Monday, May 31, 2010

Honoring the Fallen

We don't enjoy our liberties because a group of enlightened patriots crafted a Constitution.  We enjoy our liberties because a group of brave patriots have been willing to give everything for them.  On this day, we honor those people and offer them our eternal gratitude.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Why we will (probably) never run out of oil

A lot of ink has been spilled (and bandwidth eaten) over a looming prospect that neither we nor generations of our descendents will ever witness--the day we run out of oil.  Yes, petroleum is a fossil fuel and exists in a finite quantity.  But, doing simple math of estimating reserves, estimating consumption over time and coming up with some ominous date in the future does no one any good at all. Either the oil doom-and-gloom crowd don't understand basic economic principles, or they understand them quite well and they don't think a peasant like you is nuanced enough to understand.

This blog post is going to help one side or the other, and I have a lot more faith in you than I do  them.

The Bama Oil & Exploration Company, Inc.

Let's say I'm digging a well in my backyard because I'm tired of paying the water company all that extra dough to fill my pool, water my garden, wash my cars and spray the kids down.  About 150 feet down, the drilling rig breaks through a layer of rock and finds something.  But it's not an aquifer--it's a reservoir of light, sweet Alabama crude. I am now an Oil Man.

Big Oil sends a team of geologists and oil production experts out, and they estimate that my field has about 13 million barrels of reserves, and that given today's production technology, about 10 million barrels can be brought to the surface at a rate of about 1 million barrels each year.  At today's spot price of about $70 a barrel, Bama Oil & Exploration is worth about $700 million.  I won't have to worry about the extra dough for pool filling and kid spraying, after all.

After about five years of production, geological and other estimating technologies have improved, and it turns out that there were really about 17 million barrels down there, and there are 12 million left.   And, technology has improved a great deal in just the last five years.  Instead of achieving 77% production rates, rates are now around 88%, meaning I have about 10-1/2 million barrels left.

We've been producing in the same field for five years, and we still have the same amount of oil down there than we thought we'd started with! 

What the doom-and-gloom crown don't tell you about is the economic concept of production possibilities, time and the effect technological change has on production.  This is not an oil only concept.  It applies in every market.

I'm an economist, so I can't have a discussion on economics without a chart.  To the right is what's called the Production Possibilities Curve.  The vertical axis, C, represents capital (plant, equipment, etc).  The horizontal axis, L, represents labor. Any point on the one of the curved lines represents a mix of capital and labor that produces the same quantity of a good or service.  It doesn't matter if the good or service is oil, gas, coal, legal services, cars, buildings, widgets, software or blog posts--substituting more labor for capital will not increase production any more than substituting more capital for labor.  Certain industries, like oil production, are very capital intensive.  Oil producers spend hundreds of billions of dollars on capital but don't spend as much on labor.  Conversely, legal services are labor intensive.  What this means is that most industries have mixes of capital and labor that are defined by the nature of the industry itself, rather than the decisions of the producer.  The producer may fiddle a little here and there with the mix, but his or her industry most likely determines the general neighborhood of the mix.

What the producer will not do is produce an amount that falls to the left or below the curve.  The profit motive causes the producer to add more capital and labor until the curve is reached.

What the producer cannot do is produce an amount that falls to the right or above the curve, and the limit is imposed by the state of technology at the time the production commences.  This is important to understand.  The production possibilities chart I have presented here shows two curves--one for period t and one for period t+1.  As a result of the growth of technology between the two time periods, the same mix of capital and labor is capable of producing a greater quantity. Only a change in technology can cause the entire curve to shift out and up (conversely, only external intervention in the market can cause the entire curve to shift in and down, but that's a blog post for another day).  And, technology tends to have a larger impact on capital-intensive industries than labor-intensive industries, because technology tends to affect the productivity of capital more than it does the productivity of labor.  That is, more efficient capital tends to make labor more efficient, but more efficient labor has a much more limited effect on the productivity of capital.

I will assume you agree that if the price of something increases, producers are willing to produce more of it.  And, that if the price of something increases enough, producers are willing to develop new technologies to produce more quantities more efficiently.

Going back to Bama Oil & Exploration Company's field: given the relationship between the reserves we have in the ground and the rate of production at which we can operate, we can generate another chart--depicting a production decline curve.  On the vertical axis, Q, we show the quantity of oil in the ground.  On the horizontal axis, T, we show time.  Again there are two curves shown in the chart, one for each time period in which the estimate is made.  Over the life of the well (or the field), we estimate the amount of product remaining given an average production rate.  But notice that the curves are concave, meaning that the production rate is horizontally asymptotic.  As time increases, the rate of production slows at a decreasing rate. That represents the fact that extraction and production technology increase over time, such that a fixed relationship between reserves in the ground and current production rates does not exist.  This is one of the things that the doom-and-gloom crowd don't tell you:

As the price of oil increases over time, extraction technology improves, such that our ability to produce oil from a known reserve increases vis-a-vis production estimates made during previous time periods.

There is another factor at play here as well.  Increases in technology also have the effect of improving our ability to find, analyze and estimate the amount of oil in the ground.  This is the second thing that the doom-and-gloom crowd don't tell you:

As the price of oil increases over time, the technology for exploration, analysis and estimation for reserves improves, such that our ability to identify economically productive reserves increases vis-a-vis estimates made during previous time periods.

These are two demonstrable facts associated with petroleum production.  While oil is a finite resource, the truth is we really don't know how much we have left.  We have estimates, but those estimates are made using a set of technologies and assumptions that will not be in place tomorrow.  And, while production rates today are greater than they were just a few years ago, the estimated rate of production is again based on a set of technologies and assumptions that won't apply a few years hence.

There is a third factor involved which needs no chart at all.  As oil prices increase, alternative energy technologies that are not cost effective today will become more cost effective tomorrow, especially as (you guessed it) the technology to develop and deploy them improve.  And this brings us to the third thing that the doom-and-gloom crowd don't tell you:

As the price of oil increases over time, alternative energy sources become more feasible economically, such that the demand for oil increases at a decreasing rate, causing further revisions of estimates regarding demand, production and available reserves.

If you ever find yourself in a debate regarding the future of fossil fuels, I hope you'll use these three points.  Tell your friends or opponents that technology improves our ability to find new sources of oil; that technology improves our ability to squeeze every last drop out of the reserves; that rising prices make other energy technologies more feasible and that because of all this, we will probably never run out of oil.

Or coal.

Or natural gas.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birnbaum goes under the bus

On Thursday, President Obama fired Elizabeth Birnbaum, the woman he selected to head up the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service.  MMS is the agency responsible for regulatory oversight of offshore oil and drilling and production.

