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One thing you don’t hear much mention of in all the coverage of the BP oil rig blowout that is now pouring 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, just a few dozen miles off the coast of Louisiana, is the 2010 hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1, but which can start significantly earlier.
This is, after all, an El Nino year, so storms could be more frequent and stronger than usual. In 2007, recall, the first storm of the season was Tropical Storm Andrea, which reached a size strong enough to merit a name on May 7, just a week later than today.
Why does this matter? Because any attempt to use booms or chemicals keep the oil away from the Gulf Coast would be completely impossible in the event of a major storm entering the Gulf. The combination of high winds, storm surges and high waves would push the oil slick way inland up the bayous and onto the shelter islands that protect 40 percent of America’s wetlands.
Washington, D.C.--StopTheChamber.com, a network of national organizations dedicated to corporate accountability, has been calling for months for a full criminal investigation into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its top staff, including CEO Tom Donohue, for racketeering, fraud, false reporting, and campaign finance violations. Now the network is adding obstruction of justice to that list. In the past two weeks, the United States has been hit with three major disasters, all tied to the polices and practices of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. First, 29 miners were killed in a Massey Energy coal mine explosion, second, 11 oil workers were killed in an British Petroleum oil rig fire, and third, Goldman Sachs was charged with a massive billion dollar fraud enterprise. Each of these companies uses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with its army of lobbyists and lawyers, as its first line of defense, corruptly influencing politicians and judges to protect corporations and thwart investigations, and spinning public relations to justify criminal conduct.
The Chamber has spent hundreds of millions on behalf of Wall Street robber barons, and has been directly coordinating with Goldman Sachs to maximize its profits and minimize the fallout from its criminal activities. The Chamber has been fighting laws and regulations to protect worker safety on behalf of Massey Energy and British Petroleum, and in fact, Massey CEO Don Blankenship is a Director of the Chamber and confidant of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. Massey and BP have been cited for thousands of safety violations, while the Chamber has been representing them and their trade groups to avoid regulation of any kind.
Bobby Kennedy Jr. said on Sunday (watch video here) that “Massey Energy is a criminal enterprise” that “cannot stay in business without breaking the law.” He says that Don Blankenship should “be in jail” for creating the conditions that led to the deaths of the 29 miners. On Tuesday, Eliot Spitzer, probably the most experienced attorney general to go after Wall Street criminals, asked, with regard to Goldman Sachs, “Where are the prosecutors?”
StopTheChamber.com calls on both the United States Attorney General and state attorneys general to launch widespread criminal investigations of the operations of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, racketeering and other serious felonies. “The Chamber is like the mafia dons of past eras,” said campaign spokesman and attorney Kevin Zeese. “All the criminal companies have to pay off the Chamber in order to get protection. The Chamber in turn launders that money in secret, and then pays off judges, politicians and even the media with donations, advertising, jobs, and other means of corruption. Tom Donohue, to quote Eliot Spitzer, ‘has never once found a crime that he couldn't justify, as long as it was committed by one of his dues-paying members.’ The Chamber, like the mafia, also uses threats to get its way, unleashing waves of goons, lobbyists and lawyers to intimidate anyone who dares to challenge it. Tom Donohue proudly says that the Chamber is so strong that ‘when it bites you in the butt, you bleed.’ We are calling on attorneys general across the country to focus their prosecutorial resources on the root of the corporate wrongdoing problem, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which enables, protects and conspires with these criminal companies to violate the law to the detriment of all Americans. There can be no more business as usual, and the Chamber must be held accountable in the same way the mafia dons were held accountable—prosecutions for conspiracy and racketeering.”
Hey, Sierra Club: There’s a giant flaming ball of oil being pushed straight for the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi. Might be the worst environmental event in decades. I know it makes the President’s recent decision to allow offshore drilling look. . . well, awkwardly timed, but this is, sort of, you know, your issue, and there’s no mention of it on your landing page. Was it not on the agenda at the Tuesday afternoon veal pen meeting?...
