MoJo Author Feeds: Michael Klare | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en This Is the Argument ExxonMobil Uses to Fight Back Against Climate Activists <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>Around the world, carbon-based fuels are under attack. Increasingly grim economic pressures, growing popular resistance, and the efforts of government regulators have all shocked the energy industry. Oil prices are <a href="">falling</a>, colleges and universities are <a href="">divesting</a> from their carbon stocks, voters are <a href="">instituting</a> curbs on hydro-fracking, and delegates at the UNclimate conference in Peru have <a href="">agreed</a> to impose substantial restrictions on global carbon emissions at a conference in Paris later in the year. All this has been accompanied by what might be viewed<strong> </strong>as a moral assault on the very act of extracting carbon-based fuels from the earth,<strong> </strong>in which the major oil, gas, and coal companies find themselves <a href=",_the_biggest_criminal_enterprise_in_history/">portrayed</a> as the enemies of humankind.</p> <p>Under such pressures, you might assume that Big Energy would react defensively, perhaps apologizing for its role in spurring climate change while assuming a leadership position in planning for the transition to a post-carbon economy. But you would be wrong: instead of retreating, the major companies have gone on the offensive, extolling their contributions to human progress and minimizing the potential for renewables to replace fossil fuels in just about any imaginable future.</p> <p>That the big carbon outfits would seek to perpetuate their privileged market position in the global economy is, of course, hardly surprising. After all, oil is the the most valuable commodity in international commerce and major producing firms like ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell regularly <a href="">top</a> lists of the world's most profitable enterprises. Still, these companies are not just employing conventional legal and corporate tactics to protect their position, they're mounting a moral assault of their own, claiming that fossil fuels are an essential factor in eradicating poverty and achieving<strong> </strong>a decent life on this planet.</p> <p>Improbable as such claims may seem, they are being echoed by powerful officials around the world&mdash;typically, the leaders of carbon-producing nations like Russia and Saudi Arabia or the representatives of American energy-producing states like Texas and Kentucky. Count on one thing: this crew of fossil fuel enthusiasts is intent on ensuring that any path to a carbon-free future will, at best, be long and arduous. While you're at it, add top Congressional leaders<strong> </strong>to this crew, since many of the Republican victors in the 2014 midterm election are from oil and coal-producing states and regularly <a href="">laud</a> carbon production for its contribution to local prosperity, while <a href="">pocketing contributions</a> by Big Oil and other energy firms.</p> <p>Unless directly challenged, this pro-carbon offensive&mdash;backed by copious Big Energy advertising&mdash;is likely to attract at least as much favor as the claims of anti-carbon activists. At this point, of course, the moral arguments against carbon consumption are&mdash;or at least should be&mdash;well known. The oil, gas, and coal companies, it is claimed, are selfishly pursuing mega-profits at the expense of the climate, the environment, our children and grandchildren, and even possibly a future of any reasonable sort for humanity as a whole. "Basically [the big energy companies have] said, we're going to wreck the planet, we don't care what you say, we think we can, and we dare you to stop us," <a href="">observed</a> climate activist and <a href=""></a> cofounder Bill McKibben in a recent interview. This outlook was reflected in many of the signs carried by the estimated <a href="">400,000 demonstrators</a> who participated in the People's Climate March in New York City last September.</p> <p>The fossil fuel industry is often also portrayed as the nucleus of a global system of wealth and power that drags down democracy and perpetuates grotesque planetary inequalities. "Fossil fuels really do create a hyper-stratified economy," <a href="">explained</a> Naomi Klein, author of the bestselling book <a href=""><em>This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate</em></a>. "It's the nature of the resources that they are concentrated, and you need a huge amount of infrastructure to get them out and to transport them. And that lends itself to huge profits and they're big enough that you can buy off politicians."</p> <p>Views like these <a href="">animate</a> the struggles against "<a href="">fracking</a>" in the United States, against the transport of tar-sands oil via the <a href="">Keystone XL pipeline</a>, and against the <a href="">shipment of coal</a> to ports in the Pacific Northwest. They also undergird the <a href="">drive</a> to rid college and university endowments and other institutions of their fossil fuel stocks, which gained momentum in recent months, thanks to the decisions of both the Stanford University <a href="">board of trustees</a> to divest from coal company stocks and of the <a href="">Rockefeller Brothers Fund</a> to eventually rid itself of its fossil fuel stocks and invest in alternative energy.</p> <p>Once upon a time, the giant carbon companies like Exxon sought to deflect these attacks by denying the very existence of climate change or the role of humans in causing it&mdash;or at least by raising the banner of "uncertainty" about the science behind it. They also <a href="">financed</a> the efforts of <a href="">rogue scientists</a> to throw doubt on global warming. While denialism still figures in the propaganda of some carbon companies, they have now largely chosen to embrace another strategy: extolling the benefits of fossil fuels and highlighting their contributions to human wellbeing and progress.