Like her boss, prior to being put in charge of a large, complex organization with many employees and very serious responsibilities, Ms. Birnbaum had absolutely no management experience, whatsoever.  She was however, a very ardent and diligent environmental activist.

From 1987 through to 1991 she served as counsel for the National Wildlife Federation's Water Resources Program. Impressive management training there huh sports fans?

From 1991 to 1999 she was counsel for the House Committee on Natural Resources, where she handled really hard management stuff, including duties such as legislation writing and oversight activities for the U.S. Forest Service.

For the next two years, she did actually have a supervisory job. Kind of. She was Associate Solicitor for Mineral Resources from 2000 to 2001, where she "managed" a staff of several lawyers providing legal advice and litigation services for MMS.

From 2001-2007, she was Vice President for Government Affairs and General Counsel for American Rivers, and from 2007 until her appointment to head MMS in 2009, she was the staff director for the Committee on House Administration, where she oversaw really, really hard stuff like strategic planning for the agencies that serve the legislative branch. Architect of the Capital, House Historian... You know, important jobs that affect the lives and livelihoods of millions.

I'm sure Ms. Birnbaum is a nice, professional and well-meaning lady. I bear no ill will to her personally. But do you see anything in this resume that qualified her to head up an agency with the responsibilities of MMS?

UPDATE: Birnmbaum Bio

Extra Point: What are the chances Ms. Birnbaum lands a job in either the energy or the environmental litigation sectors?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon Incident - A Timeline

This post has been moved to a stand alone page on this blog site.

Please go here.

Alabama Politics and Alabama Football!

This is that deliciously rare opportunity I get to write a blog post covering my two favorite subjects--politics and Alabama football.  In his weekly sports column for the Mobile Press-Register, writer and syndicated talk-show host Paul Finebaum explains a firestorm of controversy over alleged comments by Republican gubernatorial hopeful, Tim James:

Last Friday, a rumor started floating around that James had blasted Alabama coach Nick Saban at a campaign stop. There were variations on the rumor, one of which had James using a pejorative in front of Saban's name. The other simply said he would cut Saban's nearly $5 million a year salary. Two people told me they heard the comments but the candidate was clearly joking.

The mere mention of the possibility, whether James was joking or not, had tongues wagging and phones melting down on radio talk shows. But before the conversation ever left the earth's atmosphere, James turned a mild tempest in a teapot into a nuclear war -- at least on the most commonly traveled highways where politics and sports intersect.

Finebaum explains that James, like his father and former Governor, Fob James, both went to and played football for Auburn University, Bama's in-state rival (yes, Auburn is actually inside the state of Alabama).  He also notes that James' chief primary candidate, Bradley Byrne, obtained his Master's Degree from Alabama.

Notwithstanding the fact that James, as Governor, has virtually no power over who state university athletic programs hire as coaches, the fact that James is a self-proclaimed "Auburn man" is reason enough for Alabama fans to view his candidacy with suspicion.  You see, in this state--football is not a sport, it is a religion.  Each fall, the athletic equivalent of jihad is declared between two fanbases and emotions don't settle down until sometime in January.

Finebaum makes note of the fact that James committed two mistakes in handling this:  One, he repeated the rumor on Twitter in the process of denying it, thus giving it legs and a longer life in the news cycle and two, whoever posted the denial tweet blamed it on Byrne, a Bama man.  But what Finebaum didn't point out was the fact that public opinion surveys conducted each fall show that Alabama isn't just a red state, it's a "Crimson Red State."  Polling started in the late 1980's and is usually conducted in the week leading up to the annual showdown called the Iron Bowl.  While the Iron Bowl rivalry is a fairly close one on the field (Bama holds a 40-33-1 edge in the series), the rivalry for public support isn't close at all.  Alabama fans routinely outpoll Auburn fans by large margins, from 37-23 in the late 1980's to a nearly two-to-one edge, 64-33, in the late 2000's.

This means that, not only was James joke and denial an 11th hour mistake, it was a mistake that could cost James in the polls.  The primary field for the Alabama Governor's mansion is crowded and most likely headed for a runoff.  James' internal polling showed him with a slim lead last month and other public polling shows a very tight race.  Byrne, the Bama man, is the establishment choice in the race, while James is the maverick with stronger Tea Party support.

I'm going with James in the primary next Tuesday.  I believe the crack really was a joke and I really don't care if a junior staffer manning the Twitter account doesn't understand the sensitivity of how that thing can play out.  Byrne is a good candidate and should he win the primary, I'll throw my support to him.

But if James wins the primary and goes on to beat likely Democrat candidate Artur Davis, I and many other Bama fans will keep a close eye on that Barner.  

Extra Point: Current Alabama Governor Bob Riley -- Bama grad.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Tea Party Target

A month ago last week, I wrote the following in a blog post about the left's fear of the Tea Party movement:

Many observers have opined on the Tea Party movement's loose organization. There really wasn't one clearly identifiable leader of the Tea Party. It was, and still is, mostly a conglomeration of local activists feeding off of the energy of one another. More importantly, the Tea Party is not a political party, per se. It has no national committee. It has no chairman, subcommittees or fundraising organization. Some groups have filed the paperwork to gain recognition as a party in some states, but there is no national effort to create a bona fide third party made up of Tea Party activists. That creates some challenges for the movement, as its amorphousness and lack of national organization makes it difficult for a single, easily communicated message to emerge.

With the selection of Rand Paul as the Republican nominee for the Kentucky Senate seat, things have changed.  Paul is the quintessential Tea Party darling.  His Libertarian views--while not as outre as those of his father--coincide with the movement's flavor of conservatism, and he beat the candidate favored by the GOP party establishment.  Libertarianism and anti-elitism are two strong currents within the Tea Party and Paul rode them right into the November general election.

But what has also changed is that the left, and its media co-conspirators, now have a target, a face if you will, upon which to train their guns.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure that Paul can avoid giving them all the ammunition they need to blow him out of the water.  Within 36 hours of securing the GOP nomination, Paul made two controversial comments to media interviewers.  In the first, he criticized the scope of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, saying that the law should not have reached so deeply into the private sector. In the second, he criticized the Obama regime's "boot on the throat of BP" treatment in regards to the Gulf Oil Spill.  Whether you agree with Paul on these issues or not (I strongly disagree on the first point; strongly agree on the second) it is clear that he has given opponents the opportunity to employ the left's tried-and-true method of using identity politics to isolate their targets and viciously attack them.