Shortly after Obama took office, the White House tried to cut Social Security benefits, but they had to back off, fearful that they would lose the support of liberal interest groups who joined together en masse behind the scenes to oppose it. The administration subsequently herded them all into a room, threatened their funding, and captivated them in an effort to pass a health care bill written by the Heritage Foundation and the insurance industry. And the progressive groups went along with it, proving that there is absolutely no limit to what they’ll accept.
Of course, the White House is going to go after Social Security again. It’s the pot of gold at the end of Wall Street’s rainbow, and they desperately want that injection of cash which could keep their giant ponzi scheme from exploding. . . for a little while.
Lucky for them, Obama has successfully dismantled the opposition that kept George Bush from privatizing Social Security at Wall Street’s behest only a few years ago. Did anybody fail to get that message when majority whip Dick Durbin yesterday told “bleeding heart liberals” that they need to be willing to accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits for the economic well-being of the nation? And there will be zero pushback. Read more.
"It's a low-cost solar cell that can be made to work with local, low-cost agricultural crops like pokeberries and with a means of production that emerging economies can afford," Carroll said.
A purple berry used by U.S. Civil War soldiers to write letters home could be used to advance solar power in poor rural areas, scientists said....When applied to fiber-based solar cells, the berry's dye acts as an absorber, helping the cell's fibers capture more sunlight to convert into power, Carroll said in a release from the university Thursday. Read more.
Nation's first offshore wind farm approved for Nantucket Sound
By Wayne Drash | CNN
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday approved the nation's first offshore wind farm, signing off on a project that has bitterly divided Cape Cod over the last nine years.
The 130 turbines are to be located several miles from the Massachusetts shore in the iconic waters of Nantucket Sound. The interior secretary said Cape Wind, as the project is known, is the start of a "new energy frontier."
"The United States is leading a clean energy revolution that is reshaping our future," Salazar told reporters in Boston. "Cape Wind is an opening of a new chapter in that future, and we are all part of that history."
"Cape Wind will be the nation's first offshore wind farm, supplying clean power to homes and businesses in Massachusetts, plus creating good jobs here in America," he said. "This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast." Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
British Petroleum had a fail-safe system for it’s Deepwater Horizon floating deep-water drilling rig.
You know, the one that blew up and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving a tangled spaghetti pile of 22-inch steel pipe one mile long all balled up on the sea floor a mile below the surface, and that is leaking oil at 42,000 gallons per day...so far.
The thing is, the fail-safe system, about the size of a McMansion sitting at the wellhead on the ocean floor, um, failed. It didn’t collapse and shut off the flow of oil as intended, and it could take months now to shut the well down--during which time the leak rate is likely to increase to up to 300,000 gallons per day, or over two million gallons a week.
Chernobyl demands a REAL climate bill
By Harvey Wasserman | April 26, 2010
This week 24 years ago, untold quantities of lethal radiation began pouring into the atmosphere from the catastrophic explosion at Chernobyl Unit 4. Nearly a million people have died because of it.
And on this horrific anniversary we have now seen the stumble of a very bad climate bill. The events are directly related.
Chernobyl's death toll has been bitterly debated.
But after nearly a quarter-century of industry denial, the New York Academy of Sciences has published, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, the definitive catalog and analysis. Drawing on some 5,000 studies, three Russian scientists have placed the ultimate death toll at 985,000.
The authors include Russian biologist Dr. Alexey Yablokov, former environmental advisor to the president of Russia; Dr. Alexey Nesterenko, a biologist in Belarus; and Dr.Vassili Nesterenko, a physicist who was, at the time of the accident, director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The book has been edited by Dr. Janette Sherman, a toxicologist expert in the health impacts of radioactivity.
As Karl Grossman has shown, Chernobyl's death toll stretches worldwide. Its apocalyptic cloud blanketed Europe and blew across the northern tier of the United States. Sheep in Scotland and milk in New England were heavily contaminated, along with countless square miles of land and sea.
Ohio's Davis-Besse may have come within a fraction of an inch of such a disaster, and has again been found with potentially apocalyptic structural flaws. Michigan's Fermi I and the infamous Three Mile Island Unit 2 did melt.
