Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Energy Challenge of Our Lifetime

November 10, 2008

November 9, 2008
Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Energy Challenge of Our Lifetime

Today, TomDispatch offers the first serious overview in the new Obama era of what energy expert and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, Michael T. Klare, terms the “challenge of our lifetime”: the American energy crisis. And so it is. But here’s the irony. As energy prices soared these last years — a perfect moment to have put real human energy (and funds) into the development of renewable alternatives — an all-oil-all-the-time, drill-baby-drill administration launched its oil wars while simply ignoring long-term solutions to our energy problems (except for a disastrous sally into corn-based biofuel). Now, amid global economic devastation, the price of oil has dropped precipitously, more than halving its 2007 top price of $147 a barrel. As last week ended, the price of a barrel of crude oil briefly dipped below $60, once again making investment in alternative, renewable energy systems look unprofitable and — global warming aside — beside the point.

But don’t believe it for a second. Consider present global energy prices the equivalent of a mirage. Just this week, the International Energy Agency released the findings from its upcoming annual report, warning that, in the coming years, oil will once again break the $100 a barrel barrier and — they target 2030, but it could be far sooner — the $200 barrier as well. Whether six months or six years from now, a new spike in energy prices, if we are unprepared, could rock an already staggering planet.

No time, it’s clear, will be the right time to invest our scientific prowess, technological skill, and funds in the genuine, safe energy future that we need, which is why it must simply be done — and soon. For a nation that once had a can-do reputation, but has lived through its share of can’t-do administrations, Klare’s warning about the real challenge that faces us should be sobering indeed. Tom

Obama’s Toughest Challenge

America’s Energy Crunch Comes Home

By Michael T. Klare

Of all the challenges facing President Barack Obama next January, none is likely to prove as daunting, or important to the future of this nation, as that of energy. After all, energy policy — so totally mishandled by the outgoing Bush-Cheney administration — figures in each of the other major challenges facing the new president, including the economy, the environment, foreign policy, and our Middle Eastern wars. Most of all, it will prove a monumental challenge because the United States faces an energy crisis of unprecedented magnitude that is getting worse by the day.

The U.S. needs energy — lots of it. Day in and day out, this country, with only 5% of the world’s population, consumes one quarter of the world’s total energy supply. About 40% of our energy comes from oil: some 20 million barrels, or 840 million gallons a day. Another 23% comes from coal, and a like percentage from natural gas. Providing all this energy to American consumers and businesses, even in an economic downturn, remains a Herculean task, and will only grow more so in the years ahead. Addressing the environmental consequences of consuming fossil fuels at such levels, all emitting climate-altering greenhouse gases, only makes this equation more intimidating.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Georgia-Russia Conflict -What Do We Know About it? byBruce Gagnon, Global Network

August 13, 2008

Bruce Gagnon shares observations and insights based on issues he has been following for some time and on linkages he has come to see between what is going on in places like Poland, Czech Republic, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, and the Georgia-Russia conflict. Here are some excerpts from his posting:
“What Do We Know About Georgia-Russia Conflict?”, which is on his Organizing Notes blog:

* It’s all about oil and natural gas. Russia has the world’s largest supply of natural gas and Iran has the world’s second largest supply. There is much oil and natural gas up in the Caspian Sea region. Which ever country controls this part of the world will have a jump start in controlling the keys to the world’s economic engine for the foreseeable future.

* The expanding economy of China has tremendous need for energy. China now imports much of its oil via sea (thru the Taiwan Straits) and the U.S. has in recent years doubled its naval presence in this region pursuing the ability to “choke off” China’s ability to import oil. China is looking for alternative, land routes, to transmit oil thus pipelines through Central Asia become crucial. U.S. permanent bases in Afghanistan and attempts to put military bases in other Central Asian countries is in large part an attempt to create the ability to control these pipeline routes. F. William Engdahl, author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, maintains that, “Washington is out to deny China east land access to either Russia, the Middle East or to the oil and gas fields of the Caspian Sea.”

[…]

Read Bruce Gagnon’s entire post here.

**Bruce Gagnon is co-ordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He frequently travels and offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America’s declining
empire.


