Masters Of War

Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build all the bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks I just want you to know I can see through your masks. You that never done nothin' But build to destroy You play with my world Like it's your little toy You put a gun in my hand And you hide from my eyes And you turn and run farther When the fast bullets fly. Like Judas of old You lie and deceive A world war can be won You want me to believe But I see through your eyes And I see through your brain Like I see through the water That runs down my drain. You fasten all the triggers For the others to fire Then you set back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion' As young people's blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud. You've thrown the worst fear That can ever be hurled Fear to bring children Into the world For threatening my baby Unborn and unnamed You ain't worth the blood That runs in your veins. How much do I know To talk out of turn You might say that I'm young You might say I'm unlearned But there's one thing I know Though I'm younger than you That even Jesus would never Forgive what you do. Let me ask you one question Is your money that good Will it buy you forgiveness Do you think that it could I think you will find When your death takes its toll All the money you made Will never buy back your soul. And I hope that you die And your death'll come soon I will follow your casket In the pale afternoon And I'll watch while you're lowered Down to your deathbed And I'll stand over your grave 'Til I'm sure that you're dead.------- Bob Dylan 1963

Sunday, June 28, 2015

fast track passes and symbolically the rig count increases for the 1st time this year...

"We are about to be so screwed it defies the imagination." -- Tenney Naumer, "Climate Change: The Next Generation"
the entire package of trade bills, including the "fast-track" trade authority that will allow unamendable treaties to be signed for the next 6 years, passed Congress in pretty much the manner we speculated they would when we discussed them last week...on Tuesday, 13 Democrats teamed with 47 Republicans to cut off debate on the stand alone fast track bill that had passed the House on Thursday of last week, which precluded any filibuster and made way for final passage of the same bill on Wednesday by a 60 to 38 vote...at the same time they passed a renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) paired with Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for displaced workers by a voice vote after it had earlier passed a cloture vote by a 76-22 count...then that same TAA bill, which had been defeated in the House by a 302 to 126 vote two weeks ago, passed the House by a 286-138 vote after Democratic leader Pelosi withdrew her opposition to it since the House Democrats no longer had anything to gain from holding it back...
with Trade Promotion Authority now in place, we'll probably see easy passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US, Japan, and the other Pacific rim countries later this year, probably followed by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union, and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) with a total of 51 countries worldwide, maybe sometime in 2016...after that, what the corporations cook up and push through during the first term of the Jeb Bush administration should bring the entire planet under the corporate-written rules, which will trump the laws of the signatory nations...my most recent rant about these trade deals is here; there's no point in warning about them again, now that they've been given the green light....in terms of how these deals will affect the fracking that is the concern of this group, the first two of these agreements will effectively mandate exports of our oil and gas resources to the signatory nations and therefore the initial signings will unleash a new torrent of oil & gas fracking activity to meet that demand, as US producers ramp up production to take advantage of higher gas and oil prices overseas; subsequently, those exports will reduce our domestic supply and correspondingly drive US energy prices up to the levels of the rest of the world...for example, as of the end of this week, import prices of LNG in Japan were $12.13 mmBTU, while the contract US natural gas price was $2.77 mmBTU; with the trade deal between the two in place, US producers will export to Japan rather than sell to US customers until those prices, allowing for processing and shipping costs, nearly equalize...
in the current oil & gas patch news, the past week saw the first increase since December 5th in the total number of rigs operating in the US, even though the number of oil rigs in service fell for the 29th week in a row...the rig count as reported by Baker Hughes increased by 2 to 859 rigs after dropping by 2 last week, with oil rigs down by 3 to 628 while gas rigs were up by 5 to 228 and miscellaneous rigs were unchanged at 3; those counts were down from 1558 oil rigs and 334 gas rigs a year ago, while the miscellaneous rig count rose from 1 a year ago...even with the increase, the week still saw a shift away from costly horizontal drilling, as rigs working in the major shale plays fell by 10, with the horizontal rig total falling by 8 to 654, while 7 vertical and 3 directional rigs were added, bringing the count of those types of rigs up to 107 and 98 respectively..land based rigs fell by 1 to 824, while 2 rigs were added on inland waters and one drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico was reactivated...
the increase in rigs was concentrated in Louisiana, where drillers added 6 rigs, including the 3 on water, to bring the state total to 75; while 2 rigs were added in Mississippi, which now has 3...single rigs were also added in West Virginia, which now has 20 working, Alaska, which now has 10, and New Mexico, where 44 rigs are operating...meanwhile, drillers in Ohio shut down 3 rigs, leaving 17 running, as did drillers in North Dakota, where 74 remain...two more rigs were also stacked in Texas, where they still have 361, but which is down from 889 a year ago, and a single rig was shut down in Illinois, which is back down to 2....these changes cut the rigs in the Utica shale by 3 to 19, down from 43 a year ago, reduced the Bakken shale rigs by 3 to 74, down from 178 last year, cut the Permian basin rigs by 2 to 231, down from 554, cut the Mississippian rigs by 2 to 20, down from 77 a year ago, reduced the Granite Wash rigs by 2 to 14, down from 72 a year ago, and cut one each from the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale plays, bringing the count in those basins down to 5 and 103 respectively, down from 25 and 214 respectively a year ago...meanwhile, single rigs were added in the Haynesville shale of Louisiana, where they now have 27, down from 41 a year ago, in the Marcellus, which now has 65, vs 82 a year ago, and in the Cana Woodford of Oklahoma, where they now have 33, up from 26 a year ago, as two of the three Woodford shale plays are the only basins that have seen a year over year increases in drilling rigs...
since we haven't looked at a picture of the historical track of the oil rig count in quite a while, we'll include a current version below, which comes from Friday's article on this week's rig count at the Business Insider...you'll note that the US oil rig count was below 200 for more than 3 years until horizontal drilling & fracking started taking off in 2005, and subsequently rose to over 400 in late 2008 before the recession hit, at which time oil crashed to $35 a barrel and more than half of the rigs running then were stacked...the oil rig count then began rising again in 2009 to top 1400 in 2012 and then moved up gradually until it peaked at 1609 on October 10th of last year...as you can see, it's been all downhill from there...now we're nearly at a 5 year low; we'd have to go back to August 6, 2010 to find a week when less rigs were running than the 628 that were working on June 26th of this year...(btw, natural gas rigs peaked at 1,606 on August 29, 2008, after natural gas prices spiked to over $13 mmBTU, but i haven't seen a chart for that rig count crash)
oil rig count June 26 2015
meanwhile, US field production of crude oil rose during the third week in June to an average of 9,604,000 barrels per day, up from 9,589,000 barrels a day last week but short of the record pace of 9,610,000 barrels per day we saw in the first week of June; however, that was still 13.7% higher than the 8,446 ,000 barrel per day of field crude production seen in the third week of June last year...meanwhile our imports of crude oil fell by 302,000 barrels per day to 6,623,000 barrels a day in this report, after rising 444,000 barrels per day last week; while that's down 7.8% from the same week last year, weekly crude imports are so volatile that we check the weekly Petroleum Status Report (62 pp pdf) for the 4 week average, which at an average of roughly 7,000,000 barrels a day, leaves our imports 3.5% below the same 4 week period last year...with US refineries operating at a summertime 94.0% of capacity last week, gasoline production rose by 283,000 barrels per day to 9,934,000 barrels per day and our inventories of crude oil (excluding the strategic reserve) dropped for the 8th week in a row, falling by 4,934,000 barrels and leaving ending stocks 1.1% lower at 462,993,000 barrels as of June 19th; however, that's still 19.3% more oil than we had stored in the same week a year ago, and still near levels not seen at this time of year in at least the past 80 years...and as those inventories of crude are being drawn down, inventories of refined products are rising...in this most recent week, total motor gasoline inventories increased by 0.7 million barrels and are near the top of their normal range, distillate fuel inventories increased by 1.8 million barrels and are near their seasonal average and propane/propylene inventories rose 1.3 million barrels last week and are well above the upper limit of their average range..

