The Bizarre Link Between Oil and Abortion

North Dakota just passed the most draconian abortion ban in the country — six weeks.

And North Dakota is also the most booming state in the country because of the oil being extracted there.

So what’s the connection?  North Dakota’s state government currently has a $2 billion surplus thanks to oil revenues, so they’re happy to throw away money to defend their clearly unconstitutional abortion ban.

Another reason to hate the oil companies!

U. S. Election Could Be Decided in Europe

Economist Nouriel Roubini sees Europe sliding this year:*

“But the ensuing honeymoon with the markets turned out to be brief.  Interest-rate spreads for Italy and Spain are widening again, while borrowing costs for Portugal and Greece remained high all along.  And, inevitably the recession on the eurozone’s periphery is deepening and moving to…France and Germany.  Indeed, the recession will worsen throughout this year, for many reasons.

“First, front-loaded fiscal austerity — however necessary — is accelerating the contraction, as higher taxes and lower government spending and transfer payments reduce disposable income and aggregate demand.

“Moreover, while…Germany can withstand a euro at…$1.30, for the eurozone’s periphery, where unit labor costs rose 30-40% during the last decade, the value of the exchange rate would have to fall to parity with the US dollar to restore competitiveness and external balance. …  [T]he only hope of restoring growth is an improvement in the trade balance, which requires a much weaker euro.

“To make matters worse, the eurozone depends on oil imports even more than the United States does and oil prices are rising….

The trouble is that the eurozone has an austerity strategy but no growth strategy.

“Without a much easier monetary policy and a less front-loaded mode of fiscal austerity, the euro will not weaken, external competitiveness will  not be restored, and the recession will deepen.  And, without resumption of growth — not years down the line, but in 2012 — the stock and flow imbalances will become even more unsustainable.  More eurozone countries will be forced to restructure their debts, and eventually some will decide to exit the monetary union.”  Emphasis added.

As Europe goes, so may go President Obama.

* “Europe’s Short Vacation,” Project Syndicate

We Can Drill Here, We Can Drill Now, But We Won’t Pay Less

I was reading articles on energy over the weekend, and I started to wonder how many Americans really believe the GOP mantra, “Drill here, drill now, pay less.”  Because we can drill here, we can drill now, but we won’t pay less.  If we suddenly started producing many more barrels of oil and prices fell sharply, other countries would simply cut back their production till prices went back up.  We’re not drilling in a vacuum, we’re drilling in a global market.

While the Republicans were very anxious for every American to understand this global market when gas prices rose under President Bush, they’re not about to make that same effort for President Obama.  In fact, they’re doing everything they can to confuse the issue and blame Obama.  President Bush had no control over prices, but President Obama, magically and mysteriously, somehow does.

The Democrats, as usual, are doing a lousy job communicating about the global market for oil and the president’s inability to affect prices.  The Democrats can’t explain their way out of a paper bag, even when the facts are on their side.

I especially love the way the GOP is touting how low gas prices were when Bush left and Obama arrived.  That’s because the global meltdown also destroyed the demand for oil, so prices plummeted.  A deep recession is not a happy way to lower gas prices.  Sure, you’re paying less to get to work, but maybe you no longer have a job.  Rising prices reflect recovery here and around the world.

Further confusing this issue is that politicians and pundits frequently talk about “oil and gas.”  When you talk about domestic production, they are two very different commodities.  Because natural gas is difficult to ship, increased domestic production does in fact have a strong effect on prices.  But not oil.

There are lots of reasons to vote for or against President Obama.  But how much you pay for gas on November 6 on your way to vote isn’t one of them.

Some Straight Talk on Oil

An excellent op-ed in the NYT today by Stephen Kelly, “Oil Under Our Noses.”

He points out that we’re now importing less than half of our oil, and of the imported oil, less than 20% comes from the Persian Gulf.  So when we talk about Iran threatening our oil supply, let’s remember that we’re talking about less than 10% of what we use.  Yes, prices would go up, but we could get what we need.

For other countries, it’s a bigger deal.  Kelly points out that 77% of Japan’s imported oil is from the Persian Gulf, while South Korea gets 74% and China 43%.  So let them do more to protect their sources.

Kelly argues:

“[W]e should review the estimated $50 billion a year we now spend to maintain a military presence in the Persian Gulf, not counting the cost of the wars we’ve been fighting in the region.

“[A]s we reassess what we can afford to do militarily in the world, countries that depend more directly on Persian Gulf oil should pay a larger share of the burden for keeping the region stable.”

This country too often does too much about things that really aren’t our problem, or should be somebody else’s problem as much as or more than it is ours.  Maybe it was our problem before (as when we got a lot more oil from the Persian Gulf), but we need to recognize and respond to changes in the world.