Learning The Lessons Of Fossil Fuel Dependency  

Posted by Big Gav

Grist has a post on the enthusiasm for clean energy in the current generation of students.

In answer to the loathed question "What are you going to do after you graduate?" gaggles of U.S. college students are looking into careers in alternative energy. (A group of college students is called a gaggle, right?) Green technology is having a heyday in schools from Illinois State to Harvard to Dartmouth; energy professor Dan Kammen says enrollment in energy classes at UC-Berkeley "is off the charts." At Stanford, which recently renamed its Petroleum Engineering Department the Energy Resources Engineering Department, attendance at a recent student-organized renewable-energy symposium was nearly triple the 500 expected. "There is a fad dynamic to this, but I think that this is going to be a long-term thing," says Christine Rosen of UC's Haas School of Business. "Technological innovation, the rising cost of oil, conflict in the Middle East, and the public's growing awareness of global climate change are having an impact." You might even say we're finally learning our lesson.

OLED's are one of those technologies I have high hopes for - the next generation of ultra energy efficient lighting. Groovy Green has a post on GE's development progress.
While we’re all busy adding compact fluorescent bulbs and waiting for cheap LED lighting, GE is reaching beyond all of that and pushing ahead with the development of OLED technology. For those too busy to keep up, OLEDs (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) are thin, organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes, which illuminate when an electrical charge is applied. They truly represent the next revolution in home lighting. Imagine not a bulb, but an entire wall that can light up. Everything from computer screens to electronic paper (the traditional newspaper should start sweating) will benefit and be lighter, thinner, and more efficient than anything on the market. All of this, GE hopes, will take place in three years. From the release,

“GE Consumer & Industrial Vice President Michael Petras said, ‘In a world demanding higher standards for energy efficiency and environmental performance, OLED lighting has the potential to become a major lighting source on both fronts. And because OLED lighting is soft and diffused, it will create some exciting application opportunities for designers and specifiers. The applications are numerous, ranging from ceiling lighting for office and residential applications to interior automotive and aircraft lighting to many specialty lighting applications such as task lighting, sign and various forms of interior retail lighting.’”

As you’ll see in the below video, the applications for OLED are endless. You an even cut or punch holes in the “light” without damaging the whole piece. Imagine the incredible art that might come from this. Additionally, I’m inclined to believe that things like movie posters could take on a whole new level of “look at me!” as well. One of the OLED scientists working with GE has a blog post here with some more behind the scenes information.

Steve Balogh also has a review of a book called "Green Design" up at Groovy Green.
Mark Batty Publisher provided Groovy Green a copy of the book "Green Design " for us to review. It is a eclectic mix of design ideas that runs the full spectrum of the definition of sustainability. It starts with the most interesting liner notes I've read on a book - they describe the life cycle, or I should say the after-life cycle of a tree sustainably harvested, as it moves from product to product within the recycling chain, from an envelope to news paper print ad, through the fashion world as a recycled bag, and finally to the glossy book jacket, on which the life cycle story is printed.

The book starts with a bold outside-the-norm declaration of a injection molded plastic toy as a "green design". I had to admit that it took me a second read to come around to this interpretation. However, when I realized that I was keeping my expanded set of LEGOs to pass down to my children, I realized where they were coming from. Build with a minimal use of materials, created to be completely interchangeable, a "modular backwards-compatible system," this toy is designed to last a lifetime and beyond. A toy meant to avoid becoming obsolete vs. one with built-in obsolescence. Beyond that, the LEGO company has attempted to reduce supply chain energy use by producing their product close to their consumers, and has been increasing the social quality of their labor.

Other "green design" examples for toys include handmade dolls and animals from the Kenana Knitters collective in Njoro, Kenya - which cooperates to provide over 300 wool spinners, and 200 knitters a source of income. Now these women are empowered to earn a living and provide food access to medicine for their families. They have seen a boost in self-esteem and a rise in respect in a traditionally patriarchal society. Also the book describes sustainably harvested "Tree Blocks" made from waste wood, a board game that teaches basic agriculture principles and is built from recycled materials: Orchard; and finally a toy maker/teacher in India who educates and entertains his students with toys built exclusively from items scavenged from the streets.

