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Post Presidential Debate of 3 October
Created by John Eipper on 10/05/12 3:03 AM

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Presidential Debate of 3 October (Randy Black, USA, 10/05/12 3:03 am)

John Eipper suggested to me off-Forum that since "my candidate" won the so-called debate on Oct. 3rd, it was my turn to gloat and perhaps to offer my analysis of the televised program.

More than 67 million viewed the program. 67% of those surveyed by CNN agreed that Obama came out the loser. I won't gloat yet.

John also suggested that I minimize my partisanship. Fair enough. I'll include only one comment from the Republicans.

The rest are the words of the leaders of the Democratic Party, some left-leaning media types including the New York Times, Democratic strategists, former Clinton aides, and one famous movie director who is legendary for his support for Obama.

There are two more debates and a lot of mud-slinging yet to be slung.

A former chair of the Democratic National Committee labeled Obama's performance as lethargic and lazy.

NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw stated, "If it had been Romney performing like the president last night, (the race) would be over."

Former Democratic cause super supporter Michael Moore said, "This is what happens when you pick John Kerry as your debate coach."

Moore went on to savage the moderator, Jim Lehrer, "[Clint] Eastwood's chair would do a better job moderating this debate."

The New York Times stated that "President Xanax just doesn't cut it."


CBS San Francisco says 66% of listeners surveyed believed that Romney won. Asians, Hispanics, retirees, younger voters were in agreement according to the CBS poll.

In yet another major gaffe, Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd yesterday in Iowa that "yes, we do want to raise taxes by a trillion dollars." As a result, according to the Des Moines Register, members of the media are no longer allowed access to Biden without an Obama campaign escort.



The national president of AARP told President Obama today to never mention them again and that AARP does not endorse any political candidates.

James Carville, a Democratic Party stalwart if there ever was one, said, "Romney came out like a chainsaw."

Former New Hampshire Senator John Sununu, a Republican, told MSNBC, "What people saw last night, I think, was a president that revealed his incompetence, how lazy and detached he is, how he has absolutely no idea how serious the economic problems of the country are, and how he has failed to even begin to address them."

Never one to admit a flaw in the message or the messenger, the creator the Internet, Al Gore, suggested the altitude in Denver might be to blame for President Obama's performance in Wednesday night's debate.

TV's Comedy Central will have a field day this week at Obama's (and Gore's) expense.

RB: Somehow I see "Rocky Mountain High" getting into the dialogue of this week's Saturday Night Live skits.


This morning, Senate Majority Leader and attack dog Harry Reid went do far as to falsify a Romney quote for the benefit of the Democrats in the Washington Times. Reid claimed that a Boston Globe story about Romney had the former governor claiming that he would not honor Obama's illegal alien deportation policy, aka The Dream Act.

The facts show that Romney stated clearly that he would honor that Obama policy.

By this afternoon, Reid's flacks were apologizing and claiming the lie by Reid was a typo in their press release.

Last week, Reid went so far as to claim that Romney had "sullied" the Mormon religion. The problem with the false claim is that Reid is Mormon.


Finally, CNN's coverage said that their CNN/ORC survey demonstrated that 67% of the viewers felt that Romney won the debate.

"Since the question was first asked in 1984, no presidential candidate has ever topped 60%," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

I won't gloat until we get past the dirty tricks that are surely to follow as the Obama forces come out in full force over the coming month.

JE comments: I was hoping for more analysis from Randy Black--not whether Romney won Wednesday night, but what this means for the final month of the campaign. And everyone knows that Senator Reid is a Mormon; I'd prefer to let the LDS faithful argue among themselves about who is sullying what.

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  • Thoughts on the Presidential Debate of 3 October (John Heelan, -UK 10/06/12 2:35 AM)
    Nigel Jones and Randy Black have commented on the recent first Presidential debate (both on 5 October). One wonders what real political value is provided by "dog and pony shows" like Presidential/VP debates and Prime Minister Question Time, other than giving politicians the opportunity to display themselves. It seems that ninety percent of the interchanges are rhetorical, giving little clue as to any likely ensuing policies. To me the "who won?" is irrelevant. Recent UK political history shows that once in power the "winner" rapidly forgets the rhetorical promises made with the excuse "Look what a mess they left me!"

    Only occasionally do long-lasting phrases emerge from the US debates, such as Lloyd Bentsen deflating Dan Quayle with "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" and Reagan's squashing Jimmy Carter with "There you go again!" Presumably the speech-writers employed by Romney and Obama are frantically scrabbling around to find such killer phrases to be ad-libbed in future debates. One lives in hope as they relieve the boredom.

    While we are discussing the likely winner--does Netanyahu's apparently postponing the preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities until next spring and instead trawling around the European governments seeking support to harden the sanctions against Iran indicate that he thinks that Obama is likely to survive?

    JE comments: This final question is worthy of further discussion. It is now clear from news reports that no Israeli attack on Iran will occur before 2013, when elections are scheduled for Israel. Is this a political gift for Obama?

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  • Presidential Debate of 3 October (David Krieger, USA 10/06/12 4:04 AM)
    In watching the Presidential debate of 3 October, I thought that Romney came across as more energetic in his style, but the substance of his remarks hardly matched his positions over the past year. The President was quieter, more contemplative in his style, but the substance of his remarks was at least honest and consistent with his past positions. I have the sense that most of the pundits and the public are more concerned with style than in substance or even honesty.

    JE comments: Great to hear from David Krieger! I agree with David that Romney made several points that diverge from his tone during the primaries, such as his professed love of (some) government regulation, his pledge to not cut rich people's taxes, and his repeated calls to help society's vulnerable. It was a decided move to the Center, which is expected once a candidate wins the nomination. It is there (the Center) where the deciding votes will be cast.

    Was there substance in Romney's remarks, or did he merely demonstrate his ability to "hablar bonito," as they say in Latin America?  David argues the latter, and reminds us that pretty talk is how you "win" a debate.

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    • Obama and "Pretty Talk" (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 10/06/12 9:36 AM)
      In response to JE's question (see David Krieger, 6 October), Obama has been pretty talking since his first election. In particular, he pretty talks, as long as he has a TelePrompTer, as he had the day after the debate. He is pathetic without his prop, which resembles a drug in its effects on him. The more pitiful thing is to read that many of his supporters among the under 21 crowd in colleges now support allowing Obama to use the device in the debates! Great job professors! From grade inflation to analytical brain deflation!

      JE comments: How would such a debate work, logistically? Have an off-stage handler key in the correct TelePrompTed response in "real time"?

      But if we went to that format, it certainly wouldn't be the fault of us professors!

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    • Presidential Debate of 3 October (Tor Guimaraes, USA 10/07/12 5:24 AM)
      In agreement with some of the points made by David Krieger and echoing John Heelan, both posted 6 October (my birthday), all this discussion about who won the first Presidential debate is somewhat entertaining, except when we realize that the future of our nation is at stake. Obviously, Romney looked much better than Obama judging from a Hollywood perspective. He was more aggressive (this turned many women off), he seemed more in command of the "facts and figures" and that is important, and he just looked more animated and presidential.

      As usual, I like to back away from the excitement and ask myself some basic questions:

      1. How is it possible for someone who for at least the last several months has consistently ignored the interests of the middle class to suddenly embrace the 47 percent he considered to be unworthy moochers a short time earlier?

      2. How can a person who refuses to define how he is going to fulfill his promise to drastically reduce the budget deficit, cut taxes for everybody by closing undefined loopholes, substantially raise the military budget, probably start a war with at least Iran, not reduce immediate Social Security and Medicare payments, and not drastically cut entitlement programs for the poor, be taken seriously by anyone with at least three neurons left? Romney must be lying again; so I could never vote for him. Clearly, in voting for him we would be asking for four more years of Dick Cheney. Some many fact checkers indeed think Romney has won the debate by lying through his teeth once again.

      3. Why can't debate moderators ask simple but probing questions like, "Do you see a problem with the massive widening gap between rich and poor in this country?" instead of questions which lend themselves to prepared answers.

      4. Regarding John Eipper's comments, "Was there substance in Romney's remarks? ... pretty talk is how you 'win' a debate," how about the truth, so democracy can work as intended? Let's think about this. Is it likely that Obama after being reelected would show his real self by reducing income tax rates on the wealthy, increasing total tax dollar amounts on the middle class and poor, drastically reducing food stamps and aid to the poor, significantly increasing the military budget, hurriedly starting a war with Iran at Netanyahu's command, voucherizing and reducing government support for public education and entitlement programs? On the other hand, is it likely that if elected Romney would move away from his fact-checked lies during the first debate (when he suddenly started caring about the 47 percent "moochers" in the American population) and not reducing income tax rates on the wealthy?

