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The Republican Who Dared Tell the Truth About Oil

Andrew Nikiforuk,
Matt Simmons understood the wages of addiction and wasn’t afraid to sound warnings, even to George W. Bush.

“A call to arms may be wrong. We may not even know who the enemy is. And maybe the enemy is us.” — Matt Simmons

After criticizing the reckless conduct of BP in the Gulf of Mexico most of the summer, 67-year-old Matt Simmons eased into his hot tub at his home in North Haven, Maine on Aug. 8. For a short while the famous oil analyst might have pondered his grandiose plans for the world’s largest $25-billion offshore wind farm. But Simmons then suffered a heart attack and drowned.

The New York Times duly observed the passing of “the noted energy banker” while Forbes called him “the crazy uncle of the oil patch.” And that he was. Gadfly. Visionary. Contrarian. Educator. “Crude Cassandra.” Conservative. Together with millions of Americans and Europeans, I dearly miss the life-long Republican and let me tell you why.

Not too many people in the oil patch speak honestly about the world’s most powerful industry, but Simmons did. He didn’t let the money, bullshit or arrogance cloud his judgment. Or his basic reading of geology for that matter.

A Bush in his hand

Simmons, who convinced George W. Bush that America was indeed addicted to oil (and that was no easy feat), often spoke about the realities of depletion. He knew that the multinationals and state oil companies had netted most of the world’s big petroleum fish 50 years ago and that the world’s major oil fields, like the world’s major fisheries, were all in a state of depletion. With the big, easy fish gone, industry was now chasing “junk crude” in the tar sands or the ugly, difficult and tough stuff at the bottom of the barrel. While sanity might renew ocean fishing, the depletion of cheap oil era was irreversible.
(30 August 2010)
Suggested by EB contributor Bill Henderson.

Happy Days Are Not Here Again: Obama, China and the Coming Great Contraction

Derek Shearer, Huffington Post
Happy Days are not coming any time soon to America — and not to most of the world.

This summer has convinced me that it is realistic — not pessimistic or fatalistic — to believe that we have reached the twilight of the oil-industrial age. A global reckoning is coming sooner than we would wish, and the US government and President Obama, sadly, are not stepping up to the leadership plate.

Even the short run looks gloomy, and the slightly longer run — the next twenty to thirty years — could be a turning point in human history.

… These political failures [in the U.S.] are not only disappointing to those who had hopes for a transformational Obama presidency and for the “change we need” in the country’s economic and environmental policies; they have reduced the potential for international US leadership on these vital issues.

This summer I visited the eco-municipality of Visby, one of the greenest cities in Sweden on the island of Gotland — once a Viking raiding center and later a major trading city in the Hanseatic League. An idealistic band of younger Finns and Swedes has initiated the World Ecological Forum in hopes that it might become a kind of “green Davos” where business, political and scientific leaders can find ways to build a genuinely sustainable future.

… Later in the summer, my wife and I visited Vermont — probably the greenest state in the country. We had lunch with a young editor of Chelsea Green Press, one of the leading publishers of books, on sustainable farming, organic living, sustainable economics and green politics, and we paid homage to Ben and Jerry’s, the home of caring capitalism. If any state is going to manage the coming Great Contraction of the global economy, it might well be Vermont. It is state of small-sized cities, independent farms, and a highly-active, locally-based food production and distribution movement.

Derek Shearer is Professor of Diplomacy at Occidental College and former US ambassador
(25 August 2010)

The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama

Jane Mayer, New Yorker
With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. … Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

In a statement, Koch Industries said that the Greenpeace report “distorts the environmental record of our companies.” And David Koch, in a recent, admiring article about him in New York, protested that the “radical press” had turned his family into “whipping boys,” and had exaggerated its influence on American politics. But Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
(30 August 2010)
Suggeded by EB contributor Jan Lundberg of Culture Change, who writes:

The article is an eye opener. Oil giants funding the Tea Party but invisibly. Only the first webpage’s text is shown at the URL. There are 10 pages are available online but it’s hard to tell at first that it’s over one page!

I was a former president of Lundberg Survey. My article on the anti-climate protection stance in the Lundberg Letter, “Big Oil/Lundberg Survey Scare Tactics Against Climate Legislation” is at

Wind Turbine Projects Run Into Resistance

Leora Broydo Vestel, New York Times
BARSTOW, Calif. — The United States military has found a new menace hiding here in the vast emptiness of the Mojave Desert in California: wind turbines.

Moving turbine blades can be indistinguishable from airplanes on many radar systems, and they can even cause blackout zones in which planes disappear from radar entirely. Clusters of wind turbines, which can reach as high as 400 feet, look very similar to storm activity on weather radar, making it harder for air traffic controllers to give accurate weather information to pilots.

Although the military says no serious incidents have yet occurred because of the interference, the wind turbines pose an unacceptable risk to training, testing and national security in certain regions, Dr. Dorothy Robyn, deputy under secretary of defense, recently told a House Armed Services subcommittee.
(26 August 2010)
This sounds like a story in the news about five years ago. -BA