The emphasis on design is apparent throughout the book, as the images are crisp, bright, and wonderfully laid out in each chapter. The photos help to exemplify each objects design and sustainability.

The next section moves on to "green objects", which runs the gamut from jewelery to scarves to household items with a "sustainable" twist. With a focus on reuse and recycle of consumer goods, this section shows the ingenuity of using Ultrasuede scraps from upholstered furniture as material for both scarves and pillows. Rubber bands, and office supplies become transformed into chic earrings and bracelets. Some of the other items highlighted include: turning bike parts into frames and clocks in Oregon, circuit boards into coasters and bedside lamps, and plastic soda bottles weaved into indoor/outdoor rugs in Thailand.

"Green power" tackles the lesser discussed down side of our electronics obsession, including poorly designed iPods that require users to send the product back to the company at near the replacement cost to replace a failed battery. Also, the enormous amount of cheap alkaline batteries that are produced each year and find their way into landfills around the world. This section looks at the ways future products may be powered using solar, kinetic, and even water and urine power. Yes, you heard me right, urine powered batteries that may some day bring the diagnostic lab to isolated, rural areas.

The "Green Fabrics" section discusses the numerous ways that the fashion industry has embraced "green" design, recycled fabrics and materials provide the inspiration for several bag designers, from wood to sail cloth. Old T-shirts become speedo-like briefs, and on a much more interesting note, old cassette tapes are recycled into a fabric for Sonic Fabric dresses, messenger bags, and prayer flags. Also covered is fair wage, organic cotton clothing from American Apparel now in a Whole Foods near you.

The final section of the book deals with a subject near and dear to the publishing industry, "green paper". The old idea of grocery bag brown recycled paper has been thrown out the window. The book itself is printed on 3 different forms of recycled paper: a glossy book jacket, Mango recycled matt, and an index printed on non-deinked post consumer waste. There's also a look at Smencils, a recycled newspaper product that uses the paper to replace the wood in pencils, while releasing a scent each time it's sharpened. Finally, the ultimate reuse story, old volumes of books combined with salvaged lumber, turned into shelves to hold - what else? Books.

As someone who believes that our consumer culture what may be preventing us from achieving a truly "sustainable" future, I was skeptical about some of the ideas presented in this book. Being a realist I do realize that part of our culture is not going to be changed any time soon. I am glad that there are people out there striving to make the products that are on the market more ecologically friendly, and reduce the impact of our consumption on the planet. "Green Design" is an inspiring collection of entrepreneurs and innovators who have successfully achieved profitability while maintaining ecological and social responsibility. I recommend you pick up a copy and get inspired yourself.

Craig at Celsias has an interesting post on the use of public funds in Australia and what happens to scientists who pursue research that won't result in more profits for the likes of Monsanto. As usual, the Rodents government is busy sending my hard earned tax dollars overseas. Celsias also has apost on Time's global warming survival guide.
The CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is the national government body for scientific research in Australia. As a publicly funded body it should be working for the public good. Recent press releases indicate a potential industry conflict of interests that has resulted in the sacking of one of Australia’s leading soil scientists, resulting in a setback for Australia’s ability to be carbon neutral and to improve the health of their environment and their citizens.

The title of this post is the title of the following recently released press release that outlines the drama:
CSIRO Plant Industry sacked leading soil and organic researcher Dr Maarten Stapper last week. His research on healthier soil systems and criticisms of crop Gene Manipulation (GM) upset CSIRO management.

“This travesty of justice shows again that priorities for taxpayer-funded research are grossly distorted by CSIRO contracts with companies, that direct public funds to private profits,” says Bob Phelps, director of Gene Ethics.

“Stapper was sacked because GM giants like Bayer and Monsanto can’t patent know-how on healthier soils,” he says.

“Scientists who publish negative evidence about GM technology and its products are victimised, everywhere in the world,” he says.

“Australian governments spent $1.29 billion on GM research from 2003 to 2005 alone (Warren Truss MP, Media Release, June 2005) and how this money is allocated should be the subject of public discussion,” he says.

“Gene Ethics calls for a democratic system of funding policy and decisions to set research and development priorities. Our scarce R&D resources are now being misallocated by those who stand to gain most,” he says.

