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Syriana and Iraq

Mark A. LeVine, History News Network
Critics have been hailing “Syriana,” George Clooney’s latest film to take on the policies of the Bush Administration, as a cinematic tour de force that has “compelling real-world relevance” and is “unsettlingly close to the truth.” But what is the truth “Syriana” supposedly approaches? Put briefly, the plot describes the ramification of a bungled CIA-authorized assassination of a Middle Eastern leader who decided to sign a major oil deal with China instead of an American oil company with close ties to the US Government.

Given the increasing numbers of Americans who believe that the Bush administration deliberately misled the country to justify the Iraqi invasion, many film-goers will no doubt walk accept the film’s argument that Big Oil shapes American policies to its interests, even when they violate our core ideals. But is the movie really a case of art imitating life, or does “Syriana” veer towards the kind of hyperbole and exaggeration that marred Oliver Stone’s “JFK?”,,,

Mr. LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture, and Islamic studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the forthcoming books: Why They Don’t Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil; and Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880-1948….
(26 November 2005)

BP Alternative Energy: It’s a Start

Joel Makower, WorldChanging
At last: we now know what’s “Beyond Petroleum.”

That moniker, as you well know, has been energy giant BP’s tagline since 2002, when the company formerly known as British Petroleum, and then BPAmoco, changed its corporate name to BP plc. The “Beyond Petroleum” tagline has been so successful that I’ve heard business students and other smart souls swear that it had become the company’s new name.

…But reality seems to be closing in on perception. On Monday, BP announced the launch of BP Alternative Energy, a new business unit that will manage BP’s investments in solar, wind, hydrogen, and combined-cycle-gas-turbine power generation, which could amount to $8 billion over the next decade, the company says.

…It’s important to keep all of this into perspective, of course. BP told Reuters that the new BP Alternative Energy unit “had the potential to deliver sales around $6 billion a year within a decade” — or equivalent to about half the profits it made in just the past year.

Still, as BP has put it in its own ads: It’s a start.
(28 November 2005)

Iraq Report: It’s About the Oil

James Ridgeway, Village Voice
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The bottom-line issue in the Iraq war is not establishing democracy or assuring state security, but rather controlling the country’s oil reserves.

A new report called Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, prepared by a British consortium, reports that oil deals involving Iraq will be a bonanza for American and other Western companies. Iraq is expected to retain ownership of only 17 out of some 80 known oil fields, and these fields probably will end up under regional—not national—control.
(23 November 2005)

Now for Blair’s dodgy nuclear dossier
Jonathan Leake, Sunday Times
Do we really need new nuclear power stations or is the prime minister about to railroad us into a disastrous error, asks Jonathan Leake

There is something strangely familiar about the tactics being used to turn the financial basket case that is the nuclear industry into the shining new hope of Britain’s energy sector.

First we had a contrived panic — over energy prices and gas supplies — then a welter of Downing Street’s anonymous briefings. Now, in the shape of the energy review to be announced this week, we are likely to get the pièce de résistance: the “dodgy dossier” — a report designed to give Tony Blair the pretext that he needs to implement a policy he has already decided on.

Advisers led by Sir David King, Blair’s hyperactive chief scientist, have given us all a fright, saying that only nuclear power can keep Britain’s lights on after 2015.
(27 November 2005)
Whether or not the British panic over energy supplies is justified we may well see over this winter, which is not to say that that panic was not used strategically. -AF

New tax may fund nuclear stations
Jonathan Leake, Sunday Times
LEAKED documents reveal proposals by Tony Blair’s chief scientific adviser to put a levy on consumers’ power bills to pay for up to 20 new nuclear power plants.
(27 November 2005)
Related story in Guardian: Blair gives nod for nuclear review.

Senate Approves Creation of National Coal-to-Liquids Development Plan
Green Car Congress
The Senate has approved the preparation of a national coal-to-liquids development program.

Proposed by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) as an amendment to the Senate’s just-passed defense appropriations bill (S.1042), the language calls for the Department of Energy to prepare a development plan for the national coal-to-liquids program within 90 days of the enactment of the bill and for the Department of Defense to prepare a report on the potential use of the resulting synthetic fuels.
(19 November 2005)

Ford seeks US help to make fuel-efficient cars
Reuters, Express India
Ford Motor Co. chief executive Bill Ford on Tuesday called on the US Congress to provide tax credits and other incentives to help drive development of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

…Ford sought to boost the confidence of the US auto industry, which has been shaken this year by tenacious competition from overseas, soaring gasoline costs and deepening financial problems.
(24 November 2005)