Tomgram: Dilip Hiro: The Energy Reality We Face

July 18, 2008

Last week, after hitting $146 a barrel, the price of crude oil took a sudden, two-day, $9 plunge, based in part on comments by Iranian President Ahmadinejad that an attack on Iran was unlikely and on a mid-Atlantic turn north by Bertha, the season’s first significant hurricane, away from the oil-rig and refinery rich Gulf of Mexico. It was just long enough for pundits to wonder, hesitantly and somewhat wistfully, whether the global economic bad weather had finally hit the oil market, and whether lowered demand meant that a new (downward) trend was on the way. That was, of course, before the Iranians started lobbing missiles, and traders got edgy about a promised week-long strike at Brazil’s state-run oil giant Petrobras and the kidnapping of at least one foreign ! oil worker in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. By Friday, the “trend” was toast and the price of a barrel of crude had briefly crested above $147.

Get used to it. As Middle Eastern (which means “oil”) expert Dilip Hiro indicates, we’ve definitively entered the era of no-relief-in-sight and there’s no turning back now either. The author of a vivid history of oil in our world, Blood of the Earth, The Battle for the World’s Vanishing Oil Resources, Hiro considers why the present oil shock can’t be compared to the three shocks that preceded it and then explores just where the planet is likely to look in the medium term for energy (and global warming) relief.

Energy is obviously going to remain fiercely at the heart of our problems, locally and globally, indefinitely. Tomdispatch plans to respond to this essential reality with a range of different perspectives on energy in the coming year. Tom

The Current Oil Shock

No Relief in Sight
By Dilip Hiro

When will it end, this crushing rise in the price of gasoline, now averaging $4.10 a gallon at the pump? The question is uppermost in the minds of American motorists as they plan vacations or simply review their daily journeys. The short answer is simple as well: “Not soon.”

As yet there is no sign of a reversal in oil’s upward price thrust, which has more than doubled in a year, cresting recently above $146 a barrel. The current oil shock, the fourth of its kind in the past three-and-a-half decades, and the deadliest so far, shows every sign of continuing for a long, long stretch.

The previous oil shocks — in 1973-74, 1980, and 1990-91 — stemmed from specific interruptions of energy supplies from the Middle East due, respectively, to an Arab-Israeli war, the Iranian revolution, and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Once peace was restored, a post-revolutionary order established, or the invader expelled, vital Middle Eastern energy supplies returned to normal. The fourth oil shock, however, belongs in a different category altogether.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Tomgram: Finally, the Oil…

July 12, 2008

This excellent Tomgram by my friend Tom Engelhardt arrived from him in my inbox from a few weeks ago. That was when I had lots of problems with my computer and wasn’t online, hence missed posting it here until I found it among my huge backlog now:


Tomgram: Finally, the Oil…

[Note for TomDispatch readers: It’s worth mentioning that the missing Iraqi oil story — see below — wasn’t missing online, and certainly not at TomDispatch. This site’s newest book, The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire, has a section labeled “The Petro-Industrial Complex and its Discontents,” including striking pieces by Michael Klare and Michael Schwartz on our gasoholic Pentagon and the prize of Iraqi oil. Again, I urge readers to consider supporting TomDispatch and its efforts by picking up a book that should, I think, be in any serious library of our mad age of Bush the Younger. Tom]

No Blood for… er… um…

The Oil Majors Take a Little Sip of the Ol’ Patrimony

By Tom Engelhardt

More than five years after the invasion of Iraq — just in case you were still waiting — the oil giants finally hit the front page…

Last Thursday, the New York Times led with this headline: “Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back.” (Subhead: “Rare No-bid Contracts, A Foothold for Western Companies Seeking Future Rewards.”) And who were these four giants? ExxonMobil, Shell, the French company Total and BP (formerly British Petroleum). What these firms got were mere “service contracts” — as in servicing Iraq’s oil fields — not the sort of “production sharing agreements” that President Bush’s representatives in Baghdad once dreamed of, and that would have left them in charge of those fields. Still, it was clearly a start. The Times reporter, Andrew E. Kramer, added this little detail: “[The contracts] include a provision that could allow the companies to reap large profits at today’s prices: the [Iraqi oil] ministry and companies are negotiating payment in oil rather than cash.” And here’s the curious thing, exactly these four giants “lost their concessions in Iraq” back in 1972 when that country’s oil was nationalized. Hmmm.

You’d think the Times might have slapped some kind of “we wuz wrong” label on the piece. I mean, remember when the mainstream media, the Times included, seconded the idea that Bush’s invasion, whatever it was about — weapons of mass destruction or terrorism or liberation or democracy or bad dictators or… well, no matter — you could be sure of one thing: it wasn’t about oil. “Oil” wasn’t a word worth included in serious reporting on the invasion and its aftermath, not even after it turned out that American troops entering Baghdad guarded only the Oil and Interior Ministries, while the rest of the city was looted. Even then — and ever after — the idea that the Bush administration might have the slightest urge to control Iraqi oil (or the flow of Middle Eastern oil via a well-garrisoned Iraq) wasn’t worth spending a few paragraphs of valuable newsprint on.

I always thought that, if Iraq’s main product had been video games, sometime in the last five years the Times (and other major papers) would have had really tough, thoughtful pieces, asking really tough, thoughtful questions, about the effects of the invasion and ensuing chaos on our children’s lives and the like. But oil, well… After all, with global demand for energy on the rise, why would anybody want to invade, conquer, occupy, and garrison a country that, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz once observed, “floats on a sea of oil”?

And let’s be fair. At the time of the impending invasion, reasonable people couldn’t possibly have imagined that it had anything to do with oil, not while George W. Bush was politely ignoring the subject, except when referring obliquely to Iraq’s “patrimony” of “natural resources.” Forget that our President had had an 11-year career in the energy business (and had been Arbusto-ed); or that his Vice President had been the CEO of a giant energy services corporation, Halliburton — retiring during the presidential campaign of 2000 with a $34 million severance package; or that, back in those distant years, he had not hesitated to talk about the necessity of getting a tad more oil into the international pipeline. (As he told an oil industry crowd back in 1999, “By some estimates there will be an average of two percent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead along with conservatively a three percent natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from?” Where indeed? He then answered his own question: “While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”)

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Tomgram: Nick Turse, The Bush Administration Strikes Oil in Iraq

July 8, 2008

…and speaking of oil, just when we were barely getting used to Big Oil and Iraq hitting the front pages of American newspapers in tandem, here comes Afghanistan! Who now remembers that delegation of Taliban officials, shepherded by Unocal (“We’re an oil and gas company. We go where the oil and gas is…”), back in 1999, that made an all-expenses paid visit to the U.S. There was even that side trip to Mt. Rushmore, while the company (with U.S. encouragement) was negotiating a $1.9 billion pipeline that would bring Central Asian oil and natural gas through Afghanistan to Pakistan? Oh, and who was a special consultant to Unocal on the prospective deal? Zalmay Khalilzad, our present neocon ambassador to the U.N., George W. Bush’s former viceroy of Kabul and then Baghdad, and a rumored future “Afghan” presidential candidate.

Those pipeline negotiations only broke down definitively in August 2001, one month before, well, you know… and, as Toronto’s Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin put it, “Washington was furious, leading to speculation it might take out the Taliban. After 9/11, the Taliban, with good reason, were removed — and pipeline planning continued with the Karzai government. U.S. forces installed bases near Kandahar, where the pipeline was to run. A key motivation for the pipeline was to block a competing bid involving Iran, a charter member of the ‘axis of evil.'”

Well, speak of the dead and not-quite-buried. It turns out that, in April, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (acronymically TAPI) signed a Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement to build a U.S.-backed $7.6 billion pipeline. It would, of course, bypass Iran and new energy giant Russia, carrying Turkmeni natural gas and oil to Pakistan and India. Construction would, theoretically, begin in 2010. Put the emphasis on “theoretically,” because the pipeline is, once again, to run straight through Kandahar and so directly into the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.

Pepe Escobar of Asia Times caught the spirit of the moment perfectly: “The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which cannot even provide security for a few streets in central Kabul, has engaged in Hollywood-style suspension of disbelief by assuring unsuspecting customers it will not only get rid of millions of land mines blocking TAPI’s route, it will get rid of the Taliban themselves.” Nonetheless, as in Iraq, American (and NATO) troops could one day be directly protecting (and dying for) the investments of Big Oil in a new version of the old imperial “Great Game” with a special modern emphasis on pipeline politics.

There has been a flurry of reportage on the revived pipeline plan in Canada, where — bizarrely enough — journalists and columnists actually worry about such ephemeral possibilities as Canadian troops spending the next half century protecting Turkmeni energy. If you happen to live in the U.S., though, you would really have no way of knowing about such developments, no less their backstory, unless you were wandering the foreign press online.

Nick Turse, author of the indispensable new book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, considers the Iraq oil story that did, at last, hit the mainstream news here (only a few years late in the Great Game) and offers suggestions for mainstream reporters now ready to pursue the story wherever it leads, even back into an ignored, and oily, past. Tom

The Iraqi Oil Ministry’s New Fave Five

All the Oil News That’s Fit to Print (Attn: The New York Times)
By Nick Turse

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Afghanistan gas pipeline could impact Canada’s role in Afghanistan: report

July 4, 2008

This is the real reason why the US-led NATO coalition — including Canadian troops and personnel — are in Afghanistan. It has nothing to do with ‘bringing democracy to the Afghan people’ and ‘liberating them from the Taliban’. Anyone who still believes that we are indeed there for altruistic reasons should come and see me. I’m sure I can find a bridge for sale.

June 19, 2008

Afghanistan gas pipeline could impact Canada’s role in Afghanistan: report

(OTTAWA) – A new report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) raises serious questions about the impact of a proposed trans-Afghanistan natural gas pipeline on the role of Canadian Forces in that war-torn country.

A Pipeline Through a Troubled Land: Afghanistan, Canada and the New Great Energy Game documents the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which will transport natural gas 1,680 kilometres from southeast Turkmenistan through southern Afghanistan, to Pakistan and India.

The report, written by international energy economist and former lead economist of PetroCanada John Foster, describes the U.S.-backed pipeline as turning Afghanistan into “an energy bridge” between Central and South Asia.

“The U.S. is our ally and it clearly asserts the geopolitical importance of the region. But the quest for ‘energy security’ risks drawing Canada unwittingly into a new Great Energy Game,” said Foster.

A Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement, signed by representatives of the four nations on April 25, 2008, commits the four nations to initiating construction of the $7.6 billion gas pipeline in 2010, supplying gas by 2015.

“Canada’s debate has been devoid of any discussion about how building a U.S.-backed pipeline through Kandahar would affect Canadian Forces’ efforts to build peace and stability in Afghanistan’s most troubled province,” said Bruce Campbell, CCPA Executive Director. “Will Canadian Forces become guardians of this pipeline?”

The report notes that Canadian Members of Parliament and officials have participated in regional energy meetings; but in government speeches and media reports, it’s as if no meetings have ever taken place.

The report is available online at www.policyalternatives.ca

– 30 –

For further information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Communications Officer, 613-563-1341 (ext. 306).

Download the Report/Study:

· A Pipeline Through A Troubled Land: Afghanistan, Canada, and the New Great Energy Game – PDF File, 4008 Kb


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Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Pentagon as Energy Insecurity Inc.

June 16, 2008

If you thought things were bad, with a barrel of crude oil at $136 and the oil heartlands of our planet verging on chaos, don’t be surprised, but you may still have something to look forward to. Alexei Miller, chairman of Russia’s vast state-owned energy monopoly, Gazprom, just suggested that, within 18 months, that same barrel could be selling for a nifty $250. Put that in your tank and… well, don’t drive it. It will be far too valuable.

Think of Miller’s sobering prediction as, at least in part, a result of the Bush administration’s attempt to “secure” the Middle East and the oil-rich Caspian basin by force in two failing wars (and occupations). Now, imagine for a moment, what his price scenario might be if, as journalist Jim Lobe — never one to leap from rumors to sensational conclusions — recently suggested, forces in the Bush administration (and in Israel) in favor of launching an air campaign against Iran are gaining strength. Just the suggestion last week by Shaul Mofaz, an Israeli deputy prime minister, that an attack on Iran is “unavoidable” if that country doesn’t halt its nuclear program — “If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective.” — helped send the price of crude oil soaring. Imagine what an actual air attack might do.

You know that old joke: military justice is to justice as military music is to music; well, someday, not so far into the future, a similar, though far grimmer joke, is likely to be made about Washington’s attempts to secure the U.S. oil supply by military means. In the meantime, Michael Klare, author most recently of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, considers the madness of Washington’s long-term militarization of oil delivery and the devastating oil wars that have resulted. (His previous book, Blood and Oil, by the way, has recently been turned into a documentary film. Check it out.) Tom

Garrisoning the Global Gas Station

Challenging the Militarization of U.S. Energy Policy

By Michael T. Klare

American policymakers have long viewed the protection of overseas oil supplies as an essential matter of “national security,” requiring the threat of — and sometimes the use of — military force. This is now an unquestioned part of American foreign policy.

On this basis, the first Bush administration fought a war against Iraq in 1990-1991 and the second Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003. With global oil prices soaring and oil reserves expected to dwindle in the years ahead, military force is sure to be seen by whatever new administration enters Washington in January 2009 as the ultimate guarantor of our well-being in the oil heartlands of the planet. But with the costs of militarized oil operations — in both blood and dollars — rising precipitously isn’t it time to challenge such “wisdom”? Isn’t it time to ask whether the U.S. military has anything reasonable to do with American energy security, and whether a reliance on military force, when it comes to energy policy, is practical, affordable, or justifiable?

How Energy Policy Got Militarized

Click here to read more of this dispatch.