</p> <p><a href=""><img align="left" alt="" hspace="6" src="" vspace="6"></a>At the moment, this carbon counterattack is most clearly and fully articulated in the speeches of top industry officials and in various corporate publications. Of these, the most recent and authoritative, ExxonMobil's <a href=""><em>The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040</em></a><em>&shy;</em>, was released in December. Described as a planning guide for future corporate investment and decision-making, the <em>Outlook</em> combines an analysis of global energy trends with a summary of the company's pro-carbon ethos&mdash;and so offers us a vivid look at where Big Energy is heading in its counterattack on the climate movement.</p> <p>If a climate movement is going to challenge the energy powers of this planet effectively, it's crucial to grasp the vision into which Big Energy is undoubtedly planning to sink incredible resources and which, across much of the planet, will become a living, breathing argument for ignoring the catastrophic warming of the planet. They present it, of course, as a glowing dreamscape of a glorious future&mdash;though a nightmare is what should come to mind.</p> <p>Here, then, in a nutshell is the argument that Big Energy is going to seed into the planet for the foreseeable future. Prepare yourself.</p> <p><br><strong>No Growth Without </strong><strong>Us</strong></p> <p>The cornerstone of the Exxon report is its claims<strong> </strong>that ever-increasing supplies of energy are needed to sustain economic growth and ensure human betterment, and that fossil fuels alone exist in sufficient quantity (and at affordable enough prices) to satisfy rising international demand. "Forecasting long-term energy trends begins with a simple fact: people need energy," the report <a href="">asserts</a>. "Over the next few decades, population and income growth&mdash;and an unprecedented expansion of the global middle class&mdash;are expected to create new demands for energy."</p> <p>Some of this added energy, Exxon acknowledges, will come from nuclear and renewable energy. Most, however, will have to come from fossil fuels. All told, the <em>Outlook</em> <a href="">estimates</a>, the world will need 35% more energy in 2040 than it does today. That would mean adding an additional 191 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) to global supplies over and above the 526 quadrillion BTUs consumed in 2010. A small percentage of those added BTUs, about 12%, will come from renewables, but the vast majority&mdash;estimated by Exxon at 67%&mdash;will be provided by fossil fuels.</p> <p>Without fossil fuels, this argument holds, there can be no economic growth. Here's<strong> </strong>how <a href="">Exxon CEO</a> and Chairman Rex Tillerson <a href="">puts it</a>: "Energy is fundamental to economic growth, and oil is fundamental because to this point in time, we have not found, through technology or other means, another fuel that can substitute for the role that oil plays in transportation, not just passenger, individual transportation, but commercial transportation, jet fuel, marine, all the ways in which we use oil as a fuel to move people and things about this planet."</p> <p>Natural gas is equally essential, Tillerson <a href="">argues</a>, because it is the world's fastest-growing source of energy and a key ingredient in electric power generation. Nor will coal be left out of the mix. It, too, will play an important role in promoting economic growth, largely by facilitating a rapid increase in global electricity supplies. Despite all the concern over coal's contributions to both urban pollution and climate change, Exxon predicts that it will <a href="">remain</a> "the No. 1 fuel for power generation" in 2040.</p> <p>Yes, other sources of energy will play a role in helping to satisfying global needs, but without carbon-based fuels, Exxon insists, economic growth will screech to a halt and the world's poor and disadvantaged will stay immersed in poverty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/01/exxon-outlook-for-energy-report-counterattack"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Corporations Energy Tom Dispatch Fri, 09 Jan 2015 11:00:09 +0000 Michael Klare 267796 at Big Oil Can't Wait For the New Republican Majority in Congress <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Pop the champagne corks in Washington! It's party time for Big Energy. In the wake of the midterm elections, Republican energy hawks are ascendant, having taken the Senate and House by storm. They are preparing to put pressure on a president already presiding over a largely <a href="" target="_blank">drill-baby-drill administration</a> to take the last constraints off the development of North American fossil fuel reserves.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>The new Republican majority is certain to push their agenda on a variety of key issues, including tax reform and immigration. None of their initiatives, however, will have as catastrophic an impact as their coming drive to ensure that fossil fuels will dominate the nation's energy landscape into the distant future, long after climate change has wrecked the planet and ruined the lives of millions of Americans.</p> <p>It's already clear that the new Republican leadership in the Senate will make construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, intended to carry heavy oil (or "tar sands") from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the US Gulf Coast, one of their top legislative priorities. If the lame-duck Congress fails to secure Keystone's approval now with the help of pro-carbon Senate Democrats, it certainly will push the measure through when a Republican-dominated Senate arrives in January. (<em><strong>Editors' Note</strong>: <a href="" target="_blank">The Senate voted Tuesday night</a> to reject the Keystone pipeline.