Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oil Industry's View: Department of the Interior's "Use it or Lose it" a case of Politics Trumping Common Sense


The Department of Interior’s so-called “use it or lose it” report was delivered to the White House yesterday. Rather than being an unbiased analysis of the status of oil and natural gas leases in the United States, the report sadly perpetuates the misguided charge that the oil and gas industry is not developing its existing leases.

For the record, ExxonMobil is actively producing or working 93 percent of its federal leases. Of the remaining 7 percent that are currently inactive, the majority of those leases expires this year and will be returned to the U.S. government.

Back to the report. It claims that “more than two-thirds of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico and more than half of onshore leases on federal lands remain “idle.”

A sensational charge – until you read the fine print. To support the claim that the leases are “idle,” the DOI defies common sense to define “inactive leases” as follows:

“Inactive leases,” or leased areas that are not producing nor currently covered by an approved exploration or development plan. These areas may be subject to certain ancillary activities such as geophysical and geotechnical analysis, including seismic and other types of surveys.

Did they just call a seismic survey – one of the most fundamental activities of finding oil and natural gas – ancillary? Meaning it’s not essential, secondary in nature, or extra activity?

Yes, they did. And that proves my point. You don’t have to be an industry expert to know that seismic surveys – along with a whole host of other activities – are among the most essential activities in oil and gas exploration, and anything but a sign of “inactivity.”

It is hard to escape the conclusion that this study, along with the “use it or lose it” legislation, is a thinly veiled political ploy – not only for the discrepancy that I just pointed out, but also because there’s already a “use it or lose it” law on the books. Politicians who don’t want to open up access to U.S. energy resources also don’t want to be blamed for high gas prices – so trying to convince Americans that oil companies are sitting on precious oil resources is their strategy. We’ve seen this before, and we’re seeing it again now.

If you read my post on this topic on March 17, then you know this is not a rational argument. Oil companies have a financial responsibility to make investments that produce a return for shareholders. Spending millions of dollars to obtain a lease, and many millions more to study it – and then not producing it if it contains economic amounts of oil and gas supplies – would be a waste of shareholder money.

But even if we set aside the fact that “use it or lose it” is redundant and doesn’t make economic sense – we can’t ignore the fact that this report misrepresents what is considered “activity” in oil and gas exploration.

The timeline from acquiring a lease to actually producing oil or gas takes years. Just because you have a lease doesn’t mean it has oil or gas on it. And even if it does have oil and gas on it, it doesn’t mean production can start right away. Companies spend millions of dollars finding out if the resource is there, and many hundreds of millions more – and several more years – to build the infrastructure to produce it and get it to consumers IF it exists.

So what exactly do we do? Here’s just a short list of all the activities that take place on a lease before it’s producing – and many of these would be considered “inactive” by the DOI’s definition:

•Mapping and surveys
•Surface and subsurface geological/geophysical examinations
•Investigations and studies (including acquisition, reprocessing, and interpretation from seismic, gravity, or magnetic surveys)
•Obtaining and analyzing well data via trading, purchasing and/or drilling of well (including wildcat and appraisal wells)
•Land activities such as negotiating farmouts, joint ventures, acreage trades
•Regulatory activities such as permitting, evaluation of archaeological and biological suitability for well locations
And we do much more. But the fact is that you can’t change geology – sometimes the oil just isn’t there. The DOI claimed in the study that since March 2009, it has offered 90 million acres of offshore oil and gas leases, but that only 5 million were actually leased. That statistic says nothing about the “activity” levels of oil and gas companies – it only says that the government is not leasing land that’s worth exploring.

In fact, the U.S. government has continually prohibited access to the majority of America’s offshore acreage, as well as significant onshore acreage as well. That’s a decision that has implications for the U.S. economy and energy security. One recent study found that opening up federal lands that Congress has kept off-limits for decades could generate $1.7 trillion in government revenue over the life of the resource, create 160,000 jobs by 2030, and increase U.S. oil output by as much as 2 million barrels a day in 2030. Yet for the most part, access to U.S. resources is often denied.

Read more in my previous blog post on this subject, “Let’s lose the ‘use it or lose it’ rhetoric.” Or, take a look at the typical timeline for onshore and offshore leases, as provided in these fact sheets from the American Petroleum Institute.

President Obama's Plan for Securing America's Energy Future

Remarks of President Barack Obama—As Prepared for Delivery

A Secure Energy Future

Georgetown University

March 30, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery—

We meet here at a tumultuous time for the world. In a matter of months, we’ve seen regimes toppled and democracy take root across North Africa and the Middle East. We’ve witnessed a terrible earthquake, catastrophic tsunami and nuclear emergency batter a strong ally and the world’s third largest economy. And we’ve led an international effort in Libya to prevent a massacre and maintain stability throughout the broader region.

As Americans, we are heartbroken by the lives that have been lost as a result of these events. We are moved by the thirst for freedom in many nations, as well as the strength and perseverance of the Japanese people. And of course, it’s natural to feel anxious about what all this means for us.

One area of particular concern has been the cost and security of our energy. In an economy that relies on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody – workers and farmers; truck drivers and restaurant owners. Businesses see it hurt their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank. For Americans already struggling to get by, it makes life that much harder.

But here’s the thing – we’ve been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. Working folks haven’t forgotten that. It hit a lot of people pretty hard. But it was also the height of political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas – when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem. Imagine that in Washington.

The truth is, of course, was that all these gimmicks didn’t make a bit of difference. When gas prices finally fell, it was mostly because the global recession led to less demand for oil. Now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up. Add the turmoil in the Middle East, and it’s not surprising oil prices are higher. And every time the price of a barrel of oil on the world market rises by $10, a gallon of gas goes up by about 25 cents.

