Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Obama’ tag

Obama and the New Brazil

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After a first visit to Brazil earlier in the 20th Century, a foreign diplomat boldly stated that “Brazil is the country of the future!” Self-deprecating Brazilians quickly added, “And it always will be.”

Based on my four years of living in Brazil and many return visits in the four years since, I don’t think Brazilians are saying this any longer, nor are the popular media or President Obama.

It has been fascinating to watch the changes in Brazil since my first arrival shortly before Lula’s election in 2002. I feel very fortunate to have earned the job that first brought me there, and to have stayed in close contact with the amazing colleagues and friends with whom I worked and laughed during the past decade.

Mr. Obama, Meet the New Brazil

By JULIA SWEIG and MATIAS SPEKTOR
Published: March 18, 2011

When Barack Obama lands in Brazil this weekend, he will find a country transformed. In little more than a decade, some 30 million people have been lifted out of poverty and the country has risen to seventh place in the world economy.

Change at home has revolutionized policies abroad. Brazil has woken up to the 10 states along its borders, becoming the eminent power and driver of regional integration in South America. It has set out to develop closer ties simultaneously with Israel, Syria and Iran.

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With most of the Amazon within its borders, the world’s 10th largest oil stores, and nearly a fifth of the world’s fresh water, Brazil is an environmental power, an energy power, and guarantor of global food security.

Read the entire article here.

Obama Pursues a Moderate, Pragmatic Approach During Energy Woes

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Of course times are tough. I tend to drive my car until the gas light comes on so I have to fill up less often, but then kick myself for driving so much as I watch the cost climb past $40 a tank. These are minor pains compared to the ones some folks are feeling, but even this light irritation is enough to make me want a fast change to whatever it is we’re doing, or not doing, in terms of making energy more affordable.

Patience is key. Jumping in to more drilling without taking the time to make sure it’s safe and efficient could cause as many problems, and increase total costs, as much as launching scads of new and often inefficient wind or solar projects.

Energy is expensive. Our government has helped it to be artificially cheap since early in the last century. This has lead to great advantages in our country, such as the great access most people in the U.S. have to everyday conveniences such as lights, heat, cars, buses, and airplanes. In most countries these aren’t nearly as accessible to people on, say, the bottom half of the socio-economic strata.

As Obama weathers the criticism from the right that we need to expand our use of fossil fuels, and from the left that more needs to be done to move us to alternative forms of energy, I hope that he and Secretary Chu continue their pragmatic approach, leaving the door open to more fossil fuels so long as they are safe, while also encouraging innovation and investment in alternatives.

More fence sitting, I know, but I believe this middle path is the best one.*

Obama Faces Bipartisan Criticism on Energy Policies

By Jim Angle

Published March 05, 2011

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are questioning the Obama administration's energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy. (AP)

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are questioning the Obama administration’s energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy. (AP)

With energy prices rising in part because of turmoil in the Middle East, lawmakers from both parties are questioning the Obama administration’s energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy.

“I don’t think the president’s position on oil and gas is as strong as it should be,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where the oil industry plays a large role in the local economy. “Oil and gas is an important industry in the United States today and it will be in the next decades.”

Many in the administration emphasize alternative forms of energy and some, including the president, have openly talked of the need for higher prices on oil and coal to make alternatives such as wind and solar more price-competitive.

Read the entire article here.

* I hope my post is fair and balanced. Not like the Fox version, but truly fair and truly balanced.

Biofuels Are Not Limited to Corn Ethanol

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It’s true that if we attempt to meet George Bush’s Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) (36 Bgals of renewable fuels by 2022) only with corn ethanol, food prices will rise as a result. But, as has been written before on this site, the rise in food prices in 2008 had more to do with petroleum prices than with ethanol.

So, if we fail to diversify our energy matrix, food prices and much of the economy as a whole will be subject to the high volatility in petroleum prices. Developing other ways of fueling our transportation fleets, and reducing the amount we transport ourselves and our goods, will go much further in terms of protecting ourselves from this volatility than will eliminating our biofuels efforts.

