Boundless Natural Gas, Boundless Opportunities: Interview with EIA Chief

The Energy Information Agency (EIA) has predicted that natural gas production in the US will continue to grow at an impressive pace. Right now output is close to 70 billion cubic feet a day and is expected to reach over 100 billion cubic feet per day by 2040. The trend is likely to continue without hitting a geologic “peak”, and along with this trend will come new marketing opportunities for America.

In an exclusive interview with Oilprice.com, EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski discusses:

  • What’s at stake in lifting the US crude export ban
  • Whether lifting the ban is inevitable
  • Why energy-related CO2 emissions will likely climb this year
  • What we can expect from US coal output through 2014
  • Why US natural gas production will continue to grow strongly
  • Where we can expect (unexpectedly) new production to come from
  • Why Alaska just might surprise us
  • Where the biggest new shale opportunities lie
  • How production increases might come from ‘non-shale’ formations
  • The potential for Colombian shale
  • What to expect from Mexico’s reforms
  • What the Panama Canal expansion really means
  • Why we will see new marketing opportunities for the US

Interview by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

Oilprice.com: US mainstream media are heralding the debate over lifting the US crude oil export ban as potentially one of the most critical for this year. While most agree this is not likely to happen anytime soon, is it an eventuality?

Adam Sieminski: When I first took office at the EIA, I said that light sweet crude oil production was growing very rapidly, and that it would ultimately have a number of impacts on the energy infrastructure in the US; for instance, that we would see changes in things like movement of oil by rail. We would see changes in refinery configurations designed to deal with light sweet crude. The Gulf Coast refineries in the US over the past decade were upgraded to run heavy sour imports, and so there are issues with the ability of refineries in the US to handle rapid increases in light sweet crude oil production.

I noted at the time that at some point, policymakers were going to be confronted with all of these changes resulting from the enormous shift in thinking about US production growth. Five or 10 years ago, everybody thought that US oil production would just go down, and demand would always go up. Now we have in the EIA’s forecast over the next five years very strong growth in crude oil production and weak growth—if not negative trends—going on in gasoline and liquid fuels demand. This creates an interesting atmosphere.

Is lifting the crude export ban inevitable? I’m not sure that anything is inevitable. Certainly what I’ve learned in the last five years is that the inevitable declines in production and growth in demand didn’t come true.

OP: What are the congressional hurdles faced here?

Adam Sieminski: I don’t know that there’s a hurdle. That’s a question that’s going to be dealt with by policymakers. Energy policy issues generally tend to involve environmental concerns, national security concerns, and economic concerns.

The biggest hurdle that congress faces is just having good information on future trends in supply and demand, refinery configurations and pipeline and railroad transportation infrastructure.

OP: What would be the consequences of lifting this ban, for the industry, for refiners, for consumers?

Adam Sieminski: Well, that’s going to be part of the debate. I don’t have the answer to that, and I doubt that anybody at this point has the complete answer to that question. What is the economic impact? Does it increase jobs or not? What is the environmental impact of producing, moving and refining the crude oil? What are the national security implications? Is it better to keep the oil here, or to move it into global markets where it might have an ameliorating effect on volatility? There are a lot of questions, so I’m not going to try to pre-judge that debate.

OP: The EIA has noted that after two years of declining production, US coal output is expected to increase in 2014, forecast to rise almost 4%, as higher natural gas prices make coal more competitive for power generation. At the same time, there is concern about the EPA’s proposed new carbon emissions standards for power plants, which would make it impossible for new coal-fired plants to be built without the implementation of carbon capture and sequestration technology, or “clean-coal” tech. Is this a feasible strategy in your opinion?

Adam Sieminski: Well, the facts as you laid them out are certainly what the EIA is looking at. Natural gas prices have gone up, so in 2013, we already saw some recovery in coal at electric utilities. As a consequence, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions actually climbed in 2013 and probably are going to do so again in 2014 for the reasons that you stated.

