Trudeau's Pipeline 'Weak Sauce'

Well, it looks like the Trudeau Government is throwing in the towel on the Keystone pipeline. On Wednesday evening the Prime Minister released a statement saying “We are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL.” Ben Woodfinden is exactly right:

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Trudeau's initial approach was to argue that Biden's anti-climate change instincts were admirable but misguided, since the project had addressed the issues which most troubled environmentalists at the outset. It seemed as though Trudeau was attempting to employ his own green bona fides to give Biden cover to back down on Keystone, but to no avail. So, as in the case of Pfizer's failing to deliver Canada's contracted vaccine doses, Justin has decided to just put up his well-manicured hands and say, in essence, 'We're a small country, what can I do?'

Never mind that Canada's unemployment and labor participation rates are down, and the jobs Keystone XL generates for the resource sector are desperately needed.

Source: Statistics Canada

Trudeau would do well to remember the old saying, '[W]hen America sneezes, Canada gets a cold.' Both countries have weathered the lockdowns better than one would have thought back in March. That's why they are still going on (even if some of their most ardent apologists have started to back away from them).

But they've only done so well by taking on enormous amounts of new debt, the bill for which will begin to come due sooner than anyone thinks. This will no doubt cause serious problems for the U. S., but America's sheer size and its extremely diverse economy will provide a cushion that the smaller and resource-dependent Canada just won't have.

So what should Trudeau do? Well, some of the aggressiveness he showed when America's last president put a ten percent tariff on Canadian aluminum (part of a push which led Trump to drop the duty a month later) would be welcome. Of course, Trump was not a CBC-approved American the way Joe Biden is, and consequently Trudeau would have to expend real political capital -- perhaps more than he has -- to similarly fight for his nation's interests.

A more realistic hope might be for his making a sustained case for Keystone XL as beneficial for both of our countries at a time of real economic distress. The Heartland Institute's Steven Milloy has a good brief against Biden's Keystone cancellation which lays out many of the points that Trudeau could make. After establishing that the environmental effects of Keystone XL would be negligible, Milloy explains that,

According to the U. S . Chamber of Commerce, the Keystone XL will:

Consequently, for Milloy, "the revocation of the Keystone XL permit will be the exaltation of imaginary global climate benefits over real ones to U. S. workers and communities." Needless to say, the same could be said on the Canadian side.

Unfortunately, it seems as though Trudeau has officially folded. TC Energy -- which owns the pipeline -- have already announced a halt on construction and thousands of layoffs. More's the pity.

BoJo's Bizarre Climate Scheme

Boris Johnson's Tories won the 2019 British election in a landslide on the strength of their promise to "Get Brexit Done," but for most of the time since they've been distracted by Covid-19 and by Boris's odd dalliance with climate hysteria. On the latter point, he seems to believe that expending political capital on building wind farms and mandating electric cars will help him maintain his hold on those working class, traditional Labour voters whose support he promised not to take for granted on election night.

This seems a bizarre play, as polling suggests that climate issues are fairly low priority to Brits in those former "Red Wall" seats in the North and the Midlands. Throughout Britain healthcare, the economy, and Brexit remain people's top concerns. A recent survey has what is referred to as the "climate emergency" prioritized by just 23 percent of the populace, and less than that (unsurprisingly) in those working class outposts which the P.M. is targeting.

Nevertheless, Johnson is determined to go full speed ahead with what he's calling Britain's "green industrial revolution." He recently released a 10-point plan, which includes pledges to ban the sale of combustion engine automobiles by 2030, quadruple offshore wind farms by the same year, invest heavily in the development of various "green" technologies, and to transform London into “the global centre of green finance.” This plan, BoJo assures us, will generate "up to 250,000 jobs," and all for the low, low cost of £12 billion!

In response, Matt Ridley has put forward a 10-point demolition in the Telegraph. First off, he points out, that jobs-for-pounds ratio isn't actually that impressive.

£48,000 per job is a lot. Cheaper... to create the same employment erecting a statue of Boris in every town. Anyway, it’s backwards: it’s not jobs in the generating of energy that count, but jobs that use it. Providing cheap, reliable energy enables the private sector to create jobs for free as far as the taxpayer is concerned.

