Friday, April 27, 2012

Astronomers Find New Planet Capable of Supporting Life

The planet lies in what they describe as a 'habitable zone', neither too near its sun to dry out or too far away which freezes it.

And the discovery could help answer the question of whether we are alone in the universe, which has been plagued astronomers and alien fanatics for years.

Scientists found the planet, Gliese 667Cc, orbiting around a red dwarf star, 22 light years away from the earth.

Red dwarf stars are the most common stars in the neighbourhood of the sun, usually hosting planets called gas giants, which are not composed of rock matter.

Re-analysing data from the European Southern Observatory, the astronomers found Gliese 667Cc is a solid planet with roughly four and a half times the mass of Earth.

The University Göttingen and University of California scientists have calculated the planet recieves ten per cent less light from its red dwarf star than the Earth gets from the Sun.

As the light is in the infrared area, the planet still receives nearly the same amount of energy as the Earth, meaning water could be liquid and surface temperatures could be similar to ours.

Astronomers are hailing the plant as the 'Holy Grail' of discoveries, as 20 years ago scientists were still arguing about the existence of planets beyond our solar system.

Since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet in 1995, astronomers have confirmed the existence of more than 760 planets beyond the solar system, with only four believed to be in a habitable zone.

One of the most successful tools of planet hunters is the High Accuracy Radial Planetary Searcher (HARPS) telescope, which measures the radial velocity of a star.

Scientists using this telescope analyse the small wobbles in a stars motion caused by the gravitational response of a planet, determining the position and size of a planet indirectly.

Currently, they can detect planets which are 3-5 times the mass of the Earth but, in the future, they could detect planets which are smaller than twice the mass of Earth.

Steven Vogt, an astronomer from the University of California, said: "It´s the Holy Grail of exo-planet research to find a planet orbiting around a star at the right distance so it´s not too close where it would lose all its water and not too far where it would freeze.

"It´s right there in the habitable zone - there´s no question or discussion about it. It is not on the edge. It is right in there."

Guillem Anglada-Escudé, of University Göttingen, Germany, said: "With the advent of new generation of instruments, researchers will be able to survey many dwarf stars for similar planets and eventually look for spectroscopic signatures of life in one of these worlds."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

4 Industries Getting Rich Off the Drug War

In a 2011 interview, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that legalization is “not likely to work” because “there is just too much money in it.” Clinton was talking about cartels, but the same holds true for the legal industries that owe their profit margins, market shares, and—in some cases—very existence to the war on drugs. Here are four industries you might not realize profit off the drug war.

4.) The Drug Testing Industry

One of the highlights of President Barack Obama’s 2012 Drug Control Policy report is a section encouraging drug-free workplace programs, which the report touts as “beneficial for our labor force, employers, families, and communities in general.” The report also alludes to the administration’s commitment to funding research for an oral drug test that can be conducted alongside a urine analysis.

An entire testing industry helped make those policies a reality, and is pushing for their expansion. One industry group, the Drugs of Abuse Testing Coalition, has spent $90,000 already in 2011-2012 lobbying for “Medicare reimbursement codes and payment rates for qualitative drug screen testing.” Another group, the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association, has retained the lobbying shop Washington Policy Association since at least 1999, but according to its filings, has spent less than $10,000 per year on lobbying since then. Another drug testing company, Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, was started by former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and former White House drug chief Robert DuPont.

These groups have successfully pushed for the passage of drug testing laws and regulations across the country, and were behind the Drug Testing Integrity Act of 2008, which made it illegal to buy, sell, manufacture, or advertise “cleansing” products that promise to help consumers “defraud a drug test.” A new federal law that allows states to drug test people seeking public assistance is proving to be another boon to such companies: Florida has already spent $118,140 testing welfare applicants; or, $45,780 more than it would have spent if it had just given welfare to the 108 applicants who tested positive for drugs.

3.) The Alcohol Industry

Marijuana legalization advocates like to point out that pot is safer than alcohol, if for no other reason than no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. They also like to point out that the booze industry has been working to subvert drug policy reform for decades, at least going back to the early 90s when the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) FOIA’d the donation records for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and found that it had accepted large donations from Jim Beam and Anheuser Busch.

Alcohol companies were less obvious about their opposition to legalization after being outed by NORML. That lasted until September 2010, when the California Beer and Beverage Distributors donated $10,000 to a police-run campaign opposing Proposition 19, California’s marijuana legalization initiative.

2.) The Private Prison Industry 

Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the country’s largest private prison company, has donated almost $4.5 million to political campaigns and dropped another $18 million on lobbying in the last two decades. The company, and others like it, is up to its elbows in drug war spending. Its facilities house low-level drug users and contain in-house rehabilitation programs. CCA even trains its own drug-sniffing dogs. In 2010, the company had revenue of $1.67 billion. Florida-based GEO Group, which has given almost $4 million in campaign contributions and spent $2.28 million on lobbying since 1999, had revenue of $1.27 billion in 2010.

Nowhere is the private prison industry’s reliance on the drug war more apparent than in CCA’s 2010 report to shareholders. “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws,” reads the report CCA filed with the Securities Exchange Commission.

“For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior. Also, sentencing alternatives under consideration could put some offenders on probation with electronic monitoring who would otherwise be incarcerated. Similarly, reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.”

According to a report from the Justice Policy Institute, lobbyists for the private prison industry have pushed “three strikes” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws across the country. Both types of laws adversely affect drug users.

1.) The Addiction Recovery Industry

The business of treating addiction has come a long way since Bill Wilson developed the 12 Step program in the 1930s. It’s now a huge industry with deep pockets, an impressive lobbying budget, and a vested interest in paternalistic public health policies. This industry has two big policy concerns: It wants the government to direct users—both hard and recreational—into addiction treatment facilities instead of jail, and it wants the government to require insurance companies to cover addiction treatment like it would any other illness. This doesn’t mean the addiction recovery industry doesn’t have voluntary clients, just that it wants government to declare drug use a disease, force anyone who has it to receive very specific treatment from very specific doctors, and have a third party pay the bill.

The addiction services industry didn’t get this power by wishing for it. Since 1989, addiction services trade groups and individual companies have donated a combined $869,405 to political campaigns and spent almost $5 million lobbying in order to secure direct and indirect government funding of addiction services.

The biggest player on the rehab block is Phoenix House, which was started in 1967 by six Manhattan heroin addicts. Today, Phoenix House runs 150 addiction programs in 10 states, including in-patient and out-patient programs, as well as Phoenix Academy, a series of boarding schools for substance-using teens. Much of its $100 million budget comes from earmarks and government contracts: $250,000 for Phoenix House in Springfield; $480,000 for Phoenix House in Brentwood; $650,000 for Phoenix House in Dallas; $750,000 for Phoenix House in Brooklyn. The list goes on, and on, and on. Those earmarks don’t come cheap, however. Between 2002 and 2011, Phoenix House spent $1.28 million lobbying.

Phoenix House also supports the Obama Administration’s most recent pledge to spend more money on (much criticized) drug courts and other diversion strategies, as nearly all such programs shuffle drug users through addiction treatment centers. The company also invited former ONDCP senior advisor Kevin Sabet to pre-emptively attack legalization advocates on the Phoenix House website the day Obama's report was released. 