(see more news links here)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

US military admits it carried out secret race-based experiments to test impact of mustard gas on US soldiers

US military admits it carried out secret race-based experiments to test impact of mustard gas on US soldiers - Americas - World - The Independent

African American and Puerto Rican soldiers were tested separately during the Second World War in the belief that they might respond to certain chemicals in a different way to white troops (file picture)

Up to 60,000 men were enlisted for a programme, declassified in 1993, to test mustard gas and other chemicals agents on US troops.

But National Public Radio reported that the Pentagon has for the first time admitted that it grouped its test subjects by race as it believed African American and Puerto Rican US troops might respond to the poisonous gas different to white soldiers
.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

fast track passed the House; what's next in the Senate...

it appears that the international corporate trade deals are moving forward again, after last week's setback...initially, Boehner's planned Tuesday re-vote on the defeated trade adjustment assistance (TAA) bill was abandoned after consulting with Obama, and plans at midweek were to postpone the House vote on the issue for 6 weeks, so as to coincide with the July 30th expiration of the Highway Trust Fund authorization...that's because in helping defeat the TAA on Friday, Pelosi never said that she intended to stop TPA (trade promotion authority, aka "fast track"), but rather slow it down, and gave indications that Democrats would be willing to allow fast track on trade in exchange for a long term highway funding bill...however, on Thursday, when the national news media was preoccupied with coverage of the Charleston church shooting, the House took a vote on a stand alone version of TPA, which the House Rules Committee had attached to H.R.2146, an uncontroversial police and firemen retirement bill the night before...with 28 Democrats joining all but 50 Republicans, that fast track bill was passed by a 218 to 208 margin and sent to the Senate..

now, as you'll recall, the Senate defeated just such a stand-alone fast track bill a bit over a month ago, and then turned around and passed it when the TAA, a displaced worker assistance bill, which Republicans tended to oppose, was coupled with it...so now, for this House fast track bill to pass the Senate, at least a handful of the Senate Democrats who originally voted against a stand alone TPA will have to switch their votes to for it, and to do that they must be convinced that the TAA bill that they wanted will pass separately....there are at least two ploys being discussed to achieve that; one would be to link TAA with the bill extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for 10 years; the AGOA, first passed 15 years ago, allows favored African exports, such as clothing and textiles, to enter the US mostly duty-free, and it is usually renewed with broad bi-partisan support...another possibility would be to couple TAA with a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which finances and insures foreign purchases of US goods, many from Democratic states, and which the Republicans have blocked up until now...presumably, if one or both of these carrots could be dangled in front of the Democrats, enough of them would snap at that lure such that both the House passed stand alone TPA and a TAA bill combined with one of these other trade bills could pass the Senate...then, the TAA bill, with whatever it's attached to, would have to go back to the House for a vote, where it is assumed that a bill with mostly Democrat party initiatives could pass easily, assuming Boehner's co-operation...

within hours of the House passage of the TPA bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a cloture motion on it, meaning it could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday...however, it's questionable whether Democrats would switch their votes merely on an assurance from McConnell and Boehner that the bargain chip TAA would be allowed to pass; the trustworthiness is just not there...for instance, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell voted for fast track earlier based on a promise that the Senate would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, providing financing needed for foreign Boeing jet purchases; that hasnt happened, and it could thus be a case of "once burnt, twice shy" for Senators who would otherwise allow themselves to be compromised...so we can hope that there is at least enough bad blood among our congresscritters to at least slow this thing down...nonetheless, now that Obama has opportunistically switched parties and has become a Republican, it appears that with a majority of his party in both houses he should eventually be able to push his corporatocratic agenda through...from there, we're probably less than a year away from ramping up exports of our oil and gas to the 11 other countries on the Pacific rim that will be signatories to the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and then to the rest of the world, as soon as similar treaties can be signed with them...

meanwhile, the ongoing reduction in working drilling rigs nearly stalled this week, as the rig count as reported by Baker Hughes was only down by 2 to 857, with oil rigs down 4 to 631, gas rigs up 2 to 223, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at 3...that's still an unprecedented 28 straight weeks of less drilling each week than the one before it, but we wouldn't be surprised if that reverses itself soon and drillers begin to add more rigs than they idle, especially if oil prices rise or even stay as stable as they have been...contract US oil prices were within 50 cents of $60 a barrel this week, and they've generally been within a few bucks of that price since mid-April, so the incentives to start or stop drilling haven't changed much recently, and we'd think that all of the rigs that were working plays that were unprofitable at $60 should have been shut down by now...the 857 rigs that were running this week is now down by 1001 from a year ago, and 914 of those shutdowns were in the oil patch..

on net, there was one less horizontal rig and one less vertical rig in operation in the US this week than last, leaving 662 horizontal, 100 vertical, and 95 directional rigs running at week end, down from 1250 horizontal, 380 vertical, and 228 directional rigs that were in operation a year earlier...two oil rigs working offshore in the Gulf were idled this week; that left 825 land based, 27 offshore, and 5 rigs on inland waters remaining, which was down from 1784 land based, 59 offshore rigs, and 15 rigs on inland waters a year ago...north of the border, Canadian drillers added 9 rigs, all land based, with their oil rigs up 6 to 74 and their gas rigs up 3 to 62.

five states saw rig reductions this week; Louisiana was down by 2 offshore to a total of 69, New Mexico, down was by 2 to 43, Oklahoma was down by 2 to 105, Wyoming was down 1 to 21 and Ohio was down 1 to 20...on the other hand, drillers in Utah added 2 to bring their total to 8, and 4 states added one each: Alaska, now at 10, Illinois now at 3, North Dakota now with 77, and Pennsylvania with 47...rig counts in all other states, including Texas, were unchanged, but that doesn't mean they were stagnant; based on the counts from the districts, Texas saw at a minimum 5 rigs shut down, and 5 rigs started elsewhere in the state...

