The State of the Energy
January 28, 2003 2:06 PM   Subscribe

The State of the Energy: Ahead of rumors Bush is set to propose a hydrogen fuel plan, fuel cell producer stocks jump. In the event of an Iraqi war, the oil fields there will be siezed to prevent their drestruction and Colin Powell says the US will hold them "in trust".
posted by raaka (41 comments total)
Make hydrogen, not war.
posted by woil at 2:21 PM on January 28, 2003

Yeah, "in trust" my arse. They will entrust it to W's biggest Oil donators, screw the Iraqis. They will entrust it to the lowest bidder that sells to the US.
posted by aacheson at 2:23 PM on January 28, 2003

Raaka - wow (the hydrogen part)....Holy Crap (with Tapirs, no less..)!!!! -- Maybe that's the Bush adminstration's secret weapon! Three months before the voting for 2004, Bush will announce....

"Global Warming is REAL. It is a national emergency as dire as terrorism. I propose......." (blah blah blah - trundles out vast, expensive hydrogen conversion plan carried out by ExxonMobile and it's buddies, at obscene profit levels, in the name of "National Security"

not to nitpick - great post! - but it's "seize"
posted by troutfishing at 2:25 PM on January 28, 2003

National emergency for someone else.....
very sorry to derail, but what the hell is a "tapir"? Merriam-Webster defines it as a "nocturnal perissodactyl ungulate"...
posted by ac at 2:39 PM on January 28, 2003

ac - that sounds about right, but in plain English, a tapir is kind of like a huge mutant guinea pig but hairier and with a fancier snout, I think (I could be a little off, but you get the idea..). The 16th century Maya were very fond of tapirs, and the priests subjugating the Maya were shocked by this fondness (see Miguel Cardoso's post on food)

Now, back to Bush's nefarious plan..........OhmyGawd - time for that hydrogen futures put order. Call the agent! I'll be rich!........*sprints away to phone in huge order to corner market...*
posted by troutfishing at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2003

What's a tapir?
posted by Silune at 2:51 PM on January 28, 2003

holy fu*k

"in trust"?

They already are. For the "iraqi people", by their government. This is why shrub is pissed, it all goes back to when Iraq NATIONALIZED their oilfields in the early 70's and pissed off a bunch of Texas oil-companies/investors, etc....

"in trust" for whom? their new amerikan overlords?
posted by jkaczor at 2:58 PM on January 28, 2003

yaay! go new american overlords!
posted by ac at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2003

well, on second thought... better Iraq than Alberta, I'd rather not have to welcome shrub as my own personal lord & saviour....
posted by jkaczor at 3:08 PM on January 28, 2003

just for kicks, let's look at a little recent history....

1998 - Unocal tells the government that the Taliban has to go so they can build a nice pipeline across Afghanistan to ship gas and oil from the Caspian down to India.

2001 - Us plans to attack the Taliban before Sept. 11th.

2002 - Afghanistan plans to build a new oil and gas pipeline, which it would "prefer" a US company - namely Unocal - to operate.

Now, you'd have to be some sort of nutty left wing conspiracy theorist to connect these dots, so I sure won't, and I damn sure wouldn't look at it as a (business) model of things to come...

Oh, an I also wouldn't make any connections between Enron, Cheney, the Taliban, and pipelines.
posted by badstone at 3:10 PM on January 28, 2003

Eff. I was this || close to buying bldp-q last friday. Ain't that always the way.

posted by five fresh fish at 3:31 PM on January 28, 2003

i heard that after Bush pumps the fuel-cell industry he will unveil his plan to cover the deficit by selling texas to mexico...
posted by H. Roark at 3:48 PM on January 28, 2003

If the war was about Oil, America would have stormed into the middle east during the OPEC Oil Crisis. It's a tired old argument
posted by mkelley at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2003

Yes, mkelley, not only that, but if the war was really about oil we would never have given the Kuwaitis and the Iraqis their oil fields back at the end of Gulf War I. Plus, if all we wanted was their oil, we could just drop the sanctions and buy it without all the risk of war - and that's one thing about those evil capitalists, they are risk averse.

And as for a pipeline in Afghanistan, that's just ludicrous. the country only has 20 km of railroads. Why? A train is too much concentrated wealth to resist, it would never make it more than 20 km without being robbed. No one thinks a pipeline would last 5 minutes before being blasted and shot full of holes by some bored mujahadeen.