The left and the media wasted absolutely no time in launching their attacks, comparing Paul to Lester Maddox and mischaracterizing his comments about BP as a defense of the company. You can expect the left's stridency to increase in both breadth and intensity over the next five months or so.  Everything Paul has said will be scrutinized, taken out of context, and used to drive a negative image of the candidate.   He will get absolutely no benefit of the doubt, whatsoever.  If something he says sounds extreme, or if can be made to sound extreme, it will be.  The media will pounce on it, and the leftist pols will repeat the talking points in the print and broadcast media.  Paul's opponent in the race, Jack Conway, will be given all the airtime and bandwidth he needs to parrot the attacks.  It's inevitable--this is how the left has operated for decades.

What we can hope for is that somehow, Mr. Paul gets some practical advice from those with experience in handling the leftist assault vehicle.  He needs to remember that he is seeking to become the junior United States Senator from Kentucky.  He needs to stay off national television.  He needs to understand that the practicality and pragmatism needed for good government sometimes runs counter to ideology purity.  He needs to stop talking about abolishing entire cabinet-level departments until a large consensus can be developed on doing so.  And, he needs to stay on a message that convinces Kentuckians that, between Rand Paul and Jack Conway, Rand Paul is the best choice. 

Extra Point:  Conway is a well funded, articulate candidate and the 2004 Senate race was a nailbiter, with veteran Jim Bunning winning with 50.7% of the vote.  This race is competitive...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Let the record show...

Since the founding of the Department of Energy, what’s happened to domestic energy production?

Since the founding of the Department of Education, what’s happened to student test scores?

Since the founding of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, what’s happened to America’s cities and public housing?

Since the introduction of CAFÉ standards, what’s happened to domestic auto production?

Since the founding of the Department of Veterans Affairs, what's happened to our Veterans' services, especially medical and healthcare services?

Since the founding of the Department of Labor, what’s happened to American manufacturing jobs?

Medicare is broke.  Social Security nears bankruptcy.  Medicaid bleeds like an ulcer.

Since the founding of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), what happened to home mortgage credit markets?

Since the birth of the Johnson administration's “Great Society,” what’s happened to generational poverty?

Since the imposition of the “progressive income tax,” what’s happened to the wealth gap?

Since the founding of Health and Human Services, have Americans gotten healthier?  Do we exercise more?  What about Mrs. Obama's pet peeve, childhood obesity?

Have you stood in line at the US Post Office, recently?

How profitable is Amtrak?

Extra Point: Let the record show that Mr. Reagan was right: "Government is not the solution to our problem; Government is the problem."

Let'em Eat Cake!

One thing about the Obama regime--they really know how to throw a party, don't they?  Last night, they held a swanky state dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife, Margarita Zavala.  The dinner was prepared under the supervision of star guest chef Rick Bayless, who served up high-end Mexican cuisine on the Clinton china and the Eisenhower porcelain.  But the real throw-down came later:

"I know we just had a very formal dinner," Obama said as guests reassembled in a tent on the South Lawn for dessert and after-dinner entertainment. "But we heard that this was the place for the real party."

And party they did, to the music of guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela and then to the sounds of an artist whom Obama referred to as "somebody some of you may have heard of — named Beyonce." And, yes, her husband Jay-Z was in the house too.

Obama declared it his mission to get Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife, Margarita Zavala, out on the dance floor along with himself and first lady Michelle Obama. But reporters were ushered out before the after-party ever got to the dancing stage.

CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller tweeted this morning that the party went well into the night.

While the President, First Lady, Beyonce and Jay-Z partied it down, the Dept of Labor was preparing a ghoulishly bad report on jobless claims for the week ending May 14, bringing the media's most oft-used adverb back into play:

The number of workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance unexpectedly rose last week for the first time since early April, suggesting the labor market recovery has hit a stumbling block.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 471,000 in the week ended May 15, the highest level since the week ended April 10, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Why is this report so bad? Because it shows that last week's job losses wiped out virtually all of the recent progress the jobs market has made since early April. It is a major setback, because it shows that the jobs market really hasn't improved much at all since Obama pathetically promised a "laser-like focus" on jobs and economic recovery. In fact, analysis of the labor market shows that the weekly jobless claims data only represent "noise" along a trend of rising, not falling, unemployment. The economy may be growing, but the growth rate is ever so slight and there is absolutely no real good news for jobseekers.

But that doesn't stop the Teleprompter in Chief from throwing swanky parties for foreign dignitaries and joining those dignitaries in misrepresenting our individual state laws. The Obama regime doesn't care one whit about what's going on with the man on the street.  Our economy is not producing jobs because the administration won't reduce the burden on American businesses.  Instead, it has rammed through a $1+ trillion healthcare scheme whose surprises are still being found.  It has backed comprehensive financial "reform" that basically makes every company that hedges risk "a bank."  It repeatedly signals that higher taxes and more regulation will be floated.

And, while American business reduces uncertainty by scaling back or putting expansion on hold, the White House parties on, dude!  Let'em eat cake...

Extra Point:  Wait?  What?  Bayless served up Mexican food? Does that mean Calderon will return the favor with Wagyu burgers, should Obama make it a round trip?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tim Burns and the PA-12 "Perfect Storm"

There's no sugar-coating it--Tim Burns' grab at John Murtha's PA-12 House seat flamed out, and flamed out rather badly. Burns lost to Mark Critz in a special election held to fill out the remainder of Murtha's term, but won his party's primary election, which means he gets to face Critz--who also won his primary race--again in the general election on November 2.

But in the special election, Burns faced the perfect storm and hopes that he could upset Critz were misplaced. Here are the chips that were stacked against Burns last night:

  • The "big ticket" race in yesterday's primary and special election was the face-off between Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democrats' primary election for Senator. The GOP Senate primary "featured" Pat Toomey against Peg Luksik (who?). The Specter-Sestak clash attracted lots of Democrats to the polls.
  • PA-12 is a district where Democrats hold a nearly 2-to-1 edge in party registration over Republicans. When the marquis race in the state is a Democrat primary fight, it's no surprise which candidate was more likely to get his voters to the polls yesterday.
  • Critz ran a campaign that a GOP stalwart would be proud of. He ran as a pro-life, pro-gun fiscal conservative.  He claimed to support small business tax breaks, "targeted" tax cuts for the middle class and said he would have voted against Obamacare and opposed cap-and-trade.  It was a typical, "blue dog Democrat" campaign that wins lots of votes in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, rust belt states with economically populist but socially conservative electorates.
  •  Critz was a long-time aid for John Murtha, and had been a fixture in PA-12 since 1994.  Many people outside of the district wouldn't have known him well at all, but the voters in Johnstown, Uniontown and Latrobe.  Had Murtha retired instead of dying in office, he'd almost certainly have strongly endorsed Critz' candidacy.