The point is, the ups and downs in gas prices are usually temporary. When you look at the long-term trends, though, there will be more ups than downs. That’s because countries like India and China are growing at a rapid clip. And as two billion more people start consuming more goods, and driving more cars, and using more energy, it’s certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply.

So here’s the bottom line – there are no quick fixes. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy.

We’ve known about the dangers of our oil dependence for decades. Presidents and politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet. I’ve pledged to reduce America’s dependence on oil too, and I’m proud of the historic progress we’ve made over the last two years towards that goal. But we’ve also run into the same political gridlock and inertia that’s held us back for decades.

That has to change.

We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again. The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out. Not anymore. Not when the cost to our economy, our country, and our planet is so high. Not when your generation needs us to get this right.

It is time to do what we can to secure our energy future.

So today, I’m setting a new goal: one that is reasonable, achievable, and necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third.

I set this goal knowing that imported oil will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time. And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, we can partner with neighbors like Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, which recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and with whom we can share American technology and know-how.

But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard. And we boast one critical, renewable resource the rest of the world cannot match: American ingenuity.

To make ourselves more secure – to control our energy future – we will need to harness that ingenuity. It is a task that won’t be finished by the end of my presidency, or even the next. But if we continue the work that we have already begun over the last two years, we won’t just spark new jobs, industries and innovations; we will leave your generation and future generations a country that is safer, healthier, and more prosperous.

Today, my Administration is releasing a Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future that outlines the comprehensive national energy policy we’ve pursued since the day I took office. And here at Georgetown, I’d like to talk in broad strokes about how we will secure that future.

Meeting this new goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: finding and producing more oil at home, and reducing our dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

This begins by continuing to increase America’s oil supply. Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003. And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half the liquid fuel we consumed.

To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my Administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production – as long as it’s safe and responsible. I don’t think anyone’s forgotten that we’re not even a year removed from the largest oil spill in our history. I know the people of the Gulf Coast haven’t. What we learned from that disaster helped us put in place smarter standards of safety and responsibility – for example, if you’re going to drill in deepwater, you’ve got to prove that you can actually contain an underwater spill. That’s just common sense.

Today, we’re working to expedite new drilling permits for companies that meet these standards. Since they were put in place, we’ve approved 39 new shallow water permits; and we’ve approved an additional 7 deepwater permits in recent weeks. When it comes to drilling onshore, my Administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill. So any claim that my Administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve “shut down” oil production might make for a useful political sound bite – but it doesn’t track with reality.

In fact, we are pushing the oil industry to take advantage of the opportunities they already have. Right now, the industry holds tens of millions of acres of leases where it’s not producing a drop – sitting on supplies of American energy just waiting to be tapped. That’s why part of our plan is to provide new and better incentives that promote rapid, responsible development of these resources. We’re also exploring and assessing new frontiers for oil and gas development from Alaska to the Mid- and South Atlantic. Because producing more oil in America can help lower oil prices, create jobs, and enhance our energy security.

But let’s be honest – it’s not the long-term solution to our energy challenge. America holds only about two percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. And even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every one of those reserves, it still wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term needs.

All of this means one thing: the only way for America’s energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil. We have to find ways to boost our efficiency so that we use less oil. We have to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy with less of the carbon pollution that threatens our climate. And we have to do it quickly.

In terms of new sources of energy, we have a few different options. The first is natural gas. As I mentioned earlier, recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves – perhaps a century’s worth – in the shale under our feet. Now, we have to make sure we’re doing it safely, without polluting our water supply. And that’s why I’m asking my Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, to work with other agencies, the natural gas industry, states, and environmental experts to improve the safety of this process. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he’s got a Nobel Prize for physics, after all. He likes to tinker on this stuff in his garage on the weekend.

But the potential here is enormous. It’s actually an area of broad bipartisan agreement. Last year, more than 150 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle proposed legislation providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil. They were even joined by T. Boone Pickens, a businessman who made his fortune on oil. So I ask them to keep at it and pass a bill that helps us achieve this goal.

Another substitute for oil that holds tremendous promise is renewable biofuels – not just ethanol, but biofuels made from things like switchgrass, wood chips, and biomass.

If anyone doubts the potential of these fuels, consider Brazil. Already, more than half – half – of Brazil’s vehicles can run on biofuels. And just last week, our Air Force used an advanced biofuel blend to fly an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound. In fact, the Air Force is aiming to get half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016. And I’m directing the Navy and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to create advanced biofuels that can power not just fighter jets, but trucks and commercial airliners.

So there’s no reason we shouldn’t be using these renewable fuels throughout America. That’s why we’re investing in things like fueling stations and research into the next generation of biofuels. Over the next two years, we’ll help entrepreneurs break ground on four next-generation biorefineries – each with a capacity of more than 20 million gallons per year. And going forward, we should look for ways to reform biofuels incentives to make sure they meet today’s challenges and save taxpayers money.

As we replace oil with fuels like natural gas and biofuels, we can also reduce our dependence by making cars and trucks that use less oil in the first place. After all, 70 percent of our petroleum consumption goes to transportation. And so does the second biggest chunk of most families’ budgets. That’s why one of the best ways to make our economy less dependent on oil and save folks more money is simply to make our transportation more efficient.

Last year, we established a groundbreaking national fuel efficiency standard for cars and trucks. Our cars will get better gas mileage, saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program. Our consumers will save money from fewer trips to the pump – $3,000 on average over time. And our automakers will build more innovative products. Right now, there are even cars rolling off assembly lines in Detroit with combustion engines that can get more than 50 miles per gallon.