</em>) Approval of that pipeline, <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> soon-to-be Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, will be among the first measures "we're very likely to be voting on." But while the Keystone issue is going to command the Senate's attention, it's only one of many measures being promoted by the Republicans to speed the exploitation of the country's oil, coal, and natural gas reserves. So devoted are their leaders to fossil fuel extraction that we should start thinking of them not as the Grand Old Party, but the Grand Oil Party.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2014/11/big-oil-cant-wait-new-fossil-fuels-majority-congress"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Change Congress Energy Tom Dispatch Tue, 18 Nov 2014 23:57:11 +0000 Michael Klare 264986 at Here's How President Obama Is Using the 'Oil Weapon'—Against Iran, Russia, and ISIS <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>It was heinous. It was underhanded. It was beyond the bounds of international morality. It was an attack on the American way of life. It was what you might expect from unscrupulous Arabs. It was "the oil weapon"&mdash;and back in 1973, it was directed at the United States. Skip ahead four decades and it's smart, it's effective, and it's the American way. The Obama administration has appropriated it as a major tool of foreign policy, a new way to go to war with nations it considers hostile without relying on planes, missiles, and troops. It is, of course, that very same oil weapon.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>Until recently, the use of the term "<a href="" target="_blank">the oil weapon</a>" has largely been identified with the efforts of Arab producers to dissuade the United States from supporting Israel by cutting off the flow of petroleum. The most memorable example of its use was the <a href="" target="_blank">embargo</a> imposed by Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on oil exports to the United States during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, causing scarcity in the US, long lines at American filling stations, and a global economic recession.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/10/president-obama-oil-weapon-war-russia-iran-isis"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Energy International Iraq Military Tom Dispatch Fri, 10 Oct 2014 22:37:46 +0000 Michael Klare 262226 at How Obama Became the Oil President <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you'd think that oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path. By now, we should certainly be witnessing real progress toward a post-petroleum economy. As it happens, the opposite is occurring. US oil consumption is on an upward trajectory, <a href="" target="_blank">climbing by</a> 400,000 barrels per day in 2013 alone&mdash;and, if current trends persist, it should <a href="" target="_blank">rise again</a> both this year and next.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>In other words, oil is back. Big time. Signs of its resurgence abound. Despite what you may think, Americans, on average, are driving <a href="" target="_blank">more miles</a> every day, not fewer, filling ever more fuel tanks with ever more gasoline, and evidently feeling ever less bad about it. The stigma of buying new gas-guzzling SUVs, for instance, seems to have vanished; <a href="" target="_blank">according to</a> CNN Money, nearly one out of three vehicles sold today is an SUV. As a result of all this, America's demand for oil <a href="" target="_blank">grew</a> more than China's in 2013, the first time that's happened since 1999.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="obama methane" class="image" src="/files/obamamethane225.jpg"></a> <div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Bill Mckibben: How Methane Wrecked Obama's Fracking Gambit </strong></a></div> </div> <p>Accompanying all this is a little noticed but crucial shift in White House rhetoric. While President Obama once spoke of the necessity of eliminating our reliance on petroleum as a major source of energy, he now brags about rising US oil output and touts his efforts to further boost production.</p> <p>Just five years ago, few would have foreseen such a dramatic oil rebound. Many energy experts were then predicting an imminent "<a href="" target="_blank">peak</a>" in global oil production, followed by an irreversible decline in output. With supplies constantly shrinking, it was said, oil prices would skyrocket and consumers would turn to hybrid vehicles, electric cars, biofuels, and various transportation alternatives. New government policies would be devised to facilitate this shift, providing tax breaks and other incentives for making the switch to renewables.</p> <p>At that time, a growing concern over climate change and the prospect of further warming due to increased emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels seemed to dim the long-term prospects for petroleum. After all, oil combustion is this country's <a href="" target="_blank">single largest source</a> of carbon emissions. This, in turn, clearly meant that any significant attempt to reduce emissions&mdash;whether through a carbon tax, a carbon cap-and-trade program, or other such measures&mdash;would naturally have to incorporate significant impediments to oil use. President Obama entered the White House promising to enact such a measure, and the House of Representatives <a href="" target="_blank">passed</a> a modified cap-and-trade bill in 2009. (It failed in the Senate and so never became law.)</p> <p>The 2008 financial crisis and global economic meltdown only put oil's future in further doubt. Suddenly cash-conscious Americans began trading in their gas-guzzlers for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, with the Obama administration adding its encouragement. When agreeing to the <a href="" target="_blank">bailout</a> of General Motors, for instance, the White House insisted that the reorganized company focus on the production of such vehicles. In a similar spirit, the administration's $787 billion <a href="" target="_blank">stimulus package</a> favored investment in electric cars, biofuels, high-speed rail, and other petroleum alternatives.