Two Midwestern senators were in the news Wednesday.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, made his case for better federal flood prevention work.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-MO, focused his attention on a parliamentary maneuver that kept Democratic leaders from having to vote for or against offshore oil exploration.
Durbin’s comments on flooding were made at a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. A pair of Western Illinois references were in his comments.
"It’s not easy to stand your ground in the face of a force as mighty as the Mississippi, but these folks did just that. … It’s a spirit Senator Obama and I had a chance to see for ourselves when we helped sandbag in Quincy …" Durbin said.
His more pertinent comment involved the Sny Island Levee District, which nearly fell victim to water that was made worse by a railroad that refused to raise a lift bridge near Hannibal in order to allow easier flow of the river. The same thing happened in 1993 and the levee failed near that same bridge, Durbin said. He’s now asking that rules be approved to prevent a repeat of this problem.
Durbin also wants to see federal, state and local responsibilities outlined in reference to pumping water out of flooded area. He made specific reference to Henderson County, where Gulfport still has about three feet of water standing.
Bond took on the Democrat leaders who canceled a planned Thursday markup by the Appropriations Committee in order to avoid dealing with a request to allow offshore oil exploration by U.S. oil companies. Bond said Congress should be doing what it can to relieve the oil crisis.
"The American people are struggling with a gas price crisis and Democrats are blocking our attempts to get gas prices down with new oil supplies," Bond said.
Month: July 2008
Two Midwestern senators were in the news Wednesday.
Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s press office sent out a press release early Thursday that had a big bold heading: Carnahan Leads Special Inspection of Wachovia Securities.
The mental image is of Carnahan resolutely marching into an investment giant’s offices with investigators trailing behind her. The truth of the matter was somewhat different.
A team of 10 securities regulators from several states (including Missouri and Illinois) began gathering information about auction rate securities — or more precisely, the way these securities were typified when they were sold to investors.
(Auction rate securities hit troubled times after the subprime loan crisis hit big investment houses. The securities, which were supposed to be very liquid, have been frozen in many cases.)
Six hours after the first Carnahan press release went out, a very different release was sent. It included one quote from Carnahan that the inspection "was not a raid" and another that thanked Wachovia for cooperating with the investigation.
In the world of political spokesmen, the first release was meant to make the officeholder a heroic protector of the public good. The second release was designed more in line with the financial world where it is more important to calm nerves and prevent damage to the very investments that consumers want to see revived.
Financial markets are very fickle, even more so than political popularity. Carnahan won’t impress any of the investors who are feeling cheated if she poisons the investment pool where the investments are held.
A YouTube video shows Newt Gingrich recently suggesting several ways to bring runaway fuel prices down.
His first suggestion is to release some of the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve to quash the run-up in oil market speculation. He then calls for allowing oil companies to explore for oil in the oceans and along the continental shelf, as well as in Alaska. Gingrich goes on to suggest that shale oil reserves in the U.S. could dwarf those in Saudi Arabia. (Freeing that oil may be problematic.)
Others point out that the slumping dollar has helped lead to fuel prices around $4 per gallon. (As the dollar has lost ground when compared to other currencies, it takes more dollars to buy a barrel of oil.)
There’s also an artificially tight supply of fuel, because the last oil refinery was built in 1976 and Congress has made it prohibitive to build new refineries — largely at the behest of powerful lawmakers from states where the voters didn’t want more refineries.
Gingrich’s best point on the subject is that it will take a long-term, well planned agenda to move the United States toward lower reliance on foreign oil and greater control of energy.
His most questionable point involves making speculators pay for betting on high oil prices by freeing up oil reserves as a way of derailing the futures market.
Although there’s a certain appeal in getting back at greedy investors, it would not be good to see the U.S. stock market take a major hit. Lots of us greedy investors have 401ks and IRAs.
The same kind of stock market damage could be done by those who call for a tax on oil industry profits.
Congress could help with fuel conservation by freeing the way for some diesel vehicles that are manufactured by U.S. based car companies, but cannot be sold here. Some of the high efficiency diesels of this variety are popular overseas, but run afoul of U.S. emissions or other standards.
Congress has so far said the emissions rules trump benefits of higher-mileage vehicles.
What solutions do you have? Perhaps some of the responses will hold the magic bullet for fuel prices.