Friday, May 30, 2008

Beautiful Birds IV

I thought I'd grace Viewpoint with pics of three more of the feathered gems I've been fortunate to observe this spring. The first is a common bird in the northeast whose soft colors give it an understated beauty. It's called a cedar waxwing because its wingtips look like they've been dipped in red sealing wax:

The red-headed woodpecker is one of the most striking members of that family, at least among those found east of the Mississippi. It's not very common in the east but seems to be increasing in numbers and should be looked for anywhere there are open stands of mature oaks such as in parks, etc.

I'm sometimes asked what my favorite bird is. I don't know if I have a favorite, but among eastern North American species this one probably ranks in the top five or six. It's a blackburnian warbler, and the flame-throated male is absolutely gorgeous in good light. These birds are difficult to see unless you're in an area where they breed or you're deliberately looking for warblers during migration. They're tiny and often flit about high in the forest canopy and so usually go unnoticed by casual observers.


Big Oil

This site, sponsored by the Petroleum Institute, is chock full of interesting information about oil and gasoline matters. Some of the more salient facts that can be gleaned from it include the following:

  • The amount of profit from a dollar of gasoline that goes to the oil companies is about 7.5 cents (though I've heard that it's even lower than that).
  • Oil demand worldwide has grown from 77 mbd (million barrels per day) in 2001 to 85 mbd in 2007. It will increase another 1.2 mbd this year and 1.3 mbd next year.
  • Next year's world oil production is expected to increase markedly over 2008 levels, which should push pump prices back down to about $3.45 a gallon.
  • Oil and natural gas sales in 2007 resulted in 8.3 cents profit on every dollar. The beverage and tobacco industry earned 19.1 cents per dollar. Oil profits were about average among all American industries.
  • Oil industry stock is overwhelmingly owned by the public. When oil companies profit almost all of us do as well. Individual investors own 23% of the stock; mutual funds almost 30%; pension funds hold 27%; IRAs hold about 14%; and corporate "insiders" own about 1.5%.
  • The top 27 energy companies paid $48.4 billion in income tax in 2004. With their friends Bush and Cheney in office giving them all sorts of tax breaks, starting wars on their behalf, and in general ripping off the little guy their income tax payments rose to $90.4 billion in 2006.
  • Oil companies in 2006 paid 40.7% of their income in taxes. The rest of American manufacturers paid 22.1%.
  • Since 1985 fifty seven refineries have closed but refining capacity has risen by 20% due to increases in efficiency. Continued improvements will boost domestic refining capacity by the equivalent of four new refineries by 2010.
  • The industry has spent $160 billion since 1990 on making their product more environmentally safe.
  • We have 112 billion barrels of crude oil offshore and in Alaska that we are not using. This is enough oil to power 60 million cars for 60 years. There's enough natural gas to heat 60 million homes for 160 years. Congress, however, has blocked all attempts to recover this resource.
  • Of the eighteen largest oil companies in the world, only one of them is a U.S. company. Our largest firm, Exxon/Mobil, produces only about 3% of the world's petroleum.
  • The U.S. imports 59% of the petroleum it uses. Our largest supplier is Canada (12% of what we use). Only 7% of our petroleum needs comes from Saudi Arabia. The only other Middle eastern supplier is Iraq (3%).

Despite these statistics, people like Maxine Waters want to nationalize the industry and all of our presidential candidates are talking about taxing oil companies even more heavily. Speaking of Waters, this video has to be seen in order to fully appreciate the congresswoman from California:

And to think we're paying her salary. Who votes for these people, anyway?