Needles, California last week

By John Ruberry

While I’m watching snow fall outdoors at Marathon Pundit world headquarters in Morton Grove, Illinois, the rest of my family is vacationing in southern California.

When they drove into California at Needles, just as the Joads did in The Grapes of Wrath, they were also greeted by more desert, as well as this 76 sign, which informs motorists that regular gasoline is selling for $3.79-a-gallon, more than a dollar above the national average.

Taxes are of course the reason and late last year the Tarnished State increased its gas taxes by 12 cents-a-gallon, to pay for road improvements.

California’s problems are vast. When the cost-of-living is figured in California suffers from the nation’s highest poverty rate. Modern day Joads are better off staying in Oklahoma. California’s roads are in bad shape because of onerous financial obligations in other parts of the budget. CalPERs, California’s public worker pension plan, is a sinkhole, so much so that Governor Jerry Brown is suggesting that pension benefits might be lowered–even for state workers currently paying into the program.

Another budget-buster is California’s high-speed rail project. Eight years ago voters approved the $40 billion project because government would pay for construction, which would make it “free.” Cost estimates for it have already climbed to $64 billion. If completed, and right now that might be stretch at best, it will run between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The relatively inexpensive segment where construction has begun, between Madera and Bakersfield, is already beset by delays, so much so that Victor Davis Hanson is musing that what little has been built could end up as nothing more than a modern Stonehenge. While the project is receiving federal funds, an increase of cash from Washington DC is not going to happen during the Trump presidency. So don’t count on a bailout, Californians.

Liberalism is expensive. And liberals love trains because, unlike cars and buses, they only go where there are tracks.

Moving up the Pacific Coast Highway into Oregon we learn that legislators are considering implementing an expensive cap-and-trade scheme that will punish large energy users, who are of course also large employers, in order to fight global warming. California has a cap-and-tax racket going already.  But there is some good news out of Oregon. Earlier this year, a new law took effect that allows drivers to fill up their own gas tanks–without an attendant. Of course some Oregonians freaked out, No, this was not an episode of Portlandia. Now only another coastal blue state, New Jersey, bans self-serve gas stations.

Blogger in Aberdeen, Washington

Heading north over the Columbia River into Washington, legislators in that blue state are debating a $10-a-ton carbon tax, one that a Democratic legislator who opposes it calls a “pretty sizable gas-tax increase.” Washington’s governor, Democrat Jay Inslee, who prefers a $20-a-ton tax, laughingly calls his plan a jobs creator.

The United States has much cheaper energy costs than Japan and most nations in Europe, which is one of the reasons, along with President Trump’s slashing of regulations–many of them involving energy–why the American economy is booming.

Does the West Coast want to be left behind as the rest of our nation enjoys prosperity? California, as it has been for decades for good and for ill, is already ahead of the curve.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

220px-fort_calhoun_power_plant_1Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant, another victim of the anti-nuclear movement

This week, covered up by election coverage, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant closed down for good. Somewhere, a whole bunch of anti-nuclear activists are cheering. To replace Fort Calhoun, Omaha Power will instead use coal fired plants in Nebraska City, unless of course the future President Clinton shuts down coal, in which case Omaha will just not have enough power.

Fort Calhoun’s problems are just the surface of a growing threat to the future of nuclear energy in America. More nuclear plants are closing, and we aren’t building replacements. The soaring cost of nuclear regulation is piling on to what should be cheap power. The building of nuclear plants requires high level engineering work, something that normally brings in stable, long-term and high paying jobs.

But not anymore. I keep in touch with a headhunter that places nuclear-trained officers (like myself) into jobs after they leave the Navy. He sent a very depressing email to his distribution group, where he declared that he would no longer place officers in the commercial nuclear field:

The promise of cheap power via commercial nuclear was supposed to be its big advantage.  It was once even touted as “too cheap to meter!”  But it is economics that are now killing the industry.  Utilities are deciding it’s less expensive to close plants that are already operating than continue their operation.  Think about that:  it’s more economical to idle billions of dollars worth of existing infrastructure and spend the money to be build new generation facilities.  That’s crazy and a powerful indication of how uncompetitive commercial nuclear power has become.