But even against such a tide of difficulty, Tim Burns still managed to garner 45% of the vote, losing by 8 points.  Why is that significant? In the 2008 general election, Critz' old boss won by a 16-point margin of 58-42.  In 2006, it was 61-39.  Murtha was unopposed in 2004, but in 2002 we won 73-27.  In 2000, he won 71-29.  And so forth, and so on.  In fact, the only time Murtha was ever seriously challenged in a PA-12 election was a February 1974 special election when he won with 50% of the vote.

Burns' loss yesterday will be spun as a serious blow to GOP hopes of re-taking the House of Representatives in November.  Believing that is a mistake.  Burns now has the opportunity to evaluate strategy and tactics and address shortcomings over the next six months.  He pulled pretty high numbers in pre-election polls and had the best showing a Republican has had in that district in a generation.

Extra Point: Obligatory sports analogy--the rematch tends to favor the loser of the first battle because while the winner resists changing the "winning formula," the loser gets to try something new.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Weiner McCarthy-ing Goldline and Glenn Beck

Via JammieWearingFool.

This is truly pathetic. It ranks right up there with Chuck-U Schumer's rant against $25 carry on bag fees and Henry Waxman's trumped up "investigation" of companies announcing chargeoffs after Obamacare passed. But Weiner doesn't seem to think that Americans are very smart. I'm not a Goldline customer and only an occasional listener/viewer of Glenn Beck. I am however, quite conservative. Right-leaning talk radio listeners are among the most highly-educated and intelligent audiences in media.

I honestly don't know what Weiner hopes to gain from this little charade of his. The people who hate Glenn Beck and other conservative talkers sponsored by Goldline aren't going to hate them any less strongly than they already do, and the people who buy hard assets do it because they're willing buyers in an open market. If anything, stunts like this only drive more listeners and viewers to the subjects of the controversy, which increases ratings and draws more advertisers like Lear Capital, for example.

Extra Point: I'm hesitant to put money in any asset trading at or near its all-time high. It doesn't mean that it's not going higher, but if a global financial crisis does strike, the most likely event will be a flight to the safety of US dollar denominated assets. That would drive the dollar higher and could cause a bit of a gold bubble burst.

Congress needs to stop the Deepwater Horizon hearings

Would it be too much for Congress to hold off on all the damned hearings in Washington, DC?  Just for a little while, so that the senior leadership of BP, TransOcean and Halliburton can focus on getting the leak stopped?

Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, burned and sank last month, we've had hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittees on Oversight and Water and Wildlife, the full Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  Still to come are hearings before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.  That's just the seven hearings that I know of.  

The Obama regime didn't have its WTF moment and realize that they had a problem in the Gulf until eight days after the incident began.  Since his May 2 visit to Louisiana, his Democrat henchmen have scheduled no less than seven congressional hearings.  Each hearing is before a committee having different oversight responsibility, meaning a different set of questions and a different set of interrogators.  This makes the corporate senior leadership engage their staff to interview boots-on-the-ground crew chiefs and team leaders to gather information.  They have to prepare testimony and fact check their statements. Then the senior leadership and their staff have to travel to Washington, DC and sit under the lights.  

Assuming the senior leadership of the three companies are the best leaders the company has on the payroll, wouldn't it make sense to hold off on the interrogations until the damned well is capped off and the spill is cleaned up?  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oil Platforms in the Gulf of Mexico - Worth the Risk?

A lot is being written and said about offshore oil drilling and safety. Is it worth the risk? As a resident of the Gulf Coast, I've pretty much accepted the fact that oil and natural gas are important enough to the nation's economy and national security to warrant taking some risk. And, over the last three decades or so, there have been some instances. But when you look at the sheer number of assets in the Gulf, the number of incidents pales in comparison to what's being produced.

The map below shows the complete plot of all oil and gas drilling and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Not all of these are active, but every point represents a well, drilling rig, production platform or capped well.  There are approximately 4,300 points on the map.  If we included all locations drilled since recordkeeping began in the early 1970's, there would be approximately 6,600 locations.

Click the map image for a larger version.

From 1979 through the Deepwater Horizon incident, the Gulf of Mexico has witnessed five major oil spill events.

IXTOC, 1979
The first was the Ixtoc blowout, which is believed to be the largest accidental spill in history.  The well blew in June 1979 and wasn't capped until March, 1980.  Between ten and thirty thousand barrels of crude oil were lost each day over the eight month period.  Estimates vary widely, but as much as 4.8 million barrels were lost.

Later the same year, the Burma Agate collided with a freighter near Galveston, Texas on November 1, 1979. The ship exploded,  killing 31 crew members, and spilled an estimated 2.6 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The ship and oil continued to burn until January, 1980.

The gulf stayed relatively incident free until 1990, when the Norwegian megatanker was transferring oil to smaller ships (called "lighters"). The megatanker suffered an explosion in its pump room, caught fire, and either spilled or burned 4.2 million gallons of oil for about a week. The fire was so large and so intense, firefighters could do little more than pump seawater onto the fire.

Early on the morning of August 10, three barges carrying fuel oil and jet fuel collided in Tampa Bay, collectively spilling an estimated 14 million gallons of petroleum products.  State and federal responders mobilized rapidly to contain the material, and their response (plus some help from Mother Nature in the form of favorable tides) mitigated much of the potential damage.

US Coast Guard estimated that approximately seven to ten million gallons of oil and petroleum distillates were spilled during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  The losses were from various sources, including pipelines, storage tanks, drilling rigs, production platforms and industrial plants.

Creating one of the most famous images of the storms' havoc, Katrina ripped the Ocean Warwick platform from her seabed moorings, and ran her aground at Dauphin Island, just south of Mobile, Alabama.  The owners had hoped to salvage the rig and repair it.  But Hurricane Rita's storm surge (which reflooded New Orleans) hammered her again and she was scrapped in place the following year.

Those are pretty nasty events. But 31 years, anywhere between 4,400 and 6,600 platforms or wells, and only five major accidents? I'm thinking that offshore oil and gas production is about as safe as say, flying on a commercial jet.

Is it worth the risk to fly?

Extra Point: The red-tinted polygon on the map shows an estimate of the current size and location of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Jawa Report: Let them build their mosque at Ground Zero

The Jawa Report: Let them build their mosque at Ground Zero

I agree with Rusty on this--using government to prohibit the construction of a house of worship represents all that liberty-loving Americans should stand against. Yes, having a shrine dedicated to the deity in whose name a horrific terrorist attack left thousands dead located so near the site of the attack is offensive. But so are any of a number of other exercises of First Amendment liberties.

