Tweet of the Day on Gas Prices

Today’s tweet of the day comes from Nancy Pelosi:

However, if you listen to the GOP’s candidates, they claim the President has absolutely hindered oil exploration and drilling at every turn and should they be elected President they will increase drilling and, as one is claiming (the Newt), will bring gas prices down to $2.50/gallon.

Now that’s interesting.  Out of one side of their faces, they’re claiming they’re for small government so insignificant you could fit it in a thimble such that the free market could take off like a rocket and fuel the seeds of economic growth across America.  Out of the other side of their faces, they’re proposing to jump right in the middle of the free market and ensure Americans get their next oil energy fix at a “fixed” price?

I call that hypocrisy!  Either we have a “free market” or we don’t.  Either it’s the President’s fault or he’s not.  Frankly, if you want to blame anyone, you should blame President Bush.  He’s the one who appointed CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton whose job it is on the Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee of the US Commodity Futures Training Commission to quell rampant speculation of OIL commodities on Wall Street.  What’s he done?  Zip.  Nada.  Nothing.

Maybe the GOP candidates should take the advice of one of their own, who defended then President Bush on FauxNews during the 2008 campaign year when gas prices hit the $4 range (right before the entire economy took a trip south and everybody forgot about how bad they were because everything else was so much worse than that).


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Under the Reading Lamp — March 7, 2012

