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They will also support numerous treaties, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the proposed treaty to ban the production of nuclear materials for weapons.
ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2010) — The American Physical Society (APS), the world's leading organization of physicists, has released a report identifying technical steps that will help the U.S. achieve its goals to downsize the nuclear arsenal, prevent the spread of atomic bombs and keep the stockpile safe and secure.
Vice President Joe Biden outlined those objectives during a speech in Washington, D.C., and the APS report, Technical Steps to Support Nuclear Downsizing, provides concrete steps -- including the use of nuclear archaeology to validate nations' production of atomic material -- that will help the nation accomplish its goals.
By David Rovics
In a country with the kind of tumultuous history that Ireland has it's not surprising that a man being arrested and jailed for seven months would escape the notice of the media, at least outside of Ireland. What should hopefully pique some interest is that this is a man with a long history of being bullied, intimidated, arrested and treated roughly by the authorities for his nonviolent resistance against Shell Oil's construction of a gas pipeline, and now the judge is calling him a bully and jailing him for seven months on the extremely dubious charge of intimidating an officer.
To be sure, this is not Nigeria, where Shell regularly massacres those opposed to the oil drilling which is destroying the environment and the livelihoods of so much of the population. Shell doesn't run Ireland in the way it controls Nigeria. But at the same time, much like my own country, the Irish government has proven itself to be far from free of corruption.
Haiti Is Open for Business
By Stephen Lendman
In December 1984, Canada's conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney, told the New York Economic Club that "Canada is open for business," meaning US companies were welcome, the two countries would work for greater economic integration, America's sovereignty took precedence of his own, and corporate interests from both countries could operate freely at the expense of most Canadians.
That's always been Haiti's curse, now more than ever. Under American militarized control, Haiti is occupied for profit, its pseudo government largely invisible, and predators aim to cash in to the fullest. On January 21, in his article titled, "Securing disaster in Haiti," Peter Hallward explained, saying:
"....the US-led relief operation has conformed to the three fundamental tendencies that have shaped the more general course of the island's recent history. It has adopted military priorities and strategies. It has sidelined Haiti's own leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority of its people. And it has proceeded in ways that reinforce the already harrowing gap between rich and poor. All three tendencies aren't just connected, they are mutually reinforcing. (They'll also) govern the imminent reconstruction effort as well, unless determined political action is taken to counteract them."
ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2010) — Despite good intentions, the push to privatize government functions and insistence upon "free trade" that is too often unfair has caused declining food production, increased poverty and a hunger crisis for millions of people in many African nations, researchers conclude in a new study.
Market reforms that began in the mid-1980s and were supposed to aid economic growth have actually backfired in some of the poorest nations in the world, and just in recent years led to multiple food riots, scientists report Feb 15 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2010) — RTI International has developed a revolutionary lighting technology that is more energy efficient than the common incandescent light bulb and does not contain mercury, making it environmentally safer than the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb.
Sanders Introduces Major Solar Energy Initiative | Press Release
WASHINGTON, February 4 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate’s green jobs subcommittee, today introduced legislation with nine cosponsors to encourage the installation of 10 million solar systems on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade.
“At a time when we spend $350 billion importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries every year, the United States must move away from foreign oil to energy independence,” Sanders said. “A dramatic expansion of solar power is a clean and economical way to help break our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, improve our geopolitical position, and create good-paying green jobs.”
At a Senate committee hearing today, Sanders questioned Energy Secretary Steven Chu about President Obama’s budget for next year. The White House requested $2.4 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The requested 5 percent boost overall included a 22 percent increase for solar power.
The potential for solar power also was the subject of testimony last week before Sanders’ green jobs subcommittee by Jeff Wolfe, chief executive officer of groSolar in White River Junction, Vt. Wolfe said Sanders’ bill “would help homeowners and small businesses stabilize their energy costs.”
Sanders’ bill would authorize rebates which, along with other incentives, would cover up to half the cost of the 10 million solar power systems and 200,000 water heating systems. Non-profit groups and state and local governments also would be eligible. The legislation would ensure that participating homeowners and businesses also receive information on incentives to improve energy efficiency.