there were also only modest decreases in our oil output and stocks this week as well...US field production of crude oil slipped by 21,000 barrels per day from the record output of last week to an average of 9,589,000 barrels per day during the week ending June 12th; however, that's still 13.8% above the 8,428,000 barrels per day output we saw during the second week of June a year ago...our oil stocks fell too, as they normally do at this time of year...our inventories of crude oil in storage were lower for the 7th consecutive week, falling by 2,676,000 barrels to 467,927,000 barrels; but again, that's still 21.1% higher than the 386,348,000 barrels we had stored a year ago, and the highest stocks ever for the 2nd week of June in over 80 years of EIA record keeping...meanwhile, with US refineries still running at 93.1% of their operable capacity, our crude oil imports rose by 444,000 barrels per day, or 6.7%, from an average of 6,623,000 barrels a day last week to 7,067,000 barrels per day in this report....that's still below last year's pace, though; according to the weekly Petroleum Status Report (62 pp pdf), our crude oil imports averaged 6.9 million barrels per day over the last 4 weeks, which is now per 5.3% below the same four-week period of last year....

(the above was crossposted from Focus on Fracking, where you’ll also find links to dozens of other oil patch stories)

Wikipedia - The Saudi Cables

Link to the cables in full HERE
Image result for house of saud

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shooters of Color Are Called 'Terrorists' and 'Thugs.' Why Are White Shooters Called ‘Mentally Ill'?


Police are investigating the shooting of nine African Americans at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston as a hate crime committed by a white man. Unfortunately, it’s not a unique event in American history. Black churches have long been a target of white supremacists who burned andbombed them in an effort to terrorize the black communities that those churches anchored. One of the most egregious terrorist acts in U.S. history was committed against a black church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. Four girls were killed when members of the KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, a tragedy that ignited the Civil Rights Movement.
But listen to major media outlets and you won’t hear the word "terrorism" used in coverage of  Wednesday’s shooting. You won’t hear the white male shooter, identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, described as "a possible terrorist." And if coverage of recent shootings by white suspects is any indication, he never will be. Instead, the go-to explanation for his actions will be mental illness. He will be humanized and called sick, a victim of mistreatment or inadequate mental health resources. Activist Deray McKesson noted this morning that, while discussing Roof’s motivations, an MSNBC anchor said "we don’t know his mental condition." That is the power of whiteness in America.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

U.S. House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine


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the corporate trade promo vote, this week's oil patch data, & a followup on the Karnes county blowout

it appears the corporate oligarchy suffered a small setback in Friday's skirmish against their agenda, when the House voted 302 to 126 against the trade adjustment assistance (TAA) bill, a part of the trade promotion package added to provide relatively ineffective assistance to workers who would be displaced by upcoming trade deals; in general, Republicans were opposed to it because they saw it as welfare, and Democrats were opposed because it would be paid for by cuts to Medicare...since that bill was linked to trade promotion authority (aka fast track) in the Senate, and the Senate had defeated stand alone trade promotion authority four weeks ago, the defeat of TAA has effectively stopped the fast track bill from going forward...although much of the media coverage reported that fast track was defeated, it was actually submitted by Boehner and passed 219-211, with 28 Democrats joining 191 Republicans voting for it, shortly after the defeat of TAA by the much larger margin...however, it's not over yet, as Boehner has ominously scheduled a re-vote on TAA on Tuesday...recalling how TPA was defeated in the Senate, and then passed 48 hours later after a deal was cut, the sense of deja vu is overwhelming..

since analyzing, describing, or even comprehending the intricacies of the congressional sausage-making process is above my pay-grade, i'll just include a handful of links and excerpts from articles of the past week about it down below to round out how that story developed and played out…

while that was going on in DC, the number of drilling rigs operating in the US and coastal waters fell again this week for the 27th consecutive week, as working oil rigs fell by 7 to 635, and gas rigs and miscellaneous rigs each fell by one, to 221 and 3 respectively...the total active rig count of 859 is now down 995 from the year ago count of 1854, with horizontal rigs down 10 this week to 663 and down from 1248 a year ago, vertical rigs up 2 this week to 101 but down from 388 a year ago, and directional rigs down 1 this week to 95 and down from 218 a year earlier...land based rigs were cut by 12 to 825, down from last year's 1780, while two rigs were added offshore, bringing the offshore total back up to 29, still down by more than half from the year ago 59, and a fifth rig was added on inland waters, while the inland water rig count is down from 15 that were in use during the 2nd week of June last year..

no state or shale basin lost more than 1 rig the past week, which is a first in the half year we've tracked this metric...Alabama, which now has none, Alaska with 9, Colorado at 38, Illinois with 2, Kansas at 13, Mississippi at 1, New Mexico at 45, Ohio at 21, Texas at 363, Utah with 6 and West Virginia at 19 all saw one rig each shut down this week, while Oklahoma added one rig to bring their total to 107, and Louisiana added 2 offshore and one on an inland lake while idling 2 land rigs, leaving the state with 107 rigs running on June 12th...Canadians, meanwhile, have added rigs for the 3rd week in a row, restarting 11 more this week, with active oil rigs up 9 to 68 and working gas rigs up 2 to 59...the 127 rigs they ran this week is down 117 from a year ago, with 81 fewer oil rigs and 36 fewer gas rigs than last June 12th...

despite the ongoing drop in the number of active drilling rigs, US oil production again rose during the first week in June to a new modern record of 9,610,000 barrels per day, up from 9,586,000 barrels a day last week and 13.6% higher than the 8,460,000 barrel per day production in the first week of June last year...in the face of higher production, our oil imports finally fell, dropping by 750,000 barrels a day to 6,623,000 barrels a day in this report, more than reversing last week's import increase of 677,000 barrels per day....considering the weekly volatility, we note that the weekly Petroleum Status Report (62 pp pdf) reports that over the last four weeks, crude oil imports averaged about 7.0 million barrels per day, 2.3% below the same four-week period last year...with US refineries operating at a near record 94.6% of their capacity, up from their 89.3% capacity utilization rate of a year ago, US inventories of crude oil dropped for the 6th consecutive week, falling by 6,812,000 barrels or 1.4% to 470,603,000 as of June 5th, the largest one week crude oil inventory drawdown in 11 months...lest anyone thinks that means our oil stocks are running low, we'll include the EIA graph of the track of our oil inventories over the last two years, and the range of the 5 years prior to that, taken from the weekly Petroleum Status Report...

