FROM Juli Niemann
The Economic Fallout of Chronically High Oil Prices Two hundred dollars a barrel for oil and $6 a gallon for gasoline--next year. That's according to experts at Goldman Sachs. Many authorities believe those rising numbers won't ever be coming down and that this is the time for the US to wake up and do something about it. As Congress waits for a new president who might have an energy policy, there's talk of an uprising by angry consumers. Meantime, the International Energy Agency, a multi-national organization based in Paris, is making its first attempt to comprehensively assess the condition of the world's oil supply . Final results are expected this coming November. But the agency's already worried since aging oil fields and diminished investment may indicate that supply won't meet demand 20 years from now. Has oil reached its peak? Will Americans agree to sacrifice the environment for oil? If there‘s a market for alternatives, will it be ready in time?
Another Record Profit Announced by an Oil Company Royal Dutch Shell's total profits for last year were $31 billion, a jump of 23 percent from last year. The record profits of $75 million a day, according to Britain's Daily Mail, are based, on prices per barrel that touched $100 this winter. The CEO called the results "satisfactory," but some British labor leaders are calling for a windfall profits tax. Juli Niemann, oil and gas analyst with Smith, Morre and Company in St. Louis, Missouri, is co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to the Politics of Oil .
Biofuels: The Benefits and the Bad News The rush is on for biofuels: to end dependence on oil, help solve global warming and create jobs for the rural poor. Corn-belt farmers are giving thanks today for ethanol, which brings incentives and subsidies from states and the federal government. But last May, the UN reported that biofuels may cause more environmental problems than they solve, as well as increasing the price of food. On this archived edition of To the Point, we weigh the pros and cons of energy from agricultural products. Is it really cleaner and cheaper? Is the US moving too fast?
Tumult in Pakistan and the World Economy With thousands of troops on the streets of Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf stopped a protest rally today before it ever began. Benazir Bhutto was kept at home, but she may be playing a double game by leaving open the prospect of negotiations. From Texas, where President Bush is spending the weekend, the National Security Council called on President Musharraf to allow the opposition leader freedom of movement and to release jailed members of the political opposition. There's been no mention of any reduction in financial aid to Pakistan, even though it's contingent on promoting "the transition to democratic rule." Meantime, Wachovia is the latest bank hit by fallout from the sub-prime mortgage crisis. With that news, the Dow dropped 100 points as the stock markets opened today. Meantime, the dollar is falling and oil prices are rising. Is a nuclear power spinning out of control? What are the possible consequences for the global economy, including the price of oil? What about America's financial position, already battered by the falling dollar?
Who Will Gain from the Fed's Interest Rate Cut? In the wake of the sub-prime lending crisis, Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve revived the stock markets this week by cutting interest rates . The move was reminiscent of Alan Greenspan, who was accused of creating "bubbles" by bailing out unwise investors all too often. Meantime, at his news conference today, President Bush was asked about a recession. Although he conceded there are problems, he affirmed that the economy is strong because of his tax cuts—with low inflation and unemployment, strong profits and steady markets. What will the cuts mean for middle class people who want to buy homes or hold on to the ones they have? What about the economy?
Do Biofuels Cause More Problems than They Solve? The rush is on for biofuels to end dependence on oil, help solve global warming and create jobs for the rural poor. In America's corn-belt, especially in Iowa, there's a rush to produce ethanol. States and the federal government are providing incentives, including subsidies, for fuels derived from agricultural products. But a new UN report says the benefits of biofuels-including ethanol-may be offset by environmental damage, and there is growing concern about their impact on the price of food. We examine the pros and cons of energy from agricultural products. Is it really cleaner and cheaper? Is the US moving too fast?
Energy Independence and Ethanol One day after his State of the Union address, President Bush was on the road pushing energy independence by way of alternative fuels. Ethanol production, which is already a booming industry, would be increased five times on the way to reducing consumption of gasoline by twenty percent in the next ten years. Dozens of new, corn-based ethanol plans are coming on line in the farm states, and Wall Street sees a new gold rush. American voters also expect there's ethanol in their future, but there are plenty of not-so-hidden costs. Will corn-based ethanol deplete the food supply? What about greenhouse gases from ethanol and other "alternatives" like oil shale and coal? Is conservation a better solution? We're joined by pollsters, and energy experts and producers.
Enron Verdicts The Enron case took four months to try, but the jury needed just 31 hours to reach its verdicts. Enron founder Ken Lay is guilty on all six counts of fraud and conspiracy in the loss of $60 billion from the collapse of his company. Former CEO Jeffrey Skilling is guilty on 19 of 28 charges of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading. After sentencing on September 11, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison. Attorney Dan Petrocelli promised "a full and vigorous appeal." The Enron collapse cost $60 billion in corporate value; $2.1 billion in pensions and 5600 jobs. We speak with federal prosecutors, former employees, and others about the latest development in a series of scandals that have rocked corporate America.
What happens when America retreats from the world? Is President Trump taking his "America First" agenda to extremes, withdrawing the country from the international stage on trade and climate change, distancing America from its traditional allies across the Atlantic and even threatening to physically isolate the country through the building of a wall along its southern border? León Krauze guest hosts.
Venezuela spirals into economic and political chaos Venezuela, a country whose potential for prosperity is unmatched, finds itself on the verge of civil war. What sustains the repressive government? With time running out, guest host León Krauze looks at what the international community can do to pull the country from the edge of collapse.
Will the Senate write a healthcare bill in secret? While Democrats and Republicans argue White House relations with Russia, another question is being decided behind closed doors: who gets help buying health insurance and who doesn't? We hear how the pros and cons are being shrouded in secrecy.