Daily Archives: May 11, 2011
Hezbollah Considered To Be More Advanced Than Al-Qaida
San Diego News
“They are recognized by many experts as the ‘A’ team of Muslim terrorist organizations,” a former U.S. intelligence agent told 10News.
The former agent, referring to Shi’a Muslim terrorist group Hezbollah, added, “They certainly have had successes in big-ticket bombings.”
Some of the group’s bombings include the U.S. embassy in Beirut and Israeli embassy in Argentina.
However, the group is now active much closer to San Diego.
“We are looking at 15 or 20 years that Hezbollah has been setting up shop in Mexico,” the agent told 10News.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. policy has focused on al-Qaida and its offshoots.
“They are more shooters than thinkers … it’s a lot of muscles, courage, desire but not a lot of training,” the agent said, referring to al-Qaida.
Hezbollah, he said, is far more advanced.
“Their operators are far more skilled … they are the equals of Russians, Chinese or Cubans,” he said. “I consider Hezbollah much more dangerous in that sense because of strategic thinking; they think more long-term.”
Hezbolah has operated in South America for decades and then Central America, along with their sometime rival, sometime ally Hamas.
Now, the group is blending into Shi’a Muslim communities in Mexico, including Tijuana. Other pockets along the U.S.-Mexico border region remain largely unidentified as U.S. intelligence agencies are focused on the drug trade.
“They have had clandestine training in how to live in foreign hostile territories,” the agent said.
The agent, who has spent years deep undercover in Mexico, said Hezbollah is partnering with drug organizations, but which ones is not clear at this time.
He told 10News the group receives cartel cash and protection in exchange for Hezbollah expertise.
“From money laundering to firearms training and explosives training,” the agent said.
For example, he tracked, along with Mexican intelligence, two Hezbollah operatives in safe houses in Tijuana and Durango
“I confirmed the participation of cartel members as well as other Hezbollah individuals living and operating out of there,” he said.
Tunnels the cartels have built that cross from Mexico into the U.S. have grown increasingly sophisticated. It is a learned skill, the agent said points to Hezbollah’s involvement.
“Where are the knowledgeable tunnel builders? Certainly in the Middle East,” he said.
Why have Americans not heard more about Hezbollah’s activities happening so close to the border?
“If they really wanted to start blowing stuff up, they could do it,” the agent said.
According to the agent, the organization sees the U.S. as their “cash cow,” with illegal drug and immigration operations. Many senior Hezbollah leaders are wealthy businessmen, the agent said.
“The money they are sending back to Lebanon is too important right now to jeopardize those operations,” he said.
The agent said the real concern is the group’s long-term goal of radicalizing Muslim communities.
“They’re focusing on developing … infiltrating communities within North America,” the agent told 10News.
Published on May 11, 2011 by Nicolas Loris
The bipartisan New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NATGAS) Act provides preferential tax treatment to subsidize the production, use, and purchase of natural gas vehicles (NGVs). Supporters argue that it promotes transportation fuel competition and reduces foreign oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.
In reality, the NATGAS Act simply transfers a portion of the actual costs of using and producing NGVs to taxpayers. Special tax credits create the perception that NGVs are more competitive than they actually are by artificially reducing their price for consumers. Rather than increase competition, this artificial market distortion gives NGVs an unfair price advantage over other technologies.
Unfortunately, this shortcut to market viability does not work. Indeed, Washington has an abysmal record of picking energy winners and losers. Instead of adding more market distortions to the energy sector, Congress should remove energy subsidies and increase access to America’s resources.
The Market Is Already Working
The legislation creates, expands, or extends tax credits that subsidize NGVs. Supporters argue that the legislation would help NGV vehicle and infrastructure producers overcome investment obstacles and begin introducing new technologies to the marketplace. The truth, however, is that NGVs are already available, and nothing is stopping the market from expanding. The notion that no alternative fuels compete with gasoline is just not true. Consumers can choose vehicles that are powered by electricity, natural gas, or biofuels, as well as hybrid vehicles.
In fact, the trade group Natural Gas Vehicles for America claims that the United States has 110,000 NGVs and that more than 12 million NGVs are on the roads worldwide. Billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens, a supporter of the bill, boasted in a recent speech that he owns a Honda Civic GX that he fuels with natural gas for less than $1 per gallon. At a UPS facility, President Obama challenged transportation fleets to switch their vehicles to natural gas because it would be good for their bottom lines. But if natural gas vehicles are economically competitive, vehicle manufacturers will make them and consumers will switch over without market manipulation from Washington.
A full-fledged competitive NGV fleet may eventually emerge. Rising gas prices make alternatives like NGVs more economically inviting, which should move investment to those technologies. That happens most efficiently when it is the result of a market-based response as opposed to government intervention. Indeed, government intervention to promote one technology over another only interferes in the process and creates another set of government-picked, taxpayer-funded winners and losers.
