Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ric Williamson: "Highway 121 represents the first concrete step toward a future where 'tolls, not taxes,' pay for major highways in the state."

NTTA pays $3.2 billion for right to collect tolls on Highway 121

Some fear high cost for right to collect tolls puts other projects at risk

December 1, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copright 2007

The often ugly fight over the State Highway 121 toll road ended with a flourish Friday as the North Texas Tollway Authority presented the state of Texas with a $3.2 billion check.

The huge – and to critics risky – payment makes the 26-mile road the second-richest toll project in America and will almost immediately fund scores of transportation projects, big and small, in North Texas.

"We're here to celebrate a $3 billion cash infusion that will be used to address the Dallas-Fort Worth region's transportation needs," said North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino, the chairman of the North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation council.

But not even the upfront payment – the biggest single cash infusion for North Texas road projects in the region's history – has erased some doubts over the wisdom of contracting with NTTA on the highway.

Those concerns stem from fears that the authority has paid too much for the right to collect tolls on the road over the next 50 years. None of the private firms that bid on the contract offered to pay nearly as much.

"The risks are the same as they were six months ago," said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. "The risk is that with its payment for 121, the NTTA won't have the money needed to finance the Trinity, the Southwest Parkway and the other projects it has committed to building."

Six months ago, Mr. Morris joined state transportation leaders in arguing vigorously against awarding the contract to NTTA, saying that doing so would invite risks of higher tolls and traffic jams that could have been avoided by letting a private company build the road.

A counter push led by North Texas legislators helped persuade the regional transportation council to endorse NTTA for the road anyway. Still, the critics from this year, including Mr. Morris, Transportation Department engineers in Dallas and members of the Texas Transportation Commission, have not changed their minds about the wisdom of letting NTTA build the road.

NTTA officials brushed aside such concerns on Friday, repeating again that the vast revenues expected from Highway 121 will leave plenty of money to pay its debt service, and with enough left over to finance new roads as well.

"With this check, the Highway 121 becomes not just part of our toll road system, but part of our financial system," NTTA Chairman Paul Wageman said at a ceremony in Carrollton celebrating the Highway 121 payment.

There has never been any question that the toll road will make an enormous amount of money for whoever operated it.

Its route through Collin, Denton and Dallas counties includes some of the fastest-growing communities in the nation. In addition, the road will carry the highest toll rates in the region, with frequent increases built into the schedule through 2058. By that year, the highway is expected to bring in $30.1 billion in toll receipts, nearly double what the longer Dallas North Tollway is expected to produce in that period.

On Friday, Mr. Wageman said the agency expects to make $1.3 billion profit in today's dollars on Highway 121. That money will enable the NTTA to finance the other roads Mr. Morris said the region is counting on.

Mr. Morris said the region badly needs the NTTA money, but he said the next three to five years will be "anguished" ones for him, as he worries whether NTTA will be able to keep its commitments.

"The upfront payment is fantastic. We're thrilled," he said. "But all we have is the NTTA's word that they will be able to finance these additional projects, and we're going to hold them to it."

Revenue projections are based on long-range forecasts that can seem like highly educated guesses, given that they attempt to describe reality in a time when today's newly licensed drivers will be ready for retirement.

The estimates are critical, however, because they determine how much bankers or other lenders are willing to commit to a project, said Maria Kang, who directs the infrastructure finance unit of DEPFA Bank, headquartered in Ireland. Typically, the more conservative the estimate is, the more confidence banks will have that the actual numbers will match or exceed the projected traffic numbers, she said.

NTTA's numbers carry a probability of 50 percent that they will be exceeded by actual traffic volumes in any given year, the agency said Friday. There's an equal chance that they will prove too optimistic.

Chief financial officer Susan Buse said that's well within industry standards, and pointed out that the short-term notes the agency borrowed to pay the $3.2 billion were issued top-of-the-market credit ratings.

Still, even if the risks are small, they could have been shouldered by the private sector, critics of NTTA's involvement have said repeatedly since last June.

"At some point NTTA will become leveraged out," Mr. Morris said Friday. "How soon is the question."

Mr. Trevino acknowledged the region gambled when it picked NTTA over Cintra in June. "If we're two, three years or five years out and the population in places like McKinney, Allen and Frisco aren't growing like they are now – then we'll know we made a mistake."

Given the seemingly endless migration to those suburbs, however, Mr. Trevino said that's highly unlikely.

In the meantime, Ric Williamson, chairman of the state transportation commission, said the arguing over which approach – private or public – to take on roads like Highway 121 can be saved for another day. In the meantime, he said, it's time to celebrate.

He said Highway 121 represents the first concrete step toward a future where tolls, not taxes, pay for major highways in the state.

"This is a great day for the state of Texas," he said.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Money flows into Texas campaigns through out-of-state groups.

Perry had list of donors but didn't file it

Governor's 2006 opponent files lawsuit over $1 million contribution from Republican group.

November 16, 2007

By Laylan Copelin
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

The Republican Governors Association last fall sent a list of individual donors with two $500,000 checks to Gov. Rick Perry's re-election campaign.

The campaign cashed the checks but never filed the three-page list at the Texas Ethics Commission as required by state law.

Chris Bell says Texans tired of 'hide-the-money' shenanigans.

As the governor's staff called the omission a filing error Thursday, Perry's 2006 Democratic opponent, Chris Bell, filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Perry's campaign committee and the association, accusing them of concealing the true source of the money: Houston builder Bob Perry, who is no relation to the governor.

"I think Texans have had enough of the Tom DeLay, Rick Perry, 'hide-the-money' shenanigans," Bell said in a statement. DeLay, a former U.S. House majority leader is under indictment in Travis County on a money-laundering charge stemming from the 2002 election.

Association officials said Thursday that they had complied with state law by sending the donor list to the Perry campaign.

Through his press secretary, Robert Black, Perry called Bell's lawsuit sour grapes because the governor had refused to give Bell, a former congressman, a state contract to lobby the federal government.

As the dispute Thursday took on the back-and-forth of a political campaign, it also raised questions about whether the state's campaign finance laws fall short of making transparent the sources of money flowing into Texas campaigns through out-of-state groups.

For example, the list that the Republican Governors Association gave the Perry campaign — out of an abundance of caution, association officials said — includes the names and addresses of association donors but not the amounts they gave.

During the final weeks of the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, the sources of the candidates' money became an issue.