The National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), which bills itself as “the nation's largest association of addiction focused professionals,” has spent $134,000 on campaign contributions and $338,000 lobbying Congress since 1995. The most notable recipient is Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), who’s received $12,000 in campaign donations from the group. Ramstad is the co-chair of both the House Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus and the Law Enforcement Caucus, as well as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. In 2008, Ramstad was rumored to be on Barack Obama’s shortlist for drug czar. He has a history of earmarking money for addiction treatment facilities and programs, and once earmarked $250,000 for Minnesota Teen Challenge, an Assembly of God-affiliated rehab program that teaches “Addiction is a sin, not a disease.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Army Cancels Ted Nugent's Performance at Fort Knox over Obama Comments

It's lights out on Ted Nugent's scheduled performance at an Army base in Kentucky.

Commanders at Fort Knox have decided against allowing the "Motor City Madman" to take the stage at the base in June, the latest fallout over Nugent's comments that he would be "dead or in jail" if President Barack Obama were re-elected.

"After learning of opening act Ted Nugent's recent public comments about the president of the United States, Fort Knox leadership decided to cancel his performance on the installation," according to an announcement posted Saturday on the base's Facebook page.

The concert at the base is part of the "Midwest Rock n' Roll Express" tour featuring co-headliners Nugent, REO Speedwagon and Styx.

"Army Entertainment and the Fort Knox Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation remain committed to carrying out the June 23 concert, and the possibility exists that a replacement will be selected," the announcement said.

It was not immediately clear whether Styx or REO Speedwagon planned to carry on with their scheduled performance.

Nugent and Fort Knox public affairs officials did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

Response to the announcement was mixed, with more than 1,000 people weighing in with comments.

"I feel they had little choice after the comments Ted Nugent made at the NRA convention. As president, Obama is their commander-in-chief," Carrie Peterson wrote on Facebook in response to the announcement.

Some urged the soldiers and their families to boycott the concert, while others urged Styx and REO Speedwagon to pull out of the show if Nugent is not allowed to perform.

Still others were angry at the base commanders.

"I'm very disappointed to hear that you canceled Ted Nugent - this man is a patriot and embodies the spirit of the 2nd amendment, one of our constitutional rights. I believe that the US Army is around to fight for our constitution and our rights. As a former US Army soldier, I am ashamed of your actions here," Michael Edgerly wrote in his post.

On Thursday, the Secret Service said it resolved questions regarding comments that Nugent, a conservative activist and gun rights advocate, made about Obama during a speech at an NRA convention in St. Louis, Missouri.

"If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year," Nugent said, according to a video that the NRA posted on YouTube. "If you can't go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil, America-hating administration, I don't even know what you're made out of."

The video has since been removed.

Many have questioned whether Nugent was alluding to violence against the president.

Nugent issued a statement confirming his meeting and describing it as a "good, solid, professional meeting concluding that I have never made any threats of violence towards anyone."

News of the canceled concert came a day after Nugent agreed to pay a fine, serve probation and record a public service announcement as part of a deal to plead guilty to transporting an illegally killed black bear in Alaska.

The plea deal, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Alaska, stems from federal allegations that arose during a bear hunt in May 2009 that was filmed for Nugent's television show, "Spirit of the Wild," on the Outdoor Channel.

In the plea agreement, Nugent admitted to shooting and killing a bear using a bow and arrow during a hunt on Sukkwan Island in southeast Alaska, just days after he wounded another bear. Alaska limits licensed hunters to the bagging of one bear per hunting season. Under the law, the wounding of a bear counts toward the season's bag limit.

Nugent gained musical fame in the 1960s as a member of the psychedelic band The Amboy Dukes, then as a solo act in the 1970s and later as a member of the 1980s supergroup Damn Yankees. He is probably best known for the1977 rock anthem, "Cat Scratch Fever."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Wild Hypocrisy of America's Conservative Christians

In Britain, the devout tend to be economic progressives. Why have American Christians embraced social Darwinism?

Here's a newspaper headline that might induce a disbelieving double take: "Christians 'More Likely to Be Leftwing' And Have Liberal Views on Immigration and Equality." Sounds too hard to believe, right? Well, it's true -- only not here in America, but in the United Kingdom.

That headline, from London's Daily Mail, summed up the two-tiered conclusion of a new report from the British think tank Demos, which found that in England 1) "religious people are more active citizens (who) volunteer more, donate more to charity and are more likely to campaign on political issues" and 2) "religious people are more likely to be politically progressive (people who) put a greater value on equality than the non-religious, are more likely to be welcoming of immigrants as neighbours (and) more likely to put themselves on the left of the political spectrum."

These findings are important to America for two reasons.

First, they tell us that, contrary to evidence in the United States, the intersection of religion and politics doesn't have to be fraught with hypocrisy. Britain is a Christian-dominated country, and the Christian Bible is filled with liberal economic sentiment. It makes perfect sense, then, that the more devoutly loyal to that Bible one is, the more progressive one would be on economics.

That highlights the second reason this data is significant: the findings underscore an obvious contradiction in our own religious politics.

Here in the United States, those who self-identify as religious tend to be exactly the opposite of their British counterparts when it comes to politics. As the Pew Research Center recently discovered, "Most people who agree with the religious right also support the Tea Party" and its ultra-conservative economic agenda. Summing up the situation, scholar Gregory Paul wrote in the Washington Post that many religious Christians in America simply ignore the Word and "proudly proclaim that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated union busting, minimal taxes, especially for wealthy investors, and plutocrat-boosting capitalism as the ideal earthly scheme for his human creations."

The good news is that this may be starting to change. In recent years, for instance, Pew has found that younger evangelicals are less devoutly committed to the Republican Party and its Tea Party-inspired agenda than older evangelicals. Additionally, surveys show a near majority of evangelicals agree with liberals that the tax system is unfair and that the wealthy aren't paying their fair share. Meanwhile, the organization Faith in Public LIfe has highlighted new academic research showing that even in America there is growing "correlation between increased Bible reading and support for progressive views, including abolishing the death penalty, seeking economic justice, and reducing material consumption."

Of course, many Americans who cite Christianity to justify their economic conservatism may not have actually read the Bible. In that sense, religion has become more of a superficial brand rather than a distinct catechism, and brands can be easily manipulated by self-serving partisans and demagogues. To know that is to read the Sermon on the Mount and then marvel at how anyone still justifies right-wing beliefs by invoking Jesus.

No doubt, only a few generations ago, such a conflation of religion and right-wing economics would never fly in America. Whether William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" crusade or the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s poor people's campaign, religion and political activism used to meet squarely on the left -- where they naturally should.

Thus, the findings from Britain, a country similar to the United States, evoke our own history and potential. They remind us that such a congruent convergence of theology and political ideology is not some far-fetched fantasy -- it is still possible right here at home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Clay Jones, Copyright 2012 Creators Syndicate

Myths And Facts About Oil And Gasoline

Both mainstream and conservative media outlets have responded to the recent spike in gasoline prices by circulating talking points rooted in politics rather than facts. As a whole, these claims reflect the misconception, perpetuated by the news media, that changes in U.S. energy policy are a major driver of oil and gasoline prices.

FACT: Drilling Is Not A Solution To Gas Price Spikes

MYTH: Media Present U.S. Oil Production As A Solution To High Gas Prices.