      JE comments: Birthday greetings to Tor Guimaraes!  Many happy returns.

      "Pax, lux et veritas" are the cornerstones of WAIS, but I'm always puzzled by how WAISers apply the "truth/lies" dichotomy to their analyses of political rhetoric.  When was the last time "truth," when it means a harsh truth, ever gotten someone elected?

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  • Presidential Debate of 3 October (Istvan Simon, USA 10/07/12 5:39 AM)
    The President indeed was not aggressive in the first debate, and on the contrary, held back punches, reason for which most people have given Romney the edge.

    Nonetheless, I thought that the President had some wonderful moments. which I greatly enjoyed and appreciated.

    At one point the President said, about Governor Romney's ability to reach out to the opposition and govern in a bi-partisan way:

    "Well, then you should not try to repeal Obamacare, for that surely will make the Democrats that passed it mad."

    In his closing statement the President said something along these lines:

    "Four years ago, I said that I would not be a prefect President, a campaign promise that I am sure Governor Romney thinks I kept..."

    What a magnificent generous and classy line, one that Mr. Romney will never be able to ever deliver, with his emphasis on being an attack dog, that filled the debate with stupid untruths, like the following, regarding Obamacare:

    "I believe that the Government is never efficient, that the private sector is always more efficient..."

    Well, the President should have, but unfortunately did not, stomp all over him for this statement, for it is well known that Medicare is far better administered and far cheaper than any private insurance carrier does.

    On Governor's Romney's disingenuous contention that he would not change current retirees' Medicare Benefits, the President very effectively said:

    "Well, then if you are 55 and nearing retirement, you should worry, for the Governor's proposal will adversely affect you."

    JE comments: One development of the first debate was the President's embracing the term "Obamacare." He now claims to like it. Just a few months ago I always published the official name (Affordable Care Act) in WAIS postings that were not direct quotes. Now Obamacare has become a generic, rather like kleenex or scotch tape.

    Will Obamacare customers be required to carry an Obamacard?

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    • Presidential Debate of 3 October (Richard Hancock, USA 10/09/12 4:48 AM)
      I feel that Romney won the first debate, because he presented himself as being the candidate that can best get the country to growing again. That is the way to solve our all of our problems. Whatever one feels about the environment, things like renewable sources of energy really make no immediate contribution to getting the economy growing again. The solution of these environmental problems should be postponed until we can return the economy to full growth. There is no other problem that can be solved, including that of the middle class, without regaining our rate of growth.

      Romney has problems, for example with Hispanics. Some Republicans have been really mean-hearted about deporting young people who were brought here by their parents when they were very young. Even Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, recognized this. Some really stupid Republicans keep harping on the need to deport young people whose parents broke the law. However, I think that even Hispanics will recognize that the need to get the economy growing again is our no. 1 goal.

      I feel that Romney's threat to close subsidies to public TV was made to emphasize his intention to control spending. The liberals wave the flag in favor of Big Bird, saying that this expenditure is insignificant, but we must cut spending across the board. I forget which senator said, "A billion here and a billion there, pretty soon we are talking about real money." All cuts in subsidies will raise a howl from those affected.

      It amazes me that Obama blocked the Canadian pipeline which would have provided of thousands of jobs. Romney says that if we unfetter energy production, this in itself will create 4 million jobs. To me this is self-evident. The fanatic environmentalists are the "Luddites" of today. They basically do not wish to grow the economy.

      JE comments: In two days Joe Biden and Paul Ryan will square off in the Vice Presidential debate. People call it a mere sideshow, and given the fiery style of both gentlemen, I'm quite sure it will be a sideshow in the literal, circus sense. Expect Thursday night to be the most entertaining debate of the four.

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      • Romney and Obama; PBS and WSJ (Istvan Simon, USA 10/10/12 1:58 AM)
        It is not surprising that Richard Hancock (9 October) would feel that Romney "won" the debate, as he is an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal.

        The Wall Street Journal used to be a fabulous newspaper. I myself used to read it. But unfortunately under the unenlightened ownership of Rupert Murdoch, the WSJ has become a mouthpiece of right-wing politics, which has lost any objectivity or semblance with the truth in its political coverage. Its economic coverage is still good.

        Mitt Romney knows nothing about the economy, and clearly is much less well equipped to revive the United States economy than President Obama is. Mitt Romney made his money as a corporate raider, who fired American workers, and shipped their jobs to China, and then would sell the "saved" corporation at enormous profits. This is what Mitt Romney did at Bain Capital.

        Mitt Romney spoke a lot of nonsense at the debate, attacking President Obama on solar energy for the Solyndra fiasco. But he failed to mention the very successful solar energy companies all over this country, that employ many tens of thousands of Americans.

        How do I know? Well I know, because I just installed solar panels on my roof, using an American company to do the installation, which used solar panels made in the USA, which used mini-inverters made in the USA in Petaluma, CA, and installed with every one of those panels, which used brackets made in the USA to secure them to my roof, and wiring boxes, made in the USA, and so on and so on and so on. Mitt Romney, the corporate raider of Bain Capital, forgot to mention these profitable and very successful American solar energy companies. He does not know about them, for he is too busy being a greasy politician, that gets his debating points from his handlers.

        Incidentally, I installed more than what I need for my home of solar power, because I also bought a plug-in Toyota Prius, which I now have driven for over 1000 miles and used 12 gallons of gasoline so far to do so. The rest of the energy came from those solar panels on my roof. Romney forgot to mention that too, because he is too busy flying in his private jet for his campaign.

        I also would like to know what car Mr. Romney drives, and compare his mileage per gallon of gasoline with what I get with my plug-in Prius. This has a great deal to do with American energy independence, which incidentally grew at an astonishing rate under President Obama's capable leadership.

        It also has a great deal to do with protecting the environment, which Richard Hancock (but not I), wants to sacrifice on the altar of growth.

        Richard cannot believe that President Obama vetoed the pipeline project to Louisiana, on the grounds that it would have provided thousands of jobs. But I not only think that President Obama was correct in that decision, but have another construction project, which would have provided even more jobs, but which is not being done in my state, California, because the House of Representatives is in the hands of Republicans.

        I am talking about the maintenance of the Interstate Highway System, a Federal responsibility. Where I live, at the intersection of Interstate 580 and Interstate 680, one can have a small truck fall into the potholes all over those two roads. So that is the reality that I experience every day.

        In July though, I spent a week driving over the magnificent roads in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, DC. I was struck by the excellent condition of those roads, and started thinking of why the roads near where I live would be in such terrible condition at the same time?

        It did not take me too long, to figure out that the answer had to do with the House of Representatives, now dominated by the be-they-cursed Tea Party fanatics, like Mr. Ryan... may he be cursed as well. And why would the House not give the money to California to maintain its Interstate freeways, but give it to Maryland, for example? Well, the answer to that is obvious as well: It is because California has a large number of electoral votes, due to its large population, but those votes will always go to President Obama. That is why Congress does not give money to California.

        And why was President Obama's decision to not build the pipeline correct? Well it was correct because there is a shortage of refining capacity in the United States. Therefore the pipeline would have taken Canadian oil to Louisiana, but the oil would have no effect on the supply of petroleum products in this country, and would simply be exported to other countries. Unfortunately Richard does not know about this, because the Wall Street Journal has written nothing about it.

        There is no more ungracious and at the same time also incredibly stupid remark than the one Governor Romney made about "not borrowing money from China to subsidize PBS." Keep in mind that the moderator he was talking to is Jim Lehrer.

        The Federal subsidy to PBS amounts to, according to the source I give below:

        "The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget," PBS's statement said. "Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation's debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.

        "As a stated supporter of education, Governor Romney should be a champion of public broadcasting, yet he is willing to wipe out services that reach the vast majority of Americans, including underserved audiences, such as children who cannot attend preschool and citizens living in rural areas."


        Mr. Romney will lose the election, there is little doubt about that. But he deserves to lose it, and for many reasons, but if not for anything else, than for the imbecility of this remark about PBS. I'll explain:

        I have a 5-year-old son. He reads fluently. Spells too. How on earth did he learn to read at such a tender age? (Actually he started to read at age 2, three years ago.) Did I teach him? The answer is no. So how did he learn to read?

        Well, I answer that too: He learned to read by watching the PBS program Between the Lions, a magnificent educational program, funny and entertaining, but at the same time profoundly focused and highly educational.

