- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

May 27

Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on Congress needing to allow crude oil exports:

With one action, the U.S. Congress could reduce the nation’s trade deficit, grow U.S. jobs, increase revenue and assure more U.S. influence across the world.

But because of Congressional inaction, the export ban remains in place 40-plus years later. The ban was enacted by Congress following the 1973 Arab oil embargo. That embargo created a domestic energy crisis, causing shortages, lines for gasoline and mayhem across the U.S.

For most of the period since, the U.S. remained generally an importer of energy. In those circumstances, the ban was not a cause for concern. Times are different now.

Thanks to new technology that allows oil producers to extract oil from previously hard to get shale sands, the U.S. is now the largest petroleum producer in the world, recently surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.

While exporting crude oil is banned, petroleum products refined from crude, such as gasoline and diesel fuel, can be. In fact, in 2014 the U.S. exported $147 billion worth of refined petroleum products. The U.S. also exports coal, natural gas and natural gas liquids - making crude oil the only form of energy banned from export.

Lifting that ban would not just help U.S.-based oil producers create more American jobs and revenue, but would give the U.S. considerably more non-military influence in foreign policy.

“The pathway to achieving U.S. goals also can be economic,” wrote former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, along with former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, in the Wall Street Journal recently.

“The U.S. can provide friends and allies with a stable alternative to threats of supply disruption,” (from Russia) the two wrote. “This is a strategic imperative as well as a matter of economic self-interest.”

The authors also wrote to dispel the common fear that exporting crude oil would cause domestic gasoline prices to rise.

They pointed to several studies that show oil exports would actually put downward pressure on prices.

“Too often foreign-policy debates in America focus on issues such as how much military power should be deployed …” Panetta and Hadley wrote. “Ignored is a powerful, nonlethal tool: America’s abundance of oil and natural gas. The U.S. remains the great arsenal of democracy. It should also be the great arsenal of energy.”

Congress should act to remove the ban on oil exports.




May 21

The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, on exporting natural gas:

The latest figures on the U.S. trade deficit showed the goods we export from America to markets overseas totaled $187.8 billion in March.

But the goods we import totaled $239.2 billion.

Why is this important? It’s important because having such a large trade deficit of $51.4 billion means Americans are subsidizing jobs overseas to make products that are shipped in and sold here.

So what’s this have to do with West Virginia?

A lot, actually.

The United States, thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has become a world leader in tapping into new, previously unreachable reserves of oil and natural gas.

But the problem is, due to federal regulations put in place 40 years ago during the height of the Arab oil crisis in the 1970s, oil exports to an energy-hungry world are prohibited. And regulations on exporting natural gas are so restrictive, not much of that gets exported, either.

The thinking at the time was, with long lines and high prices at U.S. service stations, any oil produced domestically should be consumed domestically. But fracking has dramatically changed that, and the United States now has the capability to deliver vast amounts of excess oil or liquefied natural gas to Europe and Asia. Easing the restrictions on selling LNG overseas would mean major new job creation in West Virginia’s gas fields as well as higher severance taxes for the state.

Exporting LNG from West Virginia, which next to Pennsylvania has the largest known reserves of natural gas, would not only provide jobs and tax revenue, it could eat into that U.S. trade deficit substantially.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, is a big supporter of easing the restrictions on energy exports.

“We have more than enough natural gas to power both an industrial renaissance back home in West Virginia and to export liquefied natural gas,” Capito told the Senate Energy/Natural Resources Committee earlier this year.

The state’s senior senator, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, is also on board with the idea of making it easier for the United States to export energy resources.

This week, Manchin and fellow Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota joined Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in introducing the American Crude Oil Export Equality Act to finally lift the outdated four-decade ban on energy exports.

“This bill triggers to stop exports if (gasoline) prices increase or if our economy is adversely affected,” Manchin said. “Lifting the ban on oil exports will improve our national security interests by reducing our trade deficit .”

Enabling the United States to export its oil, Manchin noted, would to some degree “neutralize” the influence of oil-exporting counties like Iran. Another key national security interest that would be addressed by easing export restrictions on natural gas would help Europe reduce Russia’s stranglehold on the energy market there.

To date, due to its geology and other factors, fracking hasn’t taken off in Europe. Which means Europeans remain dependent on importing Russian natural gas. They also are pressured by the political influence Moscow gains from exercising that near-monopoly.

The 40-year-old laws put in place by the United States during the 1970s regarding energy exports need to be reviewed.

It’s good to see West Virginia’s senators at the forefront of getting them changed.




May 25

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on putting children in group homes:

Earlier this year, West Virginia adopted a juvenile justice reform strategy aimed at trying to reduce the number of youth who run afoul of the law and provide better help for those who do.

The changes included more early intervention for youth exhibiting troublesome behavior, such as missing school regularly, but the foundation of many aspects of the initiative is to try to keep children in homes as much as possible rather than in detention centers. The reasoning was that community-based services provided troubled youth who remained in their homes would be more effective in many cases.

That thinking seems to make sense.

According to a new report, the same logic - the importance of keeping children in a home - also may need to be applied more aggressively for another segment of the state’s youth.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the child and family advocacy organization that produces the annual Kids Count studies, issued a report last week focused on how states’ child welfare systems deal with children that fall under their purview.

The study, called “Every Kid Needs a Family,” concluded that West Virginia’s child welfare system puts more kids in group homes than most states, a practice that the foundation says is not in the best interests of children, according to a report by the Charleston Daily Mail. Twenty-seven percent of about 4,400 children in the care of West Virginia’s child welfare system are in residential group settings. That proportion is about double the national average, and is tied for the third highest percentage among all states.

The foundation contends that children who grow up in group homes suffer when compared with youth who live with family members or with a permanent foster family. Their development is harmed and they don’t have the opportunity to form strong, nurturing attachments that will help guide them. The foundation says children who don’t grow up with families are more likely to have trouble in school and commit crimes as they become adults. Another negative, according to the foundation, is that placing a child in a group setting is seven to 10 times more costly than having a child in a home.

Although West Virginia’s record suffers when compared with most other states, the good news is that Mountain State officials recognize the problem and are trying to reverse it. They have implemented a program called Safe at Home West Virginia, which is expected to begin in 11 counties this fall and be implemented statewide in two years.

Karen Bowling, cabinet secretary for the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources, told the Daily Mail that the department’s goals are to keep youth in their home communities whenever safely possible, provide more services to children, family members and caregivers, and recruit more foster and adoptive parents.

If the state carries through with all of those plans, as it should, more West Virginia children should have the opportunity to live more structured, nurturing lives that will better prepare them for the future. The task now is to ensure that this important initiative is executed effectively.



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