US soon to leapfrog Saudis, Russia as top oil producer
By DAVID KOENIG
AP Business Writer
Thursday, July 12
The U.S. is on pace to leapfrog both Saudi Arabia and Russia and reclaim the title of the world’s biggest oil producer for the first time since the 1970s.
The latest forecast from the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that U.S. output will grow next year to 11.8 million barrels a day.
“If the forecast holds, that would make the U.S. the world’s leading producer of crude,” says Linda Capuano, who heads the agency, a part of the Energy Department.
Saudi Arabia and Russia could upend that forecast by boosting their own production. In the face of rising global oil prices, members of the OPEC cartel and a few non-members including Russia agreed last month to ease production caps that had contributed to the run-up in prices.
President Donald Trump has urged the Saudis to pump more oil to contain rising prices. He tweeted on June 30 that King Salman agreed to boost production “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels.” The White House later clarified that the king said his country has a reserve of 2 million barrels a day that could be tapped “if and when necessary.”
The idea that the U.S. could ever again become the world’s top oil producer once seemed preposterous.
“A decade ago the only question was how fast would U.S. production go down,” said Daniel Yergin, author of several books about the oil industry including a history, “The Prize.” The rebound of U.S. output “has made a huge difference. If this had not happened, we would have had a severe shortage of world oil,” he said.
The United States led the world in oil production for much of the 20th century, but the Soviet Union surpassed America in 1974, and Saudi Arabia did the same in 1976, according to Energy Department figures.
By the end of the 1970s the USSR was producing one-third more oil than the U.S.; by the end of the 1980s, Soviet output was nearly double that of the U.S.
The last decade or so has seen a revolution in American energy production, however, led by techniques including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling.
Those innovations — and the breakup of the Soviet Union — helped the U.S. narrow the gap. Last year, Russia produced more than 10.3 million barrels a day, Saudi Arabia pumped just under 10 million, and the U.S. came in under 9.4 million barrels a day, according to U.S. government figures.
The U.S. has been pumping more than 10 million barrels a day on average since February, and probably pumped about 10.9 million barrels a day in June, up from 10.8 million in May, the energy agency said Tuesday in its latest short-term outlook.
Capuano’s agency forecast that U.S. crude output will average 10.8 million barrels a day for all of 2018 and 11.8 million barrels a day in 2019. The current U.S. record for a full year is 9.6 million barrels a day in 1970.
The trend of rising U.S. output prompted Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, to predict this spring that the U.S. would leapfrog Russia and become the world’s largest producer by next year — if not sooner.
One potential obstacle for U.S. drillers is a bottleneck of pipeline capacity to ship oil from the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico to ports and refineries.
“They are growing the production but they can’t get it out of the area fast enough because of pipeline constraints,” said Jim Rittersbusch, a consultant to oil traders.
Some analysts believe that Permian production could decline, or at least grow more slowly, in 2019 or 2020 as energy companies move from their best acreage to more marginal areas.
Why I Got Arrested This Summer (And You Should, Too)
With 43 percent of Americans in or near poverty, most of us know there’s something deeply wrong with our democracy. Will we stand up for it?
By Saurav Sarkar | Jul 11, 2018
In his famous essay “On Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau explained why he went to jail in 1846. He said he refused to pay taxes to a government that was pursuing the extension of slavery. To support such a government, Thoreau argued, was to be complicit in its worst deeds.
With this essay, Thoreau helped inspire the modern tradition of civil disobedience, his footsteps followed by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others.
This summer, I joined that tradition by getting arrested for demonstrating without a permit at the United States Capitol — along with about 100 others from the Poor People’s Campaign, including Reverend William J. Barber II. The arrests were part of a larger wave of nonviolent civil disobedience over six weeks that resulted in about 2,500 arrests of clergy, activists, and poor people across 40 states and Washington, DC.
As we marched up to the Capitol to face a line of police officers, we chanted and sang songs about our intentions: “Everybody’s got a right to live.” “I went down to the Capitol and took back my dignity.” “Before this campaign fails, we’ll all go down to jail.”
The chants and songs helped us stay connected and calm in an anxiety-inducing situation. I met marchers from Maine and Washington State as we shared cigarettes and stories of our backgrounds amid the mild tension.
The campaign’s goal is to draw attention to the voices and situations of the 140 million poor and low-income people who make up 43 percent of the U.S. population. Almost half us! We’re hoping that the arrests and other actions will help begin a mass movement.
