The Dreaded Double Dip

Today Great Britain published statistics indicating that its economy has slid back into recession, making England the victim of a dreaded “double dip” recession.  Economic officials in the United States are holding their breath and hoping that the American economy doesn’t suffer a similar fate.

“Double dip” recessions are no laughing matter — but we can all use a laugh now and then.  And who can hear the phrase “double dip” without thinking of this classic scene from Seinfeld:

Mill, Baby, Mill!

In Ohio we are getting a first-hand look at the ripple effect in the economy when America’s energy resources are tapped — and it has been a real economic boon.

As I’ve mentioned before, eastern Ohio is home to the Utica shale formation, an incredibly deep layer of rock that apparently is a rich repository of natural gas, oil, and other highly valued “wet gases.”  Drilling wells requires steel pipe, and because the Utica shale formation is so deep underground it requires lots and lots of pipe.  As this New York Times article reports, the need for pipe caused by the resurgence in natural gas drilling in the continental United States has helped to fuel a resurgence in the Ohio steel industry, which has seen expanding steel mills and the hiring of new workers to handle the skyrocketing demand.

The effects don’t stop there.  The owners of the property on which the wells are being drilled have been paid for the privilege and therefore have more money to put into their local economies.  The fracking method used to extract the gas and oil requires lots of water, so trucking companies have expanded their tanker fleets to meet the demand.  And all of the truck drivers, oil drillers, geologists, and drilling engineers who work in Ohio’s oil patch have to eat and sleep and work, which means that hotels, motels, and restaurants in the area are busier than they’ve been in years and the demand for office space has increased, too.

In short, Ohio’s economy demonstrates the good things that can happen when energy resources are located and tapped.  As the Ohio story shows, developing our oil and gas resources — a proven commodity with a proven market that doesn’t require government subsidies or wasteful stimulus spending — is a sure means for an economy to grow its way out of this unending recession.

Thanks to Richard for sending me the linked article.

(Not) Secure Beneath The Watchful Eyes

Recently the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of 63 authorized sites at which the military, government agencies, towns, universities, and other entities can launch unmanned drones within American borders.  These domestic launch sites are located in 20 states — including one for a small college in Steubenville, Ohio.

Our inability to police our borders is cited as justification for use of drone aircraft by the Border and Customs Patrol and the military; the advocates argue that we need the monitoring to enhance our security.  Then, as those initial uses become rationalized and accepted, “drone creep” occurs, and more agencies and entities discover a purported need for the devices and the ability to monitor the population from the skies.

The reality is that we are an increasingly monitored society, whether it is through the use of unmanned drones or security cameras mounted on the corners of buildings or cameras attached to traffic lights that are supposed to catch scofflaws who run red lights.  The monitoring is always justified on grounds of safety and security, as in the classic British poster touting the presence of closed-circuit TV cameras on British buses.

We are supposed to be trading our freedom and liberty for security — but that notion presupposes that the people who are doing the monitoring are truly motivated by security concerns and are capable of doing something about what they see.  The recent performance of our government raises, I think, legitimate questions about the accuracy of both assumptions.  Is the primary motivation for traffic light cameras security, or finding a cheap way to collect fines and add much-needed revenue to the coffers of hard-pressed local governments?  How much of this monitoring is really to protect us from terrorists and invading criminals, and how much is to give a government that increasingly wants to control how we live our lives a platform to insure that we are complying with their edicts?