I’m not a proponent of corn ethanol, but I am a big proponent of objective, accurate information. So it’s also important to note that the RFS caps corn ethanol at 15B gals in 2015 (we’re now producing about 12B gals/yr). That’s still a lot, and I’m not convinced it’s a great idea, but, ceteris paribus (it means, all things being equal–Latin is fun), food prices will not likely rise much more due to corn ethanol. The rest of the biofuels we produce to meet those federal standards are supposed to come from grasses, trees, and agriculture residues. There’s still plenty that can go wrong with that, but other issues aren’t addressed in the article below, so I’ll end here.

Thanks for reading.

ps, I both dig and am disturbed by getting information from a source that provides news only if I can profit from it.

January 28, 2011

By Kerri Shannon, Associate Editor, Money Morning

U.S. Clean Energy Investment Puts Upward Pressure on Rising Food Prices

In U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, he highlighted clean energy investment as a key component of America’s future, one that will be reflected in his budget proposal for fiscal 2012.

“With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015,” the president said in his speech to members of Congress. “[I]nstead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

This commitment to clean energy investment increases the importance of biofuels like ethanol, made from corn and other agricultural products. About 40% of U.S. corn is used to make ethanol, and increased ethanol production leads to higher corn and food prices.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 31st, 2011 at 7:31 pm

President Obama’s energy strategy

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Friday, April 2, 2010

President Obama’s plan to expand coastal drilling could upend a decades-old standoff on the topic – and even lead to a wholly new energy outlook. It’s a nervy strategy that’s unsettled nearly everyone with a seat at the bargaining table.

His hopscotch exploration map safeguards stretches of the nation’s coastline including California while allowing oil rigs into other blue-water spots. By itself, it’s a compromise that annoys all sides and pleases no one.

But Obama is looking ahead from this hot-button issue to a bigger one. He wants to trade more drilling rigs for votes from wavering senators on looming energy and climate change legislation. From Florida to Alaska, the drilling maps try to please the nearest senator.

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Both critics and supporters of his drilling plan have underlined the central irony. In order to garner more support for green energy, reduced dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas reductions, the president will allow more drilling. He’s playing a short-term game for a long-term goal.

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The best-guess predictions are that the expanded areas won’t make a major difference in oil supply. This country uses 20 percent of the world’s supply but has only two percent of the resources. Over half the oil this country uses is imported. The U.S. can’t drill enough to get anywhere close to energy self-sufficiency, Obama said.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 3rd, 2010 at 10:06 am

Obama to Propose More Oil Drilling in Gulf

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Interesting. After that polarizing healthcare debate, it looks like Obama is trying to mend some bridges with a more pragmatic approach. A more liberal source, however, claims that he’s actually alienating both ends of the spectrum with this effort. We’ll see what happens.

Obama to Propose More Oil Drilling in Gulf

MARCH 30, 2010

By STEPHEN POWER And IAN TALLEY

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration will propose allowing offshore oil and natural-gas exploration and development in a large swath of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, after months of criticism from Republicans who have made expanded offshore drilling a political rallying cry.

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In addition, the administration plans to announce new steps to determine how much oil and natural gas is buried off the coasts of Middle and Southern Atlantic states, where oil-reserve estimates are decades out of date.

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At the same time, Mr. Obama’s plan wouldn’t allow new oil and gas development off the coasts of Northern Atlantic states or California, whose political leaders have long opposed offshore drilling. The administration will call off a plan drafted by the administration of former President George W. Bush that would have given oil companies access to Alaska’s Bristol Bay, an area teeming with wild sockeye salmon and many commercial fishing interests concerned about the impact of drilling on their livelihoods.

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The idea of expanding offshore drilling is taking on increased importance in the broader debate over climate and energy legislation.

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Mr. Obama is unveiling his plan at a delicate time for oil and gas companies. Shut out of resource-rich parts of the world like the Middle East and Russia, many oil majors increasingly view the deep waters off the southern U.S. as a key source of exploration success and production growth. Exploration in the Gulf of Mexico is expensive, compared with other basins, but high production rates and proximity to U.S. markets have made drilling there cost-effective.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 1st, 2010 at 10:02 am

America’s economy: Hope at last

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Clearly there are many factors to both the Great Recession and our recovery from it–whether that recovery is happening now, or, as some of my smartest buddies believe, will not happen until after a second dip occurs.

Either way, it’s no surprise to this observer that energy is a central issue at the heart of any economic activity.

In addition to the typical energy issues typically discussed on this site, I hope you can forgive the inclusion of macroeconomics included below. It’s important. And interesting. And energy is also certainly related.