We at -redacted- believe that strong professional successful Navy Officers should now avoid jobs and careers in commercial nuclear power and are suspending our relationships with our corporate clients in that sector.  If a career in commercial nuclear power is your focus, we will not be a good career transition resource for you.

Recent and future nuclear power plant closings and changes:

  • San Onofre in CA closing
  • Diablo Canyon in CA closing
  • Crystal River in FL closing
  • Vermont Yankee in VT closing
  • Pilgrim in MA closing
  • Kewaunee in WI closing
  • Harris in SC, 2 plants cancelled
  • Levy County in FL shifting from nuclear to natural gas
  • Comanche Peak in TX, 2 plants cancelled
  • Quad Cities in IL closing
  • Clinton in IA closing
  • Oyster Creek in NJ closing
  • And more are coming…

I have a former Naval Officer friend that worked at San Onofre who confirmed all this bad news. She has since left with her husband for a completely different career field.

pm2anuclearpowerplantModular nuclear plant? That’s so 1960’s

Meanwhile, China is rapidly building nuclear capacity, growing their engineering base in the process. Now they have designed a small reactor capable of providing 6 MW of power, enough to power a small island (South China Sea anyone?). Although the media is touting this as an accomplishment, it’s not. The Army built a number of small reactors, the Navy currently operates reactors on its submarines and aircraft carriers, and even the Air Force attempted to make nuclear powered aircraft. And this was back in the 60’s and 70’s. If we had continued investing in nuclear power, we could have closed our dirty coal plants and lowered electricity costs, perhaps enabling us to build the renewable energy sources for long-term electrical generation. Instead, we’re taking a second seat to China.


This post is the opinion of the author and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.


If you enjoyed this article, check out my blog and perhaps buy my kids book. And, instead of paying 5 dollars for a latte from Starbucks that they’ll use to fund Planned Parenthood, you should consider sending that to Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar instead.

Lastly, please say a prayer for all the families of the engineers affected by Fort Calhoun’s shutdown. They now have to find new employment, and it’ll be hard on them for the next few years.

It’s Christmas eve, you hate, hate, going to the mall, and you have readers on your list who don’t like fiction. I strongly recommend you buy them The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels on Kindle edition, which they can also read on line and in their tablets and cell phone apps.

Epstein created the Center for Industrial Progress (emphasis added),

Center for Industrial Progress (CIP) is a for-profit think-tank seeking to bring about a new industrial revolution. We believe that human beings have the untapped potential to radically improve our lives by using technology to improve the planet across a multitude of industries: mining, manufacturing, agriculture, chemistry, and energy. Every individual has the potential for a longer, happier, healthier, safer, more comfortable, more meaningful, more opportunity-filled life.

The keys to a new industrial revolution are a new industrial philosophy, a new industrial policy, and a new approach to communication.

The emphasis on using technology for an anti-pollution but pro-development approach to improve our lives is key to The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

Epstein convincingly makes the case that “fossil fuel power [is] cheap, plentiful, reliable, scaleable – indispensable.” He discusses the greenhouse effect and the fertilizer effect (and global greening), the energy effect, and climate mastery.

Climate mastery, you ask? Yes,

There are two elements to mastering climate. One is control over the climate you’re in. Two is the ability to make the most of the climate you’re in. [page 122]

Epstein goes on to discuss how fossil fuel energy contributes to climate livability and climate justice.

This is only one example of the topics he discusses throughout the book. He makes a convincing case that fossil fuels are the only way to develop cheap, reliable, plentiful energy for seven billion people, and that it’s immoral to deny it to the developing world.

When I was asked if I would review the book I said yes but clarified that I could not promise you favorable review. Now that I read it, I highly recommend it.

And you’re on time for Christmas!

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

Right now Oil prices are dropping faster than we’ve seen them drop in years.

Oil prices sank again on Monday, giving consumers more of a break and causing a split among OPEC leaders about what action should be taken, if any, to halt the slide.

