Analysts say reserves can be safely tapped if leaders have the will
By Michael Carl
He added that other factors are involved in helping reduce the cost of a gallon of gasoline.
“Certainly any oil that is produced domestically can be transported more economically than importing it from overseas. So, to the extent that the oil can be drilled and produced in this country, it should benefit the consumer,” Duncan explained.
Duncan said Canadians are in the best position in terms of supply.
Alberta Energy Department spokesman Tim Markle said the Alberta oil sands can yield more than 170 billion barrels of oil.
There are a variety of methods to get to the oil reserve, he pointed out.
“The methods vary from company to company based on the processes they’re using,” Markle explained. “There’s open pit mining. There are other processes that include steam-assisted gravity drainage and a vapex system. There’s also toe-to-heel air injection.”
Energy analysts say demand for crude oil will double by 2035, but some argue that with vast untapped petroleum reserves that can be accessed by new environmentally safe technologies, the U.S. can become energy independent if it has the political will.
The increase in demand was highlighted by President Obama’s announcement last week that the federal government is opening up Florida’s west coast, part of Alaska’s northern coast and the southern Atlantic Shelf for exploration and drilling.
The Atlantic Shelf is estimated to have more than 3.8 billion barrels of oil from Newfoundland to southern Florida. But the American Petroleum Institute’s Erik Milito points out Obama’s target area is smaller.
“Obama didn’t include the whole Atlantic coast in the program. He included south of Delaware and somewhere about the middle of the Florida coast. It’s not all-encompassing,” Milito explained.
“It’s hard to say how much is really available in the area Obama included, but it’s most likely going to be lower than the [3.8 million barrels],” he said.
Milito said the estimates are shaky, noting they are based on data and seismic activity more than 30 years old.
“The industry hasn’t had a chance to go out there and take a look with the newer technologies,” he said. “The estimates could change and maybe even go up.”
Milito added that opponents of offshore drilling shouldn’t be too concerned, because new technologies are making offshore drilling safer.
“It’s not the platforms; it’s the drilling methods that have changed in terms of having blowout preventers. You have stacks of them so that when there’s a blowout they shut off,” Milito said.
He explained that during the production stage, subsurface safety valves keep any liquids or oil from leaking into the water.
Spikes in oil prices over the past two years have turned attention to the Bakken oil shale deposits in North Dakota, Montana and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.
The U. S. Geological Survey estimates there are 3 to 4 billion barrels of oil in the Bakken field.
“If we have more oil on the market, the price should go down. It’s the simple law of supply and demand,” observed USGS Petroleum analyst Doug Duncan.
Markle added that companies in Alberta are moving to a cleaner and more environmentally friendly method.
“Open pit mining is the most economical, but it has an adverse environmental impact. So most of the companies coming on line are using steam-assisted gravity drainage or toe-to-heel air injection,” Markle said.
Markle said that future demand is only going to increase, and he believes that the Alberta oil sands are the best source to meet the growing demand.
“We know we can access 170.4 billion barrels, and by 2018 we’ll be producing 3 million barrels a day instead of the 1.4 million barrels a day now,” Markle projected.
“As more companies come online there will be more oil coming out of here. And as we further our technology, we’ll likely find that we can get more oil out of the oil sands,” Markle said.
Both Alberta’s Markle and the American Petroleum Institute’s Milito say oil is becoming a safer and more environmentally friendly energy source.
Political analyst J. D. Pendry said the barrel estimates from the Atlantic Shelf and the Bakken Fields show that the U.S. should be energy independent. He says the lagging development has no logical explanation.
“We have enough oil reserves in our country, much of which is on federal lands, to achieve energy independence. We have more than any other nation on the planet,” Pendry claimed.
“Yet we choose instead to empower the Middle East and tyrants like (Venezuela’s) Hugo Chavez rather than developing our own oil and energy sources,” he said.
“When you factor in our coal reserves and the potential for coal-to-liquid fuel development, it is even more astounding that we purchase even one drop of fuel from other countries,” said Pendry.
He believes the reason for the continued dependence is a lack of political will on the part of leaders. He believes there’s some political maneuvering.
“It’s only a smoke screen for the uninformed, which amazingly enough still works today. When cap-and-trade is forced on us, the president will state that he is pursuing drilling and claim the Republicans aren’t supporting him in his efforts,” Pendry said. “Our energy situation is mind-boggling.”
Telltale signs are everywhere -from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.
Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds -the so-called circumpolar vortex-that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world. Indeed it is the widening of this cap of cold air that is the immediate cause of Africa’s drought. By blocking moisture-bearing equatorial winds and preventing them from bringing rainfall to the parched sub-Sahara region, as well as other drought-ridden areas stretching all the way from Central America to the Middle East and India, the polar winds have in effect caused the Sahara and other deserts to reach farther to the south. Paradoxically, the same vortex has created quite different weather quirks in the U.S. and other temperate zones. As the winds swirl around the globe, their southerly portions undulate like the bottom of a skirt. Cold air is pulled down across the Western U.S. and warm air is swept up to the Northeast. The collision of air masses of widely differing temperatures and humidity can create violent storms-the Midwest’s recent rash of disastrous tornadoes, for example.
