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Re: War and oil: a chilling analysis

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  • David Hazen
    A related link is http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/ which describes the peak oil scenario in greater detail. ... the story of a South American Indian tribe
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 6, 2004
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      A related link is http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/ which
      describes the peak oil scenario in greater detail.



      --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "J.H. Crawford"
      <mailbox@c...> wrote:
      >
      > From Common Dreams this morning:
      >
      > Published on Monday, March 1, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
      > Will The End of Oil Mean The End of America?
      > by Robert Freeman
      >
      >
      > In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig tells
      the story of a South American Indian tribe that has devised an
      ingenious monkey trap. The Indians cut off the small end of a
      coconut and stuff it with sweetmeats and rice. They tether the other
      end to a stake and place it in a clearing.
      >
      > Soon, a monkey smells the treats inside and comes to see what it
      is. It can just barely get its hand into the coconut but, stuffed
      with booty, it cannot pull the hand back out. The Indians easily
      walk up to the monkey and capture it. Even as the Indians approach,
      the monkey screams in horror, not only in fear of its captors, but
      equally as much, one imagines, in recognition of the tragedy of its
      own lethal but still unalterable greed.
      >
      > Pirsig uses the story to illustrate the problem of value rigidity.
      The monkey cannot properly evaluate the relative worth of a handful
      of food compared to its life. It chooses wrongly, catastrophically
      so, dooming itself by its own short-term fixation on a relatively
      paltry pleasure.
      >
      > America has its own hand in a coconut, one that may doom it just
      as surely as the monkey. That coconut is its dependence on cheap oil
      in a world where oil will soon come to an end. The choice we face
      (whether to let the food go or hold onto it) is whether to wean
      ourselves off of oil—to quickly evolve a new economy and a new basis
      for civilization—or to continue to secure stable supplies from the
      rest of the world by force.
      >
      > As with Pirsig's monkey, the alternative consequences of each
      choice could not be more dramatic. Weaning ourselves off of cheap
      oil, while not easy, will help ensure the vitality of the American
      economy and the survival of its political system. Choosing the route
      of force will almost certainly destroy the economy and doom
      America's short experiment in democracy.
      >
      > To date, we have chosen the second alternative: to secure oil by
      force. The evidence of its consequences are all around us. They
      include the titanic US budget and trade deficits funding a
      gargantuan, globally-deployed military and the Patriot Act and its
      starkly anti-democratic rescissions of civil liberties. There is
      little time left to change this choice before its consequences
      become irreversible.
      >
      > The world is quickly running out of oil. In the year 2000, global
      production stood at 76 Million Barrels per Day (MBD). By 2020,
      demand is forecast to reach 112 MBD, an increase of 47%. But
      additions to proven reserves have virtually stopped and it is clear
      that pumping at present rates is unsustainable. Estimates of the
      date of "peak global production" vary with some experts saying it
      already may have occurred as early as the year 2000. New Scientist
      magazine recently placed the year of peak production in 2004.
      Virtually all experts believe it will almost certainly occur before
      the end of this decade.
      >
      > And the rate of depletion is accelerating. Imagine a production
      curve that rises slowly over 145 years—the time since oil was
      discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859. Over this time, the entire world
      shifted to oil as the foundation of industrial civilization. It
      invested over one hundreds trillion dollars in a physical
      infrastructure and an economic system run entirely on oil. But oil
      production is now at its peak and the right hand side of the curve
      is a virtual drop off. Known reserves are being drawn down at 4
      times the rate of new discoveries.
      >
      > The reason for the drop off is that not only have all the "big"
      discoveries already been made, the rate of consumption is increasing
      dramatically. Annual world energy use is up five times since 1945.
      Increases are now driven by massive developing countries—China,
      India, Brazil—growing and emulating first or at least second world
      consumption standards. Fixed supply. Stalled discoveries. Sharply
      increased consumption. This is the formula for global oil depletion
      within the next few decades.
      >
      > The situation is especially critical in the US. With barely 4% of
      the world's population, the US consumes 26% of the world's energy.
      But the US produced only 9 MBD in 2000 while consuming 19 MBD. It
      made up the difference by importing 10 MBD, or 53% of its needs. By
      2020, the US Department of Energy forecasts domestic demand will
      grow to 25 MBD but production will be down to 7 MBD. The daily
      shortfall of 18 MBD or 72% of needs, will all need to be imported.
      >
      > Perhaps it goes without saying but it deserves repeating anyway:
      oil is the sine qua non of "industrial" civilization—the one thing
      without which such civilization cannot exist. All of the world's 600
      million automobiles depend on oil. So do virtually all other
      commodities and critical processes: airlines, chemicals, plastics,
      medicines, agriculture, heating, etc. Almost all of the increase in
      world food productivity over the past 50 years is attributable to
      increases in the use of oil-derived additives: pesticides;
      herbicides; fungicides; fertilizers; and machinery.
      >
      > When oil is gone, civilization will be stupendously different. The
      onset of rapid depletion will trigger convulsions on a global scale,
      including, likely, global pandemics and die-offs of significant
      portions of the world's human population. The "have" countries will
      face the necessity kicking the "have-nots" out of the global
      lifeboat in order to assure their own survival. Even before such
      conditions are reached, inelastic supply interacting with inelastic
      demand will drive the price of oil and oil-derived commodities
      through the stratosphere, effecting by market forces alone massive
      shifts in the current distribution of global wealth.
      >
      > If the US economy is not to grind to a halt under these
      circumstances it must choose one of three alternate strategies:
      dramatically lower its living standards (something it is not willing
      to do); substantially increase the energy efficiency of its economy;
      or make up the shortfall by securing supplies from other countries.
      President Bush's National Energy Policy published in March 2001
      explicitly commits the US to the third choice: Grab the Oil. It is
      this choice that is now driving US military and national security
      policy. And, in fact, the past 60 years of US policy in the Middle
      East can only be understood as the effort to control access to the
      world's largest supply of oil.
      >
      > Witness, for example, the deep US embrace of Saudi Arabia since
      World War II. One quarter of all US weapons sales between 1950 and
      2000 went to Saudi Arabia despite its horrifically repressive,
      literally medieval tribal nature. The CIA's overthrow of Mohamed
      Mosadegh in Iran in 1953 after he nationalized his country's oil is
      another example. So, too, was the US strategic embrace of Israel
      during the 1967 Six Day War. The US was deeply mired in Vietnam but
      needed a "cop on the beat" to challenge Arab states—Egypt, Iraq,
      Syria, Yemen—that were "going Soviet." It has stuck with that
      relationship ever since.
      >
      > More recent examples of national strategy in bondage to the
      compulsion for oil include US support for Saddam Hussein in the
      Iran/Iraq War; its support for Osama bin Laden in the Afghanistan
      War against the Soviet Union; and, of course, the most recent
      invasion of Iraq to seize its oilfields and forward position US
      forces for an invasion of neighboring Saudi Arabia when it is
      inevitably destroyed by internal civil war. And under a Grab the Oil
      strategy, militarization of US society will only deepen.
      >
      > The reason is that a very major portion of the world's oil is, by
      accident of geology, in the hands of states hostile to the US. Fully
      60% percent of the world's proven reserves of oil are in the Persian
      Gulf. They lie beneath Muslim countries undergoing a religious
      revolution that wants to return the industrial world to a pre-modern
      order governed by a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy. Saudi Arabia
      alone controls 25% of all the world's oil, more than that of North
      America, South America, Europe and Africa combined. Kuwait, Iran and
      Iraq, each control approximately 10% of the world's oil.
      >
      > Another 15% of the world's oil lies in the Caspian Sea region,
      also a dominantly Muslim region. It includes a group of post-Soviet,
      satellite and buffer states that lack any semblance of legal or
      market systems. They are extraordinarily corrupt, really just
      Gangster Thugocracies masquerading as countries. Think Afghanistan.
      Both Russia and China consider this region part of their "sphere of
      strategic influence" portending significant clashes for the US over
      coming decades.
      >
      > As long as the US chooses the Grab the Oil alternative, the
      implications for national policy are inescapable. The combination of
      all these facts—fixed supply, rapid depletion, lack of alternatives,
      severity of consequences, and hostility of current stockholding
      countries—drive the US to HAVE to adopt an aggressive (pre-emptive)
      military posture and to carry out a nakedly colonial expropriation
      of resources from weaker countries around the world.
      >
      > This is why the US operates some 700 military bases around the
      world and spends over half a trillion dollars per year on military
      affairs, more than all the rest of the world—its "allies" included—
      combined. This is why the Defense Department's latest Quadrennial
      Review stated, "The US must retain the capability to send well-armed
      and logistically supported forces to critical points around the
      globe, even in the face of enemy opposition." This is why Pentagon
      brass say internally that current force levels are inadequate to the
      strategic challenges they face and that they will have to re-instate
      the draft after the 2004 elections.
      >
      > But the provocation occasioned by grabbing the oil, especially
      from nations ideologically hostile to the US, means that military
      attacks on the US and the recourse to military responses will only
      intensify until the US is embroiled in unending global conflict.
      This is the perverse genius of the Grab the Oil strategy: it comes
      with its own built-in escalation, its own justification for ever
      more militarization—without limit. It will blithely consume the
      entire US economy, the entire society, without being sated. It is,
      in homage to Orwell, Perpetual War for Perpetual Grease.
      >
      > In his first released tape after 9/11, Osama bin Laden stated that
      he carried out the attacks for three reasons: 1) to drive US
      military forces from Saudi Arabia, the most sacred place of Islam;
      2) to avenge the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children
      killed, according to UNICEF, as a result of the US-sponsored embargo
      of the 1990s; and, 3) to punish US sponsorship of Israeli oppression
      against the Palestinian people. Oil and the need to control it are
      critically implicated in all three reasons.
      >
      > But now comes the sobering part. In response to the 9/11 attacks,
      Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated that the US was engaged
      in "…a thirty to forty year war (!) against fundamentalist Islam."
      It is the fever of War, of course, that becomes the all-purpose
      justification for the rollback of civil liberties. Lincoln used the
      Civil War to justify the suspension of habeas corpus. Roosevelt used
      the cover of World War II to inter hundreds of thousands of Japanese
      Americans. And now Bush is using the self-ratcheting "War on Terror"
      to effect even more sweeping, perhaps permanent rescissions of civil
      liberties.
      >
      > Under the Patriot Act, a person can be arrested without probable
      cause, held indefinitely without being charged, tried without a
      lawyer or a jury, sentenced without the opportunity to appeal, and
      put to death—all without notification of…anybody. This is simply a
      Soviet Gulag and it has been rationalized by the hysterical over-
      hyping of the War on Terror. The fact that it is not yet widespread
      does not diminish the more important fact that it has been put in
      place precisely in anticipation of such procedures needing to be
      being carried out on a mass scale in the future.
      >
      > The broader implications of the Patriot Acts go far beyond the
      abusive treatment of criminals or terrorists. Their portent can be
      glimpsed in the language used to justify them. When Attorney General
      John Ashcroft testified on behalf of the Act, he stated, "…those who
      oppose us are providing aid and comfort to the enemy." These are
      carefully chosen words. "Aid and comfort to the enemy" are the words
      used in the Constitution to define Treason, the most fateful of
      crimes against the state. In other words, protest against the
      government—the singular right without which America would not even
      exist—is now being defined as trying to overthrow the government.
      >
      > And by the internal logic of a global Oil Empire, this is entirely
      reasonable. The needs of the people of any one country must be
      subordinated to the larger agenda of Empire itself. This is what the
      Romans learned in 27 B.C. when Augustus proclaimed himself Emperor.
      It was the end of the Roman Republic and the disappearance of
      representative government on earth for almost 1,700 years, until the
      English Civil Wars in the 1600s. That is the reality we are
      confronting today—offering up our democracy in propitiation to an
      Empire for Oil. It will be a fateful, irreversible decision.
      >
      > Returning to Pirsig's metaphor, the choice of a Grab the Oil
      strategy is the equivalent of the monkey holding onto the handful of
      food, remaining trapped by the coconut. It is an ironclad guarantee
      of escalating global conflict, isolation of the US in the world,
      unremitting attacks on the US by those whose oil is being
      expropriated and whose societies are being dominated, the
      militarization of the US economy, the irreversible rescission of
      civil liberties, and the eventual extinguishment of American
      democracy itself. It is the conscious, self-inflicted consignment to
      political and economic death.
      >
      > But the coconut metaphor, remember, involves a choice—food or
      freedom. What, then, is the alternative, the letting go of the
      paltry handful of food in conscious preference for the life of
      continued freedom?
      >
      > The alternative to Grab the Oil is to dispense with the hobbling
      dependency on oil itself and to quickly wean the country off of it.
      Call it the path of Energy Reconfiguration. It is to declare a
      modern day Manhattan Project aimed at minimizing the draw down in
      the world's finite stocks of oil, extending their life, and
      mitigating the calamity inherent in their rapid exhaustion. It means
      building a physical infrastructure to the economy that is based on
      an alternative to oil. And it means doing this, not unilaterally or
      militarily as the US is doing now, but in peaceful partnership with
      other countries of the world, the other counties in our shared
      global lifeboat that are also threatened by the end of oil.
      >
      > In more specific terms, energy reconfiguration means retrofitting
      all of the nation's buildings, both commercial and residential, to
      double their energy efficiency. It means a crash program to shift
      the transportation system—cars, trucks—to a basis that uses perhaps
      half as much oil per year. This is well within reach of current
      technology. Energy Reconfiguration means using biotechnology to
      develop crops that require much less fertilizers, pesticides,
      herbicides and machinery to harvest. It means refitting industrial
      and commercial processes—lighting, heating, appliances, automation,
      etc.—so that they, too, consume far less energy than they do today.
      It means increasing efficiency, reducing consumption, and building
      sustainable, long-term alternatives in every arena in which the
      economy uses oil.
      >
      > Such a program would return incalculable benefits to national
      security, the economy, and to the environment.
      >
      > In terms of national security, Energy Reconfiguration greatly
      reduces the county's susceptibility to oil blackmail. It reduces the
      need for provocative adventurism into foreign countries in pursuit
      of oil. As such, it reduces the incentive for terrorism against the
      US. And by reducing such threats, it reduces the need for a
      sprawling, expensive military abroad and a repressive police state
      at home. Savings in military costs—perhaps on the order of hundreds
      of billions of dollars a year—could well pay for such a program. The
      saving of democracy, of course, is priceless.
      >
      > The economic benefits are at least equally impressive. By reducing
      energy imports, the US would reduce its hemorrhaging trade deficit
      and the mortgaging of the nation's future that such borrowing
      implies. A national corps of workers set to retrofitting the
      nation's homes and businesses for energy efficiency would address
      employment problems for decades in a way that could not be
      outsourced to Mexico or India or China. And a more efficient
      industrial infrastructure would make all goods made in America more
      competitive with those made abroad. In all of these ways, Energy
      Reconfiguration raises, not lowers, the average standard of living
      while increasing the resilience of the economy as a whole.
      >
      > Energy Reconfiguration also delivers enormous—perhaps incalculable—
      benefits to the environment. By reducing energy intensity, it
      reduces the impact on the biotic carrying systems of any level of
      economic activity. Global warming may be the single most potent
      threat to global stability today. A recently leaked Pentagon report
      predicted that rapid climate change may well set off global
      competition for food and water supplies and, in the worst scenarios,
      spark nuclear war. If the US did no more than change from being the
      most energy inefficient economy in the industrial world to being of
      only average efficiency, it would dramatically slow the
      environmental destruction that hangs like a sword over the entire
      world.
      >
      > Are there any precedents for such an ambitious vision? In the
      1980s China adopted a nationwide energy efficiency program. Within a
      decade, overall energy intensity fell by 50% while economic growth
      led the developing world. Also in the 1980s, Denmark began a crash
      program in wind-generated electricity. Today, wind provides 10% of
      Denmark's electricity while Denmark makes 60% of all the wind
      turbines sold in the world. India's Renewable Energy Development
      Agency used a similar set of programs beginning in 1987 to reduce
      oil based electricity usage. Today, India is the largest user of
      photovoltaic systems in the world.
      >
      > Even within the US there are ample precedents for optimism. The US
      economy was 42% more energy efficient in 2000 than it was in the
      1970s when the Arab oil embargoes shocked the country into action.
      Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards more than doubled
      the average mileage of US automobiles between 1975 and 1985 before
      being effectively abandoned in the late 1980s. The National Research
      Council has reported that efficiency programs sponsored by the
      Department of Energy returned $20 for every $1 invested, making them
      arguably one of the best investments in the economy even before a
      change in national energy strategy.
      >
      > We should harbor no illusions, however, that adopting such a
      strategy will be easy. The military and energy industries in which
      the Bush family is so heavily invested will vigorously resist such a
      policy. And the energy bill now making its way through Congress is
      nothing so much as a testament to the death grip the energy industry
      holds on the American people. It provides tens of billions of
      dollars of subsidies and giveaways to energy companies while
      actually encouraging more intensive energy use. As the poster boy of
      these leviathans, President Bush expressed their sentiments
      best: "We need an energy policy that encourages consumption." What
      more need be said?
      >
      > In the end, the choice of these two alternatives—Grab the Oil or
      Energy Reconfiguration—is much bigger than oil alone. It is a choice
      about the fundamental ethos and, in fact, the very nature of the
      country. Most immediately, it is about democracy versus empire. In
      economic terms, it is about prosperity or poverty. In engineering
      terms, it is a matter of efficiency over waste. In moral terms this
      is the choice of sufficiency or gluttony. From the standpoint of the
      environment, it is a preference for stewardship over continued
      predation. In the ways the US deals with other countries it is the
      choice of co-operation versus dominance. And in spiritual terms, it
      is the choice of hope, freedom and purpose over fear, dependency and
      despair. In this sense, this is truly the decision that will define
      the future of America and perhaps the world.
      >
      > A final word on Pirsig's monkey. The monkey is doomed but not
      tragic. For the monkey cannot really comprehend the fateful
      implications of its choice: that its greed assures its doom. In the
      case of people and a country, however, that is not the case. It is
      no accident that President Bush has not asked any sacrifices of the
      country for his War on Terror. That is part of the seduction, like
      the candy a drug pusher uses to lure an unsuspecting child.
      >
      > But we cannot, like the monkey, claim to be unaware of the choice
      we are making. Awareness of such choices is part of the burden of
      mature citizenship. Nor can we feign ignorance of the consequences.
      Simply put, our present course will cost us our country. And our
      doom will be compounded by incalculable tragedy and what Lincoln
      once called "the last best hope for mankind" will, indeed, perish
      from this earth. Unless, that is, we find the vision, the wisdom and
      the courage to let go that handful of paltry treats and choose
      freedom instead.
      >
      >
      > http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0301-12.htm
      >
      >
      >
      > --
      ### --
      >
      > J.H. Crawford Carfree
      Cities
      > mailbox@c... http://www.carfree.com
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