Going forward, we’ll continue working with automakers, autoworkers and states to ensure that the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars and trucks of tomorrow are built right here in America. This summer, we’ll propose the first-ever fuel efficiency standard for heavy-duty trucks. And this fall, we’ll announce the next round of fuel standards for cars that builds on what we’ve done.

To achieve our oil goal, the federal government will lead by example. The fleet of cars and trucks we use in the federal government is one of the largest in the country. That’s why we’ve already doubled the number of alternative vehicles in the federal fleet, and that’s why, today, I am directing agencies to purchase 100% alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015. And going forward, we’ll partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets.

We’ve also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering Americans – urban, suburban, and rural – the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas.

Still, there are few breakthroughs as promising for increasing fuel efficiency and reducing our dependence on oil as electric vehicles. Soon after I took office, I set a goal to have one million electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. We’ve created incentives for American companies to develop these vehicles, and for Americans who want to buy them. New manufacturing plants are opening over the next few years. And a modest, $2 billion investment in competitive grants for companies to develop the next generation of batteries for these cars has jumpstarted a big new American industry. Soon, America will be home to 40 percent of global manufacturing capacity for these batteries. And that means jobs. But to make sure we stay on the road to this goal, we need to do more – by offering more powerful incentives to consumers, and by rewarding the communities that pave the way for adoption of these vehicles.

Now, the thing about electric cars is that, well, they run on electricity. And even if we reduce our oil dependency, a smart, comprehensive energy policy requires that we change the way we generate electricity in America – so that it’s cleaner, safer, and healthier. And by the way – we also know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new businesses – jobs that we want right here in America.

Part of this change comes from wasting less energy. Today, our homes and businesses consume 40 percent of the energy we use, costing us billions in energy bills. Manufacturers that require large amounts of energy to make their products are challenged by rising energy costs. That’s why we’ve proposed new programs to help Americans upgrade their homes and businesses and plants with new, energy-efficient building materials like lighting, windows, heating and cooling – investments that will save consumers and business owners tens of billions of dollars a year, free up money for investment and hiring, and create jobs for workers and contractors.

And just like the fuels we use, we also have to find cleaner, renewable sources of electricity. Today, about two-fifths of our electricity comes from clean energy sources. But I know that we can do better than that. In fact, I think that with the right incentives in place, we can double it. That’s why, in my State of the Union Address, I called for a new Clean Energy Standard for America: by 2035, 80 percent of our electricity will come from an array of clean energy sources, from renewables like wind and solar to efficient natural gas to clean coal and nuclear power.

Now, in light of ongoing events in Japan, I want to say another word about nuclear power. America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy. It has important potential for increasing our electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe. That’s why I’ve requested a comprehensive safety review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make sure that all of our existing nuclear energy facilities are safe. We’ll incorporate those conclusions and lessons from Japan in designing and building the next generation of plants. And my Administration is leading global discussions towards a new international framework in which all countries operate their nuclear plants without spreading dangerous nuclear materials and technology.

A Clean Energy Standard will broaden the scope of clean energy investment by giving cutting-edge companies the certainty they need to invest in America. In the 1980s, America was home to more than 80 percent of the world’s wind capacity, and 90 percent of its solar capacity. We owned the clean energy economy. But today, China has the most wind capacity. Germany has the most solar. Both invest more than we do in clean energy. Other countries are exporting technology we pioneered and chasing the jobs that come with it because they know that the countries that lead the 21st century clean energy economy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy.

I want America to be that nation. I want America to win the future.

A Clean Energy Standard will help drive private investment. But government funding will be critical too. Over the past two years, the historic investments we’ve made in clean and renewable energy research and technology have helped private sector companies grow and hire hundreds of thousands of new workers. I’ve visited gleaming new solar arrays among the largest in the world, tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line, and toured once-shuttered factories where they’re building advanced wind blades as long as a 747 and the towers to support them. I’ve seen the scientists searching for that next big energy breakthrough. And none of this would have happened without government support.

Now, in light of our tight fiscal situation, it’s fair to ask how we’ll pay for all of it. As we debate our national priorities and our budget in Congress, we have to make tough choices. We’ll have to cut what we don’t need to invest in what we do need. Unfortunately, some want to cut these critical investments in clean energy. They want to cut our research and development into new technologies. They’re even shortchanging the resources necessary to promptly issue new permits for offshore drilling. These cuts would eliminate thousands of private sector jobs, terminate scientists and engineers, and end fellowships for researchers, graduate students and other talent we desperately need for the 21st century.

See, we are already paying a price for our inaction. Every time we fill up at the pump; every time we lose a job or a business to countries that invest more than we do in clean energy; when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet you’ll inherit – we are already paying that price. These are the costs we’re already bearing. And if we do nothing, that price will only go up.

At a moment like this, sacrificing these investments would weaken our energy security and make us more dependent on oil, not less. That’s not a game plan to win the future. That’s a vision to keep us mired in the past. And I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America.

I want to close by speaking directly to the people who will be writing America’s next great chapter – the students gathered here today.

The issue of energy independence is one that America has been talking about since before your parents were your age. On top of that, you go to school in a town that, for a long time, has suffered from a chronic unwillingness to come together and make tough choices. Because of all this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe there isn’t much we can do to rise to our challenges.

But everything I have seen and experienced with your generation convinces me otherwise. I believe it is precisely because you have come of age in a time of rapid and sometimes unsettling change – born into a world with fewer walls, educated in an era of information, tempered by war and economic turmoil – that you believe, as deeply as any of our generations, that America can change for the better.