Take pornography, for example. The burning of the American flag. Christian religious symbols desecrated and presented as "art." Good and moral people unanimously find these expressions of liberty to be an affront to decency, but until three quarters of the states ratify amendments to the Constitution forbidding them, they're protected from the power of government to stop them.

So then, what is stopping the construction of an even larger shrine to those who lost their lives on that fateful day, on a spot right next door to the proposed mosque? Why couldn't a massive, permanent facility be constructed near ground zero, with artifacts, artwork and interpretive displays pointing out the fact that the followers who worship in the mosque next door carried out those horrific attacks in the name of a religion that uses force and violence to subdue and conquer?

Extra Point: Perhaps the New York Times could hold a cartoon contest. Whoever comes up with the funniest depiction of the prophet Mohammed gets to have his or her creation displayed on the floor of the new facility, so that visitors could walk upon the face of the man who called his followers to jihad.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Congratulations, Will!

Will Kimbrough and I went to survived high school together in Mobile during the late 1970's.  Even then, Will was a gifted guitarist and I can't tell you how many times I heard Will and the Henry Guyen Band play clubs and bars around the Gulf Coast.  His rendition of the Allman Brothers' Blue Sky made Dickie Betts blush.  Literally.

Will has aged much better than I have, despite the fact that he's a RAWK STAR and stuff.

In 2004, Will won Americana Music Association’s Instrumentalist of the Year award.  He's up for it again, this year.

Will Kimbrough nominated again for Americana award |

Congratulations, Will.  I'll be pulling for you and I hope to see you again at Mardi Gras.

Alabama Professor says his method to stop oil leak "will absolutely work"

Alabama Engineering Professor Philip Johnson says he has the solution to stopping the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Having reviewed the video of the oil spill, I now know of a way to collect that oil that will absolutely work, is not hard to rig up, and that is very familiar to BP," Philip Johnson, wrote in an email to the Press-Register. "Basically it involves additional gas injection into a deep point on a pipe."

Officials with BP, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to inquiries for comment about Johnson's suggestion.

Way to stop Gulf oil spill? University of Alabama professor says method 'will absolutely work' |

There's more at the link above. But, could it be this simple? And, once again, could it be that the braintrust at the University of Alabama has the solution that saves the gulf fisheries and tourism industry? Stay tuned!

Extra Point:  Auburn University, allegedly the center for engineering in the state of Alabama, has announced that it is shearing its flock of Alpaca's and sending the hair / wool / feathers / whatever to the region.  Gee, thanks.

High risk patients will still pay more

Well, surprise, surprise, surprise.  Madam Pelosi's statement that they'd have to pass it before we see what's in it may go down as one of history's most prescient.  The Associated Press, getting down to digging through a bill it should have dissected six months ago, finds that patients paying into high risk insurance pools will get virtually no relief from Obamacare, whatsoever. 

But in an exceptionally cruel "Screw You" quirk of Obamacare, patients who already pay into a high-risk insurance pool will keep paying high rates, while new patients enrolling in the new Obamacare flavor of the program will get coverage at much lower rates.

Julie Kramer, 53, is feeling a bit cheated. She's paid high premiums — about $700 a month — for nearly seven years into Illinois' high-risk pool.

"It feels very unfair. It goes against the spirit of what health care reform was supposed to be," said Kramer, a self-employed writer and owner of Full Moon Marketing Communications in Vernon Hills. "This does seem like a low blow."


Kramer's deductible, which she has to pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in, is $1,000. Last year, her medical expenses didn't reach that amount, so she paid all her medical bills herself.

This is just one of a myriad of nasty surprises found in the 2,300+ page abomination, and it classically illustrates the pitfalls of "comprehensive" reform packages like Obamacare.  Such sweeping measures are inevitably shown to be incredibly large, incredibly foolish Rube Goldberg machines.  They routinely fail to address the problems they purport to address.  They routinely turn small problems into big ones and manufacture massive headaches where none existed before.

Ms. Kramer's situation is a dreadful one to be sure, but who is surprised?  Did anyone seriously think that Obamacare was going to create a net benefit?  Many of the programs' costs are scheduled to start kicking in this summer. Very few of its benefits will be realized until 2014, and "low blow" surprises like this are coming from a law not even two months old.

Freedom Boards Across America

Via Hot Air:

Extra Point: This could be coming to a roadway near you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lipstick on the pig of a pending crisis

The media, in its infinite hope that this pesky, scary mortgage meltdown will all go away and get better real soon now, is doing its level best to convince us that, despite some really painful numbers, things aren't all that bad.

Via the Associated Press:

Millions of Americans are still likely to lose their homes in the coming years, but the foreclosure crisis is finally showing signs of subsiding.

And not to be outdone, we have Reuters via MSNBC:

Foreclosure activity fell in April as lenders repossessed homes at a record pace but started far fewer new actions against struggling homeowners, signaling a plateau in loan failures, RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

Don't you believe that for one second. It's just so much lipstick on a pig.

On April 12, I wrote about a potential second mortgage crunch this year.  There are tens of billions in Option ARM's and unsecuritized ARM's scheduled for reset between now and January 11.  The Option ARM's are mortgages where borrowers pay very little actual principal and interest, rolling unpaid P&I back into the loan.  Once scheduled account caps are hit, the loan "resets," changing the terms and conditions of the loan and potentially forcing borrowers to either make higher payments or go delinquent.  Another large chunk of resetting loans are unsecuritized, meaning banks are servicing the loans with no backup from FNMA or FHMC. 

If large numbers of these loans go belly up--and many analysts think they could--Who's going to bail them out?  There's not enough money for TARP II.  I am not a doom and gloomer.  As a conservative, I have a predisposition to being optimistic and believing that, left to our own ingenuity, we'll get through any crisis and everything will work out.  We'll learn from our lessons and move on.

But we aren't left to our own devices and imaginations, and haven't been in decades.  The mortgage and home finance industry is another fine example of social engineering having precisely the opposite effect of what was intended.  Who do you think is going to be hit the hardest when all of the dust finally settles?  The people who banks would never have financed if government hadn't forced them to.

Extra Point: Read Purple Avenger's take at AoSHQ.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Yes, It's Just a Gimmick...

The GOP's latest stunt is political gimmickry, but as gimmicks go, it's a pretty darned good one. Touted by House GOP Whip Eric Cantor as first-of-its-kind, YouCut is a website and program aimed at the runaway spending culture in Congress. It allows website visitors to vote via online and text message on cuts to spending programs. You get to vote every week, and Cantor promises to try forcing a vote based on the people's choice. It's novel, it's techno-fabulous, and it's sure to entertain.