Then there's the fact that Johnson is "hugely underestimating the cost." Among other things, he's relying on the wind industry's own claim that their costs are coming down, when the actual "accounts of wind energy companies show that both capital and operating expenditures of offshore wind farms continue to rise." Should wind energy be mandated, Britain's already high electricity prices will actually increase, which "will kill a lot more than 250,000 jobs."

Ridley makes several more important points, including that the prime minister "misreads how innovation works," and thus foolishly assumes that pumping money into the problem will necessarily generate new technology required to make his plan work. It won't. He concludes,

My fear is that we will carry out Boris’s promised 10-point plan, cripple our economy, ruin our seascapes and landscapes, and then half way through the 2030s along will come cheap, small, safe fusion reactors. The offshore wind industry, by then so stuffed with subsidies they can afford to lobby politicians and journalists even more than they do to today, will suck their teeth and say: “no, no, no – ignore the fusion crowd. We’re on the brink of solving the reliability issue, and don’t worry, the cost will come down eventually. Promise!”

Fingers crossed, no doubt.

The Swamp Strikes Back

Joe Biden has started to announce appointments to key roles in his administration should he be inaugurated in January. He finds himself constrained by the unexpected failure of his party thus far to retake the senate and its reduced majority in the House.

Consequently, it doesn't look like we will be seeing Elizabeth Warren at Treasury, Bernie Sanders at Labor, or -- a popular rumor over the past few weeks -- Hillary Clinton as Ambassador to the United Nations. But instead of those ideological actors, we're getting mostly career political staffers and bureaucrats, aka the Swamp.

The big fish thus far is longtime Biden ally Antony Blinken for Secretary of State. Blinken -- the son of wealthy investment banker and Clinton-era Ambassador Donald Blinken -- served as then-Vice President Biden's national security adviser before being promoted to Deputy Secretary of State by Barack Obama. He is also a Russia hoax-supporter and an ardent champion of the kind of hawkish foreign policy which Trump ran against in 2016. As The American Conservative's Curt Mills wrote this morning, the worry about Blinken isn't so much that he's a "wild-eyed radical," but that "his policy views are emblematic of a broader rot within the American establishment."

The same could be said for the the other intended appointments announced on Monday, including former Foreign Service Director General Linda Thomas-Greenfield to the U. N. and former Hillary Clinton foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan. The latter, as you might have guessed from his relationship with Mrs. Clinton, is another hawk, but he is also noteworthy for having had a hand in secretly negotiating the Iran deal, which the U. S. has since backed out of.

Environmentalist groups are upset by the potential appointments of both Sullivan and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who Biden has announced as a senior advisor, as both are reportedly skeptical of their cause. Sullivan appears in one of the leaked Clinton E-Mails questioning the idea that carbon neutrality by 2050 is at all realistic. As for Rep. Richmond, environmentalists are concerned by his closeness with oil and gas in his home state of Louisiana. The Sunrise Movement, an environmentalist activist group, put out a statement opposing his appointment which read,

One of President-Elect Biden’s very first hires for his new administration has taken more donations from the fossil fuel industry during his Congressional career than nearly any other Democrat, cozied up to Big Oil and Gas, and stayed silent and ignored meeting with organizations in his own community while they suffered from toxic pollution and sea-level rise.

Now, should those of us who are concerned about the resource sector as a source of good jobs and safe, reliable (and clean) energy be encouraged by these appointments? Probably not. There's a civil war brewing on the left, which has been held in check until recently by shared loathing for Donald Trump. Though Biden might feel forced staff up with conventional swamp creatures, before too long he will feel the need to satisfy the loudest lefties in his caucus. Short sighted as they might be, carbon taxes and increasing restrictions on fracking are the easiest bones he can throw them.

Of course, for the Greens, those would only whet the appetite.

Biden's Dangerous 'Green' Assault on Oil

In an exchange with President Trump during their final debate last week, Joe Biden avidly supported both fracking, which is a major industry in Pennsylvania -- a critical swing state that he needs to win next Tuesday -- and the continued use of fossil fuels. In a normal year, which this manifestly is not, that would not be exceptional.  

The problem is, Biden has been pushed to the left all year, and is now supporting the Green New Deal of his party's radicals. When Trump called him out on this policy shift, Biden denied any change, and challenged Trump to prove that he was lying. Which Trump promptly did:

Biden further undercut himself on stage by stating that under his administration, the U.S. would be seeing an eventual end to the use of fossil fuels. That is why Biden and his staff are now trying to blur, err, clarify, his comment that he would have the country "transition from the oil industry by 2025,” (!!!) when asked by President Donald Trump if he would close down the oil industry.

