Buy Candles And Pray For Rain  

Posted by Big Gav

This weekend's Sydney Morning Herald has a slightly alarming aspect today, echoing some of the themes I've been ranting about all week. The front page kicks off with Paul Sheehan noting that Power cuts and bigger bills are on the way.

Buy candles. Pray for more rain. And hope for good snow this winter.

THE water shortage across eastern Australia is now so acute it has begun to affect power supplies, and the country is at risk of electricity shortages next year. "I think we are in denial, and are going to have brownouts in NSW if we don't get snow this winter," a source within the electricity market told the Herald.

Coal and hydro power generation require very large amounts of water, and the Snowy scheme depends on it for 86 per cent of its generation capacity. "Last year we had the lowest snowfall ever recorded. If this happens again we are in trouble," the source said. He declined to be named because electricity pricing and supply is a politically charged subject.

Prices are already tipped to double in South Australia.

The head of the CSIRO's Australian climate change science program, Paul Holper, said: "Lack of water could become a problem for power generation. "You've got to find a supply of water to set aside for power generation, but there is already a shortage of water for agriculture. So this is going to become more of a problem."

The stock market has already sent an alarm signal. The price of electricity futures has almost doubled so far this year. In January the price of a megawatt hour for delivery to NSW in 2008 was $38. This week the price rose to just over $72, a 90 per cent rise in less than five months. The electricity price in Queensland has more than doubled. The volume of trading in electricity futures has roughly quadrupled this year.

According to a market assessment from the Sydney Futures Exchange, it ranks as one of the biggest commodity price increases ever seen, and is not driven by market speculation but is caused by the convergence of several negative trends, dominated by the water shortage. If this week's widespread rains continue, and the drought breaks, a power problem will be averted and the market will stabilise. But Australia is now an advanced economy at the mercy of the weather. Certainty over water supply has gone.

Power stations have a voracious appetite for water, and the shortage is affecting production in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, despite an abundance of coal and gas supplies.

The SMH also has an article pointing out something I else Iw as ranting about during the week - clean energy sources don't need water cooling, unlike coal and nuclear generation - and therefore people aren't forced to choose between energy and water.
Australia's eastern seaboard faces electricity brownouts because coal-fired power stations are running out of water, the Greens say. Greens leader Bob Brown said 30 per cent of the eastern seaboard's energy need could be met with better efficiencies and renewable energies that don't require water. "What we are seeing here is that the very core of the climate change problem, burning coal, is now being hit itself by climate change," Senator Brown said. "It requires huge amounts of water, and yet both Labor and Liberal want to export more coal, and burn more coal in this country."

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said the Iemma government should abandon any idea of building another coal-fired power station, after it last week commissioned an inquiry into the construction of a new plant.

Meanwhile, dwindling dam levels are threatening power supplies. Some energy experts believe NSW will face power brownouts next year, because its main emergency generator, the water-powered turbines of the Snowy Hydro, may have to sit idle as dams drop to record lows. The NSW government is apparently contemplating how it can guarantee baseload capacity, without privatising the rest of the electricity industry.

Dr Kaye said renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency can continue to operate through droughts and reduce the risks of brownouts. "NSW and the eastern seaboard of Australia faces brownouts, largely because many of the state's coal-fired power stations are running out of water," he said in a statement. "Building another coal burner would only increase our vulnerability to droughts and increase the risk of electricity brownouts because of water shortages."

Wind generation, solar photovoltaic panels and energy efficiency take almost no water to operate. Hot rocks geothermal, biomass and solar thermal use some water but can be designed to be less thirsty than coal.

Labor's environment spokesman Peter Garrett said the possibility of brownouts indicated how unprepared Australia was for the impact of climate change. "We will see an intensification of droughts and an intensity in terms of increasing periods of hot weather, increasing periods of weather where there is not much rain as a consequence of failing to address climate change," he told reporters in Sydney.

