Benchmark No. 1: Privatizing Iraq's Oil for US Companies  

Posted by Big Gav

TruthOut has an editorial from a retired US Army Colonel and State Department worker on Benchmark number 1 for Iraq - hand over the oil or else...

On Thursday, May 24, the US Congress voted to continue the war in Iraq. The members called it "supporting the troops." I call it stealing Iraq's oil - the second largest reserves in the world. The "benchmark," or goal, the Bush administration has been working on furiously since the US invaded Iraq is privatization of Iraq's oil. Now they have Congress blackmailing the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people: no privatization of Iraqi oil, no reconstruction funds.

This threat could not be clearer. If the Iraqi Parliament refuses to pass the privatization legislation, Congress will withhold US reconstruction funds that were promised to the Iraqis to rebuild what the United States has destroyed there. The privatization law, written by American oil company consultants hired by the Bush administration, would leave control with the Iraq National Oil Company for only 17 of the 80 known oil fields. The remainder (two-thirds) of known oil fields, and all yet undiscovered ones, would be up for grabs by the private oil companies of the world (but guess how many would go to United States firms - given to them by the compliant Iraqi government.)

No other nation in the Middle East has privatized its oil. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iran give only limited usage contracts to international oil companies for one or two years. The $12 billion dollar "Support the Troops" legislation passed by Congress requires Iraq, in order to get reconstruction funds from the United States, to privatize its oil resources and put them up for long term (20- to 30-year) contracts.

What does this "Support the Troops" legislation mean for the United States military? Supporting our troops has nothing to do with this bill, other than keeping them there for another 30 years to protect US oil interests. It means that every military service member will need Arabic language training. It means that every soldier and Marine would spend most of his or her career in Iraq. It means that the fourteen permanent bases will get new Taco Bells and Burger Kings! Why? Because the US military will be protecting the US corporate oilfields leased to US companies by the compliant Iraqi government. Our troops will be the guardians of US corporate interests in Iraq for the life of the contracts - for the next thirty years.

With the Bush administration's "Support the Troops" bill and its benchmarks, primarily Benchmark No. 1, we finally have the reason for the US invasion of Iraq: to get easily accessible, cheap, high-grade Iraq oil for US corporations.

Now the choice is for US military personnel and their families to decide whether they want their loved ones to be physically and emotionally injured to protect not our national security, but the financial security of the biggest corporate barons left in our country - the oil companies.

It's a choice for only our military families, because most non-military Americans do not really care whether our volunteer military spends its time protecting corporate oil to fuel our one-person cars. Of course, when a tornado, hurricane, flood or other natural disaster hits in our hometown, we want our National Guard unit back. But on a normal day, who remembers the 180,000 US military or the 150,000 US private contractors in Iraq?

Since the "Surge" began in January, over 500 Americans and 15,000 Iraqis have been killed. By the time September 2007 rolls around for the administration's review of the "surge" plan, another 400 Americans will be dead, as well as another 12,000 Iraqis.

How much more can our military and their families take?

After Gutenberg has a post on Tesla Motors spinning off the 'Tesla Energy Group'.
Tesla Motors has announced that a new division, Tesla Energy Group. It is being led by Dr. Bernard K. Tse, a Tesla Motors board member who stepped off the board to lead the Energy Group. The establishment of the Tesla Energy Group adds a significant new dimension to the business of Tesla Motors. In an example of vertical integration, Tesla Motors is developing and marketing battery packs.
“Tesla Energy Group will provide additional sources of operating income for Tesla Motors while accelerating our competitive advantage in battery pack design and manufacturing. Both of these support our core business of developing and marketing extraordinary electric cars such as the Tesla Roadster,” said Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla Motors.

Along with announcement of formation of the Energy Group, Tesla Motors also announced that they have their first customer. Think of Norway signed a development and supply agreement worth $43 Million.
The supply agreement covers the development and delivery of battery packs starting in December 2007 and continuing through 2008. The supply agreement represents up to $43 million in revenues, of which approximately $3 million is expected to be realized in 2007 with the remainder in 2008.

