Saturday, August 04, 2012

North Dakota: America's "Economic Miracle State"

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve recently released June Coincident Economic Activity Indexes for all 50 states, along with a national coincident economic activity index.  These indexes are based on four economic indicators: a) nonfarm payroll employment, b) the unemployment rate, c) average hours worked in manufacturing, and d) wages and salaries.

The chart above displays the indexes for North Dakota and the United States over the last ten years, showing that the economic activity in North Dakota is completely "off the charts," along with the state's oil production and oil jobs, which are also showing explosive growth and driving economic growth in the "miracle state."  Even the "worst recession since the Great Depression" barely affected the shale oil-based economic activity in the Peace Garden State, and the June coincident index is 25% above the pre-recession level and almost 11% above a year ago.  Meanwhile the coincident economic activity index for the overall U.S. economy fell about 10.5% during the Great Recession and is now still less than 1% above the previous peak in early 2008.

The Philadelphia Fed also recently released its "State Leading Indexes" for the month of June, which "predict the six-month growth rate of the state’s coincident index. In addition to the coincident index, the models include other variables that lead the economy: state-level housing permits (1 to 4 units), state initial unemployment insurance claims, delivery times from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing survey, and the interest rate spread between the 10-year Treasury bond and the 3-month Treasury bill." North Dakota's leading index for June predicts a 3.8% growth rate for the state's economy over the next six months, by far the highest expected growth rate among the 50 states (only No. 2 Ohio comes even close at 2.6%), and a rate of growth almost four times higher than the expected 1% at the national level.   

MP: The June coincident and leading indexes for the 50 states and the national economy provide additional support that North Dakota is the most economically successful state in the country thanks to its booming energy sector and pro-energy and pro-business policies - the "Dakota Model."  On every relevant measure of economic performance by state: job creation, unemployment rate, income growth, output growth, growth in oil production, tax revenue collected, construction activity, home foreclosure rates, housing prices, coincident and leading indexes, etc., the Peace Garden State leads the country and deserves the title of America's "miracle state." 

TED Talk: Daphne Koller (Co-Founder of Coursera) on What We're Learning from Online Education

In the TED Talk above, Stanford professor Daphne Koller shares her excitement about making the college experience available to anyone through her startup, Coursera. With classes from 16 top colleges, Coursera is an innovative model for online learning. While top schools have been putting lectures online for years, Coursera's platform supports the other vital aspect of the classroom: tests and assignments that reinforce learning.

Markets in Everything: 3D Printed "Magic Arms"

From Venture Beat: "The heartwarming video above documents the story of a small child whose life has been radically changed for the better because of 3D printing technology.

Two-year-old Emma was born with a rare disease called arthrogryposis that makes it so she can’t raise her arms without assistance. Through the use of 3D printing, a Delaware hospital created a mobile plastic exoskeleton that now allows Emma to use her arms for many things.

3D printing ensures that a new exoskeleton can be created if Emma breaks or outgrows it. Emma is now on her second 3D-printed jacket and calls the device her “magic arms.”

The video was created by 3D printing business Stratasys, which recently merged with Objet in a $1.4 billion deal. A Stratasys 3D printer was used to create Emma’s jacket."

MP: The 3D printing revolution has just begun. We can expect hundreds and probably thousands of more examples like this in the future, as this amazing, innovative technology revolutionizes manufacturing and our entire world.   

Markets in Everything: A Private Lottery in Massachusetts for Skilled Gamblers

The Boston Globe reports on "A game with a windfall for a knowing few: High-rolling gamblers are exploiting a quirk in Cash WinFall, raking in huge profits every 3 months as the Lottery looks on":

"For a few days about every three months, Cash WinFall may be the most reliably lucrative lottery game in the country. Because of a quirk in the rules, when the jackpot reaches roughly $2 million and no one wins, payoffs for smaller prizes swell dramatically, which statisticians say practically assures a profit to anyone who buys at least $100,000 worth of tickets.

