Energy Independence Won’t Float Here, No Way
Energy independence. Doesn’t that sound nice? If only we, as a country, would build more pipelines, and frak at will, and mountaintop remove…yes, only then will we, the Proud Patriots of the United States, move closer to that pie in the sky of independence from those unsavory Muslim tyrants in the Middle East.
The big problem with that idea is the role multinationals play in extracting and profiting from energy resources. These complex vampire squids jamming and sucking earth’s vitals are not Proud Patriots. They are complex legal entities built to vacuum wealth from what we all, to some extent, require to survive: energy.
To actually make the value of natural resources work for a broader percentage of the population from which the earthjuice is being slurped, there is this funny notion of Nationalization. Britain, for example, nationalized its coal industry with the formation of the National Coal Board in 1946.
Iran tried to nationalize its oil industry, but the waning British Empire and the New Kids On The Block…
…enjoying the spoils of post WWII victory, decided to use covert means to undermine that effort (thanks Kermit Roosevelt).
More recently, like just a few weeks ago, Argentina shocked the global energy markets by seizing YPF:
Argentina’s seizure of YPF SA threatens to take the country further away from its goal of energy self-sufficiency as investors weigh the increased risk of expropriation in South America’s second-biggest economy.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner named Planning Minister Julio De Vido to head the oil company with immediate effect and is sending a bill to Congress to take a 51 percent stake after oil imports doubled. Argentina, which wants to produce enough crude to match consumption, risks becoming “unviable” as a country because of the surge in imports, Fernandez said yesterday.
The seizure of the stake from Madrid-based Repsol YPF SA comes after more than two months of government pressure on YPF because of slumping production. The country could double output within a decade after the discovery of shale oil fields in the south that will cost $25 billion a year to develop and which will require YPF to find partners to help share costs.
I’m not going to pretend to really understand the shady alchemy behind the snake-oil salesmanship of the energy markets, but my layman’s prediction is Argentina will be severely punished by “investors” for this brazen move.
That said, I’m in no way advocating for nationalizing American energy companies, but that’s mostly because I think the firewall between private interest and public benefit has become so porous, it allows all kinds of insidious transfers to occur, like subsidies and loopholes, so what’s the point?
In theory I dream of all profit from extraction going directly into public managed research and infrastructure investment. Moving away from a car-based transportation system is critical, so plugging profit directly into alternative transportation projects would seem, at least to me, to make lots of sense.
But there are pitfalls and snake-oil salesmanship on the alternative energy side as well, angling behind the now-meaningless label GREEN for some kind of government handout. But that’s at the national level.
At the local level, I wrote awhile back about the Green Blocks program, and how it’s small steps like these that can build real momentum by breaking down the immensity of our energy crisis into tangible action.
Because it is immense—this growing global need of us humans for the energy to pretty up the night with lights and gadgetry—and it makes fixing the dangerous testing of planetary limits of production seem overwhelming.
On a final and somewhat positive note, the looming nuclear disaster NOT being discussed in any significant way received a recent boost by Oregon senator Ron Wyden, who recently visited Japan, and is now trying to sound the alarm for a global response to a potential global catastrophe:
The senator is not typically alarmist. But his field notes, followed by letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, signal alarm. They paint a picture of extreme nuclear vulnerability, especially in Reactor No. 4, inactive at the time of the quake and tsunami but wrecked by explosion. The reactor now warehouses Fukushima’s hottest inventory of radioactive fuel rods in a seismically jittery part of the world.
Wyden completed his tour by asking Japan, with written urgings for help from Clinton and Chu, to sharply speed up a cleanup expected to take 10 more years. His fear is that another big seismic event will trigger another disaster before the cleanup is completed — exposing Oregon and the West Coast to potentially lethal risk.
I added the bold because 10 years means we are in serious trouble. I’m not even linking to some of the more explicit analysis of what could happen if the pools of spent fuel in Reactor No. 4 go, because honestly, it’s too depressing.
Senator Wyden should be commended for showing some rare political courage for bringing attention to the conspicuous lack thereof regarding the threat potential of Japan’s ongoing nuclear disaster.
O well, a bit of heedless carpe diem, then.
Like I’m going to bike to a party now, feeling good about myself while I peddle in the April night air.
Then, at some point at this social gathering, I will check my iPhone, channeling the asshole of consumption gleefully participating in the collective rape.