</p> <p>The president's comments at the time clearly reflected a belief that oil was an "old" form of energy facing inevitable decline. "The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out, and even before it runs out will get more expensive to extract from the ground," he <a href="" target="_blank">declared</a> in 2011. "We can't afford it when the costs to our economy, our country, and our planet are so high." Not only did the country need to lessen its dangerous reliance on imported oil, he insisted, but on oil altogether. "The only way for America's energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil."<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Obama's Turnaround on Oil</strong></p> <p>That was then and this is now, and Obama ain't talking that way no more. Instead, he regularly boasts of America's soaring oil output and points to all he's done and is still doing to further increase domestic production. Thanks to the sort of heightened investment in domestic output his administration has sponsored, he <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> a cheering Congress in January, "more oil [was] produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world&mdash;the first time that's happened in nearly twenty years." Although still offering his usual bow to the dangers of climate change, Obama did not hesitate to promise to facilitate further gains in domestic output.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img align="left" alt="" hspace="6" src="" vspace="6"></a>In accord with his wishes, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> on July 18th that it would reopen a large portion of the waters off the Eastern seaboard, an area stretching all the way from Florida to Delaware, to new oil and natural gas exploration. Under the BOEM plan, energy companies will be allowed to employ advanced seismic technology to locate promising reserves beneath the seabed in preparation for a round of offshore licensing scheduled for 2018. At that point, the companies can bid for and acquire actual drilling leases. Environmental organizations have <a href="" target="_blank">condemned</a> the plan, claiming the seismic tests often involve the use of sonic blasts that could prove harmful to endangered sea animals, including whales. The truth is, however, that those seismic tests, by opening future fossil fuel deposits to development and exploitation, are likely, in the long run, to hurt human beings at least as much.</p> <p>Here are some of the other measures recently taken by the administration to boost domestic oil production, according to a recent White House <a href="" target="_blank">factsheet</a>:</p> <p>* An increase in the sales of leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands. In 2013, the Bureau of Land Management held 30 such sales&mdash;the most in a decade&mdash;offering 5.7 million acres for lease by industry.</p> <p>* An increase in the speed with which permits are being issued for actual drilling on federal lands. What's called "processing time" has, the White House boasts, been cut from 228 days in 2012 to 194 days in 2013.</p> <p>* The opening up of an additional 59 million acres for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a disastrous BP oil spill in April 2010.</p> <p>In other words, global warming be damned!</p> <p>In a turnaround that has gotten next to no attention and remarkably little criticism, President Obama is now making a legacy record for himself that will put the "permanent reduction of our dependence on oil" in its grave. His administration is instead on a drill-baby-drill course to increase production in every way imaginable on US territory, including <a href="" target="_blank">offshore areas</a> that were long closed to drilling due to environmental concerns.</p> <p>What explains this dramatic turnaround?<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The Rekindled Allure of Oil</strong></p> <p>The most significant factor behind the renewed popularity of oil has been a revolution in drilling technology. In particular, this involves the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") to extract oil and natural gas from previously inaccessible shale formations. These <a href="" target="_blank">techniques</a> include the use of drills that can turn sideways after penetrating thin underground shale layers, along with high-pressure water cannons to fracture the surrounding rock and liberate pockets of oil and gas. Until the introduction of these techniques, the hydrocarbons trapped in the shale were prohibitively expensive to produce and so ignored both by industry and the many experts predicting that "peak oil" was in sight.</p> <p>Most domestic shale "plays" (as they are called in the industry) contain both oil and natural gas. They were first exploited for their gas content because of the greater ease in extracting commercial volumes of that fossil fuel. But when the price of gas collapsed&mdash;in part because of a glut of shale gas&mdash;many drillers found that they could make more money by redeploying their rigs in oil-rich shales like the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in West Texas. The result has been a sudden <a href="" target="_blank">torrent</a> of domestic crude that has brought gasoline prices down (with a resulting increase in gasoline consumption) and created boom-like conditions in several parts of the country.</p> <p>Prior to the utilization of horizontal drilling and fracking technology, US crude production was indeed facing long-term decline. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the Department of Energy, domestic crude output <a href=";s=MCRFPUS2&amp;f=A" target="_blank">fell</a> from a peak of 9.6 million barrels per day in 1970 to a low of 5 million barrels in 2008. With the introduction of fracking, however, the numbers started to soar. Total US crude output jumped from 5.7 million barrels per day in 2011 to 7.5 million in 2013. Output in 2014 is <a href="" target="_blank">projected</a> to be 8.5 million barrels per day, which would represent a remarkable increase of 2.8 million barrels per day in just three years.