Trump team wants to roll back Obama-era mileage standards
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER
Thursday, August 2
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is proposing to roll back Obama-era mileage standards that were designed to make cars more fuel efficient and reduce pollution.
The administration also filed notice Thursday that it wants to revoke the authority of California and other states to set their own, stricter mileage standards — independent of federal ones.
The proposal would freeze an effort by the Obama administration intended to promote auto fuel efficiency and curb tailpipe emissions of climate-changing pollutants. Those rules were to take effect after 2020.
The Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that relaxing mileage standards in the years ahead would give “the American people greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles that are cleaner for the environment.”
The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the administration supports freezing the mileage standards after 2020, but would seek public comment now on that proposal and a range of others, including leaving the tighter, Obama administration fuel standards in place.
Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, called the proposed rule “a massive pileup of bad ideas” that would increase pollution and raise fuel costs for consumers.
He said in a statement that the organization would challenge the administration’s action “in the court of public opinion and the court of law.”
California and 16 other states sued in the administration over the fuel efficiency standards in May, anticipating the new regulation.
Opinion: Economic Effects of U.S.-Iran Dispute
By Ellen R. Wald
Escalating rhetoric between Iran and President Trump’s administration has threatened to lead to outright conflict in the Persian Gulf. But a much more realistic danger is actually spiking oil prices. In fact, if the United States was not producing a record 11 million barrels of oil per day, we might be seeing dramatic increases in oil prices.
In a speech on July 21, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “If Iran’s oil is not to be exported, oil of no country in the region will be exported.” This was taken by the global oil industry as a threat that Iran would block off access to the Persian Gulf at the Strait of Hormuz, blocking up to as much as 30 percent of the world’s seaborne oil shipments.
Four days later, Saudi Arabia announced it would suspend shipments of oil and petroleum products through the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the mouth of the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia was reacting to an attack on one of its tankers by Houthi rebels from Yemen who are widely considered proxies of the Iranian regime.
The next day, in a message to President Trump, Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani threatened the United States with terrorist attacks. He said, “You know that this war will destroy all that you possess. …You know our power in the region and our capabilities in asymmetric war.”
These are the types of actions, threats and ramblings that unnerve oil traders and make markets anxious even though none of this represents a true threat to the global oil supply. Iran is incapable of blocking oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians tried this tactic in 2011, but the world quickly responded with enough military might to end Iranian delusions of power.
Similarly, the world would not permit Iranian-backed Houthis to block or seriously threaten safe passage through the narrow passage into the Red Sea that leads to the vital Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea.
Although Iran and its proxies are accomplished terrorists, their asymmetrical warfare presents little actual threat to the global consumption of almost 100 million barrels of oil per day. There are real terrorist threats to the oil market —terrorist activity in Libya and Nigeria has taken out oil production and transportation in both of those countries over the past year — but Iranian backed terrorist organizations were not associated with the outages in those countries.
The threats and escalations coming out of Iran are really best described as rhetoric and harassment. However, rhetoric and harassment — and even just rumor and fear — are enough to rile markets and can cause oil prices to spike. Speculators act on news reports, and bad news and threats of war make the headlines. Traders react to what other traders are doing, and markets can jump when the news becomes dominated by talk of impending conflict.
There is no real risk of an actual oil shortage so none of what is happening with regards to Iran should scare the oil market, but it can and does. Oil prices have briefly spiked as much as $1 or more per barrel in response to verbal sparring. It is the power of our domestic oil production that has kept the oil markets relatively stable through geopolitical hype over the last month.
This is why we need a robust oil industry. When even rhetoric and headlines can scare the market, we must be confident in our ability to overcome global oil supply issues to make up for global losses and meet our own needs and our allies’ needs through domestic production and the oil production and transportation networks of our allies.
This month, for the first time, the Department of Energy said that the United States was producing 11 million barrels of oil per day. This should be a point of pride, because it is what allows the U.S. to withstand the geopolitical flareups and continue on our path of economic growth.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ellen R. Wald is a senior fellow (non-resident) at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center as well as the president of Transversal Consulting, a global energy and geopolitics consultancy. She is the author of the newly released book “Saudi, Inc.,” a history of Aramco and how the Saudi royal family controls this multi-trillion dollar enterprise. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Consumer Choice Matters
By Matthew Kandrach
When the first cars were put up for sale, the joke was that people could buy it in any color — so long as that color was black. Today, you can go online and find a car truly in any color you want, analyze its specifications against similar models, conduct cost-comparisons among dealerships, buy with a click and even have it delivered right to your doorstep. Clothes, furniture, household decorations, office supplies, fitness equipment — you name it, you can find it online, do research and make comparisons, and buy with a click.
