Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Time To Apply a Strong Hand With the Clarion

Now that the super-rich have been given the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and as the costs of two unfunded wars and the interest on that borrowed money mount, the US has plunged further into deficit spending. To divert attention to their own culpability, the right-wingers have have been quick to point fingers.  Obama's recovery plan was an easy initial target and so has been the health reform passed last year.  We'll not go into the merits of either here and now. But recently there have been two new whipping boys of talk radio and winger-blogs: unions and the EPA.

The Clarion chose to rip the EPA in its recent opinion piece, Time to apply a strong hand with the EPA.  What rot, but surprisingly so, what unabashed rot.  The writer doesn't even pretend to see a need for any sort of environmental protection, but rather simply whores for the jobs that unchecked development might bring, no matter the destruction it would cause.  

Without the EPA (which was created with a Republican in the White House) there's no doubt that development would be done without a care about the health of either the people or the planet.  If you think otherwise, think back to the time some 40 years ago when rivers in the US were so polluted that they caught fire. Do just a little bit of investigation on the drilling/production practices of the major players in developing countries.  In Ecuador, where the oil companies have rigged the game in their favor by bribing politicians and writing their own laws (sound familiar?), the courts have just awarded $9 billion to be paid by Chevron/Texaco to the indigenous jungle people for that company's wanton and reckless dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic wastes and the spilling of 17 million gallons of crude oil in the upper Amazon basin. Look at the destruction and corruption done by big oil in Nigeria.

But everyone is blaming the EPA for stifling development.  Whatever.  Damn, we are lucky that we have that agency.

There was an interesting post in The Economist, a leading world-wide business magazine published in Britain and usually spot-on concerning economic/political issues.  One of the wikileaks revelations was that the Saudis have exaggerated their oil reserves.  The Economist predicts a steep increase in natural gas and oil prices and suggests that development now is not a good business idea. After all,  why be in such a rush to get your product to the market when prices are low?  And low natural gas prices are certainly the reason Conoco and Marathon are shutting down the Nikiski LNG plant - Alaska gas is priced out of the market right now.  Forget all talk of bullet lines and other such natural gas pipelines.  It's cheaper to import the resource than to produce it here right now.  It's a simple business matter controlled by an oversupply caused by new technologies, new discoveries and gas/oil fields located in places that are just easier to get to market.

But it won't be like that forever. Eventually that gas and oil we have in the ground is really going to worth developing.  If we were to do so today, it means giving billions of dollars away to the most profitable businesses in the world - corporate welfare at its worse.  And a bad business decision.

It's like a savings account protected safe underground for now.  We, along with the politicians in Juneau, have shown little sense in how we spend and give away the state's money.  Why should we be in such a rush to throw more money away? 

Let the free market decide.  There's no reason to give away these reserves at bargain prices and subsidize the oil companies to boot.  After all, these reserves are our children's inheritance.  

It will mean some belt-tightening for we Alaskans, but aren't we calling for that on a national level?  And in the long-run, it will be best for the future of Alaska.

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