"It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time, over time. And I'd stop giving to the oil industry. I’d stop giving them federal subsidies," Biden said.

"Basically what he is saying is he is going to destroy the oil industry," Trump retorted. "Will you remember that Texas? Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?"

Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who has the most radical policy record in the U.S. Senate, and has been  adamant about ending fracking and fossil fuel production, was among the first primary candidates to be booted by Democrat voters and uninterested donors. And this in a year when a majority of Democrat voters expect her to replace her ailing and mentally diminished boss during the course of his term. 

So is Biden a hypocrite? Is he a liar? Sure. But that is the least of the problems with his willingness to destroy a key national industry in service of the shibboleth of “climate change,” and the full control of the economy that would ensue under the Green New Deal. There are upwards of 300,000 jobs at stake in Pennsylvania, right this minute, which will be destroyed by ending the fossil fuel industries. More hundreds of thousands are at stake as well in Texas and Oklahoma.

Thanks to the Trump Administration's energy policies, the United States is energy independent for the first time in more than half a century. Domestic production is the reason the average price of gas at the pump is hovering down around $2.20 nationally – a huge decrease from average prices during the Obama years.

Energy independence is also a huge national security boon. Some of the biggest foreign policy successes of the Trump administration are arguably a direct result of no longer needing Arab oil. Indeed, the end of the Saudi – and entire Persian Gulf region – oil economy, due to vastly lower demand, has been a prime factor in new Saudi openness to relations with Israel.

Giving up our energy independence at this time to transition to so-called renewable energy sources would be a costly unforced error.

On Fracking, It's Biden vs. Biden

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.

Beware the Environmentalists' False Flags

You're probably familiar with the phrase "false flag operation." Referring originally to a ship's flying the flag of a different nation than that with which it was aligned in order to deceive the enemy, it has come to refer to any such misrepresentation, particularly those with the intent of casting one's opponents in a negative light.

The thing that makes false flag operations so effective is that it is often impossible to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one has actually taken place. Absent an admission of guilt, all one can do when investigating the circumstances is to lay out the facts and let the jury decide.

I bring this up because I've recently stumbled upon two stories which have the appearance of false flag operations. The first is by Jazz Shaw, who reports on the attempt to build what's being billed as the next generation of nuclear power plant in Idaho. The plant would serve roughly 720,000 homes in that state and in neighboring Utah. Communities in both states which would benefit from this project have already signed on, but one group of activists have made it their mission to convince all involved that it's a bad deal.

The group is called the Utah Taxpayer Association, and their principal argument is that the project is a waste of taxpayer money and (because the technology is still being developed) is likely to fail and lead to higher electricity prices.

Well, as a conservative, fiscal responsibility arguments always get my attention. But Shaw points out that there is something fishy about the organization making the argument:

As to the “fiscal conservative” group trying to get municipalities to pull out of the project, the Utah Taxpayer Association is being fronted by The Hastings Group. One look at their client list at that link will give you an idea of their general ideological makeup. They include:

Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists
Green America
National Resources Defense Council
Renewable Nation
Union Of Concerned Scientists

The Utah Taxpayer Association has also enlisted anti-nuclear power advocate Peter Bradford as a spokesperson. The list of their association with green energy and environmentalist groups goes on.

Shaw doesn't mention this, but along those same lines, the website of The Hastings Group is full of boasts about their "18-month push" to pressure the Trump administration to stop off-shore drilling and their "12-year campaign to shift media attitudes about socially responsible/sustainable investing," the latter being code for divesting from fossil fuels.

Judging by these relationships, it seems unlikely that the Utah Taxpayer Association is the confederation of Goldwater Republicans that its name and rhetoric would lead you to surmise. It's rather more likely that some textbook Greenies, aware that their normal pitch would have less purchase in rural mountain states, decided to attack the problem from a different angle, hoping that cost-conscious conservatives would miss the lefty agenda behind the scenes.

And what is that agenda exactly? After all, as Shaw notes, nuclear power is effectively zero carbon, so you'd think that anti-carbon emissions activists would be on board with this project. Their opposition reveals their true colors -- for a lot of them, at least, it isn't the carbon they care about so much as limiting the competition for their so-called renewable energy projects.