        So Mr. Romney, I want you to go to the oblivion that you well deserve. You want to cut the subsidy to PBS? Well then, be gone from any role in national politics, for your small-mindedness and lack of imagination shows that you are unfit for any public office. I will not vote for you. Because my son reads English fluently at age 5, and he learned that from PBS.

        I am hereby donating $1000 to the Public Broadcasting System. And hereby donating $1000 to President Obama's reelection campaign.

        Because contrary to Mr. Romney, I believe that what I say has substance, I enclose photographic proof that supports part of this post, on solar energy and its uses. The photos were taken by using my MacBook's PhotoBooth application. This application gives a mirror image when photographs are taken, so I apologize for the mirror image of the sign on my lawn for example. Leonardo da Vinci would have no problem reading the sign, and I trust, WAISers will not have either...

        JE comments:  We Michiganders live in somewhat of a swing state, but I'd put our roads up against California's for the pothole crown any day.  Here are Istvan's photos:

        Solar panels on Istvan Simon's home.  Photo Istvan Simon

        Istvan Simon's home, with plug-in Prius in garage.  Photo IS

        I wish we could do the same at my house, but our non-existent sun would have trouble reaching the panels through the layers of ice and snow.

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        • Romney and Obama; PBS and WSJ (Randy Black, USA 10/11/12 7:45 AM)
          Istvan Simon wrote (10 Oct) a long list of dubious claims about the stellar skills of President Obama and lack of skills on the part of Governor Romney. Istvan also made claims about his new residential solar power, his plug-in Japanese car and a pipeline to Louisiana.

          To Louisiana? Really?

          Most of Istvan's claims are wrong, or at best a stretch of the truth. His post simply adds to the plethora of Internet myths being spread around with the intention of influencing the voters.

          Istvan defended President Obama's decision to stonewall a Canadian pipeline to Louisiana, but no such pipeline exists or was ever proposed, much less cancelled by the President.

          The pipeline that Istvan likely referred to is the Keystone XL that extends from the Canadian border, crosses through Montana, South Dakota, through Nebraska to Steele City Kansas.

          That's the sum total of the pipeline that President Obama stonewalled.

          From there, the Canadian oil would enter existing pipelines that extend through Kansas to Cushing, Oklahoma. The final leg to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas is under construction. It's beyond Obama's reach or regulation.

          Louisiana is not part of the equation.

          Who benefits from Obama's delays? Obama supporter and billionaire Warren Buffett, who owns most of the rail lines that currently carry the Canadian oil south of the border, seems a likely choice.

          To borrow from ABC News Jan. 2012, "Labor unions, oil industry groups--even the president's jobs council--have signaled support for the plan, which also has bipartisan backing on Capitol Hill."

          It's one of many bipartisan bills supported by Congress, but one that the President chose to be divisive on.

          Apparently, Obama would rather the Canadians sell the oil to China than to help the US become more energy independent.

          One of Istvan's claims: "there is a shortage of refining capacity in the United States."

          Not relevant: There is no shortage of refining capacity in Texas, which is the destination of much of the Canadian oil, the remainder going to southern Illinois, also not suffering from a shortage of refining capacity.

          Istvan also took aim at Romney's "nonsense at the debate, attacking President Obama on solar energy for the Solyndra fiasco, while allegedly ignoring profitable energy firms." That Solyndra fiasco, Istvan's words, cost US taxpayers $535 million. He went on to brag about the "very successful solar energy companies ... that employ many tens of thousands of Americans."

          Really? Might Istvan name even one such company that is wholly American-owned, which uses American-made parts and which employs even a couple of thousand Americans?

          In fact, Solyndra is but one of dozens of solar and wind energy companies that Obama threw tens of billions of taxpayer dollars at that have gone belly up.

          Several to dozens of those Obama-supported companies funneled the taxpayer funds directly to China, which naturally makes the lion's share of the energy products. All were connected financially to the Obama campaign four years ago and to the present one.

          In fact, there is not one energy company in Istvan's beloved Petaluma, California that does not benefit from the Obama energy tax breaks.

          Even Istvan benefits to a significant degree from such tax breaks.

          The State of California's Solar Initiative pays for 10% of Istvan's residential solar system, and the feds offer him another 30% back as an investment tax credit. I wonder if he would have been so eager to buy his system had not such discounts and rebates been offered. Ditto his "plug-in" Prius.

          I did a bit of research on the companies in Petaluma that put these solar systems together for Istvan. While his solar system may be assembled in the USA, the parts come from China, Japan and a host of global locations. About the only Americans involved are the final assemblers and the independent contractors who install the systems.

          The largest of the solar microinverter makers in Petaluma, Enphase Energy, has never been profitable, having lost more than $70 million since their inception, according to their Website.

          If Istvan is so off target regarding the truths of oil and gas and solar power, why should I believe his other claims?


          JE comments: The discussion we need to be having is whether it is in the national interest to subsidize "green" energy products during their teething (read:  unprofitable) phase. Given the alternative (buying oil that drags us into troubled regions of the world), as well as the full-speed-ahead government involvement in alternative energy in other nations, I think the answer is clear: yes.

          As for US refining capacity, California is notorious for its shortage of refineries, as the NIMBY effect has prevented new construction for many years.  But is it the same in the Gulf of Mexico region?  The Wikianswers link above doesn't give hard numbers.  I'm going to ask my sister, a Houston "oilman," for her thoughts and will report back.

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        • Romney and Obama (Robert Whealey, USA 10/11/12 9:12 AM)
          Three cheers to Istvan Simon (see his post of 10 October). He increases my confidence in Barack Obama. I voted for President Obama in 2008 with 51% confidence. I'm voting for Obama in 2012 with 54% confidence.

          JE comments: I say that WAIS doesn't post "attaboys," but then I often do. So I'll justify my hypocrisy today by noting that Robert Whealey's confidence in Obama increased one percentage point for each cheer he gives Istvan Simon. Another important point: Robert Whealey is one of the two Ohio WAISers I can think of (John Recchiuti is the other), and they have the privilege of choosing the next president. Both Romney and Obama in recent days have spent so much time stumping in the Buckeye State, that one would think they are running for President...of Ohio.

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      • Employment in the Oil and Gas Sector (Paul Pitlick, USA 10/13/12 8:51 AM)

        On October 9, Richard Hancock wrote, "Romney says that if we unfetter energy production, this in itself will create 4 million jobs. To me this is self-evident. The fanatic environmentalists are the 'Luddites' of today. They basically do not wish to grow the economy."

        The St. Louis Federal Reserve has an interesting website, with lots of data (FRED). In particular, there is a table/graph showing employment in Oil and Gas:  http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CES1021100001 . Peak employment occurred about 1982, at about 270,000. During the administrations of presidents Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, and the early part of GW Bush, employment fell to about 120,000. Starting about 2004, employment began rising, and ended about 160,000 at the end of GW Bush's 2nd term. Since then, employment has risen to about 190,000. In other words, almost as many oil and gas jobs have been added under Mr. Obama's presidency, as compared to Mr. Bush.

        Four million represents a 20-fold increase in jobs in this sector. Is this a credible number? Perhaps Randy Black has an explanation.

        JE comments:  The FRED numbers represent the number of jobs in the extraction part of oil and gas--I wonder if jobs in pipeline construction (which ultimately are temporary) are included in the total.  Note that the historical employment numbers more or less mirror one thing:  gasoline prices.  It would therefore seem that the best way to "unfetter" employment in this sector is (God forbid) to raise the prices even further.

        The 4 million number does sound astronomically high.  Is Gov. Romney including clerk jobs at the corner Shell station?

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        • Employment in the Oil and Gas Sector (Henry Levin, USA 10/13/12 12:50 PM)
          This is in response to Paul Pitlick's post of 13 October. As an economist, let me explain the assumptions that go into these employment claims, usually promoted by the industry that is pushing its special interest. The notion in this case is: (1) the cost of energy will fall and promote expansion of energy-using firms; and (2) that the additional investment and direct employment in the industry will have ripple effects by generating income which will have a multiplier effect on employment for goods and services in other industries. This is also the argument for public funding of sports venues and convention centers which argue not only for new construction jobs, but for all of the new employment that a new facility will generate from events. And, I should add that the governments of most cities and metropolitan areas have been suckered into huge public investments (for private gain) that their taxpayers must ultimately bear, despite being told that the additional economic activity will more than cover the investment.