But let's be honest, folks. You won't see any entitlement program appear on the list of choices you are asked to make. Don't expect to see any of Paul Ryan's Roadmap waypoints show up anytime soon. The real spending problem with Congress is its absolute refusal to address the miracles of compound interest found in Social Security or Medicare, and don't expect to see any calls for repealing Obamacare to show up on YouCut. The programs you will be seeing fall on the discretionary side of the budget, and anyone who's paid any attention to our looming budget crises realizes that you could eliminate discretionary spending altogether and still not address the real problems.

Still, as gimmicks go, engaging the public in such a fashion as this is probably going to be a hit.  How could it not be? It scores high on PR points, even if it really won't do much to rein in spending.

Extra Point: It's also a brilliant way to annoy the living hell out of the Pelosi - Reid cabal. Thumbs up, Mr. Cantor.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Years of National Denial -- Sound Familiar?

From The Observer:

Deep inside the august halls of Athens University, the renowned political commentator Paschos Mandravelis will deliver a message this week that until very recently was lost on most Greeks.
His speech will focus on a single fact: that the country in the centre of the storm of Europe's worst crisis since the creation of the common market, missed the biggest story ever – its own looming bankruptcy. "Everyone," he says, "starting with the Greek media, was in an incredible state of denial."

The Greek spirit of resistance turns its guns on the IMF | World news | The Observer

Does this sound familiar? Senator Chris Dodd famously told us that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were "fundamentally strong." Reuters and the Associated Press routinely and comically employ the adverb "unexpectedly" when communicating that the US labor market or economic output underperformed during the previous period. Pundit after talking-head pundit tell us on CNN and MSNBC that the economic recovery is well under way. That TARP saved the day. That the stimulus "saved or created" millions of jobs. Everything is fine. Pay no attention to runaway entitlement spending. Pay no mind to the shell game that Congressional Democrats used to ram through the Obamacare debacle. Ignore the fact that the only difference between Greece and the states of California, New York and Michigan is that none of those states have been bailed out by the IMF (yet).

The Greek financial crisis, which even after the pending bailout could still threaten other members of the EU, is a complete meltdown of the entire statist, entitlement-driven model of government. The "austerity" measures being "forced down the throats" of the Greeks include such draconian, near-inhuman measures such as reducing Easter, summer and Christmas bonuses for government employees and increasing the retirement age from an average of 61 to 65. What do the beneficiaries of these programs do? Having finally run out of other people's money, Greek socialists took to the streets. They looted, burned, pillaged, rioted and killed people to save their way of life.

What preceded the episodes of the last several weeks were several years of complete denial that the leftist Greek government was driving the country into bankruptcy. Virtually no one in Greek society was willing to admit that a serious problem loomed. Greek politicos denied it. The Greek media, as chummy with the socialists as the US media is with our own leftists, denied it. The people of Greece, living large off of government handouts and entitlements, denied it.

Does it all sound familiar?

Fed Independence is Sacrosanct -- Kill the Sanders Amendment

Over at e21, which is an economics and finance blog and part of my daily reading menu, is a staff editorial on the need for maintaining the independence of the Federal Reserve. e21 is responding to the growing number of adherents to the Sanders Amendment, which to my eyes appears to be nothing more than a blatant power grab and foolish attempt to politicize the Fed. The popularity of Sanders' folly is driven, in part, by the inability or unwillingness of certain segments of the population to comprehend a very demanding science. Writes the editor:

While this information is more than adequate for those interested in understanding the mechanics of the emergency lending programs that saved the global financial system, it does not suffice for conspiracy theorists eager to tie the Fed to Saddam Hussein and Watergate. Since every $100 bill circulating internationally is a Federal Reserve Note, it is not unreasonable to think extremists could tie the Fed to funding for international terrorism, the narcotics trade, or whatever other illicit transactions are conducted with U.S. dollars.
Fed Independence is Sacrosanct | e21 - Economic Policies for the 21st Century

The editorial provides numerous links to Fed-hosted websites that provide a better accounting of Fed activities, assets and policy decisions than what we get from the Executive Branch, or even your garden variety "too big to fail" bank like BofA, Goldman Sachs or Citibank.

I can see no additional benefit whatsoever by adding another layer of oversight to an already open-books process.  It runs the calamitous risk of politicizing monetary policy.  No amount of oversight is going to satisfy the hunger for the conspiracy nuts.  They're always going to believe that the Fed is hiding something of great international importance.  But no amount of oversight or control will be enough for progressive socialists like Sanders, either.  It's not about answering questions for these people.  It's about extending power and control.

The Sanders Amendment must be defeated, and if it makes it into the final legislation, it must be vetoed by the President.

Extra Point: The conspiracy theorists tend to originate from the right. Ask yourself: Does Bernie Sanders have a solid conservative basis for auditing and greater oversight?

A Culture of Substance Abuse and Promiscuity

The Obama regime plans to split up the Minerals Management Service, creating two agencies. The plan has yet to be fully developed, but regime officials familiar with the policy change told the AP that one agency would be responsible for safety and regulatory inspections and enforcement, while the other would be responsible for managing leases and collecting the billions in lease royalties.

Currently, the Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Interior Department, is responsible for collecting more than $10 billion a year from oil and gas drilling and with enforcing laws and regulations that apply to drilling operations.

Some critics have said the two roles are in conflict and are one reason the agency has long been accused of being too cozy with the oil and natural gas industry.

An internal investigation in 2008 described a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" by workers at the agency. The investigation by Interior's inspector general found workers at the MMS royalty collection office in Denver partied, had sex with and used drugs with energy company representatives. Workers also accepted gifts, ski trips and golf outings, the report by Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said.

The Associated Press: APNewsBreak: Salazar urges splitting energy agency

Extra Point: No one is saying which agency gets the drugs and which one gets the promiscuity.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oh My - Kagan Urged President Clinton to ban late term abortions

This should either stir the pot and raise a ruckus from the far left, or force Obama's left flank to sit down, shut up, and support Teh One's chosen one.

Documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press show Kagan encouraging Clinton to support a bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The documents from Clinton's presidential library are among the first to surface in which President Barack Obama's new choice for the high court weighs in on the thorny issue of abortion.Kagan in '97 urged Clinton restrict late abortions |

Knowing as little as we do about Ms. Kagan, it's entirely possible that she could become Mr. Obama's David Souter. There has been some rumbling among the left that Kagan could actually shift the overall makeup of the Supreme Court to the right. Stevens' positions on Roe and other matters near and dear to the lefty's heart were well staked out. Kagan's, not so much. Yes, she lamented the demise of socialism. Yes, she doesn't particularly care for the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy and went so far as to try booting military recruiters from her Harvard campus. But she has absolutely no experience as a jurist, and her legal writings don't sound like the ramblings of a stark raving lunatic.

At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the Planned Parenthood and NOW types chew, swallow and digest the news that, at least on late term abortions, she stands in apparent conflict with the President.

Obama vs Democrats vs Republicans

Congressional Democrats just can't catch a break. After an absolutely tortuous 16 months of ramming through one big government program after the other, and the resultant death spiral in their November reelection hopes, Pelosi Reid & Co. are now getting flak from... President Obama. Teh One spent some bandwidth last week suggesting that his regime be given more leeway in removing "wasteful" pork earmarks in spending bills.

Spending bills authored by majority Democrats. Obama's own approval ratings have trended towards the tank, but the public still finds him a likable fellow (even if they're suffering a little buyer's remorse). So when a reasonably likable fellow starts calling out Congress for wastefulness, he's rubbing salt in wounds opened by near monolithic GOP criticism over the Congress' "work."

“Congress is working to try and rein in spending — how about pointing that out?” groused Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. Mr. Van Hollen said the political fault lines that count divided Democrats from Republicans, not the White House from Congress, and “the president has not done enough to draw those distinctions.”

Mr. Van Hollen’s sensitivity is no mystery; he is leading the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as the party braces for November losses. But he reflects a broader unease among incumbents who fear that the president’s gibes at Washington, even as they align the administration with disaffected Americans, fuel Republican efforts to get Democrats fired.
Obama Jabs, and Democrats Flinch - The Caucus Blog -

The anti-incumbent fever of the electorate is palpable and real. Over the weekend, Utah Republicans ousted three-term Senator Bob Bennett from the ballot and he will not be allowed to run for reelection. Florida Republicans, disgusted over Governor Charlie Crist's pandering and support for the stimulus plan, flocked in such large numbers to Marco Rubio that Crist took his marbles and left the party. What does this mean for Congressional Democrats? It means that absolutely no one is safe in this cycle. Having the most visible public embodiment of the party tsk tsk them for "wasteful spending" has them scared and chafing.

Extra Point: What's the likelihood that centrist and conservative Democrats throw up their hands, abandon Obama and start running against him?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Audit the Fed!" Says... Bernie Sanders?

A comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve System has been a long-standing campaign plank of Congressman Ron Paul.  So it comes as a bit of a surprise that Vermont "Independent" Bernie Sanders has sponsored an amendment to the finance reform bill to allow the Government Accountability Office to conduct extensive reviews of policy decisions.

I frankly believe both Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders are certified kooks, hailing from diametrically different ends of the political spectrum.  Paul's motivations come from a misguided belief that the Fed is a dangerous institution that plays a high-stakes game of poker with US monetary policy with no accountability.  Sanders however, is an avowed socialist.  Paul's quixotic goal is to one day return the US to the gold standard and the elimination or restriction on the use of fiat currency.  Sanders' goal is completely the opposite.  His goal is to use the the Fed's enormous financial clout to promote a sort of Eurozone in North America.

The Fed needs to remain an independent entity.  The deliberations of the Federal Open Market Committee need to remain off-limits to political meddling, and releasing the name of every institution receiving loans from the discount window would cast a chill of market confidence on those institutions' financial stability.  If the Fed loses market confidence in its ability to combat inflation, the government would be forced to pay higher interest rates demanded by borrowers as a hedge against inflation risk.  And, if markets and the public lose confidence in private sector banks borrowing at the discount window, banking panics that were once a thing of the past could become commonplace again.

One of the hallmarks of economic growth over the last three decades or so has been a stable, non-inflationary period of prosperity.  The recessions suffered in the period have been relatively brief and historically shallow.  We haven't seen the runaway inflation present in the 1970's, either.  What we've seen in money supply growth is analagous to a large river that neither suffers catastrophic flooding nor severe, longlasting droughts.

The Sanders and Paul amendments threaten that. Paul's goals are much more admirable than Sanders, but neither amendment is going to make our economic system perform better.  They'll have the opposite effect.

Extra Point:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grow up, Mr. President

In his Inaugural Address, President Barack Hussein Obama held out a symbolic olive branch to the Muslim faith, using this uplifting oratory:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

In April 2009, barely three months into his regime, President Obama told a press conference in Turkey that "we (America) do not consider ourselves a Christian nation."

In May 2009, just a few weeks after his trip to Turkey, the radical Islamists showed us their "unclenched fist." James Cromitie (aka Abdul Rahman) allegedly recruited three converted Muslims--David Williams (aka Daoud), Onta Williams (aka Hamza) and LaGurre Payen (aka Almondo) and hatched a plot to blow up a synagogue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and shoot down or destroy military aircraft flown by the New York Air National Guard.  Their plot was foiled by good police-work and fortunately, no one was harmed.

Just two weeks later, yet another converted Muslim, 23-year old Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, was arrested and charged with the shooting death of one US soldier and seriously wounded another at a Little Rock Army Recruiting Center. At the time, officials openly speculated whether Muhammad was part of a larger plan to attack US military targets on US soil, possibly coordinated by Al Qaeda.  Unlike the Riverdale Four plot, a life was lost in this episode.  Officials believe Muhammad's motive was anger at US treatment of Muslims and discontent over the Afganistan and Iraq wars.

On November 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly opened fire on fellow US soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. When the smoke cleared, Hasan had killed 13 and wounded 30 others. Hasan is an American-born Muslim of Palestinian origin. Investigators poring over Hasan's communications discovered that he'd corresponded via email with Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born, Yemen-based Al Qaeda operative and organizer. al-Awlaki has released video praising Hasan for the attack and urging other US Muslims to follow suit.

On December 25, the alleged Christmas Day Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in Amsterdam, bound for Detroit, Michigan. According to official reports, Abdulmutallab had an [ahem] "improvised explosive device" hidden in his underwear, which he attempted to set off as the plane made its final approach over Detroit. The bomb was a dud--igniting but failing to donate and apparently only slightly injuring  Abdulmutallab. The flight was loaded with holiday travelers, and had he been successful, the tragedy would have brought back memories of the Lockerbie tragedy.  Abdulmutallab was born in Nigeria and spent time in London, where some experts believe he may have been "radicalized."