Autoblog Green1 (does a Tesla… press release) quotes Jan-Olaf Willums, CEO of Think, as stating that “Tesla Energy Group provides Think with an advanced battery pack design with impressive performance”.

So what does Think Global get? Lithium-ion battery packs for their line of “TH!NK city” electric cars, which at present is designed, like the electric Smart fortwo, to use a Zebra battery. The high temperature, molten sodium sulfur battery can give the “TH!NK city” a 180 km (112 mile) range and a top speed of 100 kph (62 mph). ...

The BBC reports on US efforts to oppose action on global warming at the G8 summit.
The US appears to have rejected draft proposals by Germany for G8 members to agree tough measures in greenhouse gas emissions, leaked documents have shown. Wide-ranging US amendments to a draft communique prepared ahead of June's G8 in Germany summit cite a "fundamental opposition" to the proposals.

Germany wants all G8 members to agree timetables and targets for major cuts. Greenpeace, who leaked the document, said it showed UK PM Tony Blair failed to persuade the US to alter its stance. In the document, US officials make major changes to the communique.

In comments printed in red ink, the US negotiators express disappointment that earlier concerns have not been taken on board. The changes strike out entire sentences and significantly reduce the certainty with which the statement addresses climate change. "The US still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement," a red-inked note reads. "The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses 'multiple red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to," it continues. "We have tried to 'tread lightly' but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position."

However, in Washington, senior US lawmakers have written to President Bush expressing their dismay at the administration's position, the AFP news agency reports.

National Geographic has a feature on The Big Thaw.
From Greenland to Antarctica, the world is losing its ice faster than anyone thought possible. Can humans slow the melting?

Even in better times, the Chacaltaya ski area was no competition for Aspen. Set in a bleak valley high in the Andes mountains of Bolivia, it offered a half-mile (one kilometer) swoop downhill, a precarious ride back up on a rope tow, and coca-leaf tea for altitude headaches. At 17,250 feet (5,260 meters), after all, Chacaltaya was the highest ski area in the world. "It gave us a lot of glory," says Walter Laguna, the president of Bolivia's mountain club. "We organized South American championships—with Chile, with Argentina, with Colombia."

The glory days are over. Skiing at this improbable spot depended on a small glacier that made a passable ski run when Bolivia's wet season dusted it with snow. The glacier was already shrinking when the ski area opened in 1939. But in the past decade, it's gone into a death spiral.

By last year all that remained were three patches of gritty ice, the largest just a couple of hundred yards (200 meters) across. The rope tow traversed boulder fields. Laguna insists that skiing will go on. Perhaps the club can make artificial snow, he says; perhaps it can haul in slabs of ice to mend the glacier. But in the long run, he knows, Chacaltaya is history. "The process is irreversible. Global warming will continue."

From the high mountains to the vast polar ice sheets, the world is losing its ice faster than anyone thought possible. Even scientists who had monitored Chacaltaya since 1991 thought it would hold out for a few more years. It's no surprise that glaciers are melting as emissions from cars and industry warm the climate. But lately, the ice loss has outstripped the upward creep of global temperatures.

Scientists are finding that glaciers and ice sheets are surprisingly touchy. Instead of melting steadily, like an ice cube on a summer day, they are prone to feedbacks, when melting begets more melting and the ice shrinks precipitously. At Chacaltaya, for instance, the shrinking glacier exposed dark rocks, which sped up its demise by soaking up heat from the sun. Other feedbacks are shriveling bigger mountain glaciers ahead of schedule and sending polar ice sheets slipping into the ocean.

Most glaciers in the Alps could be gone by the end of the century, Glacier National Park's namesake ice by 2030. The small glaciers sprinkled through the Andes and Himalaya have a few more decades at best. And the prognosis for the massive ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica? No one knows, if only because the turn for the worse has been so sudden. Eric Rignot, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who has measured a doubling in ice loss from Greenland over the past decade, says: "We see things today that five years ago would have seemed completely impossible, extravagant, exaggerated."

