Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on solar panels:
President Barack Obama is announcing a bundle of plans for boosting solar power and promoting energy efficiency.
That may be about all he can do on his own authority without support from Congress, but it's still half a loaf.
One of the steps he was touting was completion of solar panel installation on the White House roof. Well, whoopee.
Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the roof of the executive residence, but Ronald Reagan had them removed. That made the panels a political football rather than a modest efficiency tool.
The panels will be more effective as a symbol of presidential policy than as a real contribution to the nation's energy efficiency.
America needs a broader, more inclusive energy policy, but it's never going to get one as long as political leaders hold to hard-line policy.
"The president can't claim an 'all of the above' strategy while he's blocking the Keystone pipeline, slow-rolling the approval of new energy exploration and proposing job-killing regulations that will destroy the American coal industry," said a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, the ultra-Republican from Ohio.
Filter out the partisan rhetoric, and the man has a point. Solar panels do not a policy make. Power-saving green steps alone can't meet our energy needs.
The energy efficiency guys and the we-need-more-power bunch need to bury the hatchet. The issue is too important to the national well-being to be a focus for political games.
Marietta Daily Journal, Georgia, on Benghazi:
President Barack Obama has now spent the past year and a half wishing that questions about the Benghazi attack would just go away.
You can bet that former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton is wishing the same thing, except more so.
But that isn't likely to happen thanks to damning information that has now come to light. And while our friends on the left here in Georgia and elsewhere love to try and spin Benghazi as a Fox News fantasy, the public has the New York Times to thank for the latest revelations about how minimizing the damage to Obama's 2012 re-election campaign — not national security — was the top priority in the White House in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2012, tragedy that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead at the hands of Libyan terrorists.
The attack on the embassy there came against a backdrop of Team Obama's repeated assertions that the war on terror was over and that we had won.
The attacks in Libya ran counter to that, so Obama and those around him quickly came up with an alternative version: that the supposedly spontaneous demonstrations and the attacks that followed were inspired by an amateurish, obscure Internet video, even though the evidence and common sense ran counter to that.
The Times reported late last month that Obama's deputy national security adviser, Benjamin J. Rhodes, emailed U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Sept. 14, 2012, just before she made a round of high-profile appearances on Sunday morning news-talk shows that day.
Rhodes urged Rice to "underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy" and that she should "reinforce the President and Administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges."
It's the "smoking gun" that proves the administration misled the American public about the Benghazi incident right from the very start. It cynically considered that ensuring the re-election of Obama was more important than telling the public the truth.
But truth has a way of ultimately coming out.
Boston Herald on climate dogma:
The Obama administration is trying to scare us with totally unverifiable projections of a disastrous global warming. We trust that most people are not going to fall for this outrageous scare-mongering.
The ballyhooed third National Climate Assessment, released last Wednesday by several agencies, alleges first, the world has warmed over the last century and second, it's going to get much worse.
This is supposed to convince us of the wisdom of President Obama's plans to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief gas said to be warming the planet.
It has indeed warmed slightly (by at most 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 100 years. Saying so ignores an unexplained cooling from about 1940 into the 1970s. It warmed from the 1970s to 1998; there has been no warming since even as carbon dioxide concentrations rose.
Predictions of floods here and heat waves there and falling sky somewhere else are produced by already failed computer models. None can reproduce changes in temperature observed in the past. Relying on such failed prophets is folly.
Unsurprised critics note that the concentrations of water vapor in the troposphere that are supposed to amplify warming simply aren't there.
The assessment rambles about heat and rainfall and other unpleasantness, but pays no attention to the fact that there is no trend in the incidence of tornadoes, or the fact that hurricanes making landfall are at a record low, or the fact that even more emission cuts than Obama wants would lower the temperature in 2100 by one-seventh of a degree.
As Yogi Berra said, it's tough to make predictions, especially about the future. The country needs a devil's advocate, with adequate funds for research independent of the army of alarmists who have built careers on dubious dogma.
Chicago Tribune on America's oil boom:
After a harsh winter, it's time to get out and hit the open road. So what's with $4-a-gallon gasoline? North American oil production is on the rise, so you might have expected a break at the pump by now. Yet gas prices remain stubbornly high.
What happened to the homegrown energy boom? Wasn't North Dakota supposed to be America's Saudi Arabia? How come gas isn't back to $2 a gallon?
The boom is real, and North Dakota, along with states and Canadian provinces, is producing a gusher of oil. The North American energy bonanza now underway is helping the U.S. economy to pull out of the doldrums. It helped ease the pain of Chicago residents during the cold winter, since stepped-up natural gas production kept heating bills lower.
But gasoline, alas, is not going to be half price anytime soon, if ever. America's oil boom is delivering broad benefits, but not necessarily at the pump.
The good news is that oil analysts say gas prices probably peaked for this year in late April.
Based on today's market conditions, prices should decline by a nickel or a dime over the next month.
Prices bounce around during the year. It's not unusual for prices at the pump to rise in the spring, ahead of the summer driving season. That's due in part to refineries switching to a different formula for gasoline that meets clean-air requirements during the warm-weather months. As companies draw down winter stockpiles, conduct routine spring maintenance and ramp up production of the summer blend, prices are prone to short-term spikes.
This year, the transition has gone smoothly. Supplies of reformulated gasoline are building. The usual run-up in prices ahead of the summer driving season is likely to be especially short-lived. Prices also vary by geography: Some parts of the country — including southern Illinois, though not heavily taxed Chicago — could see gasoline selling below $3 a gallon later in 2014.
The controversial extraction technology known as fracking is contributing to the enhanced production of domestic oil and natural gas. The light, sweet crude produced in the U.S. sells at a considerable discount here compared with the price paid on other continents, because there is so much of it at our disposal, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. The oil industry, as well as energy-dependent chemical, utility and industrial users, has been growing fast as a result. That economic activity ultimately creates jobs.