The second potential false flag is rather more complicated, and has to do with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a planned project which was principally owned by Richmond, Va., based Dominion Energy. It was meant to move natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia through Virginia and then down to North Carolina. Had the pipeline gone through, it is probable that Dominion would have built a second natural gas liquefaction terminal, likely in the Newport area, to complement the one it already owns in Cove Point, Md., creating lots of well-paying jobs for Virginians and allowing the company to export significantly more natural gas overseas.

"Was" is the operative word here, however, because in July it was announced that Dominion is cutting its losses and pulling out of the $8 billion project, citing "the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States." This is being spoken of principally as a victory for the environmentalist groups which have been trying to kill the project since it was launched, with Michael Brune of the Sierra Club crowing,

Dominion did not decide to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the people and frontline organizations that led this fight for years forced [it] into walking away.

However, journalist and Virginia native Arthur Bloom is skeptical. As he put it in a recent podcast appearance, "the death of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has sort of been heralded by activists as this big win, this is the new Virginia, pushing back on decades of probably-racist Republican rule. Virtually none of that is true."

Bloom has written a detailed piece at The American Conservative in which he attempts to connect the dots to discern what really happened here. The thing is, Dominion is not only pulling out of the Atlantic Pipeline, it is, as the Wall Street Journal reports, "selling the rest of its natural-gas transmission and storage network to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for $9.7 billion," a deal which includes a 25 percent stake in its Cove Point liquefaction facility. As he investigated the "various interests that were publicly opposed to the construction of the pipeline," Bloom was struck "quite forcefully [by] how many of them were connected to Berkshire Hathaway."

One of those interested parties was Michael Bills, a Virginia billionaire and chairman of the board of environmental lobbying group Clean Virginia, who has waged a war against Dominion for the past several years, even offering to max out donations to any political candidate in the state who pledged not to accept any money from the company. Bloom points out that Bills is the former business partner of Berkshire Hathaway executive Ted Weschler, who is frequently mentioned as a potential replacement for Warren Buffet, as Berkshire's CEO. That doesn't prove anything, but it is a connection, and a high level one at that.

Bloom also details the political opposition to Dominion from the state's ascendant Democrats, a more important part of the story than the legal and regulatory hurdles to the project. (Indeed, the project had recently won big at the Supreme Court). Of course the state Democratic ascent has been funded in large part by Berkshire money too. Bloom notes that "the largest single donor to the Democratic Party of Virginia in 2015 was the son of Buffett partner Charles Munger, Jr, whose money supplied more than half of their funds for statehouse races that year."

And then there's the fact that, in Bloom's words,

Berkshire also owned most of the newspapers in western and central Virginia until March, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Free Lance-Star, the Culpeper Times-Exponent, the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, the News Virginian in Waynesboro, and the Roanoke Times, giving them almost complete control of the pipeline narrative in the parts of the state where it mattered.

Be sure to read the whole piece to get into the real nitty-gritty of the thing, but Bloom makes a compelling case that everything is not as it seems. As he makes clear in the interview cited above, there is something a little too convenient about the fact that Dominion was the focal point of so much environmental activism, which had the effect of depressing the stock price of the company, allowing a massive financial firm -- which had deep ties to the environmental activists -- to swoop in "and [scoop] up their assets on the cheap." Meanwhile the environmentalists are able to claim the scalp of a major pipeline project while ignoring Berkshire Hathaway, this despite the fact that the company's anti-union history makes it likely that the unionized workers in Dominion's natural gas sector might soon be out of a job. Unions are less important to the left these days than wealthy environmentalists.

False flag operations are difficult to prove, but Shaw and Bloom argue persuasively that alliances and the money trail constitute a preponderance of evidence in their respective cases pointing to real deception on the part of the interested parties. Read and judge for yourself.

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.

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

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.

Obama Judge Shuts Down Dakota Access Pipeline

This morning U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee, ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline.  He also ordered that it be emptied of oil by Aug. 5. Expect an almost immediate appeal.

Judge Boasberg wrote that he was “mindful of the disruption,” but he stood by his previously articulated position that the original environmental review, completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2015/16, wasn't thorough enough since it:

[D]id not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.