Climatic Balance. Some scientists like Donald Oilman, chief of the National Weather Service’s long-range-prediction group, think that the cooling trend may be only temporary. But all agree that vastly more information is needed about the major influences on the earth’s climate. Indeed, it is to gain such knowledge that 38 ships and 13 aircraft, carrying scientists from almost 70 nations, are now assembling in the Atlantic and elsewhere for a massive 100-day study of the effects of the tropical seas and atmosphere on worldwide weather. The study itself is only part of an international scientific effort known acronymically as GARP (for Global Atmospheric Research Program).
Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth’s surface could tip the climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years.
The earth’s current climate is something of an anomaly; in the past 700,000 years, there have been at least seven major episodes of glaciers spreading over much of the planet. Temperatures have been as high as they are now only about 5% of the time. But there is a peril more immediate than the prospect of another ice age. Even if temperature and rainfall patterns change only slightly in the near future in one or more of the three major grain-exporting countries-the U.S., Canada and Australia -global food stores would be sharply reduced. University of Toronto Climatologist Kenneth Hare, a former president of the Royal Meteorological Society, believes that the continuing drought and the recent failure of the Russian harvest gave the world a grim premonition of what might happen. Warns Hare: “I don’t believe that the world’s present population is sustainable if there are more than three years like 1972 in a row.”
The country first got into debt to help pay for the Revolutionary War. Growing ever since, the debt stands today at a staggering $11.4 trillion – equivalent to about $37,000 for each and every American. And it’s expanding by over $1 trillion a year.
The mountain of debt easily could become the next full-fledged economic crisis without firm action from Washington, economists of all stripes warn.
“Unless we demonstrate a strong commitment to fiscal sustainability in the longer term, we will have neither financial stability nor healthy economic growth,” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently told Congress.
Higher taxes, or reduced federal benefits and services – or a combination of both – may be the inevitable consequences.
The debt is complicating efforts by President Obama and Congress to cope with the worst recession in decades as stimulus and bailout spending combine with lower tax revenues to widen the gap.
Interest payments on the debt alone cost $452 billion last year – the largest federal spending category after Medicare-Medicaid, Social Security and defense. It’s quickly crowding out all other government spending. And the Treasury is finding it harder to find new lenders.
The United States went into the red the first time in 1790 when it assumed $75 million in the war debts of the Continental Congress.
Alexander Hamilton, the first treasury secretary, said, “A national debt, if not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.”
Since then, the nation has only been free of debt once, in 1834-1835.
The national debt has expanded during times of war and usually contracted in times of peace, while staying on a generally upward trajectory. Over the past several decades, it has climbed sharply – except for a respite from 1998 to 2000, when there were annual budget surpluses, reflecting in large part what turned out to be an overheated economy.
The debt soared with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and economic stimulus spending under President George W. Bush and now Obama.
The odometer-style “debt clock” near Times Square – put in place in 1989 when the debt was a mere $2.7 trillion – ran out of numbers and had to be shut down when the debt surged past $10 trillion in 2008.
The clock has since been refurbished so higher numbers fit. There are several debt clocks on websites maintained by public interest groups that let you watch hundreds, thousands, millions zip by in a matter of seconds.
The debt gap is “something that keeps me awake at night,” Obama says.
He pledged to cut the budget “deficit” roughly in half by the end of his first term. But “deficit” just means the difference between government receipts and spending in a single budget year.
This year’s deficit is now estimated at about $1.85 trillion.
Deficits don’t reflect holdover indebtedness from previous years. Some spending items – such as emergency appropriations bills and receipts in the Social Security program – aren’t included, either, although they are part of the national debt.
The national debt is a broader, and more telling, way to look at the government’s balance sheets than glancing at deficits.
According to the Treasury Department, which updates the number “to the penny” every few days, the national debt was $11,518,472,742,288 on Wednesday.
The overall debt is now slightly over 80% of the annual output of the entire U.S. economy, as measured by the gross domestic product.
By historical standards, it’s not proportionately as high as during World War II, when it briefly rose to 120% of GDP. But it’s still a huge liability.
Also, the United States is not the only nation struggling under a huge national debt. Among major countries, Japan, Italy, India, France, Germany and Canada have comparable debts as percentages of their GDPs.
Where does the government borrow all this money from?
The debt is largely financed by the sale of Treasury bonds and bills. Even today, amid global economic turmoil, those still are seen as one of the world’s safest investments.
That’s one of the rare upsides of U.S. government borrowing.
