Back in March, when people were still unironically saying "Fifteen days to slow the spread," I wrote about the absolute fury the Biden campaign was directing at Republicans over their claims that the former vice president wanted to ban the modern marvel known as fracking. I suggested that Republicans could be forgiven for making these claims -- as RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted, "There are 7.3M Americans whose jobs depend on fracking. Biden and Bernie would eliminate them" -- because Biden's actual position on fracking seemed fairly hard to decipher:
[W]hen Bernie Sanders said he wanted to stop “fracking as soon as we possibly can,” and that he was “talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet—no ifs, buts and maybes about it” in the debate the other night, Biden replied "So am I!" His position is as clear as the noonday sun! Oh, or, er, maybe not so much...
Well, Sleepy Joe is at it again, having said at a speech earlier this week in Pittsburgh, Pa., "I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again: I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me."
What a relief that must be to the more than 40,000 men and women who work in the natural gas industry in the state of Pennsylvania (which, it is worth noting, Trump won by just over 40,000 votes)!
Then again, maybe they shouldn't be too reassured, since, as Hank Berrien documents, Biden's own words seem to point in the opposite direction:
On January 24, 2020, speaking to a New Hampshire voter, Biden said he would stop fracking. The woman voter asked, “But like, what about, say, stopping fracking?” Biden answered, “Yes.” Woman voter: “And stopping pipeline infrastructure?” Biden: “Yes.”
On March 15, 2020, a Democratic presidential debate between Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, [Biden said]: "No more, no new fracking."
Also in that debate, Biden stated, “Number one, no more subsidies for fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.” ....
At a Democratic presidential debate in late July 2019, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Biden, “Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?” Biden answered, “No. We would — we would work it out. Make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those. Either — any fossil fuel.”
Which is to say, if the claim that Biden opposes fracking is "fake news" from Team Trump, than Crazy Grandpa Joe is in on the conspiracy.
Give It Back to the Indians
You'd think that the Supreme Court's recent decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which effectively cleaved the Sooner State in half, would be considered a very big deal, but you can hardly find any worthwhile analysis of it. Perhaps this is because the case has been lost in a sea of other major decisions issued around the same time -- including Bostock v. Clayton, which redefined the word "sex" for the purposes of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; June Medical v. Russo, which held that requiring abortion clinics to have admission agreements with local hospitals is unconstitutional; and DHS v. Regents of the University of California, which asserted that the Trump administration could not undo the Obama Administration's DACA order.
Another possibility is that Americans (unlike our cousins in Canada) are used to thinking of "Native issues" as having purely regional import, with little-to-no effect outside of a few dusty states in the south and west. But McGirt v. Oklahoma has the potential to be among the most significant decisions in years.
For some background: Jimcy McGirt, a member of the Creek nation, or Muscogees, was tried and convicted in 1996 in Oklahoma for raping a four-year-old girl. While serving a life sentence, he appealed the decision, his legal team arguing that the state of Oklahoma had no right to try him for the crime, since the 1866 treaty which the Federal government signed with the Creek nation establishing a reservation in that territory was not abrogated when Oklahoma became a state in 1907.
In a 5-4 decision (which saw Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch join with the four liberal justices), the court agreed, declaring that, despite a century of behaving otherwise, much of eastern Oklahoma is legally "Indian country," and as such McGirt (and hundreds of other Indians currently imprisoned for crimes in the area) should have been tried in federal court, which has jurisdiction over Indian affairs.
Writing for the majority, justice Gorsuch conceded the potential for this decision to have wide ranging and unpredictable effects:
In reaching our conclusion about what the law demands of us today, we do not pretend to foretell the future and we proceed well aware of the potential for cost and conflict around jurisdictional boundaries, especially ones that have gone unappreciated for so long.
In his dissent, chief justice John Roberts added some more specificity to Gorsuch's point, while pointing to the mind-boggling scope of this decision, which, although ostensibly dealing with criminal law, will necessarily in an over-lawyered America bleed into other areas of governance.
Not only does the Court discover a Creek reservation that spans three million acres and includes most of the city of Tulsa, but the Court’s reasoning portends that there are four more such reservations in Oklahoma. The rediscovered reservations encompass the entire eastern half of the State—19 million acres that are home to 1.8 million people, only 10%–15% of whom are Indians. Across this vast area, the State’s ability to prosecute serious crimes will be hobbled and decades of past convictions could well be thrown out.