But the impact at the pump is limited because oil is an internationally traded commodity. By virtue of its soaring production, North America is more insulated from price shocks prompted by disruptive events in the Middle East and other oil-producing regions than it has been in years. The U.S. shale boom is replacing oil being kept off the market because of geopolitical issues in Ukraine, Iran and elsewhere.
But the U.S. can't insulate itself entirely from global energy markets.
Energy prices are always a moving target. We got a break on heating bills during an extremely cold winter, thanks to natural-gas production. But we'll pay more this summer to cool our homes, reflecting rising costs to secure electricity supply. Gasoline may not seem cheap these days, but it's a relative bargain. America needs to keep conserving and producing energy to keep those costs in check.
Kansas City Star on Nigeria:
The tragic plight of the missing girls of Chibok, Nigeria, has triggered heartbreak and hand-wringing around the world. And it has opened vexing examinations of a nation in chaos and an international community unsure of how best to respond.
The fact that the girls' kidnappers — the fanatic, anti-Western Islamists known as Boko Haram — have been terrorizing their nation's impoverished northeastern region for years has prompted appropriate questions about the abilities and priorities of the Nigerian government. Boys have been slaughtered. Many schools and villages have burned. Boko Haram has led a vicious campaign to douse the spirit of Christians and Muslims alike, and to expunge the idea that enlightened education leads to better lives for all.
Prominent people are speaking out and challenging others to raise awareness and concern. The U.S. and other nations are supplying advisers to help gather intelligence and to aid a rescue of the kidnapped teenagers, saving them, it is hoped, from the marriage enslavement market and other crimes against humanity that Boko Haram commits.
Still, it's abundantly clear that there are limits to what Americans and other outsiders can do. Boko Haram issued signals this week that it is willing to negotiate, perhaps trading the captive girls for imprisoned brothers in arms. The Nigerian government rejected that deal. Proceedings from here will be delicate and unpredictable.
The Chibok kidnapping crisis is indeed horrendous and awakening. It comes at a time of increasing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. The global specter of civil wars and unceasing conflict seems permanent.
Yet, the Nigeria story seems especially alarming on a human scale. All those girls, taking a test at their high school when they were abducted, represent an incalculable future.
To understand the potential of young women like them — girls who aspire to freedom and betterment amid rigid, medieval settings — one need look no further than Kansas City. The Star's Joe Robertson on Sunday reported the inspiring story of Cynthia Odu, who left Nigeria as an infant with her parents, and now, at 18, having graduated from Kansas City's Lincoln Academy, is bound for college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
These two stories, one of horror and another of triumph, remind us that certain values, like universal education, are worth fighting for.
The Australian on unrest stirring in South Africa:
Ingrained loyalty to the African National Congress, the liberation movement led by Nelson Mandela against apartheid, guaranteed the party another commanding victory in South Africa's fifth general election since white rule ended. A small but significant decline in ANC support, however, suggests its glow is wearing off. Unless it changes course to deal effectively with high-level corruption and poor governance, the ANC will have a hard time arresting the steady erosion of its electoral base.
The ANC scored 62.1 per cent of the popular vote, down from 65.9 per cent five years ago. It will have 249 of 400 members of the National Assembly. President Jacob Zuma, the focus of corruption allegations and the target of booing at Mandela's funeral in December, is assured of re-election.
But the outcome is not the two-thirds majority the ANC wanted to amend the constitution. Nor does it deflect from the success of the main opposition, the liberal Democratic Alliance, in increasing its vote from 16 to 22 per cent and its parliamentary numbers to 89. It retained control of the Western Cape provincial parliament and is challenging the ANC's grip in Gauteng province, centered on Johannesburg, the country's economic heartland.
The ANC also lost a million votes to the disaffected former leader of its Youth League, the firebrand Julius Malema. His Economic Freedom Fighters party, which advocates radical Mugabe-style expropriation of white-owned land and the nationalization of mines and banks, won 25 seats.
Zuma's credibility is at stake over the $23 million in government funding spent on his private home. He refused to reimburse the money and Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille is seeking his impeachment.
Economically, the achievements of the thriving black middle class have been offset by unemployment levels worse than those under white rule: 50 per cent of school leavers are jobless and South Africa is ranked 146th out of 148 on the World Economic Forum's school standards rankings.
The ANC would be shortsighted to ignore the signs of disenchantment.
Khaleej Times, Dubai, on Uruguayan tips for Obama:
Jose Mujica, who is highly respected for his cherished values on human rights and socialism, had a piece of advice for Barack Obama as he wanted the Americans to look beyond its frontiers and embrace a pluralistic culture. What he meant was to focus on the backwater countries in America's south and co-exist with their lingual preferences. The Uruguayan leader said the US would have to become a multilingual country, with its citizens learning Spanish, Portuguese and other Latin languages. This is no ordinary statement. Intellectuals and academicians in times to come can evaluate its essence by keeping in mind the problems that an assertive and arrogant world power faces due to demographic imbalances.
Obama, who praised Mujica as an undisputed leader on human rights in the entire Western hemisphere, apparently in the light of his courage to adopt five prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay, exhibited his political acumen as he avoided controversial issues between the two countries. Rather, he eulogized the small South American country's services' such as peacekeeping in Haiti and Africa. So did the White House guest as he didn't pin-point imperialist fervor in the US foreign policy.
The saner side of their diplomacy should be reenacted when Obama rubs shoulders with other southern leaders of the continent, especially Cuba's Raul Castro. Obama's desire to cultivate cordial ties with his southern neighbors is up for test.