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Fiscal Cliff Threatens America’s Economic Freedom

Anthony B. Kim
December 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm

The clock is ticking. Massive tax hikes are threatening to push America’s already declining economic freedom over the “fiscal cliff,” a politician-made economic catastrophe.

President Obama’s proposal to avert the fiscal cliff is a $1.6 trillion tax hike plus new stimulus spending, along with expanded power for himself to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. The House Republican leadership has offered a counter to the President’s frivolous proposal, but the counterproposal appears to cave on tax increases and punt on entitlements. Heritage’s Alison Fraser and J. D. Foster point out that “the Republican counteroffer, to the extent it can be interpreted from the hazy details now available, is a dud. It is utterly unacceptable. It is bad policy, bad economics.”

Such bad policies and economics will have a drastic impact on our economic freedom, which is already in trouble after four years of the “Yes, We Can” Administration’s programs and spending. Since 2008, America’s economic freedom has been declining at alarming rates: America has fallen from fifth freest economy in the world to 10th freest. (continues below chart)

As the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom demonstrates, economic freedom is the path to prosperity. The decline of America’s economic freedom means that our economy is losing its capacity to achieve dynamic and sustained economic growth. That’s bad news for American individuals, families, and entrepreneurs, who will reap fewer rewards for their hard work in the future.

Waning economic freedom means lost opportunities for average Americans. The opportunity cost of bigger government is paid for in the loss of economic vitality. A future with fewer jobs and lower incomes can wait at the bottom of the fiscal cliff, or it can follow just as surely from ill-designed policies to avoid it.

There is a better way. The Heritage Foundation has proposed Saving the American Dream, a sweeping pro-growth tax and spending reform roadmap designed to grow the economy and restructure entitlement programs to provide real economic freedom and long-term security for the American people.

As Heritage’s Kim Holmes noted in Understanding American Prosperity, “All of us—not just our politicians—must be vigilant, determined to safeguard liberty and the American Dream. And that means understanding that the foundation of American prosperity rests in economic freedom.”

Posted in Enterprise and Free Markets

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Zetas gang threatens Mexico’s shale gas near border

September 26, 2012 at 12:25 am
by FuelFix.com

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — The brutal Zetas gang poses one of the most daunting challenges to the development of Mexico’s abundant shale gas reserves near the Texas border.

The gas fields extend from the booming Eagle Ford play of South Texas deep into the ranch and coal country stretching inland from this violent border city. This is Zetas country, among the most fearsome of Mexico’s criminal badlands.

U.S. and Mexican energy companies long have been besieged by the gangsters here – their workers assaulted, extorted or murdered – despite a heavy military and federal police presence. Now, with feuding Zetas factions bloodying one another and fending off outside rivals, what has been a bad situation threatens to get much worse.

Northern Mexico’s gas production has suffered for years as gangland threats or attacks have kept workers from servicing the wellheads, pipelines and drilling rigs in the Burgos Basin, the territory between the Rio Grande and the city of Monterrey, which now provides up to 20 percent of Mexico’s natural gas.

Petroleos Mexicanos has problems with security … principally in Burgos,” Guillermo Dominguez, a senior member of the National Hydrocarbons Commission, told the Mexico City newspaper Reforma.

And now the surging Zetas bloodletting pits the gang’s top bosses – Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Angel Treviño – against Ivan Velazquez, a former underling known as “El Taliban.” From his base in the western state of Zaca­tecas, Velazquez reportedly has allied with the remnants of other gangs to launch a challenge for control of Coahuila state, which holds most of the shale gas reserves.

Challenge to control

Banners recently hung by both Zetas factions have accused one another of treason and other transgressions that will be avenged with death. Fighting has rattled Nuevo Laredo, the Zetas stronghold that also is the busiest land port for U.S.-Mexico trade, killing scores this month alone.

Still more banners appeared in Nuevo Laredo Tuesday, reputedly written by beleaguered civilians, promising all the gangster factions further bloody vengeance.