          These are self-serving arguments, always overblown and based upon an abuse of arithmetic. Here are some of the flaws:

          1.  Expansion of any one technology or establishment of convention centers or sport arenas takes away employment from substitutes. For example, more employment in energy means less employment in conservation and green alternatives. And, depending upon where the investment comes from, it means less investment in other industries that could generate even more employment (on a worker per revenue basis, the energy industry is a remarkably poor investment machine). All of those convention centers and sports arenas mainly take events away from other regions, cities, and venues, building wasted excess capacity on a national basis. Net additions in employment are always far less than is claimed.

          2.  Multiplier effects are always overstated vastly because they are based upon very generous assumptions about further spending and employment which are rarely justified by rigorous evidence.

          As I have mentioned, every industry claims much more employment from reduced regulation or from public investments in terms of direct effects and ripple effects than has been shown empirically. In WAIS we should be skeptical of all of these claims. Almost all are PR hogwash prepared by "management consulting firms" who are happy to conjure meretricious claims for a generous fee.

          JE comments:  I'd like to know more about the economics of sports venues and convention centers.  They are always marketed as "anchors" that bring tourist money to medium-sized cities.  If, as Henry Levin writes, they take events away from other cities, isn't that the whole point?

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          • Employment in the Oil and Gas Sector (Robert Whealey, USA 10/14/12 5:07 AM)

            In response to Henry Levin (13 October), Keynes assumed that the multiplier effect worked within the borders of the UK and its empire. Roosevelt applied the multiplier effect within the borders of the US. Oil was not a problem for the US because of Texas and Oklahoma. Great Britain could import cheap oil from Iran, the DEI (Dutch East Indies), Venezuela and Mexico owned by BP and Shell.

            On the industrial side, it made little difference if GM invested in new model cars or the Federal Government employed teenage jobless in WPA building the post offices or planting trees in the West for the CCC. The multiplier effect came from the fact that the unemployed could then buy hamburgers and oranges.

            After 1940, the world economy changed its rules. The military hardware made in the US and GB turned out to be a good investment, because allied tanks by 1944 rolled back the German tanks. The America investment in the ESSO refinery in Hamburg was captured in 1945. Hitler's spending for Krupps Arms did not pay off, because Germany lost the war. Those so-called investments turned out to be mere wasteful consumption for the German people.

            Johnson's and Nixon's spending on B-52s for the Vietnam war from the military-industrial complex turned out to be consumption and waste. The US engineering talent which could have created real capital was wasted, and the Japanese engineers sold autos to the US consumers.

            So Henry Levin's investments in solar energy produced in the US creates jobs and capital for the US. Refining jobs in Saudi Arabia have to be paid for by the American consumer. US arms produced for Iran and Iraq provided some return to the US, because the Muslims continued their self-destructive wars for political and religions reasons.

            The American financiers on Wall Street since the 1970 confused paper dollars and debts from real investment in real capital produced by American labor.

            The world needs growth in some conservation industries But growth in football stadiums, like growth in Las Vegas, does not help American society. Consumption of South American drugs may help the mafia and the money launderers, but the net effect is waste and false consumption. At bottom America's economic crisis is partly a moral crisis.

            JE comments: A moral crisis? In bald economic terms, even drug traffickers produce a multiplier effect on the world economy--just look at the yachts and Escalades consumed in Miami, and the high-rises going up in Cartagena (Colombia).

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            • Tanks and B52s; Response to Robert Whealey (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 10/16/12 10:49 AM)
              Some minor factual comments to Robert Whealey's post of October 14:

              The last B52 bomber was produced in 1963. So I don't think we can talk about "spending on B52s for the Vietnam War..." If Robert meant that as a metaphor for all the military spending on the Vietnam War, however, then I agree with him--it was wasted. But in what way was it different from any of the wars fought since then? It was all waste, as far as I can tell, and every one of these wars harmed, rather than improved, the US geopolitical situation.

              I thought the statement, "US arms produced for Iran and Iraq provided some return to the US, because the Muslims continued their self-destructive wars for political and religions reasons," was very strange. So the disastrous Iran-Iraq War was beneficial to US interests? The deaths of 100,000 civilians and more than a million soldiers is somehow in our interest? Why? Because they were Muslims? Seems like a bizarre statement to me. In fact, I think that this war was in no one's interest. It was fought to a stalemate, destroyed a vast amount of wealth, destroyed a great deal of potential social and economic progress in the region (which would surely have been in our interest), resulted in the retrenchment of two repressive regimes in large countries in a volatile region. I can't imagine how that could possibly be in our interest.

              Robert also wrote, "The military hardware made in the US and GB turned out to be a good investment, because allied tanks by 1944 rolled back the German tanks." Well, going back to previous conversations we have had on WWII, Allied tanks didn't do very much fighting with German tanks. It was Soviet tanks which "rolled back the German tanks." For example, the Germans lost only 1685 tanks in the North Africa Campaign, which we mistakenly view as a major event in WWII with major tank battles. 75% of German tank losses occurred on the Eastern Front, nearly all destroyed in battle. Most of the German tank losses which occurred on the Western front were surrenders at the end of the war.

              JE comments: I'm glad someone questioned Robert Whealey's suggestion that the 1980s Iran-Iraq war was beneficial to the West. (Granted, many in the US hold this view, and I'm fairly certain this was the prevailing view of the US government during that war.)  It is plausible that if the Iran-Iraq slaughter had been avoided, more moderate governments would have developed in both nations.

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              • Tanks and B52s (Robert Whealey, USA 10/16/12 5:23 PM)
                I'm glad to see that Cameron Sawyer (16 October) and I agree on basic strategy about the connection between debts and US military action. Even though his footnote about the B-52 having stopped production in 1963 is right, there were still some B-52s in the air over Hanoi in Christmas of 1972 to keep the RSV troops in the field and give Kissinger more time in Paris to negotiate withdrawal. Nixon and Kissinger pulled off a disguised retreat between January 1969 and 1973. Does anybody think that Obama and Hillary Clinton are pulling off a disguised retreat from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Israel?

                JE comments: Definitely not from Israel.

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          • Economics of Sports Teams/Arenas; Battle of Hastings (David Duggan, USA 10/14/12 2:03 PM)
            In response to JE's question (see Henry Levin, 13 October), I would check the work of Allen Sanderson, a U of C economist, as to the economic effect of sports teams (among other things) on their communities. As I understand Sanderson's work, he deprecates public dollars spent on sports arenas.

            By the way, today is the 946th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. To the extent that war also is an economic enterprise, has there ever been a battle where the risk (perhaps 10,000 men) has yielded a greater reward (control of a country for a millennium, with the introduction of Norman law, a language that ultimately became the lingua franca of the world, and a culture that still dominates)?

            JE comments: No doubt about it, Hastings was a game-changer. How would you say World Association of International Studies in Old English? I believe that 3/4 of our name is Norman-influenced (except for the "world" part).

            One final comment on the economics of sports:  Go Tigers!
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            • Battle of Hastings Anniversary (John Heelan, -UK 10/15/12 5:43 AM)
              David Duggan (14 October) reminded us of the 946th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Perhaps it is symptomatic of today's more cautious attitudes that the re-enactment of the battle was cancelled for Health & Safety reasons. It was raining!

              JE comments: This is worth a big chuckle. We're not as tough as we used to be...and no re-enactor wants his (her?) armor to rust! (Although the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner, mentioned some days ago by Mike Bonnie, did successfully complete his 23-mile skydive yesterday. Note, however, that Baumgartner's first attempt was cancelled, for Health & Safety reasons.)

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        • Employment in the Oil and Gas Sector (Randy Black, USA 10/14/12 4:23 AM)
          Paul Pitlick (13 October) asked me to comment on Richard Hancock's 9 October reference to an alleged quote apparently by Mitt Romney that left alone from federal intervention, US energy production sector would create four million jobs.

          John Eipper then made the comment, "I wonder if jobs in pipeline construction (which ultimately are temporary) are included in the total."

          Starting with John's comment, I fear that he is perhaps under the mistaken impression that pipeline jobs are temporary. In fact, pipeline jobs are as permanent as nearly any in the nation. My personal experience with pipeline workers is that they're working 24/7 and have been for years.

          Pipelines have always been built and always will be needed. Plus, there's the ongoing matter of maintenance and replacement of high technology-driven pipelines. Pipeline growth is a constant.

          There are hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines across North America with a couple of thousand building permits under federal review at any given time and more planned. About the only matter is whether or not the federal government will get in the way politically as Obama has in the case of the Keystone XL, or get out of the way.

          Despite the political interference of the President on the XL, oil and gas is a growth industry, pipelines are a growth industry and the related jobs are a growth industry.