ANALYSIS: The End of Health Insurance as We Know It?
Wendell Potter, News Report:
Bertolini ticked off a number of reasons why providing basic health insurance to Americans was no longer viable — changes in demographics and the economy and, of course, health care reform at both the state and federal levels. What he did not say was that the standard operating practices of the industry were simply not sustainable and actually contributed more to the demise of the business model than any external factors.
HR 347 & S 1794 aka The ‘Trespass Bill’ of 2011 Criminalizes Protest…
Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed:
“The legislators responsible for bringing this legislative excrement to life are Representative Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) leading the Senate version. The ‘Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011’ sounds more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds landscaping. This bill potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.–a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”
Nurses Fight for a Dose of Tax JusticeNurses for Tax Justice photo by SJSEEM
Sarah Anderson, News Analysis:
National Nurses United (NNU), a union representing registered nurses, is a major, visible force in the growing movements challenging corporate power. One of their key demands is a financial transaction tax: a small fee on each trade of stocks, derivatives, bonds, and other financial instruments, which could generate massive revenues while discouraging high-frequency speculative trading.
99% Spring April 9-15
Dave Johnson, Video Compilation:
“Action Coming — Spread The Word! This is a Big Deal, just look at end of this post for the list of organizations that are signed on to this so far – and more coming. April 9-15, 2012, the 99% Spring: 100,000 Americans will train for non-violent direct action. Sign up. And spread it around. This spring, the 99% Spring.We will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to train ourselves in non-violent action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country. History is calling; it’s time to step up.”
Jim Hightower | Woody at 100
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “In these times of tinkle-down economics — with the money powers thinking that they’re the top dogs and that the rest of us are just a bunch of fire hydrants — we need for the hard-hitting (yet uplifting) musical stories, social commentaries and inspired lyrical populism of Woody Guthrie. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of this legendary grassroots troubadour, who came out of the Oklahoma dust bowl to rally America’s “just plain folks” to fight back against the elites who were knocking them down.”
Obama Releases Housing Plan to Help Military Veterans Who Were Victims of Illegal Foreclosures
Travis Waldron, News Report:
Obama’s plan seeks to remedy those problems by providing relief to members who sold their homes at a loss due to a permanent change in station, and provides $10 billion from mortgage services to bolster the Veterans Housing Benefits Program. It also draws on the recent mortgage fraud settlement between the government and major lenders to force banks to compensate service-members who were improperly foreclosed upon by paying lost equity, plus interest, and $116,785.
State Investigators, Workers Cite Labor Abuses in Warehouse EmpireLilly Fowler, News Analysis: “As a warehouse worker in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, the nation’s biggest distribution hub for consumer goods, Jorge Soto handles shipments for retail giant Walmart every day. But Soto, who works for a subcontractor, claims that, along with routine jobs such as unloading trucks, he also has been ordered to perform an illegal task: falsifying employees’ time sheets to cheat them out of getting the minimum wage.”
Limbaugh Launched 46 Personal Attacks on Fluke; He Apologized for Two Words
Research:
“Rush Limbaugh has ‘sincerely apologize[d]’ for using the words ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ to describe Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke on two separate days and claimed that he ‘did not mean a personal attack’ on her. These statements fail to account for the other 44 times that Limbaugh personally insulted Fluke over the course of three days. Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, much of her testimony was about women who take birth control for medical reasons.”
Monsanto’s Roundup Shown to be Ravaging Butterfly PopulationMike Barrett, News Report: A 2011 study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity found that increasing acreage of genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans is heavily contributing to the decline in monarch butterfly populations within North America. Milkweed, a plant butterflies rely on for habitat and food, is being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides and Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the monarch butterfly population in central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.
Dean Baker | Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Bowles-Simpson Commission ReportDean Baker, Op-Ed: “Parents often find it useful to tell their children about non-existent creatures to instill habits of good behavior. It seems that many political leaders are going the same route. How else can one explain the repeated references to the Bowles-Simpson commission report and its advice to the country on how to reduce the deficit? The point here is a simple one: there was no Bowles-Simpson commission report. There was no document that commanded the necessary majority of commission members to be adopted as an official report.”
The True Cost of Tar Sands
Joe Romm, Video Report:
“What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat. This powerful talk is for anyone who thinks the tar sands are just another source of oil — and that the only source of greenhouse gases from the tar sands come from burning gas and oil.”
The Best Reason for the Very Rich to be Paying A Lot More in Taxes
Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed:
“The super-rich like to believe their own initiative and creativity have been the primary drivers of growth in technology and science and business and medicine. Some innovative business leaders deserve credit for putting the pieces together on specific initiatives. But the pieces themselves were put together over many years by thousands of less conspicuous people.”
Where are the Progressive Christians?
Dekker Dreyer, Op-Ed:
“Where are the left-wing Christian voices in American politics? The rise of Rick Santorum to a contender position in the GOP primary race, alongside the current debate over contraception has shown proof positive that Christian conservative politics are near the height of their power in guiding the national conversation. This month, while questioning President Obama’s Christianity, Bill O’Reilly said, “A Christian wouldn’t be telling other Christians that you have to put your belief system aside and do what the government tells you as far as birth control or anything else.”
The ‘All Natural’ Scam: How to Shop Healthy For You and Your Family
Andre Evans, News Analysis:
“How do you make an educated food purchase that will protect you and your family from harmful yet common food contaminants? You must be privy to the subtleties. Many people today accept ‘all natural’ as a stamp of integrity for their food. FDA regulations, however, make the guidelines for authenticity rather lenient, and capitalize on the unawareness of the average buyer with strong advertising.”
How to Fund an American Police State
Stephan Salisbury, Op-Ed:
“Government budgets at every level now include allocations aimed at fighting an ephemeral “War on Terror” in the United States. A vast surveillance and military buildup has taken place nationwide to conduct a pseudo-war against what can be imagined, not what we actually face. The costs of this effort, started by the Bush administration and promoted faithfully by the Obama administration, have been, and continue to be, virtually incalculable. In the process, public service and the public imagination have been weaponized.”
Greg Palast | BP Settlement Sells Out Victims
Greg Palast, Op-Ed: And here’s the sick, sick part. This is exactly the same thing BP did in the Exxon Valdez case. It was BP, not Exxon, that was responsible for stopping the spread of oil in Alaska in 1989. In Alaska, decades ago, BP told federal regulators it would have oil spill “boom” (the rubber that corrals the spreading stuff) ready to roll out if a tanker hit. When the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef, BP’s promised equipment wasn’t there: BP had lied.
BP Settlement Leaves Most Complex Claims Unresolved
Abrahm Lustgarten, News Report:
The payout agreed to Friday is BP’s best estimate of what it will cost to meet outstanding claims, but is not capped and could wind up being higher. As of now, though, the amount is significantly less than many had expected and does not appear to require BP to spend any money that it had not already agreed to pay. The settlement will come out of a $20 billion fund set aside in June 2010 by BP at the behest of President Obama to cover claims from disaster victims.
The Right-Wing Effort to Smear Obama and Liberals as ‘Anti-Israel’
Ben Adler, Op-Ed:
On Sunday ECI released a thirty-minute Web video intended to build a case that Obama has not been a loyal friend to Israel. Its documentation takes the same approach as the ads. They quote partisans leveling criticisms against Obama rather than offering strong independent evidence. They ask what Obama’s real approach to Israel has been and then answer with a long quote from Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the very conservative Hoover Institution.
Anthony Gucciardi | Genetically Modified Food Labeling Initiative Gains Momentum
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report:
Advocates have repeatedly demonstrated their resistance to GMOs, with more than 500 activist groups banding together over the Just Label It campaign. One petition to the FDA, filed by the Center for Food Safety, called upon the agency to require labels for GMO-containing foods. Shockingly, the petition received 85,000 signatures in support. The number marked the most ever for a federal food petition.Deadline Today to tell Congress to Label GMOs! http://t.co/4e0oPCxl
Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have BothD
ave Johnson, Op-Ed:
Recent stories about the conditions of Apple’s contractors in China have opened many people’s eyes about where our jobs, factories, industries and economy have been going, and why. The stories exposed that workers live 6-to-12-to-a-room in dormitories, get rousted at midnight to work surprise 12-hour shifts, get paid very little, use toxic chemicals, suffer extreme pollution of the environment, etc. Is this “trade?” Or is it something else?
America the Possible: A Manifesto
Gus Speth, Op-Ed:
We work the media and other channels to raise public awareness of our issue, and try to shift public understanding and discourse in our favor. We lobby Congress, the current administration, and government agencies with well-crafted and sensible proposals. When necessary, we go to court. With modest resources, we devote what we can to the electoral process and to candidates for public office. And we hope somehow that lightning will strike and events will move in our favor.
What If Corporations Couldn’t Use Our Commons for Free?Invest in Sharing PhotoA cushion of reliable income is a wonderful thing. It can help pay for basic necessities. It can be saved for rainy days or used to pursue happiness on sunny days. It can encourage people to take entrepreneurial risks, care for friends, or volunteer for community service. Conversely, the absence of reliable income is a terrible thing. It heightens anxiety and fear. It diminishes our ability to cope with crises and transitions. It traps many families on the knife’s edge of poverty, and makes it harder for poor people to rise.
The Opposite of Snobbery
David Sirota, Op-Ed:
N+1 magazine notes that since the late 1970s, when Santorum was enjoying his taxpayer-subsidized higher education, “the price of tuition at U.S. colleges has increased over 900 percent.” In 2011, that meant the average total cost of a year at a public university was $21,477, up 5.4 percent in just 12 months. Thanks to cuts to programs that make college and vocational education more affordable — cuts Santorum supported in Congress

