Friday, November 21, 2008

C-Span the Myron Ebell

Myron did a 40 minute interview on C-Span here:
Q: Who controls the price of oil?

It's set on a world market. The OPEC cartel tries to control it, but they can't do it all.

Q: Do oil companies have any control over the price at all?

A little bit, depending on where they invest

Q: It was noted that oil company profits have quadrupled over the past six years. Given that, what are they doing about the price of oil?

The first thing is they're making a lot of money. That is a good thing. You have to remember they're very big companies, bigger than they used to be because there have been a lot of mergers. And if they weren't making these profits that would be a sign that they should be investing less or in something else.

[I thought profit was the income less the investment. If you don't make any investment, you can make a lot of profit, like the UK privitized railway did for 10 years until too many trains kept shattering the rails --MEC]

As they are making so much money that's a good sign that they should be investing more money into refineries and other oil infrastructure. Of course, Congress has put up lots of barriers to this investment.

Q: And what are those?

Congress has roped off 85% of our off-shore areas and the ANWR. So the oil companies are having a hard time investing in the US and they're having to invest most of it abroad.

Q: If there was more investing in US oil resources, then the price would come down?

That's a complicated question. The US supply would be added to the world supply and the world supply of oil is having a hard time keeping up with demand.

[This is probing the myth that drilling in the US has anything to do with the price of gas. It's merely cheaper to drill and transport for the oil companies, so their profits are higher because they charge the international price as though it was shipped from Iraq --MEC]

Q: Do US oil companies have any obligations to US consumers?

That's a peculiar question. The rate of return on the oil industry is a little bit above average of all companies in the US. You should ask Microsoft, which gets a much greater return, do they have an obligation to lower the price of their software? They need these profits for investment.

Profit is a good thing. It's a sign that a company is using its resources efficiently.

Q: Is the proposal that oil companies should invest 10% of their profits in renewable energy realistic?

No. Politicians have a terrible record with running businesses and telling them what to do, especially energy industries. The regulations brought in following the oil crises in the 1970s made a mess of things, only improved when Reagan came into office and reversed them in 1981.

[Our political system is not pro-active. Regulations tend to follow the crises, but I guess from 30 years away it looks like it's all the same time to us, so Ebell can lie that the regulations caused the crisis rather than the other way round --MEC]

Q: Companies have been investing 1% of their profit into alternative fuels. Is that adequate?

These biofuels are going to raise the price of gasoline, not lower it. (Rambles on about the crappiness of corn ethonol). The oil companies realize that the amount of energy that can be got from these sources is very limited, so they are deserving only of limited investment.

Q: What about the issue of Bush and Cheney's conflicts of interest with the oil industry when setting policy?

They came from the oil industry which means they know more than your average person how it would work. Their early policies were intended to increase the supply of oil, which would bring down prices. Lately they've reversed these good policies.

Q: Congress has voted to rescind $18billion in oil company tax breaks. Should Bush veto this?

Yes. Congress originally voted to lower corporate tax rates. Now it's trying to raise those tax rates up just for those 5 big oil companies. This is the kind of interference in the market that causes problems.

Q: (Caller question about the dollar currency, and Iran accepting payment in Euros)

I am not an expert in the political situation in Iran.

Q: (Call from a gulf war veteran about the wars for oil)

I am not an expert in the geopolitics of oil or the arab world.

Q: Maybe you should explain what the Competitive Enterprise Institute does.

We're a non-partisan, non-profit institute and we specialize in regulatory issues from a free market perspective.

[You lying Republican party stooge --MEC]

Q: (Caller asks how can you compare big oil to Microsoft?)

Right. We have some necessities, like transport. But the problem is not with the oil companies, it's with Congress where they complain about gas prices and then propose policies like cap-and-trade that increases these prices.

In Europe where they pursue these global warming policies they're paying $7 and $8 a gallon.

Q: Should consumers reduce the amount of gas they use?

As the price goes up they will have to, except for rich people who won't feel it, like Al Gore.

Q: (Caller who is a long time oil investor -- lost $10million in the 1980s during the bad times -- rambles on a bit. We rely on Ebell to speak up for our interests.)

I appreciate the kind words, and I'm glad he's made a lot of money.

Q: (Caller talks about solar powered satellites.)

Well, there are lots of ideas out there. Things move on. My father farmed horses, and that technology has been superseded.

I believe that people who make the breakthroughs in the future will be people who have the incentives of the market.

We have the freest market in the world in the US, and we have the greatest technological innovation.

Our children and grandchildren will have a very different view of using our energy than we do now, but that doesn't solve the problem today, which is $3.30 gasoline.

