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May 15, 2006


Emptywheel, I respect you, immensely, but I am concerned with your defeatist-sounding post. It seems as if you are sadly reconciled to the "inevitability" of war with Iran. I don't think that we should give up so easily resisting this gathering momentum. The kind of thinking behind your post leads one to contemplate the unthinkable. It's almost as if, we think of it, we do it. I'd like to reverse the momentum toward war and think about what we might do to create new energy media, so that we can live at peace with the rest of the world. We can't just keep killing everybody who has oil, just because we don't have enough.


This wasn't meant as a defeatist point at all. Indeed, I included it (and my link to the Harm and Pain post) to point out the costs and our vulnerabilities in case of war with Iran. It's easy to convince people to go to war if they won't suffer because of it. But in the case of war with Iran, it may bring disastrous consequences.

Er, the Japanese had *jets* during WWII?

Ken C

Damn, and I thought it was going to be the numbers that got me in trouble.

I got $8.8 million too, probably the same way. That's a lot of switchgrass.

So fighting for the oil just burns it up that much faster. A nifty little description of hell if ever I heard one.

Yes, EW, but how can we get people in this country to think in a global manner, so that they can see the whole picture of what it means to go to war?

It seems, to me, that some kind of "white paper" program from a respected network (is there such a thing?) could help educate people about the foolish waste of resources and energy for the sake of oil and political domination. I can't even get friends to understand how unsustainable our delivery system of food is, not to mention the production of it.

That's a good question, Margaret.

Here's one story that shows how rising oil prices will lead to rising food prices:

The price of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a petroleum product, is 30 percent higher than last year, said Russ Carlson, co-owner of T & T Fertilizer in New Paris, about 25 miles west of South Bend.

``It's still not good with prices this high,'' he said. ``It's not good for anybody.''

Mike Morehouse uses 1,800 gallons of diesel fuel each week on his farm. The fuel is about 90 cents more a gallon than last year, when the 2,500 acre farm used nearly 10 tanker-loads.

``Fuel's killing us. This is things getting way out of hand,'' he told The Truth of Elkhart for a story Saturday. ``This doesn't look good for farmers at all.''

And another, for fish:

For fishermen trying to make a living out at sea, the cost alone of getting out there and back is becoming almost unbearable.

"This last trip we made, I think it was eight days, it was frozen," said Fred Mattera, owner of the Travis and Natalie. "We had $11,000 just in fuel costs."

That's $11,000 out of the fishermen's pockets, that's not being supplemented out of the pockets of consumers.

All the stories intersect, really. We're thinking we're going to go have an adventure in Iran. But if things continue, we're not even going to be able to afford the food we currently eat.

But the problem with oil is (1) increased world-wide demand with (2) a decline in new discoveries plus increasing marginal costs for pumping oil and (3) few attempts at conservation here in the US, where much oil is consumed. Add in (4) refinery problems here stemming from age and new blends. So yes, the military uses a lot of oil to safeguard oil supplies, but that isn't why the price is going up.

Couple of points not directly related to each other:

The "oil shock" of the seventies was caused by the realization on the part of the oil exporting countries that the Vietnam War was taking up a quarter of the world's consumption of oil. The military's use of oil may not be as significant in terms of percentage of world consumption today, but it is still a major contributing factor (when all the supply problems created by the war are added in, however. . .).

The EU and OPEC need to start issuing some threats of economic sanctions against the United States if its leaders attack Iran. Perhaps a serious diplomatic initiative, backed by warnings of real consequences, will make the hotheads in Washington cool off.

I doubt seriously that the US military is unaware of the need for fuel to lubricate the war machine, despite their complicity in enabling this disaster in Iraq. The US military was the entity which performed the original target planning against Nazi Germany and concluded that the precision bombing program had really only two primary targets - Germany's synthetic fuel program and precision machinery (ball bearings, etc.).