Sanders said a recent report shows that solar power could help make every state more energy independent if solar units were installed on available rooftop space, because every state can meet 10 percent or more of its electricity needs just through rooftop solar. Moreover, because solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than other energy sources. Sanders’ bill could create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next ten years in the solar industry.
The legislation’s cosponsors include Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
Sanders’ measure is patterned after successful state programs promoting solar energy in New Jersey and California, where prices have fallen as the number of solar units increased.
To read a copy of the bill, click here.
Tom of TomDispatch.com wrote:
Remember the good old days? As TomDispatch regular and author of War Without End Michael Schwartz recalls them: "How the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, an overconfident Bush administration expected to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, pacify the country, install a compliant client government, privatize the economy, and establish Iraq as the political and military headquarters for a dominating U.S. presence in the Middle East." And that was only to be the beginning: The dream in those now seemingly distant days was to strip OPEC -- the cartel consisting of the planet’s main petroleum exporters -- of the power to control the oil supply and its price on the world market, and to do so by putting Iraq's vast oil reserves in the hands of the major international oil companies. (In the process, so the Bush administration dream went, some part of the vast increase in Iraq's oil output could even be used to pay for the American invasion and occupation.)
Of course, none of this happened and, at a moment when American eyes are off Iraq (despite the 110,000 American troops still in the country), Schwartz offers, in his latest TomDispatch post, a riveting account of what actually happened -- and why, despite every effort on the part of the Bush administration, Iraqi oil output, to this day, has not been significantly raised.
This is a classic tale, wonderfully told, of imperial hubris, remarkable blundering, Iraqi resistance, and energy politics. And it is ongoing. Schwartz's account takes you from the invasion of 2003 to late tomorrow night. He concludes: "The end is not in sight and the outcome still unclear. Will the vast Iraqi oil reserves be developed and sent into the hungry world market any time soon? If they are, who will determine the rate of flow, and so wield the power this decision-making confers? And once this ocean of oil is sold, who will receive the potentially incredible revenues? As with so much else, when it comes to Iraqi oil, the American war has generated so many problems and catastrophes -- and so few answers."
The Iraqi Oil Conundrum
Energy and Power in the Middle East
By Michael Schwartz
How the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, an overconfident Bush administration expected to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, pacify the country, install a compliant client government, privatize the economy, and establish Iraq as the political and military headquarters for a dominating U.S. presence in the Middle East. These successes were, in turn, expected to pave the way for ambitious goals, enshrined in the 2001 report of Vice President Dick Cheney’s secretive task force on energy. That report focused on exploiting Iraq’s monstrous, largely untapped energy reserves -- more than any country other than Saudi Arabia and Iran -- including the quadrupling of Iraq’s capacity to pump oil and the privatization of the production process.
The dream in those distant days was to strip OPEC -- the cartel consisting of the planet’s main petroleum exporters -- of the power to control the oil supply and its price on the world market. As a reward for vastly expanding Iraqi production and freeing its distribution from OPEC’s control, key figures in the Bush administration imagined that the U.S. could skim off a small proportion of that increased oil production to offset the projected $40 billion cost of the invasion and occupation of the country.
All in a year or two. Read more.
CO2 abatement: Exploring options for oil and natural gas companies
Oil and natural gas companies play a central role in CO2 emissions. How can the industry meet the challenge from climate change regulations?
Scott Nyquist and Jurriaan Ruys | McKinsey Quarterly
The oil and natural gas industry is directly responsible for just 6 percent of global CO2 emissions, but the debate over how to reduce the global greenhouse gases (GHG) commonly associated with climate change focuses primarily on oil and natural gas companies. These companies are under constant regulatory and reputational pressure to reduce both upstream and downstream CO2 emissions, and in the coming years they will increasingly be expected to provide solutions and make investments. The reason for this emphasis on the industry is that when you add the CO2 emitted in the end uses (transportation, power and heat generation), the petroleum and gas sectors account for almost half of all global emissions.
It is important to understand the position of the oil and gas industry in the context of the larger debate over climate change. By exploring some of the options that the sector has for reducing GHG emissions, oil and natural gas companies can not only stay ahead of regulatory and economic developments but also potentially profit from them. Read more, requires site registration.