We need that. We need you to dream big. We need you to summon that same spirit of unbridled optimism, that bold willingness to tackle tough challenges and see those challenges through that led previous generations to rise to greatness – to save democracy, to touch the moon, to connect the world with our own science and imagination.

That is what America is capable of. And it is that very history that teaches us that all of our challenges – all of them – are within our power to solve.

I don’t want to leave this challenge for future presidents. I don’t want to leave it for my children. And I do not want to leave it for yours. Solving it will take time and effort. It will require our brightest scientists, our most creative companies, and, most importantly, all of us – Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between – to do our part. But with confidence – in America, in ourselves, and in one another – I know it is a challenge we will solve.

Thank you. God Bless You, and God Bless the United States of America.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rep Tim Johnson (R) Votes Against Another Short-term Funding Measure, in Lieu of Real Budget Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Timothy V. Johnson today voted in opposition to a continuing resolution to again temporarily fund the operations of the federal government. Fifty-four Republicans joined in opposition to the three-week budget, which passed 271-158.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to go along with this charade, limping along week-to-week with stop-gap spending measures because the Congress lacks the will to make the difficult decisions to restore fiscal integrity,” Rep. Johnson said. “We have been forced into these short-term measures because Democrats failed to agree among themselves on how to craft a long-term spending plan when they had the chance.

“To date in this session of Congress, we have made only halting inroads in slowing the spending train, such as shutting down the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout, which I enthusiastically agreed to defund. But that is a drop in the ocean of a $1.5 trillion deficit.

“Nowhere in this continuing resolution is there an attempt to retrieve the $105 billion appropriated for Obamacare slush funds – basically erecting more federal bureaucracies the people don’t want. Nowhere in this continuing resolution is there serious effort to restructure funding of the wars or of our over-inflated entitlement programs.

“In February alone, according to the Treasury Department, the federal government’s revenues were $110 billion while its outlays were $333 billion. That’s no reason to celebrate a paltry $6 billion in cuts in this continuing resolution.

“We can do better. The longer we put off making hard decisions about the way we spend taxpayer dollars, the more distrust and uncertainty we breed among the people we were elected to represent. Continuing resolutions are a cop-out and I will not be part of it.”

Lt Gov Simon Supports Tying Higher Education Funding to Gradution Results

March 15, 2011

Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today testified before the Senate Higher Education Committee in support of SB 1773, which would create a performance funding system for community colleges and state universities. As the Governor’s point person on education reform, Simon is working to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college certificates and degrees to 60 percent from 41 percent by 2025. She said that tying state resources to increased completion rates provides an incentive for schools to focus not just on boosting enrollment but on improving student success.

Simon said: “Higher education is what makes the American Dream possible. It allows people from all backgrounds to develop their abilities and build their lives. Now is the time for Illinois to develop a stronger higher education system, one that prepares our citizens for the highly skilled jobs of the future. SB1773 addresses the common sense idea that while we want to continue to promote college accessibility, we also want to promote completing the course, earning the certificate and achieving an advanced degree. Performance funding provides an incentive for schools to get the job done.”

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Text of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Address to a Joint Meeting of Congress, March 9, 2011

Mr Speaker. Mr President Pro Tempore. Distinguished Members of the Senate and the House. Distinguished Guests. Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am the fourth Australian Prime Minister to address you here assembled. Like them, I take your invitation as a great honour. Like them, I accept it on behalf of Australia.

Since 1950, Australian prime ministers Robert Menzies, Bob Hawke and John Howard have come here.

Speaking for all the Australian people through you to all the people of the United States they each came with a simple message. A message which has been true in war and peace, in hardship and prosperity, in the Cold War and in the new world. A message I repeat today.

Distinguished members of the Senate and the House ...

You have a true friend Down Under.

For my parents' generation, the defining image of America was the landing at Normandy. Your "boys of Point-du-Hoc" ... risking everything to help free the world.

For my own generation, the defining image of America was the landing on the moon. My classmates and I were sent home from school to watch the great moment on television. I'll always remember thinking that day: Americans can do anything.

Americans helped free the world of my parents' generation. Americans inspired the world of my own youth. I stand here and I see the same brave and free people today. I believe you can do anything still.

There is a reason the world always looks to America.

Your great dream – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – inspires us all. Those of you who have spent time with Australians know that we are not given to overstatement. By nature we are laconic speakers and by conviction we are realistic thinkers.

In both our countries, real mates talk straight.

We mean what we say. You have an ally in Australia. An ally for war and peace. An ally for hardship and prosperity. An ally for the 60 years past and Australia is an ally for all the years to come. Geography and history alone could never explain the strength of the commitment between us.

Rather, our values are shared and our people are friends. This is the heart of our alliance.

This is why in our darkest days we have been glad to see each other's face and hear each other's voice. Australia's darkest days in the last century followed the fall of Singapore in 1942. And you were with us.

Under attack in the Pacific, we fought together. Side by side, step by bloody step. And while it was Australian soldiers at Milne Bay who gave the Allies our first victory on land in the Pacific War, it was American sailors at the Battle of the Coral Sea who destroyed the fear of an invasion of Australia.

Distinguished members of the Senate and the House, Australia does not forget.

The ultimate expression of our alliance, the ANZUS Treaty, was not signed until 1951. But it was anticipated a decade earlier. In the judgments – the clear, frank and accurate judgments – of an Australian prime minister. And in the resolve – the extraordinary, immovable resolve – of an American president.