“GM has failed to fulfill its promises so Australian taxpayers and producers are ripped off,” Mr Phelps says.

“Even where success is claimed, the companies with patented genes benefit most. For instance, GM cotton was developed by CSIRO and Cotton Australia at taxpayer and grower expense, but Monsanto’s technology fee is well over $150 for every hectare grown,” he says.

“Billions are spent on GM, but research on the sustainable biological and organic farming systems needed to cope with climate change and the end of oil is under-funded,” he says.

“CSIRO chief Jeremy Burdon’s claim that environmentally friendly systems are ‘not a long term viable strategy’ is refuted by their success. Sustainable organics are the fastest growing sector of Australian farming and they will not use GM or synthetic chemicals,” he says.

“Repairing Australia’s systemic agronomic and environmental problems on farms is urgent. But the funds go to GM crop research that can’t solve our core problems - salty, acidic, chemical polluted, drought affected, denuded, and waterlogged soils,” he says.

“Public-good research is starved of funds as it does not enrich the companies or keep hi-tech lab scientists working on GM plants,” he says.

“For instance, disbanding the CRC for Weed Management because it lacked corporate partners was another foolish, short-sighted travesty,” he says.

“CSIRO is failing us badly. Gene Ethics calls on state governments to fund Dr Stapper’s soil health research, increase his funding and recruit more staff for sustainable farming projects,” Mr Phelps concludes. - News Media Release, GM Free Ireland (do text search for CSIRO)

At this point in climate change history, people like Maarten Stapper are just the kind we should be financing and supporting. Seeing them get sacked and sidelined instead is of great concern. We’ve written before about the incredible carbon sequestration potential of healthy soils, of which Maarten Stapper is acutely aware. Maarten has worked to bring his research findings to the people that need them - farmers in Australia that are grappling with increasingly stubborn soils, despite the promises of industry giants keen to sell their wares. Maarten has urged a focus on healthy soil microbiology, showing that increasing soil health results in a dramatic reduction in the necessity for fossil fuel inputs (fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides), and dramatic increases in plant health (with its corresponding reduction in pest problems), and significant improvement in carbon sequestration - a critical element in our battle with global warming.
Dr Maarten Stapper a Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO-Plant Industries will show farmers how to improve the profitability of their operations by harnessing natural soil processes. According to Dr Stapper a healthy soil leads to better crops and pastures requiring less inputs for similar productivity, resulting in healthy animals and improved food quality for healthy humans. In the process soil organic carbon can be doubled which also helps society by slowing climate change. - The Third OFA National Organic Conference, 22-23 July 2006

But, such forms of agriculture put natural systems back into harmony, and put soil life and beneficial insects back to work - seriously impacting on the role of agribusiness in their sale of chemicals and genetically modified seeds.

The Oil Drum, Energy Bulletin and Groovy Green all have roundups of commentary on the US GAO report on peak oil. Khebab, as always, has some interesting analysis of the data used in the report:
From the chart, we can derive a probability density function:

Below is the cumulative density function (cdf):

There is 5% of chance (F05) that PO data < 2007, 50% of probability that PO data < 2034 (F50) and 95% of probability that PO date < 2114 (F95).


Note that the maximum likelihood derived from the pdf above is between 2012 and 2017.

Michael Pascoe at Crikey really does have a bee in his bonnet about peak oil doomers. While I agree with his "the market will adjust" sentiments to a large degree, I think he's being a bit too glib - the market can adjust in a number of ways - some of which are very unfortunate for the poor and/or global warming - especially if cost of energy alternatives (the criteria the market weights most heavily) is the determining factor. Electric transport coupled with a renewable energy smart grid gives the best overall outcome. Dirty coal based solutions are the cheapest way to adjust for the next decade or two. Some alternatives like biofuels will result in the third world poor being dispossessed of their land and starving. So simply leaving it up to the market without thinking of the externalities and applying compensating price signals doesn't really cut it...
There’s nothing like an oil price spike to bring the "Peak Oil" doomsayers out of their nuclear fallout shelters, even a spike as transparent as the present one. But the alarmists are no worse than the profiteering in which local petrol companies are indulging.