On top of that, the Court has profoundly destabilized the governance of eastern Oklahoma. The decision today creates significant uncertainty for the State's continuing authority over any area that touches Indian affairs, ranging from zoning and taxation to family and environmental law.
While all of these points of uncertainty are worthy of further discussion, it is the last one -- environmental law -- to which we will turn our attention.
Oklahoma is our nation's fourth largest producer of oil and third largest producer of natural gas. But according to Dino Grandoni of the Washington Post, after this decision, roughly "a quarter of Oklahoma’s recent oil and gas wells and around 60 percent of its refinery capacity" is now within the confines of Indian territory. "Perhaps more importantly," Grandoni continues, "the network of pipelines pumping crude to and from Cushing, Okla. — a crucial oil terminal for the Keystone XL — spider-web across the redrawn reservation borders."
Andrew Jackson, call your office.
No industry likes uncertainty, and the potential for disruption to the oil and gas industry here is almost unprecedented. Relationships between regulators and producers, established over decades, might ultimately be worthless. The same could be said for the familiarity companies have with the minutiae of local government, and the responsibility that elected officials in Oklahoma have towards constituents effected by regulatory decisions. As Grandoni explains,
Instead of dealing with business-friendly regulators from the state of Oklahoma... producers may soon have to contend with both tribes and the federal government, which often manages land for Native Americans.
This is unfortunate, since, as we've seen, native groups are often susceptible to manipulation and outside interference, either because their governance structures aren't designed to deal with problems at this scale (a particularly acute problem in this case, as the governance of what Roberts called the "rediscovered reservations" hasn't had jurisdiction over this territory in over a century) or because the activist and media narrative diverge from the interests and preferences of the Indians themselves.
Moreover, in instances where the federal government manages territory on behalf of the native population, there is a world of difference between politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., overseeing the environmental regulations and politicians and bureaucrats in Oklahoma City doing the same. While berating bureaucrats is something of a national past time in America, especially on the right, many of Oklahoma's regulators will have grown up in the area, and will know something about the issues and the land, on top of being familiar with the producers. That isn't necessarily the case for bureaucrats at the EPA or the Bureau of Indian Affairs sitting at a desk 1,300 miles away.
And that doesn't even touch upon taxation, which could see the tribes in charge of eastern Oklahoma begin to collect taxes from producers on top of the state taxes which they already pay.
For those reasons and more, its no wonder that producers in Oklahoma are feeling apprehensive. According to Grandoni, "at least one company — Houston-based producer Alpha Energy Inc. — is warning investors it faces potential legal risks in its leasing of 3,400 acres in the state." And former Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett, who now runs an oil and gas company, said he "worries investors may be less interested in working with drillers in eastern Oklahoma — especially when similar opportunities exist in the western half of the state and across the border in Texas."
Now, it must be said that hope isn't necessarily lost for the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma. As Gorsuch pointed out in his majority opinion, "Oklahoma and its Tribes have proven they can work successfully together as partners," and that hundreds of agreements already exist between the state and its natives. There is, in fact, already a preliminary agreement between the Five Tribes with authority over this territory and the state of Oklahoma, signed within a few days of the decision.
But that agreement is general in nature, and it is likely that the interested parties will be hammering out the details of this new arrangement for years to come.
Hopefully there will still be an oil and gas industry -- including the jobs it provides to Oklahomans of all ethnicities -- on the other side.
With US Election Looming, Whither Fracking?
Fracking has become a hot-button issue on the Left, and for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's good for the American economy, so right off the bat it's bad. For another, it has something to do with icky fossil fuel extraction -- a messy business involving melted dinosaur juice that no right-thinking Harvard grad would want to get involved with. For another, it's the brutal rape of almost virginal Mother Gaia; if there's one thing the Left embraces wholeheartedly it's the pathetic fallacy, which attributes human emotions to inanimate or insentient objects.
The Democrats, naturally, object to fracking because all of the above, and reasons. As with everything they despise, they want to ban it, outlaw it, forbid it, demolish it, and destroy it. For your own good, of course.
The senile cardboard cutout once known as former vice president Joe Biden says he doesn't want to ban fracking -- a sure-loser proposition in his birth state of Pennsylvania and a state he must win in November to have a chance of unseating Trump. Especially, as the coronavirus lockdown hoax passes, with the economy bouncing back sharply. But the ideological, sentimental crazies in his party (e.g. everybody else) don't want to hear talk like that. Over at Real Clear Markets, Steve Milloy has the story:
Fracking is a key issue in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan where hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs depend the largely state-governed process of producing oil from shale rock formations.