In the decades since, we have stuck together. In every major conflict. From Korea and Vietnam to the conflicts in the Gulf.

Your darkest days since Pearl Harbour were 10 years ago in Washington and New York. And we were with you.

My predecessor John Howard was quite literally with you and he came to this Capitol when you met on September 12 to show you that Australians would be with you again.

And after 50 years, under a new prime minister and a new president, the ANZUS Treaty was invoked.

Within Australia's democracy, John Howard and I had our differences. But he was and is an Australian patriot and an American friend, a man who was moved by what he saw here in that terrible September.

When John Howard addressed you in 2002 we were already with you in Afghanistan. And we are there with you today.

I want you to know what I have told Australia's Parliament in Canberra - what I told General Petraeus in Kabul - what I told President Obama in the Oval Office this week. Australia will stand firm with our ally the United States.

Our friends understand this.

Our enemies understand this too.

We must be very realistic about Afghanistan's future. Australia firmly supports the international strategy led by President Obama and adopted at Lisbon last year. Australia is doing our part – in Uruzgan province in particular and across the country as a whole.

The government of Afghanistan must do its part too. We know transition will take some years yet. We must not transition out only to transition back in.

From my discussions with your country's leaders in Washington, my meetings with our generals in Afghanistan and my time with our troops, this is my conclusion:

I believe we have the right strategy in place, a resolute and courageous commander in General Petraeus, and the resources needed to deliver the strategy. I am cautiously encouraged by what I have seen.

Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith is Australia's most recent Victoria Cross winner – our equivalent of your Medal of Honour. Ben is a veteran of five tours of Afghanistan and first went there in 2006. When we met recently, his words to me were compelling:

"There are hard days ahead."

I flew to your country the day after attending the funeral of a young Australian who served in Afghanistan. Sapper Jamie Larcombe was from my home state of South Australia, from a small community with the most perfectly Australian name, Kangaroo Island.

Jamie's life's ambition was to serve his country. He was a long way from Kangaroo Island when he made the ultimate sacrifice. We will remember.

I know very many young Americans have served their country and lost their lives in Afghanistan too. As a friend we share your grief. As an ally we share your resolve.

Afghanistan must never again be a safe haven for terrorism.

Just as our security alliance is one for war and peace, our economic partnership is one for hardship and prosperity. In hard days, we work together. Our societies share a deep understanding of the human importance of work.

We believe life is given direction and purpose by work. Without work there is corrosive aimlessness. With the loss of work comes the loss of dignity. This is why, in each of our countries, the great goal of all we do in the economy is the same to ensure that everyone who can work does work.

In turn, this is why each of our countries took early and strong action in the face of the greatest threat to the world's economy since the Great Depression. And we did not just act locally or individually. We worked together when hardship came.

New global realities and the emerging economic weight of countries like China, India and Brazil meant the vital forum for the global response was the leaders of the G20 nations.

My predecessor Kevin Rudd worked hard to ensure this was so. The world needed a global response to the economic crisis and global leadership was vital. Together, the G20 co-ordinated $5 trillion in fiscal stimulus for the global economy. While there has been very real pain, that global response averted true economic disaster.

Economic stimulus has been crucial – to limit the worst effects of the downturn. Economic reform is crucial now – to deliver the best hopes for a strong recovery.

Like you, I am a leader in a democracy. I know reform is never easy. But I know reform is right.

The global economic outlook remains fragile and uncertain. Global economic imbalances persist and we must address them or risk future instability.

Your leadership in the G20 is still needed to ensure we make the reforms which will keep the global economy on the path to strong, sustained and balanced growth. And that is the path to growth in America as well.

We worked hard with you during the global economic crisis to resist protectionist pressures. This only built on our decades working together to promote free trade in the world.

I know many of you worked hard to achieve the Australia-US Free Trade agreement. Thank you. Our FTA experience shows the benefits of free trade.

And we aim for even larger benefits from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is a great economic opportunity for our two countries and seven of our regional partners.

And we have other opportunities to promote trade and jobs together as well. I am looking forward to your country hosting the APEC Leaders' meeting later this year. We will work closely together there.

Australia is also working for an ambitious and balanced conclusion of the WTO Doha Round as soon as possible. And we look forward to your Congress passing a 2012 Farm Bill that advances free trade rather than distorting it ... and that through free trade, creates jobs.

We know the equation is simple: trade equals jobs. Our societies share a deep understanding of the human importance of work. And our societies share a deep commitment to the value of education. We understand education's transformative power.

We know education is the future for every child who learns. We also know education is the future for our economies.

Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity ... and these in turn rely on the education of our people.

Australia and America are partners in a globalised world, where open societies flourish and competitive economies thrive. This is why I went to a school in Wakefield, Virginia with President Obama this week. The President and I not only saw children learning.

We saw the future of your people and the future of your prosperity as well. Australians are deeply grateful to your "Greatest Generation" for their mighty deeds. This week I have seen a new generation of Americans .

I genuinely believe they can be greater still.

Achieving prosperity while sharing its benefits requires far-sighted educational reforms. In the same way, achieving growth while caring for our climate requires far-sighted economic reforms.

Breaking the link between economic growth and emissions growth is a difficult challenge for our economies and we can only achieve it by working together.

Our co-operation in key international forums and in research and development is making an important contribution. We must work together to achieve an historic transition to high technology, high skill, clean energy economies.

Shared values are the basis of our security alliance and shared values are the basis of our economic partnership as well. Through hard work and education, we can deliver a strong economy and opportunity for all.

Americans are great optimists and Australians will always "have a go".