During these brief periods - “rolldown weeks’’ in gambling parlance - a tiny group of savvy bettors, among them highly trained computer scientists from MIT and Northeastern University, virtually take over the game. Just three groups, including the Selbees, claimed 1,105 of the 1,605 winning Cash WinFall tickets statewide after the rolldown week in May, according to lottery records. They also appear to have purchased about half the tickets, based on reports from the stores that the top gamblers frequent most.

"It’s a private lottery for skilled people,’’ said Secretary of State William Galvin."

HT: W.E. Heasley

Friday, August 03, 2012

From Today's Jobs Report: Demand for Temporary, Manufacturing, and Oil/Gas Jobs Remains Strong

From today's BLS Employment Situation report:

1. The number of "temporary help services jobs" increased by 14,100 in July to the highest employment level since January of 2008 when the recession was just getting started (see chart above).  This part of the labor market has now made almost a complete recovery from the effects of the recession, and suggests that the overall labor market will continue to gradually improve because the demand for temporary employment is generally considered to be a leading indicator of future, broader-based labor demand.  The increased hiring of temporary workers also suggests that many U.S. firms are probably cautiously hiring new workers on a temporary basis to meet increasing demand for output and production, and will gradually switch to more permanent hiring as the overall economy improves and uncertainty about future tax policy and pending fiscal issues are resolved.  

2. Manufacturing employment increased in July for the tenth consecutive month, which brings the total number of new manufacturing jobs added over the last year to 222,000, and the total number of new factory jobs created since 2010 to 524,000. 

3. For the tenth straight month, the manufacturing jobless rate in July (7.2%) was less than the national rate.  

4. "Oil and gas extraction" employment increased in July to the highest level in almost 24 years, since August 1988.  Compared to a year ago, the number of oil and gas jobs in the U.S. has increased by 11.6% and by 27.4% compared to the onset of the recession in December 2007.   

MP: Several of the bright spots in the labor market in July include strong demand for temporary workers, factory workers, and workers in the oil and gas industry. Here's some additional commentary on today's employment report:

Scott Grannis: "In any event, no matter how you slice and dice these numbers, jobs are growing and there is absolutely no sign of a recession." 

Brian Wesbury/First Trust: "But the lack of a very strong recovery doesn’t mean we’re not recovering at all. The unemployment rate is down 0.8 points from a year ago and we expect further modest improvement in the year ahead."

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Cartoon of the Day: Ethanol

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

More on Why So Many Empty Olympic Seats

A few days back, I suggested that maybe if the London police weren't arresting so many people for "ticket scalping," entering into voluntary ticket transactions, perhaps there wouldn't be so many empty seats at the Olympics.

Tim Worstall provides some related commentary in the The Daily Telegraph article titled "Of course there are empty Olympic seats: our Victorian government is arresting anyone who tries to sell them," here's an excerpt:

"Think it through for a moment. There are some people over here that have something they don't value, while there are other people over there who value those things highly. What we'd like is for those things, whatever they are, to move from those who assign little value to them to those who assign a higher value to them.

This is true of anything: this movement of resources from lower to higher valued uses is known as "creating wealth." It is the single most important contributor to the wealth of nations. It is known as "trade."

And our government, in its wisdom, has made it illegal for anyone to broker this increase in individual and national wealth, resulting in the TV cameras of the world panning across rows of empty seats."

11 Most Common Grammar Mistakes

Here's the link, and guess which one is #1 on the list?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Quotation of the Day: Sports Socialism

"The Olympics are a giant exercise in sports socialism—or crony capitalism, if you prefer—where the profits are privatized and the costs socialized. The games never pay for themselves because they are designed not to. That’s because the International Olympic Committee (an opaque “nongovernmental” bureaucracy made up of fat cats from various countries) pockets most of the revenue from sponsorships and media rights (allegedly to promote global sports), requiring the host country to pay the bulk of the costs. Among the very few times the games haven’t left a city swimming in red ink was after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, when voters, having learned from Montreal’s experience, barred the use of public funds, forcing the IOC to use existing facilities and pick up most of the tab for new ones.

