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How human-emitted Carbon Dioxide Circulates in Earth’s Atmosphere (NASA)

November 20th, 2014 No comments

NASA Goddard | —

“An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.

The carbon dioxide visualization was produced by a computer model called GEOS-5, created by scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.

The visualization is a product of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates January 2006 through December 2006.

While Goddard scientists worked with a “beta” version of the Nature Run internally for several years, they released this updated, improved version to the scientific community for the first time in the fall of 2014.”

NASA Goddard: “NASA | A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2″

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Oldest song in the world…

November 20th, 2014 No comments


Listen to the Oldest Song in the World: A Sumerian Hymn Written 3,400 Years Ago

Open Culture, July 8th, 2014

In the early 1950s, archaeologists unearthed several clay tablets from the 14th century B.C.E.. Found, WFMU tells us, “in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit,” these tablets “contained cuneiform signs in the hurrian language,” which turned out to be the oldest known piece of music ever discovered, a 3,400 year-old cult hymn. Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, professor of Assyriology at the University of California, produced the interpretation above in 1972. (She describes how she arrived at the musical notation—in some technical detail—in this interview.) Since her initial publications in the 60s on the ancient Sumerian tablets and the musical theory found within, other scholars of the ancient world have published their own versions.

The piece, writes Richard Fink in a 1988 Archeologia Musicalis article, confirms a theory that “the 7-note diatonic scale as well as harmony existed 3,400 years ago.” This, Fink tells us, “flies in the face of most musicologist’s views that ancient harmony was virtually non-existent (or even impossible) and the scale only about as old as the Ancient Greeks.” Kilmer’s colleague Richard Crocker claims that the discovery “revolutionized the whole concept of the origin of western music.” So, academic debates aside, what does the oldest song in the world sound like? Listen to a midi version below and hear it for yourself. Doubtless, the midi keyboard was not the Sumerians instrument of choice, but it suffices to give us a sense of this strange composition, though the rhythm of the piece is only a guess.

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Iraq Says it Retakes Refinery

November 20th, 2014 No comments

Iraqi Security Forces now say they have lifted the ISIS siege around the refinery at Baiji, having previously taken the town. 

This is the latest setback for ISIS on the Iraqi front. Juan Cole noted some of the others recently:“Top 5 Ways Daesh/ ISIL is Losing, as it lashes out like a Cornered Rat.”

Blogging will be light due to MEI’s Annual Conference.
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Contrary to Turkish pronouncements, the US is not considering a no-fly zone over Syria

November 19th, 2014 No comments

“… When asked about the US position on the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria, as Turkey is pushing for, White House sources said the US is in constant discussion on a full range of possible ways Turkey can contribute to the anti-ISIL coalition and reiterated that at the moment, the US is not considering a no-fly zone or the establishment of a buffer zone….”


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‘The US recognizes Hezbollah for shared anti-ISIS enmity & the stabilization of Iraq & Lebanon’

November 19th, 2014 No comments

“… Despite Hezbollah’s role in anti- American rhetoric, the organization shares many interests with the United States—though both sides would be loath to admit it. Both actors are at war with the Islamic State and other Sunni extremists, and both want to prop up Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi’s government in Baghdad.Even within Lebanon, while Washington supports Hezbollah’s political rivals in the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition, it recognizes that Hezbollah is helping hold the country together, and that either an Islamic State expansion or a descent into chaos would be worse than the status quo.
Open cooperation, however, is politically out of the question for both parties. Indeed, a slight shift could turn suspicion into conflict. The US campaign in Syria is focused on Sunni extremists, and thus is indirectly helping the Assad regime, Hezbollah’s ally. Yet, if Washington decides to live up to its anti-Assad rhetoric and take on the Syrian regime as well as Sunni jihadists, it will also be taking on Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s hostility to Israel remains strong, another point of friction. In addition, Hezbollah is more in bed with Iran now than ever before, and any military action against Tehran over its nuclear program or other issues must seriously factor in Hezbollah’s response.
Hezbollah remains a key regional player. It is also a stalking horse for Iran and a prop to the Syrian regime. Nevertheless, the organization is also overtaxed militarily and on the defensive politically. The United States must recognize this mix of strength and weakness if its regional policies are to meet with success.” 