June 2015 oil inventories on 6-5

in the graph above, the blue line shows the recent track of US oil inventories over the period from January 2014 to mid 2015, while the shaded area represents the range of US oil inventories as reported weekly by the EIA over the prior 5 years for any given time of year, essentially showing us the normal range of US oil inventories as they fluctuate from season to season....you can see that even though inventories have been down for 6 weeks running, the current level of 470.6 million barrels is still 21.6% higher than the same week last year, much higher than they've ever been in recent years, and in fact much higher than they've been in the 80 years of EIA record keeping, which had never seen the 400 million barrel level breached before this year...also note that our oil stocks always decline over the summer period, from May through August, so a downturn of our oil stocks at this time of year is only to be expected...

finally, we want to follow up on a story we touched on 3 weeks ago, wherein an oil well exploded in Karnes county Texas, spewing toxic hydrogen sulfide gas and forcing the evacuation of nearby residents...since it happened on the same day as the Santa Barbara beach oil spill, news coverage of it was pretty much buried, and though we did note that the blowout was accompanied by an oil mist that fell like rain over the area for two days before the well was brought under control, we assumed that with that done, cleanup would begin and those living in the area would return...however, this week we've learned that the evacuation order for the affected area remains in place for five of the families living closest to the damaged site...they are still being housed in a nearby motel while security guards refuse them access to their property, so they haven't even been allowed to return for a change of clothes...a local TV station reports that all vegetation in the area, including trees, are now brown and dying, while other Texas pastures are lush green from the recent rains...meanwhile, the well owner, Encana Corporation, is complaining that they lost 138,000 gallons of oil, worth $197,000, in the accident, not including what they're paying for motel rooms for those forced to evacuate..

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this batch of links has to do with the so-called trade deals currently under consideration, which aren't really about trade at all, but about international regulatory harmonization for the multinational corporations, so they can do business worldwide irrespective of the laws in the signatory nations...

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Obama's Trade Agenda Rewards U.S. Companies That Profit From Slavery -- President Barack Obama's effort to include Malaysia in a major pending trade pact has baffled human rights advocates, who see it as a reward for a regime with one of the world's worst human trafficking records. But the myriad interests involved in the trade fight include some very large American corporations, which are currently padding their profits with labor costs kept low by modern-day slavery in Malaysia. Major U.S. electronics brands, including Intel, AMD, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments and Dell, have relied on Malaysian manufacturing for years -- either in their own factories, or through facilities operated by their suppliers. Computer processors, hard drives, smartphone parts and other consumer electronic devices are all part of the slavery system -- more than one-fourth of all workers in the Malaysian electronics industry are victims of forced labor, according to a damning 2014 report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor. U.S. companies say that in the wake of that report, they have enacted corporate policies to root out slave labor from their supply chain. While labor experts applaud the formal changes, they also say that actually implementing them is nearly impossible under current Malaysian government policies. And indeed, American firms have relied on Malaysian labor in large part due to its extremely low cost.

Fast-track vote still up in the air - Supporters of a controversial trade bill are increasingly confident they can secure the votes needed to pass so-called fast-track legislation when it hits the House floor, which could come as early as this week. Still, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and other GOP leaders have not yet committed to bringing up Trade Promotion Authority by week’s end, a sign that while pro-trade leaders in the House are closing in on the 217 ayes they need to pass the bill, the contentious vote remains very close. Only about a dozen members remain undecided, most of them Democrats, and President Barack Obama is expected to make another lobbying push this week to try and win over wavering members of his party.  Republican aides predicted a decision by Wednesday on whether the measure would come up for consideration in the House this week, signaling it does not have the votes to pass quite yet. Support for fast-track — which allows Congress up-or-down votes to approve trade packages while barring amendments — is a rare point of agreement between Obama and Hill Republicans. And enacting fast-track would be a major victory for the president, who needs the expedited authority to finalize a huge Pacific trade accord, the centerpiece of Obama’s economic agenda. In fact, with bitter fights looming over government spending this summer, it may be the last time for months that Obama and GOP leaders work together in relative harmony.

Fast Track Will Also Apply to TISA -- Gaius Publius - Fast Track is not just a path to TPP … it’s evil all on its own. There’s now another leaked “trade” deal, called TISA, and Fast Track will “fast-track” that one too. Want your municipal water service privatized? How about your government postal service? Read on. Most of the coverage of the Fast Track bill (formally called “Trade Promotion Authority” or TPA) moving through Congress is about how it will “grease the skids” for passage of TPP, the “next NAFTA” trade deal with 11 other Pacific rim countries. But as we pointed out here, TPA will grease the skids for anything the President sends to Congress as a “trade” bill — anything. One of the “trade” deals being negotiated now, which only the wonks have heard about, is called TISA, or Trade In Services Agreement. Fast Track legislation, if approved, will grease the TISA skids as well. Why do you care? Because (a) TISA is also being negotiated in secret, like TPP; (b) TISA chapters have been recently leaked by Wikileaks; and (c) what’s revealed in those chapters should have Congress shutting the door on Fast Track faster and tighter than you’d shut the door on an invading army of rats headed for your apartment. Congress won’t shut that door on its own — the rats in this metaphor have bought most of its members — but it should. So it falls to us to force them. Stop Fast Track and you stop all these “trade” deals. (Joseph Stiglitz will explain below why I keep putting “trade” in quotes.)  What’s TISA? It’s worse than TPP. As you read the following, keep the word “services” in mind. TISA protects the right of big money players to make a profit from “services,” any and all of them.

Fast Track to the Corporate Wish List -- Some time in the next several days, the House will likely vote on trade promotion authority, enabling the Obama administration to proceed with its cherished Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Most House Democrats want no part of the deal, which was crafted by and for corporations. And many Tea Party Republicans don’t want to hand the administration any additional powers, even in service of a victory dearly sought by the GOP’s corporate allies. The vote, which has been repeatedly delayed as both the White House and House GOP leaders try to round up support, is expected to be extremely close. The Obama administration entered office promising to renegotiate unbalanced trade agreements, which critics believe have cost millions of manufacturing jobs in the past 20 years. But they’ve spent more than a year pushing the TPP, a deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations that mostly adheres to the template of corporate favors masquerading as free trade deals. Of the 29 TPP chapters, only five include traditional trade measures like reducing tariffs and opening markets. Based on leaks and media reports—the full text remains a well-guarded secret—the rest appears to be mainly special-interest legislation. Pharmaceutical companies, software makers, and Hollywood conglomerates get expanded intellectual property enforcement, protecting their patents and their profits. Some of this, such as restrictions on generic drugs, is at the expense of competition and consumers. Firms get improved access to poor countries with nonexistent labor protections, like Vietnam or Brunei, to manufacture their goods. TPP provides assurances that regulations, from food safety to financial services, will be “harmonized” across borders. In practice, that means a regulatory ceiling. In one of the most contested provisions, corporations can use the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process, and appeal to extra-judicial tribunals that bypass courts and usual forms of due process to seek monetary damages equaling “expected future profits.”