So, conceived in the Pacific War and born in the Cold War, adapted to the space age and invoked in the face of terror, our indispensable alliance is a friendship for the future. It is this year's sixtieth anniversary of the signing of our Treaty that occasions your invitation to me today.

For that I am grateful. As I said to President Obama, it is an alliance sixty years young with so much future to share. And this is a timely opportunity, not so much for reflection on our past, as for discussion of our future.

The bipolar world in which our Alliance was signed has long disappeared. I am not sad about its passing.

Hundreds of millions of people have a better life today, democracy and human dignity have spread wide in the world in the last twenty years. We have seen this from Eastern Europe to East Asia in recent years and we are seeing the hope of it in the Middle East now.

We understand that nothing is certain. There is still much for the people of the Middle East to do and the governments of the world will be called on to help them do it.

Yet I believe what we are seeing is unchanging realities of human nature finding a new expression and in a new way. For Australia's part, we will do what we can – and work with you – to support orderly transitions to democracy. To foster human rights and religious freedom within the countries of the Middle East. And to secure a lasting peace between them.

A peace where no nation threatens another, which is why we join you in condemning Iran's nuclear program. A peace where Israel is secure, and where Palestinians have a state of their own, which is why we join you in calling on all parties to negotiate in good faith.

Our Alliance was signed sixty years ago in the Cold War and it lives in a new world today. And momentous as the changes in the Middle East are, I believe it is in the Asia-Pacific where the global order is changing most.

We admire India's example as a true democracy. We never forget Indonesia's transition to create the world's third largest democracy in the world's largest Islamic country. And we applaud China's lifting some 500 million people out of poverty.

The centre of global strategic and economic weight is shifting to this region. The rise of the Asia-Pacific will define our times.

Like you, our relationship with China is important and complex. We encourage China to engage as a good global citizen and we are clear-eyed about where differences do lie.

My guiding principle is that prosperity can be shared. We can create wealth together. The global economy is not a zero-sum game.

There is no reason for Chinese prosperity to detract from prosperity in Australia, the United States or anywhere in the world. America has always understood this principle of the economy - that everyone can benefit when everyone competes.

And for sixty years your leadership in the Asia-Pacific has showed this. Your commitment to free trade and investment fuelled the growth. Your presence and network of alliances ensured the stability.

You were indispensable in the Cold War and you are indispensable in the new world too. So your growing engagement with key countries in the region – like Japan, India, South Korea and Indonesia – is enormously welcome.

We will work closely with you to strengthen the fabric of these relationships and underpin regional stability. Strengthening regional institutions so that the countries of the Asia-Pacific increasingly manage the frictions of a growing and changing Asia-Pacific.

This is why your nation's decision to join the East Asia Summit is such good news. The Summit brings the leaders of the region's major powers together and has a mandate to deal with the whole range of economic, political and security issues our countries face.

Our relationship is evolving to meet these new challenges: from defence and intelligence to diplomacy and trade. Australia in the south, with South Korea and Japan to the north, form real Asia-Pacific partnerships with the United States. Anchors of regional stability.

An alliance which was strong in the Cold War ... an alliance which is strong in the new world. In both our countries, true friends stick together. Our nations do this, and our people do this as well.

Nothing better tells this truth than the story of two fire fighters. Many Australians and Americans worked together in the late 1990s to be ready to protect the 2000 Sydney Olympics from possible terrorist attack.

One group of Australians spent two months in New York training and working, including a long time with New York's Fire Department Rescue 1. They worked hard together and became more than colleagues - they became mates.

So when it was time to go home the Australian commander gave Rescue 1's chief his Australian Army "slouch hat" .and the chief presented the Australians with a battle scarred fire helmet.

Dated December 1998 and signed by members of the Rescue 1 crew, including Kevin Dowdell. Three years later, Kevin Dowdell was one of the hundreds of New York firefighters killed when the towers came down.
Kevin led his men in. His remains were never found. But that helmet was found ... in Australia. And Aussie firefighter Rob Frey found Kevin's sons.

James Dowdell is one of New York's bravest, a firefighter like his father before him. Patrick Dowdell is wearing his country's uniform in Afghanistan.

Rob came to America to give James the helmet his father signed. A precious possession. A last link to a father lost.

And I give you their story. A precious possession too.

These two men are here today.Rob, James - good on you.

We are so proud of what you represent, your story says it all about the friendship between Australia and the United States. Together in the hardest of times. Friends for the future.

When our alliance was signed sixty years ago, the challenges of the space age were still to come. The challenges of terrorism were still to come.

For sixty years, leaders from Australia and the United States have looked inside themselves and found the courage to face those challenges. And after sixty years, we do the same today.

To protect our peoples. To share our prosperity. To safeguard our future.

For ours is a friendship for the future. It has been from its founding and remains so today.

You have a friend in Australia. And you have an ally. And we know what that means.

In both our countries, true friends stick together ... in both our countries, real mates talk straight.

So as a friend I urge you only this: be worthy to your own best traditions. Be bold.

In 1942, John Curtin – my predecessor, my country's great wartime leader – looked to America. I still do.

This year you have marked the centenary of President Reagan's birth. He remains a great symbol of American optimism. The only greater symbol of American optimism is America itself.

The eyes of the world are still upon you. Your city on a hill cannot be hidden. Your brave and free people have made you the masters of recovery and reinvention.

As I stand in this cradle of democracy I see a nation that has changed the world and known remarkable days. I firmly believe you are the same people who amazed me when I was a small girl by landing on the moon. On that great day I believed Americans could do anything.

I believe that still.

You can do anything today.