The SMh editorial says that Climate change is exposing our power failures, noting that the federal government's failure to impose a tax or cap on carbon emissions has stalled the power generation industry. I guess one benefit of spiralling power prices is that we'll probably see some rapid wind farm construction and increasing take up of solar panels while the politicians play their games.
CLIMATE change is emerging as an issue the way a drought sun rises over the parched landscape - dominating all, affecting and changing everything it touches. Now its many ramifications are combining with the existing energy crisis to turn an already difficult problem into something still more complex. The results will strike home to every resident of the state. As the Herald reports today, some energy experts believe NSW risks brownouts next year because its main emergency generator - the water-powered turbines of Snowy Hydro - may have to sit idle. The Eucumbene and Jindabyne dams have fallen to levels not seen since the Snowy Mountains scheme opened. Without adequate water, the hydro scheme cannot fulfil its usual role supplying extra power when demand peaks. It is not the only way in which climate change is now intertwined with energy security.

As the State Government ponders the latest threat to power supplies during peak demand, it is also contemplating how to guarantee baseload capacity - the supply that must continue uninterrupted day after day. The Premier, Morris Iemma, set up an inquiry earlier this month into the best way to build a new source of baseload power. As things stand, the only cost-effective alternative is likely to be a new coal-fired power station. At up to $7 billion, they are not cheap. It is money the NSW Government simply does not have. Ideally the Government would look to the private sector to help out. Do not tell anyone, but it would like to privatise the rest of the electricity industry in the state, too. It would be a good move, but Labor dare not make it for fear of a union backlash, like the one that occurred a decade ago. So, through a growing crisis, NSW is trying to manage the future of the essential ingredient of a modern economy - the energy supply - with its left hand tied behind its back.

No, make that both hands. Its right hand, like that of every other power system manager, is tied up by the Federal Government. Canberra's reluctance - so far - to implement a carbon trading scheme means that coal power is too cheap compared with the environmental damage it does, and cleaner alternatives are unable to compete. The British environmentalist George Monbiot has calculated the output of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour generated by different energy sources. Nuclear power, through a light-water reactor, produces 16 tonnes of CO2, a gas-fired power plant 356 tonnes, and coal 891 tonnes. Yet for Australia, which ignores the environmental cost, coal is by far the cheapest source of energy. The present pricing regime cuts off the possibility that other benign generating technologies, using solar, wind and wave energy, might compete with polluting coal. In effect it subsidises coal by transferring its environmental costs to future generations. (We may contrast here the Federal Government's approach to the Future Fund, and Labor's suggestion that it be raided to fund a broadband network.) Canberra is shortly to make public the result of its study into the possibility of a carbon trading scheme. We should all hope the Government's response to that study brings an end to this damaging short-sightedness.

In response to the water problem, there are efforts to fund research to slash the cost of desalination (while avoiding doing the sensible things like more distributed capture and storage and water recycling).
DESALINATION should become significantly greener and cheaper as a result of a new multimillion-dollar research effort to dramatically cut the energy needed to filter salt from sea water. Involving the CSIRO and nine universities, including the University of NSW, the project aims to halve the power required to make sea water drinkable.

Environmental arguments against desalination have included the cost of the energy required and the greenhouse gasses emitted in generating the necessary electricity. The project's leader, Stephen Gray, of Victoria University, said yesterday that desalination would probably still use more energy than recycling. However, the new technology could make desalination much more attractive to Sydney residents. ...

Alan Gregory, CSIRO's urban water research leader, said desalination also offered "pretty much an endless supply of water". Mr Gregory estimated that about 40 per cent of the cost of desalination was in the treatment process. "The aspirational goal is to reduce it by half. We could potentially provide more secure water supplies while minimising greenhouse gas emissions."

Huge amounts of power were needed to force water through the filtration membranes that trap the salt. As the membranes clogged, the energy needed to push the water through them soared. "The fouling of the membranes is one of the reasons the cost is so high," Mr Gregory said. "That's what drives the energy demand."

Arnie has finally terminated the proposed BHP LNG terminal project off California.
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has terminated one of Australia's most lucrative export projects. BHP Billiton planned to build an $US800 million ($973.06 million) liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal off the coast of the Los Angeles celebrity enclave of Malibu, but Schwarzenegger announced he would veto the project after a ferocious campaign led by Hollywood celebrities. ...