Even that’s far from fair. If anything, the Olympics should be compensating the host city for the hassle and inconvenience, not the other way around. The only reason they don’t is because the Cold War once stirred retrograde nationalistic passions, blinding the world to the ass-backwardness of the existing arrangement. Londoners are signaling that this can’t go on.

~Shikha Dalmia writing in Reason, "Why London Is Yawning Over the Olympics"

America's Energy Jackpot: Industrial Natural Gas Prices Fall to the Lowest Level in Recent History

The Department of Energy released its monthly update today on natural gas production and prices through May, and the chart above displays inflation-adjusted natural gas prices for commercial and industrial users.  By end user in May, industrial customers represented about 32% of natural gas consumption and electric power companies used almost half (49%) of the total natural gas consumed. Together, industrial and electric power customers consumed more than 81% of the total natural gas supplied in May.  The rest of the natural gas market is split between residential customers (10%) and commercial users (9%), with a small fraction (1/6 of 1%) going for vehicle fuel.  

On an inflation-adjusted basis, the prices paid by industrial users for natural gas in May were the lowest since at least January 2001, when the Department of Energy's monthly data series starts (see red line in chart).  The prices paid by electric power companies are almost identical to the prices for industrial users, so we can conclude that the users of more than 81% of the natural gas supplied in May (industrial customers and electric utilities) were paying the lowest, inflation-adjusted gas prices in at least a decade, and possibly longer. Prices paid in May ($2.94 per 1,000 cubic feet) were less than half the natural gas prices of two years ago in March 2010 ($6.31), and about one-quarter of the $13.62 price four years ago in July 2008.

Likewise, commercial customers are paying inflation-adjusted natural gas prices that are close to the lowest in recent history, and about half the 2008 price (see blue line in chart).    

These significant price declines for industrial, commercial and energy power users provide additional support for the claim that America really "hit the energy jackpot" with the "natural gas windfall," making it "one of the most important developments for the U.S. economy in the last 60 years," according to Martin Neil Baily and Philip Verleger in a recent CNN editorial, here's an excerpt:

"Cheap gas may not be enough to offset the drag of a slowing global economy this year, but it will boost long-term investment, help the beleaguered manufacturing sector and increase exports.

Building petrochemical plants could suddenly become attractive in the United States. Manufacturers will "reshore" production to take advantage of low natural gas and electricity prices. Energy costs will be lower for a long time, giving a competitive advantage to companies that invest in America, and also helping American consumers who get hit hard when energy prices spike.

After years of bad economic news, the natural gas windfall is very good news. Let's make the most of it." 

The falling natural gas prices also make the predictions in this December 2011 study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, "Shale gas: A renaissance in US manufacturing?"all the more likely:
  • U.S. manufacturing companies (chemicals, metals and industrial) could employ approximately one million more workers by 2025 because of abundant, low-priced natural gas.
  • Lower feedstock and energy cost could help U.S. manufacturers reduce natural gas expenses by as much as $11.6 billion annually through 2025.
MP: As I have emphasized lately, America's ongoing shale-based energy revolution is one of the real bright spots in an otherwise somewhat gloomy economy, and provides one of the best reasons to be bullish about America's future.  The shale revolution is creating thousands of well-paying, shovel-ready jobs in Texas, North Dakota and Ohio, and thousands of indirect jobs in industries that support the shale boom (sand, drilling equipment, transportation, infrastructure, steel pipe, restaurants, etc.).  In addition, the abundant shale gas is driving down energy prices for industrial, commercial, residential and electricity-generating users, which frees up billions of dollars that can be spent on other goods and services throughout the economy, providing an energy-based stimulus to the economy.