Must be somebody's idea of a joke.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2010) — The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that it recently completed the installation and successful startup of a new surveillance diagnostic tool that is capable of detecting aging defects on critical components in the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.
A Global Push for Renewable Energy
With 142 member nations already signed on, the new International Renewable Energy Agency is promoting a fast, global transition to clean, safe, and renewable energy.
by Alice Slater | Yes!
Since 1995, when more than 170 nations voted to extend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, civil society has been calling for the establishment of an international agency to promote renewable energy sources to take the place of fossil fuels without resorting to nuclear power.
Recognizing the “inextricable link” between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, Abolition 2000, a global network for the elimination of nuclear weapons, drafted a model statute for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and lobbied nations around the world to institute it.  Joining with other grassroots networks working to avoid catastrophic climate change through a transition to sustainable energy, activists spoke up at numerous international meetings and conferences and conferred with national environmental departments, seeking support for an energy agency focused solely on clean, safe, renewable energy.
In January 2009, one year ago, Germany, Denmark, and Spain launched the founding meeting for IRENA in Bonn, Germany.  A year later, 142 of the 192 member states of the United Nations, as well as the European Union, have signed the IRENA statute. The agency has opened headquarters in Abu Dhabi and branch offices in Bonn and Vienna, and its interim-director general, Helene Pelosse, a former French environmental minister who held positions in trade and finance as well, is determined to hire a staff comprised of at least 50 percent women.
IRENA is committed to becoming a principal driving force in promoting a rapid transition toward the sustainable use of a renewable energy on a global scale. It has a mandate to promote all forms of renewable energy produced in a sustainable manner, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, and appropriate bio energy. It will provide practical advice and support for both industrialized and developing countries, helping them to build capacity and improve their regulatory frameworks. Read more.
Oil giant Shell and Malaysia's state-run Petronas oil company finalised a contract on Sunday to develop Iraq's giant Majnoon oil field.
In December Shell and Petronas beat a rival bid from France's Total and China's CNPC to develop the 12.6bn barrel field in southern Iraq.
The field currently produces just 46,000 barrels per day.
Shell and Petronas have pledged to increase that output to 1.8 million barrels per day. Read more.
Stop the Chamber; I Want to Get Off! Group to Expose Candidates Accepting Funds From Commerce Lobbyists
It's 2010. Do you know which corporate pocket your representative is in?
There is no better analogy for the outsize influence of corporations upon government than the behavior of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of late. The "world's largest business federation" has transformed itself into a lobbying machine for some of the nation's dirtiest corporate crooks in a series of misleading campaigns against climate change legislation, affordable healthcare, the employee free choice act, campaign spending reform, corporate responsibility, consumer protection, and keeping social security private.
All the more reason to know who they've been wining and dining on the Hill.Velvet Revolution, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to clean and honest government," issued a statement today announcing they plan to target political candidates who accept contributions from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"If a candidate gets support from the Chamber, we are going to call him or her out for accepting tainted money -- money from big business that is not going into creating jobs, providing health care, and cleaning up Wall Street. We will demand that candidates renounce the Chamber's support, return any funding, and condemn the Chamber’s advertisements and policies. If they do not, we will expose them," said Kevin Zeese, spokesman and attorney for Velvet Revolution in a statement.
Today's news release is part of Velvet Revolution's larger "Stop the Chamber" campaign (to which BuzzFlash has signed on), which seeks to expose the Chamber's lobbying efforts against all kinds of reform, as well as to precipitate an investigation into allegations of the organization's illegal activities:
Polluters like Big Coal, Big Asbestos, and Big Oil only need call the Chamber to stop any accountability for their toxic destruction. Wall Street banks and CEOs need only make sure that they have paid their Chamber dues to ensure that they can continue to rip off the taxpayers. And killers like Big Tobacco need only form a partnership with the Chamber to ensure that they will be given immunity from lawsuits that seek accountability for the death and sickness of millions of Americans...