The fate of many mountain glaciers is already sealed. To keep skiing alive in Bolivia, Walter Laguna will need to find a bigger, higher ice field. And the millions of people in countries like Bolivia, Peru, and India who now depend on meltwater from mountain glaciers for irrigation, drinking, and hydropower could be left high and dry. Meanwhile, if global warming continues unabated, the coasts could drown. If vulnerable parts of the ice that blankets Greenland and Antarctica succumb, rising seas could flood hundreds of thousands of square miles—much of Florida, Bangladesh, the Netherlands—and displace tens of millions of people.

The temperature threshold for drastic sea-level rise is near, but many scientists think we still have time to stop short of it, by sharply cutting back consumption of climate-warming coal, oil, and gas. Few doubt, however, that another 50 years of business as usual will take us beyond a point of no return. ...

A KPMG survey shows that 60 percent of oil and gas execs believe trend of declining oil reserves is irreversible (ie. they mostly believe in imminent peak oil). On the other hand, only 11% of them believe global warming id caused by CO2 emissions, so we may not be talking about a rational group of people here.
Oil and Gas Executives say government involvement in supporting the development of renewable energy sources is necessary to alleviate the problem of declining oil reserves, according to the results of a survey conducted by KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm.

In the KPMG survey, which polled 553 financial executives from oil and gas companies in April 2007, twenty-five percent of the respondents said that at least 75 percent of government funding into energy should be directed at the renewable sources sector and a further 44 percent said that at least 50 percent of funding should be allocated in the same way. These feelings stem from the overwhelming majority, or 82 percent, citing declining oil reserves as a concern.

"These executives are deeply concerned about declining oil reserves, a situation they see as irreversible and worsening," said Bill Kimble, National Line of Business Leader, Industrial Markets for KPMG LLP. "They see renewable energy sources as a lifeline but our survey shows that the execs recognize they cannot count on them as a solution in the short-term. Consequently, oil and gas companies are sending a clear signal to the government that intervention is needed."

While oil and gas executives are keen to see renewable energy sources becoming a mass produced reality, 60 percent say that will not be possible by 2010. Of those that believe it will, 18 percent say ethanol is the most viable for mass production by then, 13 percent say biodiesel and only 3 percent say cellulosic ethanol.

Sixty percent of the executives believe that the trend of declining oil reserves is irreversible. And, when asked about the impact of emerging markets, such as China, will have on declining oil reserves, almost 70 percent of the executives said that it would lead the situation to worsen.

The executives also clearly see that there are steps that individuals can take to alleviate the issue of declining oil reserves.

"One-third of oil and gas executives questioned said that the next time they are purchasing a family car they would consider one that consumes less gasoline, such as a hybrid," said Kimble. "They clearly see demand-side as part of the solution to declining oil reserves."

The WSJ Energy Roundup notes that high petrol prices aren't deterring Americans from driving, but they are eating (out) less. Just as well given the amount of corn being turned into ethanol...
In this morning’s Ahead of the Tape column, The Wall Street Journal’s Scott Patterson pointed out that high food and energy prices will make this the most expensive Memorial Day weekend ever and wondered whether they would start to change consumer behavior.

This morning’s USA Today, however, suggested high gas prices weren’t changing anybody’s holiday travel plans. Yesterday, an ABC/Washington Post poll found gas would have to rise another $1 a gallon to have a significant impact on travel.

But a new survey by the Food Marketing Institute, an organization representing grocers and food wholesalers, found that more than 40% of consumers are changing their food-buying habits due to high gas prices.

Wealthier people aren’t changing their behaviors much, according to the study, but people who are eating differently are cooking more, eating more leftovers, buying cheaper store brands and eating out less or at cheaper restaurants.

