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Ten Ways to Kick our Oil Habit

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Gail over at The Oil Drum has a surprisingly comprehensive list that goes beyond merely ‘trying to drive less’:

1. A better “cash for clunkers” program. A two year plan that gives credit for only replacement vehicles with 35 miles per gallon efficiency or greater is suggested. This program would be paid for by extending the 1978 gas guzzler tax to cars and trucks.

2. Emergency funding for endangered mass transit. The article notes that 59% of public transit networks have cut service, raised fares, or both since January 2009. More federal funding could help this situation.

3. A national telecommuting and videoconferencing initiative. Federal employees should be directed to do these as much as possible. “For everyone else, a campaign would make these more normative and socially acceptable.”

4. Smarter freight movement. Grist suggests that Congress commission a study of methods to make trucking, rail and jet transport more efficient, including approaches to improve milage and ways to reduce empty travel of vehicles.

5. Smarter land use. Grist suggests that Congress could direct (and help fund) efforts to update zoning and land use regulations, to encourage more compact development.

6. Smarter travel through IT. Grist recommends a national study, noting that UPS saved 3 million gallons of fuel in a year, by equipping its trucks with software that allowed them to map out routes that avoided left-hand turns. Also, traffic lights could be timed better.

7. Educating drivers. Drivers ed programs and other outreach programs might teach the importance of slower acceleration and maintaining tire pressure for getting good gas mileage.

8. A resolution saying efficiency is a new national priority. Congress should pass a resolution on the importance of efficiency, and tell government agencies to improve efficiency. Funding for new projects might also depend on efficiency.

9. Prizes for tech breakthroughs. A prize is now awarded for 100 mph vehicle. Similar prizes could be offered for other breakthroughs.

10. Efficiency “visibility.” Congress should fund the development of a National Energy Efficiency Data Center (NEEDC), which would study efficiency technologies.

Written by pavanvan

May 28, 2010 at 12:06 am

Posted in environment

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Exxon-Valdez Spill “Pales in Comparison” to Current Louisiana Spill

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It’s true. From the BBC:

Five times as much oil as previously thought could be leaking from the well beneath where a rig exploded and sank last week, US officials said earlier.

The slick is 45 miles (72km) by 105 miles (169km) – almost the size of Jamaica – and heading for the US coast.

A third leak has been discovered, and a fire-fighting expert said the disaster may become the biggest oil spill ever.

“Probably the only thing comparable to this is the Kuwait fires [following the Gulf War in 1991],” Mike Miller, head of Canadian oil well fire-fighting company Safety Boss, told the BBC World Service.

“The Exxon Valdez [tanker disaster off Alaska in 1989] is going to pale [into insignificance] in comparison to this as it goes on.”

Scientists say only a quarter of local marine wildlife survived the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Written by pavanvan

April 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm

This Week in Good Ideas

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Finally harnessing offshore wind power:

The Cape Wind project, the nation’s first offshore wind farm, is go for launch. After nine years of controversy and heated negotiations, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that Nantucket Sound, about five miles off the coast of Massachusetts’s Cape Cod, will host a 130-turbine wind farm covering 24 square miles that will begin generating electricity as early as 2012. Salazar made the announcement from the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston and was joined by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a big supporter of the project.

Salazar included a few modifications to help protect the historical, cultural, and environmental assets of Nantucket Sound. The farm was originally intended to include 170 turbines, but he dropped the number to 130 to help reduce visual impact. He also stipulated that developers need to take additional marine archaeological surveys and other “commonsense measures” to “minimize and mitigate” potential adverse effects of the project.

Written by pavanvan

April 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Oilman T.Boone Pickens Says Peak Oil is Here

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Via the Christian Science Monitor:

Speaking in a Senate committee hearing, the legendary Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens said that world crude oil production has topped out.

“I do believe you have peaked out at 85 million barrels a day globally,” he told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday, according to Reuters.

He noted that the United States is consuming “21 million barrels of the 85 million and producing about 7 of the 21, so if I could take just a minute on this point, the demand is about 86.4 million barrels a day, and when the demand is greater than the supply, the price has to go up until it kills demand.”

And when Mr. Pickens speaks about energy, the world listens. His ability to read markets has vaulted him into the ranks of the world’s wealthiest people. His hedge fund, BP Capital, manages more than $4 billion in assets.

