Monday, July 28, 2008

In last week's edition of my local newspaper there was a letter calling for more oil drilling and blaming the Democratic Congress for high gas prices. I wrote a rather lengthy response debunking the myth of "more oil = cheaper gas" and I feel like it's worth posting here.

It's tempting to blame the price of oil and gasoline on what seems like a reasonable assumption, that limiting domestic oil production from areas off-limits for drilling has driven up the cost. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the lower 48 states are the two largest of these areas. President Bush has made the opening of ANWR central to his "energy policy" and recently lifted the executive ban on offshore drilling, while politicians like Florida Governor Charlie Crist have lifted state bans. All that remains is for Congress to approve drilling measures, and we're in the
clear for oil, right?

Wrong. The idea that drilling offshore and in ANWR would bring down oil and gas prices is little more than a pipe dream. The reality is that ANWR and the OCS do not contain nearly enough oil reserves to affect the United States and global energy markets significantly, if at all. The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that total oil consumption in the nation is around 21 million barrels per day. For perspective, 5 million of that is produced domestically and the rest is imported. Were Congress to approve ANWR drilling and refineries opened up tomorrow, the EIA estimates that that ANWR would start producing oil in 2018 at levels of 200,000 barrels per day or less. Production would peak in 2027 at 780,000 barrels daily and decline steadily afterwards. The United States is currently predicted to receive 54% of its oil supply from overseas in 2030 without ANWR or offshore drilling. With the opening of ANWR, that number drops a whopping four percent to 50%, leaving half of all oil supplies to be imported overseas. That does not include the amount imported from Canada or Mexico, the former currently being the largest supplier to the US. Oil coming from ANWR in 2030 would make up about 0.8% of the total world oil supply, and decrease the price of a single oil barrel by about $0.75 in that year. The oil market is not a traditional supply and demand one, as artificial restrictions are a very real possibility for keeping prices steady or driving them higher. The EIA notes that were ANWR to be opened, the amount of oil coming out of it would be so low that OPEC would be likely to slightly decrease supply and therefore neutralize the already tiny impact it would have.

Offshore drilling on the continental shelf is essentially the same situation. A similar report released by the EIA in 2007 estimates the total oil reserves offshore to be 18 billion barrels over a huge area, compared to ANWR's 10.4 billion over a much smaller one. Again, were drilling to begin tomorrow it would take 10 years to begin production and the impact would only show up around 2030. That impact is utterly insignificant to the tune of 200,000 extra barrels daily compared to what current estimates are in the lower 48 states without the OCS. As the report states, "Because oil prices are determined on the international market, however, any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant."

The irony of the entire situation is that while we expect Democrats to oppose more domestic drilling and Republicans to generally favor it, a recent bill designated HR 6515 in the House of Representatives calling for oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres of offshore land they lease in the continental United States but do not have wells or refineries on was blocked by Republican representatives. The idea that there is no oil, or comparatively little oil, on this land is a myth. Oil companies ask to lease areas of land for drilling, and the government grants or denies. Geologists and seismologists are hired to assess the potential of an area of land in oil production before the lease, through direct methods like satellite imagery and core samples and through indirect methods of estimating oil reserves based on similar formations. Oil companies do not lease 76% of the land in an area (there are about 90 million acres total leased offshore) without the expectation that it will turn a profit.

So, where does that leave us? We can blame the politicians we elected, like Mr. LaFiandra does, but politicians do not control the price of oil. The price of oil is controlled by the value of the dollar, which is controlled by the Federal Reserve and Chairman Benjamin Bernanke. The entire situation is linked directly to the housing crisis precipitated by a failure to regulate subprime mortgages, allowing loan companies like Bear Stearns and Fannie Mae to get away with virtual robbery. When hard times came rolling in and the failure of these companies was imminent, Bernanke took the easy way out and began printing more money to bail them out, in conjunction with taxpayer dollars. As any economic student knows, increasing the amount of a fiat currency increases inflation and devalues the dollar. Barrels of oil are traded in dollars, and so it takes more dollars to buy them as their value goes down.

The oil crisis we face today is not simply one of supply and demand. While it is true that supply is remaining constant while demand globally is increasing, the United States has consistently used 25% of the oil supply for years. The crisis is one of failed loans and corporate greed, that trickles down to average consumers like you and me. As legendary oil entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens says "We cannot drill our way out of this crisis", no matter what President Bush or 74% of the American public
may say.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chris Matthews vs. Right Wing Radio Nut Kevin James

I love Chris Matthews more than any other political talk show host barring Keith Olbermann, so it was a joy to watch him verbally eviscerate Conservative talkshow host Kevin James on Hardball earlier today. Referring to President Bush's comments apparently comparing Barack Obama's policy of "words not weapons" to that of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler by giving him Czechoslovakia, Kevin James managed to look like a sputtering idiot with no knowledge of history or what "appeasement" actually means.

Watch the video here. It's entertaining.

Right wing politics: Because yelling really loud makes more impact than actually saying anything.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kayo Dot - Blue Lambency Downward (2008)

I'm too lazy to upload a picture or anything.

Oh hellz yeah.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

X-Files: I Want to Believe, June 25th!

A while ago the release date for the second X-Files feature film was released. June 25th, 2008!

The rather corny, but fitting sub-title, "I Want to Believe" was announced a few days ago.

The X-Files is probably the greatest television show of all time, so I am ecstatic about this. Although it's a little disappointing that it is a "monster of the week" story and not a continuation of the Colonization mytharc, there are apparently plenty of in-show references and the like to please fans. Who else is excited?

More Info:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Album Review//Arghoslent - "Hornets of the Pogrom"

For the first music related post on my blog, I've decided to review the latest album by melodic death metal band Arghoslent.