Last-second objections threaten Obama-GOP vote on trade -- House Republicans are moving full-steam ahead toward a Friday vote to grant President Obama fast-track trade authority despite objections from Democrats to a last-second deal between Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The late Tuesday night Pelosi-Boehner deal scrapping cuts to Medicare that were to be used to pay for a program offering help to workers displaced by trade appeared to lift the final obstacle to a Friday vote. After repeatedly hedging their bets on whether the big vote would take place this week, Republican leaders announced the Friday vote at a closed-door caucus meeting on Wednesday. But Democrats at their own closed-door meeting complained to Pelosi that the Medicare deal wasn’t good enough because GOP leaders plan to attach the fix to a separate trade “preferences” bill. Since the bill granting trade preferences to African countries is not considered must-pass legislation, that means there is “no guarantee of enactment,” said a source in the meeting. Boehner and Republicans don’t want the fix attached to either fast-track or Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), the bill granting aid to displaced workers. Doing so would alter the Senate-passed package, requiring another vote by the upper chamber. It’s not clear whether the stumble will be enough to derail the fast-track vote, though some GOP aides expressed deep frustration at the last-minute maneuvering.

Why TPP sucks - On June 10th the Washington Post’s editorial page chastised Congress for “making free trade difficult”. Champions of Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue to label all skeptics as “opponents of free trade.” Many skeptics actually favor free trade, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership appears to be less about “free trade” and more about domestic regulatory harmonization. The post-WWII trade regime has been very successful in its aims of reducing tariffs and barriers to trade, expanding global market access, and integrating new players into the global trade regime. The spectacular economic rise of countries such as China, India, and Brazil is testament to the value of the trade route to lift millions out of poverty. The House may vote on Trade Promotion (“Fast Track”) Authority (TPA) as early as Friday, June 12th. The Senate has already voted in favor of TPA and Obama has been working hard to get skeptical House Democrats on board to support it. If the House grants Obama TPA, it ties its hands to an “up or down” vote on TPP with no possibility for amendment. There is much at stake and citizens and representatives need to know who is drafting it, what it means for US democracy and sovereignty, and the effects it will have on public health. Lobbyists representing corporate, not consumer, interests, drafted much of the TPP. William New, editor of IP-Watch and visiting fellow at Yale Law School, sued the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained hundred of pages of e-mails sent between the 600 or so “cleared advisors” and USTR. Though heavily redacted, the e-mail demonstrated an extraordinarily chummy relationship between corporate lobbyists, CEOs, and USTR. As New points out, many of the industry representatives are former USTR officials. For instance, Stan McCoy – former USTR negotiator of TPP – left USTR in April 2014 for a position as Senior Vice President and Policy Director for the Motion Picture Association. Former USTR Mickey Kantor became a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association (PhRMA). The revolving door between USTR and K Street creates incentives skewed against the public interest. Corporate interests have unparalleled access to USTR while consumers and citizens have been shut out.

Fast-Track Would Give Obama Green Light To Form EU-Inspired ‘Pacific Union,’ Surrender Congress’ Treaty Powers - U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, sent the following letter to President Obama demanding information about the new global governance structure whose creation would be authorized through six-year fast-track executive authority. Text of the letter follows: (excerpt) I asked that you make public the section of the TPP that creates a new transnational governance structure known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission. The details of this new governance commission are extremely broad and have the hallmarks of a nascent European Union, with many similarities. Reviewing the secret text, plus the secret guidance document that accompanies it, reveals that this new transnational commission—chartered with a “Living Agreement” clause—would have the authority to amend the agreement after its adoption, to add new members, and to issue regulations impacting labor, immigration, environmental, and commercial policy. Under this new commission, the Sultan of Brunei would have an equal vote to that of the United States. The implications of this new Pacific Union are extraordinary and ought to be discussed in full, in public, before Congress even contemplates fast-tracking its creation and pre-surrendering its power to apply the constitutional two-thirds treaty vote. In effect, to adopt fast-track is to agree to remove the constitutional protections against the creation of global governance structures before those structures are even made public. I would therefore ask that you provide to me the legal and constitutional basis for keeping this information from the public and explain why I cannot share the details of what I have read with the American people.

Nancy Pelosi Got a TPP Talking-To from Her Caucus, Plus Where We Are on Fast Track -- Gaius Publius: This explains the meat of the problem — for the bill and also for Leader Pelosi, who is reportedly working “almost daily” to oppose the wishes of the vast majority of her caucus. That opposition has now spilled over into intra-caucus conflict. There are more corporate Democrats in the House than any of us would like there to be, and all are potential pro–Fast Track (pro-TPA) votes. But the bill reported out of the Senate is two bills rolled into one — Fast Track itself, called “Trade Promotion Authority” or TPA, and a bill that pretends to offset the damage to workers from the coming job-creating “trade” bills, called “Trade Adjustment Assistance,” or TAA. Democrats need both bills to pass in order to make it look like the party as a whole cares about workers. All you need to know:

  • The Senate reported both bills out as a single piece of legislation.
  • If the House votes Yes to the exact language of the combined Senate bill (TPA plus TAA), it goes straight to the White House. No more votes.
  • The House will vote on each part of the combined Senate bill separately, however. (A move to get different members to vote Yes on different parts.)
  • Therefore, both bills must pass separately for the combined Senate bill to pass.
  • If the House changes any of the language of either bill, it goes into conference instead of to the White House, which means more delay and more voting.
  • If either the TPA or TAA bill fails, the whole Senate bill fails.
  • There’s a poison pill in the language of the Senate TAA bill.

Somehow, the Senate put language in the TAA bill that said, in effect, “Yes, we’ll allocate money for (some small number of) workers who need ‘assistance,’ but that money will come out of Medicare.”

House Kills TPP Fast-Track, Huge Blow to Corporate-Friendly Trade Agenda -- The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday dealt a serious blow to President Obama’s corporate-backed trade agenda, while erecting a major stumbling block for proponents of Fast Track, or trade promotion authority.  “Today’s votes to stall Fast Track and TPP are a major win for anyone who cares about climate change,” said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. “This disastrous deal would extend the world’s dependence on fracked gas, forbid our negotiators from ever using trade agreements in the fight against global warming, and make it easier for big polluters to burn carbon while suing anyone who gets in the way.” She continued: “That message clearly broke through today, as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi got up, bucked enormous pressure, and rallied against the deal, specifically citing concerns about its impact on climate change. Today was a big win, but the thousands of climate activists across the country who stood up and linked arms with fellow progressives to get us here won’t rest until Fast Track and TPP are dead for good.” A bill on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which would provide aid to workers displaced because of so-called “free trade” agreements, had been packaged with Fast Track authority, and a vote against either doomed the total package. Legislators opposed to Fast Track had hoped to derail the entire package by voting against TAA.  And derail it they did, voting 126-302 against TAA.