This is about a year and a half old, but the trends Mr. Pickens identified have only progressed since he made his pronouncement. The Obama Administration, on the other hand, refuses to believe in the “Peak Oil theory”, instead plumping for something called the “undulating plateau”, which has absolutely no scientific basis. So naturally, he’s doing nothing about reducing our reliance on liquid fuels.

Folks, we are in a lot of trouble.

Written by pavanvan

March 30, 2010 at 9:45 am

US Government Pays Its Companies To Violate Iran “Sanctions”

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The Times has a hilarious investigative report in today’s issue. Apparently $100 billion in government cash has gone into the pockets of energy companies doing business with the nefarious Iran.

Its worth getting out of the way first that sanctions don’t work. They never have. Numerous studies have concluded that the net effect of “sanctions” is invariably to strengthen the targeted regime, and an article on sanctions in Iran – especially on how US companies are violating them – should probably mention this.

Instead, The Times plumps for the opposite approach – that instead of the sanctions themselves being a vicious attack on the Iranian people, the violation on the part of the US companies of the sanctions is the real crime. It bears mentioning that the major Israeli paper, Haartez, ran a similar story, “US Rewarding Firms That Defy Iran Sanctions“, with a much angrier headline. The pro-Israel lobby clearly isn’t happy about this.

The whole Times article really deserves to be read in full, as it presents a case study in systemic bias. Observe:

For years, the United States has been pressing other nations to join its efforts to squeeze the Iranian economy, in hopes of reining in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Now, with the nuclear standoff hardening and Iran rebuffing American diplomatic outreach, the Obama administration is trying to win a tough new round of United Nations sanctions.

The third paragraph. Note how nonchalantly The Times speaks of “squeezing” the Iranian economy and “reining in” its nuclear ambitions, as though we have an implicit right to do such things. The next sentence accuses Iran of “rebuffing American diplomatic outreach” (an Orwellianism, that), completely ignoring Iran’s agreement to ship its uranium for inspection in Russia. The US demanded to send its own specialists into Iran to “inspect” their sites, something which Iran rightfully refused. Actually, when one thinks of it, the Americans rebuffed Iran’s outreach, but in true propaganda style, The Times reverses the accusation.

After a few paragraphs describing how easily US companies and those of our “allies” can operate in Iran and how eager Iran is for foreign investment, The Times says:

One of the government’s most powerful tools, at least on paper, to influence the behavior of companies beyond the jurisdiction of the embargo is the Iran Sanctions Act, devised to punish foreign companies that invest more than $20 million in a given year to develop Iran’s oil and gas fields. But in the 14 years since the law was passed, the government has never enforced it, in part for fear of angering America’s allies.

That has given rise to situations like the one involving the South Korean engineering giant Daelim Industrial, which in 2007 won a $700 million contract to upgrade an Iranian oil refinery.

Once again, the implicit assumption is that these “sanctions” (a) work, and (b) are legitimate. After all, why shouldn’t South Korea be allowed to invest where it wishes? The Times claims that the Army’s $111 million investment in S. Korea should have bought at least some respect for our sanctions, but this is a facile argument.

Later, they complain that Brazil, the Netherlands, France, and other “US allies” are investing in Iran while taking US dollars.

The Iranian government has engaged in some unsavory acts this past year, but the amount of violence it visited upon its citizens is minuscule compared to that of our “allies”, particularly Israel. Even the highest estimates of the death toll in Iran’s post-election violence only reach the low hundreds. In January of the same year, Israel killed more than 2,000 Gaza civilians, and dozens die from lack of food, water, or sanitation as a result of that action and the surrounding blockade every day.

If we’re really going to castigate countries for human-rights violations and write massive “exposes” on US companies violating sanctions , shouldn’t we focus on a more murderous country than Iran?

Written by pavanvan

March 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Maliki Giving Away US Arms to Win Election

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Here’s a story the US mainstream wouldn’t dare report. Luckily we have The Guardian! It’s election season in Iraq once again, and these guys buy their votes a little differently than our politicians do. Instead of simply buying votes with cash or misleading advertisements, or via “political action committees”, US-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has decided to just do away with the middleman and directly hand out US arms to his citizens in exchange for votes. I have the feeling these tactics would have done much to ingratiate President Obama with the “tea party” faction in American politics.