Cheap natural gas is also translating into cheaper electricity rates, as low-cost natural gas displaces coal.  Further, cheap and abundant natural gas is sparking a manufacturing renaissance in energy-intensive industries like chemicals, fertilizers, and steel.  And unlike renewable energies like solar and wind, the natural gas boom is happening without any taxpayer-funded grants, subsidies, credits and loans.   Finally, we get an environmental bonus of lower CO2 emissions as natural gas replaces coal for electricity generation.  Sure seems like a win, win, win, win situation to me. 

Happy100th Birthday Milton Friedman!

Milton Friedman was born on this day, July 31, in 1912 and he would have been 100 years old today.  Unfortunately, Milton died on November 16, 2006 when he was 94 years old.  Coincidentally, that was just several months after the Carpe Diem blog started in September 2006.  A custom Google search of Carpe Diem reveals that "Milton Friedman" has "appeared" on this blog more than 1,200 times in the last six years, and his ideas, quotes and videos should be familiar to all regular CD visitors.  In contrast, I found 694 results for "Milton Friedman" on Marginal Revolution, 651 on Cafe Hayek and 258 on Greg Mankiw's blog

Since he's made such regular appearances here, I didn't feel that it was necessary to provide a special tribute for Milton Friedman's 100th birthday, except to provide some links below to others who have written today about Milton Friedman (here's his Wikipedia page):

1. Thomas Sowell writing in Investor's Business Daily, "On Milton Friedman's 100th Birthday, He's Needed More Than Ever."

2. Don Boudreaux in today's StarTribune "Milton Friedman -- a man of intellectual stature."

3. Chicago Tribune staff editorial, "Milton Friedman's Century," which concludes, "The world has changed immensely in the past 100 years. Thanks in part to Milton Friedman, many of the changes have been for the better."

4. Steve Moore in today's WSJ, "The Man Who Saved Capitalism," with a great quote from Harvard's Andrei Shleifer who describes 1980-2005 as "The Age of Milton Friedman," an era that "witnessed remarkable progress of mankind. As the world embraced free-market policies, living standards rose sharply while life expectancy, educational attainment, and democracy improved and absolute poverty declined."

5. Steve Hayward at Powerline, "Milton Friedman at 100."

6. My favorite Milton Friedman quotes.

7. And finally, an excellent summary of Milton Friedman's impact from a WSJ editorial after Friedman's death in 2006:  "Few people in human history have contributed more to the achievement of human freedom than Milton Friedman."

U.S. Restaurants Show Expansion Again in June

“Bolstered by stronger same-store sales and customer traffic levels, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) stood above 100 for the eighth consecutive month in June. The RPI – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 101.4 in June, unchanged from May’s level (red line in chart). June represented the eighth consecutive month that the RPI remained above 100, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators. 

The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood at 101.3 in June – down 0.7 percent from May and the third consecutive monthly decline (blue line in chart). Although June marked the tenth consecutive month that the Expectations Index stood above 100, it also represented the weakest level in seven months.”

MP: Both the RPI and the Expectations Index have remained above 101 for the last seven months, which is consistent with the levels for those two indexes back in the pre-recession time frame in late 2006 and early 2007.  This is one indication that the U.S. restaurant industry is operating at pre-recessionary levels.  

More evidence of an improving market for U.S. restaurants is provided by Census data showing that sales for "Food Services and Drinking Places" increased 6.3% in June from a year ago, following a 7.4% increase in May.  After being flat for most of 2008 and 2009, "Food Services and Drinking Places" sales activity in June of this year is 16.5% above the June level three years ago when the recession officially ended. Further, sales at "Full Service Restaurants" were up by 8.2% year-over-year in May (data not yet available for June) following a gain of 8.7% in April. 

Many of the key indicators suggest that the restaurant industry has gradually recovered from the effects of the 2008-2009 recession, and inflation-adjusted restaurant sales are now almost back to their pre-recession levels.  Regardless of how consumers answer confidence survey questions, the ongoing improvements in restaurant sales and the RPI so far this year would indicate that based on actual consumer spending at restaurants, consumer confidence is fairly high.

