of the United States—as if an uncouth America was lucky to underwrite such principled members. Again, no more fantasies.

China was fated to rule the world. Period. Whining about its systematic commercial cheating was supposedly merely delaying the inevitable or would have bad repercussions later on. Progressives knew the Communists put tens of thousands of people in camps, rounded up Muslims, and destroyed civil liberties, and yet in “woke” fashion tip-toed around criticizing the Other. Trump then destroyed the mirage of China as a Westernizing aspirant to the family of nations. In a protracted tariff struggle, there are lots of countries in Asia that could produce cheap goods as readily as China, but far fewer countries like the United States that have money to be siphoned off in mercantilist trade deals, or the technology to steal, or the preferred homes and universities in which to invest.

The Palestinians were canonized as permanent refugees. The U.S. embassy could never safely move to the Israeli capital in Jerusalem. The Golan Heights were Syrian. Only a two-state solution requiring Israel to give back all the strategic border land it inherited when its defeated enemies sought to destroy it in five prior losing wars would bring peace. Not now.

The Palestinians for the last 50 years were always about as much refugees as the East Prussian Germans or the Egyptian Jews and Greeks that were cleansed from their ancestral homelands in the Middle East in the same period of turbulence as the birth of Israel. “Occupied” land more likely conjures up Tibet and Cyprus not the West Bank, and persecuted Muslims are not found in Israel, but in China.

Suddenly Redeemable
An aging population, the veritable end to U.S. manufacturing and heavy industry, and an opioid epidemic meant that America needed to get used to stagnant 1 percent growth, a declining standard of living, a permanent large pool of the unemployed, an annual increasing labor non-participation rate, and a lasting rust belt of deplorables, irredeemables, clingers and “crazies” who needed to be analyzed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. At best, a middle-aged deplorable was supposed to learn to code or relocate to the Texas fracking fields. Perhaps not now.

In the last 30 months, the question of the Rust Belt has been reframed to why, with a great workforce, cheap energy, good administrative talent, and a business-friendly administration, cannot the United States make more of what it needs? Why, if trade deficits are irrelevant, do Germany, China, Japan, and Mexico find them so unpleasant? If unfettered trade is so essential, why do so many of our enemies and friends insist that we almost alone trade “fairly,” while they trade freely and unfairly? Why do not Germany and China argue that their vast global account surpluses are largely irrelevant?

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) assured us that the world would be suffocating under greenhouse gases within 12 years. Doom-and-gloom prophecies of “peak” oil warned us that our oil reserves would dry up by the early 21st century. Former Vice President Al Gore warned us that our port cities would soon be underwater. Economists claimed Saudi Arabia or Russia would one day control the world by opening and closing their oil spigots. Not now.

Three million more barrels of American oil are being produced per day just since Trump took office. New pipelines will ensure that the United States is not just the world’s greatest producer of natural gas but perhaps its largest exporter as well.

Trump blew up those prognostications and replaced them with an optimistic agenda that the working- and middle classes deserve affordable energy, that the United States could produce fossil fuels more cleanly, wisely, and efficiently than the Middle East, and that ensuring increased energy could revive places in the United States that were supposedly fossilized and irrelevant. Normal is utilizing to the fullest extent a resource that can discourage military adventurism in the Middle East, provide jobs to the unemployed, and reduce the cost of living for the middle class; abnormal is listening to the progressive elite for whom spiking gasoline and power bills were a very minor nuisance.

Changing Roles
Open borders were our unspoken future. The best of the Chamber of Commerce Republicans felt that millions of illegal aliens might eventually break faith with the progressive party of entitlements; the worst of the open borders lot argued that cheap labor was more important than sovereignty and certainly more in their interests than any worry over the poor working classes of their own country. And so Republicans for the last 40 years joined progressives in ensuring that illegal immigration was mostly not measured, meritocratic, diverse, or lawful, but instead a means to serve a number of political agendas.

Most Americans demurred, but kept silent given the barrage of “racist,” “xenophobe,” and “nativist” cries that met any measured objection. Not so much now. Few any longer claim that the southern border is not being overrun, much less that allowing a non-diverse million illegal aliens in six months to flood into the United States without audit is proof that “diversity is our strength.”

The Republican Party’s prior role was to slow down the inevitable trajectory to European socialism, the end of American exceptionalism, and homogenized globalized culture. Losing nobly in national elections was one way of keeping one’s dignity, weepy wounded-fawn style, while the progressive historical arc kept bending to our collective future. Rolling one’s eyes on Sunday talk shows as a progressive outlined the next unhinged agenda was proof of tough resistance.

Like it or not, now lines are drawn. Trump so unhinged the Left that it finally tore off its occasional veneer of moderation, and showed us what progressives had in store for America.

On one side in 2020 is socialism, “Medicare for All,” wealth taxes, top income tax rates of 70 or 80 or 90 percent, a desire for a Supreme Court of full of “wise Latinas” like Sonia Sotomayor, insidious curtailment of the First and Second Amendments, open borders, blanket amnesties, reparations, judges as progressive legislators, permissible infanticide, abolition of student debt, elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau and the Electoral College, voting rights for 16-year-olds and felons, and free college tuition.

On the other side is free-market capitalism but within a framework of fair rather than unfettered international trade, a smaller administrative state, less taxation and regulation, constitutionalist  judges, more gas and oil, record low unemployment, 3-4 percent economic growth, and pressure on colleges to honor the Bill of Rights.

The New, New Normal
The choices are at least starker now. The strategy is not, as in 2008 and 2012, to offer a moderate slow-down of progressivism, but rather a complete repudiation of it.