          As just one example, a company that builds and manages the largest pipeline system in North America, has $30 billion (with a B) worth of pipelines under contract to be built in the next five years. $18 billion is already funded and there will be little problem getting the remainder funded, if we can get Obama and Clinton out of the way.

          For more, Google, Enbridge Energy Partners, LP. Said one industry executive, "We (the Canada and the USA) need millions of people to be hired, typically in higher-priced jobs, to get the work done."

          Considering the peripheral jobs, it's pretty easy to project millions of jobs without, as John put it, hiring clerks at the corner Shell station.

          John put forth another mistaken (in my view) opinion when he said, "Note that the historical employment numbers more or less mirror one thing: gasoline prices. It would therefore seem that the best way to 'unfetter' employment in this sector is (God forbid) to raise the prices even further."

          RB: It may seem that way to John but if his summation were the case, it seems that we would have far more "clerk jobs at the corner Shell station" than we do. After all, when Obama was sworn in (prices the week of Jan. 18, 2009), the price of a gallon of gas averaged $1.89.

          As of Oct. 8, 2012, the national average is $3.91, with variances above $6 per gallon in parts of California and Florida.

          If John Eipper's thesis is correct, where is the resulting employment growth that he contends mirrors that price growth? Source: US Energy Information Administration.  [See the figures provided by Paul Pitlick on 13 October--JE.]

          More significantly, during the presidential debate, when President Obama made the claim that there was more oil being produced under his administration than before, Romney correctly responded, "Yes, that is true but none of it is coming from new production on federal lands, it's all on private land (RB: out of Obama's control)."

          In fact, energy drilling permits are down 36% under Obama from his predecessor.

          Source: Bureau of Land Management.

          Fact: Clinton approved 58% more permits than Obama. Bush 43, 116% more permits. --ibid.

          I spoke to a geophysicist client today who regularly works in the fields of Oklahoma to the Canadian border in the Bakken Shale. He verifies that getting a motel room, much less an apartment, or even a tent to sleep in up north is impossible. "Oil field workers are living in their cars and pop-up trailers in Walmart parking lots due to the explosion of job growth and lack of housing up there and it's been the case for several years." He echoes the oil industry figures that a beginning truck driver of oil cargo starts at $80,000 per year and that some rig workers earn six figures.

          According to the (Pennsylvania) Department of Labor and Industry (Center for Workforce Information and Analysis), jobs for drill operators are expected to grow by nearly 85 percent this year, while the job growth rate otherwise in Pennsylvania is projected to be less than three percent.

          Oil and gas jobs are some of the highest-paying jobs in the United States. When you compare the jobs that were not created by the federal stimulus money given by the Obama administration to his political and financial supporters and which have gone bankrupt, oil and gas wins every time.

          The creators of this energy sector growth avoid drilling on federal lands, on and off shore, at all costs due to the two to three year wait for drilling permits, among other reasons. Source: NPR.org

          In fact, according to federal sources, the oil and gas industry contributes nearly as much to our economy as the total stimulus handouts that were wasted on "clean energy" companies dreamed up by Obama's financial supporters and bunglers.

          Speaking of Solyndra, the California bankrupt solar panel firm, said the IRS this week, "(In in court papers filed Wednesday)... the (bankruptcy) plan cannot be approved because its principal purpose is to let the owners of Solyndra' s parent, Argonaut Ventures I LLC and Madrone Partners LP, avoid future taxes.

          "The plan proposes that Solar Holdings (Solyndra's parent) will emerge from bankruptcy as a no-asset, no-business entity, whose only purpose is to provide future tax benefits to its owners," the IRS said in its filing. "The undeniable conclusion is that tax benefits drive this plan."

          Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/solyndra-bankruptcy-plan-is-opposed-by-irs-energy-dept-657231/#ixzz29D6TOuPn

          I've heard others in WAIS complain that Romney said words to the effect, "Let Detroit go broke."

          Here's a fact that is largely ignored by Obama supporters: Other than Ford, which took no federal handouts, "Detroit" got billions of stimulus money, was taken over by the fed and still went bankrupt.

          In March, President Obama said, "As a country that has 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, but uses 20 percent of the world's oil--I'm going to repeat that--we've got 2 percent of the world oil reserves; we use 20 percent. What that means is, as much as we're doing to increase oil production, we're not going to be able to just drill our way out of the problem of high gas prices. Anybody who tells you otherwise either doesn't know what they're talking about or they aren't telling you the truth."

          Obama's claim is as close to a lie as anything I've heard from his lips. Obama's claim is patently false. It is he who is uninformed and dead wrong. Such an outrageous falsehood earns Two Pinocchios.

          It can only be true of one uses an equally absurd claim: You have $3,000 in your bank account and are spending $1,000 per month. Therefore, you will be broke in three months.

          The only way that Obama's false premise works is that you quit working. The oil and gas industry, unlike Solyndra, is not going out of business.

          Obama's claim is a non-sequitur, in that these are two facts that have little or no relationship to each other, according to Kyle Isakower, an oil and gas expert.


          JE comments: Lots to chew on here.  First, out of fairness to Gov. Romney, the "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" headline was apparently the work of a New York Times editor--although if you read Romney's first paragraph, it's clear that he agreed with the sentiment.  Here's the now-infamous op-ed from November 2008:


          Regarding gasoline prices:  Obama-bashers like to contrast today's prices with the floor that was set in 2009, but they conveniently overlook the prices during the summer of 2008, which were nearly as high as they are presently.  By this logic, the best thing we could do to lower prices again would be to bring on another crippling recession.

          Regarding pipelines:  Randy makes a clear case that the industry is doing so well, that it undermines the economic need for the Keystone XL project.

          Regarding "getting in/out of the way":  This has become the political buzzphrase of the month.  Note that VP Biden, in his debate with Rep. Ryan, accused (three or four times) the Republicans of "getting in the way" of Democratic-proposed economic legislation.

          Regarding Solyndra:  A dead company, and definitely a dead horse that no longer needs beating.  Randy brings up Solyndra about once per week.

          I'd still like to hear Randy's answer to Paul Pitlick's question:  is it realistic to claim that four million new energy-sector jobs could be created if the federal government would "unfetter" the industry?

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          • Employment in the Oil and Gas Sector (Istvan Simon, USA 10/15/12 4:37 AM)
            Randy Black (14 October) said that a true statement by President Obama earns two Pinocchios. I say Randy's post earns four.

            Now let's start with his comments about the Keystone XL pipeline again. Randy corrected me that the pipeline was to go to Texas rather than Louisiana. But this is a distinction without a difference. For the fundamental fact that remains, whether the Keystone pipeline goes to Louisiana or Texas, is that there is no spare refining capacity in the United States--a major refinery has not been built in over 10 years, and it takes many years to build one, if we were to start one today, which is not happening. Therefore the Keystone XL Pipeline would have no effect on the supply of petroleum products in the United States, and the only effect it would have is that Canadian oil would be exported to other countries from Texas rather than Louisiana, as I originally claimed.

            I ask our colleague Martin Storey's assistance to settle the issue of who is right, Randy Black or I. He is an oil expert, and he would know.

            The claim that Romney will create 4 million jobs in the oil sector is obviously a lie. It earns 20 Pinocchios.

            I thank Paul Pitlick (13 October) for his fabulous post with the historical data from the Federal Reserve, St. Louis. The site's data with its marvelous graph, tells the whole story of energy policy in the last 40 years in the United States.

            I nominate it as the best post in WAIS in 2012.

            JE comments: We don't have a "post of the year" award, as it would be nearly impossible to choose from the 3000+ we publish per annum. In the meantime, don't forget that our website (waisworld.org) has a star ranking system at the end of every post. Take advantage of this feature, esteemed WAISers, and make your opinion known!

            I too would like to hear from Martin Storey on Keystone XL and the "4 million jobs" claim. On this last topic, Randy Black has sent a followup to his post of 14 October. Stay tuned.

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          • Employment in the Oil and Gas Sector; Solyndra Again (Randy Black, USA 10/15/12 5:03 AM)
            John Eipper, citing Mitt Romney, asked me on 14 October if it is realistic to claim that four million new energy sector jobs could be created if the federal government would "unfetter" the industry.

            John's assumption is that Mitt Romney made such a statement during the presidential debate. He did not.

            Here is the verbatim quote, in context, from the debate:

            [Mitt Romney, during his initial two minutes, responded to moderator Jim Lehrer]: "Ann (Romney) yesterday was a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms and said, 'Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He's lost his most recent job, and we've now just lost our home. Can you help us?'

            "And the answer is yes, we can help, but it's going to take a different path, not the one we've been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That's not what I'm going to do.