Q: (Caller in says prices go up, and they don't come down, and the oil companies keep getting tax breaks.)

We should get rid of all mandates and tax subsidies, especially on ethanol, which is way higher than any subsidy given to the oil companies.

Q: (Caller asks how much of the gas price goes on drilling, refining, etc...)

The vast majority of crude supply nationalized by governments, not owned my oil companies, and they're not very competent.

Q: Can you break it down?

I don't have the figures right here. Current profit is 8%. Refiners are breaking even. Tax about 25c per gallon. It would be useful if gas stations were allowed to post the tax rate as well as the price on their pumps.

Q: How much do oil companies pay in tax per year?

They pay a lot in taxes. I can't tell you the sum, but they pay the same corporate tax as everyone else does. The investors who get the dividends then pay their own taxes on that. So you get a big tax burden throughout the system.

If you want to get a breakdown, go to the Department of Energy website. It has everything.

Q: (Caller: what does the government get from drilling on federal lands?)

The state gets half of the royalties. It's about 18%. The Federal government could raise a lot more money if they didn't close 85% of their off-shore waters
So, to sum this up: Oil companies good, they can't ever make too much money. Governments bad, always causing crises by regulating things, there's never a crisis resulting from lack of regulation. I don't know any of the numbers, but it doesn't matter, because this is what I believe. Technology will continue to improve under the current economic system, even though it always seems that the economic system actively fights any attempt at improvement (by, for example, hiring Myron Ebell and getting him on the media where he systematically lies about everything under the sun). And we have to drill more oil in the United States, so these companies can make more money on the world price.

At all costs, Ebell has got to stop people understanding the economics of this. The US produces a fraction of the oil supply in the world (having started early and burnt its way through most of it). If the sum of money proposed to continue developing the domestic supply in the US were not spent drilling oil, it would make a minute dent in the world supply, and therefore make no difference to the price. Suppose we spent this money on infrastructure that reduced the dependence on oil (eg electric mass transit). Then the price rises wouldn't be so important and damaging to consumers.

Myron Ebell does not want alternatives to oil to be developed, because that would cut into the oil companies' profits. Nothing else matters to him, no matter what its cost.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unclear on the centralized concept

Myron Ebell shows up in a citation on the useless CQ Politics blog in a post titled "Before he ran for president Obama had ideas about the auto industry".

How do I know that the CQ Politics staff with the byline Adriel Bettelheim are useless? Myron Ebell is cited in one of their articles.

That and the banner advertising from Exxon which buys them a free pass on any possible criticism, according to the laws of the media market.

For some reason, Myron thinks that a record of making proposals on the direction of a major industry before it's driven itself into severe financial difficulties is damning. What's intelligent is stupid, in Myron's world.

Here's how the post ends, with the message they want to leave with the readers:
Skeptics nonetheless say Obama's early moves in response to the crisis will say a lot about his views of government’s role in private commerce.

"What he's proposed is not unexpected because there are a lot of people who'd like to pursue goals other than building the auto industry," said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute. "Auto workers want to preserve higher pay, environmental groups would like to force Detroit to build greener, more fuel-efficient vehicles. So everyone's rushing to create an economy run by a centrally controlled industrial policy."
So, with this massive bail-out of public capital it is finally possible to force the auto industry respond to all the disparate interests throughout the community ("central control", according to Myron), versus these firms being run wholly at the discretion of their 12 member executive boards for the sole benefit of their personal income to the extent that no amount of external damage caused by the industry matters, and it's okay to bankrupt the entire organization (not "central control", according to Myron).

This kind of garbage rhetoric from the disaster economy only works if you pretend that the structure of corporate hierarchical management doesn't exist, and you are confused by the concepts of "central control" and "central purpose".

All corporations are centrally controlled. That's the design. The real question is to what end? If the answer to that question is the personal aggregation of money for those people in control, then it remains to be proven in each individual case that anything good will come of it.

The relation of institutionalized greed and the wider benefit to society is not axiomatic, no matter how many times Myron and his friends insist on it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where the car-lovers go

On November 13 the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability of UC Berkeley, California, released a detailed research paper called California Climate Risk and Response.

What they did was completely at odds with anything that has ever emerged Myron Ebell's Competitive Enterprise Institute, because it contained information, numbers, reasoning, data, predictions and sound, justifiable statements. It's a fair bet that the professors and researchers behind the report would like to see their state of California move forward into the future as a place where humans beings continue find it agreeable to inhabit.

Myron Ebell, on the other hand, has done what it can to pollute the air of public debate and threaten the survival of the species by:
The UC Berkeley Research Paper and its projections of massive climate change induced economic damage got mentioned in The LA Times, Fox Weather News, KTVU, and a number of environmental blogs.