The price drop has led to a near free fall in gasoline prices in the United States. On Monday, the national average price for regular gasoline was $3.20, 9 cents lower than it was a week ago and 14 cents below the price a year ago, according to the AAA motor club.

This would seem counter intuitive.  Winter is coming for Europe & North America.  ISIS is running amok in the middle east, Iran is still developing their bomb (large explosions not withstanding) and Eastern Europe is still wondering what Putin’s next move is going to be given that situation one would expect the prices of oil to go through the roof.

Except there is a wild card and that card is Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia cut its flagship Arab light selling price by $1 a barrel, versus October’s discount of $1.05 a barrel to the Oman/Dubai average price. Traders expected a cut of about 70 cents, according to Reuters. The Saudis also cut prices to the U.S. and Europe by 40 cents a barrel.

McGillian said Saudi now lowered its selling price below the Oman and Qatar prices.

Why on earth would the Saudis be cutting prices rather than production?  Why aren’t they fighting to get oil prices back up again?

Because they have no choice.

The reality of Saudi Arabia is pretty simple, all their power all their influence comes not only from their oil wealth but from the power to affect oil supplies internationally as soon as that lever disappears their ability to protect what is basically a family kleptocracy disappears.

But the shale oil and oil sands business have thrown things for a loop.

Thanks to increased oil prices oil sources that were once cost prohibitive, suddenly weren’t.  Now it was cost-effective to build the infrastructure necessary to harvest the oil sands of Canada and oil via fracking and as the infrastructure.  Meanwhile the experience as these projects got rolling,  combined with the same western ingenuity that allowed the Saudi’s to develop the fortune underneath their feet caused technological improvements further bringing down the cost of producing that barrel of oil hitherto left untouched.

As Al Akhbar.com put it:

Though the Saudi move may seem puzzling in market terms, it becomes less complicated when analyzed within the world of geopolitics which is plagued by competition over strategic markets and where oil is used as political leverage.

Saudi Arabia is threatened physically from Iran to the east, moreover they are threatened economically from a US exports to their customers.

For Saudi Arabia, this may be the right time to increase its market share by lowering oil prices, which would also put pressure on both Iran and the United States.

If prices drop Iran is put on the defensive as they have to satisfy an unhappy population while still supporting their client state in Syria and holding off ISIS gains which could create a rival in the world of Islamic fundamentalism.

Meanwhile on the other end if the price of oil drops far enough the US production from non-traditional sources suddenly is no longer cost-effective:

Even the more expensive drilling operations are still profitable when oil sells for $85 a barrel, and oil closed just below $86 on Monday. In general, oil companies would have to expect oil prices to stay below $80 a barrel for many months to scale back their drilling plans.

What’s even more critical for the Saudi’s is to keep new sources offline.   In areas where fracking etc is already established the primary cost creating the infrastructure to produce and supply the oil is in place so they can handle a price drop better but in spots where development hasn’t begun their only hope to keep them in check is a price that stops those folk in their tracks!

It’s a catch 22.  High oil prices enable all those who are a physical threat to them and create new financial threats while low oil prices while dropping their bottom line preserves their ability to be the boss on the world’s energy stage, a state to be feared, respected and protected.

Thus the Saudi’s are forced to take steps that Hurt Iran, put Putin in check, wreak havoc with Venezuela and cause China to rethink their investment and development of oil allies around the world, while at the same time providing relief to American consumers and drivers.

Check and mate, we’ll see.

 

West of Greensburg, Kansas in 2007
West of Greensburg, Kansas in 2007

By John Ruberry

Seven years ago ninety-percent of the small western Kansas town of Greensburg was destroyed by an F5 tornado. Two months later I visited there. Most of the rubble had been cleared away, FEMA housing was prevalent, as was the sound of rebuilding–power saws and hammers at work. The people I spoke with in Greensburg were hopeful and they didn’t expect me to feel sorry for them–I love the rural Midwest.

Later that year, Greensburg, which prior to the deadly twister was best known as the site of the world’s largest hand-dug well, made the decision to rebuild as a green energy town.

