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Dems Propose Back Door Energy Taxes September 10, 2010

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by Capitol Confidential

While Harry Reid may have allowed the energy tax hikes to die on the floor of the Senate, liberals nationwide have continued their attacks on the energy industry. The Gulf oil spill is barely a fond memory of a moratorium and Democrats are already seizing on the incident to push a host of job-killing, industry-kneecapping taxes and regulations designed to do what they failed to do legislatively: take down the American energy industry.

First the regulations: starting in January, the EPA will begin enforcing a little known provision called the “Tailoring Rule” – a new series of regulations that allow the EPA to dole out permits to carbon-generating companies “allowing” them to pollute in certain amounts, strictly regulated by environmental watchdogs. These regulations don’t just touch the usual suspects, but also renewable energy sources that don’t immediately fall into the “green” category as defined by environmental groups – sources like Maine’s biomass industry, which creates usable energy from environmental waste. Under the EPA regulations, the biomass industry, which was viewed – and treated – up until now, as carbon neutral, would face a host of regulations directed at greenhouse gas producers – regulations that would greatly raise the cost of doing business and could have dire economic consequences for Maine and beyond.

And then there’s the taxes.

A recent op-ed penned by solar industry executive Tom Rooney sheds a little light on liberal plans for the energy industry:

Solar costs more than coal and oil and natural gas. But here is the truth: It just seems that way because other people pay many of the costs of fossil fuels…Oil subsidies are…extravagant.

“The web of direct subsidies includes billions in government-sponsored low-cost construction loans and tax breaks like the foreign tax credit,” said energy analyst Blaine Townsend in the San Jose Mercury News.

The International Energy Agency says fossil fuels are subsidized $550 billion a year around the world.

Let’s not forget nuclear: The federal government pays a large part of the insurance for nuclear power plants. If government subsidized insurance for solar companies, our costs would drop dramatically.

I’m not saying they should — I was just noting how subsidies create an advantage for one kind of energy.

According to Mr. Rooney, the oil, gas and coal industries are working hard to prevent the success of cleaner energy initatives, like solar power, eating up taxpayer subsidies – subsidies that don’t go to more environmentally friendly industries. If only the taxpayers would stop financing these industies – or better yet, also subsidize solar power – we’d have a cleaner, better world.

Here’s the catch, though. Unlike the solar industry, the oil and gas industry contributes about $165 billion into US revenue per year and employs about 9 million people. And not just that – to say that the renewable energy industry has received no help from the government is a misnomer: the massive stimulus program known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided “green” industries with nearly $20 billion in tax credits on top of over $45 billion directed to that industry through appropriations.

But that aside, the real root of Mr. Rooney’s complaint is more sinister and goes to the heart of a plan the Obama Administration has had since 2009. Mr. Rooney’s “subsidies” are actually the fruit of a provision called “Section 199” – a group of tax credits that are designed to encourage anyone in the manufacturing sector to employ American workers. It’s made available to all American manufacturing firms – including small businesses and entrepreneurships, and anyone who engages in construction, engineering or architecture in the United States, who sells American-made products or who develops software in the US – and repealing it would actually cost Americans around 600,000 jobs nationwide according to the Institute for Energy Research.

According to ATR, a plan to repeal Section 199 has been in the works for a while as a sort of roundabout tax increase designed to punish oil and gas producers and the recent Gulf disaster has given them a perfect excuse to resurrect the initiative. The propects of course, are terrifying: using tactical repeals of tax provisions to punish American companies whose well-being is connected to economic stability.

Federal Judge Blocks Obama’s Offshore Drilling Moratorium in Gulf of Mexico June 23, 2010

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In a victory for drilling proponents, a federal judge struck down President Obama’s six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, saying the administration rashly concluded that because one rig failed, the others are in immediate danger, too.

The White House promised an immediate appeal. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president believes strongly that drilling at such depths does not make sense and puts the safety of workers “at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford.”