Consumers today have an almost overwhelming number of choices when it comes to their purchases. The real determining factors of what is bought tend to be quality and cost. While there are thousands of options when it comes to buying dishes or sheets, the choices get much narrower when government agencies are looking for materials to fill potholes, build bridges or update water systems.
It may sound like a stretch to compare consumer choices to government purchases, but the same concept applies to both: choices in products, and the ability to compare materials for quality and cost. Consumers — and in the government’s case, taxpayers — should know their communities are getting the top materials for the job while returning the best investment.
Take municipal water systems, for example. When a community chooses a water pipe material, they rely on local water professionals to examine a large set of technical data as well as unique local considerations. That’s because of the tremendous pressure the pipes must withstand in addition to not failing in extreme weather events, from soil erosion, or due to other hazardous conditions specific to the area. This is not an exaggeration.
In Northern California last year, massive wildfires broke out in wine country, and residents there are now learning that the plastic pipes that carried their drinking water have contaminated the supply with benzene, a chemical byproduct of oil refining. Similarly, when Hurricane Matthew hit barrier islands such as Hilton Head in 2016, many residents were faced with open, raw sewage flows if they lived near manholes or exposed PVC plastic pipes, due to numerous breaks in sewer and water lines, according to local media.
The problems of plastic aren’t limited to pipes. Plastics manufacturers around the globe are struggling with consumer demands that there be less of their products in everyday lives. You’d have to be living under a rock not to be aware of the country-sized mound of plastic and other debris floating in the Pacific Ocean. Plastic soda rings have been found strangling sea turtles. A recent autopsy of a dead whale in Thailand found a staggering 17 pounds of plastic in its stomach. As people are turning away from plastic, so, too, are municipalities looking for ways to reduce their plastic footprint.
That’s why some special interests have lined up in an effort to push through state legislation that would actually reduce the choices local governments have when selecting the right pipes for their communities. For projects that involve burying pipes underground — as most drinking and wastewater systems are — officials, project managers and utility employees know that selecting the right pipes can mean the difference between the pipes serving for generations instead of cracking and needing costly repairs.
But some in the plastics industry want to limit choices by forcing governments to select pipes based on the upfront costs. Pressuring communities to ignore the scientific data and unique local considerations, while focusing on upfront costs — regardless of whether their water professionals believe the pipes are up to the job or not — usurps local control. In effect, this eliminates choice and flexibility to use the most appropriate material for their consumers and taxpayers.
Arbitrarily limiting choices and attempting to force one product in all circumstances, whether for individual consumers or government agencies, inevitably leads to higher costs and lesser quality. Just as a consumer wouldn’t automatically purchase the cheapest car on the lot purely based on the price tag and no further research, municipalities need to retain the ability to select the pipe material that works best in their local community.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Matthew Kandrach is the president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Guest opinion: Increased FSA loan limits may cause more harm than good
By Cora Fox, email@example.com, Center for Rural Affairs
In a time where farming has become increasingly expensive, from land value to input costs, some farm groups have demanded an increase in Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan limits. Recent farm bill proposals from Congress responded to those demands. However, these may severely impact those who need farm loans the most: our beginning and historically underserved producers.
Beginning and historically underserved producers look to the FSA for help in accessing much-needed capital for operating expenses and to purchase land. Guaranteed loans generally exceed the dollar amounts of direct loans, and are financed through U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved commercial lenders. Since larger, more established operations are often more capital-intensive, and seen as less risky than the average beginning small- or mid-size operation, commercial lenders are less likely to lend to beginning and historically underserved producers.
Under current law, the FSA direct farm ownership loan limit is $300,000, and the guaranteed loan limit is set at $1.39 million per producer. One proposal called for the doubling of direct loans to $600,000 and guaranteed loans to a hefty $2.5 million per producer. Another proposal advocated for an increase in guaranteed loans to $1.75 million. The increases to loan amounts are poised to provide financing to larger, more established farming operations, but with no change in available loan funds – meaning more dollars will go to fewer producers.
The farm bill will have a major impact on the future of agriculture. Congress must work to ensure FSA loan dollars are prioritized for the next generation of producers. We need to stop lining the pockets of big ag, which ultimately fosters an environment conducive for farm consolidation, and focus on building an agricultural system that is fair for all.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.
Columbus Native Defends America Serving as Information Warrior
By M. Dawn Scott, Navy Office of Community Outreach
PENSACOLA, Fla. – A 2010 Olentangy Orange High School graduate and Columbus, Ohio, native is stationed with a command responsible for teaching future information warriors the skills required to defend America around the world.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jared Vance works as a Navy cryptologic technician (technical) and instructor and operates out of the Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Corry Station.
A Navy cryptologic technician (technical) operate and maintain electronic sensors and computer systems; collect, analyze, exploit, and disseminate electronic intelligence (ELINT) all in accordance with fleet and national tasking.
