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  • Tuesday, June 20, 2006


    Response to Reason Magazine's Ronald Bailey on "Energy Security"

    On June 11, 2006, the Dallas Morning News published an essay by Ronald Bailey, the science correspondent for Reason magazine, in which he attempts to debunk “peak oil” pessimism while simultaneously lamenting that much of the world’s remaining oil reserves are controlled by governments who may not have the best interests of the United States at heart.

    Bailey admits the world consumes about 87 million barrels of oil per day, and that proven oil reserves – i.e., oil that is recoverable under current economic and operating conditions – are estimated by various authorities at between 1.1 and 1.3 trillion barrels. Although Bailey does not say so, at current demand levels, this would mean proven oil reserves will be depleted in about forty (40) years.

    Bailey fails to acknowledge the fact that world oil demand is projected to increase by 37%, to 115 million barrels per day, by 2030. (In the Dallas Morning News essay, Bailey incorrectly cites the November 2005 International Energy Agency (IEA) Report as stating that world oil production is predicted to grow to 115 million barrels a day. In fact, the 115 million barrels a day is the projected world oil demand. As the Wall Street Journal reported on June 14, 2006, the IEA has projected that oil production will fall short of the projected 115 million barrel per day demand.)

    Nevertheless, Bailey finds cause for optimism in certain analysts’ claims that reserve growth – i.e., largely technology-driven increases in production in already discovered and developed oil fields – and new discoveries have been outpacing oil production. Thus, according to Bailey, the good news is that “Most analysts believe that world petroleum supplies will meet projected demand at reasonable prices for at least thirty (30) more years.” What Bailey overlooks is that, according to the IEA, this rosy scenario can occur only if there is cumulative energy-sector investment of about $17 trillion (in 2004 dollars) between 2004 and 2030. That this investment will occur is far from certain.

    The bad news, according to Bailey, is that “the vast majority of the world’s remaining oil reserves are not possessed by private enterprises. Seventy-seven percent of known reserves belong to [non-U.S.] government-owned companies. That means oil will be produced with all the effeciency associated with central planning.”

    Bailey asserts: “If ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil or other private companies owned the reserves, the world would be in a much more secure position with regard to oil production. Instead, we are subject to the whims of figures like [Venezuelan president] Mr. Chavez, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and must worry about the doubtful stability of their personalities and regimes.”

    Bailey’s essay stops short of exploring the policy implications of this assertion, other than a vague reference to “trusting markets” to “assure future energy abundance." However, roughly 60% of the world's proven oil reserves are located in a "golden" triangle running from Mosul in northern Iraq, to the Straits of Hormuz, to an oil field in Saudi Arabia 75 miles in from the coast, just west of Qatar, then back up to Mosul. The U.S. military already occupies part of this area and surrounds the remainder. These facts arguably lead to the conclusion that the U.S. government has already long known, acted upon, and continues to base much of its foreign policy on Bailey's assertion about the desirabilty of being in a more "secure" position with regard to the world's remaining oil reserves.

    Monday, June 19, 2006


    Florida Judge Dissents from "War on Drugs"

    The “War on Drugs” was, and still is, a farce. At a May 1999 forum at the Univeristy of Southern California, retired San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara said: “When Richard Nixon started the War on Drugs in 1972, the federal budget allocation for the war on drugs was $101 million. Today the federal budget allocation is $20 billion. And yet today there are more drugs in this country, they are less expensive, and they are of better quality than they were in 1972.”

    Here are some facts:

    In light of these and other facts, I would like to congratulate Florida 4th District Court of Appeal Judge Gary Farmer for having the courage of his convictions to stand up for the unpopular and “politically incorrect” view that the “War on Drugs” is an utter failure and a complete waste of taxpayer, government, law enforcement, prison, and judicial resources.

    In State v. Colitto, 31 Fla. L. Weekly D1386 (Fla. 4th DCA May 17, 2006), Judge Farmer dissented from a majority opinion ruling that two “trash pulls” (i.e., police rummaging through garbage) which revealed cannabis residue provided sufficient probable cause to justify issuance of a warrant to search a private residence for evidence of cocaine trafficking and possession of cannabis with intent to sell.

    Judge Farmer criticizes the majority for giving short shrift to the liberty and privacy issues at stake, and telegraphing their conclusion, by their characterization of the police conduct as a “trash pull,” which allows the majority to avoid discussion of the seriousness of police “making unfounded searches of a private citizen’s residential trash.”

    Judge Farmer seems to view the majority’s nonchalance toward what he believes are important liberty and privacy issues as a regrettable and incremental slide down the slippery slope of relinquishing our freedom to an increasingly powerful police-state apparatus in the name of a propagandistic exercise in futility:

    The power of the State to seize and search private trash without any legal
    justification seem to me but one more manifestation of Government’s long
    obsession with its residents’ pharmacological pursuits. In keeping with that
    obsession, this case adds one more compromise with our essential liberty of
    personal privacy, laying wager on a dream that Government might yet salvage
    something of its War on Drugs. This mania of the last four decades
    has been a costly failure. As Prohibition did, it founders on the reality
    that many humans will crave and use forbidden substances, legal or not….Yet
    we obstinately go on squandering even more weapons of mass deconstruction of
    personal liberties, and all in the name of a metaphor! We might as well
    expend law’s resources in a campaign to erase original sin.