A bit of kidnapping in the Middle East and oil finished over US$66 a barrel overnight. Nothing has actually happened to supply or demand, it’s just speculation about what might happen if the UK and Iran get really silly over the 15 British sailors and marines the mad mullahs are playing with. It’s an easy way to come up with a “$100 a barrel” headline, even while acknowledging nothing is likely to happen.

If you were really cynical, you might think those canny Persians are just manipulating the oil price to their own advantage – a very fine example of successful insider trading. They have absolutely no interest in interrupting the supply of oil as they need the money, but this has to be a better method of boosting the price than cutting production.

Before anyone is taken in by the noise, it’s worth remembering that oil is only back where it was six or seven months ago and that it has run to $75 a barrel without causing much damage. And as for the “peak oil” Chicken Littles – the higher the price goes, the more substitution occurs, the better the market mechanism allocates resources, the more we brilliantly ingenious creatures find alternatives.

But in the immediate term, there’s been some very dodgy business going on at the local petrol pump. The Shell "average" price site reckons petrol peaked in Sydney yesterday at $1.30 a litre, down three cents from the previous Thursday. As reported here on Monday, the peak should have been $1.28 if the petrol companies really base their pricing on a rolling seven-day average of Singapore unleaded. And there still seems to be a convenient correlation between Middle East headlines and straight profiteering, such as the Shell and BP service stations charging $1.39 a litre. That certainly doesn’t reflect Singapore pricing.

So let’s start the rumour - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a petrol company stooge.

The BBC notes that the end of oil heralds climate pain (thanks Dave for the link).
In fact peak oil could even make emissions worse if it drives us to exploit the wrong kinds of fuel. Burning rainforest and peatlands to create palm oil plantations for biofuels releases vast amounts of CO2, and has already made Indonesia, according to some ways of calculating it, the world's third biggest emitter after the US and China.

Synthetic transport fuels made from natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process emit even more carbon on a well-to-wheels basis than conventional crude; and when the feedstock is coal, the emissions double. None of these alternatives are likely to fill the gap left by conventional crude - at least, not in time.

But because they are so much more carbon intensive, it is quite easy to conjure scenarios in which we still suffer fuel shortages while emitting even more CO2 than in the current business-as-usual forecast - the worst of all possible worlds.

The China Daily reports that China's first coal to liquids plant is due to open next year.
China's first coal liquefaction project, which will go into operation in 2008, will be able to produce more than one million tons of oil a year, significantly reducing the country's dependence on oil imports. ...

"The project transforms coal into refined oil. When the second phase is completed in 2010, the plant will produce 6 million tons of oil products each year and help reduce China's reliance on crude oil imports," said Wang Pinggang, vice president of Shenhua Group.

The Christian Science Monitor has a report on the Global boom in coal power – and emissions.
In the past five years, [the world] has been on a coal-fired binge, bringing new generators online at a rate of better than two per week. That has added some 1 billion tons of new carbon-dioxide emissions that humans pump into the atmosphere each year. Coal-fired power now accounts for nearly a third of human-generated global CO2 emissions. ... To date, many climate models have not fully accounted for the worldwide acceleration of coal-plant building, scientists say.

"The phenomenon ... would lead to greater CO2 emissions than most 'business as usual' forecasts project," says Robert Socolow, co-director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University.

The Globe and Mail has a Reuters report on the predicted impact of global warming on Australia. Energy Bulletin has a roundup of more news on Australian climate.
Australia, slowly emerging from its worst drought in a century, will suffer killer heat waves, bushfires and floods as global warming intensifies, a draft report by international climate scientists said on Friday.

Already the world's driest inhabited continent, Australia's outback interior will see temperatures rise by up to 6.7 degrees Celsius by 2080, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said. “An increase in fire danger in Australia is likely to be associated with a reduced interval between fires, increased fire intensity, a decrease in fire extinguishments,” sections of the report leaked to Australian media said on Friday.

The study will increase pressure on Australia's conservative government, which refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol, to do more to combat climate change ahead of elections later this year. Global warming is shaping as a major issue.

