Daily Archives: October 4, 2011

Drill, Castro, drill

Obama and environmental friends help Cuba tap oil off Florida

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By Humberto Fontova
The Washington Times

In half a heartbeat, the Obama team could put the kibosh on the most dangerous offshore oil drilling ever proposed near U.S. shores, scheduled to begin in December. By fighting this drilling operation, President Obama’s environmentalist allies could get the biggest bang for their lobbying buck in their history.

But all bets are off. This drilling, you see, won’t be done by villainous U.S. oil companies. Instead, a Spanish-Cuban oil company will be drilling in Cuban waters 60 miles from Key West. U.S. companies are banned from exploring anywhere within 125 miles of the Florida coast.

But none of the usual histrionics and fist-shaking from environmentalist quarters against “rapists of Mother Earth,” “despoilers of our coasts and oceans” and “obscene profiteers” have manifested against Fidel Castro’s business partners – none whatsoever. Instead, as a contingency against any drilling mishaps, the above parties already have found a way to blame – you guessed it – Republicans. More specifically, fault already has been affixed to the most lopsidedly Republican voters in U.S. history, Americans of Cuban heritage, who supposedly single-handedly maintain the embargo against Cuba and thus would prevent any cooperation with Cubans in case of a spill.

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot by not working together,” groused Environmental Defense Fund attorney Dan Whittle after returning absolutely enchanted from a recent meeting with members of Cuba’s Stalinist nomenklatura. “They’re taking the lessons of the BP spill very seriously. They could have easily distanced themselves from what happened and said theirs is a different situation from BP and said ‘thanks very much.’ The very opposite happened.”

Why, those fine folks down in Cuba just couldn’t have been more kind, helpful and accommodating. Us blockheaded Yankee bullies? Hopeless.

A team headed by the chairman of Mr. Obama’s BP spill task force, William Reilly, and Mr. Whittle just visited Cuba to assist that country with its drilling plans. But when the George W. Bush administration planned to open areas off Florida to U.S. oil companies, this same Environmental Defense Fund went ballistic:

Offshore drilling poses an unacceptable level of risk to two of Florida’s most important economic sectors. Opening a new 1.5 million acre swath of the Eastern Gulf to oil drilling unnecessarily threatens marine life with pollution and puts Florida beaches at a much greater risk for spills. Given the environmental risks … this seems like an ill-considered move by the Bush administration. Opening more of the Gulf to drilling now makes little environmental, economic or political sense.”

The drilling rig on its way to a site 60 miles from Florida’s coast is Chinese-built, Italian-owned and Spanish-leased. Its purpose is to enrich Cuba’s Stalinist nomenklatura, enabling them to better sponsor terrorism and torture people. If only the Obama-environmental alliance team could muster the same contempt for this alliance that it has for Texans.

Texas-based Seahawk Drilling, for instance, among the biggest drillers in the Gulf, filed for bankruptcy in February. The company was battered and finally killed off by “the slowdown in the issuing of shallow-water [drilling] permits in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico following the Macondo well blowout,” read its press release.

Louisiana’s Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu blamed “the administration’s excruciatingly slow release of oil and gas permits. … How many more rigs have to leave and how many more businesses have to close before it realizes the havoc the de facto moratorium is [wreaking] on the Gulf Coast?” The Energy Information Agency thinks more than 59 billion barrels of recoverable oil reside in U.S. offshore waters. But given environmental legislation, U.S. drillers are forbidden from going anywhere near this treasure trove.

As it happens, the Spanish-based oil company Repsol, which partners with the Castro regime, holds leases on U.S. territory. U.S. laws enforcing the embargo of Cuba call for penalties against such accessories to theft but have been meticulously and relentlessly overlooked.

To wit: In July 1960, Castro’s KGB-trained security forces stormed into 5,911 U.S.-owned businesses in Cuba and stole them all at Soviet gunpoint – a $2 billion heist from outraged U.S. business owners and stockholders. Not all Americans surrendered their legal and hard-earned property peacefully. Among some who resisted were Bobby Fuller, whose family farm would become a Soviet-style collective, and Howard Anderson, whose profitable Jeep dealership was coveted by Castro’s henchmen. Both U.S. citizens were murdered by Castro and Che Guevara’s firing squads.

Many of the Canadian, European and Chinese companies partnering with Castro occupy and operate those stolen properties and assets.For the most part, these foreign corporations blow their noses on U.S. laws.

But last week a letter drafted by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, signed by a bipartisan group of 34 House members and addressed to Repsol’s president, hints at the tight grip Americans hold on the Spanish corporation – and could tighten on a whim:

“Dear Mr. Antonio Brufau Niubo:

Repsol’s partnership with the Cuban regime could violate U.S. law, and may run afoul of pending legislation in the U.S. Congress. … As to current law, Repsol may be in jeopardy of subjecting itself and its affiliates to criminal and civil liability in U.S. courts. Violations of the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, the Alien Tort Claims Act, and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Enforcement Act can lead to serious ramifications for individuals or businesses that deal with the Cuban regime.”

