A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Resource ownership

America’s Growth Corridors (walking away from CO2 regulation)

“Your right to vote is guaranteed. However, it seems voting with your feet is often more effective.”

The familiar Red State–Blue State map is a symbolic means of quickly communicating political preferences. The maps aren’t meant to be predictive of job, economic, or population trends, yet a recent think tank’s report suggests the metaphor may have broader significance.

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research released in February America’s Growth Corridors: The Key to National Revival, which describes the future growth of our economy in terms of “growth corridors.”

The economic and population trends reported look remarkably like the iconic election night map with Blue States (my analogy, not the authors’) defined as strips along the Pacific and Northeast Atlantic coasts and along the shores of the Great Lakes. The Red States are those located along the “Third Coast” bordering the Caribbean, the Intermountain West, the Great Plains, and the Southeast Manufacturing Belt.

The report calls these four regions “America’s Growth Corridors,” representing 45% of the nation’s land mass and 30% of its population.

Diverging Directions

Conventional wisdom tells us businesses prefer regions with a sufficient labor pool, real estate, reasonable cost of living, relatively low taxes, and a regulatory climate conducive to business. Availability of low-cost energy has also jumped near the top of that list. It’s no surprise that recent data suggest employers uniformly favor the Red States over the Blue States when locating new businesses. However, that trend is indicative of a major economic shift now under way with the country, particularly with job creation and manufacturing of goods.

The energy industry has led the nation in job creation over the past decade. Oil and gas extraction jobs alone, predominately located in the Red States, have increased over 27% since early 2008, producing the highest number of jobs in that industry since late 1987. Moody’s Analytics reports that the oil and gas extraction industry created more than one million jobs since 2002, out of the 2.7 million jobs created across the entire country over the same period! [Read more →]

April 17, 2013   5 Comments

Petroleum Development in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Setting the Record Straight (Part III: Did International Oil Firms Despoil Eastern Ecuador’s Environment?)

[Ed. Note: This concludes Douglas Southgate's review of Ecuador’s claims of “reckless environmental damage” against Chevron, and through them international oil companies (IOCs). Part I challenged the facade that Ecuador's passive view of its own resources led to exploitation by Big Oil; Part II examined the economic benefits of fossil-fuel development in the country.

This post refutes the charge that environmental damage is the responsibility of foreign firms alone. Indeed, it is the state company, Petroecuador, that was chiefly responsible for environmental despoliation in the Amazon region. These postings are timely in light of a recent article in The New Yorker, [1] a new book about the construction of a trans-Andean pipeline, [2] and other literature in which IOCs’ actions in Ecuador are criticized.

Billions for Government, Nada Environment

Opponents of petroleum development in the Amazonian lowlands (Oriente) of eastern Ecuador maintain that damage to the region’s natural resources has been the result of IOCs’ dominance of the country. But in the first of three postings about the anti-oil campaign, I show that the Ecuadorian government actually exercised considerable power in its dealings with foreign companies. Soon after petroleum was discovered in the Oriente, Ecuadorian authorities obliged IOCs to spend tens of millions of dollars on transportation infrastructure in order to facilitate colonization, in which the firms had no real interest. [Read more →]

February 17, 2012   2 Comments

Petroleum Development in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Setting the Record Straight (Part II: Oil wealth & socioeconomic progress in Ecuador)

[Ed. Note: This series addresses key issues at the heart of Ecuador’s claims of “reckless environmental damage” against Chevron, and, through them, international oil companies (IOCs). Part I challenged the facade that Ecuador's passive view of its own resources led to exploitation by Big Oil. Part III tomorrow addresses the misperception that environmental damage in this small, South American nations is the responsibility of foreign firms alone.]

 Oil and gas has been a 40-year economic driver in Ecuador. With the national treasury benefiting from oil and gas revenue, any lack of socioeconomic progress during the last decades cannot be blamed on international oil company (IOC) profit-making there.

Indeed, no serious observer claims that Ecuador has failed to experience development. Criticism has focused instead on waste and misallocation of the large cash bounty that multinational investment created for Ecuador.

Who Got the Money?

Much of the blame for misallocation rests with the uniformed services, which have received a sizable portion of the country’s petrodollars. Military expenditures averaged 45 percent of the national budget from 1972 through 2000, which has enabled the armed forces to acquire a fleet of oil tankers, an airline, and other commercial enterprises.[1] However, oil wealth also has been spent on social services and subsidies for the public at large.

Despite waste, corruption, and misallocation, gross national income (GNI) per capita improved during this period. So did non-economic indicators of human well-being, including the infant mortality rate (IMR) and life expectancy at birth, thanks to better water supplies and public sanitation, wider access to pharmaceuticals, and, most importantly, improved nutrition.

Conditions in 1967

At the time when oil was discovered in the Oriente, mean GNI in Ecuador ($260) was barely half the Latin American and Caribbean average ($478); only in Haiti’s GNI per capita was appreciably lower. [2] The country’s standing in terms of non-economic measures was a little better. [Read more →]

February 16, 2012   No Comments

Petroleum Development in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Setting the Record Straight (Part I: Was Ecuador ever subservient to foreign oil firms?)

[Ed. Note: In this three-part series, Douglas Southgate, an economist and professor at Ohio State University, addresses key issues at the heart of Ecuador’s claims of “reckless environmental damage” against Chevron, and, through them, international oil companies (IOCs). Part II and Part III will address two other charges: that the small, South American nation has benefited little from energy-resource development, and that environmental damage is the responsibility of foreign firms alone.  These postings are timely in light of a recent article in The New Yorker,[2] a new book about the construction of a trans-Andean pipeline,[3] and other literature in which IOCs’ actions in Ecuador are criticized.]

Part I in this series challenges the charge from the Ecuadorian régime’s (and its U.S. backers) that:

(1) Ecuador was an innocent seduced by the siren song of Big Oil, and became a vassal to their interests;

(2) Ecuador’s relationship to its oil potential was merely passive; and

(3) Oil development monies did not benefit Ecuador.

In fact, the country moved aggressively to capture the lion’s share of the benefits created by private investment. Nationalization and taxation left the government with 97.3 percent, or $22.7 billion, of the monetary returns created by the concession originally developed by Texaco and Gulf between 1972 (when production and exports began) and 1992 (when the state oil company gained complete ownership of the concession).[1]

The Legal Setting

Continuing appeals of a February 2011 ruling by a district court in the Amazonian lowlands of eastern Ecuador and charges of fraud leveled against plaintiffs’ counsel [4] are recent and noteworthy developments in a legal campaign launched nearly two decades ago against Texaco, which along with Gulf Corporation began drilling for petroleum in the region during the 1960s and which has been affiliated since 2001 with Chevron. [Read more →]

February 15, 2012   3 Comments

Subsoil Privatization for Energy Sustainability (Is Middle Eastern unrest the first step?)

[This post by Guillermo "Billy" Yeatts (see profile at the end of the post) originally appeared at MasterResource on April 30, 2010. It is reprinted in response to the move of the Middle East toward more open, democratic, and modern societies. Can private ownership of oil and gas assets be far beyond?]

The history of oil and gas production in Latin America has been characterized by a continuing tug of war between the state as owner of the subsurface (Spanish colonial tradition) and private producers in pursuit of profits. Private participation in the industry has been limited to brief periods and restricted to specific phases of oil and gas production.

The typical pattern is that foreign oil and gas companies are allowed into a country to locate and initiate production. Once oil is flowing, governments nationalize the companies’ facilities – with or without compensation – and hand them over to government-owned and operated monopolies.

Whether the oil or gas is produced by private corporations or by a government monopoly, it is almost always the government that receives most of the profits. All too often, the money is used to keep the heads of state in power.

In the United States, by contrast, individuals own and control much of the nation’s subsurface rights to energy and other minerals. The results are starkly different. While the oil and gas industry in the United States expanded quickly, bringing prosperity to many areas that were once underdeveloped or deserted, oil revenues in other countries have propped up corrupt governments with little or no benefits to the general welfare.

State ownership of the subsurface removes incentives for risk-taking, investment, and technological innovation. Farmers and ranchers are pitted against oil development. In Latin America, the prospect of an oil or gas discovery is a farmer’s worst nightmare. They reap no financial benefit from the discovery, but they do suffer land damage and the disruption to their lives from drilling and production operations. Consequently, a landowner’s incentive is to hide any mineral wealth his property might have and to fight any attempt to exploit such wealth. [Read more →]

February 21, 2011   No Comments

Countries Buying Foreign Minerals–Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

Recently, there has been renewed concerns about efforts by China to acquire mineral assets overseas, taking advantage of recent company devaluations and their own abundant capital reserves. This is not a new concern, having arisen when Chinese companies began to look overseas for investment opportunities, particularly in the oil market, about a decade ago.

And this dates from nineteenth-century nations seeking to monopolize the whaling industry, to the English government establishing British Petroleum in an effort to avoid reliance on those undependable Americans. (Even the US, fearful of ‘running out’ of oil in the 1920s, established the Naval Petroleum Reserve, which proved useless.)

But there is some fire for all the smoke. [Read more →]

February 22, 2009   No Comments