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Iran and the Syrian and Iraqi Crises

November 19th, 2014 No comments

Wilson Center

“… With regard to recent events, the Obama Administration seems to be pursuing a contradictory
policy. On one hand, the Obama Administration is assisting the Iraqi Kurds and the newly-
formed government of Haider al-Abadi to fend off and roll back the advances of ISIS, and at the
same time, it is committing itself to helping the moderate opposition in the Syrian conflict and
striking ISIS strongholds. There is no military solution to the conflict in both countries,
especially in Syria. In Iraq, al-Abadi’s administration must take substantive steps to include the
Sunni Arab population. Otherwise any military gains on the ground against ISIS will prove to
be short-lived. In Syria, funneling more arms, resources, and money to the Syrian opposition
will only aggravate the situation. It may lead to further empowerment of radicals, the
emergence of new extremist groups,
and the spillover of the war into other neighboring states,
such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Israel. The only sound solution is some form of political
settlement through negotiations….”


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Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas Denounces Synagogue Killings

November 19th, 2014 No comments

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday condemned an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem that killed four Israelis earlier in the day.

Abbas’ office said in a statement that the presidency always denounced the killing of civilians by any party.

“Consequently, today the presidency denounces the killing of worshipers at a place of worship in West Jerusalem,” the statement said, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

“The presidency also denounces all violent acts no matter who their source is, and demands an end to the ongoing incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the provocative acts by Israeli settlers as well as incitement by some Israeli ministers,” it added.

The statement went on to demand an end to the Israeli occupation and said the Palestinian Authority remained committed to a two-state solution.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian factions Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Resistance Committees praised the attack.

Two Palestinians armed with a gun and axes attacked a Jerusalem synagogue earlier Tuesday, killing four Israelis before police shot the attackers dead.

Mirrored from Ma’an News Agency

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Israeli prime minister and Mahmoud Abbas condemn synagogue killings”

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Why Israel Opposes a Final Nuclear Deal with Iran and What to Do About It

November 19th, 2014 No comments

By Robert E. Hunter

WASHINGTON, Nov 18 2014 (IPS) – Nov. 24 is the deadline for six world powers and Iran to reach a final deal over its nuclear programme. If there is no deal, then the talks are likely to be extended, not abandoned.

But as I learned from more than three decades’ work on Middle East issues, in and out of the U.S. government, success also depends on Israel no longer believing that it needs a regional enemy shared in common with the United States to ensure Washington’s commitment to its security.

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk across the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Mar. 20, 2013. Credit: White House Photo, Pete Souza

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk across the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Mar. 20, 2013. Credit: White House Photo, Pete Souza

Much is at stake in the negotiations with Iran in Vienna, notably the potential removal of the risk of war over its nuclear programme and the removal of any legitimate basis for Israel’s fear that it could become the target of an Iranian bomb.

Success could also begin Iran’s reintegration into the international community, ending its lengthy quarantine. If President Barack Obama and his national security officials get their way, including the Pentagon—hardly a group of softies—a comprehensive final accord would be a good deal for U.S. national security and, in the American analysis, for Israel’s security as well.

Yet more is at issue for Israel, and for the Persian Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. They want to keep Iran in purdah.

Indeed, since the Iranian Revolution ran out of steam outside its borders, the essential questions about the challenge Iran poses have been the following: Will it be able to compete for power and position in the region, and, how can Iran’s competition be dealt with?

The first response, led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is to decry whatever might be agreed to in the talks, no matter how objectively good the results would be for everyone’s security. He has the Saudis and other Arab states as silent partners.

Between them, the Israeli and oil lobbies command a lot of attention in the U.S. Congress, a large part of whose members would otherwise accept that President Obama’s standard for an agreement meets the tests of both U.S. security and the security of its partners in the Middle East.

But a large fraction of Congress is no more willing to take on these two potent lobbies than the National Rifle Association.

Netanyahu will also do all he can to prevent the relaxation of any of the sanctions imposed on Iran. But even if he and his U.S. supporters succeed on Capitol Hill, President Obama can on his own suspend some of those sanctions—though exactly how much is being debated.

The U.S. does not have the last word on sanctions, however. The moment there is a final agreement, the floodgates of economic trade and investment with Iran will open. Europeans, in particular, are lined up with their order books, like Americans in 1889 who awaited the starter’s pistol to begin the Oklahoma land rush.

In response, U.S. private industry will ride up Capitol Hill to demand the relaxation of U.S.-mandated sanctions. Meanwhile, the sighs of relief resounding throughout the world will begin changing the international political climate concerning Iran.