Monday, July 30, 2012

America's Energy Revolution Has Brought Lower Real Prices for Both Natural Gas and Electricity

One of the economic benefits of the shale gas revolution is the moderating effect that abundant, cheap shale gas has had on the price of electricity in the U.S. for all end-users: residential, commercial and industrial customers.  The indirect cost savings for electricity customers from cheap shale gas are in addition to the significant and direct cost savings from inflation-adjusted gas prices for residential, commercial, industrial customers and electric utilities that are the lowest in a decade, and have saved natural gas users $250 billion over just the last three years.   

The chart above shows average, annual, inflation-adjusted retail prices of electricity from 2001-2012 based on EIA data with the following results:

1. Residential consumers are paying an average price in 2012 (11.73 cents per kilowatt-hour) that is the lowest since 2007 (see blue line in chart). 

2. Commercial customers are paying an average price of 9.93 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity this year, which is the lowest commercial price since 2004, and a price that is slightly lower than in 2001, 2002, and 2003 (see red line in chart).  

3. Industrial users are paying the lowest inflation-adjusted price for electricity this year (6.50 cents) than in any year since 2004, and the same real price as in 2001 (6.50 cents), 12 years ago.   

MP: The shale revolution gets at least part of the credit for bringing inflation-adjusted electricity prices down over the last several years, which have likely generated millions, if not billions, of dollars of savings for households, businesses and industry.  The American energy sector continues to be one of the brightest spots in the U.S. economy, and the shale revolution is at the forefront of that energy-driven stimulus to the economy.  America's energy revolution has brought thousands of new high-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry, stimulated thousands of indirect jobs in energy support industries like fracking sand, and generated billions of dollars of savings for customers from lowering prices of natural gas and electricity.    

Creative Destruction: Acoustic Pianos, R.I.P.

From yesterday's NY Times, comes an excellent illustration of the economic concept of "creative destruction," which has been described as the "accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism."  In this example, it's the acoustic piano that is literally being annihilated in many cases, as older used pianos are increasingly being discarded in dumps around the country, or even burned for firewood.  As a pianist, piano technician, and owner of a 1918 Steinway Model O grand piano, it's kind of a sad, but inevitable ending for many magnificent instruments that were produced in large numbers by a  once-thriving American industry that supported hundreds of American piano manufacturers and more than a thousand piano brands, including many "stencil pianos" (different makes of pianos produced by the same factory).

Here's an excerpt of the article:

"In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before radio and recordings, pianos were the main source of music, even entertainment, in the home. They were a middle-class must-have.
So from 1900 to 1930, the golden age of piano making, American factories churned out millions of them. Nearly 365,000 were sold at the peak, in 1910, according to the National Piano Manufacturers Association. (In 2011, 41,000 were sold, along with 120,000 digital pianos and 1.1 million keyboards, according to Music Trades magazine.) 

The average life span rarely exceeds 80 years, piano technicians say. That’s a lot of pianos now reaching the end of the line. 

The value of used pianos, especially uprights, has plummeted in recent years. So instead of selling them to a neighbor, donating them to a church or just passing them along to a relative, owners are far more likely to discard them, technicians, movers and dealers say. Piano movers are making regular runs to the dump, becoming adept at dismantling instruments, selling parts to artists, even burning them for firewood."

Accompanying the article are the video above and this slideshow see first slide below).

Obama Opposes Min. Wage Increase in Samoa Due to Harmful Effects, Will He Do the Same for U.S.?

Both of these events took place last Thursday:

1.  PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — "President Obama has signed into law legislation to freeze American Samoa's minimum wage until 2015. The president signed the bill Thursday, which delays a 50-cent increase that would have gone into effect in September.

Minimum wage in American Samoa varies from $4.18 to $5.59 per hour, depending on the industry. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 provided for annual 50-cents per hour increases until the rate matched the rest of the U.S., where the minimum pay is $7.25 per hour.

Employers and a government financial report have suggested automatic increases were harming the U.S. territory's economy."

