Koyaanisqatsi

implosion Apparently Eric Schlosser is now working on the important issue of the corporate capitalist food trade’s impact on food safety.

In this op-ed Schlosser relays a fact I’d missed until now:

China has become the largest exporter of food to the United States after Canada and Mexico. About 60 percent of the apple juice in America — like peanut butter, a product consumed largely by children — now comes from China.

From the perspective of energy-use, this is sheer insanity, stark proof of the point that what makes sense to capitalists is very often murderously short-sighted behavior that any functioning democracy would find a way to stop.

We Demand a Gesture!

carter solar As greens continue to stay home in droves and let Oilbama’s skin color cover his continual betrayals, some would-be rebels are demanding that Jimmy Carter’s gesture of installing solar panels on the White House roof be re-enacted.  Even the generally great Richard Heinberg is buying into this pathetically misplaced effort.

Underlying this silliness is the widely-repeated fiction that Jimmy Carter was somehow serious about altering the energy use of the United States.

In reality, Jimmy Carter has never understood the nature of the system he once babysat, and certainly never came within a country mile of trying to alter it.

Yes, his April 1977 “Address to the Nation on Energy” did contain a handful of honest observations about Peak Oil.  But Carter’s proposed responses were entirely inadequate and unserious.  Cars-first transportation, in Carter’s view, was just fine, so long as people reduced (by unspecified methods and degrees) the size of their vehicles.  And “economic growth must continue” was a “fundamental principle.”  In other words, Carter, as people knew at the time, was a pitiful and unpersuasive self-canceler.  His core argument was:  We face a dire crisis, and we must continue doing the things that are causing it. Talk about a loser!

Carter was equally deluded about energy itself.  In his self-pitying, proto-Reaganite, even more illogical July 1979 “Crisis of Confidence” speech, he asserted that “the solution of our energy crisis” was lying in the ground right here at home.  “We have the natural resources. We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world’s highest level of technology.”  So, one wonders why all those untapped Saudi Arabias had remained and still remain untapped.  The answer, of course, is that they absolutely did not and do not exist, at least not in any EROEI-positive sense, despite Carter’s tortured bullshit claims.

The truth is that Jimmy Carter was a true Democrat — a prevaricating poser with low self-awareness, whose first, second, and last commitments were to preserving the existing order of things, at whatever cost required.

It’s time for us greens to stop being tricked by Carters and Obamas and start building a serious movement for eco-social reconstruction.  The time for mere gestures is long gone.

And, by the way, green gesturers, roughly how much does it cost to “solarize” one’s house?  Last time I checked, even a small attempt would run somewhere in the ballpark of a whole year’s U.S. median income.  What percentage of the population is presently in any position a) to access, and b) to spend that kind of jack?

Every Bit as Bad as Bush

spill cartoon Obama is just a complete wipe-out, a true sock puppet distracting his duped followers from the corporate capitalist death-trade he represents and believes in.

The latest proof is an email he’s apparently sent to his entranced minions, on this, the eve of what is sure to be a solemn statement of Oval Office timidity.

In this email, Obummer says this:

“The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a new future. That means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything — from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks — more energy-efficient.”

In other words:  Join me in fighting our cancer, by reshaping our tumor!

And there’s also this:

“Many businesses support this agenda because shifting to clean energy creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. This is how we will reinvent our economy — and create new companies and new jobs all across the country.”

What exactly are “clean energy” and “this program” to which we merely need to “shift”?  Nobody, including Mr. Obummer himself, has a clue, because neither exists.

Most likely, what Obama is suggesting is more subsidies for negative EROEI ethanol production and tax breaks for the electric cars that the overclass is planning to use as a distraction.  Neither of these things is remotely serious as a potential solution to the ridiculous level of energy waste that cars-first transportation, on behalf of our investing class, imposes on us.  And any fool who suggests otherwise is literally dumping more petroleum onto a raging inferno.

All the while, according to Obama, “entrepreneurship” is the answer rather than the force that brought us exactly to this deregulated, profits-über-alles point.

Suicidal ideology you can believe in…

Here Come the Poses

money justice The other day, I said that the Deepwater Horizon blowout would lead to six months of scapegoating and posturing about “our concern,” then yield to a renewal of deep-water oil drilling.

Yesterday, President No-Change passively admitted the same:

We owe all those who’ve been harmed, as well as future generations, a full and vigorous accounting of the events that led to what has now become the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Only then can we be assured that deepwater drilling can take place safely. Only then can we accept further development of these resources as we transition to a clean energy economy.

Clearly, the verdict has already been reached, before the monkey trial even starts.  “Let us collect the testimony, then find ourselves assured of the necessity of what’s going to be done, regardless of the facts.”

This is called softening up the rubes, in the game of corporate-sponsored politics.