The world’s biggest economy has begun a much-needed transition. Barack Obama could do more to help

Mar 31st 2010 | From The Economist print edition

GREAT storms and floods have a way of altering landscapes. Once the waters recede, some of the changes are obvious: uprooted trees, damaged property, wrecked roads. Later come further changes, as people seek to avoid a repeat, erecting new flood walls or rebuilding elsewhere.

As in the physical world, so in the economic one. The financial deluge that broke over America has passed and the recession it caused, the worst since the 1930s, is ebbing. This year the American economy is expected to grow by around 3%, after shrinking by 2.4% in 2009. Rainbow-spotters hope that employment is at last beginning to grow again. And the economy emerging from recession is not the same as the one that went in. There is obvious damage: high unemployment, millions of foreclosed homes and a huge hole in the public finances. Less obviously, a “rebalancing” is under way: from consumption, housing and debt to exports, investment and saving. As our special report this week argues, this is enormously promising for America and the world; but it is far from assured. A lot depends on politicians—and not just the ones in Washington.

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Dearer, scarcer credit is not the only reason. Energy, though not as frighteningly expensive as in 2008, is also no longer cheap. Americans are choosing cars over light trucks, utilities are being told to use more renewable fuel, and domestic deposits of oil and gas locked deep beneath the sea or in dense rock are suddenly profitable to extract. If these trends continue (admittedly, a big if), America could import barely half as much oil in 2025 as seemed likely just five years ago.

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Put crudely, if Americans save more and spend less while other big countries do the opposite, the world economy will prosper. If Americans become thriftier while foreigners fail to spend more, it will stagnate.

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Plenty of microeconomic reforms could also help with rebalancing. America taxes income and investment too much and consumption too little. So far Mr Obama’s policies have mostly worsened the tilt. Health-care reform applies for the first time a payroll tax (for Medicare) to investment income. His administration has rejected a tax linked to the carbon content of fuel. It has also increased the subsidies, guarantees and preferences for mortgages that helped inflate the housing bubble. The federal government now stands behind 60% of residential mortgages and seems open to the idea of creating a permanently expanded backstop.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 1st, 2010 at 8:02 am

Critics Claim Offshore Drilling Plan a Half-Step Toward Energy Independence

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Updated March 31, 2010

President Obama’s decision to open up the nation’s shores to new oil drilling drew complaints from both sides of the aisle Wednesday, as environmentalists and congressional Republicans alike claimed the move would do little for America’s energy independence.

Read the entire article here.

The president, in announcing the plan to allow drilling off the Eastern seaboard and potentially the western coast of Florida, said he anticipated the pushback. Yet, on the heels of a health care reform victory that cleared the way for work on other domestic challenges, the president defended his proposal, saying that “homegrown fuels” are needed to move away from foreign oil and help “transition” to more clean-energy sources.

Written by Jason

March 31st, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Lawmakers decry energy grants that create foreign work

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Ai ai ai, one of many, huge problems with our current energy system is our reliance on other countries for resources. Especially if these are government dollars, spending them overseas seems an unwise use of scarce dollars.

By JENNIFER A. DLOUHY Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

March 3, 2010, 10:06PM

WASHINGTON — Four Democratic senators on Wednesday implored the Obama administration to stop spending federal stimulus dollars on renewable energy projects whenever the bulk of solar cell and wind turbine manufacturing is done overseas.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 5th, 2010 at 3:32 am

U.S. withdraws Yucca Mountain application

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Well, this seems to add some finality to the situation. We’ll see.

Mar 03 – United Press International

The U.S. Department of Energy said Wednesday it has filed a motion to withdraw its license application to store high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

In a news release, the department said it filed the motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with prejudice. President Barack Obama has instructed Energy Secretary Stephen Chu to establish a commission to study the issue of how best to dispose of nuclear waste.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 5th, 2010 at 3:09 am

Obama Aims to Lower Monthly Debt Through New Energy Program

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Posted by Evan Bedard on March 3, 2010 

President Barack Obama has been pushing consumers to invest in energy efficient items for their home to save money and energy.

Well this Tuesday, Mr.Obama announced to an audience at the Savannah Technical College in Georgia that the government came up with a new incentive to attract consumers to green technology. In the speech he came to say that consumers shall receive an instant rebate for the purchase of energy efficient materials and certain appliances.

Read the entire article here.