Schwarzenegger, however, ruled today the BHP Billiton proposal was not environmentally sound. "Any LNG import facility must meet the strict environmental standards California demands to continue to improve our air quality, protect our coast and preserve our marine environment," Schwarzenegger said in his long-awaited decision. "The Cabrillo Port LNG project, as designed, fails to meet that test."

BHP's peer Rio Tinto realises that coal's prospects are grim, and is trying to extract some future value by partnering with BP in coal to hydrogen and CO2 production, with the CO2 being sequestered or used to enhance oil field recovery. The article notes telling that this may be cost competitive with wind power - for now.
ENSURING its vast coal business is not marginalised in the global shift to decarbonised energy has led Rio Tinto to join oil giant BP's push into hydrogen-fuelled power generation.

Rio is to pay BP $US32 million ($39 million) to become an equal partner in the push, which involves the conversion of fossil fuels such as coal into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, with the geosequestration of the carbon dioxide in depleted gasfields reducing greenhouse gas emissions in power generation by as much as 90 per cent.

Rio energy chief executive Preston Chiaro said Rio was "making an investment in decarbonised energy now so we can help make coal a big part of the solution for clean power in the future". "Combined with our uranium assets, this move will position Rio and its shareholders to benefit from the advent of a low-carbon energy future," he said.

Both Rio and BP acknowledged that power from a hydrogen plant with carbon dioxide geosequestration would be more expensive than from traditional coal plants. But, initially at least, it could be competitive with wind power. The pair estimate that to meet projected increases in power demand, as many as 600 plants, costing $US1 billion each, will be needed by 2050.

Maybe they are looking to do some business in Southern California.
According to a press release dated May 17, Edison International’s (NYSE:EIX) electricity utility, Southern California Edison (SCE), has requested approval to build and test a commercial 600 MW power plant to determine the feasibility of a new combination of several advanced “clean” coal technologies in an effort to advance these emerging approaches to low-carbon generation.

Their proposal consist of:

* A gasifier that combines coal and steam with a controlled amount of oxygen under high pressures to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
* Converting the carbon monoxide to additional hydrogen and carbon dioxide in the shift conversion.
* Further processing the gasses to remove sulfur, mercury, and carbon dioxide.
* Sequestering the carbon in a depleted oil formation, enabling enhanced oil recovery, or in a deep saline formation.
* Producing a mostly hydrogen fuel, emitting only 10 percent of the carbon released by an integrated gasification combined-cycle coal project without carbon capture.
* The hydrogen is fed to gas turbines where electricity is generated.
*
Exhaust heat from the gas turbines is used to create steam and drive additional turbines.
* The use of these technologies in a full-scale, 600-megawatt (MW) commercial generating facility.

The Energy Blog also has a post on Alcoa trialling a carbon capture technology at its WA alumina refinery, noting that coming up with a solution for this is vital. It may be cheaper and more practical just to build a wind farm and a solar thermal plant - 2 resources in plentiful supply in the area.
Alcoa (NYSE:AA) announced on Tuesday that it has launched a new carbon capture technology at its Kwinana alumina refinery in Western Australia that has the potential to deliver significant global greenhouse benefits and will contribute to a reduction in the aluminum industry’s environmental footprint.

Alcoa’s Carbon Capture system is a in house developed residue treatment process that involves mixing bauxite residue, a by-product of the aluminum-making process, with carbon dioxide (CO2). This delivers greenhouse benefits by locking up large volumes of CO2 that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere. The Kwinana carbonation plant will lock up 70,000 tons of CO2 a year, the equivalent of eliminating the emissions of 17,500 automobiles. Alcoa plans to deploy the technology at its nine alumina refineries worldwide. Deployment across Alcoa’s operations in Australia alone could potentially save 300,000 tons of CO2 each year.

Bauxite residue is a mixture of minerals that are left behind when alumina is removed from bauxite. Although it is thoroughly washed, the residue retains some alkaline liquor and requires long-term storage. By mixing CO2 into the bauxite residue, its pH level is reduced to levels found naturally in alkaline soils. A second sustainability benefit is that the improved environmental properties of the residue mean it also can be beneficially used as road base, building materials or to improve soil.

