Saturday, 4 February 2012

BLM Enrages Governor Herbert, Delights The Sane

Kudos to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, scourge of Governor Herbert's most fevered, sweat-drenched dreams. The BLM sent Herbert a love letter, and listen to Herbert whine and sputter:

"This nonsensical, bass-ackwards, peekaboo policy is nothing more than political posturing by overreaching federal bureaucrats. With no science and no data [Oh, really, Governer? - Ed.], and with a wave of their federal bureaucratic magic wand, they can just take the bulk of the acreage off the market, stifle innovation, and demonstrate, yet again, that this administration is patently hostile toward even the possible development of much-needed resources."

I've included that gem in its entirety for two reasons: first, it amuses me when a shovel-faced, colorless goblin like Herbert loses his temper, because it's invariably both quite a sight and prompted by the oddest things. Is Utah faced with an epidemic of sick kids due to air pollution by Rio Tinto? Herbert probably hums "Headed Home" into the mirror as he flosses.

Knock a huge chunk of lands previously promised by the Bush Administration "off the market," on the other hand, and the Gov blusters and fulminates as though some dastardly midnight creeper did something indecent to the family dog.

Peekaboo, Governor?

The second reason that it's worth parsing what Herbert actually said here is because in the midst of all that gibbering (even the Salt Lake Tribune, bless their hearts, headlined their coverage 'Herbert fumes over BLM plan to rein in oil shale') there are some factual claims that are worth checking into.

I'm not sure what "nonsensical, bass-ackwards, peekabo" entails as a descriptor, other than being amusingly juvenile. An upstanding, religious man like Herbert dropping a "bass-ackwards" (oh my heck!) into his rant is the equivalent of a liberal publicly letting off a few MF-bombs, so we can gather that he is really steamed I guess.

"Stifle innovation," of course, is code for literally any taxation or regulation at all, the conservative go-to being that any interference with the Free Market - or, in this case, the quasi-black-market of public land sales - hurts business. If the innovation that Herbert refers to here is the standard method of tar sands extraction, or maybe a little fracking to boot, then he can take that innovation and shove it. If anything, restricting destructive petroleum extraction encourages innovation, in areas like, say, solar or geothermal.

I also find it curious that in the midst of painting a delightful word-picture regarding magic wands, Herbert slipped in the phrase "with no science and no data." There is abundant science and data. In 2000, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act instituted an inventory of gas resources and reserves (among other things). This data has been used extensively by the BLM in their planning process; you can read all you like about it here.

Go ahead, read it for literally forty five seconds and you will officially know more about the BLM's data and science than Governor Herbert.

The idea that President Barack Obama, who just barely opened up 38 million acres of offshore oil rights in the Gulf of Mexico to the tune of $337 million, is "patently hostile" to petroleum interests is also quite extraordinary, if somewhat predictable coming from a Republican facing a tough primary in which he will have to constantly prove his wingnut bona fides.

Anyhow, good for the BLM. In this initial plan, which has many miles to go before becoming actual policy, BLM reduces the amount of land available for shale extraction from 1.9 million acres to 462,000 acres, and 431,000 acres of oil shale to just 91,000 acres. While I'm not ecstatic about the Book Cliffs development, or the amount of land being turned over for pillaging, this proposal is a significant improvement on its nightmarish precedessor, and the Obama Administration deserves credit for it.

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