Longer term, even without changes by the Environmental Protection Agency, there’ll be coal retirements, and the amount of coal being burned in the US will eventually come below the amount of electricity being generated by natural gas. So sometime after the year 2030, we will have more electricity in the US being produced from natural gas than from coal.

OP: What can we expect from US onshore natural gas production over the next two years;
over the next five years? And where will production increases offset declines?

Adam Sieminski: Well, the EIA has been pretty clear on this in our Annual Energy Outlook Reference case for 2014, which we published in mid-December. We reiterated what we said the previous year: natural gas production in the US is going to continue to grow very strongly. We are close to 70 billion cubic feet a day of output now. That number will be over 100 billion cubic feet a day by 2040. Shale gas will be easily 50% or more of production by 2040.

We also see increases in natural gas production from geologic formations that we don’t consider to be shale gas. We think that there might also be some production, believe it or not, from Alaska, because the economics ultimately will favor construction of an LNG facility in Alaska that would allow production from the associated gas in the North Slope of Alaska.

Just in the last five years, we’ve seen natural gas production in the US from shale go from about five billion cubic feet a day to nearly 30 billion cubic feet a day–a huge increase. A lot of that is coming from places like the Haynesville—and more recently the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In our view, those production trends are going to continue without the likelihood of running into a plateau from a geologic standpoint.

OP: How do you see future extraction, development and commercialization of oil and gas resources in the Americas playing out over the next 5-10 years?

Adam Sieminski: Well, the big new opportunities, I think–certainly in the US and Canada–lie in the development of shale resources. There are oil and gas shale resources in places like Argentina, Mexico, Columbia, and elsewhere across the Americas. Whether or not the very rapid development of shale resources in the US can be duplicated in a lot of other countries—even in the Americas—remains to be seen. Certainly there has been some interesting progress in developing shale resources in Canada and Argentina.

I’ve been hearing from many people that they’re quite hopeful there will be developments in shale in Colombia, and given the constitutional changes that have now been agreed in Mexico, that opens up an opportunity for Mexico to step into this area.

One of the things that is happening is the increase in oil production in the US and the fact that we have very sophisticated refineries with very strong technology, while relatively low natural gas prices are allowing us to run our refineries at higher utilization rates and dispose of surplus products—by exporting petroleum products like gasoline and diesel fuel—into Latin America and Canada.

In a sense, this creates a manufacturing opportunity for the US to take a raw material, process it, and sell it abroad. It also fits in pretty well with the fact that a number of countries in Latin America have had difficulty in building and upgrading their own refineries. So it’s opened up a marketing opportunity for the United States to take advantage of.

OP: What can we expect from Mexico’s recently adopted energy reforms and what regional effect could this have?

Adam Sieminski: Well the Mexican government and Pemex, the state oil company, are very excited about the opportunities they see for Mexico to increase its production and to take advantage of some of the new technologies that are available through cooperation with non-Mexican companies. They believe that it is going to be instrumental in reversing some of the difficulties they’ve had in oil production and natural gas production.

It certainly looks to the EIA as something that we’re going to have to watch very carefully when considering the longer-term outlook for Mexican energy production.

We actually bumped up the Mexican numbers because of the opportunities we think will be created by constitutional reform there. If the implementation of that proceeds along the lines that the Mexicans are considering, I think we’ll probably have to look at it again.

OP: In its latest report, the EIA notes that the Americas accounted for 20% of global natural gas trade, and while 80% of that was via pipeline, the rest was traded as LNG. How do you see this proportion changing over the next 5-10 years?

Adam Sieminski: Well, I suspect that we’re going to see more of both. Our longer-term outlook shows US pipeline exports of natural gas to Mexico going up, and we also see LNG exports from the United States increasing. We’re not responsible for permitting. What we try to do is look at the economics. We run our national energy modeling system to basically say, “What would the economics do if you let them run?” And that shows we’re likely to see increases in exports of both LNG and pipeline gas.