</p> <p>The increase is, by the way, the largest posted by any of the world's oil producers from 2011-2013 and has generated multiple economic benefits for the country, along with significant environmental consequences. For one thing, it has kept gas prices <a href="" target="_blank">relatively low</a>. They are now averaging about $3.50 per gallon&mdash;a lot more than Americans were paying in the 1990s, but a lot less than most experts assumed would be the case in a post-peak-oil economy. This has, of course, spurred both those SUV sales and an increase in recreational driving. ("We were able to take a day-cation because of the lower gas prices," <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> Beth Hughes, of a four-hour roundtrip drive with her husband to San Antonio, to visit the Alamo and do some shopping.)</p> <p>The increased availability of relatively affordable oil has also spurred investment in ancillary industries like petrochemicals and plastics. Petroleum is the basic raw material, or "<a href="" target="_blank">feedstock</a>," for a wide variety of subsidiary materials, including ethylene, propylene, and benzene, which in turn are used to make polyesters, plastics, and numerous consumer products. Many chemical firms <a href="" target="_blank">have built</a> new facilities to convert shale oil and shale gas into these commodities, a spur both to new jobs and greater tax revenues. In addition, with crude oil selling at around $100 per barrel, those extra 2.8 million barrels produced daily will add about $100 billion to the US economy in 2014, a substantial contribution to an otherwise tepid recovery.</p> <p>Of course, the environmental downside to all this, already significant, could be staggering for the future. The use of hydro-fracking to release all that shale oil has resulted in the <a href="" target="_blank">diversion</a> of vast quantities of water to energy production, in the process regularly posing a threat to local water supplies. In some drought-affected areas, oil drilling is now <a href="" target="_blank">competing</a> with farming for access to ever-diminishing supplies of fresh water. The growing use of railroads to carry shale oil&mdash;an especially volatile hydrocarbon substance&mdash;has also led to <a href="" target="_blank">several lethal explosions</a>, triggered by accidents involving old and inadequately reinforced tank cars.</p> <p>Of course, the greatest environmental fallout from the domestic oil boom will be a continuing deluge of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, further bolstering the greenhouse effect and ensuring higher world temperatures for years to come. While emissions from domestic coal use are likely to decline in the years ahead, in part due to <a href="" target="_blank">new rules</a> being formulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the expected rise in emissions from oil and natural gas use will wipe out these gains, and so total US emissions are expected to be <a href="" target="_blank">higher</a> in 2040 than they are today, according to the EIA. As a result, we can expect little progress in international efforts to slow the advance of climate change and a <a href="" target="_blank">steady</a> increase in the frequency and intensity of storms, floods, fires, droughts, and heat waves.</p> <p>As seen from Washington, however, the domestic oil rebound is largely a feel-good story and an essential part of an otherwise anemic economic recovery. Putting people back to work, Obama <a href="" target="_blank">declared</a> in May, "starts with helping businesses create more good jobs. One of the biggest factors in bringing jobs back to America has been our commitment to American energy over the last five years. When I took office, we set out to break our dependence on foreign oil. Today, America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades."<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>"A Stronger Hand"</strong></p> <p>For the president and many other politicians, increased oil output, however important as a source of economic vitality and job creation, is far more than that. It is also a <a href="" target="_blank">source </a>of power and prestige, guaranteed to give the United States greater leverage in international affairs.</p> <p>As Tom Donilon, then the president's senior adviser on national security, <a href="" target="_blank">explained</a> in April 2013, "America's new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength. Increasing US energy supplies act as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price shocks. It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals."</p> <p>One area where American energy prowess has given us "a stronger hand," he suggested, was in negotiations with Tehran over the Iranian nuclear program. Because the US is importing less oil, there is a larger pool of foreign oil on which our allies can draw for their needs, which has made it easier to impose tough sanctions on Iran's petroleum exports&mdash;and so wring concessions from Iran's leadership circle.</p> <p>Another area where many Washington pundits and politicians believe increased oil and gas production has <a href="" target="_blank">strengthened</a> the president's hand lies in the administration's efforts to impose multilateral sanctions on Russia's energy companies as a punishment for the Kremlin's covert backing of anti-government rebels in eastern Ukraine. Although still dependent on Russia for a large share of their energy intake, America's European allies are feeling somewhat less deferential to Moscow because of the growth in global supplies.</p> <p>In other words, the striking spurt in domestic oil production has added a patriotic dimension to its already powerful allure.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Collective Schizophrenia</strong></p> <p>As polls show, most Americans <a href="" target="_blank">acknowledge</a> the reality of climate change and <a href="" target="_blank">support</a> efforts to reduce carbon emissions in order avert future climate-induced disasters. California and other states have even taken significant steps to reduce energy-related emissions and the Obama administration has, among other things, <a href="" target="_blank">announced plans</a> to improve the fuel efficiency of American cars and trucks.