Getting it right
Lawmakers get it right sometimes. An example is the “Black Friday” bill approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin during the last week of the session. A state law dating to World War II forced retailers in the state to sell products for at least 6 percent more than they paid for them. The Oklahoma attorney general's office issued an opinion in 2011 confirming that the law banned Black Friday and other low-price sales, even if they were temporary. Senate Bill 550 legalizes such sales, which is good news for Oklahoma consumers. The law takes effect Nov. 1, just in time for retailers to put it to use on this year's Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
A study released this week says hands-free technology for cars isn't as safe as you might expect. The report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said operating some devices, which do everything from turn on your favorite music to translate speech into text, required more concentration than talking on a phone or to a passenger. An automakers' group said the study could mislead consumers, “since it suggests that hand-held and hands-free devices are equally risky.” The risks associated with hand-held devices have been widely reported, which is why 41 states and the District of Columbia have banned text-messaging for all drivers. Oklahoma bans texting only for new teenage drivers, and even then only for a brief period. Regular stories about the dangers associated with texting at the wheel keep us hoping Republican leaders at the Legislature will one day ditch their confounding opposition to banning the practice for all drivers.
At a recent congressional subcommittee hearing on problems with ethanol fuel mandates, Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, noted that his truck warranty (and many others) would be voided if he used E-15 fuel blends, which have 15 percent ethanol. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., suggested an alternative to those worried about engine destruction from E-15: Buy a Prius. Somehow, we doubt most people will want to buy a new Prius at a cost of $27,000 to $36,000 to avoid having their current car ruined by E-15. Having the federal Environmental Protection Agency simply waive the fuel requirement, which is now a solution in search of a problem, would be a more cost-effective option — not to mention sensible. Plus, Lankford noted the Prius falls short in some areas important to consumers, such as capacity. He told Speier: “I could actually, with my Ford truck, put that Prius in the back of it.”
Discovering a way to extract oil from shale formations continues to transform the U.S. energy industry. The latest Statistical Review of World Energy, issued annually by BP PLC, showed crude oil production in the United States increased an eye-popping 14 percent last year. The 8.9 million barrels per day produced last year outpaced the previous year by 1.04 million barrels per day. That's the largest one-year jump in U.S. history — well above the previous record increase of 640,000 barrels per day in 1967. President Barack Obama is sure to look for ways to credit his energy policies for this gain in the oil patch, but the truth is hydraulic fracturing is most responsible. This process of injecting water and chemicals forces oil out of dense shale formations once thought to be impermeable. It's American ingenuity at its best, and it's paying big dividends.