For months now Native American and First Nation tribes from Canada have been protesting the $3.8 billion pipeline that would carry Bakken crude oil across four states, a portion of which has raised environmental and safety concerns from several federal agencies. Last week the protest turned violent at the Standing Rock site when the company …
Sep 07 2016
Sep 22 2015
Last week Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton put the White House on notice that she could not wait much longer to take a stand about building the Keystone XL pipeline. The wait is over. At an Iowa event Secretary Clinton let her view be known.
Her fellow candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has opposed the pipeline since its inception, was “glad that Secretary Clinton finally has made a decision,” and welcomed “her opposition to the pipeline.”
While it’s disappointing she didn’t do this while she was Secretary of State, she did explain her reasons for opposing it now
“I was in a unique position as secretary of state at the start of this process, and not wanting to interfere with ongoing decision making that the President and Secretary (of State John) Kerry have to do in order to make whatever final decisions they need,” Clinton said. “So I thought this would be decided by now, and therefore I could tell you whether I agree or disagree, but it hasn’t been decided, and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility to you and voters who ask me about this.”
Considering the non-stop media coverage of Pope Francis’ arrival in Washington, DC, this will most likely be pretty much ignored by the news media.
Aug 31 2015
Quest for Oil Gamers hunt for the best oil fields in deep water off Qatar and in the North Sea.
And to master the challenge players need to learn and test analytic skills looking for oil on a seismic map.
Once a likely location is assessed, accurate drilling techniques are needed to avert disaster as players test their wits against “an artificially intelligent digital opponent” that is dedicated to making players lose.
Imagine if seismic analysis was not applied to the oceans, a more open frontier despite the Law of the Sea but to the task of fracking, what kind of multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG) could be hypothesized – sim occupants fleeing their devalued homes and with real-time strategy you could predict the earthquake or poisoned water using your smartphone apps. The first step has been taken with the maritime giant Maersk with a recent MMORPG. Rather than bullying feminists, now the misogynist Canadian gamergaters could help terrify thousands with digital tar sands CGI simulations, and maybe even add a Call of Duty patch to kill digital inhabitants of oil producing countries.
Quest for Oil is a multiplayer online game to help supply globalization not unlike America’s Army in the propaganda battle to continue to resource the shock doctrine and hence maintain global armed conflict.
It raises new questions about what gets to be culturally appreciated as though resource accumulation could be a projectable commodity with few renewable substitutes and oil exploration was somehow something like “boldly going where no one has gone before”. OTOH budding geologists could be enticed to see that their work has no apparent social costs or externalities.
Quest for Oil
The Middle East leads the board in crude exports with 850.1 million tonnes shipped out in 2014. It’s followed by Russia (294.8), West Africa (213.9), and Canada (148.6).
In terms of product exports, like gasoline and diesel, the US is No. 1 with 179.9 million tonnes, closely trailed by, again, Russia and the Middle East.
On the flip side, Europe is the biggest importer of both crude (446.9) and product imports (173.5). The US, China, India, Japan, and Australasia are also major consumers of both crude and refined product.
This map also serves as a pretty good tool for seeing who benefitted from the lower oil prices, and who suffered from them.
….the reappearance of structural scarcity in the realm of energy enabled the OPEC countries to multiply the price of oil by ten in the 1970s, i.e. to have it determined by the oilfields where production costs are the highest, thereby assuring the owners of the cheapest oil wells in Arabia, Iran, Libya, etc. huge differential minerals rents.
Marx’s theory of land and mineral rent can be easily extended into a general theory of rent, applicable to all fields of production where formidable difficulties of entry limit mobility of capital for extended periods of time. It thereby becomes the basis of a marxist theory of monopoly and monopoly surplus profits, i.e. in the form of cartel rents (Hilferding, 1910) or of technological rent (Mandel, 1972). Lenin’s and Bukharin’s theories of surplus profit are based upon analogous but not identical reasoning (Bukharin, 1914, 1926; Lenin, 1917).
