Friday, February 10, 2006
For anyone who slips into the driver's seat of a car -- and except for those who live in cities like New York with full-scale public transport systems, that's most of America most of the time -- life is already a permanent energy crisis. No wonder the President stumbled across reality this year and declared before the nation that we were all oil addicts in a hooked homeland and it was time to rid ourselves of our "dependence" on Middle Eastern oil (a region where, as it turns out, oil use is surging). You know -- that horribly "unstable" part of the world the President personally destabilized with his invasion of choice.
The Saudis were mildly insulted by the presidential speech (especially since they sell us their oil at relatively cut-rate prices while energy-hungry Asian powers pay top Euro for it); the big oil execs, knowing the truth of the situation, were unflustered ("No combination of conservation measures, alternative energy sources and technological advances could realistically and economically provide a way to completely replace those imports in the short or medium term," said Exxon Mobil senior vice president Stuart McGill); and the President, it turned out, had his facts upside down. It's true that we now import 60% of our oil from elsewhere, but because it's cheaper to transport energy from relatively close at hand, our one-two punch in imported oil turns out to be neighbors Canada and Mexico. (The Saudis only place, and right behind the top three comes not, say, Kuwait, but... gulp... Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.) To add insult to injury, just this week, the government's Energy Information Administration announced that "U.S. and world oil demand growth in the second quarter [of 2006] is expected to be stronger than previously forecast."
From the beginning, the Bush administration has been an all-oil-all-the-time regime. Chevron even dubbed one of its double-hulled tankers the Condoleezza Rice because she was on the company board. (The name was changed when she became Bush's national security adviser.) Our President and Vice President were, of course, in the business and the government has since been Halliburtonized; Zalmay Khalilzad, our ambassador first to Afghanistan and now to Iraq, was once an advisor to Unocal, the energy company that tried to negotiate the running of a natural-gas pipeline through the Taliban's Afghanistan... and so on.
Though various neocons and top administration officials dreamed of a Pax Americana in the Middle East, they certainly never meant to take those heartland energy reserves for the United States. Settling permanently into bases in Iraq was to be the royal way to global dominance over other energy-desperate powers. (Imagine the frustration, then, that Iraq can now hardly get its oil out of the ground!)
Still, the President had a point. We do have a problem. Of course, problem number one was how little lay behind Bush's words. As Valerie Marcel, energy expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London commented, "Bush was playing to a very, very domestic agenda. It's just rhetoric."
What's the point, after all, in announcing that we're a nation of addicts, if you're not only not planning to put money into treatment centers, but cutting funds for them? As Michael Klare so vividly points out below, we are entering what is, in essence, a permanent global state of energy crisis without significant thought or planning.
Click here to read more of this dispatch.