When the tornado hit, Greensburg, the seat of Kiowa County, had about 1,500 residents. According to the the US Census Bureau, only 777 people lived in Greensburg in 2010.

A week ago the Kansas City Star published a story with the headline, Greensburg, Kan., rebuilds from 2007 tornado — now it just needs more people.

From the Star:

International exposure, federal disaster aid and public-private partnerships gave rise to some of the greenest and most visually arresting public facilities of any city 100 times Greenburg’s size.

They included a $30 million hospital sporting angled, exterior walls and a new K-12 school campus that uses 55 percent less water than the destroyed one.

A whirring flock of wind turbines provides enough energy to the electric grid over the year to power every house, business and municipal building in Greensburg.

Patrons of the Bar H Tavern on U.S. 54 worry, though, that a community of 800 won’t be able to afford the maintenance on those turbines and the school’s dual-flush toilets. “Not everyone agrees with all this green stuff,” one local said. “What we really need is more people.”

So despite the many expensive platinum-level LEED buildings and the ten wind-turbine surrounding the town, “this green stuff” didn’t work out. Okay, that may be a cheap shot, since Great Plains towns such as Greensburg have been hemorrhaging people, believe it or not, since the end of the First World War. So Greensburg’s population almost certainly would have continued its slide had the tornado not hit.

Greensburg flags
Greensburg, late July, 2007

Cheap housing was one of Greensburg drawing cards, but home prices, although there is not a municipal requirement to build green, have more than doubled there since 2007. In most parts of America, home prices have plummeted since then.

Think about that.

Greensburg had hoped to lure green industry firms to the Plains, including solar-panel manufacturers, but officials are blaming the continuing languid economy for their absence.

I have another explanation: Perhaps green construction and renewable energy are a blind alley, at least in the short term. Maybe it will be that way forever. Sure, the wind turbines supply enough energy for a town with fewer than a thousand residents, but could the unreliable, unpredictable, and expensive power source work for nearby Dodge City?

What about Kansas City?

While I certainly give Greensburg credit for trying something new to end to the exodus from its corner of the Plains, perhaps it’s time for it to reverse course.

Or they can look forward to a time when the green movement is an historic curiosity, along the lines of the world’s largest hand-dug well, and then transform Greensburg into an environmentalist reenactment community–something like Colonial Williamsburg.

John ruberryJohn Ruberry blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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Olimometer 2.52

It’s sunday and normally I would be pitching for this weeks $365 goal.

But right now it’s also March 30th. The Mortgage is due tomorrow. After a successful first year February was our worst month on record and March is about to outdo it.

As of yesterday when I hit the sack we were $797 of the mortgage.

To put that into perspective we could meet our weekly goal today AND match it tomorrow and still be about $70 short.

With God all things are possible but without your help it’s going to take a miracle to keep the bills paid around here.

I ask you to give that help and hit DaTipJar below.

 

If 61 of you hit Subscribe at $20 a month subscribers this site will be able to cover its bills for a full year and things will be a lot more like Alito and Kagan around here than Kennedy & Roberts reliable..


 

Northeastern Iowa
Northeastern Iowa

By John Ruberry

Have you heard about the propane shortage? Probably not. Although, despite my headline, it has been reported, albeit by local flyover country media.

Stories such as this one offers more evidence on why we need new media.

Liquid propane (LP) is a commonly used fuel for home heating in rural areas, where natural gas lines don’t often reach. And a colder-than-usual winter has of course increased demand for propane.

“There’s 22 states right now that are having LP problems,” a propane dealer told Minnesota’s KAAL-TV. “That’s just about half the country having problems getting LP.” That dealer told the TV station that two weeks ago his customers could fill up a propane tank for $644, but now it costs $976.

The shortage is particularly severe in the Upper Midwest.

A late and wet harvest–farmers use propane to dry crops–and the closing for maintenance of a Wisconsin propane facility has contributed to the shortage.

Yesterday Ohio Governor John Kasich issued an emergency declaration to speed up delivery of propane; in Michigan, two weeks ago Governor Rick Snyder declared an energy emergency that also covers heating oil. Way back in October, Governor Scott Walker made a similar move regarding propane.

