Tag Archives: oil production

Libya: the hidden issues

Despite the initial euphoria about the downfall of a brutal and erratic autocracy in Libya, several uncomfortable matters emerge from the wreckage – and not just the obvious question of whether the National Transitional Council can bring about the reconciliation for a secure, viable and democratic future for the country.   One issue, which should not be lost sight of in the rebels’ victory, is the deliberate manipulation of UN Resolution 1973 to achieve ends manifestly beyond and not covered by its text.   The legal advice given to the Cabinet by the Government’s legal officers has never been published in full, only a summary where no-one can know what may be omitted.   Cameron however did say in the Commons on 21 March that “The action will be limited by what the UN Security Council resolution says……….We must act both within the letter and the spirit of that”.   Clearly it didn’t cover mission creep to justify regime change, the bombing of Tripoli, and attempted assassination of Gadaffi.
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‘Greenest government ever’ is cover for unlimited corporate exploitation

You must admire the gall of the man.   For Cameron to boast of “the greenest government ever” takes some beating when actually it’s blocking an EU ban on tar sands petrol and diesel, taking a relaxed view of the polluting and poisonous consequences of ‘fracking’ (extracting gas from shale), overseeing a biofuels boom which has previously caused widespread land dispossession and global food shortages, hanstringing the Green Investment Bank, and eyeing up oil exploration both in the Antarctic and the Arctic.   When corporate profits and safeguarding the ecosystem clash in Whitehall, it’s the former that invariably wins.   But now we’re seeing new corporate exploitation being justified, not in the teeth of environmental protection, but in defence of it.
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This is a crisis of capitalism, not just British spending cuts

The latest reports estimate unemployment in Britain rising to nearly 3 million in 2011.   It is assumed that this is all because of Osborne’s unprecedented orgy of spending cuts.   Of course they will play a big part, but they’re certainly not the whole story.   IMF, OECD and EU figures show that there is currently a financial surplus in the private sector of $3 trillions (roughly £2 trillions) for the developed world in the balance sheets of private companies.   So given high levels of labour waiting to be employed across the Western world, why isn’t it being invested in production of goods and services which many people so badly need?   The answer to that reveals the central flaw in capitalism which neo-liberal economics has made a lot worse.
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MDGs self-defeating till system changes

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the targets at the turn of the new millennium in 2000 to halve world poverty by 2015 – are self-contradictory  when the system that aspires to the reduction of global need is also the system that generates it in the first place.   The latest, and very serious, example of this is the worldwide rise in food prices and severe food shortages which in 2008-9 tipped 100 million people into starvation, caused by floods, droughts, waves of wildfires, and export bans from the world’s main granaries.   All of these were variously exacerbated by the international trading system, the refusal to mitigate or adapt to climate change, and rich country speculation on food prices.   So what should be done?
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The devil’s seesaw

Latest evidence indicates that the Government realises (but won’t tell us) that Britain faces, not just the most horrendous public spending cuts since the last World War 70 years ago, but also a painful and costly recovery if and when it finally materialises.   Secret talks with the oil industry and with geologists show the Government is seriously worried about ‘peak oil’, i.e. the point at which global oil production reaches its peak and then starts slowly to decline despite steadily increasing demand from China, India and other big developing countries still driven by pell-mell growth.   The price of oil today is $75 a barrel: once global recovery starts it will probably double within a year.
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Obama is not anti-British

As I said on Newsnight yesterday, Obama is attacking BP, not Britain.   He’s reacting exactly as we would if an American oil rig had blown up in the North Sea and a huge oil slick expanding by 40,000 barrels a day (8 times worse than the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989) was devastating the whole coastline of south-east England.   The Daily Mail telling Cameron to ‘stand up for Britain’ jars as usual with its shrill and false patriotism, wholly ignoring BP’s reckless and dangerous safety record over the years.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig was drilling at over 18,000 feet deep when it exploded, that is in depth half as high as Everest.   Anyone in the oil business will tell you that drilling at such depths is incredibly risky, even with the most conscientious oversight.   BP (revenues last year of $327bn) could and should spend far more on safety and environmental precaution.   Yet last year it devoted $16 millions on lobbying the US Federal Government in order to gain political access to minimize regulation, oversight and enforcement, as well as to seek leniency in circumstances such as the present one and to exercise a grip on the chief US safety watchdog, the Minerals Management Service.  
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The real meaning of BP’s Gulf of Mexico debacle

Why such fuss about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico?   True, the leakage is large, but still nowhere near the size of previous oil spills.   So far at least 60,000 tons have leaked from the Deepwater Horizon explosion, but the Gulf War oil spill (1991) involved 1.4 m tons, the Atlantic Empress tanker (Trinidad & Tobago, 1979) 287,000 tons, Fergana Valley (Uzbekistan, 1992) 285,000 tons, the nowruz oil field (Persian Gulf, 1983) 260,000 tons, and Amoco Cadiz (Brittany, France, 1978) 223,000 tons.   The Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska with which the current Gulf of Mexico is being compared amounted to some 34,000 tons.   So what’s so special this time?   Answer: because it directly impacts on the US.

No matter that 2,000 major spillages in the Niger Delta has never been cleaned up by Shell, or that rivers and wellls in at least 7 African countries have been badly polluted, or that huge stretches of 3 Latin American countries have been ruined by spillages, blowouts and toxic dumping, or that at least 4 of the 7 ugly Oil Sisters currently confront dozens, even hundreds, of lawsuits even up to $30bn a time (Ecuador).   All this can be spun out, got rid of  modestly out of court, or brazenly faced down.   But not when America is involved and the US President himself takes up the issue.   That cannot be right.
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Why is the Government so coy about peak oil?

It has just been reported that a big-name industry organisation is complaining that a DECC-commissioned Wicks Review into energy issues complacently played down, even largely ignored, the whole question of peak oil. Given that even the International Energy Agency (IEA), which is always close to the oil industry, is now fiercely debating within its own ranks how soon the oil will run out, which would herald an unparalleled economic dislocation for the world economy, this head-in-the-sand approach seems bizarre. Is this because lead elements in the oil industry, and particularly the US, are keen to talk up the availability of oil supplies lest a panic sends the present precarious global economic recovery into a tailspin? Certainly whistleblowers have claimed that there is political pressure from the US to massage projections of future oil reserves and production levels, though such claims have been rejected by the IEA. Whatever, this is an issue which it would be suicidal to duck, given its implications.


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The unfolding Afghan delusion

Today’s Pakistan army onslaught on the Taliban stronghold in South Waziristan fits another piece into the overall Western strategy for dealing with the impasse in Afghanistan. It is recognised that the war cannot be won on the Afghan side of the border without simultaneous action to secure the so-called tribal bad lands on the other side, and the Pakistani government has finally been persuaded (coerced?) into launching the all-out assault from which it has previously recoiled. Another element of the strategy is much greater pressure on Karzai both to submit to a second round of elections – in the hope that he might be defeated by Abdullah, though the latter may be little better – and even if he wins, to accept much greater Western control over his administration in order to try to stamp out most of the corruption. Yet another element is of course the call for a surge in coalition forces. Obama seems likely to meet his own commander McCrystal’s demand for a further 40,000 American troops, and Brown has just announced that Britain is sending a further 500 troops. The question is: does this amount to a credible strategy, and could it succeed? The odds are still strongly against it.


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