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Americans at “tipping point” about energy-poll

Lisa Lambert, Reuters via Yahoo!News
WASHINGTON – Americans are nearly as worried about their country’s dependence on foreign energy sources as they are about the war in Iraq, a poll released by the magazine Foreign Affairs showed on Thursday.

Almost half of the 1,000 Americans surveyed for the Public Agenda Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index gave U.S. policymakers a failing grade in weaning the country from foreign oil. Nearly 90 percent said the lack of energy independence jeopardizes national security.

Public Agenda, a nonpartisan group, conducted the poll in early January with funding from the Ford Foundation. It said that Americans are at a “tipping point” on energy, akin to their state of mind about the war.

Daniel Yankelovich, chairman of Public Agenda, said … “… we find that a second issue has reached a tipping point, which is energy independence, and you have a very strong increase in the number of Americans who are intensely worried about the problem,” Yankelovich said in a conference call.

“Now with this issue having reached the tipping point in the public I think that that means the political complexion of that issue is about to change considerably,” he added.
(30 March 2006, thanks to donshan at peakoil-dot-com)

The tipping points

Daniel Yankelovich, Foreign Affairs
Terrorism and the war in Iraq are not the only sources of the American public’s anxiety about U.S. Foreign policy. Americans are also concerned about their country’s dependence on foreign energy supplies, U.S. jobs moving overseas, Washington’s seeming inability to stop illegal immigration, and a wide range of other issues. The public’s support for promoting democracy abroad has also seriously eroded.

These are a few of the highlights from the second in a continuing series of surveys monitoring Americans’ confidence in U.S. foreign policy conducted by the nonprofit research organization Public Agenda (with support from the Ford Foundation), of which I am chair. The first survey, conducted in June of last year, found that only the war in Iraq had reached the “tipping point” — the moment at which a large portion of the public begins to demand that the government address its concerns. According to this follow-on survey, conducted among a representative sample of 1,000 American adults in mid-January 2006, a second issue has reached that status. The U.S. public has grown impatient with U.S. dependence on foreign countries for oil, and its impatience could soon translate into a powerful demand that Washington change its policies.

…the issue of energy dependence, which had ranked far down the list, leapfrogged ahead to move into tipping-point territory.

No change is more striking than that relating to the public’s opinion of U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Americans have grown much more worried that problems abroad may affect the price of oil. The proportion of those who said they “worry a lot” about this occurring has increased from 42 percent to 55 percent. Nearly nine out of ten Americans asked were worried about the problem — putting oil dependence at the top of our 18-issue “worry scale.” Virtually all Americans surveyed (90 percent) said they see the United States’ lack of energy independence as jeopardizing the country’s security, 88 percent said they believe that problems abroad could endanger the United States’ supply of oil and so raise prices for U.S. consumers, and 85 percent said they believe that the U.S. government would be capable of doing something about the problem if it tried. This last belief may be the reason that only 20 percent of those surveyed gave the government an A or a B on this issue; three-quarters assigned the government’s performance a C, a D, or an F.

The oil-dependency issue now meets all the criteria for having reached the tipping point: an overwhelming majority expresses concern about the issue, the intensity of the public’s unease has reached significant levels, and the public believes the government is capable of addressing the issue far more effectively than it has until now. Should the price of gasoline drop over the coming months, this issue may temporarily lose some of its political weight. But with supplies of oil tight and geopolitical tensions high, public pressure is likely to grow.

Daniel Yankelovich is Chair and Co-founder of the organizations Public Agenda, DYG, and Viewpoint Learning.
(May/June 2006 issue)

Whipple: Gas prices rising!

Tom Whipple, Falls Church News Press
It seems like a good time to revisit everybody’s least favorite topic- gasoline prices. Since mid-February, unleaded regular has increased more than 40 cents per gallon, 15 cents in the last two weeks, and commentators are saying $3 by summer is a sure thing- even without a hurricane going through oil country.

There are so many forces affecting the oil market today that balancing them out over the short term is becoming difficult. Somebody will issue a report on something or other and the oil speculators will rush to sell, driving the price down several dollars a barrel. After thinking about it overnight, and reading each other’s comments, enough will decide that they misunderstood the report and the price of oil will go flying back up. As we approach peak oil, the old rules and maxims seem to become less relevant.

The major force behind oil prices right now is lack of much cushion between supply and demand. While it is too early to declare world oil production has peaked, several observers have noted there has been little or no increase in worldwide production for many months. All the evidence that has come to light recently suggests that if production has not yet peaked, the fateful year is getting mighty close.

The Nigerian and Iraqi situations continue to get worse. Unless there is some remarkable turn around, it seems increasingly doubtful their oil production will be at present levels by the end of the year. The recent leak of secret reports from inside the Kuwaiti and Mexican oil companies suggests their production will be significantly lower within a few years. Finally, we are still waiting for someone to leak the secret Saudi depletion study that will administer the coup de grace to the oil age.

On the demand side, the US and Chinese economies are still doing well.
(29 March 2006)

Bulls from the sea: ancient oil industries

Dr. Zayn Bilkadi, Aramco World via (Dubai)
The story of oil – a drama that involved Alexander The Great, Greek Kings, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, the embalming of the dead and the birth of the Egyptian “mummy” industry
… We think of the petroleum industry as a 20th-century phenomenon, and certainly more oil is used now than ever was in the past, even on a per-capita basis. But there were genuine oil industries in the ancient Middle East and surrounding areas that employed large numbers of people, that made standardized products, and whose workings had international economic and political ramifications.

… For the ancient Arabian people known as the Nabataeans, history arrived in 312 BC, when an army of Greek mercenaries crossed the Syrian desert into present-day Jordan and headed toward the southern tip of the Dead sea. When they reached their destination, their commander – a general named Hieronymus of Cardia – couldn’t believe his eyes: scores of Arabic-speaking tribesmen were camped on the shore, with pack-camels couched and reed rafts beached, waiting for what they called the thawr – the word was Arabic for “bull” – to appear in the middle of the sulfur- smelling waters.

The “bulls,” Hieronymus discovered, were great iceberg-like mounds of jellied crude oil – bitumen – that floated up from the depths of the murky water and drifted aimlessly with the wind (See Aramco World, November-December 1984).

Every time a new “bull” rose into sight, a swarm of axe-wielding seamen leapt onto their reed-bundle rafts and began a frantic race toward the catch.

The Arabs prized the oily exudate immensely; as the Greeks put it they carried the stuff off “like plunder of war.” Nowhere is this scene more vividly depicted than in Hieronymus’s own journal:

“They make ready large bundles of reeds and cast them into the sea. On these not more than three men take their places, two of whom row with oars, which are lashed on, but one carries a bow and repels any who sail against them from the other shore, or who venture to interfere with them. When they come near the floating bitumen they jump upon it with axes and, just as if it were soft stone, they cut pieces and load them onto the raft, after which they sail back.”

On the shore, crews of women and children sprinkled the hunks of tarry oil with sand, stuffed them into leather bags and loaded them onto camels for the long journey across the Sinai. Their final destination: Alexandria, Egypt.

Ironically when Hieronymus witnessed this extraordinary harvest of the sea, he was under orders to expel the Arabs and secure the oil for his master, the Macedonian Greek king Antigonus I Monophthalmos – the “One-Eyed.” As it happened, Hieronymus’s talent for keeping good notes of his observations far exceeded his skills as a military leader. His army was handily defeated, and he had to flee back to Syria for his life.
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