Treasury securities are suitable for individual investors and popular with other countries, especially China, Japan and the Persian Gulf oil exporters, the three top foreign holders of U.S. debt.
But as the U.S. spends trillions to stabilize the recession-wracked economy, helping to force down the value of the dollar, the securities become less attractive as investments. Some major foreign lenders are already paring back on their purchases of U.S. bonds and other securities.
And if major holders of U.S. debt were to flee, it would send shock waves through the global economy – and sharply force up U.S. interest rates.
As time goes by, demographics suggest things will get worse before they get better, even after the recession ends, as more baby boomers retire and begin collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits.
While the president remains personally popular, polls show there is rising public concern over his handling of the economy and the government’s mushrooming debt – and what it might mean for future generations.
If things can’t be turned around, including establishing a more efficient health care system, “We are on an utterly unsustainable fiscal course,” said the White House budget director, Peter Orszag.
Some budget-restraint activists claim even the debt understates the nation’s true liabilities.
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, established by a former commerce secretary and investment banker, argues that the $11.4 trillion debt figures does not take into account roughly $45 trillion in unlisted liabilities and unfunded retirement and health care commitments.
That would put the nation’s full obligations at $56 trillion, or roughly $184,000 per American, according to this calculation.
More than 600 events worldwide mark 200th birthday of father of evolution
An atheist group counts 649 events in 42 countries celebrating the 200th anniversary today of the birth of the father of modern evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin.
From an “Evolution Palooza” at the San Francisco Public Library to a book reading in India, the worldwide Darwin Day Celebration – administered by the Institute for Humanist Studies – is “part birthday bash, part thumb-in-the-eye to creationists, part opportunity for publishers rolling out Darwin books like sausages,” says USA Today.
At least one creationist, best-selling author and TV-host Ray Comfort, plans to return the favor by debating atheists on several national and international radio programs.
Comfort will debate David Silverman, national spokesman for the group American Atheists, on the Alan Colmes radio show from 11 p.m. to 11:20 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. On Canadian radio station CFMJ he takes on atheist Scott Campbell from 7:30 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. Eastern Time. Across the Atlantic, the BBC show “Paul Coletti World Update” will feature a debate with Comfort that was recorded earlier this week.
Comfort’s new title by WND Books, “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make Him Think,” is scheduled for release today. Comfort is the author of 60 books and the co-host of “The Way of the Master,” a weekly television show about personal evangelism with actor Kirk Cameron, star of the hit movie “Fireproof.”
The official website of the Darwin Day Celebration says the event “provides a new global holiday that transcends separate nationalities and cultures.”
“Darwin Day can be celebrated in many different ways: civic ceremonies with official proclamations, educational symposia, birthday parties, art shows, book discussions, lobby days, games, protests, and dinner parties,” the organization says.
“In Darwin Day, we are able to recognize the diversity among us, while celebrating our common humanity and the universal understanding we share.”
A celebration at Charlie’s Playhouse studio in Pawtucket, R.I., promised a “fun and festive afternoon for kids and adults” featuring live music, “fun evolution games, door prizes, demonstrations of how we make our Giant Timelines, a champagne/sparkling cider toast, tasty food and yes, a cake with 200 candles.”
The “Evolutionpalooza!” – sponsored by San Francisco Atheists – invited “fellow primates” last weekend to come for a “great afternoon of fun, food, music, games and evolution” that included special guest Eugenie Scott of the Nation Center for Science Education, a leading activist against the teaching of creation theory and intelligent design in public schools.
At the Texas Natural Science Center in Austin, Texas, a Darwin Day celebration featured a sandbox with hidden fossils that children “excavated,” the Daily Texan reported.
“There are people with babies and young children here, and we have activities for them, but the event also focuses on current, relevant research,” said Christina Cid, the center’s director of education.
The non-profit group says the event was developed “in response to the growing repression of dissent about Darwinian dogma in science curricula at all levels of education.”
As an example, the group said, then-University of Idaho president Timothy P. White issued an edict in October 2005 declaring evolution is “the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences.”
The Idaho group said the declaration essentially muzzled the voice of a leading advocate of intelligent design theory, Scott Minnich, an associate professor of microbiology at the university.
More than 750 Ph.D. scientists have signed a statement declaring their skepticism that random mutation and natural selection can explain the complexity of life and urging that Darwinian theory be carefully examined, the group noted.
Students with Intelligent Design & Evolution Awareness clubs at three Idaho schools – Boise State University, Northwest Nazarene University and the College of Idaho – are sponsoring booths on campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today to discuss evolution and encourage the signing of a petition urging academic freedom.
As WND reported, in the run-up to Darwin Day the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation posted billboards in at least 15 states with messages such as “Imagine no Religion” and “Praise Darwin – Evolve Beyond Belief.”