But reporter Matt Nauman of the Mercury News was the only one stupid enough to decorate the press release with an ignorant quote from Myron Ebell:
But Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank that advocates limited government and free-market solutions to public policy issues, dismissed the report's findings.

"Global warming or cooling may impose some costs on California (as well as provide some benefits), but the projections of trillions of dollars of damages from global warming are based on fantasy rather than facts," he said.
Until September 2007, Matt Nauman was the automobile correspondent for the paper. Here's his blog, Every car I drive where he signs off with:
That’s 845 issues of Drive, including today’s last one. (That doesn’t count a year or so of a Saturday publication, OverDrive, and a few Sunday Drive special sections over the years.)

Sixteen years means that I’ve seen SUVs rise and fall, gas prices rise and rise some more, the return of the convertible, the birth of the crossover and, now, a sense that we’re about to move beyond the internal-combustion gasoline engine and move toward electric transportation, be it pure EV, gas-electric hybrids, diesel-electric hybrids or some other fuel source.

I’ve talked to hundreds of auto executives, designers, marketers and engineers over the years. I’ve covered dozens of cars shows and attended hundreds of local car events. Thanks for telling me about your car (or motorcycle) and how much it means to you.
It's great to see where all our environmental climate disaster correspondents are going to come from as the car industry and the economy goes into decline.

They need to do their homework better. Never, ever publish a quote from Myron Ebell without explaining to your readers that he's a dangerous liar , unless you want to look like an idiot.

It's like asking a tobacco lobbyist whether smoking causes cancer. Their answer will serve no purpose other than to sell more cigarettes regardless of how many slow and painful deaths come of it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Charity, Charity, all is Charity

The CEI website of November 1996 ( reports:
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is a pro-market, public policy group committed to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government... A non-profit, tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, CEI relies entirely on donations from corporations, foundations, and private individuals with an interest in restoring individual liberties and economic freedom. All contributions are tax deductible.
In the crappier news sources, the lie reads:
CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information about CEI, please visit our website at
According to the rules:
All section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
A proper enforcement of the law would find evidence that there has never been anything non-partisan about the CEI, which would hopefully cause a recovation of their tax-free status and a bill for all their back taxes.

Lately, Myron Ebell can't even be bothered to cover up this 22 year sham as the Republican party swings one final kick into the ball-sack of the body politic:
Last May, White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten instructed federal agency heads to make sure any new regulations were finalized by Nov. 1. The memo didn’t spell it out, but the thinking behind the directive was obvious. As Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute put it: "We’re not going to make the same mistakes the Clinton administration did."
It's been a good steady run for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Their webpage back in April 2000 ( reported:
CEI has grown into a $3,000,000 institution with a team of nearly 40 policy experts and other staff. We are nationally recognized as a leading voice on a broad range of regulatory issues ranging from environmental laws to antitrust policy to regulatory risk.
In December 2005 ( this became:
Since its founding in 1984, CEI has grown into a $3,000,000 institution with a team of over 20 policy experts and other staff.
And this was still the case in February 2008 ( But today it's become:
Since its founding in 1984, CEI has grown into a $5,000,000 institution with a team of over 30 policy experts and other staff.
Maybe it's something to do with that billion dollar election they are "absolutely prohibited" from participating in.

What success!

Apart from their "Donate to us" link, they've joined the Charity Navigator which gives us the benefit of finding out that their "primary revenue" has been $3,058,978 for 2003; $2,885,249 for 2004; $3,208,102 for 2005 and $3,683,967 for 2006 ($199,700 of which went to Fred Smith who sometimes tries his hand at comedy)

So the figures to 2006 are at least consistent, though not showing up the point Exxon claimed to have stopped funding them -- though of course they make no apology for the ten years of irreparable damage wrought previously.

The Myron Ebell has been banging on about coal quite a bit, so it is reasonable to assume that their $2million hike this year reported on their slim "About" page comes from that killer industry.

It's good value for these corporations. Not only do they get a better bang for their buck by paying another organization to spread lies on their behalf (though the connection is plausibly denied), they get the tax back on their expenses.