During the primary campaign, Biden flip-flopped back and forth on banning fracking, finally alighting on an intermediary position where he wouldn’t ban fracking outright but would act to limit it on federally-owned lands. After Biden had cemented the nomination, the firebrand [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez was named as a climate advisor and installed on the Democratic National Committee’s climate advisory panel.
In early June, the DNC Environment and Climate Crisis Council issued a report that called for “legislation permanently banning fracking and enhanced oil recovery and initiate a managed phaseout of existing operations.” The purpose of the report is to “recommend a sweeping set of policies for inclusion in the new four-year 2020 Democratic Party platform, which will be approved at the August convention.”
While it is not uncommon for presidential candidates and their party platforms to often diverge, is the fracking fracture between Biden and the Democratic Council more significant? Of course it is.
Read Milloy's piece in its entirety, which goes on to argue that the feeble, demented Biden will be a pushover for the radicals. But that gives Trump an opening, not only in places like Pennsylvania (the keystone to winning the election; if Trump loses Penn., it's over), but also Ohio, Michigan, Indiana -- all of which Trump won in 2016. The big prize of New York State, even in its declining dotage, could also be put into play. Thug governor Andrew Cuomo has banned it in his state, but long-suffering western New York and the Southern Tier would welcome it. Biden may think he's got NYS in the bag, but even a strong feint by the Trump campaign in the direction of Rochester, Buffalo, and Elmira could force Biden to play defense.
Biden may deny he would ban fracking. But the question for voters should be, would it really be up to him? Panicked Democrats are now trying to back away from the DNC report calling for the fracking ban. A “senior Democrat familiar with the DNC’s workings” said to Reuters of the recommended fracking ban, “It’s a nonstarter.” About the Ocasio-Cortez-led DNC climate panel, the understandably anonymous source said, “Nobody takes them seriously.”
That will be disconcerting news to the likes of Ocasio-Cortez and all the Bernie Sanders supporters who, as it is, already have to hold their noses and vote for Biden.
If he cares about his country at all, Biden has a chance to put down the AOC rebellion and do the right thing. But of course he won't.
Tides Canada Rebrands as 'MakeWay'
I actually LOL'd when I read this article announcing that the "progressive" environmentalist organization, Tides Canada, is "rebranding" as MakeWay.
The Vancouver-based non-profit group, which took its name from the American Tides Foundation 20 years ago, funds hundreds of charities across Canada in the area of environmental and social justice. But in recent years, its association with the Tides Foundation and its participation in the Tar Sands Campaign... placed it in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s crosshairs....
“Smear campaigns about Tides Canada have repeatedly misconstrued the purpose of [our] international philanthropic funding and have also conflated it with the U.S.-based Tides Foundation,” the organizations states in a press release.
Wow, so Jason Kenney (boo! hiss!) unjustly roped Tides Canada into his inquiry into foreign funded anti-Albertan oil campaigns just because they borrowed the name of an American foundation which they totally have nothing to do with today?!?! Outrageous!
Or else, you know, extremely misleading.
It may be true that people reading Vivian Krause's indispensable reporting (which influenced Kenney's inquiry) on the millions of dollars both the Tides Foundation and Tides Canada have spent keeping Canadian oil in the ground might have trouble tracking which seven or eight figure donation came from which organization. But the suggestion that its inclusion is unjust is ludicrous, as Krause makes plain in her call for Tides Canada to be investigated, published back in 2011:
Since 2000, Tides Canada has gone through $200 million. That's a lot of cash and it raises a fair question: Where did all that money come from, and what has Tides Canada accomplished with it? .... U.S. tax returns and on-line records show that since 2000, Tides Canada has been paid nearly $60 Million by American foundations.
Perhaps its not so shocking that they've ended up in "Jason Kenney's crosshairs."
The truth is, organizations like Tides Canada prefer it when regular people have never heard of them. It allows them to operate with minimal scrutiny, make powerful contacts without triggering anyone's spidey sense, and serve as a launchpad into politics for activists, as when Tides Canada VP Sarah Goodman was tapped as Justin Trudeau's climate policy director. The inquiry makes it harder to do those things, hence the rebranding.
Here's hoping that, if they keep doing what they've been doing, Krause and Kenney can make "MakeWay" just as toxic.
Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia
You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.
In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:
Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.
The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.
If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.
Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.
Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.
In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.
In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”
A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.
Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.
After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.
As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”
Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.
Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.
“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”
“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”
Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.
Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.