Now the brand new Toshiba-Westinghouse AP-1000 design has been deemed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as unable to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes, and has turned up with a critical generic flaw that could cause it to explode.
Which is where the climate bill comes in.
Officials Say Burning Oil Rig in Gulf of Mexico Has Sunk
Burning Oil Rig Sinks in 5,000 Feet of Water While Seach Continues for 11 Men; One Suit Already Filed
By Lee Ferran, Jeffrey Kofman and Michael Murray | ABC News
A burning oil rig sank into 5,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico today while the search by air for 11 workers still missing continued.
The U.S. Coast Guard, which is leading the search, said it will now begin to assess the pollution the disaster has caused. About 300,000 gallons of crude oil have been released into the Gulf.
Nearly 100 survivors of Tuesday's explosion -- which sent several workers diving off the 75-foot platform -- arrived in a New Orleans port early this morning, Kerver said. Seventeen others were taken to area hospitals, some with critical injuries.
Overnight two Coast Guard cutters continued the search for the 11 missing, eerily illuminated by the massive fireball on the platform that has yet to be extinguished. The Coast Guard said aircraft were scheduled to resume the search at first light. Already nearly 2,000 square miles have been scoured, the Coast Guard said. Read more.
Fatal mining disaster not just tragic, but criminal
By Amy Goodman | Rabble.CA
Massey Energy runs the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine in Montcoal, W.Va., where 29 miners were killed last week. The loss of life is tragic, but the UBB explosion is more than tragic; it is criminal. When corporations are guilty of crimes, however, they don't go to prison, they don't forfeit their freedom -- they just get fined, which often amounts to a slap on the wrist, the cost of doing business. No one makes this clearer than the CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship. He has been the bane of climate-change activists and mine safety advocates for years. This latest mine disaster, if nothing else, will surely bring needed attention to this poster boy for malevolent big business trampling on communities, the environment and workers' rights.
Days after the Massey explosion, Blankenship admitted in a radio interview: "Violations are, you know, unfortunately, a normal part of the mining process ... there are violations at every coal mine in America. And UBB was a mine that had violations." The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette has consistently reported critically on Massey Energy and Blankenship, prompting him to attack its editors in a November 2008 speech, saying: "It is as great a pleasure to me to be criticized by the communists and the atheists of the Gazette ... would we be upset if Osama bin Laden were to be critical of us? I don't think so."
Initial speculation on the cause of the explosion is methane in the mine. The Massey UBB mine has received thousands of citations for violations, including many for failing to remove the methane with ventilation. Another cause may be the mine's proximity to Massey mountaintop removal operations. Mountaintop removal involves the massive blasting away of mountaintops, providing access to seams of coal, but causing widespread destruction of the environment. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that a West Virginia state investigation into the explosion will include possible impact of nearby mountaintop mining operations. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson issued new rules restricting mountaintop removal on April 1, just days before the Massey explosion. Massey is the principal target of a growing grass-roots campaign against mountaintop removal. Among those arrested at protests have been renowned climate scientist James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and actress Daryl Hannah. Read more.
Harvey Wasserman spoke in Charlottesville, Va., on April 19, 2010. He discussed past activist successes and new strategies, and the vision of his book Solartopia, as well as the concerns expressed in his recent popular article "Will the Climate Bill Nuke Earth Day?" Wasserman laid out five key steps to fix the mess we're in. You'll want to hear them. Hint: one has to do with corporate power and another with wars.
US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015
• Shortfall could reach 10m barrels a day, report says
• Cost of crude oil is predicted to top $100 a barrel
By Terry Macalister | Guardian.co.UK
The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.
The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.
"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.
It adds: "While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India." Read more.
StopTheChamber.com Campaign Calls For Criminal Charges Against U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Director Don Blankenship For Homicide
No More Business As Usual
Our StopTheChamber.com Campaign Today Called For Criminal Charges Against U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Director Don Blankenship For Homicide Of 29 West Virginia Miners
We Also Called For Congress Members To Order Halt Contact With Chamber Lobbyists
YOU CAN HELP BY JOINING AND SUPPORTING OUR CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE CHAMBER!