As always, it is going to take a major social movement to stop this heedless overclass of ours. Like their predecessors, they have lost all capacity for self-reform.  Obama is 100 percent part of the problem.

More Addict-Talk

Obummer’s first National Security Strategy is out.  Turds aplenty, including this one:

The United States has a window of opportunity to lead in the development of clean energy technology. If successful, the United States will lead in this new Industrial Revolution in clean energy that will be a major contributor to our economic prosperity. If we do not develop the policies that encourage the
private sector to seize the opportunity, the United States will fall behind and increasingly become an
importer of these new energy technologies.

We have already made the largest investment in clean energy in history, but there is much more to do to build on this foundation. We must continue to transform our energy economy, leveraging private capital to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies that will cut greenhouse gas emissions,
improve energy efficiency, increase use of renewable and nuclear power, reduce the dependence of
vehicles on oil, and diversify energy sources and suppliers. We will invest in research and next-generation
technology, modernize the way we distribute electricity, and encourage the usage of transitional fuels,
while moving towards clean energy produced at home.

Someday, they’ll invent a magic pill that will cure our dependence. Until then, we promise we’ll keep waiting for that pill, while doing what we do. What pill will it be? From what will it be made? Well, whatever it is, it’ll be just great, we’re sure.

What’s this even doing in a document about military posture, you might ask? Well, of course, until that pill comes out, we may have to break into a few more houses…

This Guy is Smart?

By now, it’s been abundantly revealed why our current president admires Ronald Reagan: affection for fairy tales.

To wit, this amazing piece of Reaganesque wishfulness in President Obama’s 2010 Earth Day speech:

obama fairy tale

Think about it: roughly a century and a half ago, in the late 1850s, the Seneca Oil Company hired an unemployed train conductor named Edwin Drake to investigate the oil springs of Titusville, Pennsylvania. Around this time, oil was literally bubbling up from the ground — but nobody knew what to do with it. It had limited economic value and often all it did was ruin crops or pollute drinking water.

Now, people were starting to refine oil for use as a fuel. Collecting oil remained time consuming, though, and it was back-breaking, and it was costly; it wasn’t efficient, as workers harvested what they could find in the shallow ground — they’d literally scoop it up. But Edwin Drake had a plan. He purchased a steam engine, and he built a derrick, and he began to drill.

And months passed. And progress was slow. The team managed to drill into the bedrock just a few feet each day. And crowds gathered and they mocked Mr. Drake. They thought him and the other diggers were foolish. The well that they were digging even earned the nickname, “Drake’s Folly.” But Drake wouldn’t give up. And he had an advantage: total desperation. It had to work. And then one day, it finally did.

One morning, the team returned to the creek to see crude oil rising up from beneath the surface. And soon, Drake’s well was producing what was then an astonishing amount of oil — perhaps 10, 20 barrels every day. And then speculators followed and they built similar rigs as far as the eye could see. In the next decade, the area would produce tens of millions of barrels of oil. And as the industry grew, so did the ingenuity of those who sought to profit from it, as competitors developed new techniques to drill and transport oil to drive down costs and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Now, our history is filled with such stories — stories of daring talent, of dedication to an idea even when the odds are great, of the unshakeable belief that in America, all things are possible.

The childishness and/or dishonesty in this story is, as the kids say, epic.

Petroleum is petroleum. As James Howard Kunstler explains this elementary point:

Oil is an amazing substance. It stores a tremendous amount of energy per weight and volume. It is easy to transport. It stores easily at regular temperature in unpressurized metal tanks, and it can sit there indefinitely without degrading. You can pump it through a pipe, you can send it all over the world in ships, you can haul it around in trains, cars, and trucks. You can even fly it in tanker planes and refuel other airplanes in flight. It is flammable but has proven to be safe to handle with a modest amount of care….It can be refined by straightforward distillation into many grades of fuel…and innumerable useful products….It has been cheap and plentiful.

Petroleum exists in the Earth’s crust in finite amounts. Thanks largely to overclass-imposed cars-first transportation policies, half of the planet’s supply is now, a mere 150 years after Titusville, gone, having been churned and burned into energy, heat, plastics, chemicals, and various forms of pollution.

But, instead of telling the truth about our energy situation and attacking the root of the problem, the supposedly smart change-agent-in-chief would have us believe that desperation (a mighty interesting analogy/admission, no?) and American-ness are somehow going to work their magic and not just rescue the present order, but bring it a new dawn.

If this weren’t a grave threat to my child and yours, I’d laugh and say “Good luck with that.” As it is, though, Obama and the Democratic Party are huge obstacles to sanity and survival and the major social and technological changes on which they depend.

Biofuels as Propaganda

A year ago, Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson granted Business Week magazine an interview.  The BW reporter asked him about alternative fuels:

Tillerson told reporters in January that Exxon isn’t investing in existing alternative energy technology because “we think these technologies are old. If there is going to be a fundamental shift” away from fossil fuels, the technology “hasn’t been discovered.”

