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The Obama-Gaia Energy Partnership

The community organizer in chief does what he does best.

by
Dan Miller

Bio

April 9, 2011 - 12:00 am

Years ago, a Venezuelan acquaintance told me a story: Venezuelans and Germans had a rowing race. The German crew had ten oarsmen and one leader who shouted commands; the Venezuelan crew had one oarsman and ten shouters. Surprisingly, the German crew won the race. During an after-action analysis, the Venezuelan team tried its best to figure out why they had lost; the solution was obvious and the shouter majority easily agreed on it: they just needed more shouters. Venezuela under el Presidente Chávez has been following the same policy.

The United States federal government has been doing much the same; so have many states:

Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?

The solution? Invest more in growing governments bigger and “smarter” with more shouters. Can we afford it? Afford it? Don’t be ridiculous. This is only one small part of the way to win the future:

All federal agencies and private companies that deal with the U.S. government must identify their vulnerabilities to the impacts of global warming and develop a climate change adaptation plan, as per an executive order quietly signed by President Obama.

The order was actually penned in the fall of 2009 but the president’s Climate Change Adaptation Task Force had to properly investigate the matter and come up with recommendations. Now that the task force has developed a detailed plan on climate proofing the government, yet another Obama advisory committee, the Council on Environmental Quality, has issued instructions on implementation.

Under the plan, every government agency must integrate climate change adaptation into their planning, operations, policies and programs. That means they must appoint a “climate change adaptation specialist,” participate in climate adaptation workshops and educate every employee throughout the year. All agencies must identify and analyze “climate vulnerabilities” by spring of 2012 and execute an adaptation plan by the fall of 2012.

The training will also be required at all private businesses that contract with the government, including those that provide any sort of maintenance or logistics. In all, tens of thousands of public employees will be required to participate in Obama’s “green” plan, which will also require federal agencies to create greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste and support sustainable communities. No word on what all this will costs [sic] U.S. taxpayers.

Too much dependence on foreign oil (and there certainly is)?

Tighten restrictions on and erect more regulatory barriers to domestic oil drilling to make it more expensive; then promise to ease restrictions a little bit without really doing so while promoting more expensive “alternative clean” energy sources at taxpayer expense. That’s sure to cause businesses to drill for more oil domestically. Former President Clinton recently characterized the restrictions as ridiculous — and he’s right. Interior Department and various agency moratoria and restrictions have largely excluded U.S. companies from the Gulf and made their drilling elsewhere in the United States excessively expensive as well as burdened beyond all reason (unless the reason is to kill domestic oil production).

Want more domestic oil rather than less? Really? It’s yucky and smelly and Gaia winces in pain whenever we poke holes in her fragile body to get it, so that’s pretty terrible, but President Obama has become an energy activist. OK, let’s Win the Future: lend Brazil two billion dollars to help her develop her oil reserves and some in the Gulf as well; maybe we can call it all “domestic production” by declaring Brazil our honorary fifty-first state. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas may be active in Brazil and will appreciate our efforts. China needs oil and won’t love us any less either for helping:

The US Export-Import Bank … announced $2 billion in credit to Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras, Latin America’s biggest company, which aims to become one of the world’s biggest oil producers in coming years.

The announcement follows US President Barack Obama’s visit in which he sought to drum up business for US companies, adding the United States wants to “be one of your best customers” when Brazil starts pumping oil from offshore reserves.

Much of that oil will be sold to China, already Brazil’s biggest investor and trade partner:

Published ahead of a planned visit by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to China next month, [a] report said Chinese firms have announced investments of nearly $30 billion in Brazil, including $8.6 billion currently under negotiation.

The energy and mining sectors represented 90 percent of those investments, the report by the Brazil-China Business Council said.

But Chinese investors have also made direct or indirect purchases of Brazilian farm lands, especially for soy production.

China is seeking “a base for supplies of natural resources,” the study said.

Brazilian exports to China have also climbed rapidly, from $1 billion in 2000 to $30.7 billion last year:

These exports — mostly in soybeans, iron ore, oil and other commodities — helped Brazil secure an estimated $5 billion annual trade surplus with China.

Most Brazilian imports from China are manufactured products, which soared from $1.2 billion in 2000 to $25.5 billion in 2010 (emphasis added).

Wouldn’t it be nice if the U.S. had such a trade surplus? Wouldn’t it also be nice if Brazil would send us some oil (from its “domestic” production or even from the Gulf) in trade for some used U.S. politicians? Nah, we don’t hate Brazil and maybe they don’t need our cast-offs. Last year, they elected Grumpy the Clown to their own Congress:

Francisco Silva became famous as Tiririca — “Grumpy” in Portuguese — and received about 1.3 million votes, nearly twice as many as the next-highest vote-getter in last month’s congressional elections. His campaign videos drew millions of viewers on the Internet, with slogans such as “It can’t get any worse” and “What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don’t know. But vote for me and you’ll find out.”