  • In recent months, all of the broadcast and cable news networks except NBC mentioned expanded domestic drilling as a factor that has or would lower gasoline prices. [Media Matters, 3/20/12]
  • Fox News incessantly promotes drilling as a solution to gas price spikes. For instance, Fox contributor Dick Morris said that "the United States now has the capacity so to increase the global supply of oil that we can, in the future, completely control gas and oil prices" and that "the United States can affect this price and the answer is 'drill, baby drill.'" [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 3/16/12, via Nexis]

Experts: Changes In U.S. Production Are Small Factor Given Scale Of Global Oil Market. At least 20 economists and energy experts from across the ideological spectrum have explained that increasing U.S. oil production will not prevent gas price spikes because oil is priced on a global market, which is influenced by much larger factors like growing demand from Asia and geopolitical conflicts. [Media Matters, 3/22/12]

Survey Of Economists Confirms That U.S. Policy Doesn't Dictate Gasoline Prices. In a survey of economists by the Chicago Booth School of Business, not one disagreed with the statement that "Changes in U.S. gasoline prices over the past 10 years have predominantly been due to market factors rather than U.S. federal economic or energy policies." [Chicago Booth School of Business, 3/19/11]

Statistical Analysis Shows No Correlation Between Gasoline Prices And U.S. Oil Production. An Associated Press analysis of 36 years of data "shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump," underscoring the fact that any impact on price from changes in U.S. oil production is swamped by the more dominant factors influencing the oil market. [Associated Press, 3/21/12]

FACT: Keystone XL Would Have Little To No Impact On Gas Prices

MYTH: Media Tie Keystone XL Pipeline To Gasoline Prices.

  • Fox News has repeatedly claimed Keystone XL would lower gasoline prices. For instance, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer said: "So long as gasoline is getting higher, that's all the Republicans have to say is 'Keystone.'" [Media Matters, 2/23/12]
  • All the broadcast and cable news networks have tied Keystone XL to gas prices in the last few months. [Media Matters, 3/20/12]
  • Several major print outlets and NPR have uncritically reported the claim that the Keystone XL pipeline would lower gas prices. [New York Times, 2/1/12] [New York Times, 2/18/12] [Associated Press, 2/20/12] [Houston Chronicle, 3/26/12] [Christian Science Monitor, 2/24/12] [National Public Radio, 4/9/12]

Economists And Energy Analysts Say KXL Would Have An Imperceptible Effect On Gasoline Prices. Energy experts Severin Borenstein, Andrew Leach, Michael Levi, and Chris Lafakis have each stated that the pipeline would have little if any impact on gasoline prices. Borenstein, for instance, said the pipeline would "bring additional oil to the world market, starting around 2020. The effect on oil prices then will be miniscule, the effect in the next couple years nonexistent." Even Ray Perryman, the economist hired by TransCanada to assess the economic benefits of the pipeline, said the effect would be "modest" and likely "swamped by the day-to-day factors that impact market prices." [Media Matters, 2/23/12] "There's Nothing To Prevent More Canadian Oil From Coming Into The U.S. Right Now." In a post criticizing a political ad which claimed that President Obama "blocked the Keystone pipeline, so we will all pay more at the pump," noted:

[T]here's nothing to prevent more Canadian oil from coming into the U.S. right now, should Canada be able and willing to send it. Existing cross-border pipelines already have much more capacity than they are using. Those pipelines have the capacity to bring in more than 1 million barrels per day of additional Canadian oil, according to a study produced for the U.S. State Department by EnSys Energy & Systems Inc. of Lexington, Mass., in December 2010. And the study predicts that surplus capacity will persist at least until the year 2020, even if the Keystone is never built (see table 3-4). The 700,000 barrels that McConnell refers to is the additional surplus capacity that the Keystone's northern leg would provide. [, 3/30/12]

Some Analysts Say The Pipeline Could Actually Increase Gas Prices In Some Parts Of The Country. Because the Southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline would relieve the current glut of oil in the Midwest, some energy analysts believe it would raise gasoline prices there. [Media Matters, 2/23/12]

FACT: Experts Reject Claim That Monetary Policy Is To Blame For Gas Price Spike

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim Federal Reserve Is Causing Dollar To Fall, And Therefore Gasoline Prices To Rise.

  • A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that U.S. monetary policy is a "suspect" in the oil price surge, stating: "Oil is traded in dollars, and its price therefore rises when the value of the dollar falls, all else being equal. The Federal Reserve throughout Mr. Obama's term has pursued the easiest monetary policy in modern times, expressly to revive the housing market." [Wall Street Journal, 2/24/12]
  • On ABC's This Week, George Will said that "part of the problem" for gas prices is that "as long as we're promiscuously printing dollars and the value of the dollar is going down, the price of oil and the price of gasoline is going to go up. So blame the Federal Reserve while you're at it." [ABC, This Week, 2/24/12]
  • In a column, Charles Kadlec wrote that "the price of oil and gasoline are up because the Federal Reserve has driven the value of the dollar down." [, 3/19/12]
  • Bill Kristol said on Fox News that "monetary policy and the loose dollar" has "led to oil prices going up, in my opinion, as much as anything else." [Fox News, Special Report, 3/7/12, via Nexis]

James Galbraith: "Dollar Has Not Been Falling" In Recent Months. Economics professor James K. Galbraith said the problem with blaming the gas price spike on the falling dollar is that "dollar has not been falling (against the euro, say) in recent months. Overall the dollar-euro exchange rate is about where it was when Obama took office." [Email to Media Matters, 3/29/12]

Economist Edwin Truman: Monetary Policy Is "Not At All" Why Gas Prices Spiked. Edwin Truman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics said that when the dollar falls, the dollar price of gasoline tends to go up, but "that's not happening." Truman said that the dollar has not been falling and the prices of other commodities have not been similarly increasing, so monetary policy is "not at all" why gas prices have risen in recent months. [Phone conversation, 3/29/12]

Harvard's Jeffrey Frankel: Explanation For Price Increase Is "Specific To The Petroleum Sector." Harvard professor Jeffrey Frankel said the "recent increase in the global prices of oil and refined products (gasoline) has not been accompanied by similar increases in the prices of other fuels, or minerals and agricultural products." Frankel added that the explanation for the price increase must "be specific to the petroleum sector: most obviously the risk of disruption to the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf, due to possible conflict with Iran." [Email to Media Matters, 3/29/12]

FACT: Americans Pay Much Lower Gas Taxes Than Other Wealthy Nations

MYTH: Conservative Media Suggest U.S. Gasoline Taxes Are High.

  • After Fox News reporter Doug McKelway read a statement from ExxonMobil "verbatim" that claimed Exxon earned 7 cents per gallon while 40 to 60 cents went to state and federal governments, guest anchor Heather Nauert stated "The government's the one making money off of it, not the companies." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 5/12/11]
  • Fox Business host Gerri Willis said, "Every time you fill up, you have to fork over 18.4 cents a gallon in federal gas taxes, and that costs you at least $100 a year. The feds collect nearly $37 billion this way each and every year." [Fox Business Network, The Willis Report, 3/1/12, via Nexis]
  • Fox News host Bill O'Reilly stated: "The higher a gallon of gas is, the more tax revenue goes to Washington. Always remember that. Especially in California and New York, huge gas taxes." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 2/20/12, via Nexis]

The Economist: U.S. Gas Taxes Are "Rock Bottom" Compared To The Rest Of The "Rich World." The Economist noted in 2011 that "Petrol prices in America are substantially below levels elsewhere in the rich world, and this is almost entirely due to the rock bottom level of petrol tax rates." The post also stated that "The low cost of petrol encourages greater dependence," which "in turn, reduces the ability of American households to substitute away from driving when oil prices rise."