Our StopTheChamber.com campaign has been warning for months about the devastating effect of U.S. Chamber of Commerce policies on the well being of Americans. Specifically, we have condemned the Chamber for spending hundreds of millions to fight regulation of its dues paying members and regulation of pollution caused by those members. These actions have been led by Chamber CEO Tom Donohue and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, the latter who runs vast coal mining operations in West Virginia, including the serial offending Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners were killed last week.
In a recent press release, attorney and campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese said: “The convergence of the Chamber’s policies against regulation of workplace safety and the disaster of mining coal without regard for the environmental impact resulted in the death of 29 hard working West Virginian miners. This was not an accident, but rather the result of deliberate and intentional decisions and actions of Don Blankenship, a director of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Blankenship and Chamber CEO Tom Donohue must be held accountable for these deaths. What is it going to take for Congress and the President to stop coddling criminals, masquerading as legitimate businessmen, who cause the death of our loved ones? Blankenship, with the lobbying army of the Chamber to back him up, has thumbed his nose at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, ignoring or appealing every violation, including the scores that resulted in coal mine evacuations and the hundreds of other serious violations. As the Washington Post pointed out in a Saturday editorial, these 29 deaths would not have occurred absent this intentional conduct of Blankenship. He is just as criminally culpable as any mass murderer.”
Today we called on federal law enforcement officials to charge Don Blankenship with homicide, and for a complete criminal investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its CEO Tom Donohue to determine what policies and practices led to the death of these miners, and whether Chamber lobbyists and lawyers were used to cover-up or avoid compliance with safety regulations. Criminal prosecution of the perpetrators of this terrible crime will ensure accountability, expose the Chamber’s criminal conduct and pave the way for real worker safety across the nation.
We also called on all Congress Members to immediately issue a standing order to their staff to cease all communication and contact with U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyists. Now that the Chamber and its directors have been directly implicated in the homicide of 29 workers, there can be no more business as usual. Congress Members must stand up for working people by refusing to meet with and do the bidding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization whose directors, policies and practices have killed and will kill again if they are not stopped.
When scientists at Dow Chemical looked at the possibility of manufacturing solar panels a few years ago, the company rejected it out of hand, says Chief Executive Andrew Liveris. Dow had no experience building solar panels. Yet their concept was alluring: integrate thin-film solar cells into roofing shingles. In place of traditional asphalt shingles, several hundred of these nailed onto the roof could generate enough electricity to power a home. Liveris sent them back to the lab, then decided to take the plunge.
Today those scientists are testing prototypes of the product, which Dow calls Powerhouse. Dow's aim is to start selling Powerhouse next year. Because they look like traditional roofing material, the solar shingles are more likely to get the nod from uptight homeowners' associations. Now, says Liveris, "I believe this will be solar for the masses."
That change of heart reflects the sunny outlook of Dow's solar champion, William Banholzer, whose title is chief technology officer. "I don't see any reason why people wouldn't want to generate clean electricity from their roof," he says. He adds that the market for this product could be $5 billion by 2015 and envisions that "someday Dow would be a solar company that happens to make chemicals." Read more.
Thousands of Iraqis have been holding demonstrations throughout Iraq to mark the fall of Baghdad during the 2003 US-led invasion.
Marchers on Friday called for an end to what they said was the continued occupation of their country by hundreds of thousands of foreign troops and military contractors.
Supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadrturned out in massive numbers in the city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.
Iraqi broadcaster Alsumaria said the tens of thousandsof waved Iraqi flags, and trampled on US, UK and Israeli flags.
Marchers on Friday chanted slogans such as "yes, yes to unity" and "Sunni and Shia Muslims, we won't sell this country".
Protests against US and foreign forces in the country have been held every year on April 9, primarily by Sadr supporters, since Saddam Hussein, the former president, was ousted from power in 2003. Read More.