Alcoa plans to share the technology within the aluminum industry which is also vital to its long term sustainability.

The Australian takes a look at supermarkets climbing aboard the sustainability bandwagon. On the subject of News Corp, Grist notes that Fox just aired "The Day After Tomorrow", which once would have had the resident local lunatics howling.
AT the Australian Davos Connection's Future Summit this week in Melbourne, US environmental consultant Frank Dixon explained to the gathered young and faithful how retail giant Wal-Mart had discovered that sustainability was now cool.

Leveraging off the company's involvement in helping to supply relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he told how Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott committed the largest company in the world to a new level of corporate sustainability: setting the ambitious goals of generating zero waste, using 100 per cent renewable energy and selling sustainable products. Not by 2010 or 2020, just at some point.

In real time, the company is working to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent over eight years and cut packaging on food, with most of the headline metrics coming from its British chain ASDA. Scott's rhetoric has been nothing short of Churchillian, describing sustainability as a working relationship with the company's suppliers and customers.

"It's about stepping out - even without all the answers - and aggressively promoting sustainability among all the stakeholders of our company," he said.

Across the Atlantic, Wal-Mart's arch rival Tesco has been equally busy. Earlier this year Tesco chief executive Terry Leahy announced a "revolution in green consumption, with the fight against climate change at the very heart of it".

Dave Roberts points to a McKinsey report on cutting global carbon emission in a post called "Efficiency and market failure".
A while back I mentioned a McKinsey Global Institute report showing that efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to cut global GHG emissions. Now McKinsey's got a new report out, making a heretical claim: even though homeowners could vastly improve energy efficiency and save tons of money over the long term with current technologies, there won't be widespread adoption of those technologies without market intervention -- i.e., stronger regulations. Whatever will the market fundies think?

I'm outraged - the only "regulation" needed is a carbon tax and the elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Never trust McKinsey I say.

Dave has another post noting that carbon taxes aren't regressive (at least in developing countries) and also notes that Exxon is still up to no good.
A little while back Exxon was trying to backpedal on its global warming shenanigans, claiming it had been misunderstood and that it wasn't funding those nasty denialist groups any more.

In what is sure to come as a huge shock to ... nobody, that turned out to be bullsh*t. According to a new report from Greenpeace, Exxon is still actively funding 14 groups for "climate change work," and you can bet that work isn't devoted to fine-tuning a cap-and-trade system. Today, Rep. Brad Miller sent Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson a letter chastising him for this ongoing nonsense. Good luck getting through.

Sarah at WorldChanging has a post on the planned Walled City of Sustainability (aka the Masdar Development) in Abu Dhabi.
A couple of months ago, we wrote about Abu Dhabi's Future Energy Company and their plans to build a huge solar power plant as part of the Masdar Initiative, a multi-part agenda for promoting and developing renewable energy and sustainability in the UAE. A few days ago they announced the next big thing to roll out of their master plan: a walled city in the Emirates desert which will purportedly be "the first zero carbon, zero-waste city in the world." Perhaps the only other sustainable urban projects of comparable scale and ambition are Dongtan and Huangbaiyu in China (by ARUP and William McDonough + Partners, respectively) which in some ways share a similar context to this project, in that they are each situated at the edge of a burgeoning 21st century metropolis, and at the crest of dramatic cultural transformation.

The Abu Dhabi development -- called "Masdar" -- will be designed by the celebrated architecture firm, Foster + Partners, and will house the Future Energy Company's headquarters, as well as a new university. As Foster + Partners describes the project:
The principle of the Masdar development is a dense walled city to be constructed in an energy efficient two-stage phasing that relies on the creation of a large photovoltaic power plant, which later becomes the site for the city’s second phase, allowing for urban growth yet avoiding low density sprawl. Strategically located for Abu Dhabi’s principal transport infrastructure, Masdar will be linked to surrounding communities, as well as the centre of Abu Dhabi and the international airport, by a network of existing road and new rail and public transport routes.