On May 1, 2010, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born naturalized US citizen, allegedly parked an SUV loaded with incendiary and explosive materials near a popular theater in Times Square, New York. Explosives officials and investigators say that Shahzad's shoddy construction techniques led to the bomb failing to detonate. But had it been just a little better built mouse trap, it could have killed hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers. As of this writing, details of Shahzad's connections to radical islamist groups are still being developed, but indications are that he had help from someone, somewhere.

Since Mr. Obama's Inauguration Speech Olive Branch, no less than five terrorist attacks have been attempted or perpetrated on US soil. This must come as an incredulity to the young idealist in the White House, but it's time to outgrow the naivete and get back to the business of protecting the citizens of the United States against people who want them dead, regardless of who the President is. They don't care about his African heritage. They don't care about his exposure as a youth to Muslim religion or culture. And they don't care about any uplifting phraseology delivered from the steps of the Capitol.

Mr. President, it is time to grow up.

Extra Point:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Despite plan, no fire booms on hand UPDATED

More damning evidence of the botched response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Mobile Register reporter Ben Raines has been covering this unfolding disaster since the explosion, fire and sinking of the Transocean mobile drilling unit late last month.  In today's news, Raines reports that, despite a well-developed and tested plan, officials didn't have a single fire boom on hand at the time of the spill:

But in order to conduct a successful test burn eight days after the Deepwater Horizon well began releasing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf, officials had to purchase one from a company in Illinois.

When federal officials called, Elastec/American Marine, shipped the only boom it had in stock, Jeff Bohleber, chief financial officer for Elastec, said today.

At federal officials' behest, the company began calling customers in other countries and asking if the U.S. government could borrow their fire booms for a few days, he said.

WTF? You have a plan in place since 1994, you have a tried and true process for executing it, and you're just thinking about getting the equipment you need a week after the event? Who was in charge?

Remember the "test burn" federal officials first talked about eight days after the well began spewing oil? Well, since they didn't even have a single piece of the boom on hand, and since their source had only one boom in stock, it pretty much means that a "test burn" was all they could do.

In the days after the Deepwater Horizon sank, US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said that the response team had all the assets and equipment it needed. We now know that this was a false statement.

We also know, from interviews Raines conducted with Ron Gouget, former NOAA response coordinator, and Mr. Bohleber linked in the story above, that the Obama regime's claims that the in-situ burn procedure serves as a "last resort" are false.

Extra Point: That is, unless you don't have the equipment. Then it's pretty much a last resort, ain't it?

UPDATE: Well, well, well.  Via Jammie Wearing Fool, guess who received the most money from British Petroleum in the 2008 election cycle? 

Secret Pentagon Program to Hoard Stuff

Via the Wall Street Journal:

The new plan, dubbed the Strategic Materials Security Program by the Pentagon, would give the military greater power to decide what it stockpiles and how it goes about buying the materials. It would also speed up decision making at a time when military technology evolves rapidly, commodity markets swing widely and countries around the world fight to secure access to natural resources.

"It's a risk-management program," said Paula Stead, who oversees the effort for the Defense National Stockpile Center at Fort Belvoir, in Virginia. The goal is to be able to obtain "a much broader" array of materials in "a much shorter time," she said.

It's only a matter of time before the birther-truther-Bilderberger types take  this thing and absolutely run with it.  The tinfoil hat crowd has been absolutely relentless in recent years, going apesheet over patently absurd conspiracy theories.  Most recently--a viral rumor that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico late last month. 

The WSJ story linked above covers a program that's been in place since WWII, through which the US government maintains a strategic stockpile of materials necessary for manufacturing the machines of war.   Mundane stuff like Aluminum, Zinc and other ores and minerals.  Would metals like Gold, Silver, Platinum and Molybdenum be part of it?  Probably so--every one of those has legitimate industrial and/or electronic uses.  But the wackos running around with black helicopter stories also happen to be goldbugs, so it's only a matter of time that they leap at any chance they get to imagine that a strategic stockpiling program is really a secret government gold grab.  You watch.

Extra Point:  One of the original purposes of National Forests were to insure the US Government had a supply of wood for shipbuilding, and what's all that gooey black stuff stored in those Gulf Coast salt domes?  Oh yeah:  the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

YID With LID: Former NOAA Official Says Feds "Blew It" On The Gulf Oil Spill


Sammy picks up the ball on the looming political disaster for the Obama regime.

I wrote about this last week, here and again here. I attributed the regime's slow-footed response to incompetence, apathy or political malice. But Sammy raises another interesting motivation:

Since the Obama administration came into office in January of 2009, they have made a point of rejecting the advice of the people who have come before him, and procedures already put into place. In many cases, he ends up going back to the old policies that worked before (such as Afghanistan). Is the ecological disaster happening in the Gulf of Mexico the result of an act of hubris?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Obama 2011 Budget Slashes US Coast Guard Funding

Wrong-headed priorities. While the 2011 budget cuts have had no impact on the current Coast Guard response effort in the Gulf of Mexico, these cuts can only have significant deleterious effects on future efforts. Mr. Obama is already coming under righteous fire for botching the response and politicking instead of leading. What sense does it make to cut the funding of one of our most important security arms?

This country needs less government intrusion into the private sector and more funding for national defense.

The FY 2011 budget proposal reviewed today by the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee slashes more than 1,100 positions, reduces Coast Guard, maritime and security assets, and decommissions five recently refurbished helicopters.

“It’s outrageous that the Administration would propose cutting the Coast Guard budget to this degree when it is our first line of national defense and maritime security,” said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republican Leader.

Obama Coast Guard Budget Courts Disaster - Cape May County Herald

'Obama's Katrina': an Illustrated Timeline

Doug Ross' hard hitting discussion of the time between the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the President's WTF moment of realizing that he had a sure-nuff problem on his hands.

'Obama's Katrina': an Illustrated Timeline

Ross does a masterful job of laying out how Obama fiddled while the Gulf of Mexico "burned." Pathetic.

Even that right-wing rag, The New York Times, says that the useless manchild / masterful orator we have as a President dicked around too long:

The timetable is damning. The blowout occurred on April 20. In short order, fire broke out on the rig, taking 11 lives, the rig collapsed and oil began leaking at a rate of 40,000 gallons a day. BP tried but failed to plug the well. Even so, BP appears to have remained confident that it could handle the situation with private resources (as did the administration) until Wednesday night, when, at a hastily called news conference, the Coast Guard quintupled its estimate of the leak to 5,000 barrels, or more than 200,000 gallons a day.

Only then did the administration move into high gear.

Extra Point: What's the likelihood that Mr. Obama is met with some angry Cajuns when he visits "ground zero" today?