Here are a few Virginia and national news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, December 21. Also, check out President Obama's weekly address, in which he " highlights the bipartisan budget agreement that unwinds some of the cuts that were damaging to the economy and keeps investments in areas that help us grow, and urges both parties to work together to extend emergency unemployment insurance and act on new measures to create jobs and strengthen the middle class."
I hate to criticize the federal agency I worked at for 17+ years, especially since the Energy Information Administration (EIA) does great work in many areas (e.g., data collection, energy market and oil supply disruption analysis). But when it comes to long-term energy forecasting (whether we're talking prices, production, consumption, imports, whatever), I'm sorry to say, EIA has been not just wrong, time and time again, but laughably, outrageously wrong. And, sadly, their latest Annual Energy Outlook (the AEO - with "forecasts," using the word VERY loosely, out to 2040) continues that abysmal tradition. More on the AEO shortly. But first, let's review EIA's track record on long-term forecasting, from a recent article by Old Dominion University Professor Steve Yetiv and me in the Journal of Energy Security.
*Looking at EIA's 2005 AEO (note: this is somewhat random, but you'd find the same problems in pretty much ANY year's AEO), EIA forecast 2013 oil prices would be around $25-$30 per barrel, with gasoline prices of around $1.50/gallon. The actual prices? More like $100 per barrel for oil and $3.50/gallon for gasoline in the US market. That's off by a factor of 3-4 fold. Yikes!
*Back in 2005, EIA forecast US crude oil production would reach about 5.7 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2013, with Lower-US-48 production declining steadily after 2009. Actual US production so far in 2013? How about 7.3 million barrels per day (bbl/d) and rising fast? That's wildly off, both directionally and in absolute terms (by 1.6 million bbl/d).
*Likewise, the 2005 EIA forecast for US natural gas production in 2013 was wildly off -- about 20.6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), compared to actual production of 24.2 Tcf. Not even close.
*EIA was also wildly off on U.S. gross oil imports, forecasting that they would rise sharply, from 12.3 million bbl/d in 2003 to 20.2 million bbl/d in 2025. What's actually happened so far is that US gross oil imports have fallen sharply, from 12.3 million bpd in 2003 to just 9.7 million bpd in 2013. US net oil imports have fallen even more sharply, from 11.2 million bpd in 2003 to 6.7 million bpd in 2013. EIA predicted the exact opposite.
*EIA's 2005 long-term forecast also missed the future price of natural gas in the US by a huge margin: a forecast price for 2012 of $3.80/thousand cubic feet (mcf) compared to the actual price of $10.66/mcf. That's not even close; heck, it's not even close to being close!
*In 2005, EIA forecast that U.S. solar power capacity would hit about 1.2 GW in 2013. Where are we right now? According to Greentech Media, the U.S. is closing in (if it already hasn't passed) the 10 GW mark in solar PV capacity right about now, and that's not even counting solar thermal power generating capacity (according to this article, you can add another 1 GW or so of U.S. solar thermal power capacity). In sum, EIA forecast 1.2 GW of U.S. solar power capacity in 2013; the actual figure is around 11 GW - nearly 10 times higher than EIA forecast! *In 2005, EIA forecast that U.S. wind power capacity would reach about 9 gigawatts (GW) in 2013. Where, in fact, are we right now? According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), installed U.S. wind power capacity at the end of 2012 was 60 GW. Quick math: EIA's forecast of 9 GW compared to an actual 60 GW? That's off by a factor of nearly 7!
We could go on and on with this, but you get the picture: EIA has basically ZERO ability to forecast long-term energy trends even close to correctly. Let me emphasize: it's not that EIA is off by a just a bit; they're off by orders of magnitude. In that context, let's look at their latest long-term "forecasts" for renewable energy.
In recent days, the rumors have been flying around that former George W. Bush and Mitt Romney senior adviser (as well as being a primary drafter of the godawful "Contract with America") Ed Gillespie might run for U.S. Senate in 2014 against Mark Warner. Yes, it's laughable, I know. Still, Gillespie seems to be seriously considering it. The problem is, if he does run, people will start looking carefully at his record, such as his lobbying for key elements of what would later become known as "Obamcare."
