Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

What if Trump loses ?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

The election news is starting to suggest to me that Trump may well lose the election to Hillary. What would that mean?

Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person to get this close to the presidency since Aaron Burr.

he blamed Hamilton for besmirching him as a candidate, and, eager to defend his honor, challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton accepted, and the face-off took place on the morning of July 11, 1804; it ended when Burr shot Hamilton to death. Though the public cried murder, Burr was let off, and after laying low for a while, he was able to complete his vice-presidential term.

What then?

In 1807, Burr was brought to trial on charges of conspiracy and high misdemeanor, for leading a military charge against Spanish territory and for trying to separate territories from the United States. Chief Justice John Marshall acquitted Burr on the treason charge and eventually revoked his misdemeanor indictment, but the conspiracy scandal left Burr’s political career in ruins.

Final Years

Burr spent the four years following his trial traveling throughout Europe, attempting unsuccessfully to garner support for revolutionizing Mexico and freeing the Spanish colonies.

Burr was a traitor after having his ambitions thwarted.

We all know Hillary’s story. She was a student radical at Wellesley and her senior thesis was on Saul Alinsky.

The thesis was sympathetic to Alinsky’s critiques of government antipoverty programs, but criticized Alinsky’s methods as largely ineffective, all the while describing Alinsky’s personality as appealing.[4] The thesis sought to fit Alinsky into a line of American social activists, including Eugene V. Debs, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Walt Whitman. Written in formal academic language, the thesis concluded that “[Alinsky’s] power/conflict model is rendered inapplicable by existing social conflicts” and that Alinsky’s model had not expanded nationally due to “the anachronistic nature of small autonomous conflict.”

Her sympathies are clear. What will she be like as president if she wins?

We know she is dishonest by most definitions of the term.

She evaded the law on security when she accepted the position of Secretary of State. Her security detail at State, rebelled at her ignoring security rules, and her personal abusive style. The latter was well known from her time in the White House as First Lady.

During her interview, the agent said Clinton treated agents rudely and with contempt, and was so unpleasant that senior agents typically avoided being on her security detail.

“[Redacted] explained that CLINTON’s treatment of DS agents on her protective detail was so contemptuous that many of them sought reassignment or employment elsewhere,” the interview summary says. “Prior to CLINTON’s tenure, being an agent on the Secretary of State’s protective detail was seen as an honor and privilege reserved for senior agents. However, by the end of CLINTON’s tenure, it was staffed largely with new agents because it was difficult to find senior agents willing to work for her.”

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To Stop the Train.

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

I have been using the analogy of pulling the cord to stop the train when it is headed for the cliff, even if you don’t know what happens next. I see that Richard Fernandez has now adopted the analogy.

I don’t see Trump voters as doing anything noble or particularly courageous but it is a risk and many of us are willing to take it.

Fernandez uses the example of Torpedo Squadron 8 which was a factor in the success of the US Navy in the Battle of Midway. John Waldron did not sacrifice his men and his own life voluntarily but he had a mission and he carried it out in spite of everything that stood in his way. The fighters of Fighting 8 that were supposed to provide cover got lost in the confusion. According to Alvin Kernan’s book “The Unknown Battle of Midway: The Destruction of the American Torpedo Squadrons ,” other pilots nearly attacked the leader of Fighting 8 after the battle.

Fernandez uses the sacrifice of Waldron and Torpedo 8 as a metaphor for the 2016 election while remembering the crucial battle fought 74 years ago today.

While the path leading to the present is disputed, no one appears to deny America has now arrived in a critical place whose abnormality is most evident in a contest between two presidential candidates neither of whom is widely supported by their nominating parties. None of the two candidates is actually expected to solve the multiple foreign policy and domestic crises currently besetting the country. In fact one candidate may have helped cause many of the current problems while the other’s main attraction is that he may function as a demolition charge which will clear out the roadblocks that have paralyzed America.

If political columnist Ron Fournier is right about this election cycle, it is less about achieving incremental policy change than precipitating a radical institutional change. In that case the current unpopularity contest can be seen as an deliberate process to increase instability by hoping the worst man wins, not in order to continue the status quo but to tear things down and start afresh.