            "My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about four million jobs. Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America; crack down on China if and when they cheat. Number three, make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world. We're far away from that now. Number four, get us to a balanced budget. Number five, champion small business."

            Thus, Romney's statement had more to do with his much larger plan for turning the nation's economy around. You know the one, it's the one that the Democrats claim does not exist. It has nothing really to do with "fettering." I should add that at least Romney has a plan. Obama's own plan, his budget really, was defeated in Congress, having not earned a single vote from Democrats or Republicans or Independents. 535 to zip.

            How's that for circling the wagons? You'd think that perhaps the president might listen to his own party at least once a year.

            John also took me to task for mentioning the Solyndra bankruptcy "once per week."

            Apparently, the tens of billions of our money dumped down the toilet is just chump change among the financial supporters of Obama. In fact, the CEO of Solyndra e-mailed a pal that the Obama Administration was "the Bank of Washington."

            I use the Solyndra debacle ($527 million down the rat hole) as the poster company of the dozens of companies that President Obama funded with taxpayer-guaranteed monies (our money). SunPower and First Solar each received three times what Solyndra got. You can make a good case that General Motor's Volt gets even more funding from the fed. The Volt is so bad that nearly the only buyer is the federal government. It's so bad that you and I can lease the $40,000+ vehicle for $199 per month on a 24-month contract with zero down and then give them back the keys and move on.

            As of July 24, at least 27 other "green energy" losers declared bankruptcy, or are near that stage after receiving billions in Obama's handouts.

            The company's, for the most part, outsourced the real jobs overseas, created no American jobs and paid their officers huge salaries and benefits.

            Abound Solar (Colorado), Beacon Power (Massachusetts), Ener 1 (Indiana), Energy Conversion (Michigan), Evergreen Solar (Mass.), Mountain Plaza (Tennessee), Olsen's Crop Service (Wisconsin), Range Fuels (Georgia), Raser Technologies (Utah) and Thompson River Power (Minnesota) are among the two dozen trailing Solyndra.

            Others green energy beneficiaries of Obama's grants and federally underwritten loans include Brightsource, which received $1.5 billion and ECOtality, which got $125 million, despite never achieving any profits and continuing to lose money.

            Abound Solar, which received $400 million from the Dept. of Energy in February, announced its bankruptcy in June.

            None of these companies had more than a few hundred employees except Solyndra, which fired 1,861 when it bellied up.

            Ironically, President Obama said in 2010 that "the true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra." God help us if this is the case.




            JE comments: I guess it's twice per week for Solyndra. Anyhow, I must take Randy to task for his "dissing" of the Chevy Volt. Yes, it's a money-loser for General Motors (it costs the company some $90,000 per copy), but leading technologies rarely make a profit at first. How about this quote from Autoweek's Editorial Director, Dutch Mandel (15 October 2012):  "[The Volt] earned 'Car of the Year' honors on these shores and in Europe.  According to a leading consumer guide, Volt owners gave it the highest ownership rating in that publication's history."  Moreover, the $199 monthly lease is a promotional loss-leader for some Chevy dealerships, requires a $2995 initial buy-in fee and limits the driver to 10,000 miles per year.  I drive that much in three months; otherwise I'd be first in line to get a Volt.  If you can really find one for no money down, as Randy claims, I still may enter the lease and park it after I reach 10K.

            Randy needs to ask himself the question:  shouldn't it be in the national interest to foster new technologies, even if they negatively impact the short-term balance sheet?  Mitt Romney himself, in the "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" op-ed of 2008, chided the Big Three for putting quarterly profits above long-term viability--the lack of vision thing.

            So to be clear on the "4 million jobs"--in Gov. Romney's words, it's not just the result of oil and gas production, but in overall "energy independence."  What does this mean?

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            • Chevy Volt (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 10/15/12 8:43 AM)
              Have we talked about the Chevy Volt? [Only anecdotally--JE.]

              This device is interesting to me as a technophile, particularly concerning transportation technology (cars, ships/boats, airplanes). It is particularly interesting to me as a sailor, since I deal with the problem of producing and storing electrical power every day on the water.

              The Chevy Volt is a much more sophisticated and interesting vehicle than the much-hyped Tesla cars, in my opinion, because unlike the Tesla, which is really just a glorified golf cart, it has the ability to produce power on-board when needed.

              I would have liked to see a hybrid with a smaller diesel engine, instead of a largish (55kW) gasoline one. That would have made it more an electric car with on-board generation, rather than a hybrid, and it would have been quite a bit more efficient, I would think. I would guess that you could run an electric car successfully with on board production not more than average consumption, since you have a large Lithium Ion battery bank to store power generated in excess of current consumption. I would think that a low-speed 20kW diesel generator would probably be plenty. You could leave it running when the car is parked to charge up the batteries if you don't have an outlet to plug into.

              This kind of propulsion has been experimented with on sailboats also, specifically the French-built Lagoon 420 catamarans. The Lagoon hybrid cats used electric motors for propulsion, powered by a large lead-acid battery bank charged by a diesel generator. When sailing, the batteries could be charged by the propellers driving the electric motors in reverse. The Lagoon hybrid cats were a failure, unfortunately. The propulsion systems turned out to be quite troublesome, and lead-acid batteries are inefficient and troublesome in their own right. The basic idea seems sound, however, so I bet we will see more hybrid sailboats. Large cruising sailboats have fairly significant electrical power generation requirements, so there are further efficiency benefits to integrating power generation functions with propulsion--the Lagoon 420 hybrid needed only one diesel engine on board, instead of three on a conventional catamaran of that size, for example. Another benefit from diesel hybrids comes from the fact that diesel engines are more efficient when run continuously and at a nearly full load, than they are when used intermittently, as in a regular car, where full power is used for only seconds at a time when accelerating hard, and 90% of the time the engine is only producing 10% or 15% of its maximum power.

              That's merely armchair speculation. Three cheers to GM for bringing to market a truly new propulsion system which has, in my opinion, great potential. Whether or not it should have been subsidized by the federal government is a different conversation, and I'm not putting my toe in that water. In any case, if I lived in the US, I would stand in line for one of those $199 leases with only $3000 buy-in. Just keep another car (I think JE has several anyway) for usage over 10,000 miles.

              JE comments: I may have to do just that--although garage space is now a critical problem. I'm already renting one spot from the next-door neighbors.

              How will this sound? "Honey, I think it's time we got a sixth car..."

              Train locomotives have used diesel-electric hybrid propulsion for decades. I presume the Volt engineers thoroughly explored the lessons to be learned from that technology. One thing to keep in mind: there is still a lot of anti-diesel bias in this country (in contrast to Europe). That diesel costs more than gasoline (it's cheaper in Europe) only adds to the problem.

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              • Chevy Volt; on Diesel Power (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 10/16/12 2:29 PM)
                When commenting my post of 15 October, JE wrote: "There is still a lot of anti-diesel bias in [the US] (in contrast to Europe). That diesel costs more than gasoline (it's cheaper in Europe) only adds to the problem."

                I think the problem with diesel cars in the US is not prejudice, but environmental regulation.

                In Europe, more than half of passenger cars are diesels.

                There has been a tremendous amount of development of diesel engine technology in the last ten years, and in my opinion, diesel power is really superior for cars.

                Diesel cars are now electronically injected using "common rail" injection systems, and are highly turbocharged using high pressure and sometimes sequential and/or variable geometry turbochargers. They are now producing phenomenal specific outputs amount to 100bhp/liter and more--something until recently not produced even by very high performance gasoline engines. I recently rented a BMW 1 series in the UK with one of these high-pressure diesels. It was amazing--it felt similar to a Porsche 3.3 liter Turbo from the 1980s, and actually has a higher specific output with 204 horsepower out of 2,000cc compared to 300 horsepower out of 3,300cc. It is not objectively as fast as the Porsche Turbo, but it feels like it due to the massive torque. And despite this tremendous power, you also get fuel economy which was unknown just 10 or 15 years ago--more than 50mpg. It's a seriously impressive car. The technological progress which has been made is absolutely amazing.

                In fact, European diesel cars are more or less the equal of hybrids for fuel economy, and superior to them if you take performance into account. It begs the question of what is the point of hybrid technology. The only answer I can give is that hybrid technology is still quite young and surely has a lot of potential, whereas diesel engines are a mature technology, more than 100 years old, and may be nearing the theoretical limits of efficiency.

                Actually, some European diesel cars are so efficient that they do not produce enough waste heat to run the car's heating system--they have to have Webasto-type supplementary heaters. Incredible.