Sure, there's always someone pitching a pipeline, the oil industry is a lot like Hollywood - pitching deals is much more common than actually making deals, and often more lucrative. An oil pipeline in Afghanistan is like the script for Waterworld 2 - its always gonna be out there, and there's always gonna be someone who thinks they can make a buck off it. Doesn't mean that it'll ever happen, though, or even that anyone even really wants it to happen.

But, once again, these are just little inconvenient facts, no need for them to get in the way of the revealed truth. Nope, facts are just like those foolish Ukrainian peasants who had to destroyed, uhm, re-educated, in order to establish the collective farms in the 30's. Foolish, foolish little facts ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 4:50 PM on January 28, 2003

Yeah, Jos, the idea that wars are fought over - gasp - material resources is, like, so beyond the pale.
posted by mediareport at 5:53 PM on January 28, 2003

You're leaving out the possibility, mkelley and Joe Bleau, of the present administration being a great deal more ruthlessly selfish in pursuit of national and ideological interests than previous ones, and the lack of another national power of comparable strength in the world, and the relative strength of the USA compared to the rest of the world.

But we can argue this as much as we like, and neither of us will be wrong or right until it happens one way or the other.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:54 PM on January 28, 2003

I think Bush wants to wage war on Iraq (and later the rest of the Middle East, I'll bet) at least partly out of a psuedo-religious conviction not unlike that of the September 11 hijackers. His religious history supports the argument that he believes he has been given a role by God in the reformation / re-formation of the world. Perhaps he even believes that the ensuing melee in the Middle East will be the Battle of Armageddon itself. Perhaps he even believes his actions will usher in a new era and the return of Christ.

While legitimate arguments in favor of Saddam's ouster on humanitarian grounds may exist, those have only been given lip service by Bush and his crew. Note that his primary arguments, even while some actual evidence of weapons violations has finally been revealed, remains largely "Saddam is evil."

Oil, it seems, is just the slick on the surface. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)
posted by Steve Hight at 6:51 PM on January 28, 2003

I wonder if I can buy stock in Hydrogen cars..

*evil laugh*
posted by RobbieFal at 7:54 PM on January 28, 2003

I'm fairly sure there's some eschatological thinking going on in the White House.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:57 PM on January 28, 2003

While legitimate arguments in favor of Saddam's ouster on humanitarian grounds may exist, those have only been given lip service by Bush and his crew.

My favorite garbage pose of the current U.S. administration is the faked concern for all those poor Kurds Hussein gassed back in the late 80s. Rumsfeld/Cheney (and their happy-faced speechifying monkey puppet) are more than prepared to sell out the Kurds - again - in order to get Turkey's help in a war to secure Iraq's fat oil fields. Turkish torture of Kurds who want to educate their children about Kurdish culture? No problem:

The bigger danger for the Kurds, if the Turks are a major part of Bush's war strategy, is that northern Iraq could end up with a new name -- Turkey. The main issue is -- surprise -- oil. Kirkuk and Mosul, two cities in northern Iraq, are loaded with oil. Turkey has almost none. Not only would the Turks like to get their hands on that oil for its own sake, they want to keep it out of the hands of the Kurds. A wealthy and powerful Kurdish region is not something they want on their southern border. Wealth and power tend to make oppressed minorities a little hard to deal with. In September, Ozdem Sanberk, the former Turkish ambassador to Britain, told a reporter, "If the U.S. intervenes, and in the first days the Kurds enter Kirkuk and Mosul, the Turkish army will move in." In fact, the Turkish army already has troops inside the Iraqi Kurdish zone, and is already planning to send more to stop any flow of Kurdish refugees into Turkey when full-scale war breaks out.

Hamid Efendi, the top Iraqi Kurdish military commander, says that if the U.S. attacks, his forces will immediately go after Kirkuk and Mosul. Massoud Barzani, a prominent Kurdish leader, insists that Kirkuk, which lies just outside the current Kurdish autonomous zone, should be the capital of the Kurdish region in a post-Saddam Iraqi federation. (His principle rival, Jalal Talabani has shown more flexibility on the issue, and has played down the possibility of Turkish opportunism, but has also complained of being left out of both military planning and planning for post-war reconstruction.) Mosul is within the Kurdish controlled no-fly zone. Turkey has an Ottoman-era claim to the two cities, and since the Gulf War Turkish nationalist politicians and media have been reminding Turks of the "Turkishness" of the region. There is a substantial Turkmen minority in the Kirkuk, as well, and the Turks could easily use the cover of protecting the rights of fellow Turks in order to occupy northern Iraq. (They have a history of doing that sort of thing, of course.)