Rooted in a zero carbon ambition, the city itself is car free. With a maximum distance of 200m to the nearest transport link and amenities, the compact network of streets encourages walking and is complemented by a personalised rapid transport system. The shaded walkways and narrow streets will create a pedestrian-friendly environment in the context of Abu Dhabi’s extreme climate. It also articulates the tightly planned, compact nature of traditional walled cities. With expansion carefully planned, the surrounding land will contain wind, photovoltaic farms, research fields and plantations, so that the city will be entirely self-sustaining.

Foster + Partners isn't the only celebrity firm planning large-scale architectural installations in the desert. Rem Koolhaas' OMA has plans for a whole new city on the edge of the northern emirate, Ras Al Khaimah. It's not a stretch to suggest there's something to the opportunity uniquely offered by the UAE's combination of sprawling undeveloped space and overflowing wealth. For a starchitect, it's the next level of seduction -- why have a single building as your chef d'oeuvre when you can make a whole city?


TreeHugger has a post on the world's biggest wind farm - the Atlantic Array offshore from Devon. They also point to a report from last year noting that Offshore Wind Could Power The Entire U.S. from MIT, GE and the US DOE.
Plans have been released for the world’s largest offshore wind farm. The huge array of 350 turbines would power more than a million homes, and cost three billion pounds ($6 billion). Company representative, Peter Crone said, "Atlantic Array would be a landmark project that would see the South West taking a significant step towards a more environmentally sustainable future."

The plant would be situated off Devon, and would create hundreds of long terms jobs as well as huge amounts of energy. Matthew Spencer, chief executive the renewable energy agency for South West England, said, "Atlantic Array is a game-changing proposal which will have a major influence on the Government's thinking on the best areas for offshore wind, currently assumed to be shallow water off the East of England coast and in the Irish Sea."



Mike Moore's new movie Sicko is generating some pre-Cannes publicity with claims the US government wants to impound the movie. Seems unlikely - I suspect they have bigger fish to fry right now, though I'm sure they like harrassing people just for kicks when they get the chance...
Cannes is smacking its lips in anticipation of filmmaker and provocateur Michael Moore's latest jeremiad against the US administration, which receives its premiere at the film festival today. Sicko, a documentary tackling the state of American healthcare, focuses on the pharmaceutical giants, and particularly on health insurers.

The film has already caused Moore - who won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2004 with Fahrenheit 911 - to clash with the American authorities. Now, according to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Company is behind the film, the US government is attempting to impound the negative.

According to Weinstein, the US Treasury's moves meant "we had to fly the movie to another country"- he would not say to where. "Let the secret service find that out - though this is the same country that thought there were weapons of mass destruction, so they'll never find it." He added that he feared that if the film were impounded, there might be attempts to cut some footage, in particular the last 20 minutes, which related to a trip to Cuba. This, said Weinstein, "would not be good."

In March, Moore travelled to the Caribbean island with a group of emergency workers from New York's Ground Zero to see whether they would receive better care under the Castro regime than they had under George Bush. He had applied for permission to travel in October 2006 and received no reply. In a letter dated May 2, the treasury department notified Moore that it was investigating him for unlicensed travel to Cuba, or, as the missive put it, engaging in "travel-related transactions involving Cuba."



I'm enjoying watching the Ron Paul bandwagon picking up steam, so apologies to those of you who are tired of these pieces (you can stop reading this post now as thats it for other topics), but its fun watching the libertarian cat amongst the conservative pigeons - or waterboard brigade, as Salon calls them in "Who's afraid of Ron Paul ?". Its interesting that the freedom lovers at Little Green Fascists and Pajamas Media have banned all mention of Paul - they'll probably be demanding he be sent to Gitmo for some physical re-education next. Fox "News" and Michelle Malkin are also airing a few conspiracy theories (I suspect they'll be joined by some of the left leaning tinfoil sites at some stage too - albeit for wildly different reaons).
To me the highlight (lowlight?) of Tuesday night's GOP debate was the "Who wants to be a waterboarder?" segment, in which virtually everyone but Sen. John McCain tried to seem the candidate most enthusiastic about torture. In War Room during the debate, our Walter Shapiro aptly noted that 2008 could be shaping up to be "the torture primary" among Republican candidates. Sickening.