Aug 20 2015
This past Monday, the Obama administration issued the final permits allowing Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc. to begin drilling oil wells in the Arctic. This is the same oil conglomerate that lost control of its drilling rig in December of 2012 that crashed onto the Alaskan coast in heavy seas. The disaster also lead to eight felony convictions and a $12.2 million fine
Considering President Barack Obama’s promises to focus on climate change and big speeches on controlling carbon emissions, this has to be one of his most hypocritical decisions. Compounding that hypocrisy, the president has planned a visit to the Arctic region later this month. He is the first sitting president to do so. This decision didn’t sit well with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who expressed her opposition in tweets and at her press conference in Nevada:
I think the very grave difficulties that Shell encountered the last time they tried to do that should be a red flag for anybody. I have been to the Arctic, I have been to Barrow, our most northernmost outpost in the United States and I think we should not risk the potential catastrophes that could come about from accidents in looking for more oil in a pristine – one of the few remaining pristine regions of the world.
In a segment on her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow blasted the president calling this decision “the most awkward and ill-timed thing he’s done in a long time”
While we should praise Secretary Clinton for this stand and her environmental platform that put an emphasis on renewable energy, she now needs to take a stand on the KeystoneXL pipeline.
May 15 2015
ust about 45 minutes before the tragic train wreck in Philadelphia, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow had this report about the potential for a nuclear disaster, the proximity to nuclear missile sites of rail lines that carry volatile crude oil.
So what does the Republican led House do? They cut funding to Amtrak.
Feb 10 2015
I have a couple articles for your perusal this morning.
First, an interesting take on the reasons behind what Saudi Arabia is currently doing regarding their oil:
In 2000, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former oil minister of Saudi Arabia, gave an interview in which he said:
“Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”
Oct 05 2014
Last Tuesday, in his speech to the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister of Israel added a new power to the “Axis of Evil”. According to Netanyahu, “Militant Islamists” (including not only ISIS in Iraq and Syria but Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and other Al Qaeda groups in Africa and the Middle East)”, want to dominate the world like the Nazis; only unlike the Nazis, they believe in a “Master faith” instead of a “Master Race”
Obama, in his speech four days earlier announcing that he would begin Air Strikes in Syria, also discussed “extreme fundamentalism” in the Middle East. Although he did not specify Islamists as the only fundamentalists, he emphasized the necessity of eliminating these groups and, using a combination of the idea of “American Exceptionalism” and a retread of the colonial playbook where the civilized countries (read mostly white, western) have to quell the extreme militant fundamentalists (read “savages”)in the Middle East. This was of course, his justification for invading Syria and bombing ISIS.
The “Axis of Evil”, originally inspired b the Nazis in World War II, was recreated by George W. Bush in 2002 and initially included three Nation States –Iraq, Iran and North Korea –and became Bush’s excuse to invade Iraq. Under his administration, this concept was later expanded to include Cuba, Libya and Syria. The American president offered no evidence to support what we now know was slander and had much more to do with protecting US oil interests than protecting the American people, not to mention the lives of other peoples of the world.
Of the original six members, Cuba and North Korea are effectively quarantined by Western-imposed embargoes, isolated from balanced international relations and development. Of the other four, Iraq and Libya, were invaded by US-led forces in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism, and have been destroyed and realigned to serve Western interests.
It is no accident that Obama is targeting one of the two remaining members, Syria, while changing the stakes from targeting a specific country to the concept of “extreme (read Islamic) fundamentalism” which is much broader and not hampered by nation state boundaries blurring the lines of what is legal and illegal under international law as well as increasing the threat of endless war since it is unclear what nation state you would negotiate with to end the war.
In analyzing the current crisis with ISIS, an historical analysis provides some perspective. Since the 1970’s, capitalist interests have morphed into a toxic combination of religious fundamentalism and extreme militarism to achieve their economic goals — whether that is the reawakening of the Christian-based KKK and the rise of the Patriots and Tea Party in the United States; the Evangelicals, military dictators and death squads in Latin America; the Orthodox Zionist Jews and the concept of a Greater Israel in the Palestinian conflict; or extreme Islamic fundamentalism in the larger Middle East.
It is unclear why this fundamentalism has such appeal these days – maybe it’s because the world is scarier as we globalize and people want to retreat to the “good old days”, to concepts they believe will not change. Maybe it’s because fundamentalism is unquestioning and based on faith rather than reason and it makes it easier for the 1% to manipulate the rest of us. Maybe it is because religious fundamentalism is not restricted by national borders and makes it easier to rationalize the new global paradigm. Maybe it is a combination of all of these.
Whatever the reason, the drums of war are rumbling again, and we are hoping that the drum beats will be loud enough to drown out the voice of reason by finding a new enemy. An enemy who can be the bad guy — pure evil that must be squelched mercilessly which we can only do with war. We, of course, are the “good guys” and wear the white hat because, as always, “God (and a white supremacist morality) is on our side.”
But I would suggest it is not Islamic extremists, terrorists, drug lords, rogue states, corrupt regimes, authoritarian superpowers or Eastern Block” (the “Red Menace sans Communism)who are “the enemy.” It is the multinational oil interests, the military industrial complex and the American government and its allies who are the real “axis of evil.” It is the system of capitalist corruption, exploitation and enrichment that has put the world into poverty, conflict and on the brink of yet another major war.
Feb 20 2014
If rising temperatures and sea levels from climate change don’t get us, maybe an earthquake or toxic fumes from hydraulic fracturing will. Meanwhile the oil companies continue to dig these wells with minimum regulation or information on the impact to the environment. What we do know is rather frightening when the earth moves under your feet especially where it’s not expected
No strangers to nature’s fury, Oklahomans grow up accustomed scorching heat, blizzards, wrecking-ball thunderstorms and tornadoes. What they don’t see a lot of are earthquakes, which have been rattling the Sooner State with rare frequency of late – at least 115 earthquakes of varying intensities in the last week. [..]
State authorities are now trying to get the bottom of the unusual seismic activity. Holland is amassing resources and data to figure out what might be to blame, and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees the oil and gas industry, has already proposed new testing and monitoring requirements for wells injected with drilling wastewater, which some have blamed for the increase in earthquakes. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, involving explosions being set off underground, has also been blamed by some for the swarm. [..]
It’s true that Oklahoma has a history of earthquake swarms that spike and then die down, but it’s also true that humans have caused earthquakes in the past. And previous swarms have been nowhere near as serious as this latest one. “We do know there have been some earthquakes caused by oil and gas activity in the state,” Holland, the research seismologist, said. “The hard part is figuring out which is which.”
At least on governor is concerned about public safety enough to appoint a commission to look into the unusual seismic activity in his state.
Calling it a “matter of public safety,” Gov. Sam Brownback has appointed a committee to study whether oil and gas activity is behind the recent spate of minor earthquakes in Kansas.
Expansion of the oil and gas recovery method known as “fracking” has coincided with a series of small quakes in areas that had long been seismically stable. Fracking doesn’t appear to cause the problem, but an increase in oil and gas production and disposal of waste fluids associated with fracking could be behind the recent temblors that have shaken south-central Kansas and northern Oklahoma, scientists said Monday.
In Dunkard Township, Pennsylvania, 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, two of Chevron’s natural gas wells exploded last week burning for five days, leaving one worker injured and another missing and presumed dead. After the fires were out, Chevron sent a letter of apology to the residents of the nearby town of Bobtown. Included in the letter was a coupon for a free large pizza and a 2-liter bottle of soda.
Besides the ground shaking, contamination of underground water supplies, explosions and fires, another problem has arisen, literally, increased air pollution to the point that the air is so toxic that it is making people sick. A study released by The Weather Channel, the Center for Public Integrity and InsideClimate News looked into just how bad the air quality has become near the Eagle Ford Shale site in southern Texas. The summary of their findings describes how the Texas regulators are protecting the industry rather than the public:
- Texas’ air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford. Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.
- Thousands of oil and gas facilities, including six of the nine production sites near the Buehrings’ house, are allowed to self-audit their emissions without reporting them to the state. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which regulates most air emissions, doesn’t even know some of these facilities exist. An internal agency document acknowledges that the rule allowing this practice “[c]annot be proven to be protective.”
- Companies that break the law are rarely fined. Of the 284 oil and gas industry-related complaints filed with the TCEQ by Eagle Ford residents between Jan. 1, 2010, and Nov. 19, 2013, only two resulted in fines despite 164 documented violations. The largest was just $14,250. (Pending enforcement actions could lead to six more fines).
- The Texas legislature has cut the TCEQ’s budget by a third since the Eagle Ford boom began, from $555 million in 2008 to $372 million in 2014. At the same time, the amount allocated for air monitoring equipment dropped from $1.2 million to $579,000.
- The Eagle Ford boom is feeding an ominous trend: A 100 percent statewide increase in unplanned, toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production since 2009. Known as emission events, these releases are usually caused by human error or faulty equipment.
- Residents of the mostly rural Eagle Ford counties are at a disadvantage even in Texas, because they haven’t been given air quality protections, such as more permanent monitors, provided to the wealthier, more suburban Barnett Shale region near Dallas-Fort Worth.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow examined some of the ills of fracking and discusses the report with Jim Morris, senior reporter and editor at the Center for Public Integrity.
Transcript can be read here
Transcript can be read here
Feb 01 2014
The Koch brothers must be thrilled. Late this afternoon, the US State Department released its environmental impact study on the Keystone XL pipeline that, if approved, will carry the dirtiest oil in the world from Canada, across the US heartland to the Gulf Coast where it will be sent to China and other foreign markets.
In the final review, the study concludes that the pipeline would have little environmental impact, and would likely have no significant effect on carbon emissions. This fits the criteria that President Barack Obama has said that he would need to approve the construction.
The State Department, in Friday’s report, essentially concluded that Keystone would have little material effect on greenhouse gas emissions and that Canada would continue to develop and ship tar sands crude with or without the pipeline. [..]
The review included models suggesting that transporting oil by rail would generate even more greenhouse gas emissions than a pipeline, and also discussed measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline. [..]
The campaign against Keystone XL has become a national movement over the last three years, with environmental activists, Nebraska landowners and hedge fund managers all coming out against the project. In 2012, Obama, under pressure from landowners concerned about underground water sources and sensitive prairie, rejected the first proposed route for the pipeline across Nebraska. [..]
The State Department had conducted two earlier environmental reviews of the project. Last March, it found that if Obama rejected the pipeline Alberta crude would go to market by rail or other pipelines. But it revisited the issue under criticism from the Environmental Protection Agency, which said the early reviews had not been broad enough.
There is one more report to be released on an investigation by the State Department Inspector General of allegations that that a contractor’s review was biased because of connections to TransCanada and the oil industry.
The accusations stem from the release of unredacted documents submitted to the State Department by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the consultant hired to perform the environmental review. Those documents, released by Mother Jones in May, show that analysts who worked on the Keystone report had previously worked for TransCanada and “other energy companies poised to benefit from Keystone’s construction.” [..]
In July, Friends of the Earth and the Checks and Balances Project, another advocacy group, said they uncovered publicly available documents online that show TransCanada, ERM, and an ERM subsidiary have worked together at least since 2011 on a separate pipeline project in Alaska. Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek posted a 2010 document in which ERM lists TransCanada as a client.
If true, the department would have to conduct another study.
The battle to keep the grease in the ground is not over.
Sign the petition and tell President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to Protect the Earth’s Future and Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Jan 02 2014
Here’s Jung from his book ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’, published in 1963, 2 years after his death, in the paragraphs with which he closes the chapter “The Tower”:
Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The “newness” in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components. Body and soul therefore have an intensely historical character and find no proper place in what is new , in things that have just come into being. That is to say, our ancestral components are only partly at home in such things. We are very far from having finished completely with the Middle Ages, classical antiquity, and primitivity, as our modern psyches pretend.
Nevertheless, we have plunged down a cataract of progress, which sweeps us on into the future with ever wilder violence the farther it takes us from our roots. Once the past has been breached, it is usually annihilated, and there is no stopping the forward motion. But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilisation and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up.
We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by a mounting sense of insufficiency, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. We no longer live on what we have, but on promises, no longer in the light of the present day, but in the darkness of the future, which, we expect, will at last bring the proper sunrise. We refuse to recognise that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is cancelled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us.
The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.
Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications, which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before. Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli est – all haste is of the devil, as the old masters used to say.
Reforms by retrogressions, on the other hand, are as a rule less expensive and in addition more lasting, for they return to the simpler, tried and tested ways of the past and make the sparsest use of newspapers, radio, television, and all supposedly timesaving innovations.
In this book I have devoted considerable space to my subjective view of the world, which, however, is not a product of rational thinking. It is rather a vision such as will come to one who undertakes, deliberately, with half-closed eyes and somewhat closed ears, to see and hear the form and voice of being. If our impressions are too distinct, we are held to the hour and minute of the present and have no way of knowing how our ancestral psyches listen to and understand the present – in other words, how our unconscious is responding to it. Thus we remain ignorant of whether our ancestral components find elementary gratification in our lives, or whether they are repelled. Inner peace and contentment depend in large measure upon whether or not the historical family, which is inherent in the individual, can be harmonised with the ephemeral conditions of the present.
In the Tower at Bollingen it is as if one lived in many centuries simultaneously. The place will outlive me, and in its location and style it points backwards to things of long ago. There is very little about it to suggest the present. If a man of the sixteenth century were to move into the house, only the kerosene lamp and the matches would be new to him; otherwise, he would know his way about without difficulty. There is nothing to disturb the dead, neither electric light nor telephone. Moreover, my ancestors’ souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house. There I live in my second personality and see life in the round, as something forever coming into being and passing on.
Jul 21 2013
Capitalism causes cancer,
both the kind you’re thinking of,
and another kind:
Cities are tumors on the Earth,
our precious home planet.
Feb 20 2013
Part 1 described how humans face multiple ongoing, interlocking and spiraling crises of existential proportions, all of which can be conveniently subsumed under the theme of carrying capacity, the ability of an environment to support a population at the limit of sustainability, a limit we have exceeded. The basic elements of the story are these: Through the exploitation of fossil fuels, humans have over-run the planet, cantilevering the entirety of complex industrial society on finite sources of fossil fuels, which we are using to extract itself other resources unsustainably to the point of collapse while altering the basic chemical and biophysical operating conditions of life. Thus, the collapse of the physical environment threatens mass extinction on the order of five previous mass extinction events on Earth. This is not exactly news, yet it’s tenaciously more controversial than it should be. Today’s tour examines how we got locked into one particular death spiral, the “debt spiral,” that keeps us locked into the fossil fuel death spiral.
The very recent “success” of humans in economically advanced countries has culturally engendered a misleading assessment of human accomplishment, deranged notions of wealth, and conditioned unwarranted expectations for more of the same. To borrow a phrase from Jim Hightower, industrial humans were “born on third base and thought they hit a triple.” The baptismal font of fossil fuels has fostered a belief system in which the religion is growth and the supreme being is the Lord of More, an orthodoxy that is both irrational and nearly ubiquitous in industrialized nations, and probably far more damaging than any conventional dogma Richard Dawkins has railed against. The irrationality of this system stems from the simple fact continual growth of any kind is impossible in a finite world.
Despite its root insanity, this belief system has been not merely elevated as a national narrative, but has been reified as the operating system of our physical economy in the form of debt-based financing. Still worse, as the leading global power of “The American Century,” we have pushed to globalize this operating system on the rest of the world, to exert a kind of neocolonial control over resources and political systems through inventive regimes of debt and discipline, and largely succeeded.
On the ascending limb of resource extraction, economic growth, and credit expansion, debt-based assets could be rolled over into the foreseeable future, and interest-laden fiat capital could function as a tradable substitute for actual resources, such as oil. The belief in infinite resource extraction has allowed debt-based fiat economies to runaway from ecological reality. As alluded to in part 1, we are hitting hard limits to physical capacity, leaving only imaginary exponential functions to vary to infinity. The master resource of oil has by any reasonable estimate begun its terminal decline, which guarantees economic contraction, which in turn certifies the impossibility of rolling all the old debt into new debt. Thus the viral proliferation of the operating system has also hit hard limits, and the ascending limb of inflationary credit expansion has transformed into its nasty alter ego of deflationary credit contraction. The American wealth pump has begun to run in reverse. How did we get here?