Source: The Economist [The Economist, 2/23/11]

Value Of The Federal Gas Tax Has Been Eroded By Inflation. The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1993. Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush raised the tax, but it is now worth less than it was when they did so. [, 2/29/12]

CRS: "The Current Tax Does Not Appear To Be Functioning As An Effective Tax." A September 2009 Congressional Research Service report stated that "American drivers, compared to those in other industrialized nations in Europe, pay relatively low federal, state, and local gasoline and diesel excise taxes." It further stated:

The current federal tax on gasoline is a fixed 18.4 cents per gallon. In addition, states and localities generally add their own taxes on gasoline. The current tax does not appear to be functioning as an effective tax, by the definition set out above; it is not raising adequate revenues, reducing consumption, or providing consistent incentives.


In addition, because the existing federal tax is relatively small, compared to the price of gasoline, and is a declining portion of consumer income, as incomes rise, it is likely not having as large an effect in reducing consumption as it might have had when it was instituted. Reducing gasoline consumption is a goal consistent with achieving less dependence on imported crude oil, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. [Congressional Research Service, 9/11/09]

High Gasoline Prices Don't Mean More Revenues For The U.S. Government. Contrary to O'Reilly's claim, the U.S. government "doesn't take in any more money when gas prices go up because the tax is tied to every gallon sold, not every dollar spent," as the Los Angeles Times has noted. [Los Angeles Times, 3/16/12]

Costs Of Spills, Global Warming And Foreign Interventions Are Not Included In Gas Prices. Ezra Klein wrote at the Washington Post:

One other way to think about the cost of oil is to recognize what is and isn't in the price of oil. So mega-spills like the Deepwater spill or the spills that happen in other countries are not in the price. Global warming -- which is to say, carbon -- is not in the price. The cost of our military alliance with some petro-states, and military attention to other petro-states, is not in the price. The cost of the pollution is not in the price. All these costs will be paid, but they're not built into what we pay at the pump. Instead, we'll pay them through taxes, or medical bills, or global temperature changes. [Washington Post, 5/4/10]

FACT: Changing Away From Gasoline Blends Would Come With Costs

MYTH: Conservative Media Present Single National Gas Blend As Simple Solution To Price Problem.

  • Fox's Eric Bolling has repeatedly said that if the government required one national blend, the price of gasoline would be "one buck lower." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/23/12] [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/21/12] [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 2/21/12] [Fox News, America Live, 2/23/12] [Fox News, The Five, 2/23/12] [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/1/12] [Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 3/1/12]
  • Weekly Standard's Steven Hayward wrote that the variety of gasoline blends is "the product of EPA bureaucrats and the Clean Air Act, stubbornly maintained even though boutique fuels now deliver only marginal reductions in air pollution from cars, if any at all. And it's a regulation President Obama could clear away if he wanted to. It wouldn't deliver a large reduction in gasoline pump prices, but even 10 to 15 cents a gallon--a plausible figure for California's market--would help." [Weekly Standard, 4/2/12]
  • Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum stated, "some people want to see them do away with those blends altogether and feel that that make a big difference in terms of gas prices." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 2/27/12]

Gasoline Blends Are Part Of Clean Air Act Amendments Passed Under George H. W. Bush. The increase in the number of gasoline blends dates back to the Clean Air Act Amendments signed by President Bush in 1990. As detailed in a 2006 report from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, the states with the most pollution were required to use reformulated gasoline (RFG) in order to "reduce ozone-forming emissions and control harmful air toxics." Other states were allowed to opt-in to the RFG program or select their own "boutique" fuels as a way to meet air quality targets. [EPA, December 2006]

Bush Task Force: Boutique Fuels Provide "Significant Reduction In Targeted Emissions At Very Low Cost." The Task Force convened by the Bush administration to study boutique fuels concluded:

It is clear that state fuel programs have provided significant, cost-effective air quality improvements. Any actions to modify the slate of existing boutique fuels or limit a state's ability to adopt fuel specifications should be done in a manner that at least maintains these air quality gains and avoids unnecessarily restricting state authority.


A critical issue for the states is that any change in the boutique fuel slate or applicable authorities must be done in a manner that air quality benefits resulting from boutique fuel programs will, at a minimum, at least be maintained. Benefits from these programs have served an important role in the states' efforts at meeting national air quality standards, and these benefits are expected to be as important to future attainment strategies. Further, while the task force received some general input from industry stakeholders with some suggesting a potential connection between boutique fuels and supply and price concerns, this input was not supported by any documentation in this process. [Task Force, June 2006]

Reformulated Gasoline Reduces Smog, Which Contributes To Heart Problems, Asthma Attacks, And Premature Deaths. Reformulated gasoline is designed to reduce nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compound emissions, which form ozone and smog when they come in contact with both heat and sunlight. According to the American Lung Association, ozone causes "increased risk of premature death," "asthma attacks," and "increased susceptibility" to heart- and lung-related problems. [American Lung Association, 2011]

CRS: Requiring One Fuel May Raise Pump Prices In Some Areas, Or Cause More Pollution In Others. A 2006 Congressional Research Service report stated:

Why Not Simply Require One Fuel Across the Country? The existing system has evolved in response to various federal air quality standards, and resulting state standards, local refiner decisions and consumer choices. Further, many of the state formulations were designed to mitigate moderate air quality problems without requiring more stringent and, presumably, more expensive measures. An attempt to group states under one regional or national standard, referred to as "harmonization," might lead to higher pump prices for areas with less severe ozone problems, or higher emissions in areas with more severe problems. Further, refiners may have made considerable investments in tooling facilities to meet specific local requirements.

Harmonizing Standards Would Be a Complex Process. Competing goals will make harmonizing standards a complex process. Gasoline distribution would likely be more uniform under regional or national standards. But refining costs and consumer price could increase under new standards. Further, air quality could be improved or diminished depending on how standards are combined. Any changes in the U.S. gasoline system will need to take all of these factors into account. [Congressional Research Service, 5/10/06]

CRS: Changing Standards Would Impose Public Costs And May Require Changes To Clean Air Act. From a March 1 Congressional Research Service report:

Relaxing these standards long-term may require states that use special blends as part of their plan to meet NAAQS [National Ambient Air Quality Standards] to come up with alternative--potentially more commercially costly--means to meet air quality targets. Or, NAAQS requirements themselves could be relaxed, but this would result in greater smog and impose public costs. Either of these actions may require an amendment to the Clean Air Act. [Congressional Research Service, 3/1/12]

FACT: Gas Prices Plummeted In Late 2008 Due To Massive Recession, Not Bush Policy

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim Prices Dropped In Late 2008 Because Bush Lifted Offshore Drilling Moratorium.