The draft is the second of four to be completed this year by IPCC climate experts and will be released for discussion in Brussels on April 6. The first study said there was almost 90 per cent certainty that humans were changing the world's climate and causing global warming, mostly through reliance on burning fossil fuels. The draft second report said sea levels would rise due to glacial melt, causing havoc for coastal-dwelling Australia and New Zealand with “greater coastal inundation, erosion, loss of wetlands and salt water intrusion into freshwater sources”.

Rising temperatures would also hit the Great Barrier Reef with “catastrophic mortality of coral species annually”. The first report by the IPCC said the reef would be “functionally extinct” in 40 years. Landslides, water shortages and storm surges would cause infrastructure destruction, and heat-related deaths could rise to 6,300 a year from 1,115 at present by 2050, when temperatures would have already spiked by 3.4 C, the report said.

The Australian government, which this week hardened opposition to signing the Kyoto Protocol which set greenhouse gas reduction targets, said there was nothing new in the draft. “We know that there is the possibility or the probability of a hotter and drier future,” Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Richard Behan has a very interesting article up at Common Dreams looking at a tricky little landmine George Bush has placed in the Iraq Accountability Act, noting If the Iraqi People Get Revenue Sharing, They Lose Their Oil to Exxon
George Bush has a land mine planted in the supplemental appropriation legislation working its way through Congress.

The Iraq Accountability Act passed by the House and the companion bill passed in the Senate contain deadlines for withdrawing our troops from Iraq, in open defiance of the President’s repeated objections.

He threatens a veto, but he might well be bluffing. Buried deep in the legislation and intentionally obscured is a near-guarantee of success for the Bush Administration’s true objective of the war-capturing Iraq’s oil-and George Bush will not casually forego that.

This bizarre circumstance is the end-game of the brilliant, ever-deceitful maneuvering by the Bush Administration in conducting the entire scenario of the “global war on terror.”

The supplemental appropriation package requires the Iraqi government to meet a series of “benchmarks” President Bush established in his speech to the nation on January 10 (in which he made his case for the “surge”). Most of Mr. Bush’s benchmarks are designed to blame the victim, forcing the Iraqis to solve the problems George Bush himself created.

One of the President’s benchmarks, however, stands apart. This is how the President described it: “To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.” A seemingly decent, even noble concession. That’s all Mr. Bush said about that benchmark, but his brevity was gravely misleading, and it had to be intentional.

The Iraqi Parliament has before it today, in fact, a bill called the hydrocarbon law, and it does call for revenue sharing among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. For President Bush, this is a must-have law, and it is the only “benchmark” that truly matters to his Administration.

Yes, revenue sharing is there-essentially in fine print, essentially trivial. The bill is long and complex, it has been years in the making, and its primary purpose is transformational in scope: a radical and wholesale reconstruction-virtual privatization-of the currently nationalized Iraqi oil industry.

If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5’s of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing “benchmark” Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.

The legislation pending now in Washington requires the President to certify to Congress by next October that the benchmarks have been met-specifically that the Iraqi hydrocarbon law has been passed. That’s the land mine: he will certify the American and British oil companies have access to Iraqi oil. This is not likely what Congress intended, but it is precisely what Mr. Bush has sought for the better part of six years.

It is why we went to war.

For years President Bush has cloaked his intentions behind the fabricated “Global War on Terrorism.” It has long been suspected that oil drove the wars, but dozens of skilled and determined writers have documented it. It is no longer a matter of suspicion, nor is it speculation now: it is sordid fact. (See a brief summary of the story at http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/47489/ . )

Planning for the two wars was underway almost immediately upon the Bush Administration taking office–at least six months before September 11, 2001. The wars had nothing to do with terrorism. Terrorism was initially rejected by the new Administration as unworthy of national concern and public policy, but 9/11 gave them a conveniently timed and spectacular alibi to undertake the wars. Quickly inventing a catchy “global war on terror” theme, the Administration disguised the true nature of the wars very cleverly, and with enduring success.

The “global war on terror” is bogus. The prime terrorist in Afghanistan and the architect of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, was never apprehended, and the President’s subsequent indifference is a matter of record. And Iraq harbored no terrorists at all. But both countries were invaded, both countries suffer military occupation today, both are dotted with permanent U.S. military bases protecting the hydrocarbon assets, and both have been provided with puppet governments.