The Interior Department had halted approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling of 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans to overturn the moratorium.

They argued it was arbitrarily imposed after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers and blew out the well 5,000 feet underwater. It has spewed anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

In a Tuesday, June 8, 2010 photo, a deepwater drilling rig operates near the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP)

Feldman sided with the companies, saying in his ruling the Interior Department assumed that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster,” he wrote. “What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm.”

His ruling prohibits federal officials from enforcing the moratorium until a trial is held. He did not set a trial date.

The Interior Department said it needed time to study the risks of deepwater drilling. But the lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La., claimed there was no proof the other operations posed a threat.

Company CEO Todd Hornbeck said after the ruling that he is looking forward to getting back to work.

“It’s the right thing for not only the industry but the country,” he said.

Earlier in the day, executives at a major oil conference in London warned that the moratorium would cripple world energy supplies. Steven Newman, president and CEO of Transocean Ltd., owner of the rig that exploded, called it an unnecessary overreaction. BP PLC was leasing the rig.

“There are things the administration could implement today that would allow the industry to go back to work tomorrow without an arbitrary six-month time limit,” Newman told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.

The moratorium was declared May 6 and originally was to last only through the month. Obama announced May 27 that he was extending it for six months.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal and corporate leaders said that would force drilling rigs to leave the Gulf of Mexico for lucrative business in foreign waters.

They said the loss of business would cost the area thousands of lucrative jobs, most paying more than $50,000 a year. The state’s other major economic sector, tourism, is a largely low-wage industry.

Tim Kerner, the mayor of Lafitte, La., cheered Feldman’s ruling.

“I love it. I think it’s great for the jobs here and the people who depend on them,” said Kerner, whose constituents make their living primarily from commercial fishing or oil.

But in its response to the lawsuit, the Interior Department said the moratorium is needed as attempts to stop the leak and clean the Gulf continue and new safety standards are developed.

“A second deepwater blowout could overwhelm the efforts to respond to the current disaster,” the Interior Department said.

The government also challenged contentions the moratorium would cause long-term economic harm. Although 33 deepwater drilling sites were affected, there are still 3,600 oil and natural gas production platforms in the Gulf.

Catherine Wannamaker, a lawyer for environmental groups that intervened in the case and supported the moratorium, called the ruling “a step in the wrong direction.”

“We think it overlooks the ongoing harm in the Gulf, the devastation it has had on people’s lives,” she said. “The harm at issue with the Deepwater Horizon spill is bigger than just the Louisiana economy. It affects all of the Gulf.”

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., praised the ruling, saying the judge got at least two things right.

“First of all that the president’s powers are not unlimited, that there needs to be a basis in law for whatever he does,” Vitter told Fox News, “and secondly that this is a huge deal and would cost — if the moratorium continues — well over 100,000 jobs in the Gulf. So it is a big, big deals.”

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said the ruling showed the moratorium was “overreaching.”

“It should serve as a shot across the bow to the administration and Congress that American workers must continue to develop America’s energy resources within our borders,” Begich said in a written statement.

“As much as a tragedy as BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster is, we can’t let emotion overrule sound energy policy,” he added. “Our country’s energy policy must include increased domestic oil and gas development as we transition to cleaner energy sources.”

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., applauded the ruling, saying it confirmed his belief that the president didn’t have the authority to “impose this reckless ban in the first place.”

“For more than a month, Louisiana’s economy has been jeopardized by this drilling ban being pushed by federal bureaucrats who have exploited our disaster to pursue their own political agenda, and today’s ruling confirms the ban was a knee-jerk reaction that ignored facts and science,” he said.

“It is long past time for the president and Secretary Salazar to finally come to the table and work with those of us who have presented alternatives that will immediately increase safety and mitigate environmental damage without shutting down an entire industry.”