Not only is the Chamber lobbying and advertising against the interests of Americans, it is also committing fraud and violating campaign finance laws by creating fake astroturfing front groups, with patriotic names like Citizens for a Strong Ohio, and then illegally funneling millions of anonymous dollars into those groups to attack candidates and judges who won't do their bidding.
This announcement doesn't come a moment too soon. Not only are primary elections coming up, but the Chamber of Commerce just recently signaled its plans to spend record amounts of money in the 2010 elections. Read more.
A wave of American companies have been arriving in Iraq in recent months to pursue what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar bonanza of projects to revive the country’s stagnant petroleum industry, as Iraq seeks to establish itself as a rival to Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer.
Since the 2003 American-led invasion, nearly all of the biggest reconstruction projects in Iraq have been controlled by the United States. But many rebuilding contracts are expected to be awarded as soon as this month for drilling hundreds of new wells, repairing thousands of miles of pipeline and building several giant floating oil terminals in the Persian Gulf, and possibly a new port.
The contracts will be administered either directly by the Iraqi government or as part of Baghdad’s oversight of international oil companies that have signed agreements during the past few months to develop the country’s most promising oil fields.
There are misgivings, however, about Iraq’s ability to adequately monitor contracts that could total $10 billion over the next five years. The concerns have been heightened by the prominent role expected to be played by American companies that have been criticized in the past by United States government auditors and inspectors for overcharging by hundreds of millions of dollars, performing shoddy work and failing to finish hundreds of crucial projects while under contract in Iraq. Read more.
As Schell has, in recent months, been traveling the world mentally comparing Europe's high-speed trains to our own clunky railroads, and China's gleaming airlines and airports to our own down-at-the-mouth equivalents, he's "taken to keeping a double-entry list of what works and what doesn’t, country by country. Unfortunately, it’s largely a list of what works “there” and doesn’t work here. It’s in places like China, South Korea, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, and (until recently) the United Arab Emirates -- some not even open societies -- that you find people hard at work on the challenges of education, transport, energy, and the environment. It’s there that one feels the sense of possibility, of hopefulness, of can-do optimism so long associated with the U.S."
This beautifully written piece is, then, his list of what works and (mostly) what doesn't in this country, one man's portrait of how a can-do nation turned into a can't-do one. He concludes: "That list of can-do’s remains so unbearably short and the cant-do’s grows by the trip. I’d love to be convinced otherwise, but like the ice fields of the Greater Himalaya melting before our eyes, American prowess and promise, once seemingly as much a permanent part of the global landscape as glaciers, mountains, and oceans, seems to be melting away by the day."
The Melting of America
The Story of a Can’t-Do Nation
By Orville Schell
Lately, I’ve been studying the climate-change induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya. Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet’s most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited. Spending time considering the deleterious downstream effects on the two billion people (from the North China Plain to Afghanistan) who depend on the river systems -- the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Amu Darya and Tarim -- that arise in these mountains isn’t much of an antidote to malaise either.
If you focus on those Himalayan highlands, a deep sense of loss creeps over you -- the kind that comes from contemplating the possible end of something once imagined as immovable, immutable, eternal, something that has unexpectedly become vulnerable and perishable as it has slipped into irreversible decline. Those magnificent glaciers, known as the Third Pole because they contain the most ice in the world short of the two polar regions, are now wasting away on an overheated planet and no one knows what to do about it. Read more.
New Revelations Tear Holes in Iran Nuclear Trigger Story
Analysis by Gareth Porter | IPS
WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (IPS) - New revelations about two documents leaked to The Times of London to show that Iran is working on a "nuclear trigger" mechanism have further undermined the credibility of the document the newspaper had presented as evidence of a continuing Iranian nuclear weapons programme.
A columnist for the Times has acknowledged that the two-page Persian language document published by The Times last month was not a photocopy of the original document but an expurgated and retyped version of the original.
A translation of a second Persian language document also published by The Times, moreover, contradicts the claim by The Times that it shows the "nuclear trigger" document was written within an organisation run by an Iranian military scientist.
Former Central Intelligence Agency official Philip Giraldi has said U.S. intelligence judges the "nuclear trigger" document to be a forgery, as IPS reported last week. The IPS story also pointed out that the document lacked both security markings and identification of either the issuing organisation or the recipient.
