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.

'Chill Greta, Chill!'

Last December, the 45th president of the United States offered Greta Thunberg some solid, practical advice:

I don't have any insight into her anger issues, but Trump's second and third points are spot on. Catching an old movie with a friend is always a good idea, and there must have been several floating around at the time, just before Christmas -- Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck is a personal favorite, or perhaps Alastair Sim in A Christmas Carol (the only version worth your time). And hey, there's always Gone with the Wind, right? Oh, wait...

But point three is really key: "Chill." It's something that Greta's parents should have said to her long ago, instead of, you know, using her. While most of us were mastering baking or catching up on our reading, Greta has devoted herself to -- what else -- hectoring various and sundry nations about their carbon footprints.

Here's one example which I found particularly galling -- Greta & Co. have been indirectly pressuring Canada and Norway to "commit to no new oil and gas exploration or production, and phase out their existing production." How? Well, Norway and Canada are (along with Ireland) vying for a spot on the UN Security Council. As the European votes are likely to go to the European contenders, Justin Trudeau decided to woo other parts of the world, particularly African countries, such as Ethiopia and Sengal

Greta, however, signed a letter to UN ambassadors of small island states, leaning on Trudeau's targets to turn up the heat, particularly on Canada:

Thunberg and the others say Canada is nowhere close to hitting its Paris climate agreement targets. They also say Canada is the second-biggest supplier of fossil-fuel subsidies among the world's wealthiest 20 countries and has opened up billions of dollars in loans to fossil-fuel companies as part of its COVID-19 economic aid.... The letter-writers said if Canada was serious about implementing the Paris agreement it would make permanent its temporary ban on extracting oil and gas in the Arctic, cancel both the Trans Mountain and Keystone XL pipeline projects, and end all subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

So if Canada were really serious about the Paris agreement, it would immediately shut down 10% of its economy -- and since an economy isn't a machine, but an interconnected, organic thing, that would really mean contracting by at least 25 or 30 percent --  eliminating countless jobs and immiserating numerous Canadians? Makes sense to me...

Seriously, get a hobby Greta. One that doesn't include robbing people of their livelihood. And, more important: "Chill!"

Prediction of Economic Recovery Terrifies Dems

It looks like we're getting to the other side of this pandemic, with lock-down orders easing up and restrictions on everyday activities being lifted, with and without masks. One sign that things are returning to normal is that people's minds are turning away from daily case numbers and towards the election in the fall. To that end, Jason Furman, a Harvard professor and one of Barack Obama's senior economic advisors, gave a presentation to the Democratic party's top strategists a few weeks ago, and what he had to say absolutely shocked them:

“We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country," he said.... “Everyone looked puzzled and thought I had misspoken,” Furman said in an interview. Instead of forecasting a prolonged Depression-level economic catastrophe, Furman laid out a detailed case for why the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever....

Furman’s counterintuitive pitch has caused some Democrats, especially Obama alumni, around Washington to panic. “This is my big worry,” said a former Obama White House official who is still close to the former president. Asked about the level of concern among top party officials, he said, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”

Maybe I've missed something, but the above sounds to me like.... good news. But I suppose that's because I'm not running for president with the hopes of hanging a new Great Depression on the incumbent.

Furman stressed that he was speaking “in gross terms, not in net terms,” which is to say that the "V shaped" recovery he was predicting wouldn't leave us better off than we were before the pandemic. The economy would look great compared to the depths of the April and May, but we would still be in rough shape. This, of course, is a difficult message to boil down into a campaign slogan or a meme, which is why the Dems are so anxious about it.

At the same time, it should serve as a rallying cry for the Right. Just a few months ago, when we were riding an incredible economic wave with low taxes and low unemployment, the Democrats were arguing that we should be willing to risk our prosperity on their ideological program. Here's Jim Geraghty on that point:

Back during one of the debates, Tim Alberta of Politico asked Biden, “As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?” Biden responded, “The answer is yes. The answer is yes, because the opportunity — the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real.”

Biden pledged “no new fracking” during a debate, then walked it back; he wants to set a price on carbon to be used for either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade; Biden endorsed California’s AB5, the anti-“gig” law; he would raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, and he insists he can raise taxes by $4 trillion over the next decade, without raising taxes on anyone making $400,000 per year or less.

If the economy is heading in the right direction in the fall -- if jobs are coming back and the stock market is up -- but hasn't quite recovered, should we really trust Joe Biden to prioritize getting us back where we need to be, rather than handing over his domestic policy to the Green Blob? His recent pledge to kill the Keystone XL pipeline if he's elected doesn't inspire confidence.

'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.

Biden Vows to Kill Keystone XL if Elected

Back before he went into hiding, Joe Biden was notorious for making confusing statements which his spokesmen had to "clarify" later, while pretending that they'd been distorted by conservative media. Not that he's actually stopped doing this since the DNC began using the lockdowns as a pretense for hiding him in his basement in Delaware (a tactic which seems to be working for them at the moment, but which they can't keep up through November). While criticizing Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden told ABC News a few weeks ago, "We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse, no matter what. No matter what. We know what has to be done." Uh, sure Grandpa.

But there was nothing confusing about the statement put out by the Biden campaign (of course not delivered by the candidate himself) vowing to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline project should he be elected president next November.

“Biden strongly opposed the Keystone pipeline in the last administration, stood alongside President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject it in 2015, and will proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as President and stop it for good by rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline permit,” Biden campaign policy director Stef Feldman said in a written statement to POLITICO.

In case you've forgotten, Keystone XL is a project of the Canadian oil firm TC Energy, the object of which is to safely transport Canadian crude from Alberta down to refineries in the U.S. It is, in fact, the fourth Keystone pipeline, and when completed it will be able to transport more oil (because it is larger) more quickly (because it travels a less circuitous route) than the already operational other three. Unfortunately for TC Energy, stopping Keystone XL became a cause célèbre for the Left during Barack Obama's presidency, and so the Obama Administration slow-walked the permit process for years until officially rejecting it after six years of review. Donald Trump breathed new life into the project after his election, but it has remained in legal limbo throughout the course of his first term.

Just a few thoughts on his announcement:

  1. Part of Biden's appeal is that he's supposedly this scrappy, working class, down-to-earth, Irish Catholic guy from Scranton, Pa., son of a used car salesman, yadda yadda yadda. But here he is, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, promising to kill steady, hardworking jobs (in two countries!) because it'll make well-connected environmentalists happy?
  2. Even Democrats are starting to acknowledge that the former Vice President isn't all there. Even if it were true that his instincts are more geared towards the working man than the wine-and-caviar set that Hillary Clinton appealed to, this kind of announcement should give you a sense of who will actually be doing the governing while President Biden retreats further into his dotage.
  3. Keystone XL is popular in Canada, so much so that the then-newly elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, felt compelled to object when Obama originally killed the project. Canada is our second largest trading partner, and our largest -- China -- is increasingly unpopular in the U.S., for obvious reasons, so much so that calls for our relationship with that nation to be drastically reevaluated are coming in hot and heavy. Would it really be wise for Biden -- whose foreign policy experience supposedly got him the nod as Obama's veep -- to antagonize an ally in such an environment?

Then again, former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates famously said that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." As his Keystone XL announcement demonstrates, his domestic and trade policy instincts are just as reliable.

Alberta's Petrochemicals Protecting Canada

The collapse in oil prices combined with the virus and the lockdowns are hitting the Canadian province of Alberta extremely hard. Some are even predicting the worst economic contraction in its history. But I was glad to read in the Financial Post about one bright spot in the province's economy at the moment, its petrochemical sector which produces a variety of plastic products that are in high demand at the moment:

In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would move to ban single-use plastics such as shopping bags, cutlery and straws to curb the proliferation of plastic waste in landfills and oceans. Now, in the middle of a public health crisis, the demand for plastic packaging has exploded. In Alberta’s oilpatch, ethane crackers used to make polyethylene film are among the only facilities that are busier today than before the pandemic knocked out global oil demand and led to hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being shut in.

“The demand for plastic packaging has never been higher than it is right now,” said Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, noting that the evidence of the huge demand for the industry’s products is plain at any grocery store in the country. Some grocery stores that had previously banned or started charging for plastic bags have eased those policies as workers are concerned about handling re-usable grocery bags. Acrylic plastic shields have been installed at tills to separate cashiers from shoppers, both of whom are wearing plastic gloves and masks in increasing numbers.... Masterson said the current crisis has led to “an absolute boom in the demand for packaging,” as grocery stores and consumers are wrapping food in plastic to prevent surface contamination of foods from the coronavirus.

Plastics, of course, aren't the only timely products produced by petrochemicals. Another is isopropyl alcohol:

I think it has shown some vulnerabilities in Canada’s supply chain,” Masterson said, noting that Shell Canada Ltd.’s Sarnia plant is the only producer of isopropyl alcohol in Canada, used to make alcohol-based cleaning products such as hand sanitizers. Shell president and CEO Michael Crothers said in a March 31 release the company would donate 125,000 litres of isopropyl alcohol, which is “approximately enough to create nearly one million 12-oz bottles of hand sanitizer for use in hospitals and medical facilities....

In Alberta, successive governments have implemented incentives designed to attract more petrochemical investment in an effort to diversify the province’s economy and build out the supply chain for hydrocarbon production. An incentive program introduced by former NDP premier Rachel Notley resulted in both Inter Pipeline Corp. and Pembina Pipeline Corp. spending $8.5 billion combined on under-construction polypropylene facilities, which will turn the province’s abundance of propane into plastic pellets used in a range of consumer goods.

The article notes that there is some question as to whether the industry will continue to boom once the pandemic and the lockdowns are over, and that is a real concern should the Greens return to form. The environmentalists are working hard to keep the "climate emergency" front and center, and even to link the two. But from where I sit, this pandemic definitively demonstrates the necessity of this industry, and the people talking about managing its decline are nuts.

New York's Fiscal Chickens Come Home to Roost

We are living through an apocalypse. Not the Apocalypse mind you. (Or, well, I hope not, 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.

For years now, New York has managed to stay afloat by trading on its reputation. It's home to the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps. Ambitious kids around the country grow up hearing that "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere". They dream of taking the A Train, giving their regards to Broadway, hitching a ride to Rockaway Beach. Which is all well and good, but you can't live off of capital like that forever without the occasional deposit. And in the era of COVID-19 (which Governor Cuomo has bizarrely decided should be referred to as the "European Virus"), New York's capital -- cultural and pecuniary -- is running thin.

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 Journal pointed 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."

'The Earth is Healing Itself'

I've already mentioned the disturbing phenomenon of environmentalists celebrating the real suffering we're seeing all around us right now. By some measures, we're approaching Great Depression-level unemployment numbers (though it is encouraging to note that the vast majority of those who've lost jobs at least believe that they'll get them back soon), and the Greens are out there celebrating the attendant fall in carbon emissions, even worrying that they'll rebound once the economy gets going again.

One ridiculous enviro-meme popping up around the internet lately has people sharing a picture of some beautiful scene -- a blue sky, a mountain, an empty beach -- along with the comment "The Earth is Healing." Of course, this trope is at once so smug and sentimental that mockeries of it likely outnumber the originals at this point:

As the lockdowns start to ease (whether governments want them to or not),  I've actually caught myself muttering "The Earth is Healing itself" with a half smile whenever I've noticed local traffic at roughly normal levels. I was reminded of that when I read this WSJ report on the increased consumption of gasoline throughout the country:

Americans are starting to get back behind the wheel, welcome news for the companies that turn oil into gasoline and diesel. Fuel makers including Valero Energy Corp. and Phillips 66 have said they expect gasoline demand to continue to rebound after plunging to roughly half of normal levels in early April, as states reopen from lockdowns imposed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

As a result, some refiners are looking to produce more gasoline again after choking back output in recent weeks. Such a move should help keep prices at the pump low for longer. Regular gasoline averaged about $1.80 a gallon in the U.S. on Thursday, down from $2.89 a year earlier, according to the price tracker GasBuddy. “People have been cooped up, they want to drive,” Phillips 66 Chief Executive Greg Garland told investors recently, offering a glimmer of hope as the largest U.S. refiners posted their worst quarterly earnings in years....

Fuel makers typically do well when oil prices are low because people drive more. But the recent oil-price crash has largely been driven by a rapid decline in demand as people stay home and travel less to avoid contracting Covid-19. That means the second quarter is expected to be grim for refiners, too. Nevertheless, fuel makers were generally optimistic about an eventual recovery in appetite for their products, saying they think gasoline consumption will continue to climb, even as people remain wary of getting on an airplane.

There are a few Karens out there who will tell you that it's a bad thing that more people are driving, that any time you go outside you risk killing your grandmother, and that our wise political leaders have ordered us to shelter in place for some very good reasons, so we should listen to them.

Those Karens are, of course, wrong. Being outside during the virus is good. Being indoors all the time will drive you crazy, and anyway plenty of people are being hospitalized with the virus who were staying at home. Better not risk it. Get out, get yourself some cheap gas, take your kids to the park (if you're lucky enough to live somewhere where parks are still open). Delight in the sunshine, but also delight in the knowledge that you're helping the economy -- since gasoline and diesel are made in the same process, and there was a real danger there that, if we ran out of storage space for gas, we'd run low on diesel which fuel delivery trucks, you're helping to preserve America's straitened supply chain.

And if you ever get stuck in traffic, just take a deep breath and remind yourself, "The earth is healing."