'GOP Out of Touch on Climate Change'
Former Pennsylvania governor, Homeland Security secretary, and current enviro-lobbyist Tom Ridge has published an article at The Atlantic arguing that his fellow Republicans are behind the curve on environmentalism. After opening the piece with a maudlin reflection on the fact that we all should have been celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd, but that the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from doing so (for the first time I was able to connect with the Libs who've been rooting for the virus), Ridge states:
The Republican Party has largely abandoned environmental issues—to its great detriment politically. Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment, such as protecting water and air quality and reducing the effects of climate change. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center finds that Democrats mostly agree that the U.S. government should do more on climate. Republicans are divided by ideology, age, and gender; moderates, Millennials, and women within the party are far more likely than conservatives, older Republicans, and men to favor more federal action. More and more, the GOP as a whole seems out of touch on this crucial issue.
This assertion is questionable. Gallup has actually just released a new poll attempting to document how Americans priorities the challenges facing our country, and the data for April, respondents put Climate Change at the bottom of the list, tied for dead last in importance. Now, of course, April is a bit of a skewed month, with the pandemic understandably taking first place and sucking up all the oxygen. Even so, it is worth noting that in the previous months surveyed, "climate change" only barely misses last place.
Heartland Institute president James Taylor, commenting on this data, rightly points out that "People have a vague, general desire for policymakers to pay attention to climate change," but when there's any question of the bill coming due -- he also mentions polling which suggests that support for Green initiatives collapses when respondents are asked if they'd be willing to pay an extra $100 per month for them -- they completely change their tune.
To Ridge's credit, he makes a few points which might make his new friends at The Atlantic uncomfortable, saying "I continue to support policies that embrace all sources of energy, including natural gas, which has lowered our dependence on coal. I also support nuclear power, the largest around-the-clock provider of carbon-free energy." But he follows that up with a lament that his "conservative friends have been reluctant to join me in supporting renewable technologies such as wind and solar." Perhaps because his conservative friends are aware that wind and solar are boondoggles which might help gullible Liberals sleep better at night, but they certainly don't benefit the environment. Then again, maybe his friends would come around if they were paid lobbyists for the renewable energy industry, like Ridge.
All of which is to say, if anyone is out of touch with American voters, its Tom Ridge.
'Climate Change' -- Minorities Hardest Hit
Like the coronavirus, which seems to disproportionately injure African-Americans and other minorities, "climate change" appears to be fundamentally racist. Regarding the Wuhan bug, don't take my word for it -- Al Jazeera, NPR, and the BBC all sing ecumenically from the same hymnal:
Preliminary nationwide data released by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests black Americans make up about 30 percent of COVID-19 patients, despite the fact only 13 percent of the US population is black. But much of that federal data is missing information on the racial identity of those who have contracted COVID-19 - and some state and local figures paint an even bleaker picture. In Louisiana, black people account for 56 percent of those who have died from COVID-19 but only 32 percent of the general population. In Michigan, black people comprise 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths but just 13.8 percent of the state population. (Al Jazeera)
Many have referred to COVID-19 as a "great equalizer." But the virus has actually exacerbated all sorts of disparities. When it comes to race, black Americans account for a disproportionate number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. (NPR)
To a lot of Americans, the racial disparities shown in the number of people dying of coronavirus-related causes have sadly been unsurprising. The cities of Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas and states of Maryland and South Carolina are among those now starting to report data based on race, and show an over-representation of victims who are black. While some of this could be due to the long-standing inequality issues in the US that we have become familiar with, other reasons are perhaps more unexpected and could potentially have been dealt with. (BBC)
This is pure racialist bilge, of course, deriving directly and selectively from the cultural Marxist notion of "proportionality" that has come to infect almost every aspect of our public policy thinking, from "disparate impact" in housing and labor issues (a tendentious derivative of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), to Title IX sex discrimination (from the 1972 Education Amendments Act) to the current shibboleths of "diversity" and affirmation action. It ignores, for example, the very real differences among ethnic groups regarding susceptibility to certain diseases -- Tay-Sachs disease among Ashkenazic Jews, skin cancer among the Anglo-Irish, sickle cell anemia and hypertension among blacks. On the Left, however, the only possible explanation for any racial disparities in any field whatsoever is racism -- except of course, when it comes to sports. A predominantly black NBA or an overwhelmingly white NHL are, at least for now, perfectly fine.