The truth is, our political, economic, and social systems are broken — and most Americans know it.
Three individual people have as much wealth as the bottom half of the country, and most of the latter can’t withstand a $400 emergency without going under. The police are shooting black people like Antwon Rose with abandon, and getting away it. The president is hell-bent on incarcerating families in camps at the border, including young children, and the U.S. is sleepwalking through wars in at least seven mostly Muslim countries.
Oh, and climate change is about to literally destroy human civilization.
Without intervention from the American people, our government is going to drive us off a cliff. And so people are taking action.
Of course, getting arrested isn’t right or safe for everyone. But you don’t have to get arrested to make change. All over, people are taking action in other creative ways.
For example, members of the Democratic Socialists of America publicly shamed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in Washington, DC while she was eating at a Mexican restaurant. The Red Hen, a Virginia restaurant, refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Both of these tactics generated widespread discussion, all without a single person getting arrested.
Whatever it is, we’ve all got to do something, or else we’re going to be in a lot more trouble than a $50 fine and an arrest record (which is what I got).
So what are you waiting for? Check out poorpeoplescampaign.org and take action.
Saurav Sarkar is the research coordinator for the Poor Peoples Campaign at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Why They Still Come
The U.S. created conditions in Central America that families are desperate to flee — even if they risk being separated.
By Mitchell Zimmerman | Jul 9, 2018
What goes around comes around. This familiar phrase explains why Central American families and children are coming up to our back door, seeking asylum in the United States.
And they will keep coming — even if the Trump government resumes tearing small children away from their parents — because for them it is literally a matter of life and death to escape the horrific violence that our government sowed in their homelands.
Why wouldn’t they try? Attorney General Sessions asserts that gang violence is no longer a basis for seeking asylum. But try telling that to a teenager whose parents have been murdered by one of the gangs that have overwhelmed El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and so many parts of Mexico.
Try telling that to a mother whose 13-year-old daughter is being “recruited” on pain of death for sex with a gang leader — and who has seen girls her age gang-raped, mutilated, and murdered.
Would you stay and “wait for your turn” for lawful entry to the United States, a turn that might never come? Or would you tell your daughter: Go! Get away as fast as you can, for God’s sake, and get into the United States any way you can!
It started long ago in the 1980s, when a million Salvadorans fled a brutal civil war. In desperation, many entered the United States unlawfully. Similar struggles in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in that era generated still more refugees.
The U.S. backed brutal parties to each of these conflicts, making them that much bloodier.
A decade later, many of those who came to America as children — by then teenagers living in cities awash in racial tension, and despairing of achieving a better life — were recruited into gangs and inculcated into U.S. gang culture. Instead of addressing the problem, America chose an easy solution in the 1990s: Take those who weren’t citizens and dump them elsewhere. Our government “exported” them to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
But the thousands of deported gang-bangers — many of whom had been carried to the U.S. as small children, spoke only “Spanglish,” and had few marketable skills — had no better chance of lawful integration in their supposed “home” countries. So they re-formed and resumed gang life and gang warfare in Central America.
We also gave them something to fight over: the multi-billion-dollar business of exporting drugs to the United States. For decades, American politicians made political hay by waging a supposed war on drugs, a war they know can never be won, rather than recognize drug abuse as a public health problem.
The results: ever-more fierce, drug-driven gang wars in Central American and Mexico. And a reign of terror from which unaccompanied children and entire families have fled, as murder, assault, and rape by gang members became rampant. Do you wonder they need to escape to our country?
If common decency — if the crying of small children — isn’t enough for us to recognize them as human beings deserving asylum, then we should recognize that they are America’s responsibility because the United States helped create the disaster they seek to escape.
These children and mothers and fathers aren’t criminals. They’re refugees. If America isn’t a refuge for those in desperate need, what are we as a nation?
Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney who’s represented a number of DACA applicants. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
How to Level the Playing Field for Workers — Even with Unions Hurting
A federal jobs and income guarantee could protect workers the way unions once did.
By Bob Lord | Jul 11, 2018
The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus vs. AFSCME dealt organized labor, already on its heels, a crushing blow. Public employees who choose not to join unions now cannot be required to pay so-called “fair share” fees to compensate unions for the cost of representing them in wage and benefit negotiations.
With only 6.5 percent of private sector workers unionized, teachers, firefighters, and other public employee unions have been the bulwark of organized labor in recent years. Over a third of government workers are unionized, but that will likely head south in the wake of Janus.
