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Energy policy: Follow the money
Chris Nelder, Smart Planet
If you want to know why our energy policy is what it is, and why the transition to renewables is so slow, there’s an easy way to find out: Follow the money.
In energy — as in so many other things — we have the best government money can buy. Our Congress is overwhelmingly dominated by lawyers, not scientists, and we form our energy policy around who lines their pockets, not around a scientific or rational grasp of our energy reality. This is why technocratic nations like China and Germany are kicking our asses in resource planning, energy transition, transportation planning, infrastructure investment, and so on.
I began my inquiry into this subject by plundering the OpenSecrets.org database, an independent, nonpartisan and free website produced by the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the influence of money on U.S. politics...
(8 August 2012)
Iran and the Petrodollar Threat to U.S. Empire
Christopher Doran, New Left Project
Iran poses a far more serious threat to the U.S. than its disputed nuclear aspirations. Over the last few years, Iran has unleashed a weapon of mass destruction of a very different kind, one that directly challenges a key underpinning of American hegemony: the U.S. dollar as the exclusive global currency for all oil transactions.
It began in 2005, when Iran announced it would form its own International Oil Bourse (IOB), the first phase of which opened in 2008. The IOB is an international exchange that allows international oil, gas, and petroleum products to be traded using a basket of currencies other than the U.S. dollar. Then in November 2007 at a major OPEC meeting, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for a “credible and good currency to take over U.S. dollar’s role and to serve oil trades”. He also called the dollar “a worthless piece of paper.” The following month, Iran—consistently ranked as either the third or fourth biggest oil producer in the world—announced that it had requested all payments for its oil be made in currencies other than dollars.
The latest round of U.S. sanctions targets countries that do business with Iran's Central Bank, which, combined with the U.S. and EU oil embargoes, should in theory shut down Iran's ability to export oil and thus force it to abandon its nuclear program by crippling its economy. But instead, Iran is successfully negotiating oil sales via accepting gold, individual national currencies like China's renmimbi, and direct bartering...
(8 August 2012)
Oil and Gas in the Crosshairs - Part 1
Jeff Moore, Muir Analytics via Penn Energy
Energy companies are increasingly conducting up and downstream business in areas where they wouldn’t have gone 10 years ago – low intensity conflict zones (LICs), to be specific. The lure of profits is too great. But the physical, financial, and PR risks can be high. As Steve Coll’s recent book, Private Empire, points out, energy companies such as ExxonMobil have an increasingly critical need for threat intelligence and security not only to protect their people and assets in LICs, but also to make sound business decisions on where and where not to drill and refine.
Just what are LICs? There are technical military definitions, but for the plainspoken oil and gas industry, LICs are “light wars” without defined front lines. The antagonists are typically non-state armies that don’t wear uniforms that might be fighting for religious, tribal, or extreme political causes. Their style of fighting customarily involves light weapons and hit and run tactics. LIC battlefields range from jungles and mountains to rural neighborhoods and cities. Besides fighting age men, LICs pull everyday people into the fight, including women, children, and the elderly. These type wars, sometimes called “peoples’ war,” “irregular war,” and “asymmetric war,” include guerrilla warfare and terrorism.
LICs fall short of full on conventional war, like WW II with Generals Rommel and Montgomery squaring off in the North African desert in 1942 at El Alamein. These battles entailed tanks, artillery, well-defined front lines, and tens of thousands of soldiers. In these wars, whoever wins the big battles wins big chunks of real estate, and they get to push their army onto the next objective. Victories and goals are clear-cut. In contrast, LICs are long lasting, murky, and hard to figure out...
(2 August 2012)
Link to Part 2