Category Archives: Side Effects

LOST: Law of the Sea Hearings Point to Lame Duck Passage Strategy

Brian Darling
June 14, 2012 at 10:49 am

Today, the Senate has two hearings scheduled on the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). The Senate will have had three hearings on the LOST after today—yet, not for the purposes of educating Senators on the flaws versus the benefits of the treaty. These hearings are a pretext for a lame duck strategy to railroad the treaty through the Senate after the November election.

The first hearing today is titled “Perspectives from the U.S. Military.” Witnesses include Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and representatives from other government stakeholders in navigation on the high seas. The question that these witnesses can’t sufficiently answer is, “What can’t you do today, because of the LOST, that you could do if the treaty were to be ratified?” The answer is nothing.

Heritage’s Kim Holmes, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, wrote for The Washington Times last year that the navigational provisions in the treaty are not necessary.

The treaty’s navigational provisions offer nothing new. Yes, the U.S. Navy says (LOST) might improve the “predictability” of these rights, but does the Navy’s access to international waters really depend upon a treaty to which we are not even a member? The last time I checked, the U.S. Navy could go anywhere it wanted in international waters. Though redundant, the navigational provisions of (LOST) are actually pretty good. That’s why President Ronald Reagan supported them. But Reagan and others objected to the unaccountable international bureaucracy created by the treaty.

The second hearing today will include former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Heritage Foundation expert Steve Groves, former Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, and former Legal Advisor at State John B. Bellinger, III. This hearing will be an excellent opportunity for the opponents of LOST to make the case that this treaty is flawed.

The bottom line is that Senator John Kerry (D–MA) has been stacking hearings in favor of proponents of LOST. The first hearing this year included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As I wrote in an op-ed at Townhall, opponents of the treaty made a strong case against ratification.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) professed to be starting from a neutral position vis a vis ratification. Directing a query to Ms. Clinton, he said, “A lot of people believe that the administration…wants to use this treaty as a way to get America into a regime relating to carbon, since it has been unsuccessful doing so domestically. And I wonder if you might respond to that.” Ms. Clinton’s response? She said she has a legal analysis that knocks down that argument. But not all Americans are willing to rely on a politically driven legal memo from the Obama Administration as a guarantee that this treaty will not empower the International Sea Bed Authority to force regulations on American business. Those seeking certainty on this vital issue would rather take a pass on the treaty than take a chance on Ms. Clinton’s promises.

Senators Mike Lee (R–UT) and Jim Risch (R–ID) expressed dissatisfaction with the Administration’s alleging that opponents of the treaty were engaging in “misinformation” and “mythology.” Risch argued that “you addressed the people who oppose ratification of the treaty, and…I hope you weren’t scoffing at us.” Proponents have engaged in name calling to avoid the central issues to be considered before ratification.

These hearings are intended to show that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Kerry allowed conservatives to have their say before the lame duck strategy is implemented. The deck has been stacked, with two hearings in favor and one with a 50–50 split between proponents and opponents. Kerry used a similar strategy the last time the Senate considered the LOST.

Make no mistake; these hearings are part of the strategy of the treaty’s proponents to wait until after the election to push through LOST—in November or December of this year when the American people have no recourse against this offense against American sovereignty.

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Oil Refiners Launch Counter Offensive on Obama’s ‘War on Fossil Fuels’

By Felicity Carus
Published: June 12, 2012

America’s oil refiners are preparing to intensify efforts to press the federal government to drop mandates to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and counter the Obama administration’s “war on fossil fuels.”

The Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel be blended with petroleum-based products by 2022 under the Bush-era Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Five years can be a very long time in US energy politics, said Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, whose members include oil supermajors such as Shell, BP and Chevron.

“RFS2 was really conceived at a different time in the nation’s history even though it was only a few years ago. There was a thought permeating through Congress that we were eventually going to run out of natural resources.

Policy Tools not keeping Pace with Shifting Market Dynamics

“Since then, as a nation we fully understand we’re not an energy poor nation, we’re an energy rich nation with the advent of fracking and horizontal drilling.

“We’ve had this 4-5 year experiment going on which we believe has proved to be a failure.”

The RFS2 demonstrates how quickly the dynamics of the energy industry can outgrow policy, said Drevna, in an exclusive interview with AOL Energy.

“Policymakers haven’t kept pace [with change in the energy industry] and that’s always a problem when you have new technology and entrepreneurship being developed but when you’re forced to apply mandates and uneconomic solutions once they’re passed they’re very difficult to get amended.

“One of our major goals at AFPM is to have Congress and whatever administration it is to take a long hard look at the RFS and come to the epiphany that if we want to limit our reliance on foreign sources of crude oil the best way to do it is to develop our own resources and forget this totally anti-consumer anti-environment anti-common sense approach to national security which is mandating biofuels and renewables.”