Congress Rebukes Obama On Trade, And Thus The Lame Duck Era Begins -- After an unusual last minute visit to Capitol Hill to personally lobby Democratic members of the House, President Obama suffered a big loss today in a vote on trade promotion authority:House Democrats rebuffed a dramatic personal appeal from President Obama on Friday, torpedoing his ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating power — and, quite likely, his chance to secure a legacy-defining trade accord spanning the Pacific Ocean.  In a remarkable rejection of a president they have resolutely backed, House Democrats voted to kill assistance to workers displaced by global trade, a program their party created and has stood by for four decades. By doing so, they brought down legislation granting the president trade promotion authority — the power to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress — before it could even come to a final vote.  “We want a better deal for America’s workers,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader who has guided the president’s agenda for two terms and was personally lobbied by Mr. Obama until the last minute.Republican leaders tried to muster support from their own party for trade adjustment assistance, a program they have long derided as an ineffective waste of money and sop to organized labor. But not enough Republicans were willing to save the program. Republican leaders then passed a stand-alone trade promotion bill, 219 to 211. That measure cannot go to the president for his signature because the Senate bill combined both trade adjustment and trade promotion.

The Democrats’ TPP rebellion just drew blood: Everything you need to know about today’s shocking vote Today’s rebuke for the Obama Administration and his friends on the Republican side of the aisle on their trade agenda restores democratic accountability to the process of governing. What Obama was proposing was a trick, one used repeatedly to advance distasteful policies, by getting each side to vote only on the parts they like. And House progressives responded by saying they wouldn’t play that game anymore. If they can withstand the pressure, not only will trade be derailed, but the era of the split-vote gambit, where opponents help the victors, will be over.  Progressive Democrats took their stand on trade adjustment assistance (TAA), a separate bill to “fast track” trade authority for the President, which the Senate linked together, so that they had to pass concurrently. TAA offers modest job training, income support and health insurance assistance to workers who lose their jobs from trade deals. It’s not very effective, but it sounds good; Democrats who oppose trade  deals can say that they at least got some help for workers.  TAA and fast track have passed together ever since the Trade Act of 1974. This is a Washington game where Democrats get to vote for TAA so Republicans don’t have to. Republicans don’t favor TAA because they see it as welfare.  That set up liberal Democrats as the deciding factor on whether Obama would get his fast-track trade authority. The President went to Capitol Hill to tell Democrats to “play it straight” on the vote. But voting for TAA as a sweetener for a policy most Democrats don’t support is the opposite of playing it straight. It’s a stupid game, and progressives finally decided not to play… {more}

Liberals Deal Obama a Stunning Blow on Trade—but One More Showdown Awaits - Here’s what happened: The House considered three bills Friday. One was a generally noncontroversial customs enforcement bill. Another was the actual fast-track trade-authority legislation.  And the third was a bill providing trade-adjustment assistance to workers who get screwed over by trade deals. Republicans have long detested trade-adjustment assistance as a wasteful big-government program, and Democrats were not happy with the way it was being paid for. The way House Speaker John Boehner structured the process along with the Senate, all three bills had to pass or else the entire package would not advance. (If you’re a gambler, think of it like a three-item parlay bet.) Progressive Democrats who oppose fast track feared it would pass with mainly Republican votes alongside a small number of Democrats, but they sensed an opportunity on the must-pass trade-assistance bill—since relatively few Republicans would back the legislation, it would be much easier to kill by withholding Democratic votes. And if trade assistance goes down, so too would fast track. And that’s exactly what happened. Minority leader Nancy Pelosi took the floor early Friday afternoon and said that explicitly defeating trade assistance “is the only way we will be able to slow down fast track.” When the votes rolled in shortly thereafter, the trade-assistance bill failed with 302 votes against it and only 126 in favor. It’s worth stressing here how much progressive organizing had to do with this defeat. President Obama personally appeared in Congress at the last minute Friday morning to appeal to Democrats one more time, on the heels of crashing the congressional baseball game the night before. But Pelosi and Democrats remained unswayed, and in her speech, Pelosi instead credited the work of activists holding members to a “hot stove” back home.  But fast track isn’t quite dead yet. Boehner moved on to the fast-track and customs bills anyway, both of which “passed,” though fast track only got two votes more than it needed. The package still won’t advance without trade-adjustment assistance—but Boehner scheduled a revote for Tuesday.

Decline and Fall of the Davos Democrats - Krugman - OK, I didn’t see that coming: even though I have come out as a lukewarm opponent of TPP, I assumed that it would happen anyway... But no, or not so far. ...Or to put it another way, one way to see this is as the last stand of the Davos Democrats. If you talk to administration officials — or at least if I talk to them (they may be telling me what they think I want to hear) — they offer a fairly sophisticated defense of this deal. ...I’m not fully convinced, but this is a reasonable discussion. But the overall selling of TPP, to some extent by the administration and much more so by its business allies, has been nothing like this. Instead, it has been all lectures from Those Who Know How the Global Economy Works — the kind of people who go to Davos and participate in earnest panels on the skills gap and the case for putting Alan Simpson in charge of everything — to the ignorant hippies who don’t. You know, ignorant hippies like Joseph Stiglitz and Elizabeth Warren.  This kind of thing worked in the 1990s, when Davos Man actually did seem to know how the world works. But now Davos Democrats are known as the people who told us to trust unregulated finance and fear invisible bond vigilantes. They just don’t have the credibility to pull off arguments from authority any more. And it doesn’t say much for their perspicacity that they apparently had no idea that the world has changed. TPP’s Democratic supporters thought they could dictate to their party like it’s 1999. They can’t.

Trade in Services Agreement – Press release - Wikileaks -- WikiLeaks releases today 17 secret documents from the ongoing TISA (Trade In Services Agreement) negotiations which cover the United States, the European Union and 23 other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan & Israel -- which together comprise two-thirds of global GDP. "Services" now account for nearly 80 per cent of the US and EU economies and even in developing countries like Pakistan account for 53 per cent of the economy. While the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become well known in recent months in the United States, the TISA is the larger component of the strategic TPP-TISA-TTIP 'T-treaty trinity'. All parts of the trinity notably exclude the 'BRICS' countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The release coincides with TISA meetings at the ministerial level at the OECD in Paris today (3–5 June). The 'T-treaty trinity' of TPP-TISA-TTIP is also under consideration for collective 'Fast-Track' authority in Congress this month. The TISA release today follows the WikiLeaks publication of the secret draft financial services annex of the TISA negotiations on 19 June 2014 showing the aim to further deregulate the financial sector, despite widespread consensus that lack of oversight and regulation was the main cause of the last global financial crisis of 2008. Today's release confirms the ongoing determination to deregulate. Furthermore, standstill clauses will tie the hands of future governments to implement changes in response to changing environment. Today's release is the largest on secret TISA documents and covers numerous previously undisclosed areas. It contains drafts and annexes on issues such as air traffic, maritime, professional services, e-commerce, delivery services, transparency, domestic regulation, as well as several document on the positions of negotiating parties. WikiLeaks has also published detailed expert analysis of the topics covered in today's release.