Reducing Foreign Dependence No Excuse for Bad Policy
The focus on decreasing energy dependence through government intervention and market distortion is folly. Policies that maximize access to a broad array of energy sources, domestic and foreign, will best serve Americans. A market-based approach would ensure that every American has access to affordable energy by putting a premium on sound economics through competition and choice.
This is not the approach of the NATGAS Act, which would make America economically weaker. When the government artificially lowers the cost of production, manufacturers must forgo the value of the goods they might have produced had they allocated their time, effort, and other resources in alternative ways. In this case, the NATGAS Act uses tax credits to create the perception of lower costs. This will fool consumers into purchasing more of these vehicles. Further, those hidden costs now have to be paid by someone else—the taxpayer. This leaves fewer resources for more productive activities.
A better approach to decreasing energy dependence is for the federal government to remove unnecessary rules and regulations that restrict access to all types of energy sources.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions No Excuse for Bad Policy
Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is another dubious policy goal. Years of pressure from political leaders has forced significant changes in much of the business community. Energy producers became vested stakeholders and lobbied for handouts to produce what Congress determined to be cleaner energy. If these sources can compete without help from the government, the consumer will benefit through increased competition and lower costs. But creating an artificial market to reduce GHG emissions ignores both consumer preferences and economic fundamentals.
Moreover, Congress continues to ignore the vigorous disagreement within the scientific community concerning the effects of anthropogenic global warming. Policy should never rest on a shaky set of assumptions, particularly when it can have far-reaching implications for American businesses and everyday Americans and could therefore fundamentally alter decisions in ways that harm America’s productive system of free enterprise.
Subsidies Do Not Work
Proponents of NGVs argue that because other alternative transportation technologies receive preferential treatment, so should natural gas. The problem is that government subsidies have a proven track record of not working. Congress should therefore remove subsidies from the transportation fuel market, not increase them.
Subsidies centralize power in Washington and allow lobbyists and politicians to decide which companies will produce. The more concentrated the subsidy or preferential treatment, the worse the policy is because the crowding-out effect is larger.
The NATGAS Act is a perfect example. Soon after its introduction, the National Propane Gas Association understandably voiced its opposition to the bill because the tax credits do not include propane gas. And that is just one problem with such bills: They distort the competitive process that so capably yields affordable and viable products, moving the decision-making process from the marketplace to Washington. Consumers, not Washington, should decide whether NGVs are better than propane.
Furthermore, subsidies funnel money toward projects that have little market support and offset the private-sector costs for investment that would have been made either way. This creates industry complacency and perpetuates economic inefficiency by disconnecting market success from production costs. By artificially lowering the cost of investment, subsidies take resources away from more competitive projects. The fact that other transportation fuels receive government support is not a good reason to continue or expand special treatment for natural gas. It is a good reason to remove those subsidies.
More Handouts, No Solutions
Pieces of legislation like the NATGAS Act will not be a quick fix for high gas prices and are not the way to reduce either America’s dependence on foreign oil or GHG emissions. They provide special benefits to one industry, distorting the market and misallocating resources away from potentially more economically viable alternatives.
If Congress truly wants to promote NGVs, it should eliminate subsidies in the transportation industry and consider other market-oriented policies—such as full expensing, lowering corporate tax rates, and removing barriers to drilling—that would incentivize the production of profitable endeavors and ultimately lower prices through competition.
Nicolas D. Loris is a Policy Analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Even former President Clinton calls the Obama administration’s deep water drilling policy ‘ridiculous.’
When President Obama introduced his energy plan in March, he pointed out that the U.S. keeps going “from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again.”
It’s true that since the Nixon administration U.S. leaders have all made the same commitment to cutting our reliance on foreign oil, finding reliable sources of clean energy, and keeping energy prices low. Yet Americans keep hearing only short-term solutions and narrowly focused rules and regulations. The U.S. still imports more than half its oil, gasoline prices are at historic highs, and consumers are paying the price.
One bipartisan policy tradition is to deny Americans the use of our own resources. President George H.W. Bush took aggressive steps to keep off-limits vast supplies of oil and gas along the coasts of California and Florida. Since then, the build-up of restrictions, limitations and bans on drilling (onshore and off) have cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars while increasing our dependence on foreign sources of energy.
In the year since the Deepwater Horizon spill, the Obama administration has put in place what is effectively a permanent moratorium on deep water drilling. It stretched out the approval process for some Gulf-region drilling permits to more than nine months, lengths that former President Bill Clinton has called “ridiculous.”