Yet America’s concerns will not cease. While the U.S. and Iran have similar interests in opposing the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), and in wanting to see Afghanistan free from reconquest by of the Taliban, they are still far apart on other matters, notably the Assad regime in Syria, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas.

President Obama will also have an immediate problem in reassuring Israel and Gulf Arab states that American commitments to their security are sincere. To be sure, absent an Iranian nuclear weapon, there is no real Iranian military threat and all the Western weapons pumped into the Persian Gulf are thus essentially useless.

Iran’s real challenges emanate from its dynamic domestic economy, a highly educated, entrepreneurial culture that is matched in the region only by Israelis and Palestinians, and a good deal of cultural appeal even beyond Shi’a communities.

Obama thus faces a special problem in reassuring Israel, a problem that goes back decades. When the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed in 1979, the risks of a major Arab attack on Israel sank virtually to zero. So, too, did the risk of an Arab-Israeli conflict escalating to the level of a U.S.-Soviet confrontation. All at once, U.S. and Israeli strategic concerns were no longer obviously linked.

Thus as soon as Israel withdrew from the Sinai in May 1979, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin started searching for an alternative basis for linking American and Israeli strategic interests.

For him and for many other Israelis, then and now, it is not enough that the American people are firmly committed to Israel’s security for what could be called “sentimental” reasons: bonds of history (especially memories of the Holocaust), culture, religion, and the values of Western democracy.

But such “sentiment” is the strongest motivation for all U.S. commitments, a far stronger glue than strategic calculations that can and often do change, a fact that could be testified to by the people of South Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Yet for Begin and others, there had to be at least a strong similarity of strategic interests. Thus, in a meeting with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance the day after Egypt retook possession of the Sinai, Begin complained that the US had cancelled its “strategic dialogue” with Israel. Vance tasked me, as the National Security Council staff representative on his travelling team, to find out “what the heck Begin is talking about.”

I phoned Washington and got the skinny: the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment had been conducting a low-level dialogue with some Israeli military officers. Proving to be of little value, it was stopped.

The reason for Begin’s outburst thus became clear: in the absence of the strategic tie with the United States that had been provided by the conflict with Egypt, Israel needed something else, in effect, a common enemy.

That’s why many Israeli political stakeholders were ambivalent about the George W. Bush administration’s ambitions to topple Iraq’s Saddam Hussein: with his overthrow, a potential though remote threat to Israel would be removed, but so would the perception of a common enemy. Since Saddam’s ousting, Iran has gained even more importance for Israel as a means of linking Jerusalem’s strategic perceptions with those of Washington.

By the same political logic, Israel has always asserted that it is a strategic asset for the United States. As part of recognising Israel’s psychological needs, no U.S. official ever publicly challenges that Israeli assertion regardless of what they think in private or however much damage the U.S. might suffer politically in the region because of Israeli activities, including the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

So what must Obama do in order to eliminate the risk of an Iranian nuclear weapon, while also reassuring Israel of US fealty? On one side, to be able to honour an agreement with Iran, Obama has to undercut Netanyahu’s efforts with Congress to prevent any sanctions relief.

On the other side, he could reassure Israel through the classic means of buttressing the flow of arms, including the anti-missile capabilities of the Iron Dome that were so useful to Israel during the recent fighting in Gaza.

Israel would want even closer strategic cooperation with the U.S., including consultations on the full range of U.S. thinking and planning on all relevant issues in the Middle East. Israel (at least Netanyahu) would also want any notion of further negotiations with the Palestinians, and the relaxation of economic pressures on Gaza, put into the deep freeze—where, in effect, they already are.

Israel has an inherent, sovereign right to defend itself and to make, for and by itself, calculations about what that means. (The country is not unified, however: a surprising number of former leaders of the Israeli military and security agencies have publicly differed with Netanyahu’s pessimistic assessments of the Iranian threat).

As Israel’s only real friend in the world, the United States continues to have an obligation, within reason, to reassure Israel about its security and safety.

For Obama, this reassurance to Israel is a price worth paying in the event of a deal, which would be at least one step in trying to build security and stability in an increasingly turbulent Middle East. But that can only happen if Israel refrains from obstructing Obama’s effort to make everyone, including Israel, more secure.