The biggest change in food sales so far is in the food-service sector, a buyer for a Midwest-based wholesaler told Dow Jones Newswires. Customer traffic at the mid-range priced family restaurants has declined. This indicates that people are saving money by either preparing more of their meals at home or going to the cheaper fast-food establishments.

The WSJ itself has a report on a US Senate push to encourage utilities to switch to green power.
The campaign to get more energy from renewable sources has moved to the U.S. energy grid, part of a broader effort aimed at weaning the nation off fossil fuels.

A bill about to be introduced in the Senate would push utilities to generate drastically more of their power -- 15%, compared with the current 2% -- from sources such as wind or the sun by 2020. While three similar measures have died after passing the Senate, this one has powerful bipartisan support.

Environmental groups have long sought a federal law requiring utilities to use a variety of cleaner natural resources. Several states already direct utilities to meet minimum standards; a federal benchmark could give utilities a uniform interstate market and make compliance easier. ...

The Senate proposal, authored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, defines renewable energy sources as wind, solar, geothermal, wood chips and other biofuels, as well as various ways to make energy from tides and ocean waves. His measure mandates what are called "renewable portfolios standards."

Tyler at Clean Break has a post on a pilot plugin hybrid project in Ontario.
My story in today's Toronto Star is about the launch of a 10-car pilot project in the city that will see hybrid cars -- eight Priuses, one Escape and one Civic -- retrofitted into plug-in hybrids during the first year, and next year up to 200 hybrids converted the same way. While not new in the United States, where a number of cities have launched retrofit programs, this is a first in Canada. A number of organizations are participating in the program, including green-energy retailer Bullfrog Power, car-sharing company AutoShare, local utility Toronto Hydro and both provincial and municipal departments. The idea is to expose the cars to a variety of driving conditions in an urban setting and, perhaps most important, test their performance during a Toronto winter.

Not surprising, local-area company Hymotion, now owned by Massachussetts-based A123 Systems, will be doing the retrofits. The University of Toronto, also participating in the project with their own hybrid, will be collecting emission and mileage data from all cars and analysing the results.

It's good to finally see some concrete action from this city, though to be fair this project has been several months in the planning. I should point out that utility Veridian was the first organization in the area to do a plug-in retrofit of a hybrid (not only that, it put a solar panel on the roof of the car to charge the battery).

In the Al Gore spot tonight, another report on his "Assault on Reason" book tour. I like the way the article highlights 4 terms for automatic search - "Al Gore", "Iraq", "Britney Spears" and "Paris Hilton". I hope that was the editor having a bit of fun, but somehow I doubt it...
Former US vice president Al Gore on Friday criticized the "trivialities and nonsense" of celebrity gossip in the media and called on people to focus instead on issues like Iraq and climate change.

Gore, who is promoting his new book "The Assault on Reason," made the comments at a book signing in New York, where he was treated to a rock star reception by more than 1,300 cheering and screaming fans. "What is it about our collective decision-making process that has led us to this state of affairs where we spend much more time in the public forum talking about -- or receiving information about -- Britney Spears shaving her head or Paris Hilton going to jail?" Gore asked.

He lamented what he described as the "destruction of the boundary between news and entertainment" and said the United States was "vulnerable as a democracy to mass and continuing distraction."

His new book draws parallels between the US government's approaches to climate change and the war in Iraq. "Just like the facts available before the invasion of Iraq, these facts about the climate crisis have been repeatedly brushed aside and ignored as inconvenient," he said. "In both cases the facts were ignored."

An effort to pass a bill to strengthen freedom of information is stalled because of an anonymous Republican opponent. I guess you have to give it to this guy too. There is a little project going to try and work out who he is.
An unidentified Republican Senator placed a secret hold on the Open Government Act, a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, thereby preventing the Senate from acting on the bill this week.

