Third Way Perspectives
Archive for March, 2012
March 29th, 2012
This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.
The World Trade Organization currently has 153 members, ranging from the United States and China, to Uruguay and Ukraine. The WTO is not an exclusive club. Venezuela, run by America-hating strongman Hugo Chavez, is a member. And plenty of other WTO countries have kings, presidents-for-life or juntas that are not making names for themselves as statesmen or democrats. Still, despite its varied membership, the WTO does play a vital role in opening markets and enforcing rules against unfair trade.
This summer, Russia will become the WTO’s newest member. Congress will have no say in the matter. But Russia’s WTO accession will nevertheless pose a quandary for Congress and for American exports. Current U.S. law would put American companies at a real disadvantage in exporting to Russia once it joins the WTO. Unless Congress acts to change the law, as President Obama and Congressional leaders have urged, American jobs in companies doing business with Russia — and the potential for tens of thousands more — will be at risk.
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March 19th, 2012
This piece originally appeared in National Journal.
Who’s to blame for rising gas prices? No one. And everyone. The recent spikes we’re all seeing as we drive around are unavoidable. They are the consequence when there are no other widely available options to fuel our cars, trucks, and airplanes. As we noted in a recent paper, Why We Face More Pain at the Pump, current price spikes are the result of worries about renewed conflict in the Middle East, a growing global economy, and refineries going offline.
On the Middle East:
The oil market is spooked. Why? Tensions with Iran over their continued development of nuclear weapons, and Iran’s threats to cut off oil to Europe and close the Strait of Hormuz. Closing the Strait would shut off the shipping route for 20% of the world’s oil, dramatically curtailing supply. [Read more about the possible effects of war with Iran in our recent report Keeping Our Powder Dry] In 2011, the civil war in Libya had a similar impact on oil prices, despite the fact that Libya only accounted for 2% of global oil supply.
On the global economy:
Through the end of 2011, markets were frightened by the prospect of a Greek default pulling Europe, and the world, into a deep recession. This helped keep oil and other commodity prices down. In mid-February 2012, the European Union agreed to provide Greece an additional round of bailout funding to meet its debt obligations. With an economic crisis seemingly averted, economists anticipate that the global economy, and the demand for oil, will begin to grow more quickly in 2012.
Every year, domestic refineries take a time-out in the spring to perform maintenance and switch to a summer blend of gas. This year, a host of refineries began maintenance early, disrupting gas supplies earlier than usual. At the same time, several refineries are closing because high oil prices have destroyed their profit margins.
Our nation must begin to provide alternatives to gasoline. Whether the option is natural gas, electricity, or biofuels, forcing oil to compete for consumer dollars, would drive prices down. Will the price spikes caused by Middle East hostility, economic recovery, and refinery shortfalls be enough to move Washington to act? Only time will tell. I for one will be buying a Volt or Prius as soon as I can.
March 15th, 2012
Increasingly, important and complicated policy debates in Washington are being reduced to sound bites or even tweets. The debate over skyrocketing gas prices is no exception. As we outlined in a recent memo, there is not much that can be done to reduce the immediate impact of high gas prices. There is, however, a lot that can be done to kick the oil habit once and for all over the long-term. We’ve included a list of steps the government has taken over the last three years below, in a handy Tweet-able format.
Kicking the Oil Habit with Alternative Fuels
The US SuperTruck program will save trucks $15,000 in fuel costs every year http://tinyurl.com/7j4vesb
Increased tax breaks to families and companies that buy alternative fuel vehicles up to $10000 from last year’s $7500 http://tiny.cc/min4aw
Feds getting off of oil: By 2015, 100% of government vehicles to run on alternative fuels http://tiny.cc/3en4aw
Save money at the pump, go electric: Feds and private sector to develop car battery that’s ½ price, 300 miles/charge http://tiny.cc/cln4aw
4 commercial biorefineries are 1 year ahead of schedule. Will produce nearly 100 million gallons of biofuels/year http://tinyurl.com/8xkhu52
Recovery Act grant recipients purchased 1,286 buses and vans powered by clean tech like biodiesel and natural gas http://tiny.cc/0qn4aw
Increasing Domestic Oil and Gas Production
Domestic oil production has increased every year President Obama has been in office http://tinyurl.com/7reblq8
Since 2009, the United States has been the world’s leading producer of natural gas http://tiny.cc/u1n4aw
Currently, the U.S. has a record number of oil and gas rigs operating – more than the rest of the world combined http://tiny.cc/p9n4aw
We have already cut net imports of oil and gas by ten percent – 1 million barrels a day – in the last year alone http://tinyurl.com/8ywheaw
Last year the US was a net exporter of refined petroleum products for the first time in sixty years http://tiny.cc/jco4aw
In 2008, US imported 11 million barrels of oil/day. By end of last year, that number fell to 8.4 million barrels/day http://tiny.cc/oeo4aw
Natural Gas STAR Program encourages companies to adopt safe practices and technologies to reduce methane emissions http://tiny.cc/kjo4aw
Natural Gas STAR partners reported domestic emissions reductions of 86 Bcf, worth over $421 million, in 2009 http://tinyurl.com/2bnwwk
Rapid development of oil and gas spurred by shorter lease terms http://tinyurl.com/6rj73so
The Administration has tied lease-extensions for oil and gas to lessee investment in exploration and development http://tinyurl.com/5ubvep8
New Admin proposal would reward rapid development of oil and natural gas through new royalty structures http://tinyurl.com/769qbup
Increasing Fuel Efficiency
Higher fuel standards mean filling up less often – by middle of next decade cars will average almost 55 miles/gallon http://tiny.cc/lno4aw
The Obama Administration has put in place the first-ever fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks http://tiny.cc/mqo4aw
New CAFE standards for passenger vehicles will save drivers more than $8000 in fuel costs http://tiny.cc/iso4aw
Heavy duty fuel economy standards will reduce oil consumption by over 500 million barrels http://tiny.cc/ruo4aw
March 13th, 2012
With gas prices hitting record highs rarely seen since 1918, it’s understandable that pundits and politicians are looking for someone to blame. Headlines from recent polls have all but shouted that President Obama’s popularity is taking a hit from bad news at the pump. The reality is, however, that voters are a lot more sophisticated than they often get credit for. In fact, the data suggests that voters are taking a much more realistic position about how high gas prices are impacting them and who is, and is not, to blame.