The Joint Operating Environment 2010 report, of the US Joint Forces Command, released March 15, 2010, expressed this view:
The economic importance of the Middle East with its energy supplies hardly needs emphasis. Whatever the outcome of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces will find themselves again employed in the region on numerous missions ranging from regular warfare, counterinsurgency, stability operations, relief and reconstruction, to engagement operations. The region and its energy supplies are too important for the U.S., China, and other energy importers to allow radical groups to gain dominance or control over any significant portion of the region.
Engineers of Technital SpA, the Italian firm that designed the system to save Venice from flooding, are working on the future of Iraq as embodied in their plan for the "New Al Faw Grand Port" at the southern tip of Iraq, a $6 billion major deep-water port on the Persian Gulf that will be the largest in the Gulf.
At the same time, officials of Deutsche Bahn, the German railway system, are hoping to work with the Iraqi government on a rail system that would link Al Faw to Europe. It is possible that the system might carry crude oil and petroleum products as well as dry freight to the West to augment existing pipelines and avoid ocean shipment through choke points such as the Straits of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandab and the Suez Canal.
These plans point to a dramatically different Iraq from the emotionally, culturally and economically drained nation that it is today, horribly wounded by the US-led 2003 invasion. The Iraq of the planners will earn billions from its oil reserves, the third largest in the world, and it will attract billions from investors seeking to capitalize on its economically strategic location at the top of the Persian Gulf. Read more.
Just because you're smarter, more erudite and articulate than "Dubya" if your policies are essentially unchanged from his, that is not "change", it is just new "packaging" of the same damaged goods.
Obama must be calculating that his "constituency" has nowhere else to go, believing they certainly won't embrace Republicans (or the "tea baggers") so he feels he can do as he pleases and embrace right wing ideas like increased offshore drilling and nobody on the left will notice or just ignore it.
Americans have to wake up (and go beyond the rants of the screaming wack jobs on the right). We're at the 11th hour and the clock is ticking. Our two party system is dysfunctional and broken and there is little difference between them. The people are being stiffed as neither party acts in its interests. Both parties are beholden to their corporate backers and our office holders are mostly sycophants and dutiful water carriers doing their bidding.
And that includes the current occupant in the White House.
The headline read, "Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time"
After a stunned double take (and hardly believing what one was reading ), there it was, Obama is going to "open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time."
George W. (oops!), Barack Obama is going to do EXACTLY what his predecessor vowed to do!
That it was (and is) completely unnecessary and will do nothing to seriously reduce our dependence on foreign oil or make us any closer to reaching energy independence apparently was lost on the "current occupant" in the White House. Read more.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said yesterday that he would honour deals signed with global oil majors in recent months and would move quickly to pass a new hydrocarbons law if his bloc forms the government.
But Allawi, whose cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition won the greatest number of seats in Iraq’s March 7 parliamentary election, said the deals might need some minor adjustments and he wanted to see more competition in Iraq’s energy sector.
“We are going to honour all contracts. We are going to honour all agreements because we believe this is very important,” Allawi said. Iraq awarded billions of dollars of contracts to oil majors to refurbish its dilapidated oil fields after years of neglect and war. Baghdad’s goal is to expand production capacity to 12 million barrels per day (b/d) in about six years from about 2.5m b/d now.
The contracts could catapult Iraq into the top ranks of global producers. The war-shattered nation has the world’s third-largest reserves but is just the 11th largest producer. Companies involved in the deals include US major ExxonMobil Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil company; Russia’s Lukoil and China National Petroleum Corp. Read more.
Nissan Leaf electric vehicle to sell for less than $33,000
Written by Weston Sedgwick | Green Technology Daily
Nissan announce this week that its new electric vehicle (EV), the Leaf, will have a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $32,780 for the standard model.
The vehicle, designed to travel 100 miles on an average battery charge, will be available in some markets this December, with nationwide sales beginning in 2011.
Nissan said it would begin accepting online reservations for the Leaf on April 20 for a fully refundable fee of $99. The automaker noted that each Leaf would be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as any potential state tax rebates for such alternative transportation. The nonprofit Plug In America called the pricing for the Leaf a "game changer" that will help to build a robust EV market. See the Plug In America press release.
As part of the buying process, Nissan will offer to install personal charging docks that operate on a 220-volt supply. The company said the average cost of the docks would be $2,200, but they too would be eligible for rebates. Read more.
Barack Obama Reverses Campaign Promise and Approves Offshore Drilling
President allows oil and gas exploration off several coastal areas to horsetrade with Republicans over climate change bills
By Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian UK
Barack Obama took the Republican slogan "drill, baby, drill" as his own today, opening up over 500,000 square miles of US coastal waters to oil and gas exploitation for the first time in over 20 years.
The move, a reversal of Obama's early campaign promise to retain a ban on offshore exploration, appeared aimed at winning support from Republicans in Congress for new laws to tackle global warming. Sarah Palin's "Drill, baby, drill" slogan was a prominent battle cry in the 2008 elections.
The areas opened up are off the Atlantic coast, the northern coast of Alaska and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. However, in a concession to his environmentalist base, Obama did retain protection for Alaska's Bristol Bay, the single largest source of seafood in America and home to endangered species of whale. The Pacific Coast from Mexico to Canada is also off-limits.
Obama said the decision to allow oil rigs off the Atlantic coast was a painful one, but that it would help reduce US dependence on imported oil.
"This is not a decision that I've made lightly," the president said. "But the bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we're going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy." Read more.
From TomDispatch this morning: An unprecedented picture of China on one of history's great spending binges in search of access to, and control over, the world's key future energy and other resources -- "China's Global Shopping Spree: Is the World's Future Resource Map Tilting East?"
"Think of it as a tale of two countries," begins energy expert and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet Michael Klare. "When it comes to procuring the resources that make industrial societies run, China is now the shopaholic of planet Earth, while the United States is staying at home. Hard-hit by the global recession, the United States has experienced a marked decline in the consumption of oil and other key industrial materials. Not so China. With the recession’s crippling effects expected to linger in the U.S. for many years, analysts foresee a slow recovery when it comes to resource consumption. Not so China."
TomDispatch regular Klare offers a picture of state-owned or state-backed Chinese companies ranging the world gobbling up the key future energy and other resources crucial to an industrial society, and at recession-induced bargain-basement prices. Backed with endless streams of cash, these companies are, in the field of oil alone, making deals from Kazakhistan in Central Asia to Ecuador in Latin America, Iraq to Venezuela, Burma to the African country of Guinea.
It's a remarkable, even shopaholic burst of buying of a sort we haven't seen in our lifetimes. As Klare concludes in this must-read piece: "Perhaps more than any other recent developments, China’s global shopping spree reveals how the world’s balance of power is shifting from West to East." Read it now.
Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time
By John M. Broder | NY Times
The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.
The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.
Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border.
The environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska would be protected and no drilling would be allowed under the plan, officials said. But large tracts in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska — nearly 130 million acres — would be eligible for exploration and drilling after extensive studies. Read more.
As multinational military forces have left Iraq, international petroleum companies have eagerly descended — seduced by the long-term potential of vast oil reserves off-limits to foreigners for decades. Yet lingering violence, legal questions and political uncertainty make doing business in this country a gamble.
In the first international oil auction held last June, widely seen as a failure, the Iraqi government awarded a firm contract to only a consortium of British Petroleum and the China National Petroleum Co. to further develop the Rumaila field over 20 years. Iraq recently forged an initial agreement with a group comprising Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell to develop the West Qurna field, and one with an ENI-led consortium of Occidental Petroleum and Korea Gas for the Zubair oil field.
Under ratified deals, firms stand to gain a mere $2 profit on each barrel added to production because the Iraqi government wants to convey "they’re not going to let the oil companies take over," said Robert Ebel, a senior adviser in the energy and national security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank. Read more.
The Labour government will unveil a 2 billion pound ($3 billion) "green" investment bank in Wednesday's budget to help Britain's transformation to a low carbon economy, a government source said on Sunday.