Unelected Sen. Heller Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Unelected Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) sent another letter, this time to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu asking him to justify why rising gas prices are not a priority for the Obama Administration.  He also got to question Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar last week about the Administration’s efforts to decrease gas prices during a hearing by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Unfortunately, Mr. Heller is barking up the wrong tree and should instead be questioning the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and asking exactly WHY they are doing absolutely NOTHING to stop or prevent oil speculation that is driving up the price of oil.  The CFTC is supposed to assure the economic utility of the futures markets by encouraging their competitiveness and efficiency, protecting market participants against fraud, manipulation, and abusive trading practices, and by ensuring the financial integrity of the clearing process. The CFTC  should enable the futures markets to provide a means for price discovery and offset price risk, but apparently, something has gone awry and the CFTC is looking the other way.

Mr. Heller, you should be talking with the Energy & Environmental Markets Advisory committee of the CFTC and asking them what they’re doing, if anything at all.  CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton chairs the Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee (originally appointed by President Bush).  We’re getting a bit tired of your ideological slights of hand, partisanly pointing at agencies that have no ability to control oil speculation taking place to drive up prices, and failing to seek oversight on the agency primarily responsible for such actions.

Gasoline supplies are high and demand is dropping lower, yet prices are skyrocketing.  So just exactly what does Mr. Heller expect Secretary Chu to do?  Drill baby drill and instantaneously drive supplies through the roof?  Oh and by the way Mr. Heller …. prices for gasoline anywhere else in the world have always been higher than what we pay in the U.S. Plus, they vend gasoline by the liter, not by the gallon … been there, paid that.  Your letter is nothing more than a partisan effort to distract voters from the real issues driving up the cost at the pump.

Text of Heller’s letter:

March 5, 2012
The Honorable Steven Chu
Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, D.C.  20585

Dear Secretary Chu,

I am concerned by your past and recent comments regarding gasoline prices and the Department of Energy’s failure to address this threat to our fragile economy.  In 2008 you said, “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”  At that time, retail gasoline prices in Europe ranged upwards of nine dollars per gallon.  During recent testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, you stated that the Administration’s overall energy goal is to decrease dependency on oil, not to lower gas prices.  I would assert that those two goals are not mutually exclusive.