CNN poll shows disapproval over Obama handling of Gulf spill increasing June 18, 2010

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Ed Morrissey

A new CNN poll taken a day after Barack Obama’s Oval Office speech delivered more bad news to the White House.  The poll shows 59% disapproval over Obama’s handling of the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, an increase of eight points since May 21-23 survey.  Approval has dropped from 46% to 41%, making an 13-point shift in approval in three weeks.  The result shows that Obama’s speech failed to repair his damaged position and build his credibility on his competence.

Bear in mind that this poll has some issues.  First, unlike the previous poll, CNN conducted it in a single day.  It also only consists of 534 respondents, a little low for a national survey.  CNN didn’t include all of the questions, apparently holding some data for later release.  There is no data on the partisan-affiliation breakdown of the sample, for instance.

Obama’s overall job approval narrowed into a virtual tie, 50/48, in this survey, down from 51/46 three weeks ago.  Unfortunately, that’s about as popular as he gets in this survey.  Two thirds of respondents (67%) say Obama hasn’t been “tough enough” in his response, while only 26% say he’s gotten the toughness quotient correct.  Almost three quarters (74%) disapprove of the federal response in the Gulf so far.  Eighty-two percent approve of the creation of the escrow account by BP, but the question got asked in a misleading manner:

Creating a fund of billions of dollars to compensate workers and businesses that have been affected by the oil spill that would be paid by BP but administered by a neutral party[?]

The administration won’t come from a “neutral party.”  That implies a private-sector trustee or receiver who would presumably have no conflicts of interest with either BP or the businesses and individuals impacted by the spill.  Instead, the White House appointed an existing administration figure, “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg, to control the money on behalf of the White House.  Unless that question got asked specifically, CNN offered a misleading interpretation, and the answer should be entirely discounted as a result.

The poll has one ray of sunshine, albeit dim: 54% of respondents trust the federal government over BP to run the cleanup.  Right now, considering BP’s public image, that qualifies as damnation through faint praise.

Poll: Louisianans think Bush did better on Katrina than Obama’s doing on the oil spill June 16, 2010

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by Allahpundit

Devastating. Especially since it comes from left-leaning pollster PPP.

Our new Louisiana poll has a lot of data points to show how unhappy voters in the state are with Barack Obama’s handling of the oil spill but one perhaps sums it up better than anything else- a majority of voters there think George W. Bush did a better job with Katrina than Obama’s done dealing with the spill.

50% of voters in the state, even including 31% of Democrats, give Bush higher marks on that question compared to 35% who pick Obama.

Overall only 32% of Louisianans approve of how Obama has handled the spill to 62% who disapprove. 34% of those polled say they approved of how Bush dealt with Katrina to 58% who disapproved.

The big winner? Bobby Jindal, whose 63 percent approval (65 percent on handling the spill) is the highest for any senator or governor in PPP’s polling this year. He lost some of his righty rock-star luster after that SOTU disaster, but I think it’s safe to say that he’s gotten it all back: The latest is that he’s lost patience with BP’s containment efforts and given the order to the National Guard to start building a barrier wall off the coast to try to protect the shoreline. 70 percent, here he comes!

As for The One, aside from delivering a big speech tonight in the Oval Office, he’s busy … delivering other speeches, like this one today in Pensacola. Note the quasi-martial rhetoric in the clip about “fighting back” against an “assault on our shores” while a crowd of troops stands assembled behind him. Looks like he’s taking Eugene Robinson’s advice and essentially declaring war on the spill, which won’t change a thing on the ground but might brighten up his approval numbers by projecting some C-in-C authori-tah. Exit question: Did you catch the magic word in the clip? He said it twice!