FFRF said it placed a billboard just outside Grand Junction, Colo., because town officials rejected a proposal by a local atheist to proclaim a day honoring Darwin.
“Charles Darwin gets a bad rap in America, and we want to counter that,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “It’s an intellectual blot on our country that more than 50 percent of Americans reject evolution. The Darwin bicentennial is a chance to celebrate reality, to move our nation forward, to return to the Enlightenment.”
Last summer, the Western Colorado Atheists challenged Grand Junction’s longstanding practice of starting City Council meetings with a prayer, leading city leaders to drop the invocation on the advice of an attorney, the Colorado Independent reported.
Gaylor wrote a letter in November demanding county commissioners do the same, according to the Independent, asserting prayers are unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive.
By Jerome R. Corsi
Father of alignment of U.S., Mexico, Canada says secret plan has been killed by left, right
North American Model Parliament
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America is dead, says Robert A. Pastor, the American University professor who for more than a decade has been a major proponent of building a North American Community.
“The new president will probably discard the SPP,” Pastor wrote in an article titled “The Future of North America,” published in the current July/August issue of the Council on Foreign Relations magazine Foreign Affairs.
The SPP, which critics contend is a step toward a North American Union, is an agreement to increase cooperation on security and economic issues signed by the leaders of the U.S., Mexico and Canada in 2005. Despite having no authorization from Congress, the Bush administration launched extensive working-group activity to implement the agreement. The working groups – ranging from e-commerce, to aviation policy, to borders and immigration – have counterparts in Mexico and Canada.
“The April summit meeting was probably the last hurrah for the SPP,” Pastor wrote, referring to the fourth annual SPP meeting held in April in New Orleans.
Pastor attributes the failure of SPP to its largely bureaucratic nature and the decision policy makers made to keep SPP largely below the radar of public opinion.
“The strategy of acting on technical issues in an incremental, bureaucratic way and keeping the issues away from public view has generated more suspicion than accomplishments,” Pastor admitted.
Pastor blames critics for the failure of the SPP, charging it has come under attack from both ends of the political spectrum.
“From the right have come attacks based on cultural anxieties of being overrun by Mexican immigrants and fears that cooperation with Canada and Mexico could lead down a slippery slope toward a North American Union,” he wrote. “From the left came attacks based on economic fears of jobs lost due to unfair trading practices.”
“These two sets of fears came together in a perfect storm that was pushed forward by a surplus of hot air from talk-show hosts on radio and television,” he continued. “In the face of this criticism, the Bush administration was silent, and the Democratic candidates competed for votes in the rust-belt states, where unions and many working people have come to see NAFTA and globalization much as (commentator Lou) Dobbs does.”
Pastor denied he had ever urged the creation of a North American Union.
“Dobbs, among others, viewed a report by a 2005 Council on Foreign Relations task force (which I chaired), ‘Building a North American Community,’ as the manifesto of a conspiracy to subvert American sovereignty,” he asserted. “Dobbs claimed that the CFR study proposed a North American Union, although it did not.”
Pastor has argued consistently for a “North American Community,” as suggested by the title of his 2001 book entitled “Toward a North American Community.”
In a commentary authored for WND, Pastor stressed, “I do not propose a North American Union; I propose a North American Community.”
Pastor argued the two were different in that North American Community would involve “three sovereign governments that seek to strengthen bonds of cooperation.”
Noting that the European Community was a transitional state between the European Common Market and the European Union, Pastor conceded to WND that, “I don’t think a political union of North America is an inherently bad idea, nor do I think it is a good idea for right now.”
Despite the SPP setback, Pastor remains determined to advise a different approach to his continued goal of integrating the U.S., Mexico and Canada into a North American Community.
“The three heads of state must also commit to building a new consciousness, a new way of thinking about one’s neighbors and about the continental agenda,” he said. “Americans, Canadians and Mexicans can be nationals and North Americans at the same time.”
To correct the defects of the SPP bureaucratic closed-door process, Pastor’s CFR article recommended creating new North American institutions, including a North American Investment Fund of at least $20 billion a year “to connect central and southern Mexico to the United States with roads, ports, and communications.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, dropped his support for Senate bill 3622 in the 109th Congress when WND reported the North American Investment Fund proposed by the legislation would enact a key proposal Pastor has frequently made for advancing his North American Community agenda.
In his CFR article, Pastor also called for the continuation of annual North American heads-of-state summits and the appointment in the next administration of a national adviser for North American affairs, who would chair a cabinet-level committee to formulate a comprehensive plan for North America.
Pastor also encouraged creating a dozen university centers for North American studies “to educate a new generation of students to think North American.”
WND reported on the fourth annual North American Model Parliament held this year in Montreal, Canada, for 100 university students from the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The North American Model Parliament is sponsored by the North American Forum on Integration, on which Pastor serves as a board member.