“Zetas are pretty much in control, but they have been challenged,” said a U.S. official in Mexico who monitors the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity. “You have all these groups fighting one another, shifting alliances and internal fights … It’s a wilderness of mirrors.”

The Zetas’ spats with rivals already have turned Coahuila’s other large cities – Torreon in the west, Monclova in the center and Saltillo in the east – into fierce gangland battlegrounds. State officials are blaming the Sept. 17 escape of 131 prisoners from a Piedras Negras prison on the Zetas seeking to replenish their ranks for new battles.

The insecurity in Mexico’s gas fields contrasts sharply with the drilling and production frenzy seizing the ranchlands just north of the border. Oil field pickups and semi-trailer fuel tankers choke Highway 83, the once-desolate ranch-country highway that cuts northwest from Laredo though the lower reaches of the Eagle Ford.

Some 6,000 drilling permits have been issued for Eagle Ford shale in Texas, and 550 wells are producing there. By comparison, Pemex so far has drilled five exploratory shale gas wells, but hopes to drill 170 more in the next four years. The company plans to spend $200 million on exploration in the short term.

Those first exploratory wells have been drilled to the west of Nuevo Laredo and below the border at Piedras Negras, ranch and coal country that remains relatively violence free for now. But that tranquility may owe more to the now-threatened dominance of the Zetas bosses than to rule of law.

“They are in control,” said a U.S. official. “They are pretty much just doing their thing.”

Workers disappearing

At least eight Pemex and contract employees vanished in May 2010 near a gas facility near Falcon Lake, territory under the Zetas’ firm control. Last March, two men working for a Mexican company doing contract work for Houston-based Halliburton disappeared outside Piedras Negras.

Halliburton spokeswoman Tara Mullee-Agard said employees get regular security briefings, but the company declined to comment on the contractors’ disappearance.

“Many companies that were active in the areas have stopped until Pemex or the government can provide security,” said an employee of one Reynosa-based company. “In places where there have been incidents we don’t operate anymore. When darkness falls, we stop wherever we are.

dudley.althaus@chron.com

NIMBY Opposition Threatens Renewables

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A recent poll said 63 percent of Americans support renewable energy investment… in theory. But, in practice, Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) opposition to new energy infrastructure prevents about 45 percent of renewable energy proposals from being built across the country, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

For instance, the Michigan chapter of the Raging Grannies, a national band of senior citizen environmentalists, wants to see the completion of a wind farm off the shores of Grosse Pointe, MI, right outside Detroit. But local residents are opposing the proposed farm. Sailboat owners claim the turbines create dead air, making it harder to sail. They also say and the turbines will be unsightly.

There is similar opposition to renewable projects all over the country. The permit process for the Cape Wind offshore wind project in Massachusetts took nine years, over the opposition of locals, including the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Off the coast of Virginia, the military is opposed to offshore wind, claiming turbines will interfere with their training. And in the Mojave Desert, a rare tortoise protected by the Endangered Species Act has slowed development of a massive solar farm.

And in Maryland, engineer and inventor Robert Bruninga, wanted to turn his unused boat dock into a solar field to provide electricity for his home. But the state denied his permit because, according to Maryland law, nothing is allowed on a pier unless it’s of aquatic nature.

Bruninga has been appealing to the state for a year and a half to make some sort of ordinance for solar panels on boat piers. Until then, he has to set up his panels on the ground in the back of his house, moving them every month because of the shade from the trees.

Patrick Earle of Takoma Park, MD, a science teacher, wanted to put solar panels on his roof, but needed to remove an old silver maple tree. But the Takoma Park arborist told Earle he would have to replant 23 trees in its place, or pay $4,000 into the city’s tree fund.

Earle learned the trees didn’t have to be planted on his own property and was able to get the city to reduce the number of trees to 15 if he planted bigger ones, so he went around town giving out free trees to his neighbors. Total cost: About $600. And now Earle and his family are proud owners of a rooftop solar array, providing about 75 percent of his home’s electricity needs.

by Silvio Marcacci (reuters)

Original Article

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