- "Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling"
- links for 2010-03-30
- "Where on Earth has the SEC Been?"
- "Much of U.S. Was Insulated From Housing Bust"
Posted: 31 Mar 2010 01:17 AM PDT
The administration is supporting a significant expansion in offshore drilling for oil and natural gas:
Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time, by John Broder, NY Times: The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling... The proposal ... would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.
Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border. The environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska would be protected... But large tracts in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska — nearly 130 million acres — would be eligible for exploration and drilling...
The proposal is intended to reduce dependence on oil imports, generate revenue from the sale of offshore leases and help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
But ... it is no sure thing that it will win support for a climate bill... Mr. Obama and his allies in the Senate have already made significant concessions on coal and nuclear power to try to win votes from Republicans and moderate Democrats. The new plan now grants one of the biggest items on the oil industry's wish list — access to vast areas of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling.
But even as Mr. Obama curries favors with pro-drilling interests, he risks a backlash from some coastal governors, senators and environmental advocates, who say that the relatively small amounts of oil to be gained in the offshore areas are not worth the environmental risks. ...
It is not known how much potential fuel lies in the areas opened to exploration, although according to Interior Department estimates there could be as much as a three-year supply of recoverable oil and more than two years' worth of natural gas... But those estimates are based on seismic data that is, in some cases, more than 30 years old. ...
Increasing the risks to the environment in an attempt to save the environment seems like a less than optimal strategy.
Posted: 30 Mar 2010 11:06 PM PDT
Posted: 30 Mar 2010 04:05 PM PDT
Robert Reich says we don't need new legislation to stop deceptive accounting practices on Wall Street used to play "off-the-balance-sheet derivative games", there are already laws on the books that are supposed to stop this behavior. Unfortunately, the laws are not being enforced:
Fraud on the Street, by Robert Reich: The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday it had begun an inquiry into two dozen financial companies to determine whether they followed accounting practices similar to those recently disclosed in an investigation of Lehman Brothers.
Where on earth has the SEC been?
It's now clear Lehman Brothers' balance sheet was bogus before the bank collapsed in 2008, catapulting the Street and the world into the worse financial crisis since 1929. The Lehman bankruptcy examiner's recent report details what just about everyone on the Street has known since the firm imploded – that Lehman defrauded its investors. Even Hank Paulson, in his recent memoir, referred to Lehman's balance sheet as bogus. ... Its CPA, Ernst and Young, approved of this fraud against the advice of its own whistle blower, whom Ernst and Young fired.
Lehman's practices couldn't have been all that different from those of every other big bank on the Street. After all, they were all competing for the same business, and using many of the same techniques. Lehman was just the first to go under... In other words, the TARP covered the other bankers' assets and asses. ...
Congress is now struggling to come up with legislation to stop this from happening again. And the Street is struggling to stop Congress. As of now, the Street's political payoffs seem to be working. Proposed legislation still allows secret derivative trading in foreign-exchange swaps (similar to what Goldman used to help Greece hide its debt) and in transactions between big banks and many of their corporate clients (as with AIG).
But wait. We already have a law designed to stop this sort of fraud. It's called the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. ... Sarbanes-Oxley ... was designed to stop this. It requires CEOs and other senior executives to take personal responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of their companies' financial reports and to set up internal controls to assure the accuracy and completeness of the reports. If they don't, they're subject to fines and criminal penalties.
Sarbox is directly relevant to the off-the-balance-sheet derivative games the Street played and continues to play. No bank CEO can faithfully attest to the accuracy and completeness of its financial reports when derivatives guarantee that the reports are incomplete and deceptive.
So where has the SEC been?
I was on a panel a few weeks ago with a former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission who was asked why the commission has so far failed to enforce Sarbox against Wall Street. He had no response except to mumble that legislation is meaningless unless adequately enforced. Exactly.
Bottom line: While financial reform is needed, there's no reason to wait for it. Sarbox is already there. And even if financial reform is enacted without loopholes, there's no reason to think it will be enforced if laws already on the books, such as Sarbox, aren't.
Posted: 30 Mar 2010 02:52 PM PDT
Guess I should count myself as lucky -- I'm in a blue dot area. More here:
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