  • A op-ed by Republican strategist Ford C. O'Connell said that after President Bush lifted the presidential offshore drilling moratorium, "high prices subsided by fall" because speculators "respond to news of new energy exploration." [, 3/21/12]
  • On Fox News, syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg rejected the claim that "Obama can't do anything about the price of gas," adding, "when oil hit $145 a gallon on July 14, 2008, Bush announced that we were going to lift the offshore drilling moratorium through an executive order, and it proceeded to drop over the next few days and months almost 50 percent. It really plummeted after that." [Fox News, Special Report, 3/15/12]
  • Weekly Standard columnist Steve Hayes argued that the U.S. can lower gasoline prices, claiming, "If you look what President Bush did back in July 2008 when he lifted the moratorium in the east and west outer continental shelf you saw gas prices come down 12 percent over 45 days." [Fox News, Special Report, 3/8/12]

Bush's Action Was Symbolic, Did Not Translate To Lower Prices. In July 2008, at a time of record high gasoline prices, President Bush lifted the executive offshore drilling moratorium first instituted by his father. Bush used the announcement to pressure the Democratic-controlled Congress to lift its own long-standing ban on offshore drilling. As Reuters reported at the time, the action was "a largely symbolic bid unlikely to have any short-term impact on high gasoline costs." The article noted that, "The U.S. Energy Department's forecasting arm has said opening the Pacific, Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico regions to drilling 'would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.'" [Reuters, 7/14/08]

Energy Experts Say This Claim Is "Nonsense," And "Not Correct." Joseph M. Dukert, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former president of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics said the claim that Bush's announcement caused the drop in prices is "nonsense" and "akin to the rooster's boast that his crowing brought the sun up." Michael Canes, former Chief Economist of the American Petroleum Institute, also said the claim is "not correct in my view," noting that "Coincidence is not causation, and in this instance I'd say that the two events - the lifting of the moratoria and the ensuing reduction in oil prices - are much more in the coincidence realm than one of causation." Canes added:

Most oil market experts believe that the rapid and sustained reduction in oil prices that began in 2008 and extended beyond occurred because the world economy began to slow down and ultimately to experience a deep recession. This is one way to reduce oil prices, but not a very attractive one. [Media Matters, 3/8/11]

Wash. Post In Feb. 2009: "The Overwhelming Cause Of The Collapse In Oil Prices Has Been The Faltering World Economy." A February 2009 Washington Post article reported that "The overwhelming cause of the collapse in oil prices has been the faltering world economy, which has fueled the drop in consumption. Oil use in China, which most forecasters a year ago assumed would be the engine for increasing global demand, has screeched to a halt." [Washington Post, 2/20/09]

FACT: Cutting Oil Tax Breaks Would Have Imperceptible Effect On Prices

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim Eliminating Tax Subsidies For Oil Would Raise Gasoline Prices.

  • Wall Street Journal columnist Pete Du Pont wrote that "Eliminating tax deductions for the oil and gas industries ... would increase the price of gasoline and home heating oil for everyone." [Wall Street Journal, 3/29/12]
  • Patricia Murphy, founder of Citizen Jane Politics and frequent CNN guest said that eliminating tax subsidies for oil companies is "the wrong way to go because they will just pass those prices on to consumers." [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 3/2/12]
  • Reporting on Obama's support for a bill that would cut certain tax breaks for the largest oil companies, Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry stated: "Just weeks after vowing he'd never support a policy that raises gasoline prices in an election year, President Obama did just that today." [Fox News, Special Report, 3/29/12]
  • AP and The Washington Post have uncritically repeated the misleading talking point that cutting tax subsidies for oil companies would lead to higher gas prices. [Associated Press, 3/17/12] [Washington Post, 3/1/12]

Energy Experts Reject Claim That Cutting Oil Subsidies Would Raise Gasoline Prices. Energy experts including Chris Lafakis, Severin Borenstein, Michael Canes, Tom Kloza, Gilbert Metcalf, and John Kingston said that repealing U.S. tax breaks for oil companies would have little or no effect on gasoline prices because the decisions on oil production are determined by other factors. [Media Matters, 3/6/12] Analysts Expect "Little Or No Effect On Gasoline Prices." concluded that "nonpartisan congressional analysts and industry experts say higher taxes would have little or no effect on gasoline prices." [, 5/27/11]

ProPublica: "Most Experts" Say The Tax Breaks "Don't Have Much Effect On Gasoline Prices." ProPublica reported:

Most experts agree, however, that the tax incentives in question don't have much effect on gasoline prices, one way or the other.

"The impact would be extremely small," said Stephen Brown, a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Brown co-wrote a study in 2009 arguing that if the subsidies were cut, the average person would spend, at most, just over $2 more each year on petroleum products.


From the beginning, the Treasury Department has said the President's proposal would raise prices at the pump by less than a cent per gallon at most. Brown's study, produced for the non-partisan think tank Resources for the Future, came up with similar results. Even the American Petroleum Institute, which opposes cutting the subsidies, said in a press release on Monday that eliminating them wouldn't affect gas prices. [ProPublica, 5/12/11]

FACT: Oil Companies Receive Several Industry-Specific Subsidies

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim Oil Companies Receive The Same Deductions As Everyone Else.

  • Fox News correspondent Jim Angle said: "Though tax deductions for oil companies are the same every industry enjoys, the President likes to call them subsidies." [Fox News, Special Report, 3/13/12, via Nexis]
  • Fox's Elizabeth MacDonald said that oil companies "get the same tax breaks that manufacturing companies get, but the President is moving to yank those tax breaks for just oil and gas companies." [Fox News, Happening Now, 3/16/12]
  • Fox's Andrea Tantaros said oil companies "get the same tax credit that G.E. gets, that Apple gets. They are manufacturing tax credits. And these are the same tax credit that the president touted in his own State of the Union." [Fox News, The Five, 3/29/12, via Nexis]

Reuters: "Experts Across The Political Spectrum" Say Drilling Deduction "Is A Clear Exception Made For Oil." Reuters reported:

One major tax break for energy companies is a nearly century-old benefit letting them deduct "intangible drilling costs" (IDC) immediately rather than over time.

Most of the IDC is for the labor costs of drilling a well.

Legislation drafted by Democratic Senator Robert Menendez would limit this break, among others. Ending it completely would raise $14 billion over a decade, according to the White House.

Energy companies liken this benefit to the research and development tax break employed by companies like Apple Inc.

"All the labor (that) tech companies spend on research and development, everything that Apple spends designing the next new product, they recover," said Brian Johnson, a tax expert at the American Petroleum Institute. "Cost recovery is cost recovery."

Not exactly. Many tax experts across the political spectrum said the IDC is a clear exception made for oil. As a rule, expenses that produce income in the future are not immediately deductible. [Reuters, 3/26/12]

Even The Heritage Foundation Acknowledges That Oil Companies Receive Some "Special Tax Treatments." The Heritage Foundation rejects calling "broad tax policies that apply to many industries" subsidies, but acknowledges that the oil industry receives "Special Tax Treatments," such as the depletion allowance for oil and gas producers, and the Enhanced Oil Recovery and Marginal Well Production tax credits. [Heritage Foundation, 5/12/12]

CRS: "There Are A Number Of Tax Incentives" For Fossil Fuel Production. From the Congressional Research Service's April 2011 report on energy tax policy:

There are a number of tax incentives currently available for energy production using fossil fuels. They can be broadly categorized as either enhancing capital cost recovery or subsidizing extraction of high-cost fossil fuels. Between 2010 and 2014, the total cost of tax expenditures related to fossil fuels is estimated to be $12.2 billion.