I think it is more important to stop the trends initiated by Obama and the increasingly radical Democrats than to attempt any serious foreign policy initiative.

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What happened to Venezuela?

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

venzuela

Venezuela is in the news as the country cannot even buy paper to print money.

This all goes back to 1998 when Chavez was elected by the people.

He was an army officer and had previously attempted to overthrow the government, a coup that failed.

in the early 1980s. Chávez led the MBR-200 in an unsuccessful coup d’état against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, for which he was imprisoned. Released from prison after two years, he founded a political party known as the Fifth Republic Movement and was elected president of Venezuela in 1998.

Venezuela is an example of The Curse of Natural Resources.

The idea that resources might be more of an economic curse than a blessing began to emerge in debates in the 1950s and 1960s about the economic problems of low and middle-income countries.[3] The term resource curse was first used by Richard Auty in 1993 to describe how countries rich in mineral resources were unable to use that wealth to boost their economies and how, counter-intuitively, these countries had lower economic growth than countries without an abundance of natural resources. An influential study by Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner found a strong correlation between natural resource abundance and poor economic growth.

Venezuela is only the latest and worst example. The history is depressingly familiar.

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The Energy Crisis in Africa.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

india-solar-power-2012-640x426

This is a powerful piece on the cost of environmental extremism to the world’s poor.

The soaring [food] prices were actually exacerbated (as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN confirmed) by the diversion of much of the world’s farmland into making motor fuel, in the form of ethanol and biodiesel, for the rich to salve their green consciences. Climate policies were probably a greater contributor to the Arab Spring than climate change itself.

The use of ethanol in motor fuels is an irrational response to “green propaganda. The energy density of biofuel, as ethanol additives are called, is low resulting in the use of more and more ethanol and less and less arable land for food.

Without abundant fuel and power, prosperity is impossible: workers cannot amplify their productivity, doctors cannot preserve vaccines, students cannot learn after dark, goods cannot get to market. Nearly 700 million Africans rely mainly on wood or dung to cook and heat with, and 600 million have no access to electric light. Britain with 60 million people has nearly as much electricity-generating capacity as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa, with 800 million.

South Africa is quickly destroying its electricity potential with idiotic racist policies.

Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion. Yet the greens want Africans to hold back on the cheapest form of power: fossil fuels. In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.

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Is Iran entering a Vietnam-style Quagmire ?

Monday, April 27th, 2015

I have previously expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia was in a fight for its life.

The question is whether the Saudis will fall to their own Shiite population and whether the capture of Aden will allow Iran to block Saudi oil shipments.

“Once hailed by President Barack Obama as a model for fighting extremism, the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Yemen has all but collapsed as the country descends into chaos, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.”

Now, the Saudis take this war very seriously.

As for Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is waging the first war in its history. Yet with its small, weak and inexperienced army, it cannot commit ground troops to fight both the Shiite Houthis or the Sunni Jihadists, and is relying mainly on its air power that has, thus far, caused the death of many innocent civilians.

It also is blockading ports to prevent Iranian resupply of Yemeni clients.

The Saudi-led coalition that’s fighting against Shiite rebels in Yemen said it completed a blockade of the country’s ports and is ready to step up airstrikes.
Bombing missions are seeking to stop the Shiite Houthis from moving forces between Yemen’s cities, Ahmed Asseri, a Saudi military officer, told reporters in Riyadh on Monday. Coalition aircraft and warships targeted the rebels as they advanced toward Aden, the southern port that’s the last stronghold of Saudi Arabia’s ally in Yemen, President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi. Shipping routes to and from the ports are under the coalition’s control, Asseri said.

The Egyptians are planning to help in Yemen. Even though Nasser’s campaign in Yeman was a disaster, that was in 1962 and run by Nasser, an incompetent.

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Drill, Baby, Drill.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

yemen-anti-houthi_3242589b

It looks like the battle for Saudi Arabia has begun and, if it follows the pattern of other Obama wars, it will be soon lost, or so Richard Fernandez believes.

Even the New York Times sees it.