The new revelations point to additional reasons why intelligence analysts would have been suspicious of the "nuclear trigger" document. Read more.
Invest in Human Capital
"I want generations that follow to see that we used this moment to encourage a 21st century civilian conservation corps for our young people." President Obama speach at the 160th Anniversary of the Department of the Interior. 03.03.09.
"WE CAN TAKE IT" was the unofficial motto of the United States Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC or 3C's) during the Great Depression from 1933-1942.
"WE CAN TAKE IT", is now the name of the grassroots campaign call for action to contact and urge President Barack H. Obama and the United States Congress to create law to reactivate this very popular 'New Deal' job recovery program. If reactivated the motto will be back to give work and pride for our young Americans.
President Franklin Roosevelt in his first hundred days of office wanted to keep his election campaign promise to help "the forgotten man" from the existing widespread unemployment of the Great Depression. He offered the country a New Deal "to restore America to its own people" and give us a way to solve the issues of job recovery and the environment. He dealt our people a good hand with his first "alphebet soup" program the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps. Read more.
I am hugely excited for 2010! Last week we launched our Coal Free Zone delivering 500 stockings with candy coal and an informative flier about how folks in my Northwest community of Vashon Island are - despite our best intentions and misconceptions - "Coal Consumers." (36% of Puget Sound Energy's power portfolio is coal-fired.) People were surprised, but received our "Naughty or Nice?" message with good humor.
I'm ecstatic that local conversations about energy and stewardship have served as a catalyst for another transformative project - a Vashon Community Credit Union, currently being spearheaded by the un-stoppable Rex Stratton. And there's a growing buzz about alternative currency, community solar, electric car manufacturing and more. It's a thrilling time to take ownership of change we want rather than waiting for it from Washington, Copenhagen or anywhere else.
As I saw dozens of requests for funding come through over the last few days, I didn't want to add to the onslaught. The generosity of Backbone's network of friends has kept us afloat through hard times, and now we are seeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel of scarcity. A recent anonymous grant is going to allow us to rebuild our part-time office staff. The Nathan Cummings grant is a mandate for an amazing project opportunities for skill sharing, image creation and trainings across the country.
I'm honored that our first event of 2010 is to welcome the Seattle area to hear the progressive populist, indefatigable, prolific genius activist and Backbone Campaign advisory board member David Swanson, Tuesday, January 5, 7:30 - 9pm downstairs at Town Hall in Seattle. (Enter on Seneca Street.) See below or online here.
So - whether you want to make that last minute end of year contribution HERE, or just want to look forward to collaboration and sharing inspiration in the new year - here's my end of year email and sincere wishes of gratitude for my great Board, collaborators, volunteers, and supportive family. And deepest wishes for a joyful and transformative New Decade! I'm honored and grateful to be facing it with all of you.
Start off your New Year with a celebration of Democracy and your role in it. Hear author, activist, and Backbone Campaign advisor David Swanson speak about how We the People can take the reigns of our democracy and transform this country.
"Daybreak offers a powerful and compelling picture of what real change in America could look like. The world needs more true advocates of democracy like David Swanson!" -- Thom Hartmann
January 1 will usher in the last year of the first decade of a new millennium and ten consecutive years of the United States conducting war in the Greater Middle East.
Beginning with the October 7, 2001 missile and bomb attacks on Afghanistan, American combat operations abroad have not ceased for a year, a month, a week or a day in the 21st century.
The Afghan war, the U.S.'s first air and ground conflict in Asia since the disastrous wars in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and early 1970s and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's first land war and Asian campaign, began during the end of the 2001 war in Macedonia launched from NATO-occupied Kosovo, one in which the role of U.S. military personnel is still to be properly exposed  and addressed and which led to the displacement of almost 10 percent of the nation's population.
In the first case Washington invaded a nation in the name of combating terrorism; in the second it abetted cross-border terrorism. Similarly, in 1991 the U.S. and its Western allies attacked Iraqi forces in Kuwait and launched devastating and deadly cruise missile attacks and bombing sorties inside Iraq in the name of preserving the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait, and in 1999 waged a 78-day bombing assault against Yugoslavia to override and fatally undermine the principles of territorial integrity and national sovereignty in the name of the casus belli of the day, so-called humanitarian intervention.