As has become clear, the collectivist Left has decided to conflate the Wuhan virus with their overall fascist fantasy of "climate change," and now regard the unconstitutional lockdowns and other restrictions on personal autonomy and freedom as a dry run for what's to come next. "Progressives" regard the de facto outlawing of communal religious services, for example, as an unalloyed good -- not because it "flattens the curve" or saves lives, but because the abolition of religion has been a mainstay of their political philosophy since at least Rousseau and, latterly, Marx. So it's no surprise they've racialized something as impersonal as the Wuhan virus in order to continue their ur-Narrative of Western social racism and economic exploitation, and are now connecting it to "climate change" via the Rousseauvian myth of the noble savage:
When the wildfires hit Australia last year, Bee Cruse was horrified at the sight of the red sky, the black ash falling like snow, and the smoke choking the whole East Coast. The fires were a direct reminder of the British genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people like her, and the tearing of them from country and their traditional ways of land management.
In an article for Vox, Cruse, a Wiradjuri, Gomeroi, and Monaroo-Yuin storyteller, told me, “We see and feel the spirit of our animals and our land; they are our ancestor spirits. We don’t own country, country owns us; we come from her to protect her. When country hurts, we hurt. When our animals, our spirit cousins, cry, we cry.”
What Cruse was describing was climate grief, a psychological phenomenon that affects Black and Indigenous peoples, and other people of color, in uniquely devastating ways.
This sort of thing used to be called superstition, but we're too sensitive for such blunt talk these days. The whole corpus of Western civilization, from its art to its faith, to its sciences, is now being called into question by an alien philosophy of nihilism imported from central Europe, which elevates relativism and a bogus egalitarianism above all else. If all cultures are equally good (objectively impossible), then why shouldn't we heed the animal spirits?
What's new today is not connecting primitivism to moral virtue but to take the principle of egalitarianism to the next level, and argue that true egalitarianism means that not only are some people simply more equal than others (Orwell roasted that concept in Animal Farm) but are, in fact, superior. As British historian Tom Holland illustrates so convincingly in his recent book on Christianity, Dominion, much of the atheist Left's credo is derived directly from Christianity ("the last shall be first"); my addition to his refreshingly apolitical argument is that it's now being used as a club against the genuine article.
Those paying attention have long seen this coming: it's the notorious Rule No. 4 of the Marxist agitator Saul Alinksy, mentor to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules." La Rochefoucauld's famous observation that "hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue," becomes clear when viewed in a religious context, since otherwise there would be no need for hypocrisy were it not traveling under the cloak of Christian virtue.
Since the earth's population is disproportionately "non-white," and most people live in what we used to call Third World countries with the attendant substandard levels of hygiene, waste disposal, and medical technology, this is exactly what one might expect; it's not a plot, it's a result. Now throw in hand-me-down notions of Freudian psychology exported from Vienna to the Outback, you have a concatenation of neo-Marxist resentment:
In its 2014 report, Beyond Storms & Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that the climate crisis was affecting human mental health across the globe. Anyone can experience climate grief, regardless of their identity. But for us, our grief—and our anger—is rooted in centuries of painful history, and the current ecological violence hurled at our communities.
“Just like other stressors that people of color experience, ecological grief is often magnified,” said Dr. Tyffani Dent, a licensed psychologist and author, in an interview. “People of color know…society is going to make sure we’re impacted first, and impacted the hardest,” Dent said.
You can see where this argument is heading: the world would be much better off without the Age of Exploration, the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels, and electricity, and the medical breakthroughs in the treatment of infectious diseases; in short, the Third World would prefer to live without the ministrations of the Renaissance and its cultural successors in the West, minus Marxism. And thus in savagery, in the sense of "primitivism." So out with the lot of it:
Xiye Bastida, a youth climate activist, a member of the Indigenous Mexican Otomi-Toltec nation, and an organizer of Fridays for Future, says that her climate grief is deeply tied to her Indigenous identity. “For Indigenous people, climate grief comes from when they’re first displaced by fossil fuel companies, by drilling, by fracking infrastructure that makes Indigenous communities be moved from their place of origin, their place that they have a relationship with. (Our) relationship with the land is the first thing that we care about,” Bastida said.
For Black and Indigenous peoples, you could argue that the history of our oppression is the story of the Anthropocene itself—the current geological age defined by the dominant influence that human activity has had on mass extinction, climate, and the environment. Without colonization, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the genocide and oppression of Indigenous peoples around the world, we likely would be living in a different reality.
