Saturday, May 7, 2011

Oh OPEC - How Domestic Drilling Will Not Help Gasoline Prices At the Pump

    Though this is not a post pertaining to LGBT issues per say, energy policy is another issue that I feel strongly about and this is a post that I feel is rather important because of all the misinformation and political rhetoric that exists in todays society.

      Many people are legitimately upset about the high cost of gasoline that is currently plaguing the United States, and because of their anger, are blaming the current administration for the high cost. They claim that the Obama administration could limit our vulnerability to these price increases by opening up federal land in Alaska, the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and the Rockies for the production of oil. Though there are multiple issues regarding oil production in these areas - a subject that I will deal with in a later post - those who hold to the view that increased domestic production will solve our energy woes, really do not have a thorough understanding of the oil market.

      In a perfect world, oil would be governed by the economic doctrine known as supply and demand. Its Economics 101 - if supply goes up and demand stays constant, the price of a commodity will go down. If supply goes down and demand stays constant, the opposite will happen - the price of the good will increase. The problem is, oil is not governed by this doctrine, instead it is subject to the price manipulation by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries - an organization which controls close to half of known world oil reserves. You see, whenever new oil comes into the market, the OPEC nations have the ability to decrease their own production to keep oil prices at a level that they think is appropriate ($90-$100 per barrel is their goal).

    What all does this mean? When U.S. politicians - whether they be on the right or left - advocate for "Energy Independence" they are advocating for an impossibility. In fact, Energy Independence is only possible if the U.S. switched to a completely different energy infrastructure, an energy structure not beholden to the price of an internationally traded commodity. As long as the U.S. economy is dependent upon oil and its derivatives (gasoline, diesel etc.) we will always have to participate in the "global market" of oil. Because oil is an internationally traded commodity, any increase in domestic production has the possibility of being met with a decrease in production by OPEC states, thus keeping the price the same and having no economic benefit at the pump.

    Why would OPEC do this some might ask. Would they not be shooting themselves in the foot? Not necessarily. As the price of oil would decrease with increased domestic production, OPEC nations would LOSE substantial amounts of money per barrel because of the decrease costs. In their mind, it would be better to cut back production and keep oil prices artificially high, because in this way they are still receiving about the same amount of money, yet selling less oil - a win-win situation for them.

    So though Domestic Drilling may have some benefits - such as job creation etc. - if someone states that we need to do it to give us "Energy Independence", they really have no idea what that truly means.

    As always I welcome your thoughts and comments, and if you feel inclined, be sure to follow this blog on facebook and me on twitter!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tennessee, Gays, and Innovation

   On their facebook page, the Tennessee Equality Project linked to an article about Tennessee Governor Haslam announcing a $50 million dollar Innovation Strategy for the State. This strategy would include four things: Innovation Coordination, Commercialization, Entrepreneurship, and Co-Investment Funds.  As the TN Equality Project accurately points out, it is interesting that the Governor is pushing this type of Innovative strategy for the State, yet attempting to eliminate one of the major drivers of innovation.

    Richard Florida, an economist and social scientist at the University of Toronto, has developed a theory known as the theory of the "Creative Class". As one who has studied his works, I immediately thought of this theory and how it directly flies in the face of both Governor Haslam's initiative as well as the Bill currently in the Tennessee Legislature that would not allow municipalities and local governments to enact employment discrimination laws.  In this theory, Florida argues that throwing money at people and telling them to innovate is not enough, instead a city or region must have the "Three T's" : Talent, Tolerance, and Technology - in order to succeed.

    The middle one - tolerance - is what is the most important "T" in this discussion. Why is tolerance so important and how does it relate to Tennessee. Tolerance is important because in order to have creativity and innovation you must have diversity of opinion, lifestyles, sexualities, and cultures. This is why you 'see homogeneous cultures really producing any sort of WOW achievement in todays knowledge driven economy.  It is through our interaction with a diverse group of people that we are able to learn effectively from each others experiences and use that knowledge to innovate.

    This is why Governor Haslam's initiative and his support of the bill currently in the Tennessee Legislature is rather contradictory. Cities recognize that one way to show that they are a tolerant community is to codify anti-discrimination laws into their city codes. This allows LGBT people to move to the city and participate in the economy without having the fear of economic backlash (aka. firing or discrimination). Without this assurance, LGBT people are less likely to move into an area, and hence are less likely to contribute to the diversity that is essential for innovation. Instead they will move to cities that DO have protections for them, and will contribute to that cities economic growth.

      Thats one thing that Republicans in Tennessee do not see because they are to concerned with pandering to their social conservative base. Employment discrimination laws do not hinder business; they actually assist businesses by allowing their employees to recognize their full potential rather than be hindered by a natural trait - whether it be race, sexuality, gender, etc. Only if the Republicans in the State recognize this, do I see Tennessee being a leader in innovation; for as of right now, all I see is them ignoring reality and playing politics with the economy.

NOM's "Smackdown" of SSM

Oh the wonderful people of the National Organization of Marriage believe that this video shows a "Conservative Demolishing Liberal Arguments for Same Sex Marriage". I just have to ask, who the hell have you been arguing with over the past decade to think that these are our arguments?

But hey, lets let them feel good about themselves for a bit...its the least we can do. Ignorance truly is bliss.

As always, tell me what you think about the video in the comments section, and feel free to like this blog on facebook!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Adoption Fight in Illinois

     As we speak, there is a debate that is happening in Illinois over the ability of Catholic groups to provide adoption services in the State. Illinois new civil unions legislation goes into effect on June 1, and according to Catholic organizations, they are afraid that they will be subjected to lawsuits because they will refuse to place children in same-sex households. This brings up an interesting debate, and one that we in the United States need to have; for should organizations that receive state funding be allowed to discriminate in services against groups of people because of religious beliefs.

      First thing that I should say is that when discussing issues relating to adoption, everyone naturally asks "what is best for the children". In this situation, I think is inappropriate. Though adoption services are naturally about children, we are not discussing what is best for children. We are discussing whether or not an organization that provides a state sanctioned and funded service should be allowed to discriminate against parents who meet all other qualifications except the qualification of gender. The issue of children just muddies the issue.

     When I discussed an issue similar to this that happened in Australia last year, I emphasized that I have no problem with Catholic Adoption Agencies exercising their religious beliefs in not placing children in same-sex households. Though I think that the policy of the Catholic Agencies is short sighted, hateful, and discriminatory, it is not my place  to complain about this - as I am not in any way Catholic. What I do take significant issue with, on the other hand, is the fact that these adoption agencies are given funds by the State of Illinois.

    As these adoption agencies are Catholic in nature, the fact that they receive taxpayer funding should give us pause. If these agencies are able to invoke religion in their operation, they are expecting that the taxpayers of Illinois will subsidize this invocation of dogma and personal belief. Should government have the ability to do this? I think not, for then when would it stop? Should we give money to other religious organizations to perform other tasks? Is adoption somehow a special and unique endeavor that requires that governments give private agencies money? To me, if these agencies want the leeway and the freedom to do what they wish in regards to the placement of children, they should do everything on their more funding from the government.

     This would not only benefit the Government of Illinois, who would no longer look hypocritical when it comes to the promotion of equality in the State, but it would also be beneficial for these adoption agencies, for now they would no longer have the government holding a significant bargaining chip - finances.
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