Two years later humanitarian war, as abhorrent an oxymoron as the world has ever witnessed, gave way to the global war on terror(ism), with the U.S. and its NATO allies again reversing course but continuing to wage wars of aggression and "wars of opportunity" as they saw fit, contradictions and logic, precedents and international law notwithstanding.
"Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." --Richard Feynman
The same sort of public relations wizardry that once convinced a sizeable portion of Americans that cigarette smoking was harmless, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet, and that John Kerry's war record was fraudulent, is now convincing an increasing number of our citizens that global warming is at least of little consequence, or, at most, a massive hoax.
This trend is reported by the Pew Research Center which, in August, 2006, found that 77% of the public believed that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. In October, 2009, that number had dropped to 57%. In the same period, the percentage of those who denied that there is such evidence increased from 17% to 33%. An early Pew poll found that "global warming ranked dead last among 40 concerns ranked by the 1503 respondents to the poll."
Unfortunately, as John Adams observed, "facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Here are some of those stubborn facts:
- The decade of the 2000s was the warmest on record, containing eight of the ten warmest years.
- The summer Arctic ice cap is likely to disappear completely in 30 to 40 years. This alarming trend is reported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and McGill University (Canada). Ice reflects 80% of solar radiation, while the open sea absorbs 80% of the radiation, which means that an open Arctic Ocean is certain to heat up the atmosphere.
- Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means that it "captures" incoming solar radiation. This is fortunate, for without atmospheric CO2, most of the earth would be too cold to support human life. These facts were discovered by John Tyndal in 1859 and confirmed by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. But with the advent of the industrial revolution and the massive consumption of fossil fuels, the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has almost doubled to nearly 390 parts per million today.
- Methane is about 22 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and vast amounts of methane are being released in the warming arctic tundra and from the warming oceans (in the form of methane cathrate).
Climate change skeptics have succeeded in convincing much of the public that global warming is a live issue of contention among climate scientists. The facts tell us otherwise. For example, in December, 2004, Science Magazine (AAAS) reported:
Opinion: Big oil gets the biggest U.S. energy subsidies of all
By Blaine Townsend | Mercury News
Ever since New England Whalers ran the oil business, we've been a country of "barrel half-full" types. There will always be more oil! All it takes is a prone leviathan, a deposit in an unstable, war-torn country or a new find in the middle of some environmentally sensitive area.
Unfortunately, we need to find the equivalent of a new Saudi Arabia every four years just to keep up with demand around the world. And that isn't getting any easier. Pumping seawater under the Arabian Desert and squeezing oil from tar sands near Glacier National Park is a lot more expensive than boiling blubber or watching oil gush on the West Texas plains. And we all foot the bill.
Today, the oil industry receives north of $100 billion per year in subsidies and collateral support. This is the equivalent of one AIG bailout per year, every year. The web of direct subsidies includes billions in government sponsored low-cost construction loans and tax breaks like the Foreign Tax Credit. "Last in, first out" accounting practices, special write-downs for core operations and royalty "relief" for leases in the Gulf of Mexico have robbed the federal coffers of billions more.
This past September, the Environmental Law Institute released a study on direct subsidies to Big Oil from 2002-2008. The conservative tally was $72 billion, compared to $13 billion for nonethanol alternatives. And unlike support for alternative energy or other industries, many of these direct subsidies are written permanently into the tax code, not phased in and out of various legislations.
By contrast, funding for alternative fuels waxes and wanes with political will. For example, funding for alternatives took a precipitous drop in 2006 and 2007 before rebounding last year. Read more.