Finance minister Alistair Darling has said there will be no pre-election giveaways in the budget, with polling day expected on May 6, but he wants more investment to encourage future sources of economic growth after an 18-month recession.
The green bank, designed to help finance projects such as railways, offshore wind power generation and eco-friendly waste management, will be half-funded from government asset sales with the remaining one billion pounds coming from the private sector.
"The high risk profile of these investments, which are in new and unproven technologies means an initial government investment is needed to draw in investors," the source said.
"By providing an initial investment of government capital it will reduce the risk profile for investors and increase the incentive for the private sector to enter the market at the scale and pace needed." Read more.
The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister's Office, which views the pipeline to Haifa as a "bonus" the U.S. could give to Israel in return for its unequivocal support for the American-led campaign in Iraq, had asked the Americans for the official telegram.
The new pipeline would take oil from the Kirkuk area, where some 40 percent of Iraqi oil is produced, and transport it via Mosul, and then across Jordan to Israel. The U.S. telegram included a request for a cost estimate for repairing the Mosul-Haifa pipeline that was in use prior to 1948. During the War of Independence, the Iraqis stopped the flow of oil to Haifa and the pipeline fell into disrepair over the years.
The National Infrastructure Ministry has recently conducted research indicating that construction of a 42-inch diameter pipeline between Kirkuk and Haifa would cost about $400,000 per kilometer. The old Mosul-Haifa pipeline was only 8 inches in diameter.
National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said yesterday that the port of Haifa is an attractive destination for Iraqi oil and that he plans to discuss this matter with the U.S. secretary of energy during his planned visit to Washington next month. Paritzky added that the plan depends on Jordan's consent and that Jordan would receive a transit fee for allowing the oil to piped through its territory. The minister noted, however, that "due to pan-Arab concerns, it will be hard for the Jordanians to agree to the flow of Iraqi oil via Jordan and Israel." Read more.
United for Peace of Pierce County published alarming news of US military preparations for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Scotland's Sunday Herald published "Final Destination Iran" reporting that "Hundreds of powerful U.S. 'bunker-buster' bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran." -- "Contract details for the shipment to Diego Garcia were posted on an international tenders’ website by the U.S. Navy," Rob Edwards said. -- "A shipping company based in Florida, Superior Maritime Services, will be paid $699,500 to carry many thousands of military items from Concord, California, to Diego Garcia. -- Crucially, the cargo includes 195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs. -- 'They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran,' said Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, co-author of a recent study on US preparations for an attack on Iran." -- Iran's Press TV summarized the report on Monday but added no new information. ...
Wind turbines that can be seen slicing the sky above rural Minnesota were manufactured more than 6,000 miles away by a Chinese company. They're helping to power the nearby town of Pipestone.
"The wind is blowing nearly all the time," said Pipestone resident Elmer Stoltenberg. "We should take advantage of that."
In New Jersey, one Rutgers University campus gets 10 percent of its energy from 7,000 solar panels also made by a Chinese company.
China has a dirty reputation as the world's factory, but its emerging green energy sector is threatening to leave the United States in its dust. Read more.
Iraq sits atop 115 billion barrels of crude, the world's third largest proven reserves of conventional crude oil. But current production of about 2.4 million barrels per day remains well below levels before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Al-Maliki's government has vowed, based on developers' promises, to raise output to more than 12 million barrels a day within six to seven years. The production increase would translate into hundreds of billions of dollars in sorely needed revenue for a government that relies on crude sales for 95 percent of its revenues.
Backed by armed bodyguards, international oil executives have flocked to this southern Iraqi city to survey their potentially lucrative prizes: the fields that they hope will one day be pumping out dramatically greater amounts of cheap, plentiful crude.
For their companies, the fields that they won the rights to develop in two biddings rounds last year are their first foray into Iraq's oil sector in over three decades.
For Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the executives and their investments are a vital part of his bid to win a second term in March 7 elections. Al-Maliki has billed himself to voters as the leader that can ensure the development of Iraq's dilapidated oil sector and bring in billions of dollars to rebuild the country's struggling economy. Read more.