President Obama's Editorial on Reforming Gun Laws Published in Arizona Daily Star

Arizona Daily Star

March 13, 2011

By Barack Obama

It's been more than two months since the tragedy in Tucson stunned the nation. It was a moment when we came together as one people to mourn and to pray for those we lost. And in the attack's turbulent wake, Americans by and large rightly refrained from finger-pointing, assigning blame or playing politics with other people's pain.

But one clear and terrible fact remains. A man our Army rejected as unfit for service; a man one of our colleges deemed too unstable for studies; a man apparently bent on violence, was able to walk into a store and buy a gun.

He used it to murder six people and wound 13 others. And if not for the heroism of bystanders and a brilliant surgical team, it would have been far worse.

But since that day, we have lost perhaps another 2,000 members of our American family to gun violence. Thousands more have been wounded. We lose the same number of young people to guns every day and a half as we did at Columbine, and every four days as we did at Virginia Tech.

Every single day, America is robbed of more futures. It has awful consequences for our society. And as a society, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to put a stop to it.

Now, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. And the courts have settled that as the law of the land. In this country, we have a strong tradition of gun ownership that's handed from generation to generation. Hunting and shooting are part of our national heritage. And, in fact, my administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners - it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.

The fact is, almost all gun owners in America are highly responsible. They're our friends and neighbors. They buy their guns legally and use them safely, whether for hunting or target shooting, collection or protection. And that's something that gun-safety advocates need to accept. Likewise, advocates for gun owners should accept the awful reality that gun violence affects Americans everywhere, whether on the streets of Chicago or at a supermarket in Tucson.

I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country.

However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.

I'm willing to bet that responsible, law-abiding gun owners agree that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few - dangerous criminals and fugitives, for example - from getting their hands on a gun in the first place.

I'm willing to bet they don't think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas - that we should check someone's criminal record before he can check out at a gun seller; that an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to buy a gun so easily; that there's room for us to have reasonable laws that uphold liberty, ensure citizen safety and are fully compatible with a robust Second Amendment.

That's why our focus right now should be on sound and effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place.

• First, we should begin by enforcing laws that are already on the books. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is the filter that's supposed to stop the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. Bipartisan legislation four years ago was supposed to strengthen this system, but it hasn't been properly implemented. It relies on data supplied by states - but that data is often incomplete and inadequate. We must do better.

• Second, we should in fact reward the states that provide the best data - and therefore do the most to protect our citizens.

• Third, we should make the system faster and nimbler. We should provide an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing, and make sure that criminals can't escape it.

Porous background checks are bad for police officers, for law-abiding citizens and for the sellers themselves. If we're serious about keeping guns away from someone who's made up his mind to kill, then we can't allow a situation where a responsible seller denies him a weapon at one store, but he effortlessly buys the same gun someplace else.

Clearly, there's more we can do to prevent gun violence. But I want this to at least be the beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people.

I know some aren't interested in participating. Some will say that anything short of the most sweeping anti-gun legislation is a capitulation to the gun lobby. Others will predictably cast any discussion as the opening salvo in a wild-eyed scheme to take away everybody's guns. And such hyperbole will become the fodder for overheated fundraising letters.

But I have more faith in the American people than that. Most gun-control advocates know that most gun owners are responsible citizens. Most gun owners know that the word "commonsense" isn't a code word for "confiscation." And none of us should be willing to remain passive in the face of violence or resigned to watching helplessly as another rampage unfolds on television.

As long as those whose lives are shattered by gun violence don't get to look away and move on, neither can we.

We owe the victims of the tragedy in Tucson and the countless unheralded tragedies each year nothing less than our best efforts - to seek consensus, to prevent future bloodshed, to forge a nation worthy of our children's futures.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Article: Amazon to Sever Ties with Illinois Affiliates Due to New Tax Collection Law

Article by TNW

Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed into a law a bill that imposes state sales tax on goods sold online which prompted prompted to sever ties with its Illinois affiliates.

With hopes of leveling the playing field between online and brick and mortar stores, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law Thursday that will require Amazon and other internet retailers to start paying the state’s mandatory 6.25 percent sales tax. This urged Amazon to quickly notify its Illinois-based affiliates that they will no longer be paid for successful referrals beginning April 15.

Lawrence Suffredin, an Amazon lobbyist, said Illinois has more than 9,000 market affiliates. Many of them potentially could move out of state if major online retailers decide to cut business ties.

“We had opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive,” Amazon said to Bloomberg. “It was supported by national retailing chains, most of which are based outside Illinois, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors.”

Amazon has shown its unwillingness to budge when it comes to state income taxes. In a report from Forbes, the company has already said it will terminate its Illinois affiliates, just as it has said it will drop 10,000 California based “associates” if similar legislation pending in that state becomes law.

US Chamber Says Stalled Energy Projects Cost Illinois $41.9 Billion, 67,000 Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As part of its Project No Project initiative, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a first-of-its-kind economic study today identifying 15 stalled energy projects in Illinois that in aggregate are costing the state’s economy $40.9 billion in GDP and 67,600 jobs a year that could be created during the construction phase of these projects alone.

“This study should serve as a wake-up call for legislative action to improve the permitting process,” said William Kovacs, U.S. Chamber senior vice president of Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs during today’s unveiling of Project Denied: The Potential Economic Impact of Permitting Challenges Facing Proposed Energy Projects. The study by TeleNomic Research was conducted by Steve Pociask, President of the American Consumer Institute, and Joseph Fuhr, Professor of Economics at Widener University and Senior Fellow at the American Consumer Institute. “These are projects that would create jobs in Illinois and give a much-needed boost to the state’s economy, but with every day that passes, the more expensive the projects become. In most cases, if the projects are substantially delayed they won’t be built.”