As The Guardian says:

A senior Iraqi spy has accused the prime minister, Nour al-Maliki, of handing out thousands of guns to tribal leaders in a bid to win votes. The claim was made by Iraqi National Intelligence Service former spokesman, Saad al-Alusi, a week before Iraq’s general election, in which allegations of vote buying and exorbitant handouts have become widespread

“He has given at least hundreds of them to tribal leaders in Amara, Nasireya, Diwaniya and many other provinces, Sayedi said. “They are American-made and arrived by the middle of 2009. It is a cheap way to buy votes. Saddam used to do the same. Maliki said he gave the guns out so that tribal leaders could protect themselves. So he wants to protect them and yet judges and lawyers die every day. What is the role of the Iraqi army and police? I hope the tribes will see through this.”

How charming. Our efforts at “building Democracy” in Iraq are certainly paying off! I hasten to remind my readers that if Maliki were an “unfriendly” dictator, the US media would be howling against this latest transgression against democracy, this blatant attempt at vote-rigging, and the severe danger that comes from giving away free guns to volatile tribes in Iraq. We’d be screaming about how Maliki is “supporting terror”, blatantly arming the “worst elements” within his polity. As it is, our press is utterly silent on this issue.

Written by pavanvan

March 1, 2010 at 11:02 am

Profiles in Idiocy: Thomas Friedman

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Here we go again! Another evasive, revisionist piece of trash from none other than our favorite warmonger, Thomas Friedman! I hasten to point out that Friedman was one of the Iraq War’s biggest cheerleaders, once exhorting the starving Iraqi masses to “Suck. On. This.” (i.e. our bombs). That linked YouTube video comes highly recommended because it reveals, for all the world to see, just what a slimy reptile Mr. Friedman really is. But no, he’s not finished! In his February 24th New York Times column he takes his complete lack of ethics, his shifting morality, and his base “intellectualism” to a new low.

Tongue-twistingly entitled “Iraq’s Known Unknowns, Still Unknown” (a ‘clever’ play, I suppose, on Rumsfeld’s famous quote), his article begins with one of the most poorly written, eurocentric, history-denying openings I’ve ever seen:

From the very beginning of the U.S. intervention in Iraq and the effort to build some kind of democracy there, a simple but gnawing question has lurked in the background: Was Iraq the way Iraq was (a dictatorship) because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraq was the way Iraq was — a collection of warring sects incapable of self-rule and only governable with an iron fist?

Maybe Iraq was “the way it was” because the Untied States actively funded Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship for decades. Has this man ever read a history book? We supported Saddam all through the ’80s, and then after his failed adventure in Kuwait we imposed “sanctions” on Iraq which had the net effect of strengthening his regime, albeit at the cost of 500,000 Iraqi children (what Madeline Albright called “a price worth paying”). Does he think that may have something to do with it? Nah, it’s much easier to just be a racist and tar Iraq as a “collection of warring sects incapable of self-rule and only governable with an iron fist”. That way the US invasion almost seems justified!

It’s hard to imagine anyone topping that astounding bit of stupidity, but really, Friedman is just getting started:

Ironically, though, it was the neo-conservative Bush team that argued that culture didn’t matter in Iraq, and that the prospect of democracy and self-rule would automatically bring Iraqis together to bury the past. While many liberals and realists contended that Iraq was an irredeemable tribal hornet’s nest and we should not be sticking our hand in there; it was a place where the past would always bury the future.

But stick we did, and in so doing we gave Iraqis a chance to do something no other Arab people have ever had a chance to do: freely write their own social contract on how they would like to rule themselves and live together.

Oh boy! I’m sure the Iraqis were just thrilled that we gave them the chance to “freely write their own social contract” – I mean, sure, it was at the barrel of US artillery, but it’s not nice to talk about that, right, Friedman? And I think you’re missing something here. Do you remember something called “WMDs”? You know, the ones that we never found? I think that was the real reason we attacked Iraq, in blatant violation of international law. All this talk of “supporting democracy” came afterward.

Also, the “liberals and realists” did not contend that Iraq was an “irredeemable tribal hornet’s nest”, you miserable racist. We said that America shouldn’t “stick [its] hand there” because attacking a country that was not actively preparing to declare war would be a monstrous act of aggression and an express violation of international law. It’s “irredeemable” to “contend” otherwise.