    In a footnote, Judge Farmer illustrates the propagandistic function of the government declaring wars on things and gives a subtle warning about how government propaganda encourages citizens to sacrifice freedom for security:

    It should not take much reflection today to see that characterizing an endeavor
    as a war on something is calculated to paint it with a nobility of purpose and a
    tolerance of tactics that otherwise would be questioned or even condemned.

    In my opinion, Judge Farmer speaks the truth. I congratulate him on his courage and willingness to do so, and I hope he will continue to speak out as much as he can on these and any other issues about which he may be concerned.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006


    Why Did the U.S. Really Go To War In Iraq?

    Today's Wall Street Journal (WSJ) fronts an article with some very sobering facts concerning the strategic importance of oil reserves and the increasing significance of "energy security" as a determinant of foreign and military policy around the world.

    WSJ is careful to discredit "peak oil" theory (some iterations of which see the world depleted of conventional petroleum within the next 35 years). However, WSJ concedes a number of facts that certainly support the alarms being raised by "peak oil" theorists:

    WSJ acknowledges that these facts are forcing a rethink of U.S. and European diplomatic and military strategy and that a "new order is taking shape." For example:

    In addition to this front page article, today's WSJ telegraphs increased oil troubles down the road with these articles:


    CIA Claims the Right to Decide What is News

    CIA Claims the Right to Decide What is News

    From George Washington University’s National Security Archive:

    Washington, DC, 14 June 2006 -

    The National Security Archive today filed suit in the United States
    District Court for the District of Columbia against the Central Intelligence
    Agency (CIA), challenging the Agency's recent practice of charging Freedom of
    Information Act (FOIA) fees to journalists pursuing news.

    The FOIA says that "representatives of the news media" can be charged only
    copying fees since they help to carry out the mission of the law by
    disseminating government information; but the CIA last year began claiming
    authority to assess additional fees if the Agency decides any journalist's
    request is not newsworthy enough. In adopting this new practice, the CIA
    reversed its prior 15-year practice of presumptively waiving additional fees for
    news media representatives, including the National Security Archive.

    "The CIA takes the position that it should decide what is 'news' instead of
    the reporters and editors who research and publish the stories," explained
    attorney Patrick J. Carome of the law firm Wilmer Hale, who is representing the
    Archive. "If the CIA succeeds in exercising broad discretion to charge
    additional fees to journalists, despite the plain language of the law, then too
    often we will find out only what the government wants us to know."

    "Today is the day that federal agencies are turning in their FOIA
    improvement plans under President Bush's Executive Order for a more
    'citizen-centered' and 'results-oriented' FOIA system. But the CIA has taken the
    opposite approach, and is instead trying to close off use of the FOIA by
    journalists," commented Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs.

    In 1989 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
    Circuit recognized the Archive as a representative of the news media that cannot
    be charged for searches for records requested under the FOIA. The next year, the
    United States District Court for the District of Columbia held the CIA "must
    treat plaintiff as a 'representative of the news media' within the meaning of"
    the FOIA. For over 15 years, the CIA, like other federal agencies receiving FOIA
    requests from the Archive, abided by these decisions. Since these decisions, the
    Archive's news media activity has expanded dramatically, and its journalistic
    work has received numerous awards, including most recently the 2005 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in News and Documentary Research.

    Suddenly, in October 2005, the CIA changed its practice and began to
    require the Archive to meet a new test for what information qualifies as "news."
    The CIA demanded that the Archive show that its requests for records meet
    several criteria that are not found in the FOIA itself, specifically, that the
    requests "concern current events," "interest the general public," and "enhance
    the public understanding of the operations and activities of the U.S.

    Among the requests that the CIA determined did not concern "current events"
    were two requests for biographical documents relating to members of the Taliban
    in Afghanistan and documents regarding the development of U.S. policy in
    Afghanistan in the five months before President Carter authorized U.S. aid to
    the Mujahadeen opposition to the Soviet-backed Afghan regime. The CIA rejected
    the notion that information about U.S. knowledge regarding the Taliban and the
    rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Afghanistan could result in "news." And
    although the CIA determined that FOIA requests about NAFTA and illegal Mexican
    immigration could result in "news," it rejected the idea that President
    Clinton's 1993 meetings with President Salinas on the subject could result in

    "This policy is a clear attempt to prevent journalists from getting
    information out to the public," said Archive Director Thomas Blanton. "Given the
    timing - when the intelligence community is under serious scrutiny about its
    activities - this appears to be an effort to shut down the growth of a vibrant
    public debate in the print, broadcast and online communities."

    Today's court filing, along with the decisions in the previous cases cited,
    were made available today on the Archive's Web site: http://www.nsarchive.org/

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