Another CRS report identified several oil and gas industry specific tax deductions. Oil companies have been able to expense "intangible drilling costs" since 1913, deduct "tertiary injection expenses, including the the injectant cost," and deduct "geological and geophysical costs." Certain oil companies can use the percentage depletion allowance, which is designed to "provide an analog to depreciation for the oil industry," by treating oil in the ground as capital equipment. [Congressional Research Service, 4/14/11] [Congressional Research Service, 3/3/11]

NY Times: "Oil Production Is Among The Most Heavily Subsidized Businesses." The New York Times reported in July 2010 that "an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process." [The New York Times, 7/3/10]

CRS: Oil Companies Receive Manufacturing Subsidy Even Though It Has "Little Effect" On Employment. One tax subsidy that Obama has proposed eliminating for oil companies is the manufacturing tax deduction. While other industries receive this deduction, the Congressional Research Service explains why the provision, "enacted in 2004 as part of the American Jobs Creation Act," is unique when applied to the oil industry:

Although the oil and natural gas industries are classified as manufacturing industries for data reporting and tax purposes, they differ from traditional factory manufacturing in a number of ways. For example, the production of petroleum products at a refinery is only indirectly related to the level of employment.

This implies that if wage costs go down due to the tax deduction, there is less chance that the result will be increased output due to higher employment. Even if employment did increase, it would have little effect on national employment levels due to the capital intensive nature of the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that oil and natural gas extraction industries employed approximately 165,000 workers in 2009, of which fewer than 100,000 were classified as production workers.

The period since 2004, while difficult for American manufacturing as a whole, has been one of record profits for the oil industry. The generally high prices for oil prevailing since 2004 that have helped generate the record profits are seen as the critical factor in oil investment. Oil exploration tends to increase when prices are increasing, and expected to remain high, and decrease in times of falling prices that are likely to remain low. The variability, and level of, expected oil and natural gas prices is likely to be a more important factor in determining capital investment budgets, and hence exploration and production development budgets, than the repeal of a tax benefit that is capped by a relatively low wage bill. [Congressional Research Service, 3/3/11]

FACT: U.S. Oil Production Is At An Eight-Year High

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim Obama Has Quashed Oil Production.

  • During a discussion of gasoline prices, frequent Fox News guest and Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell said: "Oil production in this country was 10 million barrels a day when [Obama] took office. It's down to 7 million barrels a day, and here the president is giving a speech today blaming Republicans for this." [Fox News, Hannity, 2/23/12]
  • A Washington Times editorial claimed "Obama has done much to impede the supply of petroleum products to consumers. Most particularly, he exploited the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an excuse to clamp down on oil drilling in the Gulf and also along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts." [Washington Times, 2/20/12]
  • Appearing on Fox Business, Grover Norquist said "Obama shuts down pipelines and doesn't let people drill for oil." [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 12/6/11, via Nexis]

Energy Information Administration: U.S. "Oil Production Has Increased Over The Past Few Years, Reversing A Decline That Began In 1986." From the Energy Information Administration's 2012 Annual Energy Outlook:

Domestic crude oil production has increased over the past few years, reversing a decline that began in 1986. U.S. crude oil production increased from 5.1 million barrels per day in 2007 to 5.5 million barrels per day in 2010. [Energy Information Administration, 1/23/12]

EIA Data Show Oil Production At An Eight-Year High. EIA data shows that U.S. crude oil production was higher in 2011 than at any point since 2003. [Energy Information Administration, accessed 4/10/12]

Created by Media Matters using EIA data

Number Of Drilling Rigs Has Doubled Since 2009. The Washington Post reported:

This year, Republicans are saying Obama has not done enough to promote domestic drilling, but the U.S. drilling-rig count is twice as high now as it was in 2009. With the exception of a spike in 2008, the current rig count is higher than any year since the early 1980s, according to figures compiled by WTRG Economics. [The Washington Post, 3/12/12]

Administration Plans To Hold 15 Offshore Lease Sales. In November 2011, the Obama administration announced that it "will hold 12 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and 3 off Alaska's coast," as Bloomberg reported. [Bloomberg, 11/8/11]

Obama Has Taken A Number Of Other Steps To Increase Production. Gary Gentile, a reporter for energy information provider Platts, listed several actions the Obama administration "has taken to expand domestic energy production," including lease sales, drilling approvals, the settlement of a BP lawsuit, and the Mexico transboundary treaty, which makes certain offshore resources more accessible. [Platts, 2/24/12]

FACT: Oil Production On Federal Lands Is Up In Recent Years

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim Obama Has Reduced Oil Production On Federal Lands.

  • On Fox News Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady said "the president has not allowed drilling on federal land and not allowed the Keystone Pipeline, and has been generally hostile to oil and gas development which could be an engine of growth in this country." [Fox News, Journal Editorial Report, 3/10/12, via Nexis]
  • Fox News reporter Jim Angle said "the president is actually reducing the supply of energy from federal lands, not increasing it," and "three-quarters of increased production has been on private land while the areas under the president's control are now producing less." [Fox News, Special Report, 4/2/12, via Nexis]
  • claimed "oil production on federally owned lands has in fact declined by 17,000 barrels per day since [Obama] took office in 2009."

So Far, Production On Federal Lands Is Slightly Higher During Obama Years Than Bush Years. The Columbia Journalism Review reported:

The data in the report, which go back to 2003, show that there was indeed a large decline in oil production on federal lands and waters in 2011. But that observation belies the fact that federal lands and waters were exceptionally productive during 2010, outstripping any year's productivity during the Bush administration. Indeed, the average productivity on federal land and waters during the four Bush years, 2003-2008, was 634 million barrels per year. During the three Obama years, 2009-2011, it was 676 million barrels. During the Bush years, federal lands produced roughly 33 percent of the national output on average. During the Obama years, they produced roughly 34 percent. [Columbia Journalism Review, 3/22/12]

CRS: "Oil Production On Federal Lands Is Up Slightly In 2011 When Compared To 2007." A Congressional Research Service report stated: "On federal lands, there was also an increase in production from 2008-2009 and another increase in 2010 (258,000 b/d), then a decline in 2011. Overall, oil production on federal lands is up slightly in 2011 when compared to 2007." The following chart displays the data provided in the CRS report:

Created by Media Matters using CRS data[Data from Congressional Research Service, 3/20/12]

FACT: U.S. Is Now Less Dependent On Foreign Oil

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim U.S. Is Becoming More Dependent On Foreign Oil Under Obama.

