Monday, April 25, 2011

Congressional Climate Cranks

This Article originally appeared on the Operation Free blog on 21 April, 2011.

Climate change is happening. It is a fact; sad but true. The U.S. Department of State has opened an office tasked specifically with responding to its effects, and the CIA has done the same. All branches of the U.S. military are taking steps to address their carbon footprint and reduce energy use. They all understand that climate change is a scientific fact. They’re not alone.

All major energy and oil companies claim to be taking steps to address climate change caused by the use of their products. The American Petroleum Institute touts its members’ efforts on the issue. A look at the television ads and websites for oil firms such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron state these firms believe climate change is occurring as a result of their products. They may disagree as to how much fossil fuels are contributing to carbon emissions, but they acknowledge they are and climate change is happening.

All of America’s national security institutions have taken action to address climate change and private-sector oil companies acknowledge it is a truth and are acting as well. So why can’t some Congressmen accept these facts? A look at their records on the issue is instructive. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee and four of his top five campaign contributors are energy or auto companies. He and former chair Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) also own thousands in stock in energy companies. Barton is famous for apologizing to BP’s CEO after they agreed to pay for their Gulf oil spill. Committee member John Shimkus (R-IL) is also remembered for his stated belief that God won’t allow climate change and that reducing carbon will take away plant food.

With these characters in charge of America’s climate and energy policy, it isn’t hard to see why nothing gets done. These guys aren’t climate “skeptics”; they’re climate cranks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oil Profits From Disaster

Oil has pushed itself well over $100 per barrel this week. Middle East unrest, the intervention in Libya, and the Japan tsunami and nuclear disaster have combined to create chaos in the energy market and that equals a big profit from tragedy for oil companies yet again. With gulf coast industries still recovering, BP has decided that now is the right time to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, less than a year after their massive spill dumped millions of barrels into the waters there. However, critics claim that the moratorium on offshore drilling is choking off domestic production and BP has learned its lesson.

In fact, domestic oil production increased markedly in 2009 and 2010, climbing higher than when George W. Bush, a well-known friend to big oil, was President. Additionally, more than two-thirds of current offshore claims are not being used and 45% of land-based claims sit unused as well. There is no shortage of claims for the industry to exploit; they’re not even using the ones they already have.

As far as learning its lesson, BP and its partners in the spill seem to have learned little. Just this month Transocean, a BP partner and one of the parties identified in the U.S. government investigation as responsible for the disaster, paid bonuses to their executives for exceeding internal safety targets and even called it their ‘best year’ for safety, despite the disaster. Talk about setting a low bar.

The oil industry profits from the chaos and uncertainty often brought on by violent world events and natural disasters and have a poor record in correcting their mistakes. As the economic downturn continues worldwide and Americans head into the summer travel season it doesn’t take much to understand we can’t afford to continue to depend on oil. It’s expensive, unstable, exploitative, and harmful to our environment and the industries and jobs that depend upon it. As Americans, none of us can afford to stick with oil.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

World Market for Oil Keeps Iran Afloat

This post originally appeared on the Operation FREE blog ( on 6 April, 2011.

The United States has done just about as much as possible to apply pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program and give basic human rights such as free and fair elections and an unfettered media to its people. Yet Iran has seemingly ignored these efforts at persuasion. How they can afford to do so is hardly secret: Iran floats atop the world’s third-largest oil reserve. And while we don’t buy Iran’s oil, other nations have no qualms about purchasing petroleum: in 2009 China became Iran’s leading trade partner and in 2010 invested $40 billion in the Iranian oil industry. At the same time, Russia and Iran agreed to long term energy cooperation.

Oil trade with Iran continues elsewhere, too. Some European oil firms have continued to stretch the rules of the embargo. Just last week the U.S. sought to stop a German bank from transferring Indian oil payments to Iran and the State Department ‘blacklisted’ a Belarus oil firm for continuing to trade with Iran. This shows the importance not only of why America must break its oil dependence for our own security, but why America must also lead the rest of the world to cut the oil tether as well. As long as enough states continue to purchase oil there will be a market for it and regimes such as in Iran and dictators such as Qaddafi will remain in power.

The President’s new Energy Security Blueprint sets out a plan to do that. The U.S. has led in developing electric vehicles and America will soon be producing 40% of the world’s rechargeable batteries. We are leading and cooperating with other nations throughout the Pacific and South America in biofuels development. U.S. programs promote the use of alternative fuels in mass transit in developing countries such as Egypt, Thailand, and Colombia. As long as America, its allies, and developing nations continue to depend upon oil, Iran and other regimes will continue to stay afloat atop their sea of oil. In order to sink Iran, America must lead the world away from oil for our own national security and the safety of the world.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Oil Makes Enemies into Bedfellows

This post originally appeared on the Operation FREE blog ( on 31 March, 2011.

As the controversy over the Libyan intervention rolls on and American and allied bombs continue to drop on Qaddafi’s forces in Libya, one can’t help but reflect upon how the Colonel, such an evil and diabolical dictator, has gotten and paid for his foreign fighters and tanks. Oil is Libya’s largest economic sector, accounts for nearly all of its foreign trade, and is 80% of Qaddafi’s revenue. This means Libyan oil, particularly easy to refine, bought by America’s European allies such as the UK, France, Spain and Italy, most of which are also deeply involved in the intervention, has largely funded it. But America isn’t off the hook either; the 2006 decision by the Bush administration to take Libya off the list of state sponsors of terror also took Libya off the pariah state list and gave Qaddafi the all-important legitimacy he needed to shore up his rule. Additionally, many large American financial firms have traded in Libyan oil until as late as last month. Qaddafi has formed, fed, and funded Islamic militias loyal to him throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from neighboring Mali to Madagascar, and bought the cooperation of largely-poor governments throughout the region. A new $100 million government complex in Mali will even bare his name. Though the tradition of Islamic rulers buying the loyalty of less-troublesome foreign mercenaries dates back to the Caliphate, oil purchases have enabled Qaddafi to build and equip his forces this time around. Those oil purchases were made or aided by the very nations now intervening there. It doesn’t take much to see that our continued dependence on foreign oil is once again coming back to bite us. Former CIA Director James Woolsey’s now-famous words hold true here: “This is the first war since the American Civil War where the United States is funding both sides.”