One way is to see this as a collision between Trump, the proverbial bull, and the administrative state as a targeted precious china shop—with all the inevitable nihilistic mix-up of horns, hooves, and flying porcelain shards. But quite another is to conclude that what we recently used to think was abjectly abnormal twenty years ago had become not just “normal,” but so orthodoxly normal that even suggesting it was not was judged to be heretical and deserving of censure and worse.

The current normal correctives were denounced as abnormal—as if living in a sovereign state with secure borders, assuming that the law was enforced equally among all Americans, demanding that citizenship was something more than mere residence, and remembering that successful Americans, not their government, built their own businesses and lives is now somehow aberrant or perverse.

Trump’s political problem, then, may be that the accelerating aberration of 2009-2016 was of such magnitude that normalcy is now seen as sacrilege.

Weaponizing the IRS, unleashing the FBI to spy on political enemies and to plot the removal of an elected president, politicizing the CIA to help to warp U.S. politics, allying the Justice Department with the Democratic National Committee, and reducing FISA courts to rubber stamps for pursuing administration enemies became the new normal. Calling all that a near coup was abnormal.

Let us hope that most Americans still prefer the abnormal remedy to the normal pathology.


Commentary: Ethanol policy something to worry about

By Peter Roff • MY Journal Courier

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations that could dramatically ramp up the use of ethanol, a corn-based bio-fuel that can be blended into gasoline. That news was music to the ears of Iowa corn farmers.

But the rest of the country isn’t so pleased. A recent poll finds that more than 80 percent of voters are concerned the new policy will raise prices at the pump. And more than two-thirds think the ethanol expansion will harm their engines.

Americans are right to be alarmed. Ethanol is an expensive, environmentally hazardous fuel. The EPA’s new policy is a flagrant attempt by the Trump administration to buy the support of farmers — at huge expense to American consumers.

The EPA’s plan would lift restrictions on gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, a blend known as E15. At the moment, the sale of E15 is banned during the summer because the fuel generates more ozone than is permitted by the Clean Air Act.

But recently, President Trump instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin the process of legalizing year-round E15 sales.

The president found an E15 ally in Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

In many cases, E15 is dangerous. Roughly three-quarters of the cars on the road today weren’t built to use E15, and could be seriously damaged if forced to run on the fuel.

E15 might even harm engines that have just rolled off the line. Many prominent automotive brands — including BMW, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Volvo — have model-year 2018 cars that aren’t equipped to handle the fuel. Some automakers have warned drivers that filling up with E15 could be grounds for voiding their vehicles’ warranties.

The fuel is also useless for motorcycles and boats, as well as lawnmowers and other outdoor equipment.

Pushing more E15 into the market will inevitably lead to costly engine damage for Americans who mistakenly assume that this government-mandated fuel is actually safe to use.

This isn’t the only way in which E15 is a bad deal for consumers. Since ethanol contains only a third of the energy of gasoline, motorists who fill up with E15 can expect to get far fewer miles to the gallon — forcing them to fill up more often.

Ethanol was developed to be a clean-burning alternative to other fossil fuels. But ironically, it actually poses a grave threat to the environment. Over a 30-year period, the net emissions from ethanol are 28 percent higher than emissions from gasoline, according to the Clean Air Task Force. One Princeton University researcher warns ethanol’s true emissions are even higher. He estimates bio-fuels emit twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as gasoline over three decades.

Ethanol proponents often argue the bio-fuel is necessary for America’s energy independence. But today, Americans already have an abundant supply of domestic, clean, low-cost fuel. Thanks to improved drilling techniques such as fracking, the country is producing historic levels of both oil and natural gas. Natural gas in particular burns far cleaner than coal, propane or gasoline. Major automakers are already designing vehicles to run on the fuel.

The president seems intent on forcing consumers to buy a costly, inefficient, environmentally damaging fuel unsuitable for most vehicles. It’s no wonder that the policy has raised a red flag with so many voters. Their concerns are more than justified. Americans deserve an energy policy that serves the country’s needs — and not the narrow interests of corn-growers.

Peter Roff is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.


Consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change effects in NEPA Reviews

Marlo Lewis Competitive Enterprise Institute and Free Market Allies Comment Letter on NEPA GHG Guidance Document 73-1

Continue reading


Debunking the Anti-Fracking Fearmongers

by Alex B. Berezow     •     RealClearScience

frackingWorld events have made it quite clear to most Americans that we should develop more of our own energy sources. Reducing our reliance on foreign oil by exploiting the natural gas under our feet is not only smart foreign policy but also smart environmental policy: Natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil, and it has already lowered our CO2 emissions. Natural gas is a win for America and the planet.

But not according to anti-technology environmentalists, who have made all sorts of wild, unsubstantiated claims about the supposed harms of fracking. Three claims in particular are worth examining: (1) Fracking causes a dangerous leakage of methane into drinking water; (2) Fracking causes earthquakes; and (3) Fracking chemicals contaminate drinking water. Continue reading


Embracing Flat Earth Science… and Economics

by Clark S. Judgeflat-earth

This past week, President Obama joined the Flat Earth Society.

That’s not how he put it, of course. Just the opposite. He said, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” i.e. those not prepared to join him in embracing radical anti-fossil fuel policies.

Put another way, he meant forget about Congress. Congress has repeatedly rejected legislation to authorize what Mr. Obama announced yesterday he would do anyway, essentially by decree. For example, the administration backed a cap and trade bill in 2010. Designed to limit the use of coal and oil, it was so unpopular in that year’s overwhelmingly Democratic Congress that Majority Leader Harry Reid ultimately withdrew it. The issue was not overcoming a filibuster. Reid knew that the bill would have lost an up and down vote on the Senate floor. Continue reading


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