And a billion dollar embassy in Baghdad is under construction now. It will be the largest U.S. embassy in the world by a factor of ten. (To see it, go to http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20070124&articleId=4579 .) It consists of 21 buildings on 104 acres, six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York city, larger than Vatican City. It will house a delegation of more than five thousand people. It will have its own water, electric, and sewage systems, and it is surrounded by a fortress wall of concrete fifteen feet thick. For an Administration committed to fighting terrorism with armies and bombs, that’s far more anti-terror diplomacy than a tiny country needs. There must be another purpose for it.

In the first two months of the Bush Administration two significant events took place that preordained the Iraqi war. Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force was created, composed of federal officials and oil industry people. By March of 2001, half a year before 9/11, the Task Force was poring secretly over maps of the Iraqi oil fields, pipe lines, and tanker terminals. It studied a listing of foreign oil company “suitors” for exploration and development contracts, to be executed with Saddam Hussein’s oil ministry. There was not a single American or British oil company included, and to Mr. Cheney and his cohorts that was intolerable. The final report of the Task Force was candid: “… Middle East oil producers will remain central to world security. The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy.” The detailed meaning of “focus” was left blank.

The other event was the first meeting of President Bush’s National Security Council, and it filled in the blank. The Council abandoned abruptly the decades-long attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and set a new priority for Middle East foreign policy instead: the invasion of Iraq. This, too, was six months before 9/11. “Focus” would mean war.

By the fall of 2002, the White House Iraq Group-a collection not of foreign policy experts but of media and public relations people-was cranking up the marketing campaign for the war. A contract was signed with the Halliburton Corporation-even before military force in Iraq had been authorized by Congress-to organize the suppression of oil well fires, should Saddam torch the fields as he had done in the first Gulf War. Little was left to chance.

The oil industry is the primary client and top-ranked beneficiary of the Bush Administration. There can be no question the Administration intended to secure for American oil corporations the rich petroleum resources of Iraq: 115 billion barrels of proven reserves, twice that in probable and possible resources, potentially far more than Saudi Arabia. The Energy Task Force spoke to this and the National Security Council answered.

A secret NSC memorandum in 2001 spoke candidly of “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields” in Iraq. In 2002 Paul Wolfowitz suggested simply seizing the oil fields. These words and suggestions were draconian, overt, and reprehensible-morally, historically, politically and diplomatically. The seizure of the oil would have to be oblique and far more sophisticated.

A year before the war the State Department undertook the “Future of Iraq” project, expressly to design the institutional contours of the postwar country. The ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­”Oil and Energy Working Group” looked with dismay at the National Iraqi Oil Company, the government agency that owned and operated the Iraqi oil fields and marketed the products. 100% of the revenues went directly to the central government, and constituted about 90% of its income. Saddam Hussein benefited, certainly-his lavish palaces-but the Iraqi people did so to a far greater extent, in terms of the nation’s public services and physical infrastructure. For this reason nationalized oil industries are the norm throughout the world.

The Oil and Energy Working Group designed a scheme that was oblique and sophisticated, indeed. The oil seizure would be less than total. It would be obscured in complexity. The apparent responsibility for it would be shifted, and it would be disguised as benefiting, even necessary to Iraq’s well being. Their work was supremely ingenious, undeniably brilliant.

The plan would keep the National Iraqi Oil Company in place, to continue overseeing the currently producing fields. But those fields represent only 19% of Iraq’s petroleum reserves. The other 81% would be flung open to “investment” by foreign oil interests, and the companies in favored positions today-because of the war and their political connections-are Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell.

The nationalized industry would be 80% privatized.

The investment vehicle would be the “production sharing agreement,” a long-term contract-up to 40 years-that grants to the company a share of the oil produced; in exchange, the company underwrites the development costs and oilfield infrastructure. Such “investment” is touted by the Bush Administration and its puppets in Iraq as necessary to the country’s recovery, and a huge benefit, accordingly. But it is not unusual for these contracts to grant the companies more than half the profits for the first 15-30 years, and to deny the host country any revenue at all until the investment costs have been recovered.