U.S. Companies Shut Out as Iraq Auctions Its Oil Fields
By Vivienne Walt | Time
Those who claim that the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 to get control of the country's giant oil reserves will be left scratching their heads by the results of last weekend's auction of Iraqi oil contracts: Not a single U.S. company secured a deal in the auction of contracts that will shape the Iraqi oil industry for the next couple of decades. Two of the most lucrative of the multi-billion-dollar oil contracts went to two countries which bitterly opposed the U.S. invasion — Russia and China — while even Total Oil of France, which led the charge to deny international approval for the war at the U.N. Security Council in 2003, won a bigger stake than the Americans in the most recent auction. "[The distribution of oil contracts] certainly answers the theory that the war was for the benefit of big U.S. oil interests," says Alex Munton, Middle East oil analyst for the energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, whose clients include major U.S. companies. "That has not been demonstrated by what has happened this week."
In one of the biggest auctions held anywhere in the 150-year history of the oil industry, executives from across the world flew into Baghdad on Dec. 11 for a two-day, red-carpet ceremony at the Oil Ministry, broadcast live in Iraq. With U.S. military helicopters hovering overhead to help ward off a possible insurgent attack, Oil Minister Hussein Al-Shahrastani unsealed envelopes from each company, stating how much oil it would produce, and what it was willing to accept in payment from Iraq's government. Rather than giving foreign oil companies control over Iraqi reserves, as the U.S. had hoped to do with the Oil Law it failed to get the Iraqi parliament to pass, the oil companies were awarded service contracts lasting 20 years for seven of the 10 oil fields on offer — the oil will remain the property of the Iraqi state, and the foreign companies will pump it for a fixed price per barrel.
Far from behaving like the war-ravaged, bankrupt country that it is, Iraq heavily weighted the contracts in its own favor, demanding a low per-barrel price and signing bonuses of up to $150 million. Only one U.S. company, Occidental Petroleum Corp., joined the bidding last weekend, and lost. Read more.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on How to Tackle Climate Change: “We Must Go from Capitalism to Socialism”
We speak with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about climate change, the Copenhagen summit and President Obama. Chavez calls the COP15 summit undemocratic and accuses world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. “We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet,” Chavez says. “That requires a change in the economic model: we must go from capitalism to socialism.”
From TomDispatch this evening, a fabulous near end-of-year piece by Rebecca Solnit on our apocalyptic imagination versus the real apocalypse that may await us -- Rebecca Solnit, "Terminator 2009, Judgment Days in Copenhagen."
Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch regular and author of A Paradise Built in Hell, recently watched Terminator 2 on a TV set in New Orleans, the Superdome where thousands were trapped after hurricane Katrina just out the hotel window. In a fever dream, possibly from swine flu, she conjurs up Sarah Palin ("a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what?") and the film's heroine Sarah Connor, attempting to save the human race from a plague of Terminators, but in the wrong apocalypse. How comfortable, she thinks, T2's apocalypse now seems in which our own intelligent machines set out to destroy us when, unfortunately, it's our perfectly dumb ones that seem determined to do the actual deed, while the leaders of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters fail to agree in a meaningful way at Copenhagen and elsewhere.
Like Solnit's state in New Orleans, our world might be mistaken for a fever dream of some sort. After all, the Terminator who, in T2, saves John Connor (and so the world), is now the governor of California, a "state with an uncertain shoreline," thanks to globally rising waters, a conservative who has nonetheless tried to deal with climate change. She considers the governor releasing California's 2009 "climate adaption strategy" on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, which "with even modest further rises in sea-level... will disappear entirely. Hasta la vista, baby." And assesses our world and its fate from the coast of California to Copenhagen.
This marvelous post manages to catch the dark edge of a difficult and dangerous situation, but in the normal Solnitsian fashion, with hope for what we -- all of us -- can still do. She concludes:
"The learning curve for so many of us, for so many people and even nations, has been speeding up impressively. If we had 40 years to figure it all out, we might be headed toward just the sort of victory that civil society has, in fact, achieved on so many other environmental and human-rights ideas. But there aren’t decades to spare. It needs to happen now. It should have happened even before the last century ended.
"Even in my fever dream, with the Superdome just out the window, I couldn’t help noting the key axiom repeated in Terminator 2: 'The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.'
"So here’s the lesson: there are no superheroes but us.
"And here’s the question: what are you going to do about it?"
