Energy Independence Won’t Float Here, No Way

by lizard

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.

  1. mahmet7

    Each of us has been born with the capacity to learn, form convictions and act. Conservation at a personal level is possible if only we could overcome the vampire squids squeezing our heads together so tightly our brains seize. Once posessed, we are ruled by managed fear.

  2. Swede Johannson

    Energy independence will never fly with the left. In order to be independent you have to be free to innovate and accept risk.

    Something no central planning committee is will to do.

    Oh, and here’s some fun facts about OUR oil.

    The following are 10 facts about America’s energy resources that will blow your mind….

    #1 Back in 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey told the American people that the Bakken Shale formation in western North Dakota and eastern Montana only held 151 million barrels of oil. Today, government officials are admitting that it holds 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, and some analysts believe that the actual number could be closer to 20 billion barrels of oil.

    #2 It is estimated that there are up to 19 billion barrels of recoverable oil deposits in the tar sands of Utah.

    #3 It is estimated that there are at least 86 billion barrels of recoverable oil deposits in the Outer Continental Shelf.

    #4 It is believed that there are 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil deposits in the Green River formation in Wyoming.

    #5 Overall, the United States is sitting on approximately 1.442 trillion barrels of recoverable oil deposits.

    #6 According to the Institute of Energy Research, the United States has a 120 year supply of natural gas.

    #7 According to the Institute of Energy Research, the United States has a 200 year supply of oil.

    #8 According to the Institute of Energy Research, the United States has a 464 year supply of coal.

    #9 According to Pastor Lindsey Williams, absolutely gigantic oil fields have been discovered up in Alaska that the American public is not being told about.

    #10 Goldman Sachs is predicting that the United States will be the number one oil producing country in the world by the year 2017.

    • JC

      “accept risk”

      And you’re willing to accept all the risk that burning all that oil is going to bring on the atmosphere for future generations?

      You’re a pretty greedy SOB, if so.

      • Swede Johansson

        Right, Big Oil is greedy at 5 cents a gallon and the govt is thrifty at 26 cents.

        • JC

          Don’t sidestep the question. Are you ready to have the oil industry accept the risk it imposes by providing a product that releases CO2 and other gasses?

          And no, this isn’t an invitation to debate global warming. Risk is all about the unknown. Are you and the oil industry ready to fully assume that risk? Or is rampant oil and coal development just another instance of privatizing the profits and publicizing the risk? Because to those of us who aren’t deniers, that’s what it is all about.

          You can be a denier, but you still have to accept risk. Are you ready to do that, or has the “free market” totally failed in the energy industry?

          I know, that’s three questions, which gives you plenty of wiggle room to not answer my basic premise. All I care to know about is your notion of risk.

          Oh, and to your flippant answer to my first question about accepting risk, Big Oil doesn’t build roads and bridges. The federal government does. And judging the shape of our road system and bridges, one might surmise that the government is not being thrifty, it is being miserly.

          • Swede Johansson

            Dennis Washington builds roads and bridges including many others.

            And “risk” is something capitalists do for reward. Drilling oil wells is a perfect example. Average Bakken well cost several million to drill with no guarantee of any profit.

            JC I’m not going to argue GW. But instead please refer yourself to bullet point #10 in my first comment.

            It’s over, loose graciously.

            • JC

              Again, willing to accept the risk of global warming? I don’t care if you want to argue it, or are a denier or not. Accept the risk, or those of us who don’t want to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 will force you to. And if you don’t, you will be nationalized. It’s just a matter of time.

              And as to #10, then the U.S. will be the #1 producer of greenhouse gasses from oil. And sure, the game’s over. The only interesting thing left there is going to be to see how our kids and grandkids are going to pay for your unwillingness to accept the risks of global warming.

            • Steve W

              Bullet #10 (“With a bullet!”)

              Isn’t Goldman & Sachs the government? They are only here to make that prediction because they bowed to the superiority of socialism over capitalism and were rewarded with rebirth.

              That says a lot for nationalization. Let the socialists who saved Goldman and Sachs save the rest of us too. And quit trying to stop them, Schwede Johannson boxer guy.

              • Steve W


                You got Lizard praising your product so don’t let it go to your head.

                Goldman Sachs?

                Really, we gotta look around and be conscious about what we ask for, and why we ask for it.

    • lizard19

      first, let me commend you on an actual comment with substance instead of your usual shallow snarking. good job Swede.

      second, you make a funny joke about “accepting risk”. I don’t know how that’s suppose to relate to being “independent”, but when I think about the big oil companies, the first thing I think of is how willing they are to accept risk, and then responsibility when a gamble goes bust, like BP did in the Gulf.

      then you make another funny joke about “innovation”, because thinking about the oil spill in the Gulf, that’s what immediately comes to mind—all those innovative ways to clean up the crude that have been developed over decades of reaping massive profits. you know, like using big maxi-pads to sop up the mess.

      I also enjoy how you refer to the oil as OUR oil, even using the caps button to emphasize your point.

      here’s my response to that: really? you really think so? you think private companies leasing, extracting, refining, then selling us a product makes it OUR oil?

      maybe if there were requirements that profit from OUR oil went into figuring out how to lessen our reliance on this finite resource, I’d be a bit more gung-ho about what it will take to extract oil from more unconventional sources.

      but that’s not the case, and I doubt it ever will be.

  3. Swede Johannson

    As far as collectivism is concern here’s a great example on how one of the most productive agriculture areas of the world can become a starving wasteland.

    • JC

      Who’s talking about collectivizing farm land, Swede? None of us, that’s for sure. But the issue of the west turning its back on mass famine in places like Darfur and Somalia is pretty mainstream. You as ready to go to bat for the starving children of Africa, Swede as you are to condemn the west’s denial of Soviet famine pre-WWII?

      Or is it just more important to wave the free market oil flag cause, like we all know that the more money the wealthy and corporations like Exxon get, the better off starving children in Africa and elsewhere are…

      • Swede Johansson

        Key word “collectivism” JC. Any things govt’s take over becomes scarce including natural resources.

        • JC

          There’s a major difference between nationalizing an energy industry and nationalizing food production. For one, the price of our energy is, and always be, controlled by global energy markets.

          Want to come to a rational price for energy? Decouple the price of oil & gas from international markets. Want to come up with rational energy production systems? Do away with subsidies to 19th century oil, gas and coal energy production systems. Want to encourage alternative energy systems, then change the incentives to not rely on an energy system whose price and availability are controlled by those who do not have either the well-being of our country, or are not willing to accept the risk of global warming.

          Face it Swede, the status quo in the energy industry is going to be the downfall of industrial era.

  4. mahmet7

    Food production and price is indeed controlled by energy production and price. From the tractors and fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, to the refrigerated wharehouses, and ships, planes and trucks that transport food from fields to markets, it’s all running on carbon-based fuels.

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