</p> <p>In addition, the president and many in his administration <a href="" target="_blank">clearly grasp</a> the dangers of climate change&mdash;the increasing heat, drought, fiercer storms, rising sea levels, and other perils that, without serious curbs on the combustion of fossil fuels, will make the present look like a utopian moment in human history. Nevertheless, the numbers&mdash;from production to consumption&mdash;are anything but promising. According to the latest EIA projections, US carbon dioxide emissions from petroleum use will <a href="" target="_blank">increase</a> by eight million metric tons between 2013 and 2015; such emissions are then expected to <a href="" target="_blank">level off</a>, at about 2.2 billion tons per year, despite substantial increases in average vehicle fuel efficiency.</p> <p>With emissions from natural gas expected to rise&mdash;the inevitable result of the shale gas boom&mdash;and coal emissions experiencing only a modest decline (some of which is offset by <a href="" target="_blank">rising</a> US exports of coal to be burned elsewhere), total domestic carbon emissions from energy use in 2040 are still predicted to be a devastating 6% higher than they are today. Can there be any question at this point of how this will help ensure the sorts of <a href="" target="_blank">predicted</a> global temperature increases, with all the ensuing side effects, that every expert knows will be devastating to the planet?</p> <p>At a national level, such a situation&mdash;knowing one thing and doing something else&mdash;can only be described as some form of mass delusion or a collective version of schizophrenia. In one part of our collective brain, we are aware that petroleum use must decline sharply to prevent the sorts of global catastrophes that we are only used to seeing in science fiction movies; in another, we retain our affection for driving and gasoline use without giving much thought to the consequences. We have a global warming president presiding over a massive expansion of fossil fuel production. Think of this as a form of collective mental compartmentalization that should frighten us all&mdash;and yet from the president on down, it's remarkable how few seem disturbed by it.</p> <p>Obviously, this is an unsustainable condition. Eventually, excessive petroleum use will produce such frequent and severe climate effects that no president or energy executive would dare boast of increased petroleum output and none of us would even dream of filling up the gas tank to take a "day-cation" at a distant tourist site. Until we identify and begin treating this state of national schizophrenia, however, we will ensure that a time of mutual pain and hardship is ever more likely.</p> <p><em>Michael T. Klare, a </em><a href=",_fighting_for_oil/" target="_blank"><em>TomDispatch regular</em></a><em>, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of </em>The Race for What's Left<em>. A documentary movie version of his book </em>Blood and Oil<em> is available from </em><a href=";key=124" target="_blank"><em>the Media Education Foundation</em></a>.<em> To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from </em><a href=";id=1e41682ade">here</a>.</p></body></html> Environment Climate Change Energy Tom Dispatch Top Stories Fri, 12 Sep 2014 10:05:06 +0000 Michael Klare 259656 at 7 Places Where Fossil Fuels Are Fueling Conflict <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine, the East and South China Seas: wherever you look, the world is aflame with new or intensifying conflicts. At first glance, these upheavals appear to be independent events, driven by their own unique and idiosyncratic circumstances. But look more closely and they share several key characteristics&mdash;notably, a witch's brew of ethnic, religious, and national antagonisms that have been<strong> </strong>stirred to the boiling point by a fixation on energy.</p> <p>In each of these conflicts, the fighting is driven in large part by the eruption of long-standing historic antagonisms among neighboring (often intermingled) tribes, sects, and peoples. In Iraq and Syria, it is a clash among Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turkmen, and others; in Nigeria, among Muslims, Christians, and assorted tribal groupings; in South Sudan, between the Dinka and Nuer; in Ukraine, between Ukrainian loyalists and Russian-speakers aligned with Moscow; in the East and South China Sea, among the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and others. It would be easy to attribute all this to age-old hatreds, as suggested by many analysts; but while such hostilities do help drive these conflicts, they are fueled by a most modern impulse as well: the desire to control valuable oil and natural gas assets. &nbsp;Make no mistake about it, these are twenty-first-century energy wars.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/7-places-where-oil-fueling-conflict"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Energy International Tom Dispatch Wed, 09 Jul 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Michael Klare 255711 at Big Oil Won't Let the Developing World Kick the Habit <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>In the 1980s, encountering regulatory restrictions and public resistance to smoking in the United States, the giant tobacco companies came up with a particularly effective strategy for sustaining their profit levels: sell more cigarettes in the developing world, where demand was strong and anti-tobacco regulation weak or nonexistent. Now, the giant energy companies are taking a page from Big Tobacco's playbook. As concern over climate change begins to lower the demand for fossil fuels in the United States and Europe, they are accelerating their sales to developing nations, where demand is strong and climate-control measures weak or nonexistent. That this will produce a colossal increase in climate-altering carbon emissions troubles them no more than the global spurt in smoking-related illnesses troubled the tobacco companies.