“What does a president of the United States do? Truly, I don’t know. But vote for me and you’ll find out.” Not satisfied with increasing our domestic oil production in Brazil, President Obama promised lots more great stuff in his March 30 address. Grumpy the Clown also brings unbidden to mind former Speaker “pass the bill to find out what’s in it” Pelosi. She likes President Obama’s energy initiatives a lot and sure wishes that all those nasty Republicans would stop being nasty Republicans:

President Obama says the federal government will buy only alternative fuel, hybrid and electric cars and trucks for its fleets, starting in 2015, to set an alt-fuel example for the country.

In his energy speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Wednesday [March 30], laying out what the President called his Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future, he also said:

– The government will “partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets” to alternative, hybrid or electric vehicles. “Partner” typically means the government will in some way pay them to do it.

– The government will continue to promote electric cars as the answer, and will offer bigger incentives for Americans to buy them (currently $7,500 per car) and reward — he didn’t say how — “communities that pave the way for adoption of these vehicles.”

– Obama acknowledged that getting power to run electric cars requires someone, somewhere to make electricity and outlined plans to do that, starting, in the meantime, with getting you to use less for other things. He pointed to programs he’s proposed to get folks to use less for lighting, heating and cooling. He also reiterated an earlier call for 80% of electricity to be from “clean energy sources” by 2035 and listed sources as wind, solar, natural gas, clean coal and (he nodded to Japan, but did not back off on) nuclear.

– The government will continue unspecified “historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit” so people will not “get in a car and pay for gas.”

Solar power is a wonderful source of electrical power, although the costs may (in sunny places such as Nevada) be modestly greater than the value of the electric energy produced plus the jobs saved or created. No matter; President Obama must now show his true mettle by stepping up to the bat at the UN Bangkok Conference to pledge more to the fight against global warming at the Durban Conference. Otherwise, all will be for naught:

Governments have agreed to mobilize $100 billion a year, starting in 2020, but a “transition committee” to design the fund, which was to have been formed last month, is still being discussed along with exactly how the money will be raised.

Wait: there’s even more.

Food prices too high? The little people should grow their own vegetables organically, just as Mrs. Obama does at the White House, and learn proper nutrition — at least those unfortunates who don’t vacation in the south of France or sunny Spain can learn that way. School bake sales are now under federal control and those pitiful little people who feast on fast food but hunger for enlightenment will also have fewer obesity problems because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to require approximately two hundred and eighty thousand restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores and coffee chains to “clearly post the calorie count for each item on their menus.”

Since these “smart” educational steps probably won’t do much to trim down really stupid fatties who refuse to be educated, we will continue to encourage everybody to eat prudently by ensuring that crop lands are increasingly diverted from the production of food to the production of crops needed for ethanol production in order to make transportation costs, and therefore food prices, rise. The federal government has graciously accepted the burdens of taking care of our health needs, whether we want it or not; these simple steps will reduce federal spending to deal with treating the manifold problems of obesity.

Inflation creeping up? Good! Let’s get the price of everything up to reduce demand and thereby curb inflation. Mandatory reliance on clean but more expensive alternative energy sources will also make even highly regulated domestic oil production (i.e., that in the United States) more competitive. It’s a win-win situation for all.

The “smokestack” industries, which in the past created wealth and employed many high school graduates and drop-outs, have declined as we import more and more cheap stuff from China and elsewhere. Those industries are being replaced with cleaner and more technology based industries which outsource much of their basically unskilled assembly work to other countries so that the finished products can be imported for sale in the United States. This results in unemployment. The solution? Ask the Venezuelan racing team: just do more of the same. Build a stronger labor movement while we’re at it. The community organizer in chief is front and center. You must do even more:

[I]t’s time for Obama to take off his gloves and remind America that he started his work on the mean streets of Chicago and plans to fight hard for the American people, to protect them from the oligarchic tendencies of the GOP. Given that so many of the Republican’s proposals are deplorable – from de-funding women’s health to privatizing Social Security – it would be easy to deplore their proponents.

On further reflection about Brazil and our clowns, we have a large surplus. Even though Brazil may think that she has enough of her own, she needs to lighten up a bit. We should offer her whatever incentives are necessary to persuade her to accept some of ours. If Samantha Power becomes our next secretary of State she could easily pull it off. That would be a more mutually productive form of foreign assistance than has been customary for a long time. Wouldn’t it do wonders for America’s image abroad?

Dan Miller graduated from Yale University in 1963 and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1966. He retired from the practice of law in Washington, D.C., in 1996 and has lived in a rural area in Panama since 2002.
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