A little quick background on this band: Formed in 1990, they have been one of the leaders of underground melodic death metal for almost two decades now. They're signed to legendary metal label Drakkar Productions, home to other acts like Germany's Haggard and the (ridiculously named) Goatreich 666, who hail from Italy. After quite a few demo released in the early 1990's, Arghoslent put out their first album "Galloping Through the Battle Ruins" in 1998. Since then they have released a second full length "Incorrigible Bigotry" and now their third. A band hailing from Oakton in Fairfax County, Virginia, they are probably the best band from the Northern Virginia area and one of the few decent metal acts I can consider local. The other interesting fact regarding Arghoslent's modus operandi is their interesting interpretation of historical events (the band refers to themselves as "Totalitarian death metal"). Critics will call them blatant and unashamed racists, fans will say it's just how they view the past. Either way, you gain quite a reputation when you have song titles such as 'The Negress' and 'Flogging the Cargo.'

The wait for "Hornets of the Pogrom" was long, and it has easily been my most anticipated release of 2008. So how does the final product hold up?

In a word: Monstrously. This album is lightning fast, uncompromisingly pounding, and most important of all chock full of memorable riffs. Arghoslent has always stood out from the death metal crowd for their incredibly well written and free flowing songs, several of which are monumentally epic in sound. Continuing the tradition of their early demos, "Pogrom" only serves to further cement this band's reputation as one of the most original and talented playing metal today.

Lead guitarist Pogrom and his cohort Holocausto never once let up on the riffing, and from start the finish all 42 minutes of this album are a mind blowing showcase of guitar work inspired more by Manilla Road and Iron Maiden than Cannibal Corpse or Death. That has always been Arghoslent's key - Guitars inspired by pure heavy metal riffing, pushed harder and harder until they sound like nothing else you will listen to in death metal. The melodically stunning riffs are complimented by technically astounding solos on quite a few tracks, specifically 'Dog and Broom' and the title track. Dancing in and out of focus but never leaving prominence, the guitar playing on this album would be a landmark for death metal were it not for Arghoslent's previous two releases. As it is, they continue their distinct sound quite well.

On the rhythm front, there is not quite as much to be praised. The drums display just the right amount of technical flash while keeping the wild guitars in check. I'm not sure who even plays the drums, since former man-behind-the-skins Alienchrist AKA The Gulag is apparently no longer with the band. But whoever they have knows his job and performs it quite well. Likewise with the bass. I'm assuming one of the guitar players handles bass duties since there is no dedicated player listed. Arghoslent is a band about the guitars, however, and the other two instruments are happy to take a back seat to the insane string work.

Since 2002's "Incorrigible Bigotry" Arghoslent has apparently gotten a new vocalist. Former growler Gravedigger (Rumored to be Richard P. Mills, former vocalist for Grand Belial's Key before his 2006 death, but later denied by the band) has given his post up to The Genocider. He does a quality death growl that fits with the music of "Pogrom" just as well as on former records. According to an interview, he's quite the strange fellow as well (see link at bottom). Speaking of Grand Belial's Key, they were a black metal band also from Oakton, Virginia who like Arghoslent was criticized for their racist ideologies. One of Arghoslent's guitarists played with them, as did former drummer Alienchrist. They broke up with Mills' death in 2006.

It is a grand thing to have bands like Arghoslent still playing original and exciting death metal in an age where trendy bands like Suicide Silence dominate the scene. Arghoslent is an inherently underground band, and they would have it no other way. If you are a fan of real death metal or metal at all, you owe it to yourself to listen to "Hornets of the Pogrom." As of writing this, it is the best album I have heard released in 2008 and that is not likely to change.

References & Links:

Official Home Page:

Interview with The Genocider:

Metal-Archives Page:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Microsoft Live Club Search Finally Pays Off

So this is cool. Back in June of 2007, Microsoft started a program called "Live Club Search" to promote its search engine Live Search. How it worked was simple - Play flash games that send search queries to Live Search during play, increasing the traffic volume of the search engine. Users get rewarded with points they can redeem for various prizes, from movie tickets to Windows Vista Ultimate.

Inevitably people found ways to cheat the games, either by automating them with macro bots or completely bypassing playing the games with some kind of DOS tool. I got in on this around July, so within a week or two I had three maxed out accounts ready to redeem for prizes. After ordering...several (Flight Simulator X, three copies of Vista, a Microsoft Zune, USB headset, etc.) I quit playing (er, cheating) par reports of Microsoft canceling cheating accounts. The prize shipping time was six to eight weeks. So when August, then September, rolled around and nothing came I assumed I had all my orders cut off.

A pleasant surprise came recently when a package showed up from Microsoft containing Flight Simulator X Deluxe. I guess it came through after all, six months later. A few days after a 1 GB USB flash drive arrived. Going by Amazon prices, that's $55 of free merchandise already. I'm hoping more shows up, particularly that Zune and Vista(s).

Saturday, April 5, 2008

In the Beginning...

April 05, 2008. I've decided to enter the world of blogging, perhaps just a little bit late. My experience with "Web 2.0" stretches back quite a bit, and I've been using other social networking/user content sites as long as they have existed online. Blogging is the next natural step then, I suppose.

I'll be writing on here about various topics I'm interested in. Expect to see a lot related to music of all genres, from album reviews to thought pieces to pure promotion of a band or album I like. Books and literature will probably be another big topic, along with movies and the like. My other main interest at the moment, with the approaching 2008 election, is politics and current events so don't be surprised if multiple posts on that topic appear (Preliminary warning: I hold mostly liberal views and currently support Barack Obama for President).

I appreciate anyone taking the time to read my thoughts, a blogging is useless without an audience. For the record, the name "Either/Or" comes from a book written by Søren Aabye Kierkegaard and not the excellent Elliott Smith album of the same name.