We must do what is right for American families by securing affordable energy to power our economy.  I urge you to reconsider your statements and respectfully request a detailed outline of steps the Department of Energy is taking to protect American consumers and address the negative impact of rising retail gas prices on our economy.

Your statements represent an extreme blow to many sectors of Nevada’s economy, especially tourism.  At a time when Nevadans are hurting, tourism and the jobs dependent on that industry will be further devastated as gas prices increase. Nevada still has the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in unemployment and foreclosures.  Higher gas prices mean more vacant hotel rooms, empty restaurants, and closed small businesses.  In Nevada, we need jobs, not policies that make job creation more difficult.

Additionally, Nevada is roughly 110,000 square miles. Many of my constituents must travel great distances for work as well as basic goods and services.  High gas prices disproportionately impact them and millions of other rural Americans.  While middle class families across Nevada have already been forced to tighten their belts, the last thing they need is to feel the squeeze of higher gas prices.

Alternative sources of energy must be part of our nation’s future, and I support commonsense measures to promote the advances that will supply energy to future generations.  While we work to develop and perfect alternative technologies, we need to secure our economy now by having an energy policy that respects the cause of the problem—supply and demand.

In Nevada, gas prices have more than doubled since 2009.  High energy costs permeate into every aspect of life; they increase the price of everything from food to clothing and virtually all goods and services Americans rely on.  Simply put, Nevadans and all Americans cannot afford rising energy costs, and they are looking for solutions.

Given the negative impact of high gas prices on the economy and the disproportionate impact they have on Nevada, I believe the Administration should develop concrete steps to lower prices, expand domestic production, and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.  This should not be done at the expense of developing innovative energy technologies.  Rather, I would assert that the overwhelmingly positive impact increased domestic production would have on our economy in terms of jobs and revenue could actually facilitate the development the technologies of the future.

Expanding domestic energy production, improving our energy infrastructure, and continuing to develop alternative fuel technologies are the right objectives to meet our nation’s energy needs.  It is my hope that your department will provide desperately needed leadership within the Administration to champion the need for the responsible development of all of our domestic energy resources.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this issue, and I look forward to learning more about how you intend to lower gas prices for American consumers.

Sincerely,

DEAN HELLER

Tired of High Gas Prices?

Sen. Sanders Leads Effort to Clamp Down on Oil Speculators

Sen. Sanders Leads Effort to Clamp Down on Oil Speculators

Sen. Bernie Sanders + 69 other members of Congress say federal regulators should curb speculation in crude oil markets which has artificially pushed up gasoline prices to nearly $4 a gallon. The lawmakers – 23 senators and 47 members of the House – said Monday in a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that the regulators must stop Wall Street futures traders from dominating the oil market.  The commission has flouted a provision in the 2010 Wall Street reform law that required regulators to put tough new trading limits in place by Jan. 17, 2011. “We are disappointed that, more than a year later, the commission has not fulfilled this important regulatory duty,” the letter said.

“It is one of your primary duties – indeed, perhaps your most important – to ensure that the prices Americans pay for gasoline and heating oil are fair, and that the markets … operate free from fraud, abuse, and manipulation,” the lawmakers added.

They stressed that gasoline pump prices are up despite high supplies and low demand. According to the Energy Information Administration, the supply of oil and gasoline is greater today than it was three years ago, when the national average price for a gallon of gasoline was just $1.90. Today, the national average is more than $3.70 a gallon at a time when the demand for oil in the U.S. is at its lowest level since April of 1997.

There is a growing consensus that speculators are to blame. Exxon Mobil, the Saudi Arabian government, the American Trucking Association, Delta Airlines, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis all say excessive oil speculation significantly increases oil and gasoline prices. Citing a recent report from the investment bank Goldman Sachs, a Feb. 27, 2012, article in Forbes said excessive oil speculation adds $.56 to the price of  a gallon of gas.

“As the cost for American people to fill their gas tanks continues to skyrocket, the CFTC continues to drag its feet on imposing strict speculation limits to eliminate, prevent, or diminish excessive oil speculation,” the members of Congress told the commissioners.

“We urge you to take immediate action to impose strong and meaningful position limits, and to utilize all authorities available to you to make sure that the price of oil and gasoline reflects the fundamentals of supply and demand.”

To read the letter, click here.

Watch: ABC News details Bernie’s efforts to rein in oil speculators »