The Iraqi oil industry does very much need a great deal of investment capital, to repair, replace, and upgrade its infrastructure. But it does not need Exxon/Mobil or any other foreign company to provide it. At a reduced level, Iraq is still producing oil and hence revenue, and no country in the world, perhaps, has better collateral against which to float bond issues for public investment. Privatization of any sort and in any degree is utterly unnecessary in Iraq today.

The features of the State Department plan were inserted by Paul Bremer’s Provisional Coalition Authority into the developing structures of Iraqi governance. American oil companies were omnipresent in Baghdad then and have been since, shaping and shepherding the plan through the several iterations of puppet governments-the “democracy” said to be taking hold in Iraq.

The package today is in the form of draft legislation, the hydrocarbon law. Only a handful of Iraqi officials know its details. Virtually none of them had a hand in its construction. (It was first written in English.) And its exclusive beneficiaries are the American and British oil companies, whose profits will come directly from the pockets of the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi people do, however, benefit to some degree. The seizure is not total. The hydrocarbon law specifies the oil revenues-the residue accruing to Iraq-will be shared equally among the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regions, on a basis of population. This is the feature President Bush relies upon exclusively to justify, to insist on the passage of the hydrocarbon law. His real reasons are Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell.

No one can say at the moment how much the hydrocarbon law will cost the Iraqi people, but it will be in the hundreds of billions. The circumstances of its passage are mired in the country’s chaos, and its final details are not yet settled. If and when it passes, however, Iraq will orchestrate the foreign capture of its own oil. The ingenious, brilliant seizure of Iraqi oil will be assured.

That outcome has been on the Bush Administration’s agenda since early in 2001, long before terrorism struck in New York and Washington. The Iraqi war has never been about terrorism.

It is blood for oil.

The blood has been spilled already, hugely, criminally. More than 3,200 American military men and women have died in Iraq. 26,500 more have been wounded. But the oil remains in play.

The game will end if the revenue-sharing “benchmark” is fully enforced. The land mine will detonate.

Mission almost accomplished, Mr. President.

If you're a chronic multi-tasker like me who gets annoyed about not getting into the "flow state" (or what I used to call "the zone" when I was a teenager playing video games or basketball) very often, you might find this post from Kathy at "Creating Passionate Users" interesting.
Twitter scares me. For all its popularity, I see at least three issues: 1) it's a near-perfect example of the psychological principle of intermittent variable reward, the key addictive element of slot machines. 2) The strong "feeling of connectedness" Twitterers get can trick the brain into thinking its having a meaningful social interaction, while another (ancient) part of the brain "knows" something crucial to human survival is missing. 3) Twitter is yet another--potentially more dramatic--contribution to the problems of always-on multi-tasking... you can't be Twittering (or emailing or chatting, of course) and simultaneously be in deep thought and/or a flow state.

I'll look at each of the three points in more detail ...

Worst of all, this onslaught is keeping us from doing the one thing that makes most of us the happiest... being in flow. Flow requires a depth of thinking and a focus of attention that all that context-switching prevents. Flow requires a challenging use of our knowledge and skills, and that's quite different from mindless tasks we can multitask (eating and watching tv, etc.) Flow means we need a certain amount of time to load our knowledge and skills into our brain RAM. And the more big or small interruptions we have, the less likely we are to ever get there.

And not only are we stopping ourselves from ever getting in flow, we're stopping ourselves from ever getting really good at something. From becoming experts. The brain scientists now tell us that becoming an expert is not a matter of being a prodigy, it's a matter of being able to focus.

We're already seeing a backlash response to info overload, and it seems like a good chunk of Web 2.0 VC investments are going to companies that promise to help us get/stay organized. There's a reason 43 Folders is a Top 100 blog, and it's got to be more than just Merlin Mann's good looks ; )

Lots of people are talking about this, and perhaps nobody more eloquently than Linda Stone:

"To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention -- CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter.

We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING. It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always in high alert when we pay continuous partial attention. This artificial sense of constant crisis is more typical of continuous partial attention than it is of multi-tasking."


Anonymous   says 10:11 AM

Please sign petition to Shell to stop doing business with terrorist regime of Iran!

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