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a>The tobacco industry's shift from rich, developed nations to low- and middle-income countries has been well documented. "With tobacco use declining in wealthier countries, tobacco companies are spending tens of billions of dollars a year on advertising, marketing, and sponsorship, much of it to increase sales in... developing countries," the <em>New York Times</em> <a href="">noted</a> in a 2008 editorial. To boost their sales, outfits like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco also brought their legal and financial clout to bear to <a href="">block</a> the implementation of anti-smoking regulations in such places. "They're using litigation to threaten low- and middle-income countries," Dr. Douglas Bettcher, head of the Tobacco Free Initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO), <a href="">told</a> the <em>Times</em>.</p> <p>The fossil fuel companies&mdash;producers of oil, coal, and natural gas&mdash;are similarly expanding their operations in low- and middle-income countries where ensuring the growth of energy supplies is considered more critical than preventing climate catastrophe. "There is a clear long-run shift in energy growth from the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of rich nations] to the non-OECD," oil giant BP noted in its <a href="">Energy Outlook report</a> for 2014. "Virtually all (95 percent) of the projected growth [in energy consumption] is in the non-OECD," it added, using the polite new term for what used to be called the Third World.</p> <p>As in the case of cigarette sales, the stepped-up delivery of fossil fuels to developing countries is doubly harmful. Their targeting by Big Tobacco has produced a sharp rise in smoking-related illnesses among the poor in places where health systems are particularly ill equipped for those in need. "If current trends continue," the WHO <a href="">reported</a> in 2011, "by 2030 tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide each year, with 80 percent of these premature deaths among people living in low- and middle-income countries." In a similar fashion, an increase in carbon sales to such nations will help produce more intense storms and longer, more devastating droughts in places that are least prepared to withstand or cope with climate change's perils.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2014/05/big-energy-developing-country-oil-exxon-coal"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Corporations Economy Energy Human Rights International Tom Dispatch Oil Tue, 27 May 2014 19:08:34 +0000 Michael Klare 252691 at No, Our Oil and Gas Production Did Not Give Us an Advantage During the Crimea Crisis <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Of all the preposterous, irresponsible headlines that have appeared on the front page of the <em>New York Times</em>in recent years, few have exceeded the inanity of <a href="">this one</a> from early March: "US Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin." The article by normally reliable reporters Coral Davenport and Steven Erlanger suggested that, by sending our surplus natural gas to Europe and Ukraine in the form of <a href="">liquefied natural gas</a> (LNG), the United States could help reduce the region's heavy reliance on Russian gas and thereby stiffen its resistance to Vladimir Putin's aggressive behavior.</p> <p>Forget that the United States currently lacks a capacity to export LNG to Europe, and will not be able to do so on a significant scale until the 2020s. Forget that Ukraine lacks any LNG receiving facilities and is unlikely to acquire any, as its only coastline is on the Black Sea, in areas dominated by Russian speakers with loyalties to Moscow. Forget as well that any future US exports will be funneled into the international marketplace, and so will <a href="">favor</a>sales to Asia where gas prices are 50% higher than in Europe. Just focus on the article's central reportorial flaw: it fails to identify a single reason why future American LNG exports (which could wind up anywhere) would have any influence whatsoever on the Russian president's behavior.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a>The only way to understand the strangeness of this is to assume that the editors of the <em>Times</em>, like senior politicians in both parties, have become so intoxicated by the idea of an American surge in oil and gas production that they have lost their senses.</p> <p>As domestic output of oil and gas has increased in recent years&mdash;largely through the use of <a href="">fracking</a> to exploit hitherto impenetrable shale deposits&mdash;many policymakers have concluded that the United States is better positioned to throw its weight around in the world. "Increasing US energy supplies," <a href="">said</a> then-presidential security adviser Tom Donilon in April 2013, "affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals." Leaders in Congress on both sides of the aisle have voiced similar views.</p> <p>The impression one gets from all this balderdash is that increased oil and gas output&mdash;like an extra dose of testosterone&mdash;will somehow bolster the will and confidence of American officials when confronting their foreign counterparts. One former White House official cited by Davenport and Erlanger caught the mood of the moment perfectly: "We're engaging from a different position [with respect to Russia] because we're a much larger energy producer."