                JE comments: John Heelan wrote yesterday to point out that in the UK, diesel actually costs 4 pence/liter more than petrol (gasoline). I had claimed that "diesel is cheaper in Europe," which turns out to be correct only in some countries:


                In Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark and elsewhere, diesel is significantly cheaper--10% or more. Given the higher energy content per liter of diesel over gasoline, diesel is a no-brainer choice for residents of those nations.

                Diesel cars do still have a bad reputation in the US (unless they are German, or in trucks), although this is slowly changing. Americans cannot forget the nastiness of the GM (Oldsmobile) diesel V-8 of the late '70s and early '80s, which was a re-engineered gasoline design and proved to be smoky, clanky, and extremely fragile. This soured the pool for US automotive diesels for the next generation.

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                • Prejudice Against Diesel Power in US (Henry Levin, USA 10/17/12 9:04 AM)
                  The traditional prejudice against diesel is more complex than the version given by Cameron Sawyer on 16 October:

                  1. noise and clacking; 2. long warmup time; 3. emission of particulates; and 4. smell of exhaust and fuel. In some parts of the country it also included lack of familiarity among mechanics and fuel availability. It was not just the troubles of the GM diesel. A friend of mine had a VW Rabbit diesel which gave him problems from the beginning, including most of the issues above. It would be useful to hear whether all of these problems have been solved and how.

                  JE comments: The VW Rabbit, later called Golf in the US, was always the Golf in Europe. I had a (gasoline) '78 "Bunny" many years ago. It was a tank of a car, but the driver's door wouldn't open, which necessitated the "passenger seat slide-over" every time you took the wheel.  Good in the yoga sense, but not too safe.

                  I digress. It would appear that diesel technology has solved most of the problems outlined above by Henry Levin, due to better electronic ignition management, turbocharging, and urea injection to cut down on the pollutants. The biggest remaining problem, besides the higher price of diesel, may indeed be us--the perception in the US that diesels are noisy, stinky and impossible to start in winter.

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                  • Diesel Cars in UK (John Heelan, -UK 10/18/12 5:31 AM)
                    Henry Levin (17 October) wrote about the traditional (US?) prejudice against diesel. I also had a prejudice about diesel stemming from my farming days, when sometimes in winter we had to light a fire under the tractors to warm up the diesel before we could start work. But times have changed. We now have both fuels in our family cars.

                    My wife's diesel 1600cc Nissan Micra is far more fuel efficient and economical than my petrol-driven 1200cc Vauxhall (i.e. General Motors UK Ltd) Corsa, despite the fact that diesel cost 4p/litre more than petrol. We do a similar amount of mileage each month--she spends about £45/month compared to my £60/month. My next car will be a diesel.

                    JE comments: I didn't know John Heelan is a GM chap, at least until he trades in the Vauxhall. In John's case, GM stands for "good man"--3/5 of the Eipper fleet was made by the General.

                    A curious language tidbit: in Chile, "petrolero" means diesel-powered, whereas gasoline, after the Italian, is called "bencina." Note that "petrol" in the UK refers to gasoline.

                    I'm ready to talk more about language.  Next up:  an interesting post from Cameron Sawyer on the gerund.

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                • Diesel Cars in Denmark (David Gress, Denmark 10/17/12 3:41 PM)
                  In Denmark, diesel by the liter is about 15 per cent cheaper than gasoline. But the price of the fuel is a function of two things: the taxes imposed by the government, and refinery capacity. Diesel engines are, as Cameron Sawyer (15 October) says, nowadays far superior to gasoline-injected engines in almost every way. I understand that the supply of diesel fuel is limited by the latter, i.e. refinery capacity.

                  The price of diesel fuel in European states is mainly a function of state regulation. In Germany, it is the same or higher than that of gasoline. In Denmark, as I said, some 15 per cent less. Also in Italy or Spain, whereas in Britain it is, as John Heelan points out, higher than that of gasoline, or petrol, as the Brits insist on calling it.

                  Cameron is entirely right in praising the technological innovations in diesel engine performance. My own ambition is to town a Jeep Grand Cherokee built in Germany with common-rail injection and a fuel economy to be envied by all you Prius-drivers!

                  JE comments: Denmark, according to the link I appended to Cameron Sawyer's post of 16 October, has the second-highest gasoline and diesel prices in Europe.  The only nation which is higher:  Norway...which is also the largest oil producer in Europe (after Russia, of course).  I know that refining and taxes must be considered, but imagine a Norwegian politician trying to defend those prices in an American town-hall debate.

                  Ever wonder about the lowest oil-producing nations?  Wikipedia to the rescue.  Slovenia is second at 5 barrels of oil per day.  The "winner"?  Panama, with two barrels.

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            • Mitt Romney on Gasoline Prices (Istvan Simon, USA 10/16/12 3:00 PM)
              Governor Romney is lying the Fox News way on the campaign trail about gasoline prices. The Fox News/Romney way of lying is to say that gasoline prices were $1.84 when President Obama took office and now are near $5.00.

              This website...


              ...presents historical data on gasoline prices in the USA. Please click on the 8-year tab, which then shows gasoline prices covering both the last four years of the G.W. Bush presidency and the four years of President Obama. What we learn is that first of all the price of gas was $2.77, not $1.84 a gallon when President Obama took office. But of course that was because of the severe recession that President Bush's reckless policies produced. So the chart also shows that 6 months before that, thus definitely in the G.W. Presidency, the peak price of gasoline was $5.38 a gallon, a level never since reached under President Obama. This without correcting for inflation in the last 4 years, which of course would make the comparison picture still worse.

              Now compare that with what is said on Fox News:


              Note the careful editing of the dates and what is said at the time, and then go back to the gasoline price survey and compare. Note the avoidance of the $5.38 price. Instead they talk about the $3.87 price and the constant whining about "liberal media bias."

              Even worse is this:


              Note the flashing of prices like $5.65, which of course we never know where and when the footage was taken. Compare again with the peak average US price $5.38 reached under President Bush.

              I wonder how many pinocchios does Randy Black give here to Romney and Fox News.

              By the way, compare the historical gasoline prices with the employment data provided by Paul Pitlick at the Federal Reserve, St. Louis site in the oil/gas mining sector.

              JE comments: My sister the "Oilman" always says there is sure one way to increase employment in her industry: high prices. By the simple laws of macroeconomics, increased oil production would lead to lower prices, hence fewer jobs in energy extraction.

              But is Gov. Romney lying?  Selective presentation of data is not the same thing.  Politicians are very good at cherry-picking numbers to fit their arguments.

              Don't forget, WAISers of the world, that tonight is the second debate between President Obama and Governor Romney.  This time, the pressure to perform is clearly on the President.

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              • Mitt Romney on Gasoline Prices; Some Other Numbers to Contemplate (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 10/17/12 6:04 AM)
                Since Istvan Simon has such an interest in figures (16 October), how does he defend President Obama from the following stats presented by his opponent?

                23 Million Unemployed or underemployed

                47 Million on Food Stamps

                5.5 Million Homes on Crisis/Foreclosure

                $4500 Drop in Household income

                5.5 Trillion in new Debt....$55,000 per person in America (Hello)

                716 Billion in Medicare Cuts

                2.6 Trillion for Obamacare

                1.9 Trillion in New Taxes in Obama Budget

                100% + Increase in Gas Taxes

                39% Capital Gains Tax in 2013

                JE comments: Since I have a job, my biggest personal concern is the housing crisis--specifically, the huge amount of "equity" I've lost since 2008.  Even within the modest scope of my finances, far more than my $55K share of additional national debt has evaporated--poof.  Is this something I should blame President Obama for? I don't see how, but I'd like to blame somebody...

                Also, since we've been focusing on gasoline prices, if the (federal?) tax has gone up 100% under Obama, doesn't this mean that the underlying price of gasoline is actually cheaper than it was in the summer of 2008?


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                • US Federal Gasoline Tax (Randy Black, USA 10/21/12 10:48 AM)
                  In his 17 October post, Francisco Wong-Díaz made a rather puzzling claim about the federal tax on gasoline.

                  Among a list of numbers that Francisco posted supporting his premise that President Obama is doing a poor job of managing the US economy, he claimed that the gas tax is up more than 100% under Obama.

                  I don't like defending Obama. But, I cannot find any evidence that the per gallon federal tax has in the past four years doubled, or that it will.

                  In fact, the tax has been steady at 18.4 cents per gallon since Bill Clinton raised it a tenth of a cent in October 1997.

                  Now, if Francisco knows something to dispute my reading of the facts, I'm all for hearing anything that might cost Obama additional votes. All things considered, with the gaffes that he's made in the past few days, Obama needs little help as he continues to shoot himself in the foot.