  • Fox News commentator Gary B. Smith said that "when George Bush took office, we were reliant about 44% on foreign oil. Under his watch that dropped to about 32%. Under Obama's watch -- even though all of this increased drilling, you think 'my gosh, we're more energy independent' -- it's gone back up to 40%" [Fox News, Bulls & Bears, 3/24/12]
  • In a June 2011 op-ed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, J.C. Watts wrote: "We are becoming more dependent on foreign oil because of this administration's hostility to all offshore and domestic oil and gas exploration." [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6/26/11]
  • Offshore Marine Service Association CEO Jim Adams said on Fox News that the Obama administration has "used their regulatory authority to shut down this industry ... in a manner that has cost us jobs, raised the price of fuel, and made us more dependent on foreign oil." [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 4/27/11, via Nexis]

EIA: "U.S. Dependence On Imported Oil Has Dramatically Declined Since Peaking In 2005." From a 2011 article by the Energy Information Administration on foreign oil dependence:

U.S. dependence on imported oil has dramatically declined since peaking in 2005. This trend is the result of a variety of factors including a decline in consumption and shifts in supply patterns. The economic downturn after the financial crisis of 2008, improvements in efficiency, changes in consumer behavior and patterns of economic growth, all contributed to the decline in petroleum consumption. At the same time, increased use of domestic biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), and strong gains in domestic production of crude oil and natural gas plant liquids expanded domestic supplies and reduced the need for imports.

The EIA provided the following chart showing the recent decrease in net imports of oil and refined petroleum products:

Source: EIA[EIA, 6/24/11]

Bloomberg: U.S. Was Net Oil-Product Exporter For First Time Since 1949. On February 29, Bloomberg reported in an article titled "U.S. Was Net Oil-Product Exporter for First Time Since 1949":

The U.S. exported more gasoline, diesel and other fuels than it imported in 2011 for the first time since 1949, the Energy Department said.

Shipments abroad of petroleum products exceeded imports by 439,000 barrels a day, the department said today in the Petroleum Supply Monthly report. In 2010, daily net imports averaged 269,000 barrels. U.S. refiners exported record amounts of gasoline, heating oil and diesel to meet higher global fuel demand while U.S. fuel consumption sank. [Bloomberg, 2/29/12]

FACT: Most U.S. Oil Resources Are Not Commercially Viable

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim U.S. Is Sitting On 1.4 Trillion Barrels Of Oil.

  • Citing the Institute for Energy Research, Larry Kudlow claimed that "when you include oil shale, the U.S. has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil. That is enough to meet all U.S. oil needs for about the next 200 years, without any imports." [National Review Online, 3/16/12]
  • Fox News' Stuart Varney said "There's literally more than a trillion barrels of oil locked into the shale underneath some Western states. They know it's there, they want it, and they're going to go and get it no matter what the President says." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/28/12]
  • Disputing Obama's statement that we have 2% of the world's proven oil reserves, Steve Doocy said "There are so many different spots on -- in the United States of America where we're not drilling so there's so much untapped oil. ... There are estimates in the United States of America we've got enough oil for a couple of hundred years. Perhaps 2 trillion barrels." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/28/12]

Inflated Estimates Of U.S. Oil Resources Include Oil That Can't Be Produced At A Profit. The Institute for Energy Research is the source for many conservative media outlets claiming the U.S. is sitting on "1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil." But this figure includes what IER says are "over 982 billion barrels of oil shale estimated to be technically recoverable. Oil shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock which is very rich in organic material called 'kerogen,' an oil precursor which can be converted to jet fuel, diesel fuel, kerosene, and other high value products." IER suggested that the development of oil shale has not progressed because "most of these deposits are located on federal lands that have yet to be leased." [Institute for Energy Research, December 2011]

CRS: Oil Shale Is "Sub-Economic." A graphic from the Congressional Research Service shows that the U.S. Geological Survey estimates "undiscovered technically recoverable resources" at 135 billion barrels -- far less than the figures touted by conservative media. Undiscovered technically recoverable resources are the amount of oil "estimated to exist in unexplored areas" and "considered to be recoverable using existing production technologies." CRS noted that "many of the high-quality, easy-to-find deposits have already been produced."

Source: CRS

CRS classified oil shale as a "Sub-Economic" resource, writing:

After coal, oil shale represents the most abundant fossil fuel in the United States. However, despite government programs in the 1970s and early 1980s to stimulate development of the resource, production of oil shale is not yet commercially viable. The need for massive capital investment and the cost of production itself have been the major barriers. A further economic factor lies in the fact that liquids produced from oil shale have a unique chemical composition and, unlike conventional crude oil, cannot be distilled to produce gasoline, but would be primarily a source of other liquid middle distillate fuels such as jet fuel or diesel oil, fuels for which there is significant national demand. In addition, production of liquids from oil shale requires large amounts of water, an important factor since most of the resource is located in water-scarce regions of western Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Other environmental problems include the difficulty in disposing of tailings if excavation is used as the extraction process, and the production of greenhouse gases. In light of these difficulties, efforts to aid in the development of oil shale are focused on pilot projects to test alternative technologies of production. [Congressional Research Service, 12/28/11]

Energy Expert: Oil Shale Has No Foreseeable "Commercially Viable Process." Responding to claims "that the U.S. has hundreds of billions or even trillions of barrels of oil waiting to be produced," energy expert Robert Rapier wrote at Consumer Energy Report:

[T]he Green River formation is the source of talk of those huge oil resources -- larger than those of Saudi Arabia -- and it is a very different prospect than the tight oil being produced in North Dakota and Texas. The oil shale in the Green River looks like rock. Unlike the hydrocarbons in the tight oil formations, the oil shale (kerogen) consists of very heavy hydrocarbons that are solid. In that way, oil shale more resembles coal than oil. Oil shale is essentially oil that Mother Nature did not finish cooking, and thus to convert it into oil, heat has to be added. The energy requirements -- plus the fact that oil shale production requires a lot of water in a very dry environment -- have kept oil shale commercialization out of reach for over 100 years.


It is not at all clear that even at $100 oil the shale in the Green River formation will be commercialized to produce oil. In order to commercially convert the oil shale into oil, a much less energy intensive method of producing it must be found (or, one would have to have extremely cheap energy and abundant water supplies to drive the process). My prediction is that despite having an oil shale resource that may contain the energy equivalent of 2 trillion barrels of oil, the reserve will continue to be zero for quite some time because there are too many technical hurdles to overcome to realize a commercially viable process. [Consumer Energy Report, 3/26/12]

Chevron Gave Up Oil Shale Lease. AP reported in February:

Chevron Corp. is giving up its experimental oil shale lease in northwest Colorado, saying it wants to free up its resources for other priorities.


Getting petroleum-like substances out of mined oil shale is tougher than pumping oil out of traditional wells. Companies haven't found an economical way to do it in the U.S. [Associated Press, 2/28/12]

FACT: Energy Independence Does Not Mean Low Prices

MYTH: Conservative Media Claim That Lower Imports Equal Lower Prices.

  • Fox News Eric Bolling said: "We're dependent on foreign oil. If we were dependent on our own oil, it wouldn't matter what happens in Iran. Just like - we use a lot of natural gas here, right? It doesn't matter what's going on in Iran, natural gas prices aren't going up. If because everything we produce, we use right here in America." [Fox Business Network, Cavuto, 3/1/12, via Nexis]
  • Dick Morris said on Fox News that: "the United States now has the capacity to increase the global supply of oil that we can, in the future, completely control gas and oil prices." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 3/21/12, via Nexis]

TIME: "The Oil The U.S. Uses May Be American, But That Doesn't Mean It Will Be Cheap." In a cover story for TIME Magazine, Bryan Walsh reported that while "reducing oil imports is good for the U.S. economy," it doesn't translate into low or stable oil and gasoline prices:

While unconventional sources promise to keep the supply of oil flowing, it won't flow as easily as it did for most of the 20th century. The new supplies are for the most part more expensive than traditional oil from places like the Middle East, sometimes significantly so. They are often dirtier, with higher risks of accidents. The decline of major conventional oil fields and the rise in demand mean the spare production capacity that once cushioned prices could be gone, ushering in an era of volatile market swings.