Robert E. Hunter, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, was director of Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council Staff in the Carter administration and in 2011-12 was director of Transatlantic Security Studies at the National Defense University. Read his work on IPS’s foreign policy blog, LobeLog.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS-Inter Press Service.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Licensed from Inter Press Service

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

ABC News`This Week` Exclusive Interview: Iran`s Foreign Minister Javad Zari

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Our new Climate-Change Denialist Congress and Looming Planetary Disaster

November 19th, 2014 No comments

By Michael T. Klare (Tomdispatch.com)

Pop the champagne corks in Washington!  It’s party time for Big Energy.  In the wake of the midterm elections, Republican energy hawks are ascendant, having taken the Senate and House by storm.  They are preparing to put pressure on a president already presiding over a largely drill-baby-drill administration to take the last constraints off the development of North American fossil fuel reserves.

The new Republican majority is certain to push their agenda on a variety of key issues, including tax reform and immigration.  None of their initiatives, however, will have as catastrophic an impact as their coming drive to ensure that fossil fuels will dominate the nation’s energy landscape into the distant future, long after climate change has wrecked the planet and ruined the lives of millions of Americans.

It’s already clear that the new Republican leadership in the Senate will make construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, intended to carry heavy oil (or “tar sands”) from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, one of their top legislative priorities. If the lame-duck Congress fails to secure Keystone’s approval now with the help of pro-carbon Senate Democrats, it certainly will push the measure through when a Republican-dominated Senate arrives in January. Approval of that pipeline, said soon-to-be Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, will be among the first measures “we’re very likely to be voting on.”  But while the Keystone issue is going to command the Senate’s attention, it’s only one of many measures being promoted by the Republicans to speed the exploitation of the country’s oil, coal, and natural gas reserves.  So devoted are their leaders to fossil fuel extraction that we should start thinking of them not as the Grand Old Party, but the Grand Oil Party.

In seeking to boost fossil fuel production, the GOP leadership is already mapping out plans to fight on several fronts in addition to Keystone.  For example, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a likely presidential candidate, is promoting a scheme to eliminate what he calls government “obstacles” — that is, federal oversight of energy-related matters — to the construction of any border-crossing pipelines, whether for the importation of tar sands from Canada or the export of natural gas to Mexico.  Other prominent Republicans, including McConnell (who comes from coal-rich Kentucky), are eager to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from imposing strict carbon restraints on the use of coal, ban federal oversight of hydro-fracking, open offshore Alaska and Virginia to drilling, and facilitate foreign sales of U.S. crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Whatever individual initiatives one Republican figure or another may be pushing, as a group they fervently believe in the desirability of boosting the consumption of fossil fuels and the absolute need to defeat any measures designed to slow climate change through restraints on such consumption.  For many of them, this is both an economic issue, aimed at boosting the profits of U.S. energy firms, and bedrock ideology, part of a quasi-mystical belief in the national-power-enhancing nature of petroleum.  Top Republicans argue, for instance, that the best way to counter Russian inroads in Ukraine (or elsewhere in Europe) is to accelerate the fracking of U.S. shale gas reserves and ship the added output to that continent in the form of liquefied natural gas.  This, they are convinced, will break Russia’s hold on the continent’s energy supplies.  “The ability to turn the tables and put the Russian leader in check,” House Speaker John Boehner wrote in March, “lies right beneath our feet, in the form of vast supplies of natural energy.”

Central to the political ethos of many Republicans, including the likely candidates for president in 2016, is a belief in the restorative abilities of oil and gas when it comes to waning national power and prestige.  Governor Christie, for example, devoted his initial foreign policy speech to a vision of a “North American energy renaissance” based on the accelerated production of hydrocarbons in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.  “The dramatic change in the energy landscape in North America,” he declared, “has made all of us better off and will continue to do so.”  (Significantly, Christie unveiled his plan in Mexico, which is expected to open its oil and gas fields to development by U.S. firms for the first time since it expropriated foreign oil assets in 1938.)

In order to claim such benefits from increased fossil-fuel production, the increasingly severe effects of climate change — including on highly vulnerable coastal communities in New Jersey — have to be conveniently left out of the equation.  In fact, most top Republicans solve that problem either by denying the very reality of climate change or by viewing it as, at worst, a future minor irritant.  In one of the genuinely bizarre outcomes of the recent election, Oklahoma’s James Inhofe is expected to be chosen as the new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  A long-time proponent of the view that human-induced climate change is a giant “hoax,” Inhofe has pledged, among other things, to sabotage the EPA’s drive to restrict carbon emissions from coal.

The Power of the Purse

What accounts for such a messianic belief in the beneficial effects of fossil fuel extraction?