Then there’s tax policy. Why, when gas prices are climbing, would any elected official call for new taxes on energy? And characterizing legitimate tax credits as “subsidies” or “loopholes” only distracts from substantive treatment of these issues. Lawmakers misrepresent the facts when they call the manufacturing deduction known as Section 199—passed by Congress in 2004 to spur domestic job growth—a “subsidy” for oil and gas firms. The truth is that all U.S. manufacturers, from software producers to filmmakers and coffee roasters, are eligible for this deduction.
We won’t achieve energy security by restricting our own companies from drilling or singling them out for punitive taxes. We’re talking about an industry that provides millions of jobs and, for the foreseeable future, the power for our economic growth.
So our focus right now has to be to find ways to encourage domestic energy supplies, even while we encourage new sources of energy. President Obama is right that this isn’t a long-term solution. But we can’t lose sight of what the country needs today.
Here are a few steps to take:
- First, let’s conduct a comprehensive review of existing policies, rules and restrictions and root out any that needlessly hamper energy production at home. Do the existing environmental rules, for example, accurately reflect the industry’s technological advancements in the ability to safely recover oil and gas supplies?
- Second, let’s develop the skills we need to find new and better ways to recover domestic supplies of energy—and to develop next-generation fuels to secure the future. That means encouraging more students to study math, science and other disciplines this industry needs.
- And third, let’s stop demonizing Big Oil to score political points. It does nothing to encourage the new talent, new ideas, and new entrepreneurs who are most likely to make breakthroughs in new sources of energy.
The kickoff of the presidential campaign season and the spike in fuel prices offer an opportunity to constructively debate a comprehensive national energy strategy. Effective policies will ensure sufficient domestic production and the healthy operation of U.S. companies abroad, which together will provide the secure, affordable energy supply that Americans need.
Federal Court’s Summary Judgment Compels Obama Administration to Act on Deepwater Drilling Permits (…Again)
Posted by: Jim Adams on Tuesday May 10, 2011, 16:34
“Although the government has begun to issue some permit applications, plainly because of this lawsuit, the future of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico remains elusive; plaintiffs’ other long-pending permit applications speak loudly to this,” Judge Feldman wrote in his ruling. “Moreover, the government’s conduct of delay in deepwater drilling in the Gulf dramatically presents far more than the mere possibility of persistent and repetitious intentional delays in processing . . . permit applications.”
The judge added: “The government has presented no credible assurances that the permitting process will return to one marked by predictability and certainty. Processing a scant few applications is at best a tactical ploy in a real world setting.”
We could not have said it better. For months, the Obama administration has aggressively dug in its heels to maintain its de facto moratorium on oil drilling. We’ve only seen the administration move – reluctantly – when shoved.
Fortunately, there are some leaders willing to give the administration a firm push. Today, the House is voting on H.R. 1229, which would require the Interior Secretary to decide on a drilling permit within 30 days of receiving an application.
Clearly, a lot of folks think the Obama administration needs a kick in the pants – whether in the form of a court order or an act of Congress — to do its job.
Americans don’t expect government to solve our problems. But we do hope our government won’t be the cause of our problems. Right now, the Obama administration is not only causing problems – unemployment, higher gas prices, more dependence on foreign oil – but it’s standing in the way of a solution.
It’s time that Gulf workers got back to work exploring for domestic oil. Americans want it, Congressional leaders are demanding it, and a federal judge has ordered it. What more does the Obama administration need to do its job?
Jim Adams is the President of the Offshore Marine Service Association. OMSA represents the owners and operators of U.S. flag offshore service vessels and the shipyards and other businesses that support that industry.
Brazil had another reason to celebrate its May 1 national Labor Day bash. The new reason was the start-up of first oil at the mega Tupi field in the Santos basin. This first extended well test (EWT) of the subsalt formations began producing at a rate of 14,000 b/d of oil and should peak around 30,000 b/d, operator Petrobras says.
Petrobras has not reckoned the size of the BM-S-11 reserves beyond its initial estimates of 5-8 Bbbl of recoverable light oil. The amount, however, was considered staggering enough to inspire President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to declare that “God is Brazilian.”
…with a seven-year offshore drilling ban in effect off of both coasts, on Alaska’s continental shelf and in much of the Gulf of Mexico — and a de facto moratorium covering the rest — Obama tells the Brazilians:
“We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely. And when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.”
Obama wants to develop Brazilian offshore oil to help the Brazilian economy create jobs for Brazilian workers while Americans are left unemployed in the face of skyrocketing energy prices by an administration that despises fossil fuels as a threat to the environment and wants to increase our dependency on foreign oil.
We have a lot of oil off our shores, too. The politically correct position goes something like this: sure, we’ve got huge reserves. But we have no idea if we have enough to make a difference.
But as the Brazillians have taught us, you don’t know for sure until you drill. Meanwhile: