United States - July 4
Click on the headline (link) for the full text.
Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
U.S. Lifts Moratorium on New Solar Projects
Dan Frosch, New York Times
Under increasing public pressure over its decision to temporarily halt all new solar development on public land, the Bureau of Land Management said Wednesday that it was lifting the freeze, barely a month after it was put into effect.
The bureau had announced on May 29 that it was no longer processing new applications to build solar power plants on land it oversees in six Western states after federal officials said they needed first to study the environmental effects of solar energy, a process that would take two years.
But amid concerns from the solar power industry, members of Congress and the general public that the freeze would stymie solar development during a particularly critical time for energy policy, the bureau abruptly reconsidered.
(3 July 2008)
Disaster Capitalism: State of Extortion
Naomi Klein, The Nation
... It's been ten months since the publication of my book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in which I argue that today's preferred method of reshaping the world in the interest of multinational corporations is to systematically exploit the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies moments of great shock and crisis. With the globe being rocked by multiple shocks, this seems like a good time to see how and where the strategy is being applied.
... But these cases of disaster capitalism are amateurish compared with what is unfolding at Iraq's oil ministry. It started with no-bid service contracts announced for ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total (they have yet to be signed but are still on course). Paying multinationals for their technical expertise is not unusual. What is odd is that such contracts almost invariably go to oil service companies--not to the oil majors, whose work is exploring, producing and owning carbon wealth. As London-based oil expert Greg Muttitt points out, the contracts make sense only in the context of reports that the oil majors have insisted on the right of first refusal on subsequent contracts handed out to manage and produce Iraq's oil fields. In other words, other companies will be free to bid on those future contracts, but these companies will win.
One week after the no-bid service deals were announced, the world caught its first glimpse of the real prize. After years of back-room arm-twisting, Iraq is officially flinging open six of its major oil fields, accounting for around half of its known reserves, to foreign investors. According to Iraq's oil minister, the long-term contracts will be signed within a year. While ostensibly under control of the Iraq National Oil Company, foreign firms will keep 75 percent of the value of the contracts, leaving just 25 percent for their Iraqi partners.
That kind of ratio is unheard of in oil-rich Arab and Persian states, where achieving majority national control over oil was the defining victory of anticolonial struggles. According to Muttitt, the assumption until now was that foreign multinationals would be brought in to develop brand-new fields in Iraq--not to take over ones that are already in production and therefore require minimal technical support. "The policy was always to allocate these fields to the Iraq National Oil Company," he told me. This is a total reversal of that policy, giving INOC a mere 25 percent instead of the planned 100 percent.
So what makes such lousy deals possible in Iraq, which has already suffered so much? Ironically, it is Iraq's suffering--its never-ending crisis--that is the rationale for an arrangement that threatens to drain its treasury of its main source of revenue. The logic goes like this: Iraq's oil industry needs foreign expertise because years of punishing sanctions starved it of new technology and the invasion and continuing violence degraded it further. And Iraq urgently needs to start producing more oil. Why? Again because of the war. The country is shattered, and the billions handed out in no-bid contracts to Western firms have failed to rebuild the country. And that's where the new no-bid contracts come in: they will raise more money, but Iraq has become such a treacherous place that the oil majors must be induced to take the risk of investing. Thus the invasion of Iraq neatly creates the argument for its subsequent pillage.
Several of the architects of the Iraq War no longer even bother to deny that oil was a major motivator. On National Public Radio's To the Point, Fadhil Chalabi, one of the primary Iraqi advisers to the Bush Administration in the lead-up to the invasion, recently described the war as "a strategic move on the part of the United States of America and the UK to have a military presence in the Gulf in order to secure [oil] supplies in the future." Chalabi, who served as Iraq's oil under secretary and met with the oil majors before the invasion, described this as "a primary objective."
(1 July 2008)
Also at The Guardian.
Houston, we have a solution
Jerome a Paris, European Tribune
City of Houston Gives Wind Power a Turn
HOUSTON -- The heart of the U.S. oil patch on Tuesday began using wind-powered electricity for about a fourth of its municipal power needs at a lower price than it is paying for power produced from coal and natural gas, city officials said.
The move shows how renewable energy's prospects are improving at a time of soaring fossil-fuel prices. Long derided as an expensive niche, wind power now is moving closer to the mainstream.
Yes, wind is cheap enough to be competitive head on with coal and gas - even as they aren't taxed for the pollution they cause or the carbon emissions they generate.
Houston's push also underscores how far renewable energy has to go. Wind power has taken hold more in Texas than in many other states, both because the western part of the state is breezy and because Texas has enacted a mandate designed to boost wind-power generation. The federal government has rejected calls to implement that kind of mandate nationally.
See: this is good government in action: get things happening that may not make sense in the short term but pay off handsomely for society in the long term. Like other States that forced wind generation upon their kicking and screaming utilities (and kick and scream they did, before painting themselves as green now that they do have wind capacity), they are reaping the benefits of wind:
1. lots of jobs
2. no dependence on unfriendly foreign suppliers
3. no carbon emissions
4. a guarantee that prices will not increase for as long as the turbines run (20-25 years)
That last topic is worth exploring a bit...
(2 June 2008)
Jerome works in the wind industry and is an articulate proponent for it. -BA