Interestingly, the model also says that there’s plenty of production to do that and still allow demand in the US to go up considerably. We’re seeing demand increases in natural gas use by refineries; it’s a big refinery fuel. And in the industrial sector, we see significant gains in natural gas consumption occurring in areas like bulk chemicals, food processing, and elsewhere. And then the biggest increases in natural gas may come from electric utilities, which will likely be using more natural gas relative to coal to provide electricity growth in the United States.

OP: Is the US Department of Energy moving too quickly or too slowly to approve LNG exports to non-FTA countries?

Adam Sieminski: I think that the Department of Energy’s Department of Fossil Energy, which is responsible for permits, is moving exactly the way it should under the law to make the kinds of findings necessary from a legal standpoint. I wouldn’t characterize it as too fast or too slow. I would say that from what I can see, it’s just right given the legal framework.

OP: When could we expect the US to become a net gas exporter?

Adam Sieminski: The EIA’s forecast is that the US will become a net exporter of natural gas before the end of this decade.

We’re already a net exporter of coal. In terms of electricity, most of our trade is with Canada, and that never really seems to have been much of an issue. The US is also a net exporter of petroleum products, so we now export more gasoline and diesel fuel than we import. We import a lot of oil products, particularly into the East and West Coasts. But we are a big exporter, mostly from the Gulf Coast, with the increase in refinery utilization down there. The overall picture now is one in which the US trade deficit is being reduced by growing oil and petroleum product exports.

The only big outstanding question is: could the US potentially be a net exporter of crude oil? In the EIA’s Reference case forecast, that doesn’t seem likely. Despite the fact that our production is rising while demand is falling, we’re still importing about five million barrels a day net of of crude oil and products. It doesn’t seem likely that net importsd are going to go to zero–at least not given the facts as we currently see them. It’s possible, in a high petroleum resources case combined with a technology and policy-driven low demand case, but not probable.

One thing you want to keep in mind is what it would mean, exactly, if the US were completely self-sufficient in energy. Some people like to use the phrase, “energy independence.” We would still be part of a global trading system in energy, and particularly petroleum products and crude oil. And if oil prices go up globally, they’re going to go up in the United States. If there’s a geopolitical problem somewhere or a weather problem somewhere—anything—the US would be impacted just as it has always been. The US has a lot of interest in what’s going on around the world, in the Middle East and elsewhere, regardless of whether it is independent or self-sufficient in fuels. Those political and economic interests will remain whether we become an exporter or not.

OP: What role will the expansion of the Panama Canal play in this?

Adam Sieminski: What they’re doing is widening the Panama Canal. They’ll make the Canal itself wider and the locks longer, and the net result will be the potential to save in transportation costs through the use of larger oil tankers and LNG tankers. This offers an opportunity to reduce the costs associated with global trade. It is something that I know Panama and all of the customers who use the Panama Canal are very interested in seeing happen. There have been some cost and labor issues, but I’m sure those will be resolved and this expansion will eventually be completed. When that happens, it’s going to reduce the cost of moving goods back and forth between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and that’s going to apply particularly to things like liquefied natural gas and oil.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Interviews/Boundless-Natural-Gas-Boundless-Opportunities-Interview-with-EIA-Chief.html

By. James Stafford of Oilprice.com


What’s that smell?

By: T F Stern
T F Stern’s Rantings

One of our Hobo Kitties, White Sox, was looking more than a little puny so each morning when it came time to feed the other Hobo Kitties, Thunder and Puddin’ Head, we made it a point to keep a lookout for him. He was missing for a couple of days and we were relieved to see him last week, even in his emaciated condition.

He didn’t show up for breakfast last Tuesday and sometime in the middle of the week we noticed an unpleasant odor in the kitchen nook area near one of the air vents. We all had the same thought, guessing White Sox had died and his body was somewhere between the first floor ceiling and the second floor.

I went through the kitchen and the odor got stronger near the refrigerator and the idea came to me that perhaps it was an onion or bad potato up in the bowl that was causing the smell. Sure enough, Lucy pitched out a rotten onion that had begun to liquefy in the bowl; yuk!

The air began to clear immediately; that is except for the area in the kitchen nook.

This morning my son, William, got up on the step ladder and cut away a hole big enough to poke his head in. Prior to doing that, and this is my purpose for writing today, he said a little prayer.

“Please, Lord, don’t let anything dangerous get me when I poke my head up there.”

Fortunately the only thing William found was the body of White Sox there next to the warm air vent; no opossums or angry raccoons that might take exception to him poking around in that crawl space.

Tomorrow morning, after the Hobo Kitties have been fed and we’re relatively certain that no other vermin might be hiding in the crawl space William is going to seal off the conduit space that attaches the garage with its electrical wires from the main part of the house, something we should have done long ago.

When I was a young police officer I didn’t have enough money to purchase a back up shot gun for while I was on patrol. I did, however, own a nice lever action 30-30 and figured it would have to do. Some of my fellow officers joked about it; but you do what you have to do when you don’t have money.

One evening several units, to include my partner and me, were dispatched to a school burglary. We found entry and heard movement in the crawl space over us. It was one of those commercial drop in ceiling board systems and nobody wanted to poke their head up inside.

I had my 30-30 lever action rifle with me and I knew how to flush the burglary suspect out without having to poke my head up in there. I’m sure the burglar wasn’t thrilled knowing he was up in a crawl space with several police officers just below him. He was even lest thrilled when he heard the sound of a cartridge being jacked into place. That lever action rifle must have sounded like the end of the world to our burglar.

From up inside the crawl space we heard, “Don’t shoot, I’m coming out, don’t shoot”.

I’m pretty sure most police officers say a silent prayer as they go about poking their heads up into dark shadowy places looking for bad guys. It probably goes much like William’s short prayer, “Please, Lord, don’t let anything dangerous get me when I poke my head up there.”

This article has been cross-posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government & The American Constitution.”


Forum: What Current World Leader Or Statesman Would You Most Like To Interview?

The Watcher’s Council

Every week on Monday morning, the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture or daily living. This week’s question: What Current World Leader Or Statesman Would You Most Like To Interview?

The Razor: Here are my picks:

1. John Bolton – One of my favorite statesmen around these days. His stint at the UN was much to short under W, and I’m hoping that somebody picks him for Secretary of State if the GOP retakes the White House in 2016. What I’d like to ask him is: How do we engage China? Handling that nation seems to be one of the challenges of the coming decades. We need to engage them while at the same time train them to stop viewing the world in zero-sum terms. That requires a return to the peace-through-strength attitudes we saw under Reagan with the Soviets.

2. Emperor Akihito of Japan – As a lover of Japanese culture and history I’d like to get his take on his father’s role in World War 2. I’d also like to hear his opinions on Japanese society. Must Japan always rely on gaiatsu – foreign pressure – to change, or is it becoming more dynamic? Does he view Japanese history as cyclical – and are we entering a more militaristic period that we saw at the beginning of his father’s reign? What is his view of Japan’s future? Does he see it integrating more with the West (like the US), the East (China) or taking a more non-aligned, independent role?

3. Lech Walesa – In the 1980s I idolized both him and Vaclev Havel. Standing up to the communists in their countries took guts in the 1970s and 1980s, just a few years after the Prague Spring of 1968 was crushed under the treads of tanks. People forget just how dangerous that was, and how monolithic Communism appeared during that era. For Walesa I’d like his opinion on the future of socialism. Does it have one? I’d also like to hear what he has to say about the American Left which has shown itself to be no friend of dissidents to leftist regimes. The Left ignored the likes of Solzhenitsyn and Sakarov during the Soviet era, just as it ignores Cuban and Venezuelan dissidents today (and the Ukrainians too I might add).

Bookworm Room: When I look at world leaders today, I don’t want to interview any of them. Not one of them strikes me as an interesting person.

While I’d like to know if Bibi Netanyahu has a plan for weathering three more years of Obama, he’s not going to tell me. I’d also like to know what Obama’s college and law school transcripts say (bad grades, foreign nationality,etc.), he’s not going to answer that either.

In other words, my questions won’t elicit anything interesting, so why bother? Interviews would be fun and interesting only if truth serum was a prerequisite.

The Glittering Eye: I’ve never cultivated the skills necessary to conduct a good interview. I think I could probably learn them but it would take some practice and I do believe that it’s an acquired skill.

However, if I did have the necessary skills and I could interview anybody, I think I’d like to interview Vladimir Putin. I think he’s taking a pretty poor hand and playing it extremely well. He’s probably the most influential leader in the world today.

David Gerstman/Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion: The world leader I would most like to interview is President Barack Obama. I don’t believe I would get a straight answer, but I really want to know how he thinks, especially on Iran.

For example at the U.N. he confidently proclaimed that Iran’s Supreme Leader had issued a fatwa against the use of nuclear weapons. Yet we know that in the mid-2000′s, Iran’s one time nuclear negotiator (and now President) Hassan Rouhani said, “the only thing that stands between mastering enrichment technology and obtaining weapons-grade uranium is a political decision to make that transition.” (emphasis mine.) Iran’s leadership does not view developing nuclear weapon as a religious decision but a political one. Iran recently agreed to disclose information of its experiments on “exploding bridge wire detonators.” Additionally in 2011 the IAEA discovered “However, subsequently, the Agency was shown documents which established a connection between Project 5 and Project 111, and hence a link between nuclear material and a new payload development programme.” Claiming that it is a military area, Iran has not allowed IAEA inspectors full access to the Parchin site. Last year the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) quoted the IAEA: “Iran has conducted further spreading, levelling and compacting of material over most of the site, a significant proportion of which it has also asphalted.”

Not only has Iran been shown to have been pursuing means for detonating and delivering a nuclear weapon, but it is likely covering up evidence that it tested its detonating technology.
Given all that I would ask President Obama, what is there about Khamenei that makes him trust the Ayatollah, especially given Khamenei’s unremitting hostility towards the United States? Why is he willing to risk the safety of the West and America’s allies to a ruthless tyrant such as Khamenei?

If you allow me a boast, I did “interview” a world leader in 2006, though he wasn’t a world leader then. Rick Richman of Jewish Current Issues arranged a bloggers conference call with Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. I got to ask one of the questions. The answer was cut off but, though it wasn’t transcribed, he eventually went on for quite a while. From Netanyahu’s response, “… if Iran has nuclear weapons then every American is in great peril. America is in peril. Our world is in peril. It’s very important that people understand that this is not Israel’s war, you know, our house against their house, to a limited extent. It is our house, in the broad sense of the word “our.” That is, the house of freedom, the house of democratic societies …”

Little has changed since then. Netanyahu is still warning about Iran and the world remains deaf to his pleas.

JoshuaPundit: Difficult to pick three… my first choice would undoubtedly be Vladimir Putin. I think he has a great deal to say about how he sees Russia’s role in the world, and I’ve tried to dissect that side of him before. It would be fascinating to do it in person. I would also want to talk to him about Iran and find out how, aside from a stable southwest border he sees any strategic value in building up Iran’s nuclear capability, especially in view of Russia’s dire demographic situation.

Mahmoud Abbas, the unelected dictator of ‘Palestine’ would also be interesting, but in a different way, My method here would borrow a few licks from Oriana Fallaci and force him to address certain, umm…. contradictions. For instance, rais, you recently told a group of Leftist Israeli students in Ramallah that you weren’t a Holocaust denier. Yet your doctoral thesis from Moscow U was clearly Holocaust denial, and you have seen to it that your thesis is an integral and mandatory part of Palestinian education to this day. And while you mentioned that, regrettably there was actually anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement in Palestine’s media and schools, as leader with absolute dictatorial powers, why haven’t you done anything to stop it? And why does ‘Palestine’ pay salaries to men who murder women and children and make heroes and role models out of them if the idea is to educate your people for peace? Which you keep saying you want?

You get the idea.

Last but not least would be a toss up between Dick Cheney and Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister. I’d want those to definitely be off the record.

Ask Marion: Wow… the last time I had to answer a similar question was in college… but it was what 3-leaders from history (alive or dead) would you like to interview? My answer then was Richard Nixon, Adolf Hitler and Jesus… Today that answer would be Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Jesus.

Hmmm… What leader(s) would I like to interview… that is alive… hmmm? Three leaders that I would really like to interview would be Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Ted Cruz, none of which are world leaders… at least not yet. But Sarah Palin really is the unofficial leader of the Tea Party and can captivate an entire room or auditorium as well as touching the heart of a single person at a book signing like nobody else…. And the Tea Party is a kind of nation unto itself. Plus I do truly feel that she is the GOP’s ‘best’ answer to and possibility of beating Hillary Clinton in 2016, so very well can and will be a world leader. Glenn Beck is a leader and should be an inspiration to anyone in the media as well as the conservative movement. He battled and stood his ground at Fox and when the door closed because he would not yield he started his own multi-media empire with little if any encouragement or help. And then there is Ted Cruz who is the latest victim of Progressive Palinization (Quaylinazation several decades back) who like Sarah Palin packs the house to rousing applause and support where ever he goes no matter what the mainstream media and Beltway Progressives try to feed us. And if you are lucky you get a double shot of Cruz when his ever so popular dad, Raphael, shows up! Palin-Cruz in 2016 is my vote and then they will be world leaders!

But back to the question… world leaders… Hmmm? There are so few ‘real leaders’ let alone Statesman these days… But I would have to say Benjamin Netanyahu, Mikhail Gorbachev and Angela Merkel would be my choices for an interview. (Pope Francis I or Vladimir Putin were my fourth and fifth choices).

Mikhail Gorbachev is the last of the courageous, creative and forward thinking team of four: President Ronald Reagan, Blessed (Pope) John Paul II, Prime Minister (Baroness) Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev (the General Secretary Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) who ended the Cold War and changed the face of the world without a single shot being fired.

Although generally out of the limelight, the former Soviet leader is still active and said Sunday that the political crisis in Ukraine, which has seen its president driven from the capital after months of protests, stems from its government’s failure to act democratically:

“Ultimately this is the result of the failure of the government to act democratically” and to engage in dialogue and fight corruption, Gorbachev said during an address at the International Government Communication Forum in the city of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu is a steadfast leader that should have the respect of the entire world, yet he stands virtually alone to defend the only real bastion of democracy in the Middle East. He is surrounded by enemies and under constant criticism from former allies and even second guessed by American Jews. Yet, he is the leader many Americans wish we had. Netanyahu, who was educated in the United States, has a love for America but has endless devotion to Israel and the Jewish people.

A picture is worth a thousand words… here is Benjamin Netanyahu and Barry Soetoro (Obama) in their early twenties (Courtesy Lucianne.com)

See Benjamin Netanyahu in 2006 tell it like it is during a 2006 General Assembly in Los Angeles. . . . . Most U.S. media outlets refused to show this clip.

GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: Tony Blair!

Without a doubt – one of America’s fav uncles – is also by happy chance the most articulate cat around.

Great Britain’s youngest PM in a century and her longest serving ever. Undeniably, Tony is a master of political thinking. He is a genius when it comes to understanding the change in the public mood and society, although not without fault, as history has shown.

Labour philosophy, its political agenda, the structure of the voters who dug Labour, and who didn’t, the meaning of “working class” in the 80′s (the philosophical essence of the change to New Labour could be summarised in his words: “I hate class. I love aspiration”)

Blair’s declaration of support for America to Congress is still required reading for any serious discussion of diplopolititary concerns

Uncle Tony’s Rules for Intervention and follow up thoughts and applications are totally spot on.

He also plays a mean rock guitar and takes his Xianity seriously.

Well, there you have it.

Make sure to tune in every Monday for the Watcher’s Forum. And remember, every Wednesday, the Council has its weekly contest with the members nominating two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. The votes are cast by the Council and the results are posted on Friday morning.

It’s a weekly magazine of some of the best stuff written in the blogosphere and you won’t want to miss it.

And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter… ’cause we’re cool like that, y’know?


