You may need seventeen muscles to smile, but you only need seven and a half things to know today. Here they are:
Thing One: Fracking Our Way to Glory: The United States is just one big fracking and drilling party. There's so much fracking and drilling going on around here that the oilfield services industry has added more than 150,000 jobs in the past five years, with untold thousands more jobs being created in industries that service the servicers, writes Russell Gold on Page One of The Wall Street Journal. It's a success story that President Obama touted in his State of the Union address. Plunging natural-gas prices, because of all the fracking, have also made it more attractive for steel and other energy-intensive industries to open factories here. On top of that, our drinking water will soon not only be able to quench our thirst, but can be lit on fire and used as an alternative energy source, while also providing more of the lead, mercury, formaldehyde and ethylene glycol our bodies need. And those pesky alternative-energy industries will be further starved of cash, so fewer unsightly wind farms and solar panels. Wins all around.
Thing Two: Independence Day: Please note that Gold's story does not repeat the suggestion, made on Monday by Bloomberg, that America is fracking its way to energy independence. BP, in its latest energy outlook, suggests that North America could be energy independent by 2030, but that includes Canadian energy production (as well as, more encouragingly, gains in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources). And even this energy independence might be a hollow victory, writes Bill Connerly in Forbes. After all, oil and gas will still be traded in global markets, where soaring demand from China, India and other emerging markets will keep driving prices higher and putting cash in the coffers of those Middle Eastern countries from which we're trying to win our independence.
Thing Three: Groundhog Day in Greece: If it is Wednesday, it must be time for yet another deadline in make-or-break talks about Greece's sovereign debt. We're certain that you are just as tired of hearing/reading about this as we are tired of talking/typing about it, but if this all goes pear-shaped, then your money might go up in flames more quickly than Pennsylvania well water, so we must keep watching it. Greece missed an arbitrary deadline for agreeing to austerity measures on Tuesday, resulting in threats of its expulsion from the euro zone, but the ECB helpfully agreed to swap out some of the Greek debt it holds to ease the country's troubles, the WSJ reports. Now Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos simply has to get all of the country's political factions to agree to further belt-tightening. Sounds easy.
Thing Four: Payroll Tax Cut Held Hostage, Day Two: Congressional debate on Tuesday about extending a payroll-tax cut due to expire for millions of Americans at the end of February were productive, reports Politico. And by "productive," we mean that they produced a steady barrage of insults, cookware and foodstuffs flying through the air. "Yawning partisan rifts over a number of issues were on full display," writes Seung Min Kim, with scant days left for debate before Congress is due to take several well-earned days off later in the month.
Thing Five: Pork Family Values: Congress likely needs the time to visit family members working at pork-barrel projects in their districts, if the second day of an heroic Washington Post slog through Earmark Inferno is any guide. "Some members of Congress send tax dollars to companies, colleges and community groups where their spouses, children and parents work as salaried employees, lobbyists or board members," the Post writes.
Thing Six: Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto: Somebody is finally facing criminal charges in the mortgage-foreclosure robo-signing scandal, writes David Levine of The Huffington Post. Missouri's indictment late last week of processing firm DocX and its founder mark the first time an executive has actually faced criminal charges, Levine writes. The key question now: Is this the start of a trend, or a one-off?
Thing Seven: Groupon Speaks: After the closing bell today, watch out for earnings from Groupon, its first report as a public company. Groupon's stock-market debut last month was a bit of a flop, raising questions about whether Wall Street had pushed this tech-IPO thing a little too far lately. But Groupon may report its first profit in nearly two years, writes MarketWatch.
Thing Seven and a Half: Screen Time: We spend more time these days looking at screens than we do at the faces of our loved ones, assuming we have loved ones and not just people we follow on Twitter. The New York Times reports that the screen arms race has also extended to the workplace, where many of us are being walled off from our co-workers by a proliferation of screens on our desks, like we're Wall Street traders or something.