The study estimates the potential loss of investment and jobs in the 351 proposed renewable, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and transmission projects in 49 states—including 15 in Illinois—that have been delayed or cancelled due to “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) activism, a broken permitting process, and a system that allows for limitless lawsuits by opponents. The study features a state-by-state analysis that details the economic output and jobs that could be created by acting on these stagnant projects. The study’s findings are detailed on the user-friendly site, which features an in-depth breakdown of every stalled project.

Among the Illinois projects highlighted in the study is the Navitas Energy Baileyville Wind Farm, an 80-turbine wind farm in Ogle County, first proposed in late 2004. Patricia Muscarello, an Arizona woman who took Ogle County and Navitas Energy to court over the proposed wind farm in January 2006, filed an identical lawsuit in January 2010 in Winnebago County. Ms. Muscarello owns property in both Ogle and Winnebago Counties that she claims would be adversely affected by turbines. She also opposed the mechanisms that allowed the wind farms to be built. As of November 7, 2010, the project remains stalled, and a settlement seems unlikely.

“In going through the study, the results were simply startling,” said Peter Morici, former chief economist at the International Trade Commission, and the study’s peer reviewer. “We anticipated the impact all the projects collectively would have on jobs and the economy. But the real surprise was how positively Illinois could be affected if it moved forward on just one or two projects. To my knowledge, there is no database like this anywhere in the world.”

Among the notable findings of the study is the fact that almost half of the projects identified in the study are renewable energy projects. Other highlights include:

Investment Phase – Planning and construction of the study’s projects would generate $577 billion in direct investment and would result in an approximately $1.1 trillion increase in U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). An estimated 1.9 million jobs would be required during each year of construction.

Operations Phase – Operation of the study’s projects would generate $99 billion in direct annual output and would yield $145 billion in increased GDP annually. An estimated average of 791,200 jobs would be created per year of operation.

Total Benefits – If constructed and operated for twenty years, the study estimates a total benefit of $3.4 trillion in GDP, including $1.4 trillion in employment earnings and an additional one million jobs per year.
The Chamber recognizes that moving forward on all the projects is highly unlikely. To address that, the study includes a sensitivity analysis, which examines the jobs and economic data if only some projects were approved.

“The numbers tell the story,” said Kovacs. “Moving forward on a significant number of these projects could mean millions of jobs and do wonders for our economy. With our study, Congress can now point to tangible data on the regulatory barriers to economic growth. Now is the time to act to remove unreasonable obstacles and restore balance to a broken process. It’s essential to American jobs and competitiveness.”

The full study is available here:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

NY Times Editorial Says Quinn Was Right to Abolish the Death Penalty

Gov. Patrick Quinn of Illinois has done the right thing in signing legislation that abolishes the death penalty in his state. Since 1977, Illinois’s criminal justice system has wrongly condemned at least 20 people to death. Governor Quinn courageously put aside his own longtime support for the death penalty to ensure that the state does not commit any more such horrors.

Illinois joins 15 other states, the District of Columbia and most modern nations in rejecting the barbarism and capriciousness of the death penalty.

Governor Quinn not only declared that his state’s system for applying the death penalty was “inherently flawed.” After two months of consultation and debate with prosecutors, judges, crime victims, religious leaders and state citizens, he concluded that “it is impossible to devise a system that is consistent, that is free of discrimination on the basis of race, geography or economic circumstance, and that always gets it right.”

At the same time, the governor commuted the sentences of 15 men on death row to life imprisonment without parole, cleaning the slate after an 11-year moratorium on executions prompted by evidence of repeated law enforcement and judicial abuses in capital cases.

Former Gov. George Ryan first declared the moratorium in 2000, as the evidence of improper trials mounted. Mr. Ryan found the problem so endemic that he commuted 167 death-row felons to life terms in 2003 and urged widespread reform.

Governor Quinn rejected the favorite law-and-order argument, saying he “found no credible evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on the crime of murder.” Rather, he said he discovered “numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment.”

Eloquently making a case that other states should heed in the name of humanity, Governor Quinn pointed to the 20 exonerations forced on the state. These he pronounced a matter of “profound regret and shame we, as a society, must bear for these failures of justice.”

American Hunters -- Largest Army in the World?

We did not verify this information that was sent to us, but it makes an interesting point -- even if the numbers aren't exact -- or maybe they are.


In WWII, Japan's highest ranking naval officer was Isoruku Yamamoto. Although he was Japanese, and his loyalties were unquestionably with The Empire, he studied for many years in America, graduating from Harvard University. There is an oft-repeated (and sometimes disputed) quote attributed to him regarding the possibility of any nation taking a war to American soil:

"You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass."

Here is why he was correct: America's Hunters - The World's Largest Army.

The state of Wisconsin has gone an entire deer hunting season without someone getting killed. That's great, considering there were over 600,000 hunters that got permits this year. Allow me to restate that number.

Over the last two months, the eighth largest army in the world – more men under arms than Iran; more than France and Germany combined - deployed to the woods of a single American state to keep the deer population under control.

But that pales in comparison to the 750,000 who are in the woods of Pennsylvania this week. Michigan's 700,000 hunters have now returned home. Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia, and it is literally the case that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world.

And that is just FOUR states.

The total population of registered hunters in America today ranges from 23 million to 44 million individuals. (Based on annual data provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)

As long as the American Hunter retains his right to Bear Arms, America will forever be safe from foreign invasion of troops.

Hunting - it's not just a way to fill the freezer. It's a matter of national security.