Mucking It Up: Offshore Drilling and Mixed Messages from the Democrats

Last week President Obama announced a proposal to authorize offshore oil drilling off the eastern coast of the U.S. His message was certainly a change from earlier statements. Here are a few snippets of the President’s multiple positions on this issue:

This apparent shift in policy elicited similar responses from the President’s allies and critics in Congress. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ) said “Drilling off the Virginia coast would endanger many of New Jersey’s beaches and vibrant coastal economies.” The junior senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez (D, NJ), noted this proposal was a “non-starter.” Senators Ted Kaufman (D, Del.) and Barbara Mikulski (D, Md.) joined their New Jersey colleagues in opposing the plan by issuing the following statement:

“While I share the President’s commitment to taking our dependence on foreign oil head-on, I do not believe opening Delaware’s coasts to drilling is the way to meet that goal. It is a simple fact that the United States has only a tiny percentage of world oil reserves – 3 percent – while we consume 25 percent. We cannot achieve meaningful energy independence through our own oil reserves. We can and must focus on building an energy economy that relies on clean, renewable domestic sources.”

Further, Republicans also remain skeptical of this course of action. Senator James Inhofe (R, OK) noted this change in course reveals a contradiction in the President’s position on this issue. Namely that the President has on the one hand pushed forward with global warming centric-policies, which according to Senator Inhofe “make fossil fuels more expensive,” while on the other hand, the President has opened the door for drilling for more fossil fuels offshore. The skeptical Inhofe noted “how does the President square these two policies?”

Thus the confusion over this change in policy course has left both the President’s allies and critics perplexed. Perhaps there is an underlying motive to his current position: President Obama does not want to be perceived as inactive on energy policy, particularly when the price of oil is expected to jump again this summer which could hurt his party during the upcoming midterm elections. Perhaps I am being a little too cynical.

The Stony-Brook-Millstone Watershed: Too much pollution

The Stony-Brook-Millstone Watershed has recently released a sobering report on water quality within the watershed basin area which covers a substantial portion of the waterways in central New Jersey. The report points out that high levels of bacteria are being absorbed in the water ways. Nevertheless some simple things can be done by individuals to help fix this problem. Namely pick up after your pets, avoid using fertilizers, and if you have a septic system make sure there is no leakage coming from your tank.

You can read the full report here.

Outliers from Snowmageddon

In between shoveling snow and staying warm on this snowy day, I found a few posts worth checking out.

  • “Cap and Trade” has already become a campaign issue for vulnerable Democrats in the upcoming 2010 midterm elections. A student of mine who came across this video produced by the VA GOP targeting Democratic members of Congress Rick Boucher (VA, 9th ) and Tom Perrillo’s (VA, 5th) who both supported the Waxman-Markey bill this past summer and who represent districts that John McCain won in 2008.
  • Ben Profferror writes about the benefits of civility in debating global warming.
  • The NY Times finds the recent winter storms hitting the mid-atlantic region are a result of global warming patterns.
  • Kathy Nieland discusses the push by the SEC for companies to disclose the risks of climate change associated with current business practices.
  • Christina Larson finds the apparent “green-tech war” between the U.S. and China is a bit overblown.
  • Lastly, Audi provides a tongue-in-cheek approach to the greening of America

2009 NJ Election Forecast: Voting “Yes” on Public Question #1 (Open Space)

Following up on my earlier posts from this week on Public Question #1 (Open Space), I think it is important to take a moment and assess the probability of the measure’s passage next Tuesday. To do this, I have developed a forecasting model that includes variables that account for current state and national political trends, as well as on past Open Space and Green Acres referenda from 2005, 1995, 1989, and 1983. To estimate “Yes” votes by county, the following independent variables are used: overall voter turnout, previous gubernatorial voting patterns by county, the governor’s approval rating, as well as the previous vote for the democratic presidential candidate by county. Further, I adjusted the forecasts to account for county population.

So far, it is a “toss-up” on whether Public Question#1 will receive a simple majority of the vote (greater than 50% of the total estimated vote). The overall forecast for the provision is likely to get 47% of the vote (plus or minus a 4% forecast error). Reaching the 50% threshold will be a challenge, particularly because this requires that actual voting will have to be at the high range of the forecast estimates. To accomplish this will be difficult, in part this is due to an overall anti-incumbent sentiment among the electorate that is driving not only the current New Jersey governor’s race but also the upcoming election more broadly.
2009 NJ Election: Forecast of "Yes" Vote on Open Space by County
The chart above illustrates expected 2009 voting patterns by county of “Yes” votes for the measure. As the chart illustrates, critical counties (those counties within 1 forecast error of the 50% threshold) for passage of the referendum are not only more populated counties, but also those counties that are more likely to support the governor in the upcoming election. Yet, the governor’s low approval ratings and the governor’s under performance on environmental issues tend to decrease the likelihood that voters will  pass the referendum. At any rate, the major conclusion from these estimates is the importance of getting out and voting “Yes” on this measure. Don’t forget, election day is this coming Tuesday November 3, 2009.

N.J. Referendum on Open Space: “Yes” on Question 1

With the primary focus of the upcoming N.J. elections on the gubernatorial contest, I wanted to take a moment to focus on the ballot question, Public Question #1, which deals with a $400M allocation on Open Space. Without question, Open Space serves as a public good and, therefore, I support it.

Nonetheless, public opinion appears to be mixed on the question and I expect voting on the bill will likely follow how voters vote at the top of the ticket next Tuesday November 3, 2009.

The case for open space

The case against open-space

Poll shows open space public question too close to call

Support for the New Jersey Open Space Bond Depends on How Question is Asked