Perry and others were criticizing Bell for accepting $2.5 million in donations and loans from Houston trial lawyer John O'Quinn. At the same time, voters were unaware who was contributing to the Perry campaign as donors to the Republican Governors Association. Such donors included Bob Perry, who underwrote the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack ads in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Ben Ginsberg, a lawyer representing the association, said the group is not a political committee under Texas law and is not subject to state reporting requirements. (It files its reports with the Internal Revenue Service to get its tax exemption.) Ginsberg likened the Republican Governors Association to an individual donor who relies on the candidate to disclose his donation.

"We were donors," he said. "If we were an out-of-state committee, we did what the law required" by sending the donor list to the Perry campaign.

Austin lawyer Buck Wood, who represents Bell, disagreed. He contends that under state law only individuals or political committees can give money to a candidate. He argued that the association cannot give money if it is not qualified as a political committee. If it were a committee, Wood said, the association should have filed its own reports with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Though the Perry campaign acknowledged its mistake in not filing the list of association donors, it blamed Bell's lawsuit on bad feelings over the lobbying contract.

In January, with Democrats taking control of Congress and Perry trying to rebuild bridges to them, Bell wrote to Perry asking to be considered as a Washington lobbyist for the state. "I continue to have strong relationships in D.C. with the new majority and it would certainly send a loud message regarding your willingness to work together going forward," Bell wrote in a letter released Thursday by Perry's staff.

"If you would be willing to consider utilizing my talents, I would be most grateful," Bell wrote.

Perry's press secretary said Bell sought preferential treatment in asking for the contract, a charge that Bell denied through a spokesman.

Black said Bell is retaliating for not getting the contract.

"It's obvious that Chris Bell is in dire financial straits and is looking to use this stunt" to repay his campaign loans, Black said.; 445-3617

© 2007 Austin American-Statesman: www.

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"The latest in a series of odd comments and public relations nightmares prompted by toll road supporters."

MPO Head: "Those People" Can Afford Toll Roads

McNeil : Talking about 'those people.'

McNeil clarifies remarks, saying she didn't mean any racial divide

November 30, 2007

By Jim Forsyth
Copyright 2007

Bizarre comments by the chair of the Metropolitan Planning Authority are raising new questions about the Authority's judgment on the eve of Monday's critical vote on whether to build new toll lanes on US 281 outside Loop 1604, the first toll road project in Bexar County, 1200 WOAI news reports.

In a meeting of east side neighborhood associations Wednesday night, Sheila McNeil, who is also the city council member for District Two, repeatedly told listeners that 'those people,' in a reference to residents of north central San Antonio where the first toll lanes will be built, 'can afford' to pay the toll, because 'the average income out there is $300,000 a year.'

"Out on 281?" McNeil asked a questioner who grilled her on the toll road plan. "The average income out there is $300,000 a year. We tested the market."

According to City of San Antonio statistics, the average per capita income in north central San Antonio is just over $31,000 a year. The 'median family income' in the state of Texas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is $52,000 a year. The Census Bureau lists no community in the entire country where the 'average income' is $300,000 a year.

Repeatedly referring to north side residents as 'those people,' McNeil stressed that residents in her east side city council district will not be affected to the tolls, and hinted that she would use her position as head of the MPO to make sure they are not affected.

McNeil Friday afternoon said she did not mean anything racial by her use of the term 'those people.'

"My intent with the use of the word was simply referring to an area of town," she said today.

In her comments Wednesday night, McfNeil made it clear that she would step in and protect her east side constituents from having to pay tolls.

"We are having this conversation in this community," McNeil said. "The decision we're making Monday affects the north side community. It is not going to affect this community. Most of the people who are going to use this road live out in that area. That's who it impacts. Now when they start talking about coming out here on 35, then we can talk. But right now, the decisions we're making next week in 281, and the folks who live and drive out there, and 'those people' can afford a toll road, because the income out there is probably around $200,000 to $300,000 a year."

Terri Hall, who heads the anti toll group 'Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, called McNeil's comments 'outrageous.'

"I don't think its right to use class warfare and pit one part of town against another when it comes to the toll road fight," Hall said. "We are all in this together."

This is the latest in a series of odd comments and public relations nightmares prompted by toll road supporters. For years, toll road backers had vowed there were 'no plans' to toll existing highways. In September, 1200 WOAI news revealed a secret TxDOT memo which proposed that existing Interstate highways be purchased from the federal government so tolls could be collected on them. Then, in his State of the County address in October, County Judge Nelson Wolff, a backer of toll roads, called toll opponents 'dangerous' and claimed to have once called a Sheriff's Deputy to protect him from an anti toll activist who was threatening him. No police report of that alleged incident could be produced.

What outraged Hall the most was a comment McNeil made to east side citizens concerned about the cost of the toll.

"For people who don't have the five dollars, it's still a free road," McNeil said, indicating that lower income people should stick to the access roads, which will have slower traffic and more frequent stops. Hall said that's the 21 century equivalent of telling people to 'sit in the back of the bus.'

McNeil's east side district has the city's largest proportion of African American residents.

"She is basically asking the black community to become second class citizens by her own vote," Hall said. "It is unbelievable to me."

Hall also blasted McNeil's comments which appeared to indicate her willingness to protect the east side from tolls.

"As long as it's not in my back yard, its okay," Hall said. "These are public highways that everybody uses. It's not like the freeway system stops at the District Two line. We all drive these roads, and we all pay for these roads. It's just an abomination, what's going on."

Mayor Phil Hardberger Friday blasted Hardberger's comments as divisive.

"I think there were some misfortunate use of words there," Hardberger said. "Of course, the really correct word is 'our people.'

The MPO board, which McNeil heads, is scheduled to vote on Monday whether to construct new toll lanes on US 281. About half of the members of the MPO board are unelected staff members, including two who actually work for the Texas Department of Transportation. McNeil herself is serving her second term on San Antonio City Council and is prohibited by the city's term limits law from seeking another term.

© 2007 KQXTFM

Councilwoman: Hwy. 281 Commuters Can Afford Toll Roads

November 30, 2007
Copyright 2007

SAN ANTONIO -- A group opposed to toll roads recently posted a video clip on the Internet that shows District 2 City Councilwoman Sheila McNeil telling East Side constituents that building toll roads on the city's North Side is OK because residents in that part of the city can afford it.

According to Terri Hall, founder of San Antonio Toll Party and Texans United For Reform and Freedom, McNeil made the comments during a meeting Wednesday with members of the United Homeowners Improvement Association.

"Now, when they start talking about coming out here on 35, then we can talk," McNeil said. "But right now, the decisions we're making next week in 281, and the folks who live and drive out there, and those people can afford a toll road, because the income out there is probably around $200,000 to $300,000 a year."

McNeil is also chairwoman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is scheduled to vote on toll road fares Monday night for Highway 281.

According to Hall, McNeil also told her constituents to take the access roads if they can't afford toll roads.

Hall said that McNeil was skewing the annual income figures because according to hall, demographic information on the City of San Antonio's Web site shows that the per capita income for a District 9 resident is $31,000.

"It's horrible to pit one part of the community against the other," Hall said in a news release. "We need to be doing what's in the best interest of the entire community."

"It's a sad day when a black elected official in essence slaps the 'colored' sign on our freeways and stereotypes people based on income because of the side of town they live in," said Tommy Calvert Jr., president of Calvert International Consulting.

McNeil wasn't immediately available for comment.

© 2007 by

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“I am greatly concerned by the Secretary of Transportation’s indifference to the concerns many of our neighbors have been raising about the TTC."

Doggett challenges Trans-Texas Corridor

Nov 30, 2007

(Courtesy of Wyeth Ruthven)
Lockhart Post-Register
Copyright 2007

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, in questioning U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, blasted the secretive process by which the State of Texas and the federal government have collaborated to promote the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC).

“I’ve seen the signs on fence-posts and talked with people Caldwell County concerning the Trans- Texas Corridor,” Doggett said. “While we want an adequate transportation system, it should not come at the expense of our property rights and our way of life.”

At a recent hearing of the House Budget Committee, Doggett told Peters that, “The Administration seemingly wants to encourage a secretive process to build a 10-mile-wide highway - perhaps built by a foreign firm - that would separate someone’s century-old farmhouse or ranch home from their pastures and fields. Our farmers and ranchers are treated as roadkill when it comes to participation in the process. I think we have some responsibility to taxpayers to safeguard property rights, and involve the public in the decision making process.”

In further questioning, Doggett raised the issue of adding tolls to existing federal highways in Texas.

“We cannot allow Texas to add tolls to highways that taxpayers have already paid for,” Doggett said. “We have a Governor in Texas that seems to have never met a highway that he didn’t think he could toll. If the Governor had his way we would have toll roads blossoming like Texas wildflowers in the spring.”

Doggett also stated his continued opposition to a Bush Administration budget proposal to create incentives for states to add toll roads.

Some are concerned that the TTC is the first link in a possible “NAFTA Superhighway” - running from Mexico to Canada. Congressman Doggett noted that in July, the House approved an amendment to prohibit federal transportation dollars from funding the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a trilateral initiative linking the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

“I am greatly concerned by the Secretary of Transportation’s indifference to the concerns many of our neighbors have been raising about the Texas-Trans Corridor,” Doggett said at the end of the hearing. “I will oppose letting states like Texas buy back highways that taxpayers have already paid for and then selling them to foreign companies to run as for-profit toll ways.”

© 2007 Lockhart Post-Register:

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"It doesn't exist, in plans or anywhere else."... "It's complete fiction."

I-69 'National Corridor' [LINK] 'NAFTA Highway [LINK]

Paul believes in threat of North American superhighway

The GOP presidential candidate says U.S. sovereignty is at risk. Highway and trade officials and transportation consultants say there are no plans for such a project.

November 30, 2007

By Stephen Braun,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Copyright 2007

WASHINGTON -- The man from Arlington, Texas, could barely contain his smirk as he looked into a computer video camera to pose a question of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Paul's followers talk about such conspiracy theories as "merging the United States with Canada and Mexico . . .," the questioner said in a YouTube video shown during the Wednesday debate. "Do you really believe in all this?" [LINK]

Paul did not miss a beat. The Texas congressman coolly raised the specter of a dire new national threat -- an as-yet unbuilt superhighway.

A border-spanning "NAFTA highway" now on the drawing board, Paul said, would link the U.S., Mexico and Canada, worsening illegal immigration and threatening American independence. "Our national sovereignty is under threat," Paul warned.

Federal and state highway and trade officials and transportation consultants reacted Thursday with befuddlement and amusement. The fearsome secret international highway project Paul described does not exist, they said.

"There is no such superhighway like the one he's talking about," said Ian Grossman, a spokesman with the Federal Highway Administration. "It doesn't exist, in plans or anywhere else."

"It's complete fiction," said Tiffany Melvin, executive director of NASCO, a consortium of transportation agencies and business interests caught in the cross hairs of anti-highway activists. "This is the work of fringe groups that have wrapped a couple of separate projects together into one big paranoid fantasy."

A loose confederation of conservative Internet bloggers and some right-wing groups, among them the John Birch Society, has seized on a burst of activity in federal highway projects in recent years as evidence that the Bush administration is pushing toward a European Union-style government for North America.

The problem, public officials said Thursday, is that the new emphasis on highway construction reflects a growing concern about renewing the crumbling U.S. road system, not a secret extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"These whispers have been around in some form or another ever since NAFTA was signed," said Grossman, who pointed out that numerous U.S. highways already are connected to Mexican and Canadian thoroughfares.

Paul took up the issue in recent years, sounding alarms in the Congressional Record after activists rallied against a $1- billion Texas project that aimed to build a privately financed highway corridor from the border with Mexico to the Oklahoma state line.

"The ultimate goal is not simply a superhighway," Paul wrote to his constituents in October 2006, "but an integrated North American Union -- complete with a currency, a cross-national bureaucracy, and virtually borderless travel within the Union."

During the Wednesday debate, Paul also linked the purported NAFTA highway to his concerns about the Trilateral Commission -- an enduring bugaboo of conspiracy theorists -- and the World Trade Organization's "control [of ] our drug industry, our nutritional products." Paul added: "I don't like big government in Washington, so I don't like this trend toward international government."

Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign spokesman, said Thursday that Paul believed that the threat of a NAFTA highway was real. "Dr. Paul is not alone in thinking this is a substantial compromise of federal sovereignty," Benton said. "There's a strong belief by a lot of people that [the highway] would run clear up through Canada."

Benton noted that Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) had introduced a resolution expressing opposition to a NAFTA superhighway. It is signed by 42 congressmen, including Paul and two of his Republican presidential rivals, Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Tom Tancredo of Colorado.

In Texas, Benton added, legislators voted to withhold funding from the project linking Mexico to Oklahoma, known as the Trans-Texas Corridor, despite Gov. Rick Perry's support. But with much of the $1-billion project expected to be defrayed by private developers, the effort is moving forward, said Coby Chase of the Texas Department of Transportation.

The anti-highway movement has surged from a Texas-based group,, to old-line groups like the Birch Society and to Jerome Corsi, a conservative author who aided the Swift boat targeting of Sen. John F. Kerry during the 2004 campaign.

As alarms about NAFTA's illusory highway have spread across the Web, the issue's whiff of paranoia has ignited sparks of humor. Comedy Central mock commentator Stephen Colbert took up the issue earlier this year, saying the highway plan was real "because I got it from the Internet." He added that "it's a plan to make Canada, the U.S. and Mexico one country and force us to eat moose tacos."

© 2007 Los Angeles Times:

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Texas citizens have a rare opportunity to restore power and voice back to where it belongs, with We The People."

Emergency? Suspend Texas' constitutional rules? For a bill proposing a highway?


Dear Editor,
The Skyline (Alpine, TX)
Copyright 2008

Democracy, Tom Craddick style:

"The importance of this legislation and the crowded condition of the calendars in both houses create an emergency and an imperative public necessity that the constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three several days in each house be suspended, and this rule is hereby suspended, and that this Act take effect and be in force from and after its passage, and it is so enacted."

This is a verbatim section from HB 2115, the legislation creating La Entrada al Pacifico.

Emergency? Suspend Texas' constitutional rules? For a bill proposing a highway?
It's obvious that La Entrada's backers don't mind playing fast and loose with the rules, from the chilling section above to the wildly inaccurate truck numbers they proposed for TxDOT's use.
Add to that their millions in taxpayer funding and years of lobbying and political back scratching, and the phrase "resistance is futile" can't help but leap to mind.

Last week, however, the Alpine City Council took an important step toward giving our region the power not only to resist La Entrada, but to join together to make sure that the Big Bend doesn't get run over by TxDOT or MOTRAN.
The proposed Big Bend Sub-Regional Planning Commission is an effective way for local towns and counties to have an equal voice with TxDOT, in a context where state and federal statutes require state agencies to work on a government to government basis with regional planning commissions.

Please urge your Big Bend area city council and/or county commissioners to look into and join the Big Bend Sub-Regional Planning Commission. It gives them a way to make sure that local issues, from pollution to property rights, get fair consideration when the state comes calling.

MOTRAN can't take our future unless we let them.


Peter A. Smyke

Dear Editor,

I would personally like to commend Alpine citizens and council members for proposing and supporting the agenda of the Big Bend Regional Planning Commission at last week's city council meeting. Under Chapter 391 of the Local Government. Code, such a commission can be created to focus and represent the concerns of localized governments. The BBRPC would have the power to demand information and cooperation from federal and/or state entities as an official subdivision of the state.

Considering the effects of the proposed La Entrada al Pacifico trade corridor (HWY 67/90) on the Big Bend region, there is an urgency to demand that TxDOT and MOTRAN take into strong consideration the concerns of Big Bend residents in future plans. I strongly urge the surrounding counties, cities, schools, and citizens of Big Bend to support this commission, and help create an entity that directly represents our property rights, environmental concerns, tax dollars, and any concerns of the people of the Big Bend.

In a time when the federal and state governments are becoming so far removed from the will of the people they represent, Texas citizens have a rare opportunity to restore power and voice back to where it belongs, with We The People.

I urge all citizens who are concerned about the future of Big Bend in the shadow of La Entrada, to attend city council meetings, talk to their commissioners, and become informed of the issues, so we can work together to preserve the beauty of our home. STOP LA ENTRADA AL PACIFICO!

For more information, visit, or

Molly Walker

© 2008 The Skyline, Sul Ross State

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Ron Paul: "We had NAFTA, and [now we're] moving toward a NAFTA Highway. These are real things. It's not [as if] somebody made these up. "


GOP Presidential Debate

November 28, 2008

Cable News Network
Copyright 2007

YouTube Questioner: Good evening candidates. This is Seekster from Arlington, Texas, and this question's for Ron Paul.

I've met a lot of your supporters online, but I've noticed a good number of them seem to buy into this conspiracy theory regarding the Council of Foriegn Relations and some plan to make a North American Union by merging the United States with Canada and Mexico. These supporters of yours seem to think that you also believe in this theory. So my question to you is;

'Do you really believe in all this, or are people just putting words in your mouth?'

Ron Paul: Well, it all depends on what you mean by 'all of this.' The CFR exists, the Trilateral Commission exists, and it's a quote 'conspiracy of ideas.' This is an ideological battle.

Some people believe in globalism, others of us believe in national sovereignty. And there is a move on towards a North American Union , just like early on there was a move on for a European Union ...and it eventually ended up [that way]. So we had NAFTA , and [now we're] moving toward a NAFTA Highway . These are real things. It's not [as if] 'somebody made these up. ' It's not a 'conspiracy.'

They don't talk about it and they might not admit it, but there's been money spent on it. There was legislation passed on it in the Texas Legislature unanimously to put a halt on it. They're planning on millions of acres [to be] taken by eminent domain for an international highway from Mexico to Canada, which is going to make the immigration problem that much worse.

So, it's not so much a 'secretive conspiracy.' It's a contest between ideologies: whether we believe in our insitutions here; our national sovereignty, our Constitution, or are we going to further move in the direction of international government--more U.N.

You know, this country goes to war under U.N. resolutions.

I don't like big government in Washington, so I don't like this trend towards international government. We have a WTO that wants to control our drug industry, our nutritional I'm against all that, but it's not so much [like] it's a 'sinister conspiracy.' It's just that [the] knowledge is out there. If we look for it we'll realize that our national sovereignty is under threat.


Anderson Cooper: Congressman Paul, Thank You.

© 2007 CNN: www.

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"The goals Krusee couldn't reach legislatively, we are left to assume, he will pursue administratively."

Krusee won't seek re-election

Williamson County Republican reshaped Austin area's transportation system

November 28, 2007

By Laylan Copelin , Ben Wear
Austn American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

State Rep. Mike Krusee, a Williamson County Republican who reshaped the Austin area's transportation system and, with Gov. Rick Perry, turned Texas toward a toll-centric approach to highway building, will not seek re-election next year.

Krusee, 48, is not leaving the public stage right away. He will serve out his term, which runs through January 2009; will continue serving on national panels on transportation and urban planning; and could return to a statewide post after he retires from the Legislature.

Talk around the Capitol is that Krusee, who has served in the House since 1993, could have been in line for a gubernatorial appointment, possibly to the Texas Transportation Commission, but the state constitution bars a lawmaker from accepting a state job that requires Senate confirmation during his or her term.

Simply resigning would not have circumvented the prohibition. By not seeking re-election, Krusee could be considered for an appointment as early as January 2009.

"It's not like there's an open invitation," Krusee said. "It's just leaving the door open."

When he leaves the Legislature, Krusee will be able to count almost 80 miles of toll roads built in Central Texas since he became chairman of the House Transportation Committee in 2003, a fact that endeared him to some and made him an enemy of others.

Re-election was not a certainty.

Last year, Krusee narrowly defeated a Democratic opponent in a county known as a Republican stronghold.

He had already attracted a Democratic opponent for next year, Round Rock school trustee Diana Maldonado, and there was speculation that House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, might recruit a Republican to run against him.

Several Republicans are expected to consider running for the House seat, although the one mentioned most often, Round Rock Mayor Nyle Maxwell, ruled himself out.

"I'm not interested in being anything but the mayor of Round Rock for the next six months," Maxwell said.

Williamson County GOP Chairman Bill Fairbrother predicted that at least three to five "elected officials, businesspeople and community activists" would in the next few days unveil plans to run.

In May, as both Republicans and Democrats in the House rebelled against Craddick, Krusee delivered a speech criticizing the speaker's refusal to recognize any motion to remove him from his leadership post.

"Questioning leadership is the highest privilege this body has," Krusee said that night as Craddick looked on. "And it belongs to the body, not to the presiding officer."

This summer, Craddick attended a Krusee fundraiser, however, raising speculation that the two former allies had settled their differences. On several occasions this summer, Krusee insisted that he would run for re-election.

Maldonado said Tuesday that Krusee's surprise retirement will only fuel speculation that Krusee will be back to lead state transportation policy.

"The goals he couldn't reach legislatively, we are left to assume, he will pursue administratively," Maldonado said.

Krusee said Tuesday that he has no intention of lobbying. He said he will continue to work for a title company and his document-retrieval firm while pursuing his "passion" for transportation and New Urbanism, an urban-planning movement that promotes a return to traditional "walkable" neighborhoods.

Krusee is on the board of the nonprofit group Congress for New Urbanism and advises Congress and the Bush administration on transportation funding as a member of the National Transportation Finance Commission.

"It's a national crisis that is looming," Krusee said of transportation funding. "I think I can do better for the region, state and country outside of the Legislature."

Over the past 14 years, Krusee had a roller coaster career, primarily because of his relationship with House speakers.

When he first went to the Capitol, Krusee blamed then-Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center, for his slow start in the House. Krusee was never part of the leadership team because he and Laney disagreed over how to finance education.

In 2003, when Republicans took control of the House, Krusee backed Craddick's election as speaker and became a key figure in the leadership team.

Krusee took over as chairman of the House Transportation Committee at a crucial juncture for Texas roads. Revenue from the frozen-in-amber gasoline tax was falling short as surging urban populations and Texas' position as a NAFTA trade corridor were jamming up key segments of the state highway system. Perry and his appointees on the transportation commission found Krusee to be an enthusiastic legislative point man for their agenda, which depended on turning to toll roads wholesale.

In that first session as chairman, Krusee carried House Bill 3588, a huge measure that created a framework for Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor plan for cross-state supertollways, gave power and money to newly created local toll agencies, and allowed existing highways to be converted into toll roads.

The bill was passed overwhelmingly in relative obscurity because of legislative focus elsewhere. But its sweeping effects became obvious within months as Central Texans fought attempts to toll a portion of U.S. 183 that was close to opening as a free road. Introduction in early 2004 of a seven-tollway plan in Central Texas, which would come on top of five other toll roads already under construction or nearing it, caused an uproar. Krusee was the architect and prime spokesman for that so-called "Phase II" plan.

That fracas didn't truly die down until a somewhat watered down version of the plan was approved this fall by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board, of which Krusee is a member. While Krusee voted for the plan in October, he was conspicuously absent from many of the meetings leading up to its passage.

Back in the Legislature, Krusee carried a 2005 refinement of HB 3588, which pulled back on converting free roads to toll roads but helped open a new front: private toll roads. That wrinkle turned the Legislature against the Perry agenda. And, in 2007, against Krusee.

Legislation that to some degree rolled back the 2003 and 2005 Krusee bills made it to passage after Speaker Craddick routed them around Krusee's committee.

In his early legislative days, Krusee was a Capital Metro critic but by 2003 had become a supporter of the Austin-basedagency's passenger rail plans.

In 2004, as Capital Metro was moving toward a referendum ona Leander-to-downtown-Austin starter line, Krusee was publicly calling for an area-wide system of commuter lines. He said Tuesday that he pushed behind the scenes for that 2004 referendum, which was approved by voters, to include not only the Leander line, but also downtown streetcars and rail connections to the University of Texas, the emerging Mueller development and the airport.

"I changed," Krusee said Tuesday, "and people's opinions of me changed, too."

In a statement, he thanked Austin Mayor Will Wynn, City Manager Toby Futrell and state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, for working with him on regional issues. "They were willing to put aside the stereotype of me as a conservative Republican," Krusee said. "I put aside ideology ... and found everything wasn't as black and white."; 445-3617;; 445-3698

© 2007 Austin American-Statesman:

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rep. Mike Krusee heads for greener pastures

Key Local Rep Decides He Won't Seek Another Term

Nov 27, 2007

Copyright 2007

Republican Rep. Mike Krusee of Williamson County ended weeks of speculation and admitted in a statement Monday afternoon that he won't seek a ninth term in the Texas House.

Krusee was once a key member of Speaker of the House Tom Craddick's inner circle as chair of the House Transportation Commission.

He saw his star dim considerably during the most recent session, however, as he faced a backlash over his authorship of the transportation bill that created regional mobility authorities, the Trans-Texas Corridor and the increased use of toll roads as an option to fund major road projects.

When it came time to reverse measures under the bill, he was the sole House member to vote the measure down.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Krusee wrote about his decision to leave office, saying he was proud to have laid a foundation that created regional water agreements, new higher education facilities and the option of commuter rail in his district, which primarily serves Williamson County.

He also acknowledged his role in transportation, saying that Texas had taken "bold visionary steps toward our looming infrastructure problems."

"There is no silver bullet of infrastructure needs, but we've taken the issue off the back burner and made it a priority," Krusee wrote in a one-page statement on his decision. "Communities now have the power and tools to address infrastructure needs as never before. Time will show that we were right to take bold steps on transportation policy."

Krusee faced a tough election last term, coming close to losing his seat to a Democratic unknown. Rumors in recent weeks had focused on Krusee taking some type of appointment in transportation, possibly a seat on the Texas Transportation Commission.

Krusee confirmed in his statement that he wanted to pursue a career in transportation consulting and new urbanism, which were his two passions when he was in the Legislature.

Craddick issued a statement on Krusee's decision, saying that the representative was an advocate for giving children better educational opportunities and for improving the quality of life by building transportation infrastructure. The state was better for his service, Craddick said.

Krusee served in House District 52, which includes portions of Round Rock, Georgetown and rural areas of eastern Williamson County. He also represents a small sliver of far north Austin.

Diana Maldonado, who serves on the Round Rock school board, has indicated her intention to run for the seat in the Democratic primary.

WorldNow and KXAN

Open government in Texas...for a price.

Perry will share his e-mails, send a bill


Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry, under fire for his frequent purging of office e-mail, has agreed to give an open-government advocate a batch of electronic records that might otherwise have landed on the electronic ash heap of history.

For a price.

Perry's office wants to charge citizen activist John Washburn $142 for each day's worth of e-mail messages he asked for in his first request, according to a bill sent last week. At that rate, Washburn, a software consultant based in Milwaukee, has calculated that he would have to cough up $2,982 for what he has requested so far -- three weeks' worth of e-mail messages from the governor's staff computers.

The invoice has intensified the spat over Perry's policy, first drafted when George W. Bush was governor, of destroying e-mail every seven days. Critics contend that the shred order is wiping out a key part of the public record. Perry aides say they save e-mail messages they're supposed to keep while cutting down on burdensome electronic clutter.

The battle appears to be headed to the office of Attorney General Greg Abbott, who oversees disputes about the cost of providing government records. Washburn calls the bill a rip-off and plans to file a formal complaint. In the meantime, he said Monday that he's sending Perry a check, made out in the amount he believes he owes.

"Here's your dollar," is the message Washburn says he plans to give the Republican governor. That's the price of the CD upon which the e-mail messages would be copied. The bill Washburn got for four days of e-mail messages includes 31.5 hours of staff time at $15 an hour. That comes to $472.50. Then there's a 20 percent surcharge for overhead. That's another $94.50. Add the cost of the CD and the price tag comes to $568.

Staff labor

Perry spokesman Robert Black said the charges stem mostly from the labor performed by staffers as they go through their e-mail inboxes to make copies. While Perry's computer managers can automatically delete e-mail messages, they can't automatically copy them, Black said.

"We do not have an electronic capability to go in and automatically save everybody's e-mails," Black said.

He said Perry is taking Washburn's requests one at a time, so it's impossible to say how much Washburn might owe if he keeps asking for the records. And until Washburn pays up or the cost dispute is resolved, Black said, the office won't provide the records. Washburn said he'll keep fighting until the governor drafts an e-mail retention policy that ensures that vital records aren't being erased.

"If he changes his e-mail policy, I'll quit asking for it," Washburn said.

State agencies are required to have written records retention policies approved by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The agency has signed off on Perry's records retention schedule, but there's no mention of the automatic deletion of e-mail, which is a separate, internal policy in Perry's office, officials said.

Bush policy

The policy is a holdover from the Bush years. Earlier this month, Bush was dealing with his own e-mail woes in Washington.

A federal court ordered the White House to retain e-mail messages after government watchdogs sued over fears that staffers wouldn't keep their fingers off the delete key. Jesse Wilkins, a records retention expert at Houston-based Access Sciences, last month headlined an "e-records" conference in Austin designed to help state bureaucrats manage records in the electronic era.

He said that governments everywhere are grappling with how to balance the requirement for transparency with the need to handle ever-larger inboxes and run an efficient office. There are no hard and fast rules, but Wilkins said there's affordable technology that allows governments to manage clutter, index and archive e-mail messages and ensure that important information is retained.

Wilkins said he didn't know the specifics of Perry's records retention policies, but he said a seven-day delete policy was a bit unusual, even in the private sector.

"In my mind, seven days is not reasonable," Wilkins said. "That strikes me as a very short period of time."

Jay Root reports from the Star-Telegram's Austin Bureau. 512-476-4294

© 2007 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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"Politicians have touted toll roads a fiscal panaceas. But seldom has the wishful thinking proved true."



Courier News (New Jersey)
Copyright 2007

Politicians have touted the state's toll roads as fiscal panaceas for decades. But seldom has the wishful thinking proved true. Here is a list of the most egregious of the broken promises:

1952: No tolls. The Garden State Parkway would be toll-free when its $330 million in construction bonds was paid off around 1988, or so said proponents of the new superhighway. More than 50 years later, tolls are omnipresent. The original toll charge was 25 cents at 11 toll plazas and from 10 cents to 25 cents at exit and entrance ramps.

1997: Free E-ZPass. The new, high-tech E-ZPass toll-collection system would be so smart that it would fund itself, costing motorist nothing more in fees. The system not only would catch toll cheats, but it also would collect millions of dollars in fines, estimated to be $300 million by 2003. A 2004 State Commission of Investigation report showed that only about $15.5 million in fines had been collected by 2003, with the larger amount of revenue, more than $84 million, coming from the lease of new fiber-optic lines. The SCI report said the E-ZPass contract and award was "an administrative and financial debacle of immense proportions." E-Z Pass users are now charged $12 a year to help maintain the system.

2001: No more tolls. Gubernatorial candidates James E. McGreevey and Bret Schundler said they would eliminate roadway tolls if elected. McGreevey was elected. Tolls remain.

2003: Cost savings. McGreevey pushes through a merger of the state's major toll road authorities, the Turnpike Authority and the Highway Authority, in a move he said would "end wasteful duplication and save our taxpayers' money." Four years later, predictions of large-scale savings have not materialized. The Turnpike Authority's expense budget is $465.7 million this year, compared with the combined expense budgets for both roadways of $405 million in 2003, the year before the merger.

Sources: Asbury Park Press files; budget reports

© 2007 Gannett New Jersey Group:

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Congressmen continue to misrepresent facts in their push for toll roads; Fort Worth newspaper gives them an EZ Pass.

Toll roads way to unclog highways, congressman says


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

FORT WORTH -- Texas officials are doing the right thing by building toll roads to relieve congestion because federal funding can't keep up with growth, a leading member of Congress said Monday.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., also said that metropolitan areas that refuse to seek out road funding alternatives -- such as tolls -- won't be able to build new projects for the foreseeable future. The cost of building highways far outpaces inflation, and cars and trucks are getting better mileage, [faulty assumption - CLICK HERE] limiting the revenue from the federal gas tax, he said. [more obfuscation- CONGRESS did this- CLICK HERE]

"In eight to 15 years, you'll probably have cars fueled by something other than gasoline, which will be good for the environment," Mica said during a luncheon at Texas Motor Speedway. [another faulty assumption - CLICK HERE] Mica, the highest ranking Republican on the House transportation committee, was the keynote speaker during a fifth annual transportation summit hosted by U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville. [Texas Rep. Michael Burgess paves the way for the Trans-Texas Corridor in Washington LINK]

"We need to transition from the gas tax," Mica said, adding that Congress' priority is to organize its transportation agenda by 2009, before federal transportation funding expires and the next funding bill is put together.

"No one knows what the interstates will look like in 25 to 30 years from now. No one knows what federal participation will be there to assist you. We lack priorities. Hopefully, we will get together and come up with a plan by September 2009."

About 200 people attended Burgess' summit. Burgess, whose district includes the speedway and a chunk of the Interstate 35W corridor in north Fort Worth, likes to get together annually with federal, state and local transportation officials to make sure they're talking with one another.

"We all need to be pulling in the same direction," Burgess said.

Solving conflicts

Lately in North Texas, that's been a bit of a tall order. Two state agencies, the Texas Department of Transportation and North Texas Tollway Authority, are in the midst of tense negotiations over who should build Texas 161, a toll road and reliever route for Texas 360 in Arlington.

Officials from the Transportation Department and tollway authority attended the summit and said they were working on a solution for Texas 161, which is expected to be a crucial road for moving 2011 Super Bowl traffic.

The tollway authority recently agreed to pay the region about $3.3 billion up front -- money that North Texas officials can use on other transportation projects -- for the right to collect tolls for 50 years on Texas 121 north of Grapevine.

Transportation Department officials have privately worried about whether the tollway authority overpaid for the Texas 121 project.

But Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, who supports the tollway authority's role as the primary toll road building agency in the Metroplex, said he isn't worried about the tollway authority running out of money.

"When the decision about 121 was made, everybody had good projections on the table," Whitley said during a break at the summit. "I don't think the 161 payment will be near what the tollway authority paid for 121."

Funding new projects

The Transportation Department is depending on proceeds from Texas 161, which will run parallel to Texas 360 in Irving and Grand Prairie, to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for other Dallas-area projects, Dallas district engineer Bill Hale said in a presentation. A smaller pot of funds from Texas 161 will go to Tarrant County, but the main benefit for the western Metroplex will be traffic relief.

Mica avoided chiming in on the Texas 161 discussion. He described the federal government's main role in transportation as providing a vision for states to follow -- a vision that takes into account the ability to evacuate, respond to emergencies and move goods.

He said the federal government also can help speed up projects. For example, he noted that the I-35W bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis earlier this year is expected to be rebuilt in 437 days, whereas a project that size normally takes seven to eight years.

"There's no reason we can't do the same thing on other projects -- speed them up -- as long as they have no significant environmental impact," he said. North Texas toll roads


-- President George Bush Turnpike

-- Dallas/Fort Worth International Parkway

-- Dallas North Tollway

-- Texas 121 north of Grapevine (completed in Lewisville, Carrollton and Coppell)

Under construction

-- Southwest Parkway, aka Texas 121 T, Fort Worth — construction scheduled in 2008

-- Texas 121 north of Grapevine (Denton and Collin County)


-- Toll lanes, Texas 114/121 Grapevine funnel

-- Toll lanes, Airport Freeway, Loop 820, I-35W North Tarrant Express

-- Southwest Parkway, aka Texas 121 T, southwest Fort Worth to Cleburne

-- Texas 360, Mansfield

-- Texas 170, near Alliance Airport

-- Toll lanes, LBJ Freeway, Dallas

-- Texas 161

Where: The 11-mile-long toll road would connect Texas 183 in Irving to Interstate 20 in Grand Prairie, parallel to Texas 360 in Arlington.

When: Frontage roads from I-20 to I-30 are under construction, but the construction of lanes between Texas 183 and I-30 are considered crucial to moving traffic in and out of the Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington. Texas 161 is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2011 Super Bowl.

Value: Texas 161 would generate about $1.2 billion for other transportation projects beginning in 2008, after construction and other costs are paid for, according to Texas Department of Transportation projections unveiled Monday.
Gordon Dickson, 817-685-3816

© 2007 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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Austin Mayor Will Wynn 'Takes on Traffic.'

When truck stopped traffic, Austin mayor "spewed a fog of profanity"

Wynn says he was angry at interruption of morning rush-hour

November 27, 2007

By Tony Plohetski
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

When he saw a construction truck blocking traffic on West Fifth Street one morning last month, Austin Mayor Will Wynn walked to the site, told the work crews who he was — and then let loose.

According to Wynn and tapes from a call to the city's 311 non-emergency number that were released Monday, the mayor told the construction workers at the Monarch apartments site that they had better be obeying city ordinances, have proper work permits and be insured.

He also ordered the project's superintendent not to let the driver of the truck leave until Austin police officers showed up.

"I spewed a fog of profanity that is still floating down Shoal Creek someplace," Wynn said. "I'm sorry if my language offended (the construction workers') sensibilities."

In a call to 311, the construction superintendent described Wynn as "threatening."

Wynn, who has pushed for more housing downtown, said he was upset because "thousands" of motorists were inconvenienced by the Oct. 11 incident at Fifth and West Avenue.

The mayor said he was returning from taking his daughters to school when he encountered the backup but eventually maneuvered through traffic to park at his home in the Austin City Lofts, across from the 29-story Monarch.

He started on foot toward City Hall but stopped at the construction site for about five minutes for the impromptu meeting.

During the City Council meeting that day, Wynn, who has proposed a rail system that would serve downtown to ease traffic congestion, also apologized to drivers who were stuck in traffic and said he would propose an ordinance that would limit the hours that large trucks could enter parts of downtown, particularly during rush hour.

"Had that truck driver waited, perhaps 45 minutes, simply pulled onto West Avenue, cooled his heels for an hour at most, the bulk of traffic would have been dispersed," Wynn said during the meeting.

The driver of the truck could not be reached for comment Monday. The construction site's superintendent declined to comment.

It was unclear how long the truck was blocking traffic or what it was hauling.

The superintendent was identified in a police report only as Tim.

According to the audiotape, he told the 311 operator that he "had an incident with none other than Mayor Will Wynn himself."

"He took exception with us backing a truck on our site and had quite a few words for me," the superintendent said. "And he told me not to let this truck driver leave until the police showed up."

The call-taker transferred him to a 911 dispatcher, who told the superintendent that she saw no record of anyone else calling police.

"Ma'am, could you please send an officer over here so I can tell him my story and I can let this truck driver go?" he asked. "The mayor of Austin told me not to let him go until I talked to a policeman."

The Austin Police Department also received complaints about blocked traffic on Fifth Street that were phoned directly to Chief Art Acevedo's office, but it was unclear from audiotapes and written reports who placed those calls.

Wynn said he had an aide get in touch with police.

Officers eventually showed up and warned the driver that he would be cited if he blocked traffic again.

Wynn said he decided not to propose an ordinance after officials told him that current city laws apply to motorists who block traffic.; 445-3605

© 2007 Austin American-Statesman:

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Peak Oil: "It may come sooner, it may come later, but it's coming."

Reaching our peak oil supply

November 25, 2007

Rod Dreher
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

It cost more than $40 to fill up my Honda Accord last week. That's a pain, but not one I have to suffer often. Not only does the Honda get good gas mileage, I live close to my downtown job, so I put maybe 6,000 miles a year on the car. The price of oil will have to go up a lot more before my wallet feels the burn – at the gas pump, at least.

But the price of oil affects far more than our daily commutes. Our entire consumer economy is built on the idea that oil will be relatively inexpensive and infinitely available.

A reliable and affordable supply of oil makes globalization possible. Wal-Mart, for example, wouldn't be able to fill its shelves with consumer goods made for less in overseas factories if not for the ability to ship these products inexpensively. Within our own borders, food is cheap and plentiful in large part because oil is. One reason we've built bigger houses – the average house size has doubled since the 1950s – is because we can afford to heat and cool them.

In fact, cheap oil has made development in Dallas and the entire Sunbelt possible.

But what if it's ending? The authoritative International Energy Agency recently warned that the price of oil would remain high for the foreseeable future because of supply shortages. China and India are developing rapidly and consuming vast amounts of oil.

World supply can barely keep up with demand – a problem the IEA blames primarily on human failures. IEA forecasts that China and India alone will add about 13 million barrels a day to the global demand by 2030.

But the IEA forecasts world oil supply at 116 million barrels a day by 2030, up from 85 million barrels a day now – enough to meet expected demand. Some top oil company CEOs disagree. Christophe de Margerie, chief of the French oil giant Total, said in late October that a supply level of even 100 million barrels a day – barely enough to cover anticipated growth from China and India alone – is "optimistic."

"It is not my view. It is the industry view, or the view of those who like to speak clearly, honestly and not ... just try to please people," Mr. de Margerie said.

And ConocoPhilips CEO James Mulva told a financial conference earlier this month: "Demand will be going up, but it will be constrained by supply. I don't think we are going to see the supply going over 100 million barrels a day, and the reason is: Where is all that going to come from?"

That's the question adherents to peak-oil theory ask. They argue that the world either has or soon will have reached the maximum output level of its oil reserves and that supply can only decline from here on out – even as demand skyrockets.

Though some dismiss them as crude-oil Cassandras, the peak-oilers are not wild-eyed pessimists. Their number includes men like T. Boone Pickens, the Dallas oil tycoon, and Houston's Matt Simmons, who founded the world's largest energy investment banking company. They point to hard data indicating that the world is quite simply running out of oil and doing so quickly ( and are two good Web sites compiling peak-oil news, analysis and information).

If they're right, peak oil poses a far more critical challenge to our civilization than global warming. The modern industrial world cannot function in any recognizable form without cheap and plentiful oil. Stu Hart, a Cornell management professor, warned on public radio recently that "we're in the midst of the crash of the system" – meaning that absent breakthroughs in the way the world meets its energy needs, we are in for rough times.

What would life after peak oil mean for Dallas and its surrounding suburbs, a metropolis created by the availability of cheap energy?

Cars would be an unaffordable luxury for most, making life in suburbia difficult, perhaps impossible, to sustain. Likewise, air travel and shipping likely would be sharply curtailed as too costly, causing Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, a major regional economic engine, to slow substantially.

Truck transport, too, would diminish, causing a sharp slowdown in the consumer economy and, crucially, making the kind of grocery-store bounty we now enjoy a thing of the past. And with a general rise in energy costs blasting electric bills into the stratosphere, we may all have to get used to – wait for it – life without air conditioning.

Jeffrey Brown, a Richardson geologist who has been active in the peak-oil debate, advises far-sighted folks to abandon the outlying suburbs and exurbs and move closer to the city center. "The smart money has been moving in," he said. "The closer you are to job centers, the more stable the property values have been. That will continue."

Post-peak-oil conditions would reverse globalization, forcing a return to intensely local agriculture and local manufacturing. The stores and services that communities need in order to carry on everyday life would emerge in neighborhoods, as in the pre-automobile era. Cities would empty out, with rural areas and small towns in agriculturally rich areas reviving. Culturally, all Americans would have to undergo a Great Relearning of skills and social habits that our ancestors developed to survive in community.

"My hopeful view is that we'll be living like we did at the turn of the 20th century, but with computers," Mr. Brown said. And he's right: Americans have done this before and can do it again, if scientists don't come up with a solution before the oil spigot starts to sputter.

But no one should be under the romantic illusion that life would be easy then or that the transition would be smooth. We will be poor. Our sons probably would be sent overseas to fight resource wars. Back home, regions of America where tens of millions of people live will be uninhabitable – especially the Southwest and much of suburbia. The economic contraction and social dislocation will be, in many cases, nothing short of catastrophic and will produce political upheaval. Radical conditions easily could produce radicalism.

Which could explain why so many people aren't paying attention to peak-oil concerns; we have a financial and emotional investment in the status quo.

As Matt Simmons pointed out at a peak-oil conference in Houston this fall, if global warming predictions prove out, it won't be a serious crisis for the planet until many decades into the future. If peak-oil fears prove out, the crisis could be upon us in very short order – and indeed may already have begun.

It is possible that we haven't reached peak oil yet – nobody can say for sure, because governments and oil companies keep much data confidential – but the signs of the times are not encouraging. Now is not the time for survivalist panic or denial-based paralysis.

It is time, however, for discerning people – not only decision-makers, but every one of us – to start talking about and urgently planning for a peak-oil future. It may come sooner, it may come later, but it's coming.

Rod Dreher is a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist. His e-mail address is

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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