Trump administration finalizes plan to drill in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Josh Siegel, The Washington Examiner, August 17, 2020
The Trump administration on Monday finalized a plan to begin selling leases for companies to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a long off-limits area that environmentalists consider to be one of the wildest places left on Earth. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s “record of decision” authorizing the oil and gas program delivers on a mandate from the 2017 Republican tax cut bill that included a provision allowing energy exploration in a 1.56 million-acre section of the refuge, known as the “1002 area,” where billions of barrels of oil are believed to lie beneath the coastal plain.
The decision determines where and under what terms and conditions leasing will occur in the coastal plain within the 19.3 million-acre ANWR, which Bernhardt said contains the largest untapped onshore reserves of oil and gas in North America. Bernhardt said the first lease could occur by the end of the year, a faster timeline than Congress required, which could make it difficult for a future administration to overturn.
Why California’s Climate Policies Are Causing Electricity Blackouts
Michael Shellenberger, Forbes, August 15, 2020
Millions of Californians were denied electrical power and thus air conditioning during a heatwave, raising the risk of heatstroke and death, particularly among the elderly and sick. The blackouts come at a time when people, particularly the elderly, are forced to remain indoors due to Covid-19. At first, the state’s electrical grid operator last night asked customers to voluntarily reduce electricity use. But after power reserves fell to dangerous levels it declared a “Stage 3 emergency” cutting off power to people across the state at 6:30 pm.
The immediate reason for the black-outs was the failure of a 500-megawatt power plant and an out-of-service 750-megawatt unit not being available. “There is nothing nefarious going on here,” said a spokeswoman for California Independent System Operator (CAISO). “We are just trying to run the grid. “But the underlying reasons that California is experiencing rolling blackouts for the second time in less than a year stem from the state’s climate policies, which California policymakers have justified as necessary to prevent deaths from heatwaves.
Warren Buffett makes unexpected bet on gold
Bloomberg Opinion, August 17, 2020
Dumping bank shares and investing in a gold miner? It certainly doesn’t sound like a Warren Buffett move, but that’s exactly what the investing guru’s company did in the second quarter, according to a regulatory disclosure Friday. It’s not a good sign for markets. Buffett, the fifth-richest person in the world, has loved few things more in his life than sweets, soda and compound interest — but banking stocks have come pretty close. Buffett was there to boost them during and after the last crisis, and he’s remained a top shareholder in most of the big U.S. banks. That’s why it’s so jarring that Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. sold 62% of its stake in JPMorgan Chase & Co. and cut 26% of its Wells Fargo & Co. holdings last period amid the Covid-19 crisis. The conglomerate also pared back positions in other financial-services firms including PNC Financial Services Group Inc., M&T Bank Corp., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Mastercard Inc. and Visa Inc. Berkshire all but exited Goldman Sachs in the first quarter — in the first of Buffett’s worrying signals — and finished the deed in the second.
Biden Tax Agenda Hinges on Democratic Control of Senate
Richard Rubin, The Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2020
Joe Biden wants to combat climate change, repair the country’s crumbling infrastructure, improve education and expand government-financed health care. To finance that ambitious agenda, the Democratic presidential candidate plans to raise taxes by about $4 trillion over a decade through levies on corporations and high-income households.
But winning the presidency won’t be enough to get that done. The Democratic Party also will have to win a majority in the Senate while maintaining control of the House of Representatives. President Trump’s weak poll numbers and competitive Senate races make that outcome a realistic possibility for the first time in a decade. In an increasingly polarized political environment, winning that House-Senate-White House trifecta means everything. It’s how Democrats passed the 2010 health-care law without a Republican vote. It’s how Republicans passed the 2017 tax cuts without a Democratic vote.