At issue is the Missouri River which the pipeline crosses just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles North and South Dakota. The Sioux and various environmentalist groups argued that the pipeline could contaminate the river, and the Obama administration took their side against the Corps. Obama spent years slow walking the project because of the environmentalists' concerns.

In answer to those concerns, Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, which owns the pipeline, stated:

[W]e're not on any Indian property at all... We're on private lands. That's number one. Number two, this pipeline is new steel pipe... It's going to go 90 feet to 150 feet below the lake's surface. It's thick wall pipe, extra thick, by the way, more so than just the normal pipe that we lay. Also, on each side of the lake, there's automated valves that, if in the very, very unlikely situation there were to be a leak, our control room shuts down the pipe, encapsulates that small section that could be in peril. So, that's just not going to happen.... there is no way there would be any crude to contaminate their water supply. They're 70 miles downstream.

Which is to say, this pipeline doesn't violate native property rights and it is as safe as it can reasonably expected to be. Consequently, after the 2016 election this was one of many stalled projects that Donald Trump greenlit on the strength of the existing environmental reviews.

But now, after the construction has been completed and crude has been pumping through the pipeline for three years, it is being shut down pending yet another environmental review -- if the ruling stands. Workers will be laid off and the company will take a serious financial hit, no easy burden in the present economic climate. As for the oil, somewhat less of it might be pumped -- the ultimate goal of the greens -- or else it will go into storage until it can be moved to the refinery some other way. Very likely by rail.

Seven years ago, on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, a seventy-four car freight train carrying crude oil crashed and exploded. Forty seven people were killed in what was called possibly "the most devastating rail accident in Canadian history.”

It is important that we mourn for and with those effected by this tragedy, but we must also note that it is within our power to reduce the chances of such a thing happening again by making sure that more oil is carried across this continent via pipeline, which is significantly safer than rail.

Unfortunately attacking pipelines is a common tactic of the environmentalist left. This is precisely because they are able to safely move large amounts of oil over long distances, and for the Greenies, the safe transport of oil goes against their most fervently held beliefs.

Hopefully all of this is quickly sorted out such that the pipeline can get pumping again. Because as Lac-Mégantic reminds us, the human and environmental costs when something goes wrong with those trains is incalculable.

The Coming Covid Curveball

It seems like every morning we wake up to the news that some entity, public or private, is unveiling a "bold new initiative" in response to "the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," which everyone who has been paying attention knows they've wanted to do already.

Take baseball. I'm a big baseball fan, but not of current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, a man who doesn't seem particularly fond of the game he presides over. Others have noticed this -- here's an article from a few months back entitled Does Rob Manfred Hate Baseball? and another called Rob Manfred Is Ruining Baseball. The gist of them is that Manfred, worried that baseball is less exciting than the other major sports, has spent his five years as commissioner whittling away at the things that make the game unique. For the most part his rule changes have been aimed at making the games shorter, but his efforts have been for naught -- the average game is now three minutes longer than it was when he took over, and viewership is down.

This, of course, hasn't deterred Manfred. He's pushed ahead with plans to, for instance, institute a new, Reality TV informed playoff format whereby,

The team with the best record in each league would get a first-round bye, and then the other two division winners and the wild-card club with the best record could end up picking their opponents in a televised seeding showdown.

This is, to put it mildly, gimmicky as hell.

For the most part Manfred's tinkering has been confined to the edges of the game, and he would probably tell you that that's why it hasn't had the desired effect. That, unfortunately, he has been cursed with conservative, history obsessed fans who are resistant to alterations which make today's game less like the one played by Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron. Which is to say, he'd probably dislike me as much as I dislike him.

But a man can dream, and for years we've heard whispers that Manfred's great aspirations included increasing offense by imposing the Designated Hitter on the National League, which has resisted this innovation since the 1970s; starting extra-innings with a runner on second base to speed things up (or, a fan might say, limit the amount of baseball fans were getting for free); and contracting the Minor Leagues, so that MLB resources could be directed away from entertaining yokels in, say, Dayton, OH or Montgomery, AL, and towards virtue signalling social justice initiatives which get lots of applause from the great and the good.

And then came the miracle Rob Manfred had been been praying for: the Wuhan novel coronavirus, which, thanks to the incompetence of politicians like Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio, spread like "a fire through dry grass” throughout the nursing homes of the northeastern United States (as healthcare analyst Avik Roy has pointed out, 42 percent of U.S. deaths from Covid-19 have occurred in the 0.6 percent of the population who reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities).