Never underestimate the lure of money — or, to be more precise, campaign contributions.  The giant energy firms are among the leading sources of campaign financing.  Most of their money has, in recent years, gone to Republicans who espouse a pro-carbon agenda — and with such a crew now ascendant in Congress, staggering sums will undoubtedly continue to pour in.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics, the oil and gas industry was the ninth biggest supplier of campaign funds during the 2013-2014 election cycle, with 87% of the $51 million it spent going to Republicans.  The coal industry provided another $10 million in contributions, with 95% going to Republicans.  Koch Industries, the energy conglomerate controlled by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, was the top oil company provider, accounting for $9.4 million in contributions; Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Occidental Petroleum were also major donors.  These figures, it should be noted, only include direct donations to candidates in accordance with federal campaign laws.  They exclude funds channeled through secretive super PACS and supposedly “non-profit” organizations that are not bound by such rules.  During the 2012 election, the CRP reports, the Koch Brothers helped steer an estimated $407 million to such entities; equally large amounts are thought to have been expended in the 2014 go-around.

To a significant extent, these funds were shuttled to especially industry-friendly and powerful Republicans.  Among the leading recipients of oil funding in 2014, according to the CRP, were John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, along with John Cornyn, the particularly enthusiastic pro-energy senator from Texas, and Congressman Cory Gardner of Colorado, who just took a Senate seat from the environmentally conscious Democrat Mark Udall.  Not surprisingly, among the top recipients of coal industry funding were Boehner and McConnell, as well as especially coal-friendly congressional representatives like Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley of West Virginia.

These and other recipients of fossil fuel cash know full well that their future access to such largesse, and so their ability to get reelected, will depend on their success in pushing legislation that facilitates the accelerated extraction of oil, gas, and coal.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to calculate the consequences of this conveyor belt of financial support, both for affected communities and for the climate.

Energy-Surplus States

Another way to understand the Republican embrace of fossil fuels is to focus on the relative importance of oil, gas, and mining operations to the economies of certain predominantly “red” states with built-in Republican majorities.  According to a revealing analysis by John Kemp of Reuters, only 13 U.S. states export more energy than they import (in descending order): Wyoming, West Virginia, Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Montana, Arkansas, Utah, and Kentucky. Fossil fuel extraction helps drive the economies of these states and voters there tend to elect particularly pro-extraction Republicans. When the 114th Congress convenes in January, 19 of the 26 Senate seats from these states will be held by Republicans and only six by Democrats.

Note that these states played a particularly pivotal role in the 2014 midterms, with the Republican leadership making an all-out drive to score major victories in them. Ten of these states had Senate races this year and the Republicans succeeded in ousting Democrats in five of them: Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, and Alaska.  Needless to say, the giant oil and coal companies poured vast amounts of money into these campaigns. Koch Industries, for example, made substantial contributions to the Senate campaigns of Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Steve Daines in Montana, and Cory Gardner in Colorado.

In many respects, energy-surplus states have different interests than other states, which must import the preponderance of their energy supplies.  These energy-importing states, including Democratic bastions like Illinois, New York, California, and Massachusetts, often seek strict federal regulation of things like hydro-fracking and power-plant emissions.  Surplus states like Texas and Pennsylvania, on the other hand, largely prefer state-level oversight rather than the generally stronger federal version of the same.

The major fossil fuel companies also favor state-level oversight of energy affairs, which regularly results into drilling-friendly legislation.  When it comes to hydraulic fracking, here’s how ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson politely puts the matter: “[W]e believe that is best left to the state, [to] state regulatory bodies,” as they are more attuned to conditions on the ground.  “[W]riting a federal standard to apply across a whole range of these conditions we don’t think is the most efficient way to go about it.”

In this and other ways, energy-surplus states often resemble oil-rich countries like Russia, Nigeria, Angola, and Kazakhstan, where energy companies enjoy a cozy, often venal, relationship with top leaders. Scholars in the field speak of an “oil curse” that bedevils such countries, in which the best interests of ordinary citizens — not to mention the environment — are regularly sacrificed in efforts to boost output and line the pockets of ruling elites.

Oil, Gas, and National Security

A third reason why the Grand Oil Party tends to favor fossil fuel extraction is that its representatives view such production as a vital pillar of national security — another Republican priority.  Increased oil, gas, and coal extraction is said to enhance U.S. security in two ways: by invigorating the economy and so strengthening America’s competitive advantage vis-à-vis rival powers and by bolstering Washington’s capacity to confront hostile petro-states like Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.