The synthetic fuel bombing effort was so successful that the Germans were completely stymied by late in 1944. They couldn't move the Panzers and the couldn't fly the planes and they couldn't train their pilots to fly the planes. One of Germany's last offensives during the war was to attempt to retake the Hungarian oil fields, so that the could improve their petroleum stocks.

The US military is well aware of all of this. What is amazing is that nobody in the US government seems to be doing anything to look at what replaces petroleum as the fuel of choice for military vehicles, aircraft and armor. The Republicans have proven that we don't need government if you don't have government do the jobs it's expected to perform.

Developing and substituting alternative sources of power -- new fuels, faces off with an additional matter, largely not discussed in public, but the critical issue that must be cecided if any change is to materialize. In fact, many of the alternatives make sense only if the production and distribution is decentralized. For instance, the most efficient Ethanol producers are the Farmer's co-ops springing up now in Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas -- because they process a local product, and then distribute locally or semi-regionally -- eliminating both transport and corporate overhead. Likewise some of the most economically efficient wind turbine operations have been done through locally owned Rural Electrification Co-op's (lovely New Deal Survival) that have been able to finance the siting of the turbines on Farm Land, and arrange sale of produced power into the grid based on old terms of reference. Relatively small arrangements such as the linking of production of Methanol (which can be stored) from all sorts of organic waste with local wind farms can produce a reliable electric source for limited regions, and even sell excess power into the Grid. One of the more interesting examples of this is Morris Minnesota which has combined Wind Turbines with Methanol production from the waste of potato processing plants creating a power sourse that runs a University Campus, (U of MN at Morris -- and the town, without the need to draw from the Grid. U of Minnesota at Moorehead is getting funding to replicate the process but with different agricultural waste as the source for Methanol. It is not really new technology -- it is really off the shelf stuff, but what is unique is the mid-scale business plan and organizational model. In other words, it ain't Exxon. (Morris's campus conversion came in at under 400 thousand dollars.)

Now many places in the US could replicate this kind of thing -- with variations of course, but these kinds of approaches have a natural scale, and achieve efficiency because of "localism." This puts all the ideas at odds with big corporatism. And I think that is the undiscussed, if not unmentionable issue. Local co-ops in Farm Country are probably more economically efficient producing Wind, or Ethanol and Methanol than would be Big Oio -- or even Cargill or Archer Daniels Midland. And that is a threat we need to factor into all analysis of the problem. No one gives up economic power without a fight.

Way back in the 1970's DOD funded some R & D on solar power with the end result being (hopefully) some military vehicles which ran on solar power. The R & D Contract called for a system requirements that would allow a Ford Fairland to travel 750 miles in a day on one battery charge. One other requirement was structured around using solar to charge a battery that could drive a tractor for a day's work. DOD's contractor fulfilled both requirements in 1979 -- and the result was the dunebuggies they used on the ground during Gulf War One -- but the technology has never been released to civilian uses, even though the farm equiptment part of it is realistic. Why not? -- well ask Big Oio and those they control. DARPA did lots of this kind of research in the 1970's -- and DOD owns all the Patents. I suggest that the existing R & D owned by DOD has been withheld in the interests of Big Oil. Just think on that requirement of a Ford Fairlane (late 1970 model) would move 750 miles in a day on a Solar battery charge?

Of course the real issue on this is that the Citizens of the US own this technology -- it was all cereated under a DARPA contract. We need to find a way to demand it be released for further R&D and applications development. We also need to understand why it has not been released.


Yes, I'm sure they're aware of the problem. But if they're really going to take two years to ramp up to 1/6 or less of their consumption being synthetic, then they're not ready to bomb Iran yet.

US arms sales to Venezuela were cut off today. Listing of Venezuela as a state supporter of terrorism is presumably the next step, to happen pretty soon, truth be damned. I'd say that if the Iran war doesn't materialize as planned, the US military this time has a Plan B.

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