The Myron Ebell Climate blog soldiers on until this sickly "Institute" closes down and all its staff have been prosecuted in the court of public opinion. (Hey, it's only white collar crime, what do you expect?) What they have done in terms of the survivability of the human species on this planet is probably worse than working as atomic weapons designers.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Extinction we can believe in

With the tribe that continues its deadly journey up the tailpipe of a car, Myron Ebell continued his miserable blogging over the election moment. On November 3, he wrote:
Washington remains quiet as everyone awaits the election returns. Environmentalists are talking about making any second stimulus bill that may be taken up by Congress in its lame duck session (scheduled for the week of November 17th) into a "green stimulus" package. Lots of new money for make-work "green jobs," new and higher subsidies for "green energy," and so on. It should be fun to watch the pushing and shoving at the trough, but the outcomes of these spending sprees are always depressing. It’s hard to see how wasting money and replacing lower-cost energy with higher-cost energy can revive the economy.
To most people it's known as preparing the infrastructure for a future where energy will be more expensive, as well as establishing the possibility for the human race to take steps to avoid its tragic fate incurred by the self-destruction of its own habitat.

All evidence suggests that the so-called "free market" social system, which Myron's squirming brain is wedded to, is practically and theoretically incapable of preparing for future challenges. It's a me-now mechanism, a continual duelling economic fight, and anyone who puts something aside for the future becomes weakened in the present, beaten down and asset-stripped.

On November 4, Ebell wrote:
Energy issues have figured in the presidential campaign, but global warming has seldom been mentioned. That shouldn’t be surprising: sky high gasoline prices this summer made Americans angry, while global warming remains a yawner for most people outside the bi-coastal elite and the chattering class...

Higher electricity prices will lower spending on other things, thereby putting people out of jobs, and drive energy intensive industries to other countries, again thereby putting people out of jobs. Since utilities were having a hard time keeping up with increasing demand until the economy started to slow down, it is also almost certain that discouraging new coal plants will lead to regional blackouts if the economy does pick up again.

It is not clear whether Senator Obama has enough basic economics to understand this. Or maybe he believes what he’s been told by environmental pressure groups, namely that there are plenty of cost-competitive alternatives to replace the coal that provides over half of our country’s electricity. Or maybe he doesn’t care or indeed thinks it’s a good thing to reduce economic growth.
It's hard to count the contradictions emerging from the Myron doctrine in these two quotes. But let's try:
  • Higher energy prices are now inevitable - Myron believes that the free market economy will have more difficulty responding to this challenge, than to more frequent storms and droughts. The insurance industry believes otherwise.

  • "Higher electricity prices will lower spending on other things, thereby putting people out of jobs" - Do none of the dollars that get spent on higher electricity prices go into jobs?

  • "It's hard to see how wasting money and replacing lower-cost energy with higher-cost energy can revive the economy." - Replacing profligate energy use infrastructure with more efficient use doesn't count?

  • "and drive energy intensive industries to other countries, again thereby putting people out of jobs" - Who cares that the highest uses of energy are in the form of home heating and transport, neither of which can be driven to other countries. Meanwhile, the production of fossil fuels, driven to other countries by the massive wastage of the US's inherited wealth, is not a problem for Myron.

  • "Or maybe he believes what he’s been told by environmental pressure groups, namely that there are plenty of cost-competitive alternatives to replace the coal that provides over half of our country’s electricity" - Isn't it odd he uses the word "cost-competitive". All that means is the billing price to the customer for coal can be financially less per kilowatt/hr than the other options. This does not mean that the costs are effective, bearable, or tolerable when you factor in non-monetized costs, which he doesn't want you to.

  • "Or maybe he doesn’t care or indeed thinks it’s a good thing to reduce economic growth." - Where does your "economic growth" lead to? People have been seeing through this one for a while. Economic growth, like population growth, cannot continue forever, even if you believe that the entire mass of the Earth can be converted into human flesh. If your pointless rhetoric can't abide having a ceiling on so-called economic growth, then it's belongs in Science Fiction along with an infinite series of parallel worlds you can teleport to and get lost in.
Myron then paid a pointless visit to the off his trolley blog where he moaned:
Brilliant insight from Fred Barnes in the Wall St. Journal today: "We could be in for a lurch to the left."

That’s why he gets paid the big bucks. If only I’d known earlier, maybe I could have prepared.
We can only assume this means he wants the job of writing right-wing op-eds in Murdoch newspapers and being on TV. The Climate wishes him luck in his job-hunting adventure. It would keep us in business with the pleasure of tracking all his incompetant ideological ramblings about stuff he only knows how to lie about.

The Fred Barnes' article he failed to link to is here.

Yes, it would sure be good to see some socialism come for the common people, rather than just for the oil companies, arms companies and Wall Street bankers who use all their powers to screw them up the back-side. These are the same guys who pay for Myron to do what he does, as well as giving him a platform in their corporate-owned media.

The political system is broken by people who want it to be broken. The proof of this will be provided when Myron finds work on anything except cleaning toilets.