For now, I'll set aside questions about the wisdom of relying heavily on the support of a country with severe human rights problems, (particularly regarding the Kurds, and including Kurdish women), as well as the issue of whether this is a good time to support a government in the hands of a party with Islamist roots. Turkey's AK Party appears relatively moderate, and willing to work with secularists (despite its somewhat disturbing chairman) and might prove that Islamic democracy is not a contradiction in terms. But they haven't proven it yet, and wariness, at the very least, is certainly called for.

Focusing only on the Kurds, however, it's seems pretty clear that the Bush administration can't juggle alliances with the Kurds and the Turks. It will have to choose. And it looks like it may already have done so.

But...but...Saddam gassed the Kurds! We must avenge them!

posted by mediareport at 8:35 PM on January 28, 2003

I noticed that the article took pains to specify that the US military would be seizing and holding the wells, and hypothesized of the US being the (sole?) occupying power. Where there's a real commitment from others, you usually hear that the coalition or whatever would play this kind of role.

I wonder if they're really that alone, or if they are specifically precluding other nations' involvement in managing Iraq's post-war resources. Or a 3rd or 4th meaning I can't find.
posted by holycola at 11:14 PM on January 28, 2003

8th December, 1998 - "Unocal suspended its participation in the project three months ago after the American missile attacks on sites in Afghanistan. A Unocal spokesman said the company would only rejoin the project if there was peace in Afghanistan and its government was recognised by the United Nations and the United States".

Jos is right - there is no pipeline through Afghanistan. In fact, it wasn't planned for over three years before 9/11.
posted by tapeguy at 6:30 AM on January 29, 2003

Which doesn't mean, tapeguy, that access to oil isn't a major concern for U.S. foreign policy makers. To say that folks like Cheney and Rumsfeld *don't* factor access to oil into their decisions is tantamount to saying that they're morons. They may be immoral killers, but those people are not morons.

And Jos Bleau's statement that the very idea of an Afghan pipeline is "ludicrous" is itself ludicrous. There are pipelines all over Chechnya, e.g., which is at least as volatile as Afghanistan. The fact that Unocal pulled out before 9/11 means nothing; if anything, it would *add* fuel to the notion that the U.S. needed to "pacify" Afghanistan as soon as possible. Again, plans for an invasion were on the table before 9/11.

One more thing: Wind power, dammit.

Today Denmark, the world leader in wind turbine technology and manufacture, is getting 15 percent of its electricity from wind power. For Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany, it is 19 percent and, for some parts of the state, 75 percent. Spain’s industrial state of Navarra, starting from scratch six years ago, now gets 24 percent of its electricity from wind.
posted by mediareport at 7:21 AM on January 29, 2003

Oh, I was being sarcastic (which, I forgot, doesn't work in the InTarWeb). Unocal may have pulled out of the pipeline deal, but they've definitely pulled back in since 9/11 - like what the report says - "the company would only rejoin the project if there was peace in Afghanistan" - now that's a very good reason for a war against the Taleban.
posted by tapeguy at 8:17 AM on January 29, 2003

If the war was about Oil, America would have stormed into the middle east during the OPEC Oil Crisis.

mkelly, your little soundbite is a complete non sequitor. First off, there were 2 seperate oil spikes in the 1970s - one in 1973-74 and another after the Iranian revolution in 1979. Work with me for a second here: Those episodes (and the spike after the first Gulf War) are *precisely* what are driving Cheney's and Rumsfeld's push to get the U.S. to control its own chunk of Middle Eastern oil.

Rest assured they now wish the U.S. had done what you suggest at the time. They might have tried it, too (they both worked for President Ford, remember), except for one teensy thing that would have put a damper on any plans for the U.S. to "storm into" the Middle East.

Hint: It starts with a "V" and ends with a "nam."

Thinking in soundbites makes for generally poor thinking, mkelly.
posted by mediareport at 8:34 AM on January 29, 2003

>If the war was about Oil, America would have stormed

Yeah, it's not really about oil, eh?
posted by jkaczor at 9:06 AM on January 29, 2003

Wind is nice, and those big turbines are the only thing worth looking at between Fort Worth and Midland/Odessa, but I gotta wonder:

How many terawatts of power can you suck out of wind before you start to screw with climate again? I mean, granted, you suck power out, kill some wind and turn it into electricity, use the electricity and make heat somewhere else and that gives you more wind (cf Red Mars). But how much can you remove / relocate before you disrupt the weather patterns in hard-to-predict ways.

I have the same worries about OTEC.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:15 AM on January 29, 2003

One more thing: Wind power, dammit.

And another thing: solar towers, dammit. We should turn Arizona into a big solar tower farm.
posted by homunculus at 10:37 AM on January 29, 2003

ROU_Xenophobe - Interesting question - here's one (pseudo informed) reply: Because the Earth's gradually warming, we may WANT to dampen the winds. More heat energy in the system=a more active hydrological cycle. Weather is mostly a heat engine, and ours is starting to run a little bit faster.

I tend to think that messing around with extremely complex systems like the Earth's climate system is crazy, but I've started to advocate here, at bottom of insane rant) a project involving dumping huge amounts of salt into the North Atlantic to prevent the shutdown of Ocean Circulation (tied to sudden climate shifts in the earth's past) which oceanagraphers - like the current and previous directors of Wood's Hole - have been recently warning about. But hey, that's the axe I always grind

*grinds away....scrape scrape scrape scrape...*
posted by troutfishing at 10:52 AM on January 29, 2003

oops, that's here, at bottom of insane rant
posted by troutfishing at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2003

trout: I'm not worried about sucking the energy from the earth. You tap the wind here, turn it into electricity, and it turns back into work over there and generates heat, and the heat generates more wind. This was used in a hilariously-bad-science moment in Robinson's Red Mars, where they heat up Mars with wind-powered heaters and then get out of danger in their airship by using windmills to generate electricity to power the props. I suppose we could dampen the cycle if we used tapped wind energy only for storage -- charging giant batteries, maybe, but I expect that must release heat somewhere.

What you can do, though, is disrupt some sort of largish flow pattern if you suck enough terawatts out of it. I wouldn't want to find out 50 years from now that we tapped just enough to kill / move the jet stream and so get Canadian weather waaay farther south then now.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:29 AM on January 29, 2003

This is the first I've ever heard of the concern about disrupting climate patterns with wind turbines, but I suppose it's within the realm of possibility. FWIW, there's universal backing from major environmental groups in Europe for increased wind power, even as the U.S. has been left "in the dust."

"We have frittered away our dominant role in this technology," says Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C. "We had the strategic advantage, and we lost it."

Golly. Wonder how that happened.
posted by mediareport at 11:44 AM on January 29, 2003

Rou_Xenophobe *scratches head thinking 'didn't we just clash on something..income distribution, Iraq??? no matter, I take things issue by issue....*

I see your point. You're talking about a "local" (still pretty damn big) effect, and I was into the "global" picture. I bet you could also slow the rotation of the earth a bit....

As I matter of fact, I seem to recall that human activity HAS been shown to have slow the Earth's rotation....a tiny amount. You see, we've made the earth just a little "bumpier", hence a bit more drag.....I don't have the research on hand to cite though.

But, you know, the "Sudden Climate Change" scenario is a whole lot more threatening, if you're worried about a climate shift towards colder weather. Have you seen the US National Academy of Science report? Or the section on the Wood's Hole website by the 'Hole Director Bob Gagosian?

My God, The scale of the Younger Dryas climate shifts! - their (now proven to be) Global nature, the abruptness of the shifts!......and researchers know next to nothing about the "epiphenomenon" - probably bizzare, intense storms - that accompanied the one to ten year duration of these sharp shifts.......that's "Global Superstorm" (speculative) territory.

The scientific heavies of the Oceanographic research community are ....... alarmed. Gogosian said "It's not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN (and mayber as soon as within a decade. This floored me. The last time I was reading heavily in this research field (about 2 years ago), the best models for Thermohaline slowdown/cessation were making predictions on the scale of 50-100 years time frames.

I turned my back on the field for a bit, then when I revisited it.....the scenario predictions had moved to within my expected remaining life span.......BOO!

This is why I've been grinding this particular axe on Mefi....

This story is might, in fact, turn out to be the very biggest (as in a "civilization killer)....This is the sort of BIG problem on Jim Lovelock's mind when he wrote his editorial in "Nature" (it was either Nature or Science, one of the two flagships of "Science") advocating that we make a compendium of crucial scientific knowledge (on acid free paper, that is) and place it in caves, capsules, prevent the long human march up from our fire warmed caves (and "Dire Wolves", sabertooths, and enourmous bears stalking us if we ventured out...) from being erased by an unexpected "surprise". Lovelock was strongly suggesting we currently take the continuous accretion of knowledge for granted, and making the point: We should not.

If you need the links, let me know, although I can hardly imagine you haven't seen the really good ones, as I've been reposting them over and over and over.....

By the way, I was talking to a cousin-in law-last month (whose wife is in Moscow on a Fullbright) AND...... they've been having some unrecedented weather in Russia this winter - temperature fluctuations of up to 50 degree Celsius within 24 hours.....This conforms with predictions of a weather, or Climate reaction (too soon to tell if it's just "weather" or an actual climate trend) to the observed 30% slowdown in the Atlantic currents which pump heat up to warm Europe, Russia to soem extent, and certainly the Eastern US and Eastern Canada.

It's simple really - disrupt the Ocean "heat pump" and moving air masses take up the slack - to an extent - but the temperature differential between the Arctic and the Equator still increases, and so: instability and wild temperature fluctuations......

Anyway.........Rah rah. Go Wind Power! Go Wind! Go Wind!
posted by troutfishing at 12:59 PM on January 29, 2003

This is the first I've ever heard of the concern about disrupting climate patterns with wind turbines, but I suppose it's within the realm of possibility.

I'm not worried about it now. I'm vaguely worried about what effect getting ~15--20% of energy from wind would have in a world 50--100 years down the road where China and India and Indonesia and so on are all generating at current first-world levels and the first world is generating, say, five to ten times what it is now to do, well, whatever needs doing then. Something on the scale of using wind to generate *all* current energy usage, or somewhat more than that.

I suppose the answer eventually is to shove energy-intensive industries off-planet, but still.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:09 PM on January 29, 2003

Lovelock was strongly suggesting we currently take the continuous accretion of knowledge for granted, and making the point: We should not.

Thanks a lot, troutfishing. Now I *really* don't want to get out of bed in the morning.
posted by mediareport at 1:34 PM on January 29, 2003

mediareport - I suppose I'm the "Red Pill" of bad tidings? My approach is to try to convert despair over the whole damn mess

It's unavoidable, I think: from here on in things will get...interesting. But think of this - as a species, I strongly suspect, humans are biologically geared to respond well to, and cope with, emergencies. This is why our bodies are equipped with the stress hormones, Adrenalin and so on. But actually, it's the soft life, the ennui that kills our spirit. - Not stress, danger and change. You might actually be much happier living in a world of turmoil. At the least, you wouldn't have much time to spend contemplating your unhappiness!

Rou_Xenophobe - A one-hundred year time scenario is beyond my worry threshold! I'll stick to the "Ocean circulation slowdown/shutdown in 50 years, but perhaps within a decade." scenario because 1) it's become quite.....err...."abruptly" a huge field of scientific study and 2) it has practical applications in my life (when to sell my house, for example).

Hmm.....Nothing like a good looming worldwide disaster!

*hums a little tune from "Pinnochio", "Whistle while you work".....*
posted by troutfishing at 2:33 PM on January 29, 2003

Birdkill. Would be nasty.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:33 PM on January 29, 2003

Birdkill. Would be nasty.

If that's a reference to wind turbines, try reading the USA Today link I posted above:

Allegations that the turbines suck birds into their wind stream have been disproved. "Fewer (birds) fly into them than fly into windows or cars," says Russell Marsh of the World Wildlife Federation in Britain. "The only concern is that they not be located on a migration route. Otherwise, birds live harmoniously with wind farms. They learn to fly around them."

Nothing's perfect, but the most common objections from Big Energy types to wind power are just so much hot air.
posted by mediareport at 7:48 PM on January 29, 2003

I don't think they learn to fly around them. More like, the ones that do fly around them live to fly another day.

Hadn't ever heard of the "sucked in" argument. What I'd heard was more along the lines of "don't see 'em, and fly into 'em with serious consequence."

But, too, that was re: migration paths. Outside of migration paths, perhaps they are groovy after all.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 PM on January 29, 2003

I don't think they learn to fly around them.

No, I'm pretty sure they do learn to fly around them. Birds aren't all stupid, particularly when it comes to, you know, wind currents.
posted by mediareport at 10:59 PM on January 29, 2003

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