For instance, starting at 4:20 of this video (see transcript of key parts below), Ed Gillespie has some, er, interesting things to say about health care in America. For instance, that he supports private sector health care sold through health care exchanges. Sort of like...yeah, "Obamacare." Of course, this is the same guy who was lobbying for the individual mandate two years before anyone even heard of Obamacare ("In 2007, the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform hired Quinn Gillespie to lobby for its agenda, which included an employer mandate and an individual mandate...[Gillespie] seems stuck admitting he was for a federal-level mandate when insurers were paying him to be for it, and is against it now that Obama is defending it."). Gillespie also has stated his belief that there's no reason why "people shouldn't be eligible for Medicaid or some form of government subsidies." Another important aspect of "Obamacare," in other words. The bottom line: if Gillespie runs against Mark Warner next year and tries to attack him on elements of "Obamacare," all Warner will have to do is point people to the videos, audios, and news articles in which Gillespie strongly supported "Obamacare"'s key elements. Should be entertaining, if nothing else! ;)
Jon Stewart: "Wouldn't it free up businesses more if we decouple healthcare from business?"
Ed Gillespie: "Yeah. Absolutely. It would." [audience laughter]
Stewart: "So you're for single payer?"
Gillespie: "No. I'm for saying that the fact is healthcare as an employee benefit is an anachronistic system. It was devised to get around wage controls. It was implemented at a time when someone might go to work at General Motors and work there for 25 years. Now, people move...eight, nine jobs in the course of a career..."
Stewart: "So how can we do it?"
Gillespie: "Well, I think it should be based on the individual. You should be able to risk pool outside of your employer. One of the reasons that employers are so important..."
Stewart: "So, an exchange?" Gillespie: "Yeah. I would make it a private sector exchange. You could have a state option, but there should be more freedom for people to choose."
Here are a few Virginia and national news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, December 20. Also check out the video of Rachel Maddow speaking with Thomas Cullen, former federal prosecutor in Virginia, "about why federal prosecutors would delay filing charges against Bob McDonnell."
While the iron is hot, there are a few observations that should be taken concerning elections. While paper ballots provide a tangible record, it turns out they are not slam dunk evidence. The cost of optical scan and paper methods is unjustifiable except in distinctly unique cases. DRE is optimal.
The Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) method of casting and recording ballots removes subjectivity. There is natural discomfort with a black box recording and storing election results but that is not reason to challenge the reliability of this method. Something on the order of 75% of Virginia jurisdictions use DRE. There is not one case of an election being challenged because DRE was the balloting medium.
Three things that stand out in the Attorney General recount:
Virginia elections are reliably supervised and adjudicated
Paper ballots in any form invite error
Marc Elias is one cool operator
Why is paper less reliable? Here is an example of a marked paper ballot. The standard published by the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) requires a positive affirmation in order to count a vote. According to SBE, this mark is a strike-through; negative. But did the voter really intend an underline making it an affirmation? You'd have to channel the voter's intent. That's no way to determine election outcomes.
Like most Virginia Democrats, I woke up this morning feeling great, following the news yesterday that Republican Mark Obenshain had conceded the Attorney General's race to Democrat Mark Herring. That, of course, means Virginia Democrats will soon control all statewide, elected offices - the two U.S. Senate seats, Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General - in the Commonwealth. In addition, Barack Obama won Virginia in 2008 and 2012. In short, other than the 2009 "Tea Party" moment of insanity (and subsequent wipeout of Democrats all across America), Virginia would seem to be looking a nice shade of "blue" politically. But before we get too excited, let's consider a few facts.
1. Republicans continue to control the U.S. House of Representatives delegation from Virginia by an 8-3 margin. This is the result in part of "incumbent protection" gerrymandering (following the 2010 census and 2010 Tea Party wipeout), of course, but it's also because Democrats still tend to turn out in lower numbers, proportionately speaking, than Republican in non-presidential election years. And as long as that continues, it's going to be exceedingly difficult for Democrats to cut into that 8-3 disadvantage. Possible targets for 2014: VA-10, which went 50%-49% for Mitt Romney in 2012; and VA-02, which went 50%-48% for Barack Obama in 2012. Another possibility SHOULD be VA-04, which went 50%-49% for Romney in 2012, but we'll need a strong candidate and Democratic unity (e.g,. no Democrats supporting Randy Forbes) to do it. In both VA-04 and VA-10, Dems will need to exceed their performance in the presidential year of 2012, which would be difficult if not impossible. So we'll see, but for now, Virginia's not "blue" in our Congressional delegation.
2. The Virginia House of Delegates has a massive, 67-33, Republican majority, and that doesn't appear likely to change significantly anytime soon. It's extremely frustrating, as there were 18 HoD districts in 2013 that were won by Tim Kaine, yet held by Republican delegates. In the end, Democrats picked up a net of just 1 (one!) HoD seat this year, and I'm hearing that could go back down to a net gain of ZERO if we lose Del. Lynwood Lewis' seat, an outcome which Dems appear highly concerned about. And remember, a gubernatorial year, especially one in which our gubernatorial candidate spent approximately a gazillion dollars, and especially when we had plenty of good candidates, should have seen us pick up at least 4 seats, maybe even 6-10 (believe it or not, I was told that even more than that were considered "in play" just a week or two before the election). If we HAD picked up 10 seats, we'd now be facing a 58-42 disadvantage in the House of Delegates - still godawful, but getting within shouting distance at least. For now, though, we're buried, with not much prospect for major improvement in 2015, when turnout will be at its lowest of the four-year cycle.
