Monday, March 14, 2005

Common Sense On Drilling In ANWR

I covered this issue last week and until now found very little else new, written on the subject. This analysis from the OpEd Page of The New York Times goes into the fact that technology has changed the way we look for and get the oil from the ground.

In past decades, Arctic oil development involved huge amounts of equipment that had to be moved over gravel roads and laid upon large gravel pads. The machines that transported this equipment often scarred the land, especially in spring and summer.

American ingenuity has tackled this problem. Today, oil exploration in the Arctic occurs only in the frozen winter. Workers build roads and platforms of ice to protect the soil and vegetation. Trucks with huge tires called rolligons distribute load weights over large areas of snow to minimize the impact on the tundra below.

Meanwhile, innovations in platform development and directional drilling mean that we need fewer and smaller pads to tap into oil and gas reserves. From a single platform, we can explore an underground area nearly the size of the District of Columbia.

Likewise, satellite infrared imaging helps energy companies to avoid key wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive areas while 3-D seismic data imaging improves the chances of drilling a successful well by 50 percent, meaning fewer wells.
What of the 1980's legislation that created the ANWR region to be slated for oil production?
In 1980, when Congress created the refuge, it set aside the 1002 area for possible future energy development. To date, Congress has not approved this development because of environmental concerns. In the meantime, America's domestic production of energy has declined and we have become more and more dependent on imported oil.

As part of a comprehensive energy strategy of promoting conservation and reducing dependence on foreign oil, we must increase our energy production here at home. The 1002 area is potentially the largest untapped source of oil and gas on American soil. While we cannot promise that there will be no impact on the wildlife and habitat of the 1002 area, we can promise no significant impact.

In fact, legislation to open up the area passed last year by the House of Representatives laid down the strictest environmental standards ever applied to energy development and flatly stated that development must "result in no significant adverse effect on fish and wildlife, their habitat, subsistence resources, and the environment."

We can meet this standard because of the extraordinary advances in oil field technology. If approved by Congress, the overall "footprint" of the equipment and facilities needed to develop the 1002 area would be restricted to 2,000 acres, an area about the size of a regional airport in a refuge the size of South Carolina.
Like I have said in previous interviews and articles, the area needed to look for and get from the ground the oil that will one day amount to 1 million barrels per day would take up the area comparable to a postage stamp on a standard size piece of paper. Furthermore, the areas around the drill site would be more inhabitable than almost any other part of the region due to the supply of warmth the rigging would produce.

This all speaks nothing of the support the project has from the Eskimos in the area. In fact poll after poll has shown that a full 2/3 of inhabitants that would be affected approve of the drilling project.

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A Major Set Back For Married Couples

They have successfully turned the right to marry into a "civil right" which it is not. Once again, the tyrannical judges of San Francisco have pushed their own personal beliefs on the rest of us. This news makes me sick to my stomach.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A judge ruled Monday that California's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional - a legal milestone that, if upheld on appeal, would open the way for the most populous state to follow Massachusetts in allowing same-sex couples to wed.

Judge Richard Kramer of San Francisco County's trial-level Superior Court likened the ban to laws requiring racial segregation in schools, and said there appears to be "no rational purpose" for denying marriage to gay couples.

The ruling came in response to lawsuits filed by the city of San Francisco and a dozen gay couples a year ago after the California Supreme Court halted a four-week same-sex marriage spree started by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The opinion had been eagerly awaited because of San Francisco's historical role as a gay rights battleground.
This is not about wanting "marriage" this is about giving gays and lesbians a greater level of legitimacy by equating them to mainstream institutions such as marriage. The people of California have made it clear they do not want marriage to define a gay union but the judges care not about what the majority want. They care only for their own ideology and that they can force it down the throats of regular folks like you and me. I am back on board for a Constitutional Ammendment banning gay marriage.

The Associated Press story wraps with the most telling proof that this issue is about legitimacy rather than rights:

California has the highest percentage of same-sex partners in the nation, and its Legislature has gone further than any other in providing gay couples the benefits of marriage without being forced to do so by court order.

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An Apple (truck) A Day Keeps The Hatred Away

I had read of the interesting trade agreement between Syria and Israel in the past and am happy to see that it has actually bore fruit (pun intended):

Six trucks carrying dozens of cartons of apples grown by Syrian farmers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights passed through a border point in this town Monday in the first commercial traffic here in more than three decades.

The first-ever business between Syria - an arch foe of Israel - and residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights was seen by many as a gesture by Damascus toward the possibility of resuming peace talks with Israel.

But a Syrian lawmaker insisted the move had no political purpose, and Israeli political analysts played down its significance.