That's for sure. But the current trend in historical "scholarship" -- as evidence by the absurd "1619 project" of racial grievance and historical revisionism recently published by the New York Times -- is not enlightenment but revenge:
Research has bolstered the idea that white supremacy has led to the climate crisis. Scientists from University College London found that the mass genocide that accompanied the colonization of the Americas in the 15th century permanently altered Earth’s climate, due to “a huge swathe of abandoned agricultural land” that “pulled down enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.”
Ravenous for the mass production of lucrative commodities such as salt, cotton, and sugar, the slavemasters and colonists stripped the land in what’s now known as Canada and the United States, the Caribbean, and South America, murdering countless Africans and Indigenous peoples along the way. Worldwide, the memory of indescribable racial terror informs the climate grief of our people.
Of the brutal savagery of "indigenous peoples" like the Aztecs pre-colonization -- which included human sacrifice and cannibalism -- nothing, of course, is said. And when such peoples got their hands on the conquistadors, the violence was horrific. But that is human nature, as red in tooth and claw as Nature herself.
There's much more to this absurd essay, but it does illustrate just how deeply cultural Marxism has penetrated Western thinking, and how open we are now to prima facie ridiculous notions of our own villainous complicity in a plot that must have started very, very long ago indeed. The history of civilizations indicates that all things must pass, from the Roman Empire, to the Incas of the Americas, to the the Islamic Mughals in India, to the U.S.S.R. All the Third World has to do is wait, and all will be well again.
New York's Fiscal Chickens Come Home to Roost
We are living through an apocalypse. Not the Apocalypse mind you. (Or, well, I hopenot, but of course we "know not the day nor the hour"). But an apocalypse, in the truest sense of that word: an unveiling, a laying bare. With the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus and the lock-downs, as well as the economic calamity which they've brought about, many things which were obscure before are now becoming clear. The shaky ground upon which many of our political realities have been built are beginning to crumble. As the saying goes, the chickens are beginning to come home to roost.
To take just one example of this (though I plan to write about more of them in the coming days), let us take a look at New York State. The first thing I ever wrote for The Pipeline was a blog post about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ideologically grounded refusal to allow hydraulic fracturing in New York, while also killing proposals to expand natural gas pipeline capacity into New York. This has led, predictably, to natural gas shortages in the Empire State, with natural gas suppliers increasingly less inclined to hook new customers up to natural gas lines, and even occasionally refusing to turn the gas back on when people have turned them off during home renovations.
It has also meant that New York State has missed out on the well-paying blue collar jobs that have been such a boon to neighboring Pennsylvania, which allows fracking, and which like New York sits atop the Marcellus Shale, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world. These are jobs that have the potential to revitalize upstate and western New York and to help beat back the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the less-prosperous parts of the state. Moreover, the revenue which the natural gas industry could generate could help paper over the decades of poor governance which have led to poorly funded pension plans, and rankings near the bottom of the country for business and personal tax liability, which combine to make New York one of the toughest states in which to raise a family or start a business.
Thanks in large part to the inept pandemic response from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo himself, New York is the American epicenter of COVID-19, leading the country in both cases and deaths. Researchers have even determined that New York seeded the virus to the rest of the nation, with between 60% and 65% of virus samples studied displaying markers which link them back to the outbreak in New York. (Consequently, after Cuomo unveiled his "European Virus" bit the other day, the NY Post's Karol Markowicz pointed out that, if the governor wasn't careful, Americans might start calling it the "New York Virus").
New York has also taken the lead -- with New Jersey and Illinois right behind it -- in imploring the federal government for a coronavirus bailout. Cuomo publicly begged President Trump to back such a bailout the other day, saying,
You know the state governments are now responsible for the reopening and the governors are going to do the reopening, and they have no funds to do it.
The editors of the Wall Street Journalpointed out in reply,
The Governor blames the pandemic and recession, but states like New York were already in trouble from their own mismanagement. Mr. Cuomo warned for months about a $6 billion state deficit thanks to runaway Medicaid costs and taxpayers leaving his high-tax state. He signed a $177 billion business-as-usual budget on April 3 that allows him to borrow $11 billion if spending exceeds revenues. The coronavirus was already a clear and present danger....
Keep in mind that Congress’s $2.2 trillion Cares Act last month included a $150 billion blank check to states plus $90 billion for schools, public transit and Medicaid. To put these numbers in perspective: All state tax revenues during the last three months of 2019 totaled $254 billion. So Washington’s last state infusion is roughly equal to three months of tax collections... New York received $5.22 billion in direct aid from the Cares Act, or 6.8% of its $77 billion in annual general-fund tax revenue. That doesn’t include $3.8 billion in the Cares Act for the New York subways, and billions more for health care and schools. Illinois received $3.52 billion, or 8.8% of its general-fund revenue, while Michigan also made it big with $3.1 billion, or 27%.
