US Climate Inaction: Blame Dick Cheney

In one of my earliest blog posts ever–one I’ve lost somewhere–I grappled with why the Bush Administration would choose their Iraq adventure in the face of Peak Oil and climate change.

Why, at the time the US enjoyed its greatest relative power, after Dick Cheney had fought his earliest battles to dodge congressional oversight with his energy task force to study declining readily explotable oil and its alternatives, would the Bush Administration expend America’s hegemonic power in an illegal invasion of Iraq?

This post, asking whether the US refuses to do anything about climate change because it will affect the US relatively less than it will affect other countries, reminded me of that post I wrote years ago.

What if the leaders of the United States — and by leaders I mean the generals in the Pentagon, the corporate executives of the country’s largest enterprises, and the top officials in government — have secretly concluded that while world-wide climate change is indeed going to be catastrophic, the US, or more broadly speaking, North America, is fortuitously situated to come out on top in the resulting global struggle for survival?

[snip]

What prompted me to this dark speculation about an American conspiracy of inaction was the seemingly incomprehensible failure of the US — in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Earth is heating up at an accelerating rate, and that we are in danger of soon reaching a point of no return where the process feeds itself — to do anything to reduce either this country’s annual production of more atmospheric CO2, or to promote some broader international agreement to slow the production of greenhouse gases.

The conclusion to that 8 year old post–one I still think is valid–is that in the face of both Peak Oil and climate change, Cheney committed the US to doubling down on the source of its hegemonic power in the belief that by retaining hegemonic power for this period of transition out of oil and into alternatives, it would retain hegemonic power thereafter.

Rather than invest the trillion dollars squandered on Iraq (or even the hundreds of billion they had to know it would cost) to make the US energy self-sufficient and lead the world in climate response, Cheney instead chose to seize the largest source of readily exploitable oil, in the process providing an alternative swing producer to the Saudis, whose citizens and funds attacked us on 9/11 (and remember, Iran was teed up to be overthrown next). By choosing the oil route, I figured, Cheney also chose the route that supported relative unilateralism rather than the cooperation that a real climate change response would and ultimately will require.

So I don’t so much think the US has decided it will ride out climate change better than other nations as I think it is intent on retaining its hegemonic position of power, which has been built since 1945 on cheap oil. Sure, the US also seems to have grown comfortable with Neo-Feudalism in the last decade, meaning the elite will happily live in their compounds protected from the instability that climate change will and already has unleashed. And the Global War on Terror will morph unnoticeably into a global counter-insurgency to protect those Neo-Feudal bastions.

But ultimately, I think, this country’s elites have decided they must retain their grasp on power no matter what. And that power rests on oil.

And don’t get me wrong. While I think Cheney fully understood the alternatives presented by this choice and made it for the rest of us, I’m not saying Democrats generally or Obama specifically are innocent. Consider Obama’s unwavering focus on energy independence, which he often cloaks in a false concern for climate change. US power is currently built off a death embrace with the Saudis. But as news reports increasingly–if prematurely–tout, we’re headed for Saudi-level targets of production. That will free us from the troubling demands the Saudis make, shore up our currency, but also keep us precisely where we are, relying on cheap oil to drive our economy and power. That is the goal of Obama’s energy choices, not replacing coal with less-polluting gas. And that explains why Obama just started selling off the rest of the Gulf for exploitation.

It’s crazy, I know. But I sincerely believe there are top secret discussions that insist if we just keep hold of power during what will undoubtedly be a chaotic fifty years, then we can fix whatever mess we’ve caused in the interim. If we can just get the oil while the getting is good, I think they believe, we can adjust to what comes later. Even if the Chinese and Koreans and Europeans will have been eating our lunch in developing new technologies, I guess they believe, we’ll be able to seize them back when the time comes.

The alternative, of course, one Dick Cheney surely recognized during his energy task force, would be to invest instead in a Manhattan project of alternative energy and to dissolve our power into the cooperative structures that will be needed in the face of climate change. That was not, and remains not, a viable option for a top American national security figure.

And so we–and the rest of the world–will melt as a result.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

32 replies
  1. pdaly says:

    I wonder if it is too late to remarry Cheney’s daughters off to the European, Asian, MiddleEastern and African elite families?

  2. x174 says:

    good analysis.

    the sick irony is the incalculable sums that have gone to nought so that the cheneys and bushes of the world can actualize their meglomaniacal delusions of full spectrum power

  3. angry bitter drunk says:

    Good post, but I don’t think it’s even that complicated. There’s money to be made, and the less oil, the more money and profit. We’ll spend the next 20-30 years blowing up mountains, poisoning groundwater and melting the Arctic, just because it’s profitable.

    That’s it.

  4. Morris Minor says:

    The plan for the past 40 years has been Neo-Feudalism, media control, and the compression of freedom. The first phase of that was readjusting oil money overseas to enable financialization. The next was privatization, liquidating the economy with the biggest sharks getting the biggest bites. Strip-mining people’s net worth via debt seems like the next phase.

    The big boys are not monolithic. They’re just the biggest sharks, and some are smarter than others. The Kochs and Pete Petersen probably don’t get it, and think they can just ride it out. Davos Man is a species, but the species has factions like any other population.

    And if, worst case scenario, the North Sea current stalls and the world switches to the next Ice Age, there’s South America and Africa. There were rumors years ago of the Bush family making a giant land purchase in Paraguay.

    “It’s no longer a blue world, Max. Where can we go?”
    “Ar-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-gen-tina?”

  5. JohnT says:

    @angry bitter drunk:

    Ding! Ding! Ding!

    We have a winner. The key in both our American style oligarchical dominated oligopoly capitalism, and our plutocratic US government is not efficiency and solving problems in a meaningful way, but just the appearance of doing so

    The key is inefficiency, and the appearance of conflict carried out by a small number of people or companies in control. The appearance of conflict is just bread and circuses for us rubes

    Think about it. How long have we had a war on cancer? How long has Jerry Lewis had his telethon? How long has the cutting edge technology in transportation been internal combustion engines? Where’s my Jetsons car? Think of the healthcare law. Obama had the perfect opportunity to get real genuine reform passed and what does he do? He invites the healthcare ceo’s to the Whitehouse and takes single payer and the public option off the table

    Gordon Gecko said out loud what their philosophy is

  6. Gimme Shelter says:

    “… the US also seems to have grown comfortable with Neo-Feudalism in the last decade, meaning the elite will happily live in their compounds protected from the instability that climate change will and already has unleashed.”

    well, Hurricane Sandy just proved that the elites’ gates cannot hold back a determined storm. and those gates are not going to hold back a determined bunch of 99%ers either, regardless of how many armoured vehicles and mercenaries they stack up in front of those gates.

    Sea Gate looks the same as many storm-scattered waterfront communities do. Home after home torn apart by the ocean. Streets filled with sand. Shattered sidewalks and clogged sewers. A sea wall, which had already been inadequate to the task of safeguarding residents, reduced to rubble.

    Ordinarily, New York City or other governmental entities might take over the tasks of restoring a middle-class neighborhood like this. But Sea Gate, with its 850 homes on Coney Island’s western tip, is not an ordinary neighborhood. It is a 113-year-old private, gated community, where the razor-wire-topped fences and armed security checkpoints that keep outsiders from its streets, beaches and parks serve as a constant reminder that the residents of this community have chosen to live apart.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/27/nyregion/new-york-city-enclaves-long-gated-want-to-let-in-storm-aid.html?pagewanted=all

  7. Gimme Shelter says:

    @angry bitter drunk: totally agree and would add one item to the list – the usa firmly believes that it can literally continue to kill its way to hegemony and we see the proof every single day.

  8. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    I also had been toying with the idea that the inaction was intentional but with slightly different logic.

    If the World’s biggest and ever growing problem is over-population, what are the mechanisms that can be used to solve it? One is to damage the environment so the most over-populated continents, Africa and Asia, become incapable of sustaining their populations. Who benefits? North and South America and Australia. Europe may be partially lost as collateral damage but that’s the price for solving this growing problem.

    This sounds so sick it revolts me to put it in print but I do not believe we in the west are led by people of integrity and can not discard the idea that even something this grotesque might be considered.

    Then again, maybe it is just greed.

    In either case, greed or ‘controlled depopulation of the poorest’ one possible counter-measure is to eliminate banking secrecy. Doing so will have almost no impact on the average citizen (99%) but will ensure those attempting to protect themselves from their destructive behaviour through accummulating wealth that can be used to purchase a comfortable future, at any price, are exposed.

    In short, remove the privilege of the few and we may see a more rational and concerted effort in solving the problem to the benefit of the many.

  9. TarheelDem says:

    For now, the fundamental fact remains that no matter how much alternative energy sources run domestic economies, militaries still run on oil. One would think that a nation planning long-term hegemony would be among the first converting its domestic economy to alternatives and refilling strategic petroleum reserve storage.

    So if there is a US elite plot, once again that elite proves themselves profoundly stupid.

  10. pdaly says:

    in response to TarheelDem @ 11: “militaries still run on oil. One would think that a nation planning long-term hegemony would be among the first converting its domestic economy to alternatives”

    I don’t know about the military, but some of the recent CIA directors have their hands in renewable energy:
    Sun Catalytix, the start up company by MIT professor Daniel Nocera is researching cheap ways to harvest solar energy
    http://www.suncatalytix.com/team.html
    Sun Catalytix has former Director of CIA John Deutch as the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board

    John Deutch, in addition to being associated with Catalytix above, is director for Cheniere Energy, http://www.cheniere.com/corporate/directors.shtml

    Gridpoint, Peter Corsell’s energy efficiency and renewable energy company
    http://www.gridpoint.com/board-directors/board-directors
    added former Director of CIA George Tenet to its Board of Advisors in 2008

    Not sure that I expected former CIA directors to be so interested in energy issues. I guess that was naive of me. They know the future predictions as well as or better than Cheney/Bush. But perhaps renewable energy is only for the military and its spying brothers and sisters.

  11. Frank33 says:

    CIA? Energy? Former CIA directors? So Jill goes to NY paid for by Adam Victor, big shot operator. Jill say P4 can help, with a no-bid coal gasification scheme. Coal gasification, similar to oil shale, requires more energy than it returns, can only be profitable with taxpayer subsidies.

    So Jill maybe flips her hair, and gets Victor’s attention. She is a South Korea Honorary Consul. But she wants 2% for facilitating the deal with the South Korea President. That is too much even for a no-bid deal. But Victor and her remain email pen pals.

    There were no other emails until Victor sent one Nov. 9, when Kelley’s name surfaced in the Petraeus scandal. He wrote two more times after that before she responded.

    When she finally did, he sent back another email in which he remarked, “When I heard about Petraeus, I thought of you.” In a follow-up email, he asked if she was still in a position to help with Korea. She didn’t respond.

    Then Abbe Lowell threatens Victor and threatens Barry Cohen for reporting that Jill may be speaking for and representing P4. Is it legal if Jill was representing P4 in a secret deal using his CIA position?

    Abbe Lowell may be obstructing justice.

  12. der says:

    Less than 15% of US population believes in evolution. The rest say god has a hand in all of the planet’s life. More than 1/2 of those say their god is coming back soon, in their lifetime and that climate change, hurricanes, wars, earthquakes, famine….it’s all god’s plan for the second coming. Then the disbelievers will wander the earth in misery while the Billy Graham’s are raptured to eternal life of puppy dog tails, sugar and spice and everything nice.

    In a 1950’s interview Carl Jung said that the biggest problem facing humans is, as already mentioned, over-population of the planet. I’ve read that the suggested tipping point of human population for the planet’s resources is less than a billion people, that’s a lot less than the number already struggling for Monsanto’s shitty soybeans. Of course 6 billion scrambling for an airdropped UN rice bag might be part of god’s cosmic plan.

    Any talk of Planned Parenthood, Green Energy, Public Options, Infrastructure spending is socialist talk, doing the work of satan….seriously that’s what’s believed. With this mindset inside what the Professional Left pejoratively refers to as “The Village” the conversation doesn’t even get off the table. Inhofe fighting the climate hoax, General Stan “Mac” making plans with Eric Prince, catholic bishops building the pyre for Sandra Fluke, and the White House looking to solve problems by consensus. We’re fucked.

    Controlling the world’s energy is equivalent to a low-cal, or really a no-cal, diet. The problem has been, always will be since “in the beginning” of light – food. I don’t believe The Village or David Petreaus have got it figured out.

    From Timothy Snyder’s review of Lizzie Collingham’s “The Taste of War” – “The energetic Japanese attacks remembered with chagrin by British and American soldiers were driven by the need to capture food from the enemy. In the end, more Japanese soldiers died from starvation and associated diseases than in combat.

    Nazi Germany planned to control a vast Eastern European empire whose inhabitants would be starved in the tens of millions. It was a rare case of planning more murder in war than actually happened. When the Nazis had to choose whom to starve in an uncertain and long war, they thought racially and picked the Jews. Most of the world’s Jews, seen by the Nazis as the source of all ills to Germany, lived in the very territories that were to be colonized. Collingham shows, and here she is in the mainstream of Holocaust historians working beyond the United States, how food shortages were one of the factors that led toward the policy of full ­ extermination.

    Another reason we dismiss the material causes of war is that aggressive wars of colonization tend to fail.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/books/review/the-taste-of-war-by-lizzie-collingham.html?pagewanted=all

    Bullets and oil will keep whoever has the most of those “resources” alive only long enough to steal from the pantry’s of the weakest.

  13. akinto says:

    This is almost too much to think about. I think you are not wrong, Marcy. It explains the wilful ignorance of those who could do something to change our doomed future.

    It kind of limits most traditional strategies for environmental change and forces us to consider strategies more like the Occupiers. (Occupants?)

  14. marksb says:

    Thanks again EW for staying focused on climate change.
    Just a note,
    “Even if the Chinese and Koreans and Europeans will have been eating our lunch in developing new technologies, I guess they believe, we’ll be able to seize them back when the time comes.”
    The universities and (to a lessor extent) our Tech companies continue to be on the leading edge of science and technology development, it’s just that we have very little manufacturing base to take the Tech to market, nor do we have a energy policy (such as much of Western Europe) to subsidize or encourage the implementation of advanced energy solutions–and startup funding lags because of the lack of a domestic market. Our universities are on the cutting edge, but our policies are fifty years (at least) in the past.
    (Here at UCSB we have two institutes that are creating new Tech in regard to materials and nano research that hold huge promise for power generation, batteries, efficient transmission of power, low-power light sources, and so on. But the companies utilizing this research to develop manufactureable products are often not US-based. The same is true for all major universities in the US.)

  15. AdamColligan says:

    This issue is very interesting, but a piece of the analysis — the role of the Iraq war as a “seizure” of oil resources — strikes me as lazy.

    Firstly, the extreme fungibility of crude oil in the global market is well known to both private observers and the oil-soaked foreign policy team of the George W. Bush administration. Establishing dedicated supply streams is rarely a profitable use of large amounts of investment. Each drop produced, even if you want it declared “yours,” simply displaces another drop you would have imported from somewhere else — the impact is on the global price of crude that you and everyone else pays.

    Secondly, everyone seems to forget that, under Oil for Food, the US and other select partners could get more or less all the cheap oil they wanted out of Iraq. And they got to do so in a process that was far less transparent and open to cronyist profiteering (especially for Cheney’s Haliburton!) than most any long-term post-inveasion scenario. The US had tremendous leverage and control in this process as the prime instigator of the sanctions.

    Thirdly, there seems to be very little empirical evidence that the US expected, sought, or has received a disproportionate share of the oil resources or oil transport contracts out of Iraq (reconstruction contract corruption notwithstanding). If the idea of the Iraq war was supposedly to stop emerging Asian preeminence in “hogging” the Middle Eastern oil supply away from a US hegemon, the US certainly seems to have done a pretty poor job of that. Check page 45 of Iraq’s IEITI Report from a year ago ( http://ieiti.org.iq/uploads/English%20IEITI%20Report%2020%20Dec.%202011.pdf ). The whole of the Americas is receiving 29% of exports to Asia’s 44%. And there is very little, if any, American presence in the transport contracting environment — the physical control of the oil from the terminal. You can argue that this situation only evolved as a result of the botched post-invasion strife, but I actually find it much more likely that this was the outcome that was always anticipated.

    Fourthly, I think that any backup argument that the Iraq war was a sort of seizure-in-waiting — a US effort to ensure that they could gain control of Iraq’s oil supply in the event of some big crisis where dedicated streams actually become important — is also dubious. If my plan is to make sure that there is some big pool of oil somewhere where I maintain a big military presence and can move in at a moment’s notice and physically carry the resource to my shores, then Iraq is the last place I would choose. Unstable or unreliable people on all sides, an absurd choke point at Hormuz…if this were really the issue, we would have just gone to Venezuela.

    Fifthly, Occam’s Razor provides us with plenty of better reasons why the W. Bush administration decided to invade Iraq. The primary concerns and challenges were not about the physical control of oil resources that needed to be shunted into some kind of US-dedicated stream. They were more practical and immediate:

    the desire for a firewall against Iran;

    the hope for a more liberal and stable state at the heart of the region that could jumpstart a broader regional future where there was less crazy Saudi death-embracing, as you aptly put it;

    genuine, if misguided, fears about state-sponsored international terrorism that called for going after the suspected states themselves;

    …and on and on. This isn’t an argument about the Iraq war being right or a good idea, but the motivations you so casually ascribe to the war’s proponents just don’t seem to make any sense. Yes, concern about oil is maybe the reason why we even care about the Gulf in the first place and so gives rise indirectly to the willingness to spend so many resources on a strategy there, for better or worse. And cheap oil has been key to the maintenance of US hegemony, so a strategy designed to reduce risk premiums on Middle Eastern oil is certainly a strong way of looking at things analytically.

    But in the current global system, cheap oil is cheap oil for everyone equally, not just whoever invaded and opened up a production center. And so how we perceive the immediate motives for something like the invasion has a strong impact on our own instincts as to how to react appropriately: the difference between how we view an operation designed to colonially “seize” a resource and an operation designed to open a market to everyone, lower prices globally, make profits on infrastructure contracts, add more wealth to the production site etc.

    The exact same clash of perceptions is coloring discussions about aggressive Chinese investment in the developing world, in particular with regard to Africa. Is Beijing intent on establishing physical control and a dedicated supply line to monopolize, “seize”, (steal?) scarce minerals and crops from the poor sub-Saharan, either now or contingently in a future crisis?

    Or is China, generally concerned about food and mineral prices, just acting on a good investment opportunity to bring goods to market whose impact will be global and diffuse but felt most strongly in China because it is the biggest market consumer of those raw materials?

    As for China, the answer may not be fully clear yet. But the difference is really very important. And if we aren’t able to see it when we look at Iraq, which was our own government’s tremendously-scrutinized decision, how can we hope to properly understand such a distinction in the future when it involves a much more opaque foreign actor?

  16. AdamColligan says:

    @AdamColligan: I’ve actually just looked at the EIA statistics for global oil consumption and imports for 2009, the year covered in the Iraqi report. (http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/iedindex3.cfm?tid=5&pid=57&aid=3&cid=regions&syid=2009&eyid=2009&unit=TBPD )

    The Americas consumed about 29.08 million bpd of the world’s 84.77 million bpd consumption, or 34.3%.

    The Americas imported 11.91 million bpd of the world’s 43.04 million bpd of total imports, or 27.7%. (9.01 million bpd of this was US imports).

    As I noted above, the Americas accounts for 29 percent of Iraqi oil exports. It would appear then that the US is not only not dominating Iraqi oil resources, but indeed the US is consuming less Iraqi oil than would be the case if all crude purchases in the world were source agnostic. And the US is importing about the same amount of Iraqi oil as would be the case if all international oil trade were source agnostic.

    Now, the US imported from Canada 1.94 million bpd in 2009 and exported to Canada 0.22 million bpd. If you want to consider that domestic (Mitt Romney loves “North American energy independence” after all), then the Americas’ share of total imports would be 9.75 million bpd out of a world import market of 40.88 million bpd, or 23 percent. So by that measure, maybe we importing Iraqi oil at slightly over a random rate.

    But even that conclusion might be skewed by the inclusion of 1.8 million bpd of US exports to the non-Canadian market, which North America of course would not re-import. If you exclude that oil, the Americas’ 2009 share is 9.75 million bpd of a global import market of 39.08 million bpd, or 24.9%. You’ll forgive me for not working out the impact of US exports to the rest of the Americas within that 1.8 million…I think the point is borne out: the US Iraq policy has not, and I think cannot have been expected to, create anything like a colonial-mercantile-style dedicated pipeline for the transfer or Iraqi crude resources to the US.

  17. AdamColligan says:

    @AdamColligan:

    I’ve actually just looked at the EIA statistics for global oil consumption and imports for 2009, the year covered in the Iraqi report. (http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/iedindex3.cfm?tid=5&pid=57&aid=3&cid=regions&syid=2009&eyid=2009&unit=TBPD ). I wanted to know: could an American dominance of Iraqi oil be hidden in the numbers somewhere?

    The Americas consumed about 29.08 million bpd of the world’s 84.77 million bpd consumption, or 34.3%.

    The Americas imported 11.91 million bpd of the world’s 43.04 million bpd of total imports, or 27.7%. (9.01 million bpd of this was US imports).

    As I noted above, the Americas accounts for 29 percent of Iraqi oil exports. It would appear then that the US is not only not dominating Iraqi oil resources, but indeed the US is consuming less Iraqi oil than would be the case if all crude purchases in the world were source agnostic. And the US is importing about the same amount of Iraqi oil as would be the case if all international oil trade were source agnostic.

    Now, the US is probably importing a greater share of Iraqi exports to the Americas than the US share of the Americas’ import market:The EIA says the US got 0.45 million bpd from Iraq’s 1.76 million bpd in exports, or 25.6%, and the US share or total world imports is 9.01 / 43.04, or 20.9%. I’ll continue to use whole Americas numbers from the audited Iraqi report for the sake of consistency. If we take that 0.45 million bpd * 365 (164.25 million barrels total in 2009) and compare it to Iraqi numbers of exports to the Americas from two terminals (page 42 of the report, 167.70 million barrels), that’s a 97.9% US share of Iraqi exports to the Americas, versus a (9.01 / 11.91 ) 76% US share of total imports to the Americas. But I think that’s picking nits to start with given the small scale of the imports, and considering how much of South America’s imports are probably coming from elsewhere in the Americas, I wouldn’t be surprised if the relative lack of Iraqi exports to the rest of the Americas was actually quite compatible with a source-agnostic world in which South America is a single entity. Removing from the world total other neighborly imports within compact, interconnected regions like Europe, the US consumption rate of Iraqi oil might even be low as a share of inter-regional crude trade.

    That’s an analysis too big for this rant, but we can and should do it in one case — north of the border, given the importance of Canada to the US, which might be masking a thirst for Iraqi oil when it comes to US trade with the rest of the world. The US imported from Canada 1.94 million bpd in 2009 and exported to Canada 0.22 million bpd. If you want to consider that domestic (Mitt Romney loves “North American energy independence” after all), then the Americas’ share of total imports would be 9.75 million bpd out of a world import market of 40.88 million bpd, or 23 percent. So by that measure, maybe the Americas are importing Iraqi oil at slightly over a random rate (29% versus 23%), but not by much.

    But even the above conclusions might be skewed by the inclusion of 1.8 million bpd of US exports to the non-Canadian market, which North America of course would not re-import. If you exclude that oil, the Americas’ 2009 share is 9.75 million bpd of a global import market of 39.08 million bpd, or 24.9%. You’ll forgive me for not working out the impact of US exports to the rest of the Americas within that 1.8 million…I think the point is borne out: the US Iraq policy has not, and I think cannot have been expected to, create anything like a colonial-mercantile-style dedicated pipeline for the transfer of Iraqi crude resources to the US.

  18. emptywheel says:

    @AdamColligan: I don’t disagree with your take on oil (though I vehemently disagree with your take on Iran, since there is so much evidence IRan was supposed to be the next step to Iraq).

    But you’re forgetting two things about oil. First, there is a global market. Nevertheless, there is a good deal of insecurity for western producers now that most of the reserves are owned by national companies. It changes the calculus for getting oil to Americans (or Brits). Furthermore, there is actually evidence in WikiLeaks and similar documents that we and the Brits were talking about favorable access. Plus stories like Hunt in Kurdistan.

    More importantly, you’re forgetting how the dollar ties to all of this. Sure, there’s a world oil price. But it is “cheap” for the US in a way it’s not for anyone else bc the dollar is still the leading reserve currency (and was the reserve currency at the time). Remember that both Iraq and Iran were talking about going off the dollar at this point. And there is plenty of evidence of us begging the Saudis to stay on the dollar since. In other words, part of it is oil. BUt part of it is the system that is based on oil plus dollars. That system continues to erode (though bankster demands for austerity in Europe have killed the Euro as the strongest threat to the dollar, yeah us!), but it is still the basis for much of our power. You could add that our embrace of shadow banking in the interim–which has accelerated since the crash–is part of this too.

    That is, it’s too simple to think of oil as solely a commodity. It’s the commodity that underlies our money system and our money system is why the US has power even beyond what our huge military commands. That’s what we’re clinging to here.

  19. thatvisionthing says:

    I’ve been leaving comments about Cheney and the dirty Sunrise Powerlink for a long time. I did much more linking in the original comment below, but that’s beyond me here.

    Reposting, from July 2011: http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2011/07/13/on-two-torture-investigations/

    Hey, Southern California here — we’ve been trying to stop the stupid Sunrise Powerlink from going in — cloaked in green, but SDGE refused to commit to that, and in fact it appears to be a taxpayer gift to SDG&E and Sempra Energy, to bring in dirty energy from Mexico and lock California in to a dirty energy future. (Click on the map (PDF) at above link.) Even though there are lawsuits pending, one of Arnold’s last acts as governor was to hold a groundbreaking publicity ceremony in Boulevard last December — on private property, only invited guests allowed in, via helicopter, bus and SUV. The protesting public was kept outside on the other side of a gate guarded by armed police. The excluded public held their own protest event outside there, with speakers, including one who spoke of a phone call from Dick Cheney (to the BLM office in El Centro? – per memory), apparently to smooth the way for the Sunrise Powerlink.

    ttp://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/4982

    Several speakers complained of corruption in both parties regarding Powerlink. “SDG&E made illegal contributions to Assemblyman Joel Anderson,” Tisdale said, referring to the Republican elected official who later returned some illicit donations and was fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission. Another speaker revealed the role of Dick Cheney in opening up public wilderness lands for large-scale energy projects.

    photo: David Hayes, who formerly lobbied for SDG&E, is now 2nd in command at Interior Dept. overseeing public lands with major energy projects planned.

    Diane Conklin, another member of Protect Our Communities Foundation, faulted President Barack Obama for appointing former Sempra Energy lobbyist David Hayes as Assistant Secretary of the Interior. “I voted for President Obama. I voted for hope and change,” she said. “What we have is a fix-is-in situation.”

    Jacob agreed. “Follow the money,” she said.

    If you scroll down in the link to where I copied that passage, check out the photo of the fire hazard map and think of the climate change drought that’s projected for Southern California’s next century. When you think of huge California wildfires, think SDG&E.

    http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/sites/eastcountymagazine.org/files/McCain-Powerlink-map.jpg photo: Donna Tisdale displays map of high fire danger areas along Powerlink route

    Jacob slammed the Governor for reneging on a pledge to fire victims. “The Governor had the nerve to visit this area after the 2007 wildfires and tell residents he was committed to fire safety,” she recalled. “The Governor’s support for this line is hypocritical,” she said, pointing to a map that displays high-fire risk areas along the Powerlink route in red. “That’s at 50 mph winds—and we all know that Santa Ana winds can be twice that.”

    Great planning, Dick! Way to go, Arnold and CPUC! (Remember the 2003 CARB vote (at 7:00) to end the zero-emissions mandate, thus killing the electric car?)

    (Bush admin federal involvement in killing California’s electric cars: youtube – Bush and Rove pushing hydrogen alternative @4:48 (note 5 miracles needed to make hydrogen practical @5:49)

    Madness… Cheney…

    The link to the 2003 CARB vote footage in the original was to an excerpt from Who Killed The Electric Car? when it was serialized on youtube; that link is dead now, but here is clip with Greek subtitles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wj6BaSVE2ZI&feature=youtu.be&t=7m9s . The significance of the CARB vote was discussed here: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/naomi-klein-on-bill-moyers-hurricanes-capitalism-democracy.html#comment-919546

    The link following that, about the Bush admin involvement in killing electric car by pushing impossible hydrogen fuel cell alternative, is here with Italian subtitles: http://youtu.be/IDzpptJ0sk0?t=1m55s — Bush pumps hydrogen @2:43 while Rove stands by talking on cell phone.

  20. thatvisionthing says:

    @pdaly: From 2011 interview of Chris Paine, Revenge of the Electric Car:

    http://youtu.be/Xb5y-uSxkCc?t=12m13s

    Chris Paine: You know, the most telling thing in this, a lot of people don’t know, but if you read the Wikileaks, there’s a lot in Wikileaks, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. ambassador, about, “You know, we are overstating oil reserves by about 40%. So heads up.” And I think this is why the Pentagon is like, “Electric cars are like a good idea, because we need the oil for our supertankers and our airplanes, and let’s have a Plan B.”

  21. thatvisionthing says:

    @thatvisionthing: Another long comment here, with links and quotes, from June 2012. Sorry if this is tmi but I think it’s important. Again, more links in the original than I can do here:

    http://my.firedoglake.com/danielmarks/2012/06/26/f-me-no-abercrombie-f-you/#comment-16

    thatvisionthing June 28th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    …Yes, there are existing power lines. Yes, that’s the energy model we are all tied into now. But we desperately need to change and do better.

    Why build the Sunrise Powerlink, when the Southwest Powerlink already exists and is underutilized? Why make green promises that aren’t promises at all and aren’t fulfilled?

    Youtube: Sunrise Powerlink: Don’t Get Fooled Again

    In 1984, SDG&E promised renewable power on the Southwest Powerlink. Today, that transmission line carries only two percent renewable power…

    and

    Youtube: SDG&E & SEMPRA’s Hidden Agenda

    Does Sempra have a hidden agenda to get low cost, dirty power from Mexico through the Sunrise Powerlink for distribution North?

    …The point of the Sunrise Powerlink, as I understand it, is that it opens a new line from Mexico to Los Angeles, and that dirty and dangerous LNG energy will be imported via Mexican ports. We’ll be locked in and stay dependent on dirty energy and dirty politics. Global warming? Not mentioned.

    If you clicked the Naked Capitalism link, you would see this back-and-forth about independent, truly green solutions — jumping in the middle:

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/05/28813.html#comment-718059

    …I live in California, am impacted by these energy projects, and attended a Sunrise Powerlink community meeting a few years ago. One of the speakers, an energy expert, was saying then that these big projects — like the Sunrise Powerlink to bring solar energy to San Diego (!) — or desert wind turbines to hook into the Powerlink — were stupid. San Diego has miles of acres of flat industrial roofs, just put solar panels and small rooftop wind turbines on site, like the galvanized whirly ones you already have. You don’t need these massive wind farms and huge transmission lines. They’re stupid. The transmission lines cause backcountry fires, like the Harris fire that wiped out so much of Southern California a few years ago, and when you get a Santa Ana wind blowing at 100 mph, the fire can’t be stopped but the wind turbines break down: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2010/jan/13/damaging-blow/

    Also at that meeting was San Diego County Supervisor Diane Jacob, who opposed the Powerlink and stressed that a key to making clean rooftop energy work was including energy sellback laws, so excess energy would have to be bought back by SDG&E/Sempra. You have rooftop but you’re also connected to the power grid. Sometimes you pull, but sometimes you push. Let a million entrepreneurs bloom. Think about it. All the crap done in the name of energy, and all the people left drowning in the wake of multinational TBTF financial disaster. Suddenly any TSTS person with a roof could be an entrepreneur, part of the solution instead of the refuse left behind.

    Up the Ante says:
    May 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    You are exactly right.

    The type of windmill Dabiri is proposing is a Savonius (sp.)rotor, inherently less vibration, just a vertical axis spinning.

    “he says. “The global wind power available at 30 feet exceeds global electricity usage several times over. ”

    Nature, when it builds things, always goes with massive redundancy.

    Quite amusing to see the realization dawn in the faces of the anti-greens that it IS feasible.

    Massive redundancy IS nature’s way.

    …Hope this helps clarify what I was trying to say. If local/rooftop would work for San Diego, it would work for Hawaii, it would work for New York and Pennsylvania – anyplace with sun and sky – everywhere – and suddenly the govt/energy-megacompany model, and not the 900 remaining bighorn sheep, would be the endangered species. THAT’S the choice.

  22. thatvisionthing says:

    @thatvisionthing: Should have said the plants for burning the imported LNG are in Mexico. Sunrise would carry the power on this side of the border. They might even still call it “clean” energy, who knows — that’s what Sempra said when they proposed building it, and “Sunrise” sounds so solar and clean, even though there were no green energy plants there in the California desert substantial enough to carry power from, and SDG&E then refused to promise to carry any green energy at all. No matter, it was approved. But when I hear about a crazy stupid wind farm being forced onto Ocotillo, I wonder if it’s cover for dirty Sunrise. Fatster’s Roundup linked to this story back in May:

    http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/9732

    SILENCE OF THE LAMBS: U.S. GOVERNMENT AUTHORIZES KILLING OF ENDANGERED BIGHORNS IN PATH OF WIND PROJECT

    Significantly, the final project approval document signed by Salazar state that the project will power a mere 25,000 homes–a four-fifths drop from the 130,000 homes claimed by Pattern in its testimony to Imperial Valley Supervisors, County Planners, and in the EIS. Where did the missing 105,000 homes go? Were approvals granted under false pretexts?

    Moreover, the wind speeds Pattern know acknowledges at the project site are lower than the Department of Energy’s recommended minimum standard for a viable wind energy project.

    The site also poses risks to human health, from deadly Valley Fever spores being kicked up by construction dust to infrasound hazards to residents of Ocotillo, who will be surrounded on three sides by whirling turbines 450 tall or more.

    If the project is going to generate only a fifth of the power promised by proponents, and the hidden costs are staggering and irreversible, why hasn’t the federal government halted the project and weighed whether federal subsidies should be withdrawn?

    Like the man said in Who Killed the Electric Car (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt6avG7C6Ow&feature=youtu.be&t=7m42s): “They lure people into thinking they’re doing something by their sweet talk, but I remember way back yonder, they used to have this joke, and it’s not a joke anymore: ‘We’re giving the environmentalists the music and the industry the action.'”

  23. yellowsnapdragon says:

    Good analysis. The petrodollar is key to understanding US military actions in the ME. It’s all about consolidating money and power with the full knowledge of what crises lie ahead. Dick Cheney was and is pure evil.

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