Making matters worse, sub-zero temperatures are returning to the Upper Midwest this week.

So why are national media reporters ignoring the propane shortage? Does covering cold weather issues disrupt their agenda to advance their belief in global warming? Is the rural Midwest not worthy of their attention, unless there is a flood, a tornado, or a mass murder?

Update: This is a historic Instalanche for two reasons:

#1 It’s the first ever Instalanche for one of my Magnificent Seven writing at my blog. If you want to see more of John’s posts on this blog they are here and it goes without saying you should check out his own blog Marathon Pundit.

#2 It you remember this post. You know this brings me even with Chucky. I’m sure Diary of Daedalus will get a charge out of it.

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Olimometer 2.52

This post and the one before it all about a reality that’s ignored and right now reality is pretty ugly around here.

We have not made a full paycheck since the beginning of 2014. We are actually at a point where even if we make a full paycheck this week and next week I still won’t have the money cover January’s mortgage payment.

That’s reality and no amount of pretending otherwise changes it.

But It is also reality that if we can make payroll early enough this week we just might be able to make a dent in the monthly goal and close that gap.

It can’t be done without you. 14 of you to be exact kicking in $25.

If you think this site is worth it, I’d appreciate it if you were one of them.

Remember if we can get those 58 1/4 subscribers @ at $20 a month the bills will be paid every week. Help make sure this blog can fight without fear all year long.




Snow run New Year
Author on New Year’s Day

By John Ruberry

The high temperature tomorrow is expected to reach -11 in Chicago tomorrow. That’s without the windchill. We may face 48 hours of subzero weather for the first time in twenty years. About two feet of snow has fallen since New Year’s Eve where I live in Morton Grove, Illinois.

It’s snowing here as I begin this post.

Welcome to global warming–2014 edition.

Yes, I’m aware that a week of weather does not define our climate. But today’s a good day to delve into the White House global warming agenda and its War on Coal. Forty-five percent of our electricity comes from coal, which is an abundant domestic energy resource. Depending on who is doing the counting, anywhere from 207 to 285 coal plants are scheduled to close in the next decade. Citing climate change and its clean air regulations President Obama’s radicalized EPA–not our elected Congress–is behind the shuttering of these plants.

The ripple effects of the War on Coal will be widespread. With fewer coal plants, obviously there will be less need for coal miners. In a letter to the president, Democratic and Republican state legislators in Kentucky declared, “Coal is not just an energy source, it’s a way of life.”

Colorado coal train
Coal train, Colorado plains

You can make the same argument about coal and the rail industry.

Few commodities are as essential to railroads and railroad jobs as coal. Fully 25 percent of railroad revenue, one-in-five railroad jobs and 40 percent of freight cars owe their existence to coal, according to the Association of American Railroads.

That paragraph comes from the United Transportation Union, which endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket in 2012.

When less energy is generated, the cost of it goes up–of course that’s basic economics. Obama’s climate change agenda is not just a war on coal and other fossil fuels,  it’s also a war on American prosperity.

I just looked out the window. It’s still snowing.

It’s cold, but Obama Winter hasn’t arrived yet.

This morning I was on a conference call concerning the Domestic Energy & Job Act which molds together a large collection of energy legislation including:

  • Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012, H.R. 4480 (Rep. Cory Gardner, CO-4)
  • Gasoline Regulations Act of 2012, H.R. 4471 (Rep. Ed Whitfield, KY-1)
  • Planning for American Energy Act of 2012, H.R.4381 (Rep. Scott Tipton, CO-3)
  • Providing Leasing Certainty for American Energy Act of 2012, H.R 4382 (Rep. Mike Coffman, CO-6)
  • Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act of 2012, H.R. 4383 (Rep. Doug Lamborn, CO-5)
  • The Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act (H.R. 4383)
  • The National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act, H.R. 2150 (Rep. “Doc” Hastings, WA-4)
  • The BLM Live Internet Auctions Act, H.R. 2752 (Rep. Bill Johnson, OH-6)

The call was Hosted by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (ca-22), he was joined by Doc Hastings (WA-4) Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee & Freshman Rep. Cory Gardner (CO-4).