Tillerson allows that a shift from fossil fuels is coming, but not for decades. Exxon forecasts that oil and gas will continue to supply 60% of the world’s energy needs through 2030, and that a “game-changing” shift to alternatives will begin only after 2050.

Fancy, then, the “algae-based biofuels” television ad being run by Exxon-Mobil at present.

Rather a huge gap between what Exxon tells the business press and what it would have the general public believe, no?

This is more stark evidence that so-called “alternative fuels” are an intentional distraction, rather than a real answer.  To corporate planners in the auto-industrial complex, biodiesel and its cousins are not, as Exxon-Mobil would have us rubes believe it believes, a serious path to a better future.  They are merely a diversionary marketing trick promulgated to buy the overclass the chance to finish extracting as much wealth as possible from cars-first transportation, before it implodes. After that, the deluge, as always.

Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that the press plays its mis-reporting role in all this with fine and true fidelity.  Googling “Exxon algae” produces scores of headlines trumpeting Exxon-Mobil’s “major” investment of $600 million in algae biofuel research last year.  A real journalist would ask:  Was that investment serious, or merely a marketing device, a PR-supporting gimmick?

One simple way to answer that question would be to compare the scale of the ballyhooed algae “investment” against Exxon-Mobil’s basic finances.

Anybody doing so would see that $600 million is 1.3 percent of Exxon-Mobil’s 2008 book profits, or, more coservatively, a whopping 3.1 percent of its 2009 profits.

This is major investment?  Not quite.

By the way, it would also be hard to find a 30-second advertisement that packs in a higher quantum of brazen lies than this algae ad.  Take a look.  It’s quite Orwellian.

“Algae are beautiful.”  Irrelevant, and calculatedly so.

“We could runs our cars.”  Nobody disputes that diesel can be made from algae, but the relevant question is could we conceivably run the nation’s or the world’s existing auto fleet on algae fuel?  No fucking way, as CEO Tillerson knows and admits to his corporate peers.

“Not competing with the food supply.”  Sheer, massive, in-your-face falsity.  To make any dent in fueling automobiles, algae farms would have to devour enormous tracts of arable land.  Nobody eats algae. It isn’t corn or even sugar cane.  But, nonetheless, serious algae farming would take land and lots of it.

“Help solve the greenhouse problem.”  Again, sheer, defiant, Big Brotherian prevarication.  Exxon knows all too well that it would take enormous amounts of fossil fuels to build and run an algae biofuel farming and distilling infrastructure.   In fact, given biofuels’ terrible existing and potential EROEI rates, it is virtually certain that far more fossil fuels would be used in running cars on algae-derived diesel than would, in the absence of such a scheme, get burned by automobiles under existing arrangements.  All of which explains why Tillerson and Exxon do not, in fact, take algae or any other “alternative fuel” seriously, except as devices of salesmanship.

Portland Bike Plan

I live in Portland, Oregon, which receives tons of praise for being the “Amsterdam of the United States,” meaning the best place to ride a bicycle for actual transportation.

This shows how pathetic our expectations are in this society, since Portland, Oregon, USA is a damned dangerous and unfriendly place for cyclists.  It is 99 percent given over to automobiles-über-alles.  This contrasts with the 99.8 percent rate for the rest of the nation.

birally Last week, however, the real and growing anti-car, pro-bicycle grassroots movement here succeeded in pressing the Portland City Council to pass (though not to fully fund, of course) the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030.

If enacted, this plan would divert $600 million of the city’s future transit spending into construction of cycling infrastructure, with the stated goal of having 25 percent (i.e. one percentage point less than prevailed in Amsterdam circa 2001) of all Portland commuting done via bike by 2030.

The opponents of this plan?  The usual suspects: the Portland Business Alliance, and the local right-wing, corporation-pimping capitalist-libertarian flak tank, a.k.a., the Cascade Policy Institute.

Neither of these leading lights concedes the first iota of the idea that cars-first transportation is going to burn up the planet’s petroleum supply in the next few decades.  Citizens should remember this for future reference.

Meanwhile, the Portland Business Alliance continues its fine tradition of asking for things simply because it wants things, the planet, the city, and the people be damned:

We urge that investments made in pedestrian and bicycling modes will be considered in coordination with other modes with the intention of improving the overall operation of the transportation system, and we encourage added language making that clear.

WSJ Acknowledges Peak Oil

Write the date down.  Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal is running an op-ed saying the following, in a story titled “The Next Crisis: Prepare for Peak Oil”:

But the work of the Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security shouldn’t be disparagingly dismissed. Its arguments are well founded and lead it to the conclusion that, while the global downturn may have delayed it by a couple of years, peak oil—the point at which global production reaches its maximum—is no more than five years away.

Corporate politicians and the corporate media have kept this colossal issue under tight wrap so far.