But, more to the point, it gave him an excuse to make big changes to the game purportedly for the sake of player safety. And what changes did he implement? Imposing the DH on the National League; beginning extra innings with a runner on second; and the elimination of up to forty-two minor league teams.

I think that this is a pretty good (and comparatively innocent) illustration of what is going on across America right now.

California, for instance, raised its gasoline tax again this month, so that it now sits at 50.5 cents per gallon. Why would California's politicians be so foolish as go ahead with this hike during an economy-destroying pandemic (what you might call Pulling a Trudeau)? Well,

“Driving is way down, so in theory this is a great time to catch up on highway investment,” observed Ronald Fisher, an economics professor at Michigan State University. While less driving temporarily means less revenue from a gas tax, it also means less disruption from road work. Fisher also pointed out that the state typically contracts with private companies to perform such infrastructure repairs, which means proceeds from the higher gas tax could actually serve as a stimulus for the California economy in the form of job creation.

Right...

In another example from the Golden State, Gov. Gavin Newsom has formed a Recovery Task Force to address California's dire financial situation in the wake of the pandemic. It is co-chaired by uber-environmentalist and failed Democratic Presidential candidate Tom Steyer (a bad sign), and, shockingly, it has concluded that green energy has the potential to be a “huge job creator," according to Steyer. As if this were something which had just occurred to him. Environmentalist Hal Harvey concurs,

[Steyer's] right. Clean energy can be the economic engine for California.... The path is clear: Decarbonize the electric grid, then electrify everything—creating good jobs and thriving clean tech industries along the way.

Which is to say that the powers that be are using this moment of disruption to enact their preexisting agendas. They're taking advantage of your exhaustion, your inclination to give in, in the hope that sometime soon everything will go back to normal. And that's why we need to be especially vigilant right now.

At the center of baseball is a psychological game between pitchers and batters, where the former works to make the latter think that one pitch is coming his way, and then throws him another. Fastball inside, fastball outside, fastball inside, fastball outside. And then comes the curve, and the batter who isn't looking out for it finds himself walking slowly back to the dugout.

Keep yours eyes open. Don't let them sneak the curve past you.

Fitch Downgrades Canada's Credit Rating

Fitch Ratings, one of the big three global credit rating agencies, has announced it's downgrading Canada's credit rating from AAA to AA+. This is due to the tremendous debt -- roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars -- the Canadian government took on to prop up the economy during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Though the Trudeau government was quick to argue that Canada's economy remains strong and that the country in an ideal position to turn things around, this does have the potential to significantly increase the cost of government borrowing and of doing business. That danger, moreover, will be amplified if, as some think, there are further downgrades to come:

David Rosenberg... has been predicting a downgrade on Canada’s sovereign debt since late April and thinks this won’t be the last. “The real question is: What took so long?’ .... Canada’s excessively leveraged national balance sheet has looked a lot like China, Italy and Greece for quite a while.” While Ottawa may appear to be in “solid” financial shape to some, this has “masked bloated debt ratios” in households, business sectors, and most of the provinces, he said. “This won’t be the last ratings cut, I can assure you,” said Rosenberg.

Now, it is true that governments worldwide have responded to the pandemic by racking up what would normally be unthinkable amounts of debt. Consequently, it is likely that Canada won't be the only country to have its rating downgraded.

But one thing that makes Canada unique is the shame that its governing elite feels about one of the pillars of its economy. As Dan McTeague of Canadians for Affordable Energy said the other day in an excellent piece on Erin O'Toole's environmentalist pitch in the CPC leadership contest,

Rather than championing Canada's hydrocarbon industry and creating economic growth with our country’s wealth of natural resources, O’Toole’s policies seem most focused on maintaining the what-seems-to-be-required, green-is-god image of so many politicians.... Our natural resources are an asset to this country, not a liability. They keep energy affordable, and give us one of the highest standards of living. O’Toole and other political candidates seem determined to remain blind to that fact.

You would hope that this turn of events would cause Canada's governing class to thank its lucky stars for the energy sector, a potential launchpad for recovery. But unfortunately they'll probably keep just hoping for pats on the head from similarly green-obsessed organizations like the UN  -- and how's that been working out for them?

Eventually someone is going to have to grow up and start taking things seriously.