Damascus agreed this month to let Druse farmers in the Golan sell their Golden Delicious and Starking apples - renowned as particularly delicious because they are grown on high ground - inside Syria.

Since Israel and Syria last fought over the plateau in the 1973 war, the crossing essentially has been used only by Syrian brides marrying into Druse families and Druse students studying in Syria.

But the U.N.-monitored business transaction, carried out by Kenyans driving trucks with the Swiss license plates of the International Committee of the Red Cross, may be a one-time affair. Since Israel occupied the plateau during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, there had been no business previously between both sides.

A U.S.-brokered troop separation deal returned Quneitra to Syrian rule in 1974 but not before retreating Israelis bulldozed hundreds of houses. Israel now holds two-thirds of the Golan, or about 450 square miles, and formally annexed it in 1981.

Some 17,000 Arabs following the Druse religion - an offshoot of Islam - live on the Israeli-occupied side with 15,000 Israeli settlers. Nearly all the Arabs have rejected Israeli citizenship and retain strong feelings for Syria, which provides free university education.

About 220 tons of apples from a total of 7,700 tons will cross daily into Syria in the next several weeks, ICRC delegation head Jean-Jacques Fresard told reporters.

"It took us several months until we had an agreement in principle on the operation itself," he said, adding the transaction was a "one-time operation only."

The apples are expected to be sold for about 29 cents per pound, and some might be exported. The trucks carried the fruit across the border and passed them to Syrian trucks waiting a half-mile away.

Syria and Israel have not reached a peace deal, and Damascus said it was making the purchase to help its Syrian brethren on the other side of the border.

Ismail Mer'i, a Syrian parliamentarian waiting for the trucks with U.N. team members, said the "operation is ultimately humanitarian and has no political connotations."

Yoel Chen, an Israeli Agriculture Ministry official who watched the apples cross, said the shipment had business benefits for the Golan.

"The intention is that in the end we will open some kind of route for large quantities of fruits to travel through Syria to markets in the Gulf states," he told Israel's Channel 10 TV.

Some Israelis did not see much political impact.

"I do not think it is that important - it is just a gesture from the Syrians to the Druse who are their citizens. It is a way for the Syrians to keep in touch with them," said Shlomo Brom, a Syria expert at Tel Aviv University. "If anyone is looking for signs of impending peace between Israel and Syria, I wouldn't recommend looking there."

Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that although Damascus was ready to resume negotiations with Israel where they left off in 2000, there was no hope for peace talks for now because Israel would not agree to that condition.

Nevertheless, Assad - under intense pressure over Lebanon - has made several conciliatory moves in recent months, including agreeing in principle to withdraw Syrian troops from Lebanon. A key Iraqi insurgent, who was a half brother of Saddam Hussein, also was captured recently with apparent Syrian help.

Last month, Syria's Foreign Ministry said the apples would enter Syria through Quneitra on the Golan border, 40 miles southwest of Damascus, under the supervision of the U.N. Disengagement and Observer Forces.

In explaining the decision, the ministry said the fruit was "Syrian, grown on Syrian land and owned by Syrians." The objective was "to meet the pressing demands of Syrian citizens languishing under occupation and to help alleviate their suffering."
All things being equal, the tyrants in The Middle East (Hezbollah and Bashar Al-Assad to mane 2) are not done obstructing Democratic developments in that region. But we are seeing a true calling by the peoples of these war-torn lands for reform of their governments. These small gestures, like apples are merely micro-cogs in a process much larger and vast in scope than any one person is capable of explaining. No longer can the anti-Democratic rhetoric passed on from such places as the United Nations win the ears of all the people. Slowly but surely, one person and then two and then three are coming to realize that what we are offering is not "Americanization" but rather a key to a future much brighter than that offered by folks like Saddam Hussein, The Mullahs of Iran and Bashar Al-Assad.

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Democrats Stick Their Heads In The Sand Again - This Time On Social Security

A fine article was written in today's Washington Post regarding Democrats refusal to offer a counter to Bush's plan for personal accounts. As Sebastian Mallaby reminds us:

Last year Democrats impaled themselves on the Iraq war. They were so anxious to denounce the invasion that they failed to acknowledge the most basic point of all: that, having waded into Iraq, the United States could not leave prematurely. By attacking the Bush policy relentlessly, Democrats sounded negative. By refusing to say clearly that they would finish the Iraq job, they sounded irresponsible.
It's not difficult to see where Mallaby is going with this:
Now Democrats risk making the same mistake on Social Security. They are so anxious to denounce private accounts that they fail to acknowledge the most basic point: Social Security has a serious deficit. The Post reported Friday that nearly every Democratic senator refuses even to contemplate the Bush proposals. But the Democrats have no proposal of their own. They sound negative and irresponsible.
I have been simply astounded at the way Democrats have been behaving since their loss of the Whitehouse in 2000. It is as if their situation has become so grim that they no longer feel it necessary to act like responsible politicians. Mallaby agrees that it is irresponsible for Democrats to simply stick their heads in the sand over Social Security:
This is a mistake, first, because it's bad for the country. Social Security's deficit does need to be fixed, and the fix will be harder if we miss the current opportunity. Whatever one thinks of President Bush's personal accounts, he's out there touring the country, trying to open people's minds to the necessity of reform; meanwhile, Republican members of Congress are sticking their necks out with detailed overhaul proposals. If this moment is squandered, it may be years before any politician musters the courage to tackle Social Security.

Those are years we can't afford. As the debate illustrates, reform is salable only if it exempts people near retirement. The oldest baby boomers, those born in 1946, are already almost 60. With each year that passes, the cohort of politically inviolable near-retirees expands sharply -- meaning that the burden of remedial tax hikes and benefit cuts on younger workers will have to be that much heavier.
I for one actually hope Democrats continue their habit of obstruction and naysaying. I left the Democratic Party for one that sees the issues for a realistic point of view rather than forcing an idealistic agenda on America regardless of the consequences.

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It Makes A Pretty Picture For Sure!

From The Daily Star of Lebanon:

BEIRUT: Mobilization for the opposition parties' demonstration Monday continued over the weekend despite calls from President Emile Lahoud and Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir to limit shows of force.

Commemorating the passing of one month since the killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri, opposition movements have used all ways, including leaflets, statements and gatherings around the country in an attempt to reach large numbers of people and encourage them to participate in what appears to be a counter demonstration.

Last Tuesday, at the call of pro-Syrian resistance group Hizbullah, half a million gathered in Downtown Beirut to show loyalty to Damascus which is blamed by the international community and the local opposition for Hariri's killing.

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, the spiritual leader of the Qornet Shehwan opposition movement, said during his Sunday sermon that: "If shows of forces continue in the streets, no one knows where this will lead us to and this is what spiteful people are looking for."

On Saturday, Lahoud had warned that continued protests could lead to disaster in a country once ravaged by civil war. Lahoud said: "If they want to continue demonstrating, a little firecracker will lead to a catastrophe."
The threat pronounced there was not lost on anyone. The Freedom-haters attempts to stiffle Democratic reform is floundering. Expect they will fight to re-institute their Gestapo-like control of Lebanon.

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Those For Freedom From Syria Launch Biggest Street Protest To Date

Now this is the throws of Democracy. Like a baby coming into the world, it's dirty yet awe inspiring.

Hundreds of thousands of opposition demonstrators chanted "Freedom, sovereignty, independence" and unfurled a huge Lebanese flag in Beirut on Monday, the biggest protest yet in the opposition's duel of street rallies with supporters of the Damascus-backed government.

Crowds of men, women and children flooded Martyrs Square, spilling over into nearby streets, while more from across the country packed the roads into Beirut - responding to an opposition call to demonstrate for the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

"We are coming to liberate our country. We are coming to demand the truth," said Fatma Trad, a veiled Sunni Muslim woman who traveled from the remote region of Dinniyeh in northern Lebanon to take part.

The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri exactly one month ago sparked the series of protests against Syria, the dominant power in Lebanon.
So 1st the anti-Syrians launched a protest and it was big. Then the terrorist group Hezbollah and pro-Syrians launched an even bigger protest. And now we have this one, the biggest of them all put on by the people of Lebanon that want to design their own future! I love it!

UPDATE: The Associated Press seems to believe that completely withdrawing all troops and intelligence assets from Lebanon will not get Bashar Al-Assad off the hook completely:

Even if Syria does in the end fully withdraw from Lebanon, Syrian President Bashar Assad may not be off the hook. Instead, U.S. pressure is expected to shift to issues of reform, cross-border infiltration into Iraq and Syrian links to militant Arab groups.

Squeezing Assad further could present the young Syrian leader with serious domestic problems at a time when some question the extent of control he has over his Arab nation.

"The pressure will continue until Syria achieves every U.S. goal," said Ayman Abdel-Nour, a prominent member of Assad's ruling Baath party. "Syria will be left alone only when it no longer has a regional role, its influence in Iraq is gone, it severs links with Hamas, Jihad, Iran and Hezbollah," he said from Damascus.
Here's hoping and praying!

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