                  In case anyone's interested in the state-by-state sales tax on gas, it varies from a low of 8 cents per gallon in Alaska to a high of 46.6 cents in California. The list is at:


                  Unrelated: The first federal tax on gasoline was imposed by President Hoover in 1932. It was 1 cent per gallon. That tax produced 7.7 percent of all federal revenues during that year of the Great Depression.

                  Sources: http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/incometaxandtheirs/a/Federal-Gas-Tax-Rates.htm

                  JE comments: Gasoline in this country is a sacred cow, and no party in Washington wants to be blamed for making it more expensive. The harsh truth, however, is that this nation is way overdue for an increase. Remember John Anderson's call 32 years ago for a 50-cent federal gas tax? It sounded outrageous then. Now it sounds quaint, except for the fact that we still don't have a 50-cent tax.

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                • Mitt Romney on Gasoline Prices; Some Other Numbers to Contemplate (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 10/23/12 8:20 AM)
                  In response to Francisco Wong-Díaz (17 October), I would like to lodge an objection against this form of argument for or against any particular president. The basis of my objection is that although really bad (or maybe really good) policy might be reflected in some end-of-term statistic in comparison to some beginning-of-term statistic, there is hardly ever any occasion when anyone can prove such a thing. And very often, these statistics simply don't tell us anything.

                  I am not really defending Obama's policies--I disagree with most of them. But in my opinion it is ridiculous to blame him for 23 million unemployed (or underemployed), or for 5.5 million houses in foreclosure, etc. Obama took office just as the world economy (n.b.--not just the US economy!) was imploding after the massive financial crisis of 2008. What did Obama, who took office only in 2009, have to do with the financial crisis of 2008? Perhaps it is really a great achievement of Obama that the figure is 23 million (or whatever it might be) un- and under-employed, and not 50 million? That it is 5.5 million homes in crisis, and not 20 million? Who is to say exactly what different policies might have produced?

                  Furthermore, most of the effects of good (or bad) economic policy are not felt immediately. In my opinion, the increase in the tax burden under Obama has been a very big policy mistake. But you can't prove that with today's statistics, which so far are telling us more or less only about things which happened in 2008, or even further back. Mistakes in tax policy made during 2009-2012 will be felt later--maybe not for several more years. Then these same simple-minded arguments might tend to implicate Romney, if he is elected, even if he reverses those mistakes (which I would not count on--this is entirely hypothetical). The big increase in spending under Obama is harder to understand--on the one hand, these spending increases may very well have helped us to avoid slipping into a real economic abyss after 2008, and if that is the case, then they were probably worth it on balance. On the other hand, we have an enormous increase in debt, which we will be digging out from under for a long time to come. But on balance, I am not even sure whether this was bad policy or not. And you sure can't prove it with these kinds of arguments.

                  These arguments are just like those giving Bill Clinton credit for the economic health resulting from the Reagan reforms of the 1980s--what did he have to do with it? I suppose we can give him some credit for not screwing it up. And very often that is all a president can do--is not screw up something which is going more or less in the right way. Our presidents are not omnipotent, and besides that, the results of what achievements they may have are usually not felt until years and years later.

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              • Gasoline Prices Revisited (Randy Black, USA 10/17/12 6:48 AM)
                Istvan Simon wrote on 16 October that the price of a gallon of gas was not the $1.84 per gallon when President Obama took office, as claimed by Governor Romney to Fox News. Istvan then accused Romney and Fox News of lying about that fact and asked me how I felt about this matter.

                Here is my analysis of the facts and of Istvan's claims:

                Istvan wrote: "What we learn is that first of all the price of gas was $2.77, not $1.84 a gallon when President Obama took office."

                RB: Istvan is apparently reading the gasbuddy.com Website chart incorrectly.

                Obama was elected Nov. 4, 2008 and sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009.

                Gasbuddy.com shows the price in the mid $1.80 per gallon range as the week of Jan. 18, 2009, as I wrote on Monday. I think that the problem is that Istvan is reading the gasbuddy.com using the prior year's prices. That's my hunch.

                That chart shows the prices roaming between about $1.70 and $1.80 per gallon from the time Obama won the election in early November 2008 until his swearing in on Jan. 20, 2009.

                Istvan is correct to question Romney and Fox News. The Romney campaign may have been off the mark a nickel at most.

                Ironically, gasbuddy.com mirrors my statement of 14 October. My source was the US Energy Information Administration.

                As I wrote on Monday this week:

                RB: "...when Obama was sworn in (prices the week of Jan. 18, 2009), the price of a gallon of gas averaged $1.89.

                "As of Oct. 8, 2012, the national average is $3.91, with variances above $6 per gallon in parts of California and Florida." Source: AP, Reuters and the USEIA.

                And then Istvan asks: "I wonder how many pinocchios does Randy Black give here to Romney and Fox News."

                RB: I give Romney congratulations for stating the truth and Istvan credit for misreading or misstating the facts.

                Note: Today, the average price of a gallon of regular gas in Los Angeles shows on gasbuddy.com to be about $4.63. Dallas shows an average of $3.49. I filled up my Mustang convertible, top down in 77 degree October sunshine after school this afternoon, for $3.38 per gallon. When Obama took office, the price in Dallas was about $1.68 per gasbuddy.com.

                JE comments: It seems half the nation has developed collective anmesia about gas prices in the summer of 2008.  (This was confirmed last night by Gov. Romney.)

                I hate to be the killjoy, but we've said just about all there is to say about US gasoline prices. Our friends in Europe (and Asia, and Australia/NZ, and everywhere else except perhaps Venezuela and Saudi Arabia) must be scratching their heads about how little we pay for dinosaur juice.  I probably buy more gas per week than anyone in WAISworld, but the price at the pump is not a terribly gripping topic.

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                • Gasoline Prices Revisited (Paul Pitlick, USA 10/18/12 5:00 AM)
                  I'll accept Randy Black's argument that Mr. Obama is a terrible president because gas prices in the US hit $4.00/gal on his watch. (See Randy's post of 17 October.)

                  So let's look at http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=EMM_EPM0_PTE_NUS_DPG&f=W

                  When gas prices were more than $4.00/gal in late 2008, doesn't that mean that Mr. Bush was an even worse president? And, probably Mr. Clinton was the best president of them all--look where gas prices were when he was president!

                  Personally, I look upon this as just another way for a Republican (Romney) to obfuscate, rather than educate. What is the point he's trying to make, anyway, other than to distract voters from more important issues?

                  JE comments: So who's the world's best leader according to the gasoline yardstick? Hint: He was just re-elected to another six-year term, he's despised by King Juan Carlos, and he looks sharp in a beret...

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                  • Obama, Bush II and Gasoline Prices (Michael Sullivan, USA 10/18/12 9:48 AM)

                    In response to Paul Pitlick (18 October), the problem is when gas prices were high in the US under President Bush it was highlighted and trumpeted daily to the nation by the MSM and liberal talk shows. Today, the only people bringing it up are Republicans running for office and conservatives, as the MSM and President Obama supporters are giving him a pass on the high gas prices.

                    JE comments:  I'll have to agree, and this was the point made in a Fox News article cited by Istvan Simon a few days ago:


                    One asks, however:  the first time we saw $4 gas in '08, it was uncharted territory.  Now, to quote a line from the article above, we've "been there, done that."


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                    • Obama, Bush II and Gasoline Prices (Paul Pitlick, USA 10/19/12 2:17 AM)
                      I'd like to thank Michael Sullivan (18 October) for exactly repeating my point about the distorted discussion of gas prices. As Michael said, "today, the only people bringing it up are Republicans running for office and conservatives." As pointed out in the link in JE's comment, "Republicans running for office and conservatives" were running all over themselves four years ago discussing how the president has no control over gas prices.

                      I still don't understand why Gov. Romney would even bring up this topic now, since it causes his side to flip-flop on yet another issue. Perhaps, he'd rather see that than to have to discuss the faulty logic of his tax "plan," or his income tax returns, or his stated desire to throw 47% of the population under his stable of Cadillacs--obfuscation, not education.

                      JE comments: Romney in 2012 enjoys the advantage of Obama in 2008: when times are tough, it's far easier to criticize from the outside than to defend what you've accomplished. Regarding gasoline prices, the only thing we've learned in recent years is that a world recession will rein them in. What can a president do other than release the strategic petroleum reserve?  Even "drill, drill, drill" has no effect on current prices.

                      By the by, has anyone noticed that prices in the US have gone down some 10% in the last two weeks?

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