Then Mr. Friedman talks about his latest meeting with Gen. Odierno, who, along with Joe Biden, has apparently done the most to “coax, cajole, and occasionally shove Iraq away from the abyss”. You know, the abyss that we opened up. The Iraqis sure are lucky they had Uncle Sam around to “cajole” them away from it!

I found the general hopeful but worried. He was hopeful because he has seen Iraqis go to the brink so many times and then pull back, but worried because sectarian violence is steadily creeping back ahead of the elections and certain Shiite politicians, like the former Bush darling Ahmed Chalabi — whom General Odierno indicated is clearly “influenced by Iran” and up to no good — have been trying to exclude some key Sunni politicians from the election.

Wrong, you colossal ass, a thousand times wrong! Jesus Christ, I can’t believe you work for the New York Times. The real reason “some key Sunni politicians” are being excluded from the Iraqi election is because of a specific order by our own Paul Bremer that banned former Ba’ath party members from contesting elections. Your own newspaper reminded us of this just five days before your column ran. Don’t you read newspapers? But it’s so much easier to shift the blame onto our scapegoat Chalabi, isn’t it? Facts are just too cumbersome.

How does Friedman think the elections might play out? Well…

The ideal but least likely scenario is that we see the emergence of an Iraqi Shiite Nelson Mandela. The Shiites, long suppressed by Iraq’s Baathist-led Sunni minority, are now Iraq’s ruling majority. Could Iraq produce a Shiite politician, who, like Mandela, would be a national healer — someone who would use his power to lead a real reconciliation instead of just a Shiite dominion? So far, no sign of it.

Okay, you want to see a “Shiite Nelson Mandela”. What has the US been doing to promote this? Well, we’ve been arbitrarily arresting and throwing Shiites in jail on false pretexts for a while now. Didn’t Nelson Mandela go to jail? We’ve brutally occupied their country and left it swarming with mercenaries. I guess that’s kind of like South Africa? I don’t know. Maybe Mr. Friedman could just drop this dishonest comparison to Nelson Mandela and try and give some real solutions. Nah, that’s too hard.

So tell us what you don’t want, Mr. Friedman:

The two scenarios you don’t want to see are: 1) Iraq’s tribal culture triumphing over politics and the country becoming a big Somalia with oil; or 2) as America fades away, Iraq’s Shiite government aligning itself more with Iran, and Iran becoming the kingmaker in Iraq the way Syria has made itself in Lebanon.

Again with the racial overtures! Good lord, what kind of human being are you? “Iraq’s tribal culture”, eh? “A big Somalia with oil”? Did you really write that with a straight face? You “pundits” are all the same. If a country doesn’t have cars and multinational corporations in it, then its automatically a “tribal” culture. Man, you would have fit right in with the European imperialists laying waste to Asia and South America. You were born in the wrong century, Mr. Friedman!

As to your second scenario: forgive me, but why? Why shouldn’t Iraq be friends with its neighbor, Iran? Just because you, personally, wouldn’t like it? What do you mean by “kingmaker”? Iraq’s culture is predominantly Shi’a – so to a reasonable observer it should make sense that Iraq and Iran would be friends. Mr. Friedman, however, is not a reasonable observer.

He ends with a parting shot, and a last bit of historical revisionism:

Why should we care when we’re leaving? Quite simply, so much of the turmoil in the region was stoked over the years by Saddam’s Iraq and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, both financed by billions in oil revenues. If, over time, a decent democratizing regime could emerge in Iraq and a similar one in Iran — so that oil wealth was funding reasonably decent regimes rather than retrograde ones — the whole Middle East would be different.

Mr. Friedman, unlike myself, was actually alive to remember the Iran-Contra scandal, and thus has no excuse for this spectacular display of ignorance. “So much of the turmoil” in the region was not stoked by “billions in oil revenues”, as it was by billions in CIA dollars, paid to both sides, with express instructions to keep fighting. I mean Jesus, how can he not remember this? The United States gave arms and funding to both sides of the Iraq-Iran conflict, and used the proceeds to illegally fund a terrorist group in Nicaragua. Doesn’t he think that “stoked” some turmoil in the region? I guess when you’re Thomas Friedman, history just doesn’t matter.

I simply cannot believe this guy is writing for The New York Times while tens of millions of Americans are out of work. Anyone who has graduated from high school has a firmer grasp of history than Thomas Friedman. Anyone short of a Ku Klux Klan member has more ethical integrity. Thomas Friedman is a joke.

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