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 1997, the United Nations estimated that, as of 1996, the world drug trade accounted for $440 billion in annual revenues.
- Newer figures suggest the world drug trade generates $600 billion a year in revenue.
- According to Dr. Sidney Cohen, a drug expert at UCLA, U.S. cocaine consumption in 1979 was around 80 metric tons.
- In December 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice estimated annual U.S. cocaine consumption at around 500 metric tons.
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:
- Crude-oil production by nations who aren't members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is widely expected to peak around 2010.
- The International Energy Agency (IEA), the industrialized world's energy-market watchdog, has forecast that world oil demand will rise by 37% by 2030, to 115 million barrels a day from about 85 million today.
- Not only is oil demand skyrocketing in China and India, but oil demand in the Middle East itself (primarily in Saudi Arabia and Iran) has risen by 13% since 2003, a growth rate nearly as high as China's.
- The IEA has concluded that because OPEC does not appear to be investing as much in production as expected, global oil supplies probably won't reach the agency's 115-million-barrel target for 2030. "We are likely to see higher prices for years to come," says Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist.
- The IEA estimates that the 26 industrialized countries that are members of that organization will need to import 85% of their oil by 2030, compared to 63% today.
- According to one long-time oil industry expert, "We have entered the era of scarcity and price rationing."
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:
- WSJ quotes NATO's secretary-general as saying that NATO would consider using force if energy-supply lines were threatened, a major broadening of NATO's mandate: "As far as oil and gas is concerned, I think NATO could play a role to defend the sea lanes."
- WSJ states that in order to supplement Western oil supplies, "the West must build alliances and deploy ships and troops to protect modest supply routes as far afield as the Caspian Sea, the Andean region of South America and West Africa. Now every oil field matters."
- According to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Dick Lugar, "The power of [energy] coercion is really equivalent to a military attack." WSJ reports that Lugar is pushing for a treaty with China and India that would spell out ways for the three nations - all large consumers of oil - to cooperate rather than compete in the event of a supply shock. In today's energy world, Lugar said, natural resources "are strategic weapons."
In addition to this front page article, today's WSJ telegraphs increased oil troubles down the road with these articles:
- Russia to Tighten Access to Oil and Gas Reserves
- Report Cites U.S. Vulnerability to Venezuela Oil-Flow Disruption
- China Considers Ways to Boost Energy Ties With Its Suppliers
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/