Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Russia gets the offshore drilling jobs … US sits on its duff.

Today, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced Exxon Mobil has been awarded exploration rights in the Russian Arctic superseding efforts by BP and Rosneft the Russian state owned oil company.   This amazing coup gives the US based company the rights to the highly lucrative offshore fields.  Russia gets Exxon Mobil’s offshore drilling expertise and a massive investment.  From the NY Times:

The agreement seemed to supersede a similar but now-defunct partnership that Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft, reached with BP earlier this year. The deal announced Tuesday replaces BP, the British oil giant, with its American counterpart and introduces some differences in the geopolitical bargain.

Where BP had swapped stock, Exxon agrees to hand over to Rosneft unspecified assets elsewhere in the world, including some that the Texas-based company owns in the deepwater zones of the Gulf of Mexico and onshore in Texas.

In the announcement of the arrangement, coming after a surprise signing in the Russian resort town of Sochi, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin described a sweeping global alliance — and a potentially vast investment by Exxon in the Russian Arctic.

Mr. Putin said the total investments envisioned under the agreement could reach $500 billion, including a direct investment of $200 billion to $300 billion. It was unclear what the timeline would be or whether this included the value of asset swaps.

Contrast Exxon Mobil’s fate to Shell Oil which has Alaskan offshore exploration and drilling rights.  It has already invested nearly $4 billion in exploration, including $2.2 billion for the federal lease and was turned down for production by a fly specking EPA. Contrast it to Conoco which is being held up by the Corps of Engineers that won’t allow it to build a bridge and road to its lease in the Alaskan National Petroleum Reserve to get machinery in and a pipeline to get oil out.  And there is the granddaddy of all regulatory foot dragging, the deep water oil fields in the US Gulf of Mexico.

Tens of thousands of high priced American oil field jobs sit idle because of this administration.  They will remain so until it comes to its senses.  Putin will create jobs in Russia and get reelected to the Russian presidency in 2012.

Obama will not.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Peggy Noonan and whether Obama should run for a second term

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan takes a look at President Obama’s Martha's Vineyard vacation and speculates on his thoughts in view of declining poll numbers, and disillusionment among his supporters.

How could he not be depressed? He has made big mistakes since the beginning of his presidency and has been pounded since the beginning of his presidency. He's got to be full of doubts at this point about what to do. His baseline political assumptions have proved incorrect, his calculations have turned out to be erroneous, his big decisions have turned to dust. He thought they'd love him for health care, that it was a down payment on greatness. But the left sees it as a sellout, the center as a vaguely threatening mess, the right as a rallying cry. He thought the stimulus would turn the economy around. It didn't. He thought there would be a natural bounce-back a year ago, with "Recovery Summer." There wasn't. He thought a toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball struggle over the debt ceiling would enhance his reputation. The public would see through to the dark heart of Republican hackery and come to recognize the higher wisdom of his approach. That didn't happen either.

Nothing worked! And nothing's going to work. He's the smartest guy in the room, but he's got the reverse Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to—well, unsatisfying outcomes.

In a stinging rebuke of the president, Noonan points out his policies and initiatives have turned into abject failures.  And she chides him for tone deafness for choosing Martha’s Vineyard for his vacation getaway, a summer hangout for the well heeled establishment elite, at a time of the nation's suffering. 

But the article is more than failures and vacations.  It questions whether Obama should continue to seek a second term.  Indeed the subhead of the op-ed is, “Is his visit to Martha's Vineyard a sign that he's giving up?”  She concludes her article with an ominous series of statements which are in reality questions for Obama to answer: 

In early 2010 this space made much of the president's pre-State of the Union interview with Diane Sawyer, in which she pressed the president about his political predicaments. He said: "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president." I thought at the time: He means it, he can accept being a one-termer.

Maybe he's feeling it now more than ever.

Maybe it means not much will change in terms of his leadership between now and the election.

Maybe he'll be as wilted next year as he was this week.

The question of whether Obama will or should run is the great unspoken among influential Democrats.  It goes beyond whether Obama can win.  It goes to whether Democrats might lose the Senate on top of the White House.  Jimmy Carter’s landslide loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 cost Democrats the senate.  Already senate Democrats are fearful that Obama is sucking the oxygen from big hitter contributors by maxing them out, leaving nothing available for their war chests.  Nothing is worse than finding yourself short on funding and having the President's coat tails dragging you down at the same time.  It's lose/lose however you look at it.

No Democrat would dare to challenge Obama for the nomination.  Democrats almost never take on an incumbent president of their own party, and it would be political suicide to challenge the first ever African American president.  For Obama not to run for a second term, the decision would have to come from him, as it did with Lyndon Johnson in the spring of 1968.  Still, it could come at the urging of highly trusted confidantes as happened with Nixon. 

Whatever the outcome, Peggy Noonan, in her excellent article, has opened the door on a previously taboo subject.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is Rick Perry really the Marlboro Man?

Do looks help in Presidential elections?  Many women would say yes about Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jack Kennedy and the opposite for John Kerry and Michael Dukakis.  Certainly Richard Nixon was no looker, but he managed to beat Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern neither of whom were movie star figures.

Now comes Rick Perry who has the rugged western good looks of the Marlboro Man.  Will he make ladies’ hearts go pitter patter?  My wife thinks so.  No matter what, good looks don’t hurt.