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How Coal Brought Us Democracy, and Oil Ended It: Lessons from the New Book “Carbon Democracy”
Matt Sroller, Naked Capitalism
Long before politicians mewled helplessly about the power of “Big Oil”, carbon-based fuels were shaping our very political, legal, intellectual, and physical structures. It was, for instance, coal miners who brought us the right to vote. Israel’s founding had a lot to do with British fears of Palestinian labor unrest in coastal energy complexes. And the European Community was a post-WWII experiment to switch that continent to oil, a task begun before World War I by British conservatives to defeat their domestic political opponents. Glass-Steagall crimped financial flows, partially at the behest of the oil industry. In fact, you can’t understand modern democratic or third world political structures without understanding energy, and particularly, coal and oil. That’s the contention of Tim Mitchell’s new book, Carbon Democracy Political Power in the Age of Oil…
…I have only one reservation about Mitchell’s work. This book utterly blew me away. But because it did, because it sits so far outside of the orthodox sources of information I understand, it’s extremely difficult to incorporate it into contemporary political rhetoric. Most of the time, when I read a book on politics, though the information may be new, especially when the book contains a well-reported story, the influences come from a fairly standard set of ideas…
(13 September 2012)
John H. Richardson, Esquire
Whether to build the international pipeline, designed to convey the Tar-sands oil from the massive deposits in Western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast for refining, has not only become an explosive issue in this year’s presidential election, it has become central to the debate over the future habitability of planet earth. A special report.
When you arrive at night in Fort McMurray, the little Canadian town that might just destroy the world, the tiny airport looks smaller because of the snow and all the Explorers and Rangers and four-wheel drives in the parking lot. An ambitious ramp enters a highway so wide the shoulders must be in different time zones, and trucks the size of dinosaurs roar by belching clouds of steam and snow. The smaller trucks have buggy whips that hoist flags high above them so the giant trucks will notice their insignificant speck existence and avoid running over them. The giants are so large they need little pilot trucks to guide them, one ahead and one behind. Largest of all are the hauler trucks that pull hoppers piled with tons of black sand, the prize of all this furious enterprise. They look like props from Star Wars — you expect a turret to swivel and shoot out death rays. But what they actually do might turn out to be more deadly. Here, they gouge and siphon that black sand from deep in the earth and through an awesome alchemical process turn it into something resembling crude oil. A triumph of science and engineering. And nearby lie the beginnings of a nineteen-hundred-mile international pipeline — the Keystone XL, it’s called — that will carry a million barrels of the stuff every day, down through the breadbasket of America to the Gulf Coast of Texas, where it will be refined and shipped to the emerging economic powers of the world.
Already this little burg is the greatest source of imported oil into the United States, and now it also finds itself central to the fight over global warming and the future habitability of planet Earth, which has been sending scientists all over the world into a state of increasing alarm. Recently, National Snow and Ice Data Center director Mark Serreze said arctic ice is in a death spiral and “is not going to recover.” Lonnie Thompson, the world’s greatest glaciologist, says, “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.” As the battle over the Keystone pipeline heated up last year, the world’s most distinguished climate scientists wrote a letter to Barack Obama raising a specific alarm about Canada’s tar sands: “Adding this on top of conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control.” The signatories included James Hansen, the NASA climatologist who raised the first alarms about global warming back in the 1980s, as well as leading scientists like James McCarthy of Harvard; Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton; Raymond T. Pierrehumbert of the University of Chicago; Donald Kennedy of Stanford; Richard Somerville, research professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Ray J. Weymann, director emeritus at Carnegie Observatories; and George M. Woodwell, senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center. “I’m a scientist who really thinks that climate change is going to be bad news all over the place, so I think it is time to bite the bullet and go off to the renewables in a big way,” says Richard A. Houghton of Woods Hole. “I’m not spending my life on this because it’s an interesting curiosity,” says Princeton’s Oppenheimer. “I think this problem is among a very small handful of problems that need to be solved, and if not solved correctly will head the human endeavor in the wrong direction.”
But the giant trucks keep rolling, more and more every day. So you slip your little sedan into their wake like the humblest of pilot fish, happy to suck their exhaust pipes in exchange for protection. Windshield wipers flap away the snow until you eject at your hotel, which has a parking lot filled with slush and snow but a tropical jungle in the lobby with a stream that curves around the chairs. The stream is stocked with ornamental carp, golden advertisements for the good life, every last one imported from a soft and temperate place very far away.
Are they grace notes in a harsh frontier or a sign of the impending apocalypse? You must choose one. You cannot choose both. This is the challenge of Fort McMurray, the secret engine of the modern world. Can it be fixed? Must it be stopped? Can it be stopped?…
(10 August 2012)
Cost to replace each barrel of oil produced is up 350%
Rick Nariani, Lux Populi
Uncertain global economic conditions have not deterred upstream capital spending. As oil prices continue to rise, companies are increasingly looking in harsher climates and deeper seas to replace reserves and make up for declining production from mature fields. The cost associated with replacing a barrel of produced oil has risen dramatically over the last 13 years, from $6 per barrel in 1998 to $27 per barrel in 2011…
(29 September 2012)
Iraq oil output likely to hit 3.4m bpd in 2012
Iraqi oil production is likely to hit 3.4 million barrels per day (bpd) while exports are expected to average 2.9 million bpd by next year, the top energy advisor to the Iraqi prime minister said on Tuesday.
“Next year, the plan is for 2.9 million barrels per day of export,” Thamir Ghadhban told reporters in Dubai.
Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi said earlier this week that Iraqi crude exports were to exceed 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in September and estimated production at more than 3.3 mln bpd…
(2 October 2012)