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OPEC Cuts, Oil Prices Spike; Will U.S. Respond By Producing More?

When the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced last week its members would be cutting oil production by a net of more than a million barrels a day, oil prices immediately jumped five percent. A week later, here in Pennsylvania, gas prices are up more than a dime a gallon, and the summer driving season is likely to send prices at the pump even higher.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq are among countries dialing back production, while Russia said it would continue its present 500,000-barrel-per-day cut through at least the end of the year.

“The oil market has had a few days to digest the OPEC news and speculate about the reason. This has led to the price of oil stabilizing for now,” said AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross. “But the cost of oil accounts for more than 50 percent of what we pay at the pump, so drivers may not catch a break at the pump any time soon.”

And so why, some critics ask, isn’t the U.S. producing more domestic energy to protect consumers from higher prices and Western nations from political leverage by bad actors like Russia?

State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Berks/Lancaster) told DVJournal the price jumps are “not just about the price consumers pay at the gas pump.” Rather, the spikes “raise the cost of a whole host of goods and services we rely on every day.”

Martin, a Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee member has advocated for policies to help keep costs down, like blocking the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and voting to eliminate the state’s gas tax.

“At both, the state and national level, [OPEC’s cuts] underscores the need for lawmakers to pursue policies that emphasize energy independence and the responsible development of our natural resources—not limit them,” Martin said.

Long regarded as the place where the modern oil economy began, Pennsylvania is no longer a major producer of crude oil. Texas is the nation’s largest producer by far, at more than 1.7 billion barrels a year. Pennsylvania produces about 6.4 million barrels, less than states like Illinois and Mississippi.

National experts also cited the OPEC cuts as proof of the need for a robust U.S. domestic oil industry. Jeff Eshelman, the president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said OPEC’s decision “emphasizes the importance of supporting U.S. oil production, with our federal government’s policies and with investment from the financial community.”

Eshelman noted that “producing oil is not like turning on a water faucet.”

“It takes months to get production back up,” he said. “If U.S. producers want to produce more oil, it takes six to nine months minimum to ramp up. The timeline for increasing production on federal lands is even longer because of a lengthy bureaucratic permitting process.”

Eshlemna pointed to legislative efforts such as the Lower Energy Costs Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in March, which would if signed into law “expedite the development, importation, and exportation of energy resources” in the United States through a variety of deregulatory and administrative mechanisms.

Other energy-focused groups have praised the March energy bill. The nonpartisan group Grow America’s Infrastructure Now said upon the bill’s passage that it would help with “streamlining the permitting process for building new energy infrastructure, supporting domestic energy production, and encouraging energy exports.”

Republicans, GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens said, “clearly demonstrated that U.S. energy is a priority and that lowering costs and increasing reliability for Americans is critically important.” The bill was passed with bipartisan support from Democrats as well.

High energy prices are still fresh on the minds of many Americans after the dizzying energy price spikes of 2022. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a global commodity market teetering on the precipice of a potential global conflict sent U.S. gas prices into unheard-of territory last year, reaching an average of $5 per gallon nationwide for the first time in history.

Mark Le Dain, a former investment banker specializing in energy and infrastructure deals, writes at Forbes that Western nations like the U.S. and Canada are ceding power to OPEC by refusing to ramp up production during this volatile period. He says to see if America has learned the lesson, watch the newly-approved Willow Project in Alaska.

“This is the largest proposed oil project on federal lands and is highlighted by environmentalists as the type of project that needs to be blocked. A few weeks ago, though, it received approval,” Le Dain writes. “It will be interesting to see if this is a trend or if the U.S. is comfortable ceding future oil price control to a collection of state actors.”

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GOP Bill Would Stop Schools From Leaving Parents in the Dark Over Child’s Gender Actions

Some Delaware Valley parents and teachers have raised the alarm over school districts that require teachers and guidance counselors to keep it secret from parents when students take steps to change their gender while at school.

In addition to disclosing to parents when their children request to be treated as a member of the opposite gender, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1278 would also stop schools from talking to students in pre-K through fifth grade about sexual orientation and gender identity. For sixth grade through high school, it would be in an age-appropriate manner.

State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Strasburg), chair of the education committee and a sponsor of the bill said, “Sen. (Ryan) Aument (R-Lititz) and I introduced the Empowering Families in Education Act after receiving many contacts from parents around the commonwealth about age-inappropriate discussions that were taking place in school. It is my belief that young children should not have conversations about gender identity or sexual orientation while at school.

“I understand that some of these conversations occur organically and are a result of student engagement. But some are intentional, led by the teacher and without the consent of the parents, and sometimes without the school district even knowing,” Martin said. “We have provided just some examples on our websites, including classroom presentations to first graders about gender dysphoria or another example related to gender transitioning videos, all without parental consent, and in some cases, not even known by the school districts.

“There are even cases of school administrators instructing teachers not to communicate things with the parents, even though there was no legitimate reason to not do so. This is wrong, and our legislation will prevent that from occurring,” he added.

“In addition, the current state standards don’t call for any type of sex education until at least 6th grade,” Martin said.  “As it relates to providing critical exemptions to parental notification requirements, this can only be done if it can be reasonably demonstrated that doing so would result in abuse or abandonment of a minor and allows parents to take legal action against a school district that fails to comply with these requirements.”

Also, parents should be notified if their children are receiving special services, he added.

After a whistleblower teacher in the Great Valley School District spoke to Delaware Valley Journal about not being allowed to talk to parents about their children assuming a different gender in school, parents complained to the school board.

Bruce Chambers, a former GVSB president, says he thinks the bill has a loophole that would let school officials continue with secrecy for transgender students.

“The loophole in the bill is the same ‘excuse’ that the school district staff has used in the past,” Chambers said. “They believe they should protect the child from possible mistreatment or abuse by keeping the information from the parents.  That has always been the reason they have adopted the secrecy policy. However, it is a bogus excuse.”

School personnel are already required to report abuse under the law.

If that clause is in the bill, “It will give the school district employees a loophole to continue with the secret meetings and continue to hide information from parents,” Chambers said.

Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-West Chester), also on the education committee, opposes the bill as “a distraction from the real issues facing public education in Pennsylvania, including adequate funding for schools and students who continue to deal with the impacts of the pandemic.”

The bill had been pulled once before, she said.

“Across the nation, there is an organized and ongoing effort to stigmatize the LGBTQ community, including LGBTQ youth and students, through similar bills,” Comitta said. “The governor has already indicated that he plans to veto this type of discriminatory legislation. As we approach the budget deadline, it is time to prioritize the real issues at stake instead of divisive and partisan-driven rhetoric. With more than $2 billion in federal American Rescue Plan and a multi-billion-dollar budget surplus on hand. We have a golden opportunity to make positive change in the lives of students and families. That’s what we should be focused on.”

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