It’s a long shot, but there’s a chance the Obama team will see fit to bring the hammer down on a state sponsor of terrorism that helped the Soviets threaten us with nuclear weapons, stole billions from U.S. citizens and most seriously threatens Florida’s beaches. That would be a refreshing change from the team’s practice of acting against domestic oil companies that fuel our economy and employ millions of our fellow citizens.

Original Article

Iceland Calls for Offshore Exploration Bids

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The National Energy Authority of Iceland (NEA), yesterday, announced the second Licensing Round for hydrocarbon exploration and production licences on the Icelandic Continental Shelf. The offer will be open from October 3, 2011 until April 2, 2011.

The blocks on offer in the Second Licensing Round are located in the Dreki Area, northeast of Iceland, from 67°00′N to 68°30′N and 11°30′W to 6°20′W. The area covers 42,700 square kilometers. Water depths range mostly from 800-2000 meters, which is well within the reach of currently available and tested technology for undersea oil drilling.

The Dreki Area is a part of the Jan Mayen Ridge micro-continent, which was separated from the continental shelf of Greenland and Norway by plate tectonic movements 45-60 million years ago. Seismic surveys and other geophysical measurements indicate that oil and gas could be found in the Dreki Area as they have been in adjacent and geologically similar areas. Further research, including exploratory drilling, is necessary to verify whether oil or gas exists in the Dreki Area.

There will be stringent requirements on security and work safety as well as on environmental protection similar to the requirements in the neighbouring countries. Use of the best available technology will be demanded to reduce the environmental impact and risk of accidents and mishaps.

A Strategic Environmental Assessment has been completed for the Dreki Area and considerable research has been done on the marine biosphere, climate and sea conditions in the area. There is no danger of sea ice under present climatic conditions and the wave heights are lower than off the west-coast of Norway. This research is important in evaluating the impact of oil exploration. No major obstacles were found to oil exploration.

Original Article

Vitter to Feds: Lower Deficit by Increasing Energy Production

Energy lease sales drop to zero as permitting remains slow under Obama administration

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Even as the Obama administration postures on behalf of deficit reduction and job creation, it continues to advance policies that undermine energy production in the Gulf region and lower federal revenue, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has pointed out in his correspondence with top officials in Washington D.C.

In a letter addressed to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich, Vitter warned of a severe revenue falloff attached to declining energy lease sales.

“Under the Obama administration’s management, revenue from our offshore lease sale program has gone from $10 billion to nothing in just three years,” Vitter said. “Revenue cannot be generated from sales that do not happen, and jobs cannot be created on leases that private industry cannot acquire. We’re in a severe fiscal crisis and we’re facing significant economic challenges related to job creation, yet the administration continues to neglect our offshore resources.”

In fiscal year (FY) 2008 revenue from bonus bids on offshore leases was approximately $10 billion, but for FY 2011 that amount is down to zero, according to Vitter’s letter.

Unless the administration reverses course, Vitter anticipates “long-term economic impacts that include lost jobs, lost royalties and lost rental fees.” Companies will be reticent to own a lease if they cannot be reasonably certain that exploration plans or permits will be approved, he added.

Daniel Kish, senior vice-president of policy with the Institute for Energy Research (IER), sees an “opportunity cost” for the Gulf region that may not be recaptured anytime soon.

“The Obama administration has virtually put a stop to energy development in federal waters,” Kish said. “This is like planting seeds, if the government won’t allow to the seeds to be planted now, they are preventing future production. We are talking about a lost generation of economic activity.”

In September, President Obama rolled out a new deficit reduction plan built around income tax increases for higher income Americans.

“We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” Obama said during a speech at the White House.  “It’s going to take a balanced approach. If we’re going to make spending cuts … then it’s only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share.” Obama also said that would veto any deficit reduction plan that includes only spending cuts and no tax increases.

“When you include the $1 trillion in cuts I’ve already signed into law, these would be among the biggest cuts in spending in our history,” Obama continued. “But they’ve got to be part of a larger plan that’s balanced –- a plan that asks the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share, just like everybody else. And that’s why this plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations –- tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get.”

But the slow pace of permits for oil drilling also contributes to the deficit, Vitter explained in a previous letter to administration officials. The right mix of policies could unleash America’s abundant supply of domestic energy resources, which would in turn boost revenue into the federal treasury, Vitter argued.

“I share the frustration of Louisianians and Gulf Coast residents with the disparity between  the president’s rhetoric and the Interior Department’s actions,” Vitter said. “The administration’s policies have led to massive deficits and job losses, especially in Louisiana, and it’s time for the president to stop lecturing about job creation and allow our energy industry workers to get back to work.”

Without a higher volume of additional permits, the number of active oil rigs will continue to decline in the Gulf, Vitter warned in one of his earlier letters. The 2011 permitting rate is well below the historical average, Vitter observed.

As of early September, “there were 19 floating units operating in the Gulf, up from four in the third quarter of 2010, but down from the average of 28 recorded in the 2007-2009 period,” he wrote.

Up to 20 oil rigs could leave the Gulf, in addition to 11 that have already left, since the administration’s moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling went into effect in May 2010, the Pelican Institute has reported.