3. It's not like statewide Democrats are winning by landslides. As we know, Mark Herring won by just a few hundred votes (of course, I'll take it; as they say in baseball, whether you win by 1 run or 10 runs, it's still a "W"). For governor, Terry McAuliffe won by about 2.5 percentage points, running against about as extreme a candidate as one can imagine in America, one who also got massively outpsent and who ran a much poorer campaign than anyone had anticipated, a priori. And Ralph Northam...well, he won big, but not nearly as big as one might expect against such an extremist/freakazoid as E.W. Jackson.
So, bottom line: let's not get carried away here into prematurely celebrating "Blue Virginia" (love the name, by the way, maybe I'll use it for something? lol). To do that, we're going to need to keep the pedal to the metal, really beef up the Democratic Party in this state - on all levels. We're going to need to continue bringing new voters into our ranks. We're going to need to find/recruit/develop strong candidates up and down the ballot, and we're going to need to ensure that they are well funded. And, bottom line, we're going to need to get our voters out to the polls on election day, at least at the same rates that Republicans do, before we can seriously call this state "blue." For now, it's more like "striped Virginia" - "blue" statewide, "red" in gerrymandered local/House districts; "blue" in presidential and possibly gubernatorial years; "red" in odd-year/non-gubernatorial years. In 2015, 2017 and beyond, let's see if we can turn those "red" stripes" "blue."
UPDATE: As "FreeDem" noted in the comments, the State Senate - currently tied (20-20) - is in serious jeopardy unless Democrats start picking up seats to offset expected losses (e.g., Phil Puckett, whenever he retires).
In addition to the excellent background diary posted by Dan Sullivan this morning, it seems to me that an "open thread" on the Virginia AG "recount" is in order. Note that this spreadsheet, being updated by @Taniel and @notlarrysabato, is an excellent source for the latest numbers. As of 5:12 pm, Mark Herring has picked up 183 votes, while Mark Obenshain has picked up 92 votes, for a net increase of 91 votes for Herring and a lead of 256 votes (up from 165 votes at the start of the "recount").
UPDATE 8:22 pm: Adam Zuckerman of the Herring campaign reports, "Final results: Herring +907. Herring 1,105,045. Obenshain 1,104,138."
UPDATE 4:07 pm: Talking Points Memo reports: "'As we near the conclusion of the recount I'm confident that the final total of the recount is going to show Mark Herring ahead,' Obenshain said Wednesday at a press conference. Obenshain added that the attorney general race is 'over.' He said he called Herring earlier in the day to concede the race."
UPDATE 12:56 pm: @benpershing tweets, "Odd scene at #vaag recount court in Richmond, lawyers keep arguing over ballots even though Obenshain will concede." Ha, gotta love lawyers!
UPDATE 12:35 pm: The @washingtonpost tweets, "#BREAKINGNEWS: Republican candidate Obenshain will concede in Virginia AG race http://wapo.st/18RvoD2 " :) @MSchmidtRTD adds, "@MarkObenshain to hold news conference at 3pm. Several sources indicate he may be conceding in #VAAG race before court wraps recount today"
UPDATE 11:51 am Wednesday: Per WRIC, "Herring's campaign says the 866-vote edge has been reached with 73 percent of the recount statewide completed."
UPDATE 8:35 pm: @BrianSchoeneman tweets about Fairfax County's results: "Final unofficial numbers until we finish double check: Obenshain +206, Herring +572. Net Herring + 366. 13 challenged ballots."
UPDATE 5:04 pm: @notlarrysabato tweets, "1158/2558 in- margin is 632. Mark Herring 1,104,510-- Mark Obenshain 1,103,878. This one's over folks"
UPDATE 4:54 pm: @benpershing tweets, "Loudoun has completed its #VAAG recount: Herring net gain of 62 votes, w/ 2 challenged ballots sent to Richmond." @Taniel tweets, "Insane: Thanks to Loudoun, Mark Herring's lead has now broken the 600-vote barrier -- 632, to be exact!"
UPDATE 3:34 pm: I'm told that Herring picked up 2 votes in PW County.