</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2014/04/oil-gas-production-crimea-russia-crisis"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Change Energy Foreign Policy International Tom Dispatch Tue, 01 Apr 2014 20:53:04 +0000 Michael Klare 248776 at We're Still Losing the War on Carbon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Listening to President Obama's <a href="">State of the Union</a> address, it would have been easy to conclude that we were slowly but surely gaining in the war on climate change. "Our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet," the president said. "Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth." Indeed, it's true that in recent years, largely thanks to the dampening effects of the Great Recession, US carbon emissions were in decline (though they <a href="">grew</a> by 2 percent in 2013). Still, whatever the president may claim, we're not heading toward a "cleaner, safer planet." If anything, we're heading toward a dirtier, more dangerous world.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a>A series of recent developments highlight the way we are losing ground in the epic struggle to slow global warming. This has not been for lack of effort. Around the world, dedicated organizations, communities, and citizens have been working day by day to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the use of renewable sources of energy. The struggle to prevent construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline is a case in point. As <a href="">noted</a> in a recent <em>New York Times</em> article, the campaign against that pipeline has galvanized the environmental movement around the country and attracted thousands of activists to Washington, D.C., for protests and <a href="">civil disobedience</a> at the White House. But efforts like these, heroic as they may be, are being overtaken by a more powerful force: the gravitational pull of cheap, accessible carbon-based fuels, notably oil, coal, and natural gas.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2014/02/united-states-losing-carbon-wars-climate-change-fossil-fuel"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Change Energy International Regulatory Affairs Tom Dispatch Thu, 13 Feb 2014 19:27:57 +0000 Michael Klare 245576 at Why We Should Still Be Worried About Running Out of Oil <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Among the big energy stories of 2013, "peak oil"&mdash;the once-popular notion that worldwide oil production would soon reach a maximum level and begin an irreversible decline&mdash;was thoroughly discredited. The explosive development of shale oil and other unconventional fuels in the United States helped put it in its grave.</p> <p>As the year went on, the eulogies came in fast and furious. "Today, it is probably safe to say we have slayed &lsquo;peak oil' once and for all, thanks to the combination of new shale oil and gas production techniques," <a href="">declared</a> Rob Wile, an energy and economics reporter for Business Insider. Similar comments from energy experts were commonplace, prompting an R.I.P. <a href="">headline</a> at announcing, "Peak Oil is Dead."</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a>Not so fast, though. The present round of eulogies brings to mind Mark Twain's famous line: "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." Before obits for peak oil theory pile up too high, let's take a careful look at these assertions. Fortunately, the <a href="">International Energy Agency</a> (IEA), the Paris-based research arm of the major industrialized powers, recently did just that&mdash;and the <a href="">results</a> were unexpected. While not exactly reinstalling peak oil on its throne, it did make clear that much of the talk of a perpetual gusher of American shale oil is<strong> </strong>greatly exaggerated. The exploitation of those shale reserves may delay the onset of peak oil for a year or so, the agency's experts noted, but the long-term picture "has not changed much with the arrival of [shale oil]."</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2014/01/shale-peak-oil-limit-running-out"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Change Economy Energy Thu, 09 Jan 2014 19:01:08 +0000 Michael Klare 242791 at Will Natural Disasters Fuel an Environmental Movement? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>A week after the most powerful "super typhoon" ever recorded pummeled the Philippines, killing <a href="">thousands</a> in a single province, and three weeks after the northern Chinese city of Harbin suffered a devastating "<a href=",0,5024464.story#axzz2kOIplREj">airpocalypse</a>," suffocating the city with coal-plant pollution, government leaders beware! Although individual events like these cannot be attributed with absolute certainty to increased fossil fuel use and climate change, they are the type of disasters that, scientists tell us, will become a pervasive part of life on a planet being transformed by the massive consumption of carbon-based fuels. If, as is now the case, governments across the planet back an <a href="">extension of the carbon age</a> and ever increasing reliance on <a href="">"unconventional" fossil fuels</a> like tar sands and shale gas, we should all expect trouble. In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a>None of us can predict the future, but when it comes to a mass rebellion against the perpetrators of global destruction, we can see a glimmer of the coming upheaval in events of the present moment. Take a look and you will see that the assorted environmental protests that have long bedeviled politicians are gaining in strength and support. With an awareness of climate change growing and as intensifying <a href="">floods</a>, <a href="">fires</a>, <a href=",0,5922502.htmlstory#axzz2kOIplREj">droughts</a>, and <a href="">storms</a> become an inescapable feature of daily life across the planet, more people are joining environmental groups and engaging in increasingly bold protest actions. Sooner or later, government leaders are likely to face multiple eruptions of mass public anger and may, in the end, be forced to make radical adjustments in energy policy or risk being swept aside.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2013/11/climate-change-protest-environment-public-disaster"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Change Tom Dispatch Tue, 19 Nov 2013 11:00:09 +0000 Michael Klare 239316 at