2. The Hill -- "Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and more than 100 of his House Democratic colleagues proposed legislation last Thursday that would boost the minimum wage over three years from $7.25 to just under $10 an hour.

Miller's Fair Minimum Wage Act, H.R. 6211, would increase the minimum wage by 85 cents a year for the next three years, then allow the final $9.80 an hour wage to rise with inflation."

MP: Just wondering, wouldn't the same economic reasoning, evidence, and analysis that motivated President Obama to sign legislation freezing the minimum wage because of its harmful effects on Samoa's economy also apply to the U.S.?  Can we count on President Obama to veto the "Minimum Wage Act" for the harmful effects it would have on the American economy?

Update:  From an AP report, "Congress is to be thanked for preventing further economic calamity in American Samoa and preventing continual increases to the minimum wage which would have led to additional layoffs in our fragile economy," said local Chamber of Commerce Chairman David Robinson."

Let me revise that just slightly:

 "Congress is to be thanked for preventing further economic calamity in American Samoa and preventing continual increases to the minimum wage which would have led to additional layoffs in our fragile economy," said local national Chamber of Commerce Chairman David Robinson Tom Donohue.

Chicago Fed: Midwest Manufacturing Grew 11% Over Last Year, vs. 5.6% for U.S., and 2.2% for GDP

The Chicago Federal Reserve reported today that its Midwest Manufacturing Index increased 1.1% in June compared to May, reversing most of the revised 1.4% monthly decline in May.  On an annual basis, regional manufacturing activity in the 7th Federal Reserve district improved by 11% in June from a year ago, about twice the annual 5.6% increase in the national manufacturing component of industrial production through June (see chart above).  In comparison, the overall U.S. economy (real GDP) grew by only 2.2% over the same period from Q2 2011 to Q2 2012. 
Here are some other highlights of manufacturing activity in the 7th Federal Reserve district that covers Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin:

1. Regional machinery output in April gained 12.2% from its year-earlier level, compared to a 7.3% increase in machinery output at the national level. 

2. Regional steel output improved 11.0% from its June 2011 level, compared to a 6.4% increase in national steel output over that period.

3. The Midwest’s automotive output increased by 21.9% in June from its year-ago level, compared to a 15.2% gain in national automotive output.  The index level of 95.8 for Midwest auto sector production in June marked the third straight month that auto manufacturing was above a reading of 95.  That was the first time since December 2007 to February 2008 that Midwest auto production was above an index level of 95 for three straight months, indicating that the auto industry in the Midwest is returning to its pre-recession level of production. 

MP: Midwest manufacturing output growth over the last year (11%) continues to lead national manufacturing output growth (5.6%), which continues to lead overall economic growth measured by real GDP (2.2%).  Today's Chicago Fed report suggests that U.S. manufacturing, especially in the Midwest, remains at the forefront of the economic recovery measured by growth rates in real output.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Oilman Harold Hamm on America's Premier State - North Dakota - And Its Very Bright Shale Future

America's premier state leads the country in "shovel-ready" jobs without any stimulus taxpayer money:

Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm and his company Continental Resources have been an industry leader in: a) developing the energy-rich Bakken oil field, and b) introducing the advanced drilling technologies including hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that have created an energy revolution here that is making the U.S. "the Saudi Arabia of oil and gas in the 21st century."

Here's an excerpt from Mr. Hamm's latest assessment of the "Bakken boom":

"A lot of good news has been coming out of North Dakota recently. Most notably, the Bakken oil field has helped North Dakota buck the national economic slump by creating new jobs and tax revenues. Thanks to the Bakken, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate and fastest-growing economy in the nation (see chart above comparing job growth in North Dakota to the job shrinkage nationally since December 2007). 

As the oil industry completes its infrastructure design phase and enters its full development phase in 2012 and 2013, there’s good news for residents, officials and community leaders in the oil communities experiencing this remarkable growth. Soon, nearly all of the infrastructure needed to develop the Bakken will be in place, and western North Dakota is settling into a period of steady growth.