Romney: Obama is no leader June 11, 2010

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , 1 comment so far

by Ed Morrissey

As I wrote yesterday, the 2012 presidential election will certainly involve a debate on issues, but will probably hinge on leadership and competence.  Republicans wanting to make Barack Obama a one-term President will have to make a case for superior executive talent and experience and contrast that with Obama’s demonstrable failures as an executive and a leader.  Mitt Romney makes the early case against Obama in today’s USA Today, saying that the nation does not need a Politician-In-Chief in times of crisis:

Has it come to this again? The president is meeting with his oil spill experts, he crudely tells us, so that he knows “whose ass to kick.” We have become accustomed to his management style — target a scapegoat, assign blame and go on the attack. To win health care legislation, he vilified insurance executives; to escape bankruptcy law for General Motors, he demonized senior lenders; to take the focus from the excesses of government, he castigated business meetings in Las Vegas; and to deflect responsibility for the deepening and lengthening downturn, he blames Wall Street and George W. Bush. But what may make good politics does not make good leadership. And when a crisis is upon us, America wants a leader, not a politician.

We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001. Then as now, black billows seemed to come from the center of the earth. Lives had been lost. The environmental impact was immeasurable. The looming economic impact from lost tourism was incalculable. Into the crisis walked Rudy Giuliani. While that was an incomparable human tragedy, how the mayor led New York City to recover is a useful model for the president.

Rudy camped out at Ground Zero — he didn’t hole up in his office or retreat to his residence. His presence not only reassured the people of New York that someone was in charge, it also enabled the mayor to assess the situation firsthand, to take the measure of the people he had on the ground, and to understand the scope of the crisis.

Giuliani is a good example for Romney to use, but one has to wonder whether Romney might be helping a competing contender for the 2012 nomination.  Giuliani hasn’t exactly stayed silent during the Obama administration, and he refused to run for Governor or Senator in New York when he would have been highly competitive in both races.  Giuliani may still have his eye on the top job, and after the bumbling of this administration in times of crisis, America’s Mayor would have a pretty good leg up on his competition.

Romney continues to contrast Giuliani’s performance in the days after 9/11 to make the unfavorable comparison to Obama:

What happens when men and women of various backgrounds, fields of expertise, and unfettered intellectual freedom come together to tackle a problem often exceeds any reasonable expectation. Ideas from one may cross-fertilize the thinking of another, yielding breakthroughs. The president of MIT told me that the university spent millions of dollars to build a bridge connecting two engineering departments that had been separated by a road — the potential for shared thinking made it more than worth the cost.

But even a gathering of experts won’t accomplish much unless a skilled leader uses their perspective to guide the recovery. So far, it has been the CEO of BP who has been managing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The president surely can’t rely on BP — its track record is suspect at best: Its management of this crisis has been characterized by obfuscation and lack of preparation. And BP’s responsibilities to its shareholders conflict with the greater responsibility to the nation and to the planet. …

President Obama’s instigation of criminal investigations of BP at this juncture is classic diversion politics — and worse, it will engender bunker mentality at a time when collaboration and openness are most critical. BP’s actions and inactions are reprehensible; it must be made to pay the billions upon billions of dollars that this spill will ultimately cost. But call out the phalanx of lawyers later — solve the crisis today.

Most of these same criticisms have already been coming from the Right in the last couple of weeks.  Some of them have even come from the Left, with Rolling Stone blasting Obama’s leadership.  That doesn’t mean that the issue is off the table, though.  Republicans need to keep hammering home the lack of leadership Obama and his team have demonstrated in this crisis, and establish that far from changing the way Washington works, Obama has indulged himself in slash-and-attack politics more than perhaps any President since Nixon while doing less than any in recent memory. “Diversion politics” is a good term for what Romney describes.

Time to look for real executive talent and leadership.  Romney remains modest in this particular argument, eschewing any self-reference, but his argument in 2007-8 was that he alone had the executive experience and success necessary for the job, in both the private and public sectors.  There will be more Republicans making that argument in 2011-2, and the field will almost certainly tilt to meet this basic argument against a second Obama term.  Even if Romney may not be the ultimate beneficiary of it, he has the standing to frame the argument.