February 28, 2007

Juan Cole on Global Warming, Oil and American Politics/Militarism

Juan Cole, who's at his best when he writes analysis, has done a very good piece on the intersection of global warming, oil, and American politics and militarism. The second sentence of the second paragraph is incorrect, IMO, but otherwise an excellent discussion on these various, interrelated topics.

Only by a Manhattan Project-scale government effort to develop green energy can we hope to avert the worst consequences of global warming, which is likely to raise sea levels at least a foot, and possibly 7 feet over the next century or century and a half. (That would put a lot of cities on both coasts under water). The arctic and antarctic ice shelfs are already falling into the ocean at rates that have astonished climate scientists. The arctic alone lost perennial ice cover the size of Texas in 2004-2005! Warm water takes up more space than cold water and the loss of white ice cover is bad because it radiates a lot of sunlight back out to space. So it is a double whammy.

But the other problem with petroleum and gas as sources of energy is that they are getting scarcer. No big new fields have been found for some time. And in one recent year China generated 40% of new demand for petroleum. If a billion Chinese and a billion Indians adopt the American lifestyle and all want 1.5 automobiles and superhighways to crawl along on, the existing stocks of oil will become objects of fierce competition. This process has already begun, and there is a sea change from the mid-1990s, when oil was still cheap and competition for it limited.

Iraq is an Oil War in the mind of politicians like Dick Cheney. It was necessary to deny it to China and other rivals thirty to fifty years in the future. It was necessary to open its vast petroleum fields up for exploration and cast aside anti-American Baath socialism.

Likewise, the religious rigidity of the Pushtun peoples of Helmand province is not the real reason for the US insistence on occupying Afghanistan. It is the vast Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan gas fields that Cheney has his eye on. It was the US hope to use a pipeline from Turkmenistan to supply Pakistan and India, and so forestall a deal by those two countries with Iran. The inability of the Bush administration to calm things down in Afghanistan sufficiently for anyone to dream of putting in such a pipeline and having it avoid routine sabotage has made it likely that Iran will break out of the Bush boycott toward the East.

Hunger for future rights to petroleum and positioning the US to remain a superpower in a world of hydrocarbon scarcity is also driving the campaign to get up a war against Iran. Why can Pakistan have a nuclear weapon, and that is all right, but Iran cannot? Pakistan has very little petroleum. Iran has a lot, and maybe 750 trillion cubic feet of gas in the southwest. If it gets a bomb, regime change becomes impossible, and if Iran wants to tie its supplies up in proprietary contracts with China and India, locking out the United States, it will be able to do so.

Continued heavy dependence on gas and oil therefore not only turns the world into a hothouse, with rising seas, ever more destructive hurricanes, and possibly disastrous shifts in the ocean currents, but it also drives the United States to more and more wars.

And, note that the wars are not even successful in allowing a practical oil grab of the sort Cheney and Lee Raymond dreamed of.

Indeed, you could now, in retrospect, turn their whole argument around on them. US militarism cannot secure petroleum and gas supplies from places such as Iraq, because the pipelines are so easily sabotaged and local nationalisms and religious activism make it impossible for people to accept that kind of US hegemony.

Since the Pentagon cannot practically speaking hope to safeguard US petroleum supplies from the Gulf, national security requires a massive and rapid research and development program of green energy. A lot of green technology, especially solar, would come down in price rapidly if enough government money were thrown at it. We need to press Congress on this, and maybe Californians can craft some of their famous referendum items. That would be one way to promote a new generation of electric cars.

Green energy -- wind, thermal, solar, maybe ultimately fusion, etc. -- is what would allow the US to retain its autonomy and independence into the next century, and what would allow it to avoid losing more cities the way Bush and Cheney lost New Orleans. Oil and War will, in contrast, ruin us all.


sushil yadav said...

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




Anonymous said...

How do you propose to feed over six billion people without industrial agriculture?

JDsg said...

Whom are you asking, George? Sushil or me? If it's Sushil, don't you think the statute of limitations on follow-up questions has already passed for a 2.5-year-old comment? ;)