WikiLeaks releases secret TISA docs: The more evil sibling of TTIP and TPP --  WikiLeaks has released 17 secret documents from the negotiations of the global Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which have been taking place behind closed doors, largely unnoticed, since 2013. The main participants are the United States, the European Union, and 23 other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan and Israel, which together comprise two-thirds of global GDP.  The 17 documents released today include drafts and annexes on issues such as air traffic, maritime transport, professional services, e-commerce, delivery services, transparency, and domestic regulation, as well as several documents on the positions of negotiating parties. The annexe on e-commerce is likely to be of particular interest to Ars readers, since, if adopted, it would have a major impact on several extremely sensitive areas in the digital realm. For example, the question of data flows—specifically the flow of European citizens' personal data to the US—is at the heart of disputes over the EU's proposed Data Retention rules, the Safe Harbour agreement, and TTIP. Here's what Article 2.1 of TISA's e-commerce annexe would impose upon its signatories: "No Party may prevent a service supplier of another Party from transferring, [accessing, processing or storing] information, including personal information, within or outside the Party’s territory, where such activity is carried out in connection with the conduct of the service supplier’s business." What that means in practice, is that the EU would be forbidden from requiring that US companies like Google or Facebook keep the personal data of European citizens within the EU—one of the ideas currently being floated in Germany. Article 9.1 imposes a more general ban on requiring companies to locate some of their computing facilities in a territory: "No Party may require a service supplier, as a condition for supplying a service or investing in its territory, to: (a) use computing facilities located in the Party’s territory."

America's Biggest Secret: Wikileaks Is Raising A $100,000 Reward For Leaks Of The TPP -- If there is one piece of legislation (and in a "democracy", there is no reason why any one law should be fast-tracked through Congress under the shroud of secrecy) that should be passed in complete openness and in full view of the general public, especially by the world's "most transparent organization", it is Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multi-trillion dollar treaty with 29 classified chapters, which - when not if passed - will have an impact on the vast majority of workers in the US, on their wages and living conditions. And yet, when it comes to the TPP, not only is the text of the legislation under lock and key,but the law's drafters, primarily US corporations, have made it so profoundly secret, that "many of the provisions will not only be secret before the vote in the House, but will also be kept secret for four years after the bill is signed.  That means we won’t know what’s in it even after it’s passed." Curiously, according to Wikileaks, the TPP contains 29 chapters but only 5 pertain to trade. As Red State reports, "Wikileaks will be publishing the entire bill and they have already released the chapter on Investment.  It’s very interesting.  It is written in a such a way as to give multinational companies a huge advantage on trade.  If a public hospital is built close to a private one, the private hospital has the right to sue the country for expected losses." The chapter on investment can be found here. It gets worse: The agreement also regulates the internet and requires internet companies to gather certain data which they will be required to share with certain private companies.  Many of the provisions will not only be secret before the vote in the House, but will also be kept secret for four years after the bill is signed.  That means we won’t know what’s in it even after it’s passed.

WikiLeaks Releases Section of Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement That Would Affect Health Care -- WikiLeaks has released a draft of an annex of a secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which would likely enable pharmaceutical companies to fight the ability of participating governments to control the rise of drug prices. It would empower companies to mount challenges to Medicare in the United States. For a number of years, the US and eleven other countries—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam—have been negotiating proposals for the TPP. Drafts previously released by WikiLeaks have shown that the US has been the most extreme negotiator in the process. “This leak reveals that the Obama administration, acting at the behest of pharmaceutical companies, has subjected Medicare to a series of procedural rules, negotiated in secret, that would limit Congress’ ability to enact policy reforms that would reduce prescription drug costs for Americans – and might even open to challenge aspects of our health care system today,” according to Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program. Public Citizen is a watchdog group that has been at the forefront of challenging the TPP in the US. The annex, which is dated December 17, 2014, expressly names the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as being covered by the trade agreement.  The watchdog group contends that the language could affect the ability of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to pursue pharmaceutical reform and “negotiate the price of prescription drugs on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.”

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more fracking related news here

Saturday, June 13, 2015

US hacking: Military and intelligence data 'accessed' - BBC News

US hacking: Military and intelligence data 'accessed' - BBC News

Image result for computer hacking
Details of a major hack emerged last week, but officials have now given details of a potential second breach.
It is feared that the attack could leave US security personnel or their families open to blackmail.
The agency involved, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), is yet to comment on the reports.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

this weeks OPEC meeting, the EPA report on fracking and drinking water, et al

two stories dominated the news out of the fracking patch this week: the OPEC semi-annual meeting, their first since Thanksgiving, and the release of a 998-page, $33 million EPA report on fracking and drinking water that was five years in the fudge making...the OPEC meeting didn't change anything - oil ministers agreed on Friday to hold their quotas at the same level they've been at over the last 6 months - but the lead up to it generated a lot of rehashing of what they've done to the oil markets and what they might do...the EPA report found plenty of instances of drinking water pollution in their thousand pages, but those didn't make it to the press release or the official comments, leading to a plethora of headlines suggesting fracking is harmless, especially in publications predisposed to that point of view...

as noted, the OPEC meeting concluded Friday with the decision by the group to maintain their maximum production limit at 30 million barrels of oil a day, the same level it has officially been set at for the past year, which amounts to about a third of global oil output...previously, when oil prices fell below the level the cartel had established, OPEC members would agree to cut production to force prices back up, so holding production at its previous level in the face of falling prices, as they have done this year, is a new tactic, which is intended to drive prices down, and which is aimed mostly at high cost North American producers, as we've discussed here many times before...the 30 million barrel daily ceiling isn't a hard and fast quota, either, as most OPEC members exceed that if they can; ie., in May, oil output from OPEC members averaged 31.22 million barrels per day, up from 31.16 million barrels per day in April, as Angolan output hit a new record, while Saudi output was stable at 10.30 million barrels a day, same as April but higher than last year, when they were consistently producing under 10 million bpd...

one thing the OPEC membership failed to address at this meeting was the request by Iran to have their quota increased; the Western embargo against their oil exports is expected to end shortly, at which time they'll be adding around 400,000 barrels per day to global supplies almost immediately, with up to as much as 1 million barrels per day by next year...if Iranian supplies come online without an adjustment from other OPEC producers, there is obviously the potential for another wave of lower oil prices...

