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|June 9- July 15, 2009
• See Letters page
• Jim Hightower
Head to head on energy
Policy belies quest for energy independence as China, Russia scurry to lock up foreign oil
by Bonner R. Cohen
President Barack Obama is playing Russian roulette with America’s quest for energy independence by rushing to replace fossil fuels with unreliable and expensive renewable energy.
The global balance of power is already shifting away from the United States toward China and Russia in the critical area of strategic natural resources.
Earlier this year, the cash-rich Chinese embarked on a veritable shopping spree, snatching up energy and mineral resources around the world at bargain-basement prices.
In February alone, Beijing cut oil deals worth $41 billion with Russia, Brazil and Venezuela. Among the most lucrative is an agreement with Moscow, in which China will lend $25 billion to Russian oil giant Rosneft and oil pipeline company Transneft.
In return, China will receive 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day for the next 20 years at about $20 a barrel, or less than one-third the current price of about $71. Beijing’s growing appetite for energy has also taken it to the Middle East, where in March a Chinese consortium signed a $3.2 billion deal with Iran to develop an area beneath the Persian Gulf believed to hold 8 percent of the world’s known natural gas reserves.
In addition to energy, precious metals, with both commercial and military applications, are uppermost on the minds of forward-looking Chinese. Data compiled by the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology show China is boosting production of its ample domestic mineral resources.
Of 22 key metals commodities in 2008, China was a significant global producer (meaning it accounted for more than 10 percent) in 16 and was the global leader in the production of 10, including zinc, tungsten, gypsum, cement, iron ore, gold, phosphate rock, tin, barite and rare earths.
Russia, too, is taking care of business when it comes to securing strategic natural resources. Faced with dwindling supplies of its traditional sources of natural gas, the Kremlin is moving aggressively to exploit vast gas fields in the Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia. Moscow also has laid claims to an area on the Arctic continental shelf equal to the size of France, Germany and Italy combined. Geologists believe the Arctic seabed contains nearly 25 percent of the world’s hydrocarbon deposits.
Furthermore, together with Iran and Qatar, Russia has recently formed what the Heritage Foundation’s Ariel Cohen calls a “gas OPEC,” a cartel that will meet quarterly to coordinate and exercise control over nearly two-thirds of the world’s natural gas reserves and a quarter of global gas production.
By contrast, the U.S. is engaging in unilateral economic disarmament by shutting off access to the nation’s most abundant and reliable sources of energy. Congress and the Obama Administration refuse to lift moratoria on drilling for oil and natural gas on the outer continental shelf, or to open up a tiny speck of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve for oil and gas exploration.
Interior Secretary Salazar has put on hold plans to develop huge oil shale reserves in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. In April 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated Colorado’s Piceance Basin alone contains 1.53 trillion barrels of oil.
In the name of combating “global warming,” Washington is force-feeding Americans a low-energy diet of renewable fuels, including notoriously unreliable and inefficient wind and solar power. In doing so, it will create a severe energy shortage to the detriment of our prosperity and national security.
The United States is the only major world power that refuses to develop its own energy resources. In so doing, it is playing Russian roulette solitaire-style. Sooner or later, it will prove fatal.
Bonner R. Cohen is a Senior Fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research (www.ncppr.org), a conservative, non-partisan think tank on a Capitol Hill. Readers may write him at NCPPR, 501 Capitol Court NE, Washington, DC 20002.
Obama’s vision will usher in
a green energy era of full employment, plummeting pollution
by Wayne Madsen
President Barack Obama’s visionary plan to create a thriving “green industry” by building a renewable energy industrial base will give a huge boost to U.S. strategic global interests by reducing our gluttonous dependence on foreign oil.
Nothing hurt America’s economy more than getting bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where geo-political energy interests — not just ours, but those of Europe and Japan as well — were crucial to the military objectives.
With burgeoning budget deficits and skyrocketing public debt, the creation of “green wealth” generating new jobs from solar, wind, geothermal and tidal power will provide a strategic roadmap for America to once again exert world leadership.
While George W. Bush pooh-poohed the development of clean energy during most of his two-terms, Obama has long seen the benefits of creating a green industrial base.
Shortly before his inauguration in January he stated, “We’ll invest $15 billion a year over the next decade in renewable energy, creating 5 million new green jobs that pay well, can’t be outsourced and help end our dependence on foreign oil.” Those words belong with the time-honored pronouncements of our Founding Fathers and, indeed, spurred worldwide applause for the U.S. at a time when its popularity had hit rock-bottom.
The Bush-Cheney obsession with oil exploration and exploitation resulted in intractable U.S. military presences in Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan — sadly echoing the GOP 2008 campaign slogan of “Drill, baby, drill.”
Obama’s goal of reducing America’s dependence on foreign carbon fuels is expected within a decade to save the U.S. more oil than the amount now currently imported from the entire Middle East.
To continue business as usual will place increased numbers of U.S. military personnel in harm’s way and diminish America’s reputation in areas where indigenous peoples resent the despoliation of their lands by multinational energy companies backed by U.S.-armed local security forces.
Our insatiable appetite for oil has created wave after wave of repression around the world. The Niger River delta in Nigeria, the upper Amazon territories inhabited by the Indians of Ecuador, and large areas in the Philippines, Burma, Azerbaijan and Indonesia are prime examples of why so many think of the U.S. as the last colonial power.
Ensuring the flow of global petroleum will cost American taxpayers mega-bucks as we are forced to expand our military presence in ways that would make George Washington and Thomas Jefferson shudder.
The recent establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the restoration of the U.S. Navy’s Fourth Fleet for the Western Hemisphere are only the first harbingers.
Most Africans accurately view AFRICOM’s role mainly as protecting U.S. oil interests rather than replacing tyrants with the new democratic leaders they so desperately yearn for.
Coupled with plans for permanent military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of the U.S. military to act as centurions for Big Oil and Big Gas will continue to drain our nation’s already depleted financial resources and create new and unneeded enemies for the United States around the world.
While right-wing critics continue to harp on President Obama’s so-called lack of experience, it is obvious his long-range wisdom is exactly what our country needs in these tremulous times. It is almost impossible to imagine either John McCain or Hillary Clinton — his major opponents in last year’s elections — having the clarity of mind to act so boldly or so wisely.
Only by creating a new “green wealth” and millions of new “green collar” jobs here at home can the United States begin to wean itself from the environmentally damaging carbon fuels now driving our economy.
Obama entered the Oval Office knowing that the old slogan “Praise Big Oil and pass the ammunition” is no longer a viable strategic goal for the United States. Thanks to his enlightened leadership, an increasing number of Americans are beginning to agree.
Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to the progressive online journal (www.onlinejournal.com). Readers may write him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20045.
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