Vance credits success in the Navy with lessons learned growing up in Columbus.
“Growing up, I learned that if you don’t know everything, act like you do,” said Vance. “Always use references and seek to learn more.”
IWTC Corry Station is just one component that makes up the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT) domain, headquartered at Naval Air Station Pensacola Corry Station, Florida.
Charged with developing the future technical cadre of the information warfare community, the CIWT domain leads, manages, and delivers Navy and joint force training to 22,000 students annually. With 1,200 military, civilian and contracted staff members, CIWT oversees about 200 courses at four information warfare training commands, two detachments, and additional learning sites located throughout the United States and Japan.
CIWT is responsible for training enlisted cryptologic technicians, information systems technicians, intelligence specialists, and electronics technicians. CIWT also provides training to cryptologic warfare, information professional, intelligence, and foreign area officers that prepares them to be prepared to wage battle, and assure the nation’s success in this burgeoning warfare arena.
“Our sailors and staff are intentional about building trust, demonstrating teamwork, pursuing growth, and instilling grit which make our command thrive in training information warfare professionals for the Navy the nation needs,” said Cmdr. Chad Smith, commanding officer of IWTC Corry Station. “Each and every day, I’m extremely proud of how our sailors and staff readily adapt to achieve and maintain the highest of standards. They truly represent the spirit and character of America, and they are why we are the strongest military force in the world.”
Vance has military ties with family members who have previously served, and is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“My grandfather was in the Navy and he encouraged me to enlist,” said Vance.
While there are many ways to earn distinction in the Navy, Vance is most proud of helping other sailors and helping them make rank.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Vance and other sailors and staff know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, serving as a key part of the information warfare community in its mission to gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of adversaries and developing unmatched knowledge of the battlespace during wartime.
These Sailors and staff have a tremendous responsibility in creating war-fighting options for fleet commanders and advising decision-makers at all levels as they serve worldwide aboard ships, submarines and aircraft and from the National Security Agency to the Pentagon.
“Serving in the Navy means to be an American and protect the Constitution,” added Vance. “I enjoy what I do and it is one of the best services.”
Aboard Ballistic Missile Submarine, Columbus Native Keeps America’s Nuclear Adversaries at Bay
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Wyscaver, Navy Office of Community Outreach
SILVERDALE, Wash. – A 2014 Upper Arlington High School graduate and Columbus, Ohio, native is presently engaged in a critical mission for the security of the United States: deterring nuclear war.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean Coady, a fire control technician, is serving aboard one of the world’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines, USS Nebraska. Based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington, not far from Seattle, USS Nebraska is one of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines in the Navy’s fleet.
As a fire control technician, Coady is responsible for ensuring collision avoidance for the submarine during peacetime operations.
“I enjoy the weapons handling,” said Coady. “It’s pretty cool handling torpedoes.”
Coady draws from lessons learned growing up in Columbus.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning about military history because I’m interested in the Navy and weapons systems,” said Coady.
The Navy’s ballistic missile submarines, often referred to informally as “boomers,” serve as undetectable launch platforms for intercontinental ballistic missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth, extended patrols and the precise delivery of missiles, and they are the only survivable leg of the nation’s strategic nuclear forces, which also include land-based missiles and aircraft.
As long as nuclear weapons remain in the hands of potential adversaries, Navy officials say, the nation’s nuclear forces must provide a safe, secure and credible deterrent to the threat of nuclear attack. The Navy’s continuous at-sea deployment of submarines like USS Nebraska provides the ability to mount an assured response.
As effective as the Ohio-class submarines have been over their decades-long lifetime, the fleet is aging, Navy officials say, with the oldest submarines now more than 30 years old, well past their planned service lives. A new and effective successor is critical to national security, and the Navy is well into the process to design and field a more advanced ballistic missile submarine which will provide the necessary sea-based nuclear deterrence into the 2080s and beyond.
Submarine sailors are some of the most highly trained and skilled people in the Navy. The training is highly technical and each crew has to be able to operate, maintain, and repair every system or piece of equipment on board. Regardless of their specialty, everyone also has to learn how everything on the submarine works and how to respond in emergencies to become “qualified in submarines” and earn the right to wear the coveted gold or silver dolphins on their uniform.
“The men and women from across our nation who volunteer for military service embody the fundamental values of honor, courage and sacrifice that are the bedrock of our republic,” said Rear Adm. Blake Converse, Commander, Submarine Group Nine. “They protect and defend America from above, below, and across the world’s oceans. The entire nation should be extremely proud of the hard work that these sailors do every single day to support the critical mission of the Navy and the submarine force.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Coady and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving allows me to do something more with my life,” said Coady. “I get to travel the world while doing a job I enjoy.”