[C]ontrary to what the drill-here, drill-now crowd says, oil companies could punch holes in every state and barely make a dent in gasoline prices. Even a more energy independent U.S. can't control prices, not with a thirsty China competing on the globalized oil market. "Energy security is fine, but it doesn't have that much meaning in a globalized economy," says Guy Caruso, a former head of the EIA. "More production adds fungibility to the world market, but we're still vulnerable to shocks in other countries." The oil the U.S. uses may be American, but that doesn't mean it will be cheap. [TIME, 4/9/12]

Shell CEO: "We Will See Prices Going Up" As "It Gets More Expensive To Get Resources Out Of The Ground." Shell CEO Peter Voser told CNBC that "In the very long term we will see prices going up because of high demand and as it gets more expensive to get the resources out of the ground." [, 3/20/12]

EIA Chief Under Bush: "We're Still Vulnerable To Any Shocks To The System" Even If We Stop Importing Oil From the Middle East. From a Politico report:

Whether the oil is produced in the Gulf of Mexico, the Bakken formation in North Dakota or offshore of Brazil, the U.S. has to buy it at the same volatile global price. That price is susceptible to disasters that cut off production or confrontations with Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.

Guy Caruso, who was the EIA's chief for more than six years of the George W. Bush administration, called energy independence a "political slogan."

"Say we wave a magic wand and say we import no oil from the Middle East ... does that mean we're secure? More 'independent'?" he asked. "The answer is no because we're still vulnerable to any shocks to the system."

Another complication is that the U.S. is unlikely to have much impact on the global oil market, no matter how much it produces.

"The U.S. is a small producer without much flexibility in a much bigger and rapidly growing global market. There is no way that we can ramp up any sort of production enough, and fast enough, to materially swing the global market," [former BP chief scientist Steve] Koonin said. "And moreover, the cartel, OPEC, has its hand on the tap and can restore the price."


Koonin also noted that increased oil production in a time of high prices is a boon for the industry.

"When you hear the international oil companies advocating for energy independence, it's really about making money, which isn't a bad thing," Koonin said. "If they produce a million more barrels a day, they're not going to change the global price much. And since they know the global price is going up, they'll just make more money.

"There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't solve the price problem or the greenhouse gas problem," he said. [Politico, 2/23/12]

CFR: "Problem Can Be Addressed Only By Making The U.S. Economy More Resilient To Oil Price Swings." In a report for the Council on Foreign Relations, energy expert Michael Levi wrote:

Since oil is traded on a global market, the effects of volatility are reflected in the price of every barrel of oil regardless of its origin. This problem can be addressed only by making the U.S. economy more resilient to oil price swings, which includes -- most significantly -- lowering total U.S. oil consumption. [Council on Foreign Relations, May 2009]

The Republicans Who Want Ignorance to Get Equal Time in Schools

Education is the new Republican enemy. No more free thinking and empirical evidence, just the Bible, rumour and Fox News

Not content with merely waging war on women, Republicans are targeting another enemy of conservatism: education. New Hampshire state Republican Jerry Bergevin recently railed against science and the atheist eggheads who call themselves teachers: "I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It's a world view and it's godless.

While New Hampshire didn't end up passing Bergevin's anti-evolution law, Tennessee did. Its new statute allows – even encourages – teachers to express scepticism toward, as the bill says, "scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, and global warming". The American Institute of Biological Sciences, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the National Centre for Science Education and all eight of Tennessee's members of the National Academy of Sciences oppose the new law, calling it "miseducation". But what do these no 'count heathen elitist PhD Darwinites know? The government of Tennessee wants you to know they ain't kin to no monkey.

Tennessee, you will recall, is the proud home of the famous "Monkey trial" of 1925 in which John Scopes, a high school science instructor, was prosecuted for teaching evolution. These days the forces of anti-thinking don't simply deny the science, they demand that ignorance be given equal time. David Fowler, a former state senator and head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, who helped craft the bill aided and abetted by a creationist front group called (with no discernable irony) the Discovery Institute, complains that Tennessee textbooks call the Genesis story a "creation myth" – as opposed to revealed truth. Moreover, teachers don't present a "balanced" view of evolution. They don't present a "balanced" view of the laws of gravity, the speed of light and the fact that the earth revolves around the sun, either.

And speaking of heliocentrism, James Inhofe of Oklahoma likes to compare himself to Galileo Galilei. He's persecuted for proclaiming that "global warming is a hoax". The form of his persecution is somewhat unclear: he's a US senator rolling in cash courtesy of oil and gas corporations. This somehow qualifies him to say that while 97% of climate scientists accept anthropogenic climate change, that "doesn't mean anything". His peer-reviewed journal of choice is the Bible: "Genesis 8:22: 'as long as the earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night'. My point is, God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."

God better get a move on with Florida. It's the state most vulnerable to the effects of melting ice caps and rising sea levels, what with it being a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. More than 2.5 million people live on the coasts and might soon find themselves sharing digs with dolphins. Nevertheless, Florida's Republican governor just vetoed a cap-and-trade bill that might have begun to address the issue. Perhaps he's looking on the bright side, anticipating the day when Disney World will be ocean-front property.

In other parts of America, the enforcers of know-nothingness have decided they want doctors to lie to their patients. Lawmakers in Kansas and New Hampshire have mandated that physicians tell women seeking abortions that the procedure causes breast cancer. Never mind that it's not true, at least according to the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organisation, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

In Arizona, Republicans in state government have rewritten basic biology, decreeing that pregnancy actually begins before conception. Instead of waiting till Mister Sperm does the Happy Dance with Ms Egg, Arizona wants to define being with child as "calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period", which means you could be officially preggers a week or two before you have sex. Why, you may ask, do Arizona lawmakers want to do this? Because a pregnancy of 18 weeks' duration could thus be defined as 20 weeks – and abortions are outlawed after 20 weeks. Genius.

But the state has not confined itself to the endorsement of mere medical stupidity, it embraces censorship and historical misinformation as well. Republicans in state government, worried that children "of a particular ethnic group" (they mean Latinos) were being taught that the gringos stole their land, outlawed "ethnic studies" in 2011. Of course, the fact is gringos did steal their land – Arizona was part of Mexican-ruled Alta California until the expansionist Americans invaded in 1846. According to the 2010 census, Latino kids now make up the majority in Arizona's state schools, but teaching them about their heritage is apparently tantamount to advocating the overthrow of the US government.

Jon Stewart's Daily Show interviewed Arizona school board member Michael Hicks, who said how Latino high schoolers only liked that divisive Mexican-American studies programme because their teachers gave them free burritos. He defended its dismantling: "If there's no more white people in the world, then OK, you can do what you want." Not that he knew first-hand what really went on in those burrito-fuelled classes: "I base my thoughts on hearsay."

And there you have it: the conservative attitude to knowledge. No reading, no exploration, no empirical evidence, no learning, no free play of ideas. Just rumour, Fox News and the Bible. Why think? It'll just make you unhappy.