The recent upsurge in oil and natural gas production in what’s being called “Saudi America” is especially beneficial, Republicans claim, because it lowers the cost of energy for American manufacturers and attracts fresh investment in energy-intensive activities by companies that might otherwise locate their factories in China, Taiwan, or elsewhere.  “The production boom in gas and associated lower costs,” Governor Christie argues, “have contributed to ‘re-shoring,’ a return of manufacturing jobs that had been migrating to Asia before.”

Equally important, it is a Republican conviction that an upsurge in domestic oil and gas production will give Washington a stronger hand in its dealings with Iran and Russia, in particular.  For one thing, by becoming less dependent on imported energy, the U.S. is making itself ever less vulnerable to the blandishments of major suppliers in the Middle East.  In addition, by driving down international prices, American oil and gas output is also curtailing the energy revenues of Iran and Russia, making their leaders more susceptible to U.S. pressure.

Given this, the Republican leadership is especially focused on eliminating existing obstacles to selling crude oil and natural gas abroad.  At the moment, the exporting of crude is prohibited, thanks to a 40-year-old ban adopted in the wake of the Arab oil embargo of 1973-1974.  Natural gas exports are hindered by the lack of LNG facilities in this country and by regulatory barriers to their rapid construction. Constraints on such construction, according to Boehner (who, of course, wants to lift them), constitute a “de-facto ban on American natural-gas exports — a situation that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin happily exploited to finance his geopolitical goals.”

Not surprisingly, the major oil and gas companies are also strongly in favor of such steps, which would allow them to sell cheap oil and gas to Europe and Asia, where prices are substantially higher.  Building more gas-export facilities, says Erik Milito, an official of the pro-industry American Petroleum Institute, would mean that “our LNG exports could significantly strengthen the global energy market against crisis and manipulation… a win-win for our economy and our friends.”

The oil companies are also pushing for intensified efforts to integrate the U.S., Mexican, and Canadian oil systems which, Christie and others claim, would enhance U.S. security by diminishing reliance on Middle Eastern and other extra-hemispheric suppliers. At the same time, such integration would help American companies acquire greater control over production in Mexico and Canada. Mexico’s new energy legislation, which opens the way for foreign investment in its oil and gas fields, was heavily pushed by U.S. oil firms and prominent Republicans.

There is little question that increased exports would benefit American energy firms and their customers abroad.  Any easing of export constraints would, however, induce U.S. producers to divert output from domestic markets to more lucrative markets abroad, potentially harming American consumers. While prices might fall in Europe, they could rise in the United States, removing the current economic stimulus that relatively low-cost oil and gas provide.  Increased exports would also mean that the recent slowdown in U.S. carbon emissions — a product of economic hard times and a switch from coal to gas in electricity generation — would be rendered meaningless by increased greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of U.S. fossil fuels in other countries.

Fossil Fuels Forever

At a time when more and more people around the world are coming to recognize the need for tough restraints on fossil fuel combustion, the Republicans are about to march forcefully in the opposite direction.  Theirs will be a powerful vote for a fossil-fuels-forever planet.

The consequences of such a commitment are chilling.  While virtually all scientists and many world leaders have concluded that the heating of the planet must be kept to an average increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the pro-carbon agenda being pursued by the Republicans would guarantee a planet heated by four to six or more degrees Celsius or six to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  That large an increase is almost certain to render significant portions of the planet virtually uninhabitable, and so threaten human civilization as we know it.  As the U.N.’s prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted in its recent summary report, “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

With Republicans now in control, pro-carbon initiatives will be the order of the day in Congress.  President Obama has veto power over most such measures and is reportedly planning various executive actions on climate issues — some intended to clinch a recent climate deal with China.  In the long run, however, his need to secure Republican support for key legislative endeavors and his own “all of the above” energy policy may mean that he will give ground in this area to win votes for what he may view as more actionable steps on free trade pacts and other issues.  In other words, for each modest step forward on climate stabilization, the latest election ensures that Americans are destined to march several steps backward when it comes to reliance on climate-altering fossil fuels.  It’s a recipe for good times for Big Energy and its congressional supporters and bad times for the rest of us.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 Michael T. Klare

Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

DemocracyNow! “A Big Win for Climate Change Denial: Republicans to Target EPA Regulations After Taking Senate”

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American Public’s Rewards for voting GOP control of Congress (Political Cartoon)

November 19th, 2014 No comments

Paul Jamiol | –

jwnov18_14

via Jamiol’s World

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