The economic shutdowns will cause budget pain in states and cities. But states with healthy finances going into the pandemic should be able to endure revenue declines for a few months thanks to the Cares Act.
Crises happen. They are simply a fact of life. And one mark of a true statesman or of a well-governed polity, is that they use the good years to "caulk their hulls and clear their rigging," as the British politician Daniel Hannan so memorably put it. In New York that should have meant taking advantage of the Marcellus Shale, a blessing of nature which has led to Pennsylvania "producing about one-fifth of the nation’s natural gas, the making it the second-largest natural gas producer after Texas" according to the Institute of Energy Research.
Back in March, as the scope of this present crisis was beginning to become clear, I argued that the post-COVID world would have less time for anti-human environmentalist bromides and the government policies that flow from them. Hopefully in New York State that will mean clearing the way for cheaper energy and good jobs by reversing the fracking ban. It isn't like they have all the time in the world to change course. In the words of New York legend Yogi Berra, "it's getting late early."
Carbon Emissions Fell Months before Pandemic
One disturbing thing we've seen during the course of this pandemic is that there's a certain variety of Greenie -- not all of them mind you, but some -- who are almost gleeful about the state of things. John O'Sullivan pointed out one example back in March, when former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis tweeted the following:
A silver lining: Climate activists have been told again & again that people will never consent to major changes in their lifestyle. Well, Covid-19 changed all that! Once the epidemic ends, we must demonstrate that a better, green, post-capitalist lifestyle can be fun!
Fun, eh? File that one under takes that didn't age well. But even so, it demonstrated an enthusiasm for large-scale, government mandated lifestyle change once the pandemic has come to an end. Another, perhaps more common source of environmentalist delight is the decline in CO2 emissions as a consequence of the the decrease of economic activity of every kind. Britain's left-leaning newspaper Guardianreported a few weeks ago:
Global carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry could fall by a record 2.5bn tonnes this year, a reduction of 5%, as the coronavirus pandemic triggers the biggest drop in demand for fossil fuels on record. The unprecedented restrictions on travel, work and industry due to the coronavirus is expected to cut billions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic metres of gas millions of tonnes of coal from the global energy system in 2020 alone
[R]ight now we're learning that the three times when climate change and fossil fuel usage went down were during this pandemic, in the days after 9/11, and during the Great Recession.
There's something revelatory about this way of looking at things -- these horrible moments of tragedy, of poverty and loss of life, conform most perfectly with the vision of the environmentalist movement. Conservatives have been saying that misery would be the necessary outcome of environmentalists getting their way, and environmentalists seem to be in agreement.
But it is also oddly misleading. Their vision of graceless growth, of the gluttonous nature of modern capitalist life, leaves out the fact that the nations who have been most successful in employing technologies that decrease carbon emissions are market economies, generally in the West.
The United States, the country hated by environmentalists most of all, actually saw its carbon emissions decline by 2.8 percent last year, according to a new report released by the Energy Information Administration. A decline, it need hardly be stated, that occurred before the pandemic. Moreover, the U.S. has led the world in reducing carbon emissions over the past 20 years.
FACT you will NEVER see on the 6 o’clock news: U.S. emissions FELL 2.9%, or by 140 million tons, continuing the trend of the United States LEADING THE WORLD IN TOTAL EMISSIONS DECLINE since 2000. https://t.co/bZTkmCZbOs
And it isn't just America -- worldwide carbon emissions were flat in 2019, even though the global economy grew.
The stall in emissions, as reported by the International Energy Agency on Tuesday, was mainly due to rich countries using less coal for electricity, replacing it with natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear power. Coal generation in advanced economies fell by nearly 15%.
It is also worth noting that our transitions toward natural gas and nuclear (I'm less certain than the IEA about the contributions of wind and solar) helped keep worldwide emissions flat, even though the massive increase in coal usage throughout Asia meant that emissions in the rest of the world grew by nearly 400 million tons in the same time period.
All of which is to say, human misery and communist diktats won't lead to a cleaner environment, whatever the Greenies might tell you. Prosperity, rational development, stewardship, and freedom are the way forward.