But another moment with ripples beyond Tuesday came when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the man the Onion says is running to be "president of 9/11," tore into Rep. Ron Paul after Paul suggested American foreign policy, particularly our post-1991 attacks on Iraq, was a factor behind al-Qaida's attacks on the U.S. The mayor of 9/11 is a well-known bully, and he teed off on Paul immediately. "That's really an extraordinary statement," Giuliani interrupted Paul. "That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq." The crowd rewarded Giuliani with applause, and he went on. "I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that." The feisty -- some would say eccentric -- Paul refused, and he's been beaten up by Giuliani supporters and Iraq war flacks for his remarks ever since. Even McCain praised Giuliani's assault on Paul this week.

But Paul has picked up support in other quarters, and that has some Republicans irritated. He's been Technorati.com's top search term much of this week; he's got more YouTube followers than any other GOP candidate, and he's apparently got savvy enough online supporters that he won the post-debate poll at MSNBC.com and came in second at Fox. The Iraq war hawks at Littlegreenfootballs.com are not amused; they banned Paul from their poll Tuesday night when they saw he was winning, claiming his supporters were "spamming" them. Over at Pajamas Media they banned Paul from their poll, too, citing his barely measurable support in major opinion polls like Gallup. The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party is trying to keep Paul out of future debates, according to the Associated Press, because of his remarks about 9/11. Big Bill Bennett agrees.

It's all led to a fascinating intra-right dust-up, with Brent Bozell's Cyber News Service publishing a piece today hyping Paul's online support. (That's where I learned about Littlegreenfootballs.com and Pajamas Media banning Paul from their polls.) "This is not a handful of people," Paul spokesman Jesse Benton told CNS. "This is a grassfire movement." I'm not sure that Paul's online support is as big as the CNS.com piece suggests, but it's certainly motivated, as the National Review's Byron York learned when he attacked Paul for his 9/11 remarks after the debate. York got "a groundswell of e-mails" from Paul supporters, leading him to concede, "Paul may not have a lot of supporters out there, but the ones he has are intense." Shades of Howard Dean's defense forces in 2003? Maybe, although Dean's defenders (who targeted me when I was insufficiently respectful of his candidacy) tended to be more polite than the e-mails York got from Paul's brigades.

Andrew Sullivan has been paying attention to the maybe-groundswell for Paul, as well as the shameful GOP effort to distort what he said about 9/11. I think he overestimates Paul's support, but he's right to do battle with conservatives who are smearing Paul about his opposition to the war, and what he said about the roots of the 9/11 attacks. It's worth noting that, as was the case with Howard Dean in 2003, the two candidates who've spoken most clearly against the Iraq war in the early debates -- Mike Gravel and Paul -- are getting the big surge of attention online. I don't think either man has a prayer of being nominated, but both candidates' online fan clubs show the hunger Americans in both parties feel for straight talk about the disaster of this war, as well as the foreign policy that led to it. Efforts to muzzle Paul are cowardly, and will backfire on the GOP.

Apparently Paul won the ABC News poll for the second debate as well, though ABC are clamping down on this voting stuff - the people who bother voting are clearly deluded tools if we are to believe the bastions of the US media system.
ABC News: GOP Presidential Debate: Who Won?

Actually, the title to the above linked article is, “ABC News: GOP Presidential Debate: Who Won?”. However, for the second time in two debates, ABC has refused to acknowledge Ron Paul as the clear winner. In their poll taken after the second debate, Ron Paul received about 20,000 votes with the second finisher having received about 300. This would be shouted from the mountain tops had it been any other candidate. Instead of titling their article, “Ron Paul wins with 95% of ABC Votes”, they run the above title. When you read the article, it goes on to declare Giuliani and Romney the winners. This makes no sense at all and is clearly why so many Americans are fed up with mainstream media. They have gone from being biased to completely irrational.

Slate says that the GOP is stupid for trying to silence one of their own candidates in "Don't Shut Up Paul".

"The Liberty Papers" has a go at Explaining The Reaction To Ron Paul. Like many of the others, it makes a tentative step towards understanding the problem by working out that the answer to "why do they hate us ?" is "because of what we do", but they never go on to ask "why do we do what we do ?", which has the unpleasant answer "because we want to control the oil".
It’s simply absurd to argue that the actions that the United States has taken in the Middle East — starting with things such as the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 in favor of a hereditary monarch who tortured his opponents — have been without consequence. Justifiably or not, these actions have created a not insubstantial portion of the Arab/Muslim population that resents the United States and sees us as a force for evil rather than a force for good.

