Congressional Democrats have indignantly insisted that Republicans have merely been "manufacturing a scandal" and "dancing on Solyndra's grave" with their probe of the federally supported, failed solar company, but I think Republicans deserve nothing but props for holding the Obama administration's feet to the fire on this one. The government funneling half-a-billion taxpayer dollars into a project that conveniently benefits them politically, but fails the test of the free market, is no small thing. By making Solyndra a consant headache for the Department of Energy, Republicans are encouraging a little more accountability and a little less falling over ourselves to disburse public funds into environmentalist pipe dreams, if you please -- especially germane in light of yesterday's revelation that the Treasury was given 'about one day' to review and sign off on the Solyndra project because of the DOE's hurry to seal the deal and smile for the cameras:
Federal financial experts weren’t consulted on a half-billion federal loan to a failed solar company until the last minute, and only then had “about a day” to complete their review, an internal watchdog concluded Wednesday.
The report from the Treasury Department’s inspector general found that the department’s review was “rushed” and began only after the Energy Department was poised to sign off on the terms of a $528 million loan to Solyndra Inc. The review was completed a day before Energy issued a press release saying it was approving the loan with conditions.
Treasury officials complained to the White House that regulations governing federal loan guarantees say that the department should have been involved earlier in the process, but the inspector general said it was unclear whether the review’s late start violated the law.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, Solyndra wasn't even close to being the only company to receive a DOE loan guarantee, but it appears that at least some of the Obama administration's other malinvestments may have difficulty getting their payouts, and may have to -- horror of horrors -- turn to the outside private investors to fight for their survival. You know, just like every other company that doesn't get political special treatment because the current governing regime won't be able to tout any successes to their environmental base.
Today, the situation is the opposite, industry officials say: The department is putting loans through such exacting reviews that some renewable-energy funds look as if they never will be disbursed.
The issue came into focus Tuesday when the new chief executive of Fisker Automotive Inc. said the company would consider giving up on a hybrid-electric car factory in Delaware and building it overseas if it can't secure its financing.
Until recently, the cornerstone of that financing was to come from a $529 million loan by the Energy Department. Vice President Joe Biden visited the site—a closedCo. plant—in October 2009 when the deal was approved and touted it as a part of a strengthening of American manufacturing.
The department froze loan disbursements last May after Fisker missed a performance milestone, and the two sides have been negotiating since. Fisker now is seeking new partners. It announced $392 million in new financing earlier this week and Chief Executive Tom LaSorda said that if an overseas investor emerges, the factory could move abroad.
Mr. LaSorda's statement renewed calls by some for the Energy Department to make an up-or-down decision on the Fisker money. "We are still waiting for DOE to make this decision and are urging a decision to be made soon," said Ian Koski, spokesman for Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.). Mr. Koski said the senator respected the department's need to protect taxpayers but said relocation of the plant "is the trajectory the project is on" unless Fisker gets "the financing they were counting on" or other backing.
While I think it's more than safe to say that the Obama administration will never free the energy market from its central-planning clutches, Republicans have diligently disallowed them from sweeping their carelessness under the rug, and it looks like maybe the DOE is at least starting to be a bit more cautious about throwing around taxpayer money for politically profitable loan guarantees. Took 'em long enough.
Every day that President Obama is out and about busily perpetuating the lies, damned lies, and statistics that he's using to fuel the energy narrative of his reelection campaign -- that his administration somehow deserves credit for marginally higher domestic oil production and the decrease in oil imports -- is a day that I'm constantly struggling to keep from banging my head on my desk. The President is campaigning on deliberate misrepresentations of the facts, and sprinklng on some cheap populist pandering about those faceless, salacious "big oil companies" who dare to make "profits," to boot. It's enough to make any critical thinker cringe, especially when VP Biden joins in on Team Obama's self-styled hallelujah chorus:
So, the administration will take responsibility for the increasing technological efficiencies borne of the private sector, but will disavow any responsibility in doing anything to lower world gas prices other than investing taxpayer money into low-output renewable energy projects. Yep, that sounds like just about the best energy plan, evah.
Rahm Emanuel, the newly appointed chief of staff for then-President-Elect Barack Obama, once advised: "You never want a serious crisis to go waste."
It would seem that the Obama administration has almost certainly taken that little nugget of opportunistic wisdom to heart, as they've left very few wasted crises in their shrewd wake. President Obama and his cronies have employed major boondoggles as chances to advance their liberal agenda, whether it's manufacturing (not "botching") an insidious and deadly gunwalking scandal to rustle up gun-control sentiment, or spinning the economic crisis as a justification for more government interference in and control over the private sector.