however, oil supply, from OPEC and elsewhere, is only half the equation that goes into determining prices; demand for oil products is the other side of the calculation, and it has been rising...US light vehicle sales hit a 10 year high in May, with cars and light trucks selling at a 17.7 million a year rate, driven by a surge in purchases of gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups...furthermore, in March, we learned that vehicle miles driven on US highways had reached a new high on a rolling 12 month basis, 4.9% higher than last year, after more than seven years of Americans driving less miles than they did in 2007...and it's not just Americans who are driving more; the Chinese have been buying vehicles at a rate of over 2 million a month, around 40% more than Americans buy, with a 49% increase in Chinese SUV sales in the first quarter of this year now accounting for a quarter of Chinese sales...apparently they have a serious problem with road rage in China, and as a result Chinese drivers are buying more SUVs, for intimidation and defensive purposes, all trying to drive a bigger car than their neighbors...as a result, Chinese gasoline sales are up 20% from a year ago, and they have since surpassed US as the largest oil importer of crude oil... the point is, if OPEC holds their output steady at 30 million barrels per day for long enough, demand for oil and its products will outstrip their supply, prices will rise, and US frackers will be back in the drivers seat...

the major problem with the EPA report on fracking's impact on drinking water was the ambiguity of their press release and executive summary (pdf), leading most everyone who read it to take from it whatever they thought beforehand as the confirmed result....in the nearly thousand pages of the full report (which i havent read) they certainly documented many of cases or drinking water contamination that we've all read or heard about, but by the time the details were rung out of it for a summary, they were couched in so many weasel words that it was hard to draw any certain bead on what their conclusion was; the EPA seems to have elevated official obfuscation to an art form not seen since the days of the Greenspan Fed....hence, on the day of the report's release, we saw headlines as varied as EPA: Fracking is safe for drinking water and EPA: Fracking's no big threat to water all the way to EPA: Fracking has caused isolated, not widespread, water pollution and It’s Official: EPA Says Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water...there also seemed to be an orchestrated effort on the day of the release to establish that the conclusion of the report was that fracking was harmless; checking hundreds of headlines on google news, those that said fracking was harmless to drinking water outnumbered the others 2 to 1...so you can expect to hear the same from the majority of Americans whose only exposure to the news is to the headlines..

the EPA study concluded there was not "widespread or systemic" contamination of drinking water from fracking...surface waters might be polluted, or drinking water might be impacted by poorly sealed well casements or from ancillary activities associated with fracking, but not from fracking itself, which we all know takes place thousands of feet below the surface...so that isn't something we didnt already know; it isn't the fracking 5000 or 10,000 feet down itself that impacts the drinking water at the surface, it's something else that happens during the drilling or after the fracking is done that pollutes the water....and as widespread fracking is still relatively new, we still dont know what the longer term effects to our water supply might be...just because the millions of gallons of toxic chemical laced frack water deep underground have not yet migrated to surface layers from which we draw our drinking water now doesn't mean they wont ever...water, and any pollutants it may be carrying, tends to move through pores in layers of rock at a snails pace...so just because fracking a well a mile down and 2 miles away from your water supply hasn't yet contaminated your water today doesn't mean it wont ten or twenty years from today...

while the OPEC countries were pumping out oil at their fastest pace since 2012, US oil production also hit a new modern high in the week ending May 29th ...after the unexpected oil production jump by 3.2% to 9,566,000 barrel per day last week, US oil output again increased incrementally to another new record of 9,586,000 barrels per day in the current reporting week; that's 14.4% more than US oil companies were producing during the last week in May last year, as oil companies continue to pump out more oil even in the face of low prices so they can at least pay the interest on their debts...even with that record domestic production, however, US oil imports still rose by 677,000 barrels per day from the previous week to 7,373,000 barrels per day this week...the weekly Petroleum Status Report (62 pp pdf) tells us that over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged over 7.0 million barrels per day, just 1.3% less than the same 4 weeks last year...but even with record production and higher imports, US commercial crude oil inventories fell by 1,948,000 barrels to 479,363,000 barrels, which was still 23% higher than a year ago and the highest ever for the last week in May in the 80 years of EIA data....the reason crude stocks fell was because refineries were turning much of that new crude into products, as total crude and petroleum product inventories increased by 7.4 million barrels to 1,944,356 in the current week, as both stocks of propane/propylene and stocks of distillate fuels each rose by roughly 3.8 million barrels this week...

meanwhile, there were 7 fewer drilling rigs operating in the US in the week just ended, as Baker Hughes reported that the US rig count fell to 868 as of June 5th, with 642 oil rigs, 4 less than last week and 894 less than a year ago, and 222 gas rigs, down 3 from a week ago and down 98 from a year ago, still working at week end...although that was the 26th consecutive decrease in the rig count, the past five weeks have all seen net decreases of less than a dozen, as the number that are restarted each week are now nearly as many as those that are shut down...this week saw 673 horizontal rigs still operating, just one less than last week, and 99 vertical rigs, a reduction of 12, as 6 additional directional rigs were started up, after 5 were added last week, bringing the directional total up to 96...however, they show 7 fewer rigs in the Eagle Ford shale of southeast Texas, which were almost certainly fracked, as well as losses of a rig each in the Utica, the Willston, the Cana Woodford. and the Arkoma Woodford, so unless the majority of those were vertical, their basin counts dont match their counts of the type of drilling rigs...by state, Texas shed 5 rigs, New Mexico and Colorado were both rid of two each, and Arkansas, North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania each saw one less, while Louisiana added 3, West Virginia added 2, and California and Kansas added one each....meanwhile, the Canadian rig count was up by 18 from a week ago, with oil rigs up 15 to 59, and gas rigs up 3 to 57...

this week also saw the release of the international rig counts for the month of May, which are an average of the number of rigs running during the month for each area and hence differ from the weekly rig counts for North America...excluding the US and Canada, there were 1,158 rigs operating in other countries worldwide, 44 lower that the rig count of 1,202 in April, and down 147 rigs from the 1,350 international rigs counted in May of last year...of those, offshore rigs were down 16 to 284, and down 42 from the 326 offshore drilling platforms running a year ago...regionally, the Middle East saw a reduction of 12 rigs, leaving 398, after they added 3 rigs in April; note that the rig count for Iran is not included here…African nations saw their average May rig count fall by 20 to 120 from 100 in April, the Asia Pacific region saw 11 fewer rigs operating at 217, and European rigs were reduced by 3 to 116....meanwhile, Latin American countries added a net 2 rigs, after they saw a reduction of 26 to 325 in April...major changes in the Middle East oil rigs included an addition of 6 rigs in Oman to bring their total to 59, and a reduction of 4 rigs in Egypt...interestingly, the Saudis shut down 10 oil rigs in May, after they added 9 in February, 5 in March, and 1 in April....at 71 oil rigs, the Saudis are still running 11 more than a year ago; they are also running 53 gas rigs, up from 41 in May of 2014...

(more here)