It’s clear now that, from her immovable titanium bangs to her chaotic approximation of human speech, Sarah Palin is a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what? It could be the Republican Party she’ll ravage by herding the fundamentalists and extremists into a place where sane fiscal conservatives and swing voters can’t follow. Or maybe she was sent to destroy civilization at this crucial moment by preaching the gospel of climate-change denial, abetted by tools like the Washington Post, which ran a factually outrageous editorial by her on the subject earlier this month. No one (even her, undoubtedly) knows, but we do know that this month we all hover on the brink.
I’ve had the great Hollywood epic Terminator 2: Judgment Day on my mind ever since I watched it in a hotel room in New Orleans a few weeks ago with the Superdome visible out the window. In 1991, at the time of its release, T2 was supposedly about a terrible future; now, it seems situated in an oddly comfortable past.
What apocalypses are you nostalgic for? The premise of the movie was that the machines we needed to worry about had not yet been invented, no less put to use: intelligent machines that would rebel against their human masters in 1997, setting off an all-out nuclear war that would get rid of the first three billion of us and lead to a campaign of extermination against the remnant of the human race scrabbling in the rubble of what had once been civilization. Read more.
Climate conference in Copenhagen ends with statement of intent
After two weeks of delays, theatrics and frantic deal-making, the U.N. climate-change talks concluded in Copenhagen early Saturday with a grudging agreement by the participants to "take note" of a pact shaped by five major nations, including the United States.
By Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder, The New York Times | Seattle Times
The key elements of the Copenhagen Accord, worked out among the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa, on Friday:
- Nations agreed to cooperate in reducing emissions "with a view" to scientists' warnings to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels.
- Developing nations will report every two years on their voluntary actions to reduce emissions. Those reports would be subject to "international consultations and analysis," a concession to the United States by China, which had seen this as an intrusion on its sovereignty.
- Richer nations will finance a $10 billion-a-year, three-year program to pay for poorer nations' projects to deal with drought and other climate-change impacts, and to develop clean energy.
- They also set a "goal" of mobilizing $100 billion-a-year by 2020 for the same adaptation and mitigation purposes.
After two weeks of delays, theatrics and frantic deal-making, the U.N. climate-change talks concluded in Copenhagen early Saturday with a grudging agreement by the participants to "take note" of a pact shaped by five major nations, including the United States.
The final "Copenhagen Accord," a 12-paragraph document, was a statement of intention — not a binding pledge to begin taking action on global warming — a compromise seen to represent a flawed but essential step forward.
Many delegates of the 193 countries that had gathered left Copenhagen in a sour mood, disappointed that the pact lacked so many elements they considered crucial, including firm targets for mid- or long-term reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and a deadline for concluding a binding treaty next year. Read more.
DC AREA DISARMAMENT PLANNING
WHEN: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 7:00pm
WHERE: St. Stephen's Church - Auditorium, 16th St & Newton St., NW (1525 Newton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20010-3103) - Green line, Columbia Heights Station
In the wake of President Obama's repeated advocacy for "the peace of a world without nuclear weapons," many things are happening on the Nuclear Disarmament front.
The next six months represent historic opportunity for disarmament progress, or a perilous descent into another "generational commitment" to further Weapons Development, at enormous cost. (Currently the US alone spends $52+ Billion a year on nukes.)
Please join us for a review of disarmament progress, proposals on the table, likely prospects for the near and further terms, and what we, the people, can do to help secure the peaceful future that we deserve.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference - May 2010, United Nations, New York City - This periodic review (every 5 years) of the "mother treaty" for nuclear disarmament is driving the disarmament bus right now. Diplomatic positioning for this May treaty is ongoing. Of course, so much depends on what the US brings to the table beyond our president's rhetoric. Including:
Renewal of the START Treaty with Russia - December 2009?
Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) - Spring 2010 (Possible) - Signed in 1996 but rejected by the US Senate in 1999, the CTBT still must be approved by 67 US Senators before it goes into effect. . .
Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) - Language pending. (Advocated by Secretary of State Clinton in her signal USIP nuclear policy speech.)
Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone
Mayors For Peace/Cities Are Not Targets (CANT)
Legislative Opportunities (HR 1653, H Res. 333, H Res. 278, HR 515, HR 644, more?)
Planning for Potential Actions: