PennEast Pipeline Beats New Jersey at SCOTUS

Legal eagles might find today's Supreme Court decision, in PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey, compelling, contending as it does with a tension between the exercise of eminent domain on the one hand and a state's sovereign immunity as guaranteed by the 11th amendment on the other. For a layman like myself, one smart enough not to have attended law school, the discussion makes my eyes glaze over. However, the case might have some important ramifications in the ongoing dispute between the environmentalist movement and the oil and gas industry in the months and years ahead, and we would do well to be aware of it.

PennEast Pipeline Company LLC, a joint venture of energy producers including Enbridge Inc., South Jersey Industries Inc, and New Jersey Resources Corp, has been constructing a 116-mile pipeline that would transport as much as one billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale and serve customers in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

After having secured the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval, the company began acquiring the land along the pipeline's planned route, making use, where necessary, of a provision in the U.S. Natural Gas Act which allow resource companies to utilize federal eminent domain authority. However, some of that land belonged to the state, and the administration of Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, refused to hand it over, contending that only privately owned land can be acquired in this way.

When PennEast took the state to court, the Murphy administration argued that the 11th amendment-guaranteed sovereign immunity protected it from being sued by a private entity. The majority, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Alito, and Kavanaugh), disagreed, accepting PennEast's defense that their use of eminent domain flowed directly from the federal government.

Roberts argued that the right of the federal government to use eminent domain for the construction of essential infrastructure was well established, that there was nothing stopping it from delegating that power to a private company, and that "[a]lthough nonconsenting States are generally immune from suit, they surrendered their immunity from the exercise of the federal eminent domain power when they ratified the Constitution."

This doesn't mean that the pipeline will definitely be completed. As Greg Stohr points out in Bloomberg, PennEast "still must secure state-level permits, something that may prove difficult in [liberal] New Jersey." But this case is still has the potential to be significant, limiting as it does the ability of left-wing activists to kill major infrastructure projects they couldn't stop at the federal level simply by pumping money into local politics.

Will this precedent affect, for instance, Enbridge's other big pipeline project, which has seen Michigan holding all of eastern Canada hostage just to make a point? It's a hopeful sign.

Voting in a W.A.S.P. nest

I rolled out of bed before six this morning, threw on some clothes, and hopped into the car to go and vote. I was hoping to beat the lines and then get home quickly for my first cup of coffee.

Well, no such luck. Despite the near freezing weather, the line in my small New England town was around the block by the time I got there, Baby Boomers as far as the eye could see. I guess I should have waited for that coffee.

I shouldn't be surprised, of course. I hang my hat in W.A.S.P. country these days, and while the prevailing wisdom (and social science data) holds that Mainline Protestant affiliation is in steep decline, the truth of the matter is that the theological character of those once prominent sects has actually just shifted in a worldly direction, such that woke virtue signaling now occupies the space once held by creeds and confessions.

Cancelling and shame storming modern reprobates has replaced more traditional W.A.S.P. practices, but in the age of Donald Trump, voting has become the biggest virtue signal of all -- provided, of course, that you're voting that Orange Man Bad. Consequently, this line -- full of people in designer jeans, with the slightest hint of the dear old Ivy League in their accents, and air of never having a single thought that isn't preapproved by the New York Times editorial board -- had the atmosphere of a religious rite. The earliest protestants reduced the number of sacraments from seven to three, but it seems that their distant progeny have reduced them even further, to one: voting.

Game Day.

And it was livelier than a June wedding. People were taking selfies, wearing sweaters that said "Vote!" One (gray-haired) woman greeted some friends and, referring to the number of people, exclaimed, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen!" This despite the fact that we don't live in a swing state, and the allocation of our seven electoral votes is a foregone conclusion.

As the line inched forward, I couldn't help but feel that this all reeked of privilege. Many conservatives, me included, guffawed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's recent claim that long lines were a sign of voter suppression, even when they're "happening in a blue state." AOC's New York is, of course, just terribly governed, as the pandemic and this election season should make plain to everyone.