UPDATE 2:42 pm: Herring campaign attorney Marc Elias said that there's a lot of counting going on, with data flowing in every minute. Having said that, as of 2:25 pm today, 49% of the state has been recounted, and Herring has gained 742 votes, Obenshain 300, for a net increase of 442 votes (and a 607 net margin for Herring). What's most important, in Elias' view, isn't the absolute numbers but what the trend is and how the recount is shaping up. One question is trying to figure out which challenges might or might not be upheld. But the number of challenges isn't that great (there are under 100 so far) and are highly unlikely to change the outcome. (note that there have been more challenges to Herring ballots than to Obenshain ballots)
Think about it: 2013 started with the Democratic leader of the Virginia Senate, Dick Saslaw, proclaiming his support for uranium mining here with the argument that, centuries into the future, when radioactive waste will remain a hazard, "I'm not going to be here...I can't ban something because of something that might happen 500 or 1,000 years from now."
2013 ends with Virginia Uranium Inc. currently giving up the fight to overturn the state uranium mining ban.
What's behind this extraordinary turnaround -- and what does it signal about where Virginia is headed? Is the Commonwealth, years behind national trends on energy, the environment and sustainability, about to catch up?
That will depend on those of us who care about these issues raising our voices and holding public officials' feet to the fire. But there's increasing evidence that we -- finally, finally! -- have the wind at our backs.
Consider these factual morsels:
*For all that the left loves to bash Terry McAuliffe, the fact is that he ran and won on progressive positions -- including on energy and climate change. He skillfully took advantage of Ken Cuccinelli's extremist attack on Professor Michael Mann by campaigning with Mann and proclaiming that we must respect scientists and their findings if we want to move Virginia forward.
On my website, a long-time reader who is a conservative Christian (but one who no longer has any regard for the Republicans and who sticks with my website, and even contributed to my campaign, though his disdain for liberals is frequently expressed) conjectured earlier today about"some weakness in the spirit make-up that creates the 'liberals' seeming need for a more than natural protective society."
To him I replied:
"More than natural protective society." "Weakness." What rubbish?
It's Liberalism doing what every actor should do: work to make America the best society it can be. Is it not clear that the ideal America is a society and nation that creates certain degrees of community feeling, and a certain commitment to the well-being of all, and not some hostile rejection of things being done to help the LOSERS. It is not just the Ayn Rand part of the right that seems to place no value on a sense of community in our approach to national problems.
Lacking, too, is a respect for those things that can't be accomplished separately - and also for purposes that go beyond selfishness - but can be achieved only through the system we created to enable us to act together: i.e, the government.
The problem isn't any liberal "weakness": The liberals at their best at least are working creatively to create a society that serves the good as best it can, with wise trade-offs one hopes, and with an inevitable mixture of success and failure.
But we sure are a whole lot better a society than we would have been without Social Security, and Medicare and Medicate, and environmental regulation, and the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.
All of those are expressions of the liberal spirit, and the net result of them is that this country is a far better place in a great many ways because these were accomplished.
It is very good for America and for all of us that this spirit had so much sway in the shaping of America's destiny that it did in the most critical years of 1933 up until maybe 1981.
I see the problem as being more on the right, as with every other issue we face in America today that I can think of.
@ClarkeGOP tweets, "John Whitbeck wins 33rd VA Senate Republican nomination with 70% of vote !!!"
See the video below of Whitbeck "joking" around. As if that's not bad enough, he's also a far-right winger in general (the normal/sane Republican, Joe May, is running as an independent). What a party, huh? (Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, etc. all rolling around in their graves)
Sam Rasoul's campaign for the 11th District House of Delegates special election in January 7 got an important endorsement today. According to a press release from the campaign, Sen. Mark Warner said, "I am proud to endorse Sam Rasoul for the House of Delegates 11th District. I worked with Sam in 2008 and was impressed with his work ethic and business background. His experience in finding consensus with people from various backgrounds will make him a valuable asset in Richmond, representing the citizens of Roanoke. Vote Sam Rasoul on January 7."
Kimble Reynolds, who briefly sought an independent run for the 11th, withdrew his candidacy after speaking with Sam Rasoul about his views on education. "I was uncertain as to whether or not there was a candidate that would be that strong advocate for education," Reynolds said in a news release. "...After learning more about Sam Rasoul and speaking with him about the sincerity of his commitment to education, I believe Roanoke has that strong candidate.
Rasoul has stated that one major issue he will stress in the campaign is bridging the gap between public schools and the skill needs of the business community. "As Delegate, I want to do more to empower our educators to be able to implement programs that provide job-ready skills upon graduation. This way our businesses can hire local students who are ready to start their career after high school or community college," Rasoul said.
Now, the key to keeping this district as the only Democratic House seat in SW Virginia is to get our voters to turn out for a special election in the dead of winter. From the activity I have seen so far by Sam Rasoul, that looks better and better.
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