The future could still be bright for the Gulf coast with the right mix of policies, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has concluded in a new study.

If U.S. companies were permitted to drill with fewer regulatory hurdles, they could boost government revenues by $800 billion and generate over a million new jobs by 2030, according to API.
But even with a change in administration heading into 2013, the Gulf region is not likely to experience a robust recovery in the short term, Kish, the IER policy expert, warns.

“It will take time to correct these policies,” Kish said. “The Obama administration has shifted the entire ground on which the Gulf of Mexico operates.”

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at kmooney@pelicaninstitute.org and followed on Twitter.

Original Article

On the world stage, Obama the idealist has taken fright

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Bin Laden’s killing aside, his foreign policy has all been waffle, dither and drift – with a trail of acts of dismaying expediency

Candidates run on hope. Incumbents run on their record. But Barack Obama, lining up for a second term at the White House next year, has little to offer on either score. The heady optimism of 2008 has dissipated. At home, Obama is primarily associated with hard times: only 34% of voters approve of his handling of the economy, according to a recent poll. Abroad, his presidency has come to stand for impotence and incompetence. He promised new beginnings; what he has delivered, for the most part, is waffle, dither and drift.

If this verdict seems harsh, take a quick tour round the globe. Everywhere the pillars of American superpower are crumbling. The old habit of hegemony, formed in the postwar decades and confirmed in 1989 as Soviet power imploded, is fading as fast as a Honolulu sunset.

Part of the explanation is faltering industrial and financial clout, reflecting the rapid rise of rivals like China and India. But that is compounded by another central element: Obama’s persistent failure to stand up, in practical, substantive ways, for the values, beliefs and interests he so eloquently espouses.

Obama’s early, anguished indecision over keeping his promise to close Guantánamo Bay now looks like a grim portent. So, too, does his administration’s failure to support the Iranian students whose “green revolution” was so cruelly suppressed in Tehran in 2009. When the Arab spring took hold this year, the man who in Cairo had preached the pre-eminence of the democratic ideal took fright. Tunisia did not matter much. But when he faced accusations of becoming the president who “lost” Egypt, Obama’s dither default setting was triggered anew.

In the event he achieved the worst of all worlds. Hosni Mubarak, that staunch, unlovely friend of the west, was deposed with Washington’s belated blessing – to the lasting mortification of another key American ally, Saudi Arabia. Now the army-led, supposedly caretaker regime that replaced him appears equally unappealing. Egypt may soon require a second revolution, and next time the Islamists may not act so coy. For its part, Riyadh absorbed the lesson of US unreliability and took matters into its own hands by crushing dissent in Bahrain.

In Libya, as elsewhere, Obama talked the good fight from the sidelines. Speaking about Syria in August, he condemned President Bashar al-Assad‘s “imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering” of pro-democracy demonstrators and demanded he step aside immediately. The call came after months of White House debate about the consequences of supporting change in Damascus. Assad, meanwhile, contemptuously ignores US mouthings, and a fracturing Syria accelerates towards the abyss.

Obama’s handling of his legacy wars – Afghanistan and Iraq – provides little to crow about on the stump. The Afghan troop surge has not brought about the looked-for breakthrough. Instead, casualties are up, while the Taliban, in contrast, have increasingly resorted to targeted terror tactics – such as last month’s assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president and head of the high peace council.

Any examination of whether Obama and his diplomats and commanders want a negotiated Afghan peace settlement finds President Dither at his most infuriating. Speaking at the end of Ramadan, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader, clearly signalled interest in pursuing talks to create a new political order acceptable to all Afghans. But Washington seems more intent on threatening Pakistan than ensuring a peaceful transition in Afghanistan after 2014. Much the same may be said of Iraq, where US concerns focus less on the stability of a country it so massively destabilised than on how Iran may exploit the US withdrawal.

Obama’s foreign policy under-achievement leaves a global trail. He spoke out forcefully in Prague about the necessary inevitability of a nuclear bomb-free world. But his carrots and sticks have had little impact on North Korea’s or Iran’s ambitions, while the Libyan war delivered a clear message: if Muammar Gaddafi had not abandoned his nuclear weapons programme in 2003 he might still be in power now.

As a candidate Obama condemned Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgian territory. But as president he offered Vladimir Putin’s regime a “reset” of relations amounting to a reward for bad behaviour. Along the Pacific rim, meanwhile, widely shared perceptions of a lack of political resolve in the face of China’s military expansionism are fuelling an arms race from Taiwan and Malaysia to Vietnam and Australia.

Amid multiple disappointments, one dismaying act of expediency stands out: Obama’s open-ended threat to veto UN recognition of a Palestinian state. After the three-year runaround handed out by Israel’s last-ditcher, “no surrender” prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama had the chance to deliver a symbolic blow for peace, something surely right up his street. But with a wary eye on the 2012 campaign, he just couldn’t do it. Under Obama, the empire does not strike back. It strikes out.

If Obama is re-elected it won’t be due to his international achievements – unless you think killing Osama bin Laden is worth another four years.

Simon Tisdall

 Original Article

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