"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 4, 2010

Two readings on oil, and a third more than superficially related...

"For the past century or so, the great game in geopolitics was exerting influence, or leverage, on energy flows. The U.S. did not want to horde the oil for itself, nor did we invade countries or otherwise meddle in their affairs to take their gas. This is a common misunderstanding. The U.S. wanted oil selling states to be satellite states of U.S. policy, as closely aligned and controlled as possible while remaining economically linked with other powers through the sale of fossil fuels. We did not want to prevent the Chinese from buying oil from countries the U.S. was allied with, the opposite was true; we wanted the Chinese (or whoever) to buy all their oil from countries that the U.S. had more influence on politically. This gave the U.S. leverage over states by threatening to use their political ties to choke off the oil supply. We did not invade Iraq to take their gas, in other words, we invaded Iraq to create a government that we could control and sell their gas to the Chinese. With peak oil, we may be entering a new phase in the Great Game within the next two decades where we actually do need to invade countries to kick their ass and take their gas.

"I happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico last week. A few miles offshore, while blissfully sunning and having fun with friends whom I have known for about a decade, a busted oil pipeline spewed thousands of [barrels of] petroleum into the sea water. The news reports are revising the number of barrels upward. All hint, or say outright, that the flow is going to be an indefinite condition for weeks, perhaps months. The slick just continues growing larger, expanding, slowly creeping toward the coastline like the science fiction monster, The Blob, where it will raise mindless havoc on the ecosystem over the next few decades.

"This disaster, on the surface, at least, reflects badly on the drill, baby, drill crowd. On the other hand, the nuclear energy lobby is actively working on rehabilitating its image and would do well to exploit this disaster for their cause, by explaining that every source of energy has the potential for catastrophe. It will take some finesse, nothing those slick backroom-boys and girls down on Madison Ave and K Street couldn’t handle in their sleep, but they’d be smart to equate ambient nuclear radiation and waste for greenhouse gases, an Exxon Valdez for a Three Mile Island and ask the question as to whether any form of energy is cleaner or safer than another."


"We face a dangerous future when the oil reserves around the world start to dry up. Those that have oil may find themselves faced with an American war machine ready to murder and destroy in order to take it. The myriad of products we depend on that require oil will start to become less and less available. The alternative energy sources that we need now will not be available or strong enough to carry our energy burden. Expanding our dependence, even domestically, only perpetuates a myth we have coaxed ourselves into believing and doesn’t prepare us for this sobering reality.

We can’t expect this to stop our country’s determination to exploit every ounce of oil and push off serious investment into alternative energy sources. The president will make an appearance, maybe wash the oil off a sea turtle or two (photo op!), proclaim that those involved in the clean-up are doing a great job, wait a few weeks for this to recede from the nation’s collective memory, and proceed with pushing for more drilling. After all, he has to if he expects to be able to count on the oil corporations’ donations for his reelection, and that is clearly what is important here."


"The concept of diminishing returns is quite simple for most people to understand and to observe, but notoriously difficult to detect for the person who is at the point of achieving them. The point of negative returns is even harder to detect, because by that point we tend to be too far gone to detect much of anything. If you already had N drinks, can you tell if you are at the point of diminishing returns yet? Will another drink make you happier and more sociable, or will it not make much of a difference? Or will it cause you to embarrass yourself and spend the next day nursing a debilitating hangover? Or will it send you to the emergency room to be treated for vomit inhalation? As a general rule, the more you imbibe, the more difficult it becomes for you to draw such fine distinctions. This rule does not seem to be limited to drinking, but applies to almost all behaviors that produce a feeling of euphoria rather than the simple satisfaction of needs. Most of us can stop ourselves from drinking too much water, or eating too much porridge, or stacking too many bales of hay. Where we do tend to run into trouble with self-control is when it comes to things that are particularly pleasurable or addictive, such as drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and rich and delicious food. And we tend to lose it completely when it comes to euphoria-inducing social semi-intangibles: satisfaction of greed, status-seeking, and power over others."


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