"Regrettably, an anonymous Republican hold is stalling this important Freedom of Information Act legislation, needlessly delaying long-overdue reforms to strengthen FOIA and to protect the public's right to know," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a co-sponsor of the bill along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

"It is both unfortunate and ironic that this bipartisan bill, which promotes sunshine and openness in our government, is being hindered by a secret and anonymous hold. This is a good government bill that Democrats and Republicans alike, can and should work together to enact," Sen. Leahy said in a May 24 floor statement.

"I hope that the Senator placing the secret hold on this bill will come forward, so that we can resolve any legitimate concerns, and the full Senate can promptly act on this legislation," he said.

"The Tory Anarchist" points to some new Ron Paul video. Some people are asking if Paul could win the New Hampshire primary. For those of you who think it would be a good use of your time, here are some instructions on how to try and become a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
Lew Rockwell has posted the video clip of Ron Paul’s second visit to the Bill Maher show; this time the host let Paul talk seriously about foreign policy. Maher even half-apologizes for his flippant attitude the first time around a few weeks back.

Speaking of flippant… here we have a WaPo gossip columnist (I take it) asking Paul about pot, prostitution, and chocolate-chip cookies. And also his OB/GYN practice. Sound answers from Paul all around, of course.

And, for good measure, here’s the video of Ron Paul and Michael Scheuer attempting to get Rudy Giuliani to read something about 9/11 rather than just blustering about it.

And some tinfoil to close - Cryptogon wondering if soft drink speeds up aging.
Remember DCA as a possible cancer therapy? That targeted functioning of the mitochondria:
Scientists and doctors have used DCA for decades to treat children with inborn errors of metabolism due to mitochondrial diseases. Mitochondria, the energy producing units in cells, have been connected with cancer since the 1930s, when researchers first noticed that these organelles dysfunction when cancer is present.

Until recently, researchers believed that cancer-affected mitochondria are permanently damaged and that this damage is the result, not the cause, of the cancer. But Michelakis, a cardiologist, questioned this belief and began testing DCA, which activates a critical mitochondrial enzyme, as a way to “revive” cancer-affected mitochondria.

Now, look what we find out about soft drinks! Guess which organelles they damage: That’s right, mitochondria.

Look at the prevalence of soft drinks on the one hand, and the level of obscurity of the DCA research on the other.

Via: Independent:

A new health scare erupted over soft drinks last night amid evidence they may cause serious cell damage. Research from a British university suggests a common preservative found in drinks such as Fanta and Pepsi Max has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA.

The problem - more usually associated with ageing and alcohol abuse - can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

The findings could have serious consequences for the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who consume fizzy drinks. They will also intensify the controversy about food additives, which have been linked to hyperactivity in children.

Concerns centre on the safety of E211, known as sodium benzoate, a preservative used for decades by the £74bn global carbonated drinks industry. Sodium benzoate derives from benzoic acid. It occurs naturally in berries, but is used in large quantities to prevent mould in soft drinks such as Sprite, Oasis and Dr Pepper. It is also added to pickles and sauces.

Sodium benzoate has already been the subject of concern about cancer because when mixed with the additive vitamin C in soft drinks, it causes benzene, a carcinogenic substance. A Food Standards Agency survey of benzene in drinks last year found high levels in four brands which were removed from sale.

Now, an expert in ageing at Sheffield University, who has been working on sodium benzoate since publishing a research paper in 1999, has decided to speak out about another danger. Professor Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology, tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells in his laboratory. What he found alarmed him: the benzoate was damaging an important area of DNA in the “power station” of cells known as the mitochondria.

He told The Independent on Sunday: “These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether.

“The mitochondria consumes the oxygen to give you energy and if you damage it - as happens in a number if diseased states - then the cell starts to malfunction very seriously. And there is a whole array of diseases that are now being tied to damage to this DNA - Parkinson’s and quite a lot of neuro-degenerative diseases, but above all the whole process of ageing.”


Thanks for the link. I hope you'll join us on June 4th by calling your Senator and asking about this secret hold.

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