We have heard the pronouncement from Washington, “a hundred thousand dead is not so bad.”
We watch our home state, Iowa, from our lock-down in Virginia, and wonder what Iowa’s Republican leaders can be thinking, that somehow COVID-19 will go easy on Iowa? Incidence of COVID-19 in Iowa is now about where Maryland was 2-3 weeks ago, and now Maryland cases and deaths are doubling every 2-3 days, and Maryland is in lock-down.
In Iowa, there seems to be a fear of an economic downturn if lock-down occurs. This is emphasis on money rather than public health which our President and Congress were advocating just six weeks ago. For most of us ordinary people, health is our top priority.
I have followed a few economic indicators for several years, trying to track general trends. In March, for example, both WTI and Brent prices for a barrel of crude oil were under $30 and were briefly under $20 a barrel.
Our political and business leaders have been telling us for years that cheap energy was good for America. We have been subsidizing oil producers and spending billions on military steps to assure cheap oil from countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
We are routinely spending over a trillion dollars a year on national security (defense, intelligence, etc.), much of which shores up petro states. Well, at $20 a barrel, we had cheap energy, e.g., car gasoline under $2 a gallon. The struggle inside the OPEC oil cartel made fossil fuel cheap.
I was stunned when President Trump called for President Putin and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and Kashoggi-assassination plotter MBS to settle the OPEC argument, and get the price of crude higher. Why this action by our President? Under $30 a barrel, fracking is not profitable and this sector of the American economy has been slowed and even stopped this year.
Fossil fuels are big profits and result in huge political contributions in America. And now, President Trump threatens a tariff on OPEC producers, another tax us ordinary people will pay, another welfare handout to the inefficient fracking fossil cartel in the U.S.
These steps by the Trump administration occur as we focus upon the terror of COVID-19. This month, instead of continuing to improve U.S. automotive fleet fuel efficiency by about 5% per year, the new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards require only a 1.5% annual improvement through model year 2026. Auto manufacturers evidently did not ask for this.
There will be an increase in emissions, an additional 2 billion barrels of fuel being burned in coming years, and up to 923 million extra tons of carbon dioxide being emitted. Advocates for the change claim it will keep auto prices from rising a bit, so people will buy new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Yes, a few more jobs making autos but sourced from where?
We are using more renewable energy in the U.S. Our cars are more fuel-efficient. Our total energy demand is levelling off and even going down in many sectors. This is good.
Reduction in burning of fossil fuels reduces carbon in our atmosphere. This helps in climate management, especially beneficial for our children and grandchildren.
Some factions in America just keep moving forward, using the chaos and terror of COVID-19 to provide cover for their same old agenda. Iowa’s Hy-Vee company and other sellers of beverages use it to push to eliminate or weaken the bottle deposit rule. Take a look at the roads and byways of states without bottle deposit rules, and be stunned at the increased litter.
Iowa’s abortion opponents have another excuse in COVID-19, to restrict abortions. Gun-rights advocates in California seek Second Amendment protection to keep shops selling guns and ammo open as other retailers have to close because of COVID-19.
Politicians seem to have used classified briefing information to profit from this calamity by dumping stock. In January, the Singapore government knew that COVID-19 survives in air vents, and moved quickly to a national lock-down that helps keep their disease incidence among the lowest in the world.
It is dangerous and irresponsible for the Governor of Iowa not to move to stay-at-home guidance. She is not listening to the Iowa Board of Medicine; nor to Dr. Fauci.
What is important? Ask anyone who is dying. Ask anyone who spends time with dying people. I never hear that the economy is important.
No one is asking about the stock market, or the price of crude oil, or television ratings of politicians. They are mostly talking about family and friends, about great memories and great hopes for the future. This COVID-19 crisis is not about the economy, it is about the survival of humanity, yours and mine.