But there is a concern here. Before me were a bunch of affluent people who probably had no real work to do until their afternoon Zoom meeting. It costs them nothing to stand in line for hours to vote for the Wall Street candidate, more COVID hysteria, and the destruction of blue collar jobs. Then they can head home, park their electric cars in their heated driveways, and futz around until its time to watch election returns on MSNBC.

But how many regular working people -- plumbers, electricians, construction workers, even cops and firemen -- who have good reason to fear the further empowerment of the left in this country, looked at those lines and said to themselves "I don't have time for this"?

Well, hopefully they make it through in the end. If not in my neck of the woods, at least in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and everywhere else where their votes really count and their livelihoods are under assault. It'd be nice to see the smug liberals I saw this morning mugged by reality, just like four years ago.

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.

Why Pennsylvania Is in Play

Pennsylvania might be the most hotly contested state in this presidential election, and with good reason. Our fifth most populous state, Pennsylvania is home to two big cities -- Philadelphia and Pittsburgh -- that are flush with the affluent and the underclasses who serve them -- both key Democratic constituencies -- while the rest of the state is dominated by rural, working class voters, who are much more conservatively inclined even when their actual voting patterns are harder to predict.

Republicans have long felt that this second cohort were their natural allies. In the 1980s they were often called Reagan Democrats, and the GOP was convinced that eventually they would come to their senses and become reliable Republicans. But, despite their best efforts, every Democratic candidate from Bill Clinton in 1992 through Barrack Obama in 2012 carried the Keystone State.

That changed in 2016, when rural Pennsylvanians found in Donald Trump a candidate who spoke to their interests and preferences. He won the state by 44,292 votes out of more than 6,000,000 cast, the smallest presidential margin in the state in 176 years.

But this year, the Democrats are determined to win it back. It is very likely that the party establishment decided to go all in on Joe Biden with PA in mind. After all, though he represented Delaware in the Senate for thirty-six years, he never stops reminding voters that he was born in Scranton, and prides himself on his common touch (a questionable characterization).

But beyond that, the Biden camp are offering Pennsylvania's rural voters essentially nothing. Ace reporter Salena Zito, who knows her native state better than anybody, recently spoke to several long-time Democrats in Bethel Park, who all have roughly the same story -- they've been forced to accept that their pro-life, pro-Second Amendment views are no longer welcome in the party. What's more, they've been increasingly disturbed by the Democrat's embrace of rioting and disorder in cities throughout the country, and their tendency to denigrate the police.

And then there's fracking. The natural gas industry, which relies on fracking, employs over 300,000 workers, directly or indirectly, in Pennsylvania. While campaigning for the Democratic nomination, both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren called for a national fracking ban. Joe Biden's position has generally been harder to decipher, but he seems to have settled on a policy of “no more new fracking." while his running mate, Kamala Harris, continues to support a total ban on the practice.

If there's one thing that the aforementioned working class voters care about, it is jobs. Here's Rose Tennent writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer about what fracking has meant for the state:

We allowed responsible, modern natural gas development to go forward, allowing Pennsylvanians to take advantage of some of the world’s greatest shale gas reserves. The result has been an incredible boon to our state and our country. Fracking and the rest of the shale gas revolution saved Pennsylvania from the worst depths of the Great Recession. When our workers were hurting the most in 2008 and 2009, the shale fields eventually catapulted Pennsylvania back to prosperity by restoring the energy dominance that we enjoyed a century earlier. Today, 106,000 Pennsylvanians have mostly well-paid, desirable jobs in the energy sector. That’s a big part of why our state has a 3.9% unemployment rate — a figure that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.

Those figures are from before the pandemic and the lockdowns, of course, which together brutalized both the economy overall and the resource industry specifically. But the potential for the industry to rebound and the jobs to come back once the lockdowns are relaxed is real, so long as as they're allowed to. Biden's position, which amounts to "read my lips, No Future Fracking Jobs," seems designed to ensure that that that never happens.

There's some in every crowd.

Beyond the benefits it brings for the state itself, Tennent points out that, largely because of fracking, "America as a whole has become energy independent for the first time since we became dependent on imported oil from the Middle East in the 1960s." Hydraulic fracturing doesn't only create jobs stateside, it also makes it so the price of heating our homes and filling up are gas tanks aren't reliant on the whims of OPEC or political stability in the notoriously volatile area surrounding the Strait of Hormuz.

This is very appealing for working class Americans in Pennsylvania, many of whom were wary of the Bush-era Republican Party's middle eastern adventurism. American energy independence removes one of the major justifications for getting involved in the constant squabbles in that part of the world. Consequently, from the perspective of those Americans who both benefit from well paying blue collar jobs in the natural gas industry and disproportionately serve in the military, fracking goes down as a win/win.

So, while polling out of Pennsylvania for this election cycle has been, in the words of elections analyst Jim Geraghty, "boringly consistent," with Biden ahead in nearly every poll for the past several months, reports of a noticeable shift in people registering as Republicans hasn't been surprising. As Geraghty explained recently in National Review,

In November 2016, Pennsylvania had 4.2 million registered Democrats, 3.3 million registered Republicans, and 1.2 million registered with “other parties” or none. By 2020, Pennsylvania had 4.09 million registered Democrats, 3.29 registered Republicans, and 1.21 million registered with other parties. Then the parties began their post-primary voter-registration drives — and Republicans added a net 135,619 voters between June and the final week of September, while Democrats added 57,985 and other voters increased by 49,995.... Add it all up: Democrats are down 66,778 registered members from November 2016, while the Republicans added 125,381, and “other” is up 61,313.

I recently took a trip to Pennsylvania, and it was impossible to miss two things. First, the never-ending cacophony of paid advertisements that are ostensibly pro-Biden, but in actuality anti-Trump. On TV and the radio, you hear over and over tear-jerking stories about someone who lost his job or a family member because Covid-19 (with no explanation as to how Biden would have handled the pandemic differently), ending with the command "vote him out." But the other notable thing was that, driving around the countryside, there must have been ten Trump signs for every Biden sign.

Now, you may object that is a non-scientific measurement, of course, but coupled with the differences in registration, it increases my suspicion that, like in 2016, the polling out of Pennsylvania isn't telling the whole story. Which is to say, the professional forecasters might once again be in for a rude awakening on election night.

Special Report: Major Environmentalist Organizations and their Funders

A few months ago we highlighted an article written by Heritage Foundation visiting fellow (and occasional economic adviser to the Trump Administration) Stephen Moore in which he discussed an appearance he'd made on CNN which provoked more hate mail than he had ever previously received.

What topic of discussion could have inspired such vitriol? None other than the massive amounts of money raked in by what he called the "Climate Change Industrial Complex.”

I noted that “in America and around the globe governments have created a multi-billion dollar Climate Change Industrial Complex.” And then I added: “A lot of people are getting really, really rich off of the climate change industry.” According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Federal funding for climate change research, technology, international assistance, and adaptation has increased from $2.4 billion in 1993 to $11.6 billion in 2014, with an additional $26.1 billion for climate change programs and activities provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.”

He went on to point out that this "doesn’t mean that the planet isn’t warming. But the tidal wave of funding does reveal a powerful financial motive for scientists to conclude that the apocalypse is upon us."

But why, one wonders, does this kind of observation arouse so much rage? The answer is that environmentalists -- like so many other activists -- have courted an image of being men and women indifferent to their personal interests, who've given themselves wholly over to the cause. And, for their part, their biggest fans are happy to be taken along for the ride, and unhappy about the intrusion of "filthy lucre" spoiling their reverie.

Well, tough.

Environmentalists have a massive influence on our society, from their lobbying for laws and regulations to coerce compliance with their beliefs, to their educational efforts which persuade (or, occasionally, indoctrinate) children from a very young age. When they are doing that with tax money, or money from tax exempt donations, us tax-payers deserve to know something about it.

That being so, our crack team of researchers here at The Pipeline have spent the past month combing through publicly available documents and taking note of the major donors to some of America's most influential environmentalist groups for your information and edification.

So break out your green eyeshade, and enjoy:

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Click on the links below to read the rest of our research:

Money makes the world cool down.

Earthjustice Majors Funders

Greenpeace USA Major Funders

Natural Resources Defense Council Major Funders

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future Major Funders

Ohio Citizen Action Major Funders

As Deep Throat said during Watergate, "Follow the money."

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.

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.

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."