MI: Author Says U.S. Rep. Gary Peters is a Saul Alinsky Disciple

By: Dick Manasseri
WatchDog Wire

Alinsky promoted tactics of intimidation

Editor’s Note: This is a companion piece to the Feb. 24 blog post about Julie Boonstra.

New Zealand author Trevor Loudon names names in his new book: The Enemies Within: Communists, Socialists, and Progressive in the U.S. Congress. For one, he provides documented evidence that U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, is an Alinsky disciple, and, as such, is well versed in the proscribed tactics of intimidation and lying.

In January, 2009, the Detroit chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, a proud Marxist organization, offered their support to both Gary Peters (MI-09) and Mark Schauer (MI-07). Peters was the keynote speaker at the 2009 dinner honoring the life of Michigan progressive activist, Millie Jeffrey, who was an important mentor of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Peters is a candidate for U.S. Senate. while Schauer is a candidate for Michigan governor.

Dick Manasseri, a resident of Rochester Hills, is a big fan of the US Constitution, doing whatever he can to preserve and protect it for his children and grandchildren.


Despite FCC Retreat, Free Speech Still Under Fire from Obama Administration

By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is claiming that it is backing off of its Orwellian plans to intimidate newsrooms across America into joining the Obama Revolution in “transforming America.” Their latest message is, in essence, if you like your sources of news, you can keep your sources of news. But just like when President Obama made that promise as it related to your doctors and your health care plan, they don’t mean it for a second. It’s just what they believe they need to say at this time to deceive the public and advance their agenda.

The FCC was due to start its Critical Information Needs (CIN) survey in Columbia, South Carolina last week amid a media firestorm over this regulatory body’s decision to peer into newsrooms’ news-making philosophies and story selection criteria. Now the FCC says it will revise the study but still move forward with it, which raises as many questions as they sought to quell. For example, an article in National Review Online says that up to now, the FCC “has been consistently blocked in its efforts to establish race-based media ownership rules—on the grounds that it did not have data to justify such rulemaking.” But, it adds, there is now “a movement to make the CIN a mechanism for gathering such data.” As The Daily Caller points out, this “raises a new concern that the FCC may use the new version to revise media ownership rules and base them on race.”

The FCC, in a statement on February 21st concerning the change of plans, said that “Chairman [Tom] Wheeler agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required.” Who says anything is required, in terms of the government shaping the news we see and hear? In fact, they overstepped the bounds of what is acceptable, and what is constitutional. And they acted like this was just a messaging error. Investor’s Business Daily called for abolishing the FCC in an editorial, and pointed out that the commission claimed in its Friday press release “that it was ‘Setting the Record Straight On The Draft Study’ (as if the problem was bad reporting rather than an atrocious idea).”

As Accuracy in Media reported on February 7, this is but one of several threats to free speech in our nation, and could lead to the revival of a new version of the Fairness Doctrine. And we weren’t the only ones, or the first to attempt to call attention to this outrageous attempt by the Obama administration to try to intimidate newsrooms into compliance with their ideas of what should be reported and how. We already know which of their scandals they want to convince us are phony scandals—such as the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and Benghazi—and which news sources they believe need re-education, or banning, which would include the Fox News Channel and most of talk radio. They appear to be tossing out a big net to attempt to regulate what those sources put out.

And while this story is still largely confined to conservative media outlets, it has gotten a lot of attention in recent days. The trigger for the story gaining critical mass appears to have been a February 10th Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by Ajit Pai, one of the two Republican members of the current five-person commission, who was appointed by President Obama. Fox News and talk radio have been reporting on the story starting a few days after the piece appeared in the Journal. But the rest of the media have continued to largely ignore this story. CNN’s “Reliable Sources” didn’t even mention it on its weekly Sunday show about the media, while Fox News’ “Media Buzz” did a full segment on it.

As a news story, this has had a fascinating evolution. It appears that The Daily Caller has led the way on coverage. They wrote about this survey back in October, and covered most of the details that comprise the story today. And then in December, they noted how the survey seemed to be going nowhere. Mark Levin commented on it several times on his radio show, but few others paid any attention to it.

In December, House of Representative members also decried this survey as reviving the Fairness Doctrine. Tom Wheeler, the recently installed FCC Chair—a true Obama believer and top Obama bundler—responded to Congressional criticism in December, saying during a hearing that “…what we did was, there is a study that has been proposed by a consulting firm that we were working with, and we put that out for public notice to exactly get the kind of input that you’re suggesting.”

Wheeler’s response has since evolved. On February 14 Wheeler responded to House criticism of the FCC study by writing that the regulatory agency will “adapt the study in response to these concerns and expect to complete this work in the next few weeks.” There is nothing to see here, he contended, saying, “The Commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters by way of this Research Design, any resulting study, or through any other means.”

Yet the study did intend to extend the probe into the newsrooms of print journalists, according to a Fox News’ Greta van Susteren panel and an FCC commissioner. The FCC has no jurisdiction over print media. “The survey is clearly written by somebody who’s never set foot in a newsroom. … They go into newspapers as well. The FCC doesn’t even regulate newspapers,” said Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post on Greta’s panel. Tumulty called the study and its proposed actions “completely clueless.” That’s like saying the IRS officials were merely “boneheaded” when they repeatedly targeted conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status.

Van Susteren called the FCC’s proposals something different: so stupid that they could be seen as malevolent, “almost trying to shut up journalists.”

“What in the world is going on where somebody in our government thinks it’s a good idea to invade these different news rooms, when we’ve got a First Amendment, we’ve got freedom of the press, I mean who in his right mind?” she asked. “And why didn’t everybody—And maybe if one FCC commissioner was stupid enough, where were the other ones?”

In breaking ranks with his fellow FCC commissioners in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, Ajit Pai wrote, “But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.” He added, “Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree.”

He points to the survey as an example, and says that “The FCC says the study is merely an objective fact-finding mission (emphasis added). The results will inform a report that the FCC must submit to Congress every three years on eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry.” But Pai calls that claim “peculiar.”

“How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businesses from entering the broadcast industry?” he writes. “And why does the [Critical Information Needs] study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?”

When Pai was asked by Van Susteren about the origin of the idea, he said he didn’t know.

Clearly, something more nefarious is going on here, and the media shouldn’t play along. For the administration to think it’s okay to go into newsrooms, especially into newsrooms of newspapers, where they don’t have even a shred of authority, is outrageous. The question is, how will—and how should—newsrooms react to Big Brother coming in and asking such questions? Van Susteren and her panel from the Post, Washington Examiner, and The Hill suggested the media simply should not cooperate.

However, if this plan were to proceed in some manner, those under the FCC’s thumb—radio and television stations—may not have much choice but to play along. Their license renewals may be at stake. This reminds us of how the IRS went to organizations seeking 501(c)4 exemptions, and how the conservative and tea party groups were asked about their political and religious beliefs, for their tweets and Facebook pages, and other organizational data.

“This is an outrage disguised as a study,” noted Charles Krauthammer. “As if the IRS, and the EPA, and NLRB haven’t done enough damage,” said Krauthammer on Fox News’ “Special Report,” “the FCC now has to trample on what rights are remaining.”

Clearly, this administration includes intimidation and thought control as part of President Obama’s plan for “transforming America.” But of course, he knew nothing about this until he heard about it in the media. Jay Carney said, at his White House press briefing on Friday, “The FCC is an independent agency, so you’d have to talk to them for details.”

Many have suggested that this is Obama’s way of reinstituting a Fairness Doctrine by stealth means, since the long-time dream of Democrats to do it by legislation or direct regulation has failed. But I don’t quite see it that way. The Fairness Doctrine required measured, timed balance on the licensed airwaves, whether radio or TV. The Obama administration would prefer that every station and network be like NBC, or better yet, MSNBC—in total service to the Obama administration, and to a lesser extent, to the Democratic Party and the so-called progressive movement. They aren’t really interested in balance, or even diversity—if that diversity includes views critical of the administration.

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.