More recently, we went to war in Iraq for reasons that later turned out to be based on faulty intelligence and did so without a plan for what we would do there after we won. The result was the creation of chaos and the rise of an insurgency that is targeting the Iraqi people as much as it is targeting American soldiers. More importantly, whereas there was no evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda prior to 2003, it is now fairly evidence that Iraq is one of al Qaeda’s primary sources of recruitment and the battlefield on which it has chosen to fight it’s next battle.

That, quite frankly, is our fault.

What’s ironic is that we’ve heard Ron Paul’s argument before, from the neocons who got us into this mess ...

The response of Bush and Wolfowitz to this reality, of course, was not to question the level of our entanglement in the Middle East, but to argue that we needed to engage in a new crusade to bring democracy and “freedom” to a part of the world that was barely out of the Industrial Age and had never experienced anything resembling the Renaissance or Enlightenment. And that’s how we got where we are today.

Do I know what the answers are ? No, I’ll admit I don’t. But I do know that repeating the same mistakes over and over again not only doesn’t accomplish anything, it’s the definition of stupidity.

Patrick Buchanan asks "But Who Was Right – Rudy or Ron ?", while at Lew Rockwell there is a sarcastic explanation of Giuliani Is Right To Be Outraged.
After the debate, on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes," came one of those delicious moments on live television. As Michael Steele, GOP spokesman, was saying that Paul should probably be cut out of future debates, the running tally of votes by Fox News viewers was showing Ron Paul, with 30 percent, the winner of the debate.

Brother Hannity seemed startled and perplexed by the votes being text-messaged in the thousands to Fox News saying Paul won, Romney was second, Rudy third and McCain far down the track at 4 percent.

When Ron Paul said the 9/11 killers were "over here because we are over there," he was not excusing the mass murderers of 3,000 Americans. He was explaining the roots of hatred out of which the suicide-killers came.

Lest we forget, Osama bin Laden was among the mujahideen whom we, in the Reagan decade, were aiding when they were fighting to expel the Red Army from Afghanistan. We sent them Stinger missiles, Spanish mortars, sniper rifles. And they helped drive the Russians out.

What Ron Paul was addressing was the question of what turned the allies we aided into haters of the United States. Was it the fact that they discovered we have freedom of speech or separation of church and state? Do they hate us because of who we are? Or do they hate us because of what we do?

Osama bin Laden in his declaration of war in the 1990s said it was U.S. troops on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, U.S. bombing and sanctions of a crushed Iraqi people, and U.S. support of Israel's persecution of the Palestinians that were the reasons he and his mujahideen were declaring war on us.

Elsewhere, he has mentioned Sykes-Picot, the secret British-French deal that double-crossed the Arabs who had fought for their freedom alongside Lawrence of Arabia and were rewarded with a quarter century of British-French imperial domination and humiliation.

Almost all agree that, horrible as 9/11 was, it was not anarchic terror. It was political terror, done with a political motive and a political objective.

What does Rudy Giuliani think the political motive was for 9/11?

Was it because we are good and they are evil? Is it because they hate our freedom? Is it that simple?

Ron Paul says Osama bin Laden is delighted we invaded Iraq.

Does the man not have a point? The United States is now tied down in a bloody guerrilla war in the Middle East and increasingly hated in Arab and Islamic countries where we were once hugely admired as the first and greatest of the anti-colonial nations. Does anyone think that Osama is unhappy with what is happening to us in Iraq?

Of the 10 candidates on stage in South Carolina, Dr. Paul alone opposed the war. He alone voted against the war. Have not the last five years vindicated him, when two-thirds of the nation now agrees with him that the war was a mistake, and journalists and politicians left and right are babbling in confession, "If I had only known then what I know now ..."

