The rest of the shale story
Popular broadcaster Paul Harvey enlivened commentaries with his "The Rest of the Story" features. A little more information often changes assumptions 180 degrees. Reading Randy Zook's commentary on Sept. 26 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette inspired me to help him by telling "The Rest of the Story" regarding our abundant, domestic natural gas.
I doubt folks realize that around the U.S. natural gas resources are being sold to foreign interests. Chesapeake sold its Fayetteville Shale holdings for $4.75 billion to the behemoth Australian mining company, BHP Billiton, which had enough cash leftover to pay $12.1 billion for Houston based Petrohawk. This brings the total lease acreage held by this one foreign company to almost 1.5 million acres in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. U.S. natural gas, touted as our bridge fuel to the future, may eventually be liquefied and sold off to the highest bidder in places like Japan, China, or India, where profits are much higher.
Australia is only one of several countries buying our energy reserves and waiting for prices to soar as we continue our petroleum addiction. Countries like China appear to be investing in U.S. gas companies in order to learn the new fracking extraction process rather than go through their own time consuming and costly R&D. All the while, the federal interagency organization, Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, turns a blind eye in its obligation to review these massive multi-billion dollar sales of natural gas reserves that are classified as energy resources "critical to maintaining the national defense, continuity of government, economic prosperity, and quality of life in the United States." If the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce is concerned about fair trade and American markets, they might want to ask their congressmen why these foreign transactions are moving forward on a fast track without scrutiny.
Mr. Zook likes to talk about revenues but folks with the Chamber of Commerce should also acknowledge expenses. Externalizing the costs of industry's cleanup to the taxpayer is a game we simply can't afford anymore. Even a 7 percent severance tax won't cover the over $450 million in gas industry truck damages reported by Arkansas Highway Department, nor restore lost property values, nor repair negative impacts to tourism and agriculture. I seriously doubt the largest mining company in the world will have trouble paying a 7 percent severance to Arkansans, since they have to pay that much and more on their leases in Texas and Louisiana. This new severance tax is needed to not only help pay for county and state road maintenance throughout Arkansas, but assist citizens of small municipalities with funding for the first time. Their streets have been terribly damaged by thousands of gas drilling service trucks with only local funds to restore safe conditions. And that, folks, is the rest of the story.
Technically legal, ethically wrong
Several letters to the editor of the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record have recently pointed out that the two Lake Hamilton coaches who "retired" then re-applied pulled a fast one no different than the three elected county officials did some time back.
Correct, no difference whatsoever (except that we've come to expect it from elected officials but not educators). What's being missed though is the message that these coaches, superintendent Steve Anderson, and the school board are sending to the students: If it's technically legal, it's O.K., even if you know it is morally and ethically wrong. If you have a child who goes to school there, know that's what the message is. And if they are willing to fine tune these actions to accommodate this transaction, it stands to reason it's either not the first time nor will it be the last.
Most insulting were Anderson's comments in the newspaper that the re-hiring of these coaches would not be automatic. How could he look the public and taxpayers in the eye, with a straight face, and make a statement knowing that it was simply not true?
By the way, these are both fine coaches and the school probably could not have replaced them with anyone better. But what they did was wrong.
Where did logic and respect go?
I am so very grateful for your newspaper that tells it like it really is, and for other readers that voice their opinions like Steve Heye ("Fund-raising suggestion") and Mary Williams ("Democracy not oligarchy"). I wholeheartedly agree with them, but I often feel all alone here in my political thinking. I just fail to understand how a state like Arkansas (with so many people that work so hard for everything they have and still don't get ahead, plus the poor) could possibly be Republican.
One of the reasons I really enjoy your paper is because you bring to light part of the lies we hear every day. I sometimes don't think you can believe anything you hear. And Congress is certainly proving that right now. It seems to me the Republicans have no respect at all for the voters that put them in office or the president, who was elected to lead. They are determined to not allow him to do that. And still no new taxes on the ultra rich. What has happened to logic and respect in this country?
North Little Rock
PETA goes too far
Regarding Kerri Garretts' letter concerning PETA, in my opinion, these people all have a screw or two loose!
I can tell you a really good one about this group from some years ago. I got a letter in the mail, from out of the blue, from the PETA group, asking for money to help them stop the killing of rats in New York! I kid you not, that's what it said. I read it twice just to be sure I wasn't losing my mind. They are not happy unless they are stirring some pot and causing trouble, even though it's none of their business. Ellen was one loved elephant, so there.