2-12-11 Hodgepodge

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Good News from the Oil Patch

I'd heard about huge amounts of oil in North Dakota, but had always been under the impression that this was due to the discovery of unknown deposits. What I didn't catch was that getting the oil depended on the invention of a new extraction technique.

Petroleum engineers first used the method in 2007 to unlock oil from a 25,000-square-mile formation under North Dakota and Montana known as the Bakken. Production there rose 50 percent in just the past year, to 458,000 barrels a day, according to Bentek Energy, an energy analysis firm.

It was first thought that the Bakken was unique. Then drillers tapped oil in a shale formation under South Texas called the Eagle Ford. Drilling permits in the region grew 11-fold last year.
The news isn't all good, particularly from a regulatory perspective, but the technique and some newly-discovered formations it opens up will cause American oil production to increase for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.

Weekend Reading

"People who sit around and wait for real self-esteem to 'happen' will be waiting for a long time." -- Michael Hurd, in "Self-Esteem Must Be Earned" at DrHurd.com

"[B]eing a [market] contrarian isn't about what you buy, it's about how you think." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "It's Not Comfortable Being Contrarian" at SmartMoney

"But what we have today is not a health insurance market -- not really." -- Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, in "The Road To Socialized Medicine Is Paved With Pre-existing Conditions" at Forbes

"Court challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare have exposed the broader agenda of those who are committed to the permanent expansion of government power which that legislation represents. " -- Richard Ralston, in "Constitution or Obamacare -- Not Both" at The Orange County Register (HT: HBL)

My Two Cents

The points Michael Hurd raises in his column cause me to realize that the government's decades-old "War on Poverty" is, in fact, a "War on Self-Esteem." Forget, for a moment, the monetary costs, direct and indirect, of the massive welfare state. Consider the millions of people who have had their motivation sapped, either by having things handed to them, or by having had their earnings handed over to others by force.

Also, each of the two pieces on ObamaCare raise points I haven't seen before. Brook and Watkins take on the most reasonable-sounding current argument for socialized medicine, and Ralston gives an outstanding executive summary of the many ways our Constitution is under attack.

Neal Stephenson on Innovation

The author of the even more thought-provoking, "In the Beginning Was the Command Line," considers (HT: John Cook) what "the strange persistence of rockets" can teach us about innovation.
Vast, nation-bankrupting expenditures were now directed to the development of such rockets. In Dark Sun, Richard Rhodes estimates the cost of the nuclear weapons and missile programs at $4 trillion in the United States and the USSR each.


The above circumstances provide a remarkable example of path dependency. Had these contingencies not obtained, rockets with orbital capability would not have been developed so soon, and when modern societies became interested in launching things into space they might have looked for completely different ways of doing so.
Stephenson's focus isn't on central planning, but it's easy to see how it pertains to the problem he discusses. Setting aside, for the sake of argument, (1) the fact that military spending is a legitimate function of the government and (2) whether we could have avoided an arms race through military action or a non-appeasing foreign policy: $8 trillion is a pretty bloody big "broken window."

-- CAV

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