They made a passionate case for their bill and during the Q & A stressing that gas although lower than a few months ago is still double the price it was when the administration came to office. Chairman Hastings noted that President Obama actions on energy: “His actions are 180 from his rhetoric” and that producers constantly inform him: ”Just tell me what the rules are and don’t change them, give me some certainty” and noted states like North Dakota & Texas experienced growth saying “…by having a policy that protects environment but allows extraction it has fundamentally changed the situation.

Majority Whip McCarthy suggested folks from the EPA put “personal beliefs and philosophical beliefs” before their actual tasks and during hearings when it comes to the actual effects of regulations on Jobs: “One thing we’ve found in the hearings is they don’t evaluate this …and what it actually means.”

All valid points but it was Freshman Cory Gardner of Colorado that made the most significant point when it comes to freeing energy producers when answering a question from Politico concerning North Dakota as an example. Rather than sticking to North Dakota he noted an example from his own state of Colorado.

In Weld County, CO. there are 31 operators producing energy. Of those 31 companies 2 of them paid a combined $209 million dollars in property taxes.

To put this in perspective the total budget of the county is $200 million.

Run those number through your head a second. This is revenue not produced by raising taxes higher but simply by letting companies operate and pay the taxes already on the books.

Picture every state where the Government has blocked this kind of action. Think of what this kind of thing would do for the budget bottom line. And that doesn’t even count the employment taxes, social security taxes, income taxes, excise taxes and even fuel taxes that these businesses and every single employee they hire will be paying to local, state and federal governments simply for the privilege of working hard and making a money.

As Rep Cory Gardner said: “If we are going to unleash American Energy this is the best way to flip the switch

Maybe I’m old fashioned being the son of parents born in the 20’s but this makes sense to me.

Update: A related video

And now Dueling Joe Kennedys:

Joe Kennedy of Joe for oil fame:

“No one should be left out in the cold”

Joe Kennedy Running in the 4th district

“The cycle that allows cheap oil to trump tough choices has to stop”

News Center 5 on Joe Kennedy providing low cost oil last winter

“Last year 180,000 sought fuel assistance This year 260,00 people need help”

Joe Kennedy running for the seat vacated by Barney Frank this year:

“The cycle that allows cheap oil to trump tough choices has to stop”

People needing help from Joe Kennedy providing cheap or free oil

“The thermostat is set to 62 degrees and the oil money is slim”

Joe Kennedy for congress 2012

“The cycle that allows cheap oil to trump tough choices has to stop”

Joe Kennedy the elder thinks that prices are so high people with incomes up to 200% over the poverty level need help to stay warm, even if that help comes from Hugo Chavez.

Joe Kennedy the younger running for congress thinks a cycles that allows oil cheap enough for people in need to pay is not good for Massachusetts.

He can make try to make that case to the people of the 4th district paying nearly $4 a gallon for gas when at the end of the Bush years they were paying under $2.

He can make that case to the people of the 4th district who will shortly be seeing oil pre-buys costing $4000 or more this fall

And he can make that case to the people in the fourth district who will be forced to go to Joe Kennedy the elder for the oil to keep warm this winter that they can no longer afford to buy.

I have a strange feeling they just might disagree.

Cue the Banjos…

Update: The timing of this video is perfect:

can be:

In the Atlanta area, where I am, gas prices are up $0.77 from where they were a year ago. It is worth noting that Democrats have been politicizing and blocking expanded oil drilling for quite some time. Consider this:

“Critics (of Arctic drilling), including Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., say the drilling plan would violate the nation’s last remaining pristine wilderness. Moreover, they charge, the oil would consist of a 6-month supply for the nation, and would not be ready for use by consumers for up to 10 years.”

That newspaper article was written April 2, 2001. For those of you in Rio Linda, that would be ten years ago.

To those of you who are paying between $3.50 and $5 a gallon this morning for gas do ya think that oil those fields would have produced not to mention the well-paying US jobs that come with it would be kinda handy right now?