At the end of May, Drevna warned the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: “The policies of the administration and EPA continue to support a war on fossil fuels that ultimately harms consumers, workers, the economy and our country’s national security.”

AFPM is a 110-year-old trade association which represents 98% of US oil refiners that process 18 million barrels of oil a day with a combined annual revenue of $725 billion.

In April, the US Energy Information Agency forecast that US gasoline demand this summer – usually a peak period – is expected to be the lowest in 11 years, partly due to rising gasoline prices at the pump and more fuel efficient vehicles.

Next month, Sunoco‘s Philadelphia refinery will become the latest in a number of refinery closures which have resulted in a 4% decline in refining capacity in the US since last year.
Overall, gasoline demand in the US declined since the 2008 spike at $147 a barrel and flattened since the subsequent global economic recession, said Drevna.

Biofuels Seen as a Small but Growing Threat

Although advanced biofuels are at de minimis levels of production this year, Raymond James equity research analysts forecast 800 million gallons of production by the end of 2013.

Meanwhile, the 133.93 billion gallons of gasoline consumed in the US last year contained about 12.87 billion gallons of ethanol, accounting for 9% of each gallon pumped into tanks.

Advanced biofuel and ethanol production are unlikely to make too much of a dent in the US liquid fuel market which is expected to sell 186 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel this year.
But AFPM sees mandates on alternative sources of liquid fuels for transportation and chemicals as a direct threat to the industry – and the American economy.

“We don’t think [biofuels] should be mandated whether it’s corn ethanol, biofuels or biodiesel until such time as those products are as efficient, reliable and abundant as gasoline and diesel produced from petroleum,” said Drevna. “Until they are able to compete head to head then let the free market decide, let the consumer decide.

…E15 goes way beyond what makes sense.” – Drevna

“The RFS was based on ideology and political science rather than reality and real science. We believe it needs to be significantly modified to prevent harm to American consumers and the economy.”

But the RFS2 has not been without its problems. Earlier this year, the EPA had to revise down its quota for cellulosic ethanol from 500 million gallons to 10.5 million gallons as advanced biofuels are still at zero commercial production. But refiners were still fined $6.8 million by the EPA – part of what Drevna said was a “hidden tax” for the consumer as costs were transferred to the consumer.

US ethanol producers last year reached saturation point of production for its domestic market as a 10% blendstock in gasoline. EPA’s decision to raise the maximum percentage blend to 15% is potentially dangerous, said Drevna.

A recent Coordinating Research Council (CRC) study found that there are at least 5 million vehicles on American roads which are at risk of failure with 15% ethanol blended fuel.

“We don’t think the EPA has the authority to bifurcate the fuel system. How much corn are we going to use to blend when we have enough oil under our own feet and off our own shores? We’re not anti-ethanol but E15 goes way beyond what makes sense.”

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Side Effects: Obamacare Adds $17 Trillion to Long-Term Unfunded Government Spending

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Last week, the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff released a report revealing that, over the next 75 years, Obamacare will add an additional $17 trillion in unfunded obligations—i.e., the benefits promised by the federal government that haven’t yet been paid for.

Before Obamacare, federal programs were already responsible for racking up 75-year unfunded obligations of an astounding $65 trillion. According to the report, Medicare accounted for $38 trillion, Medicaid was responsible for over $20 trillion, and Social Security added $7 trillion.

With the enactment of Obamacare, projected federal unfunded obligations have increased by $17 trillion, now totaling $82 trillion. Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion and new exchange subsidies are largely to blame.

The number was deduced from the Administration’s own estimates, the report explains:

The $17 trillion figure…is based on the long-term model used by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Service to estimate federal health expenditures over a 75-year period. The assumptions and methodology used to build the model is from [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] Office of the Actuary. Data on the cost of the Medicaid expansion and the premium subsidies in the 10-year window is from the Administration and the Congressional Budget Office.

Clearly, Obamacare is not just bad health care policy; American taxpayers can’t afford it. As Senator Jeff Sessions (R–AL), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said, “President Obama told the American people that his health law would cost $900 billion over ten years and that it would not add ‘one dime’ to the debt.… This health law adds an entirely new obligation—one we cannot pay for—and puts the entire financing of the United States government in jeopardy.”

Obamacare may have been passed under a cloak of fiscal responsibility, but the facts continue to show otherwise. At a time when $1 trillion-plus deficits have become the norm and the United States faces ever-increasing debt, we simply cannot afford an unpopular government overhaul of health care that exacerbates our financial crisis.

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