When the Future Meets the Present
By the market close Monday, the impending expiration of May futures contracts sent prices tumbling into the abyss of unprecedented negative territory. The market has never before experienced this. Even industry veterans were surprised by the market turn. By day’s end though, there was actually light in some parts of the industry.
In practical terms, the market reflects what has been the reality since demand so quickly and dramatically seized up. The collapse revealed that there were companies that were supposed to receive shipments of U.S. oil, but didn’t want to receive those shipments because they had no place to sell or store the oil. They would’ve had to pay someone else to take the oil from them. That’s right…pay someone to take the off their hands...
A crisis of demand for petroleum products, and a crisis of supply on the storage front created this market reaction. Closing down a shocking -$37.63, the negative price was the explanation point to an already stunning story of low demand, lots of lay-offs, and loads of lost investments. But while there is assuredly more pain in oil to come than there are socialists on the Seattle City Council, the fundamental landscape remains relatively unchanged from recent weeks. While Monday was a flop, June futures, hovering just above $20 BBL, indicate that the market anticipates demand will improve as the CoVID concerns peter out. This will relieve some supply pressures. After all economies can’t stay shut down in perpetuity.
What does this mean over the longer term?
North American shale producers and service companies remain the most heavily burdened by current market conditions. For producers there was already weakness on the supply side, driven by the refusal of Russia and Saudi Arabia, until late last week, to implement needed production cuts. In addition, there is ongoing low demand created by the CoVID 19- inspired global economic shutdown. While governments struggle to make sense of the dreadfully inaccurate CoVID-19 models, government officials around the world have shut down their respective economies. Thus, there is very high global supply relative to low global demand.
While integral to the supply discussion, service companies have gone relatively unmentioned. Service companies in many respects represent the ability of the producers to recover from current market conditions. After all it is these service companies that actually perform the physical work of building and maintaining wells to ensure maximized production, or ensure the produced water and oil is transported from the production tanks to disposal wells or to market. In other words, the service companies are the eyes, ears and hands of the producers. With limited or no work currently being done because wells are being shut-in or plugged and abandoned, layoffs have not only already happened, but will continue. And with layoffs comes the loss of untold amounts of institutional knowledge as these oilfield workers flee the industry. This will limit producers’ ability to recover and to maximize production efficiencies as the market improves. This must remain front of mind for producers as they make decisions to cut services (or not). They must be weathering this storm shoulder to shoulder with their best service providers so they are in the blocks when the supply needs return.
But while prices have gone up in smoke, there are a number of bright spots that are worth noting and maybe eventually, even worth celebrating.
The fossil fuel industry will ultimately gain strong footing against the purveyors of green energy -- wind and solar. They will be competing against now-inexpensive hydrocarbon-based products at the wholesale and retail levels. This will help mitigate the inclination of some to tout green energy. Cheap and abundant energy is the path to economic recovery across the economy.
In the meantime, while May oil futures tumbled, the share prices for companies that own storage tanks and vessels have increased about 16% across the sub-sector. Companies like Vitol and Teekay Tanker Ltd (NYSE: THK), which provide various kinds of storage capacity for both crude and refined products had terrific Monday afternoon rallies. They too must bend a knee to the realities of supply and demand. In their case, however, they offer a supply of storage to a market whose demand could not be more strident.
In addition, there is an awareness that construction of major pipeline projects which move oil from plays up north in Alberta and North Dakota, to places like Cushing, Okla. (the largest oil storage location in the world), Houston, and Louisiana, will be a vital part of any infrastructure proposals the Trump administration and Congress end up implementing as part of the inevitable economic ‘recovery’ efforts. Companies like Energy Transfer (ET) are poised for bullish long term performance despite the market routing. They are primed to deliver improved oil and gas infrastructure. That will lead to improved market access for many plays across the country.
Finally, it is worth noting that North American shale producers fuel functioning market economies that are diversified and integrated. No economy experiences market conditions in a vacuum. In the case of oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia, they rely entirely on high oil prices to fuel their respective economies. Although we know North American producers will survive while enduring some market restructuring, the economies of many OPEC states are utterly reliant on the price of oil and gas remaining high. Their economic philosophies only ‘work’ under certain market conditions -- conditions that will not exist for the foreseeable future. Their citizens will be reminded of how liberty is inextricably connected to strong market-based economies.
So, while this week has been painful and unprecedented for futures contract holders, the variables underpinning the off-loading of those contracts are the same as they have always been. Until demand recovers globally and the supply glut is reduced, the markets will remain volatile and unfavorable.