Rudy implied that Ron Paul was unpatriotic to suggest the violence against us out of the Middle East may be in reaction to U.S. policy in the Middle East. Was President Hoover unpatriotic when, the day after Pearl Harbor, he wrote to friends, "You and I know that this continuous putting pins in rattlesnakes finally got this country bitten."

Pearl Harbor came out of the blue, but it also came out of the troubled history of U.S.-Japanese relations going back 40 years. Hitler's attack on Poland was naked aggression. But to understand it, we must understand what was done at Versailles – after the Germans laid down their arms based on Wilson's 14 Points. We do not excuse – but we must understand.

Ron Paul is no TV debater. But up on that stage in Columbia, he was speaking intolerable truths. Understandably, Republicans do not want him back, telling the country how the party blundered into this misbegotten war.

By all means, throw out of the debate the only man who was right from the beginning on Iraq.

One last piece, this one from CNN on "Paul's 9/11 explanation deserves to be debated" - the only one of these articles to mention oil at all.
As the crowd applauded wildly, Giuliani demanded that Paul retract his statements.

Paul tried to explain the process known as "blowback" -- which is the result of someone else's action coming back to afflict you -- but the audience drowned him out as the other candidates tried to pounce on him.

After watching all the network pundits laud Giuliani, it struck me that they must be the most clueless folks in the world.

First, Giuliani must be an idiot to not have heard Paul's rationale before. That issue has been raised countless times in the last six years by any number of experts.

Second, when we finish with our emotional response, it would behoove us to actually think about what Paul said and make the effort to understand his rationale.

Granted, Americans were severely damaged by the hijacking of U.S. planes, and it has resulted in a worldwide fight against terror. Was it proper for the United States to respond to the attack? Of course! But should we, as a matter of policy, and moral decency, learn to think and comprehend that our actions in one part of the world could very well come back to hurt us, or, as Paul would say, blow back in our face? Absolutely. His real problem wasn't his analysis, but how it came out of his mouth.

What has been overlooked is that Paul based his position on the effects of the 1953 ouster by the CIA of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

An excellent account of this story is revealed in Stephen Kinzer's alarming and revealing book, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq," where he writes that Iran was establishing a government close to a democracy. But Mossadegh wasn't happy that the profit from the country's primary resource -- oil -- was not staying in the country.

Instead, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known British Petroleum, or BP) was getting 93 percent of the profits. Mossadegh didn't like that, and wanted a 50-50 split. Kinzer writes that that didn't sit too well with the British government, but it didn't want to use force to protect its interests. But their biggest friend, the United States, didn't mind, and sought to undermine Mossadegh's tenure as president. After all kinds of measures that disrupted the nation, a coup was financed and led by President Dwight Eisenhower's CIA, and the Shah of Iran was installed as the leader. We trained his goon squads, thus angering generations of Iranians for meddling in that nation's affairs.

As Paul noted, what happened in 1953 had a direct relationship to the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979. We viewed that as terrorists who dared attack America. They saw it as ending years of oppression at the hands of the ruthless U.S.-backed Shah regime.

As Americans, we believe in forgiving and forgetting, and are terrible at understanding how history affects us today. We are arrogant in not recognizing that when we benefit, someone else may suffer. That will lead to resentment and anger, and if suppressed, will boil over one day.

Does that provide a moral justification for what the terrorists did on September 11?

Of course not. But we should at least attempt to understand why.

Think about it. Do we have the moral justification to explain the killings of more than 100,000 Iraqis as a result of this war? Can we defend the efforts to overthrow other governments whose actions we perceived would jeopardize American business interests?

The debate format didn't give Paul the time to explain all of this. But I'm confident this is what he was saying. And yes, we need to understand history and how it plays a vital role in determining matters today.

At some point we have to accept the reality that playing big brother to the world -- and yes, sometimes acting as a bully by wrongly asserting our military might -- means that Americans alive at the time may not feel the effects of our foreign policy, but their innocent children will.

Even the Bible says that the children will pay for the sins of their fathers.

2 comments

Kudos for coining the term "waterboard brigade". That term doesn't occur in the Salon article you cited, and your post here is the only Google result for it, so I think you get the credit. Great job!

Ah - good point - their comment about the "Who wants to be a waterboarder?" segment must have put the phrase in my mind...

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