But, of course, the icing on top of the crisis-cake was the 2010 BP oil spill, which provided them with a perfect poster child for duping everyone into thinking that deepwater drilling is dirty and dangerous and big oil companies are eeeeevil. With a convenient excuse in hand, the Interior Department enacted a six-month drilling freeze, and although the ban was lifted in October 2010, permitting didn't begin again until February 2011 -- and only at a reduced rate with trumped-up regulations.
Well, here's the thing: yes, the spill was awful and costly at the time. It temporarily disrupted the regional economy and damaged local ecosystems, but it was a black swan event and the Gulf Coast has since recovered. Far more costly to the Gulf Coast (and the overall U.S. economy) in the long run is the Obama administration's consistent denial of new drilling permits, stunting the productive capacities of oil companies and thereby choking off the possibilities for economic growth and wealth creation.
Since President Obama's unremittingly stingy energy policy is one of the largest inhibitors currently arresting America's prosperity, it warms my heart that the House Natural Resources Committee isn't going to let this one go without calling the Obama administration out on their true motives and duplicitous methods. Bravo:
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) on Tuesday subpoenaed the Interior Department for documents about a 2010 report that erroneously suggested that outside engineers had endorsed a deepwater drilling freeze following the BP oil spill. ...
“President Obama pledged unprecedented transparency, and it’s regrettable that a Congressional subpoena is necessary to obtain documents pertaining to the administration’s report that recommended a six-month drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico,” Hastings said in a statement Tuesday.
The committee, in a March 28 party-line vote, had given Hastings broad authority to subpoena the Obama administration for information about the Interior report and a separate proposal to toughen regulation of Appalachian coal mining.
The subpoena issued Tuesday seeks documents including communication among a series of Interior officials between April 26, 2010, and June 30, 2010, about the May 2010 drilling safety report that recommended a six-month drilling freeze. ...
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar subsequently apologized to the engineers about the mistaken impression the report left that they had endorsed a drilling freeze.
Yes, it was all very convenient, wasn't it? A little... too convenient.
It pains me when President Obama throws around terms like "innovation," "investment," and "efficiency." The way he uses and abuses these words, he makes it sound as if the institution of government (rather than the hard work of brilliant and self-interested individuals) is somehow responsible for the many conveniences of the modern age, and that we wouldn't be able to survive unless the government was interfering in the economy on behalf of the public good. The president is very wrong.
To an equally painful degree, environmentalist doomsayers are wont to hopelessly bemoan how we consume far too much costly energy, and how oil and gas reserves are too scarce to go around without either sucking the earth completely dry or spewing carbon into the air at an accelerated rate with which we cannot possibly cope. They, too, are very wrong.
Real investments in the private sector have led to actual innovations in technology, which in turn have lead to greater efficiency -- and, more so than anything else, efficiency is what's going to lead to a stable energy future. No, not algae-powered cars or EPA regulations or taxpayer-funded windmills, just plain ol' efficiency, brought to you courtesy of free enterprise. According to the Energy Information Administration, using the real 2005 dollar as a metric, 2011 was the most economically energy-efficient year on record, ever. Observe:
The energy that it takes to produce a dollar is in steady decline, i.e., the cost of converting energy into GDP dollars is getting lower, while our GDP and standard of living have both steadily increased -- thanks to the innovations and ever-increasing efficiencies that are part and parcel of free-market competition.
So, let's hash this out: he knows the delegate-odds are stacked wildly against him; he's losing his meager momentum and running out of money; and he has every faith that eventually we'll all unite around the probable nominee Mitt Romney. But, in his infinite and august wisdom, he feels that... it's his personal duty to make Mitt earn it? What the what?
“I think Mitt Romney is clearly the front-runner,” Gingrich said while campaigning in Wisconsin ahead of the Tuesday primary. “I think he will probably get 1,144 (delegates), but I think he has to earn it.”
Even so, the former House Speaker refuses to leave the race, saying Friday and he has said before that he’ll continue his campaign until Romney gets enough delegates.
"I am comfortable that the day (Romney) gets 1,144 delegates, we will all unify and support him,” Gingrich told WTMJ News Radio. “But he has to finish earning the delegates, and that’s how the process goes.”
Gingrich's campaign has tried to keep pace this year with support from Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson. But with Gingrich running a distant third to Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in most polls, Adelson suggested Thursday that he will stop financing Gingrich’s now long-shot bid. ...
Earlier this week, a Gingrich spokesman announced the campaign would start charging $50 for a photo opportunity with the candidate, another sign of financial trouble.
Just 8 percent of likely voters in the Wisconsin primary said they would vote for Gingrich, putting him behind Romney, Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, according to an ABC/Marist poll released Friday.
Newt, if your idea of making Mitt Romney "earn it" includes campaign tactics that fundamentally damage the Republican party and conservatism in general, like throwing free enterprise under the bus, we'll be getting enough of that from that Left -- thanks, but no thanks.
Gov. Chris Christie is a big man with a big personality, big conservative clout, and, presumably, big political ambitions -- the man is not to be messed with, as he's demonstrated many times over. And while, for a time there, many (like Ann Coulter) were holding out hope that the New Jersey governor would throw his hat into the GOP presidential race, he insisted that he's currently committed to his state and that now is not the time for him. Well, perhaps now isn't a good time for him... but is four years down the road looking a bit more appealing?
Gov. Chris Christie told Oprah Winfrey in an interview broadcast tonight on OWN that a lot depends on whether he’ll run for president in 2016, but one thing’s for sure: “In terms of me, I’ll be much more ready four years from now,” he said.
Christie, who called politics a “contact sport,” said there’s no doubt he’s attracted to holding positions of power, but has so far foregone the ultimate test for a simple reason.
“There’s nothing more unattractive than getting there and feeling like you’re not ready,” he said, adding that he’s never felt over his head as governor.
Winfrey, who endorsed President Obama in 2008, asked Christie about the odds the Democrat will win another four years. “He is as good a politician as I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I think where the shortcoming has been is in governing.” ...
On GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, Christie conceded “he doesn’t really communicate it all that well,” but called him the most qualified candidate for the job.
I'm left scratching my head a little -- after all, Chris Christie has been one of Mitt Romney's greatest champions, offering his endorsement and hitting the campaign trail with Romney, and it feels like he's casting a shadow of a doubt as to whether Mitt Romney will occupy the White House for the next eight years -- but he definitely gets points for honesty. Also, for those hoping that Chris Christie will be the GOP nominee's running mate -- sounds like he may have bigger ambitions in mind.
You need look no farther than the boomtown taking shape in North Dakota to understand the opportunities for employment, prosperity, and economic growth (not to mention tax revenue, if you're into that kind of thing) that can come from developing our own energy resources. Unfortunately for Americans everywhere, the Obama administration has made it clear that they'd rather not make anything easier for the hydrocarbon-energy pushers, and have systematically cut the oil industry off at the knees through regulations, scant permitting, etcetera. Worldwide demand for oil is booming, and we can take ourselves out of the game by disallowing us to take further advantage of our own wildly abundant resources -- limiting the abilities of existing companies to expand and discouraging new businesses from starting up -- but we can bet that that demand will undoubtedly be met by someone else. Farewell opportunity; hello, new world order:
NEW YORK (AP) — A big shift is happening in Big Oil: An American giant now ranks behind a Chinese upstart.
Exxon Mobil is no longer the world's biggest publicly traded producer of oil. For the first time, that distinction belongs to a 13-year-old Chinese company called PetroChina. The Beijing company was created by the Chinese government to secure more oil for that nation's booming economy.
PetroChina announced Thursday that it pumped 2.4 million barrels a day last year, surpassing Exxon by 100,000. The company has grown rapidly over the last decade by squeezing more from China's aging oil fields and outspending Western companies to acquire more petroleum reserves in places like Canada, Iraq and Qatar. It's motivated by a need to lock up as much oil as possible.
The company's output increased 3.3 percent in 2011 while Exxon's fell 5 percent. Exxon's oil production also fell behind Rosneft, the Russian energy company.
[Note: AP tries to spin this story to make it sound as if oil deposits are increasingly 'difficult to find,' and PetroChina outpacing Exxon is merely due to Exxon being more conservative in their investments and expansion, mentioning nothing about the bureaucratic struggles Exxon faces with the U.S. government. Yeahhh.... nice try, AP.]
I do not believe that China's gain is necessarily America's loss. That is the beautiful thing about free trade in a global market: it is not a zero-sum game. There's enough prosperity to go around for all of us, and when we engage in mutually beneficial buying and selling, everybody wins. However, in this scenario, we are not even letting ourselves compete for a market share -- we're simply saying no to jobs, growth, and economic opportunity.
I tend toward the school of rational optimism -- and I actually think that, over the coming years, worldwide oil prices are likely to decline: our 'finite oil reserves' just keeping getting bigger, and we'll continue to innovate and increase our technological efficiency. But if we're forcing ourselves to fit into some self-punishing, backwards-environmentalist vision of how the world should operate, we'll be stuck with relatively stunted economic growth for a long time to come.
By my count, the Obama administration's energy-related rhetoric now irrefutably falls into the category of a false narrative. His "All of the Above" approach to energy? Stick a fork in it; it's done.
I've already written about how Team Obama has been aggressively perpetuating misleading statistics to try and make it appear that his White House has been plenty friendly to the oil industry (when, in fact, they've only put a damper on it), and how his administration has been waging war on the all-but-innocuous technique of fracking. But, of course, no form of hydrocarbon energy is safe with Obama at the helm, and his administration's plans to persecute the coal industry are finally coming to fruition. Coal is the most widely-used energy source for generating electricity in the United States --and the EPA is all set to introduce new rules on Tuesday that will target greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired plants:
The long-awaited action will sharply limit the emissions allowed from power plants built in the future, but will allow existing coal plants to keep operating for years.
The new rules will essentially make it unviable to build new coal-fired power plants, unless they are fitted with yet-to-be-commercialized carbon-capture technology. The rules would limit the permissible emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to a little more than half of what a typical coal plant emits today, administration officials have said.
By contrast, cleaner-burning, gas-fired power plants are expected to remain viable under the rules.
The regulations, which fulfill the EPA's legal obligation to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions stemming from a 2007 Supreme Court case, have been in the pipeline for years and come on the heels of other agency measures designed to limit the toxic emissions of power plants.
The utility industry has fought hard against the rules, arguing that if new coal plants are effectively banned, the industry will be forced to forswear a cheap and plentiful source of electricity generation. The unveiling of the rules is also likely to draw fire from Republicans and business groups.
Here's a good general rule of thumb: when the Sierra Club is pleased about something, you know that not only are the environmental repercussions probably ill-thought-out; it's likely bad-news-bears for the overall economy, too. Hand-picking economic winners and losers, defined:
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, an advocacy group fighting coal-fired power, said in an interview that the regulation shows that President Barack Obama is moving to a cleaner energy future.
"It's a strong move," Brune said. "It means there will never be another coal plant built without new technology and it probably means even those won't be built because they can't compete."
President Obama can talk a big game about supporting all types of energy, traditional and renewable, all he wants, but his administration's actions very clearly indicate a different agenda. As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey reminds us with this Obama interview from 2008, "necessarily skyrocketing" electricity prices have been the plan all along:
You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.
They — you — you can already see what the arguments will be during the general election. People will say, “Ah, Obama and Al Gore, these folks, they’re going to destroy the economy, this is going to cost us eight trillion dollars,” or whatever their number is. Um, if you can’t persuade the American people that yes, there is going to be some increase in electricity rates on the front end, but that over the long term, because of combinations of more efficient energy usage, changing lightbulbs and more efficient appliance, but also technology improving how we can produce clean energy, the economy would benefit.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, the perceptions of Rep. Paul Ryan often fall between a pretty fierce dichotomy: he's either a brave, brilliant, budgetary maverick, or a quack who pushes grandmothers off of cliffs. But for those who are fans of his work to save America's fiscal future, including the latest budget proposal unveiled last week, they may be pleased to hear that he isn't definitively ruling out the possibility of fulfilling the running mate slot for the GOP presidential nominee. Starting at the 10:30 mark, emphasis mine:
“I just don’t know the answer to your question, Chris. It is not a bridge I have even come close to crossing. It is a decision that somebody else makes a long time from now. And, quite honestly, I am focused on doing my job in Congress, which I think is important, which is to give the country an alternative choice of two futures on how we save and strengthen America, how we save the American dream from what I think is this path the president has put us on to debt and decline. So, I can’t answer that question. I haven’t given enough thought to that. ... I would have to consider it, but it’s not something I am even thinking about right now because I think our job in Congress is pretty important, and what we believe we owe the country is if we don’t like the direction the president is taking us, which we don’t — we owe them a specific sharp contrast and a different path they can select in November and doing this in Congress is really important. That’s why I think I have a real good job right now.”
Remember, oh, I don't know -- this week -- when President Obama claimed that really, his administration can't take ownership over the Solyndra project, per se?
We are doing the "all of the above" strategy right. Obviously, we wish Solyndra hadn't gone bankrupt. Part of the reason they did was because the Chinese were subsidizing their solar industry and flooding the market in ways that Solyndra couldn't compete. But understand: This was not our program, per se. Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- put together a loan guarantee program....
The President's attempt to backtrack and distance himself from the direct results of his failing policies is wildly transparent, but that little tidbit sounds particularly egregious in light of the latest Friday night news dump. The Hill reports on the latest evidence that the Obama administration was more than just a semi-interested bystander in the Solyndra fallout:
Several key White House offices were involved with the Obama administration’s messaging plans and other preparations as the collapse of the taxpayer-backed solar company Solyndra was imminent, newly released documents show.
The latest White House documents delivered to House Republicans on Friday again highlight the extent to which senior administration officials braced for the fallout as Solyndra – a company President Obama had personally visited – was about to go under.
A White House memo that noted the danger of “imminent bankruptcy” at the end of August 2011 says, “OMB, DPC and NEC have been working with press and OLA to be prepared for this news to break.”
Acronym translation: OMB is the Office of Management and Budget, DPC is the Domestic Policy Council, NEC is the National Economic Council and OLA is the Office of Legal Affairs.
The document, an update on Solyndra’s $535 million Energy Department (DOE) loan guarantee, notes that $527 million had been disbursed and that DOE believed no more funds should be alloted.