Absent a union, an individual employee negotiating against a large employer is powerless. If the employer and worker don’t agree to terms, the employer loses one worker out of many, while the employee’s children go hungry. Guess who wins?
In their heyday, unions represented a third of all workers, playing an outsized role in creating America’s middle class. With powerful unions, even non-union workers benefited, because all employers competed for workers from the same labor pool.
No longer. With so few union jobs, non-union employers feel little pressure to match union wages.
Does that mean a return to the days workers were forced to accept subsistence wages and harsh working conditions? Maybe — if we fail to protect and expand the legislative victories of the labor movement.
Although the unions of yesteryear are gone, two of their greatest victories — the minimum wage and overtime pay — remain. Both need strengthening.
You might’ve heard of The Fight for 15, a campaign for a $15 minimum wage. That would raise pay not just for current minimum wage workers, but for millions more. Changing the way we do overtime could help, too.
The overtime threshold, currently 40 hours per week, defines the total hours employers can pay their workforces at regular pay rates. Above 40 hours, they have to pay more.
What if that number were less than 40, though? Then, more employers would either pay overtime — which obviously increases wages — or cut the workweek and make up the lost hours with additional workers. That increases the demand for workers, which results in higher hourly pay, all other things being equal.
One way or another, lowering the overtime threshold would increase wages.
The minimum wage and overtime pay won’t by themselves give workers sufficient strength at the bargaining table. That strength can come from one or both of two other ideas whose time has come: a basic income guarantee, or BIG, and a federal job guarantee.
A BIG guarantees all adults a minimal income. By itself, most BIG proposals would leave recipients still needing to work. But the BIG would enhance worker bargaining power.
Instead of facing starvation if he didn’t agree to an employer’s terms, an employee would have the BIG as a backstop. He wouldn’t have much movie money, but he could get by until an employer offering acceptable terms came along.
A federal job guarantee would provide an unskilled job to any person willing to work. From infrastructure to day care to elderly care to assisting in schools and hospitals, there are infinite ways in which unskilled workers could benefit American society.
A federal job guarantee would place workers on a sound footing when negotiating with employers. No longer could employers force workers to choose between accepting lousy pay and being unemployed.
The reinvigoration of organized labor would be a welcome development. But with or without it, we’ll need a movement strong enough to force politicians to enact the field-leveling laws that protect workers the way unions once did.
Bob Lord, a veteran tax lawyer and former congressional candidate, practices and blogs in Phoenix, Arizona. Distributed by Otherwords.org.
The New York Times Is Still Getting the Bernie Movement Wrong
America’s paper of record said a Bernie Sanders-inspired grassroots group was “failing” — just one day before its candidates rocked the Democratic establishment.
By Jim Hightower | Jul 11, 2018
Before major news organizations pronounce someone dead, they ought to check the person’s pulse.
Take, for example, a recent New York Times screed prematurely pronouncing the Our Revolution political organization — launched only two years ago by veterans of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign — a moribund failure. “The group has repeatedly picked fights with the Democratic establishment in primary elections, losing nearly every time,” the paper barked.
But, lo and behold, the very next day, Our Revolution’s endorsed candidate for governor in the Maryland primary, Ben Jealous, handily defeated the party establishment’s favorite. And in New York, a 28-year-old Our Revolution activist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, shocked the national party’s corporate hierarchy with her resounding grassroots victory over Rep. Joe Crowley, the fourth highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. House.
These big scores followed the group’s earlier outsider victories over moneyed insiders in the Georgia and Texas gubernatorial primaries.
In fact, the insurgent group, which the Times ridiculed as “failing,” has been winning dozens of upset victories in down-ballot primary elections from coast to coast, electing 45 percent of its candidates. That’s a huge number is grassroots politics.
Just as significant, these Sanders-inspired progressive rebels have now defined the Democratic Party’s agenda. They’ve enlivened both its supporters and many of its previously lethargic office holders by backing such populist (and popular) proposals as Medicare For All and debt-free higher education.
Apparently, it’s hard to see America’s grassroots reality through the dusty and distant office windows of the New York Times. So before the editors and writers do another hit piece on the people and candidates of Our Revolution, maybe they could come out of their journalistic cubicles.
Jim Hightower, an OtherWords columnist, is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Our Revolution Board. Distributed by OtherWords.org.