We appreciate North Dakotans’ cooperation and patience in tackling the challenge of infrastructure in the Bakken. Now that the area of the oil field is defined, the objective going forward is to optimize production and improve efficiency over the lifespan of the field, which is projected to be longer than 30 years.

One of the great blessings of the Bakken is that it is being developed with modern technology. Horizontal drilling and Continental Resources’ EcoPad technology enable us to drill several wells from just one drilling pad, significantly reducing our footprint in the field. Yes, there will be thousands of new wells drilled in the Bakken, but that drilling activity will be spread out over the next 30 years using the most efficient and ecologically sound technology available.

In addition to using advanced technologies, the oil and gas industry is building permanent employee housing and installing new oil, gas and water lines this summer and beyond to reduce truck traffic on the roads. Through oil and gas taxes, the industry is also responsible for $1 out of every $4 of state revenue. Due to the dramatic increase in tax revenues, North Dakota is making unprecedented investments in infrastructure in this region. Last year, the Legislature approved $1 billion in improvements, including the expansion of highways, water treatment plants and sewer lines in oil and gas producing counties.

North Dakota has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including some of the richest agricultural land in the world and now the nation’s largest oil field discovery in more than 40 years. Adding the development of the Bakken to the arsenal of North Dakota’s resources has made North Dakota the premier state in America, lessening our dependence on foreign oil and, in fact, leading the way to achieving North American Energy Independence in the next decade.

I believe the best of the Bakken for North Dakota is yet to come – it’s going to be a bright future in the Peace Garden State."

Update: It's not just shale oil that is making North Dakota's energy future look brighter and brighter, but the state's shale gas production is expected to increase nearly sixfold by 2025, making North Dakota a major player in the U.S. market, according to a report released Wednesday.

Current Intrade Odds for Republican VP

Click to enlarge.

More Ticket Scalping = Fewer Empty Seats?

From a recent news report

"London's Metropolitan police said they had arrested 16 people since Friday for illegal reselling of Olympics tickets, as Games organizers said they were investigating why scores of seats were empty at some events yesterday."

MP: Well maybe if the London police weren't arresting people and restricting ticket sales in the secondary market, perhaps there wouldn't be so many empty seats? 

Big Screen Energy: Fracking Film Festival in D.C.

A few weeks ago, I attended the "Big Screen Energy: Fracking Film Festival" in Washington, D.C., where trailers for three energy documentary films were featured.  Those trailers appear below, and here's a fact-filled energy brochure that was available at the event.  Get some popcorn and enjoy the shows!

1. Truthland.  What are the facts behind oil and natural gas development in America today? One woman from rural Pennsylvania decided to find out — for her family, for her community, for herself. Hear what some of the experts she interviewed along her journey had to say.

2. Frack Nation is a feature documentary that will tell the truth about fracking for natural gas.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Wisconsin's Sand Boom Brings Jobs, Prosperity

Leader-Telegram -- "A new industry continues to rise — quite literally — from the ground in west-central Wisconsin. Officials from 12 regional counties reported the area now has a total of 52 silica sand mines that are either operating or approved (see map above).

That's up 136 percent from 22 just a year ago and shows just how fast the sand storm is sweeping across west-central Wisconsin, which is home to plentiful deposits of a variety of sand prized in the rapidly growing energy extraction practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." While some experts have been predicting a slowdown in the industry's dramatic rise from virtually nonexistent four years ago, county planners who deal with permits for the mines haven't noticed such a change.

"It's still a boom," said Kevin Lien, director of the Land Management Department in Trempealeau County, which leads the region with six operating mines, 10 more on the way and another five applications being considered next month.  Right behind are Barron and Chippewa counties, which both have eight operating or approved mines and two more that have been proposed.

"I don't know if it's peaking yet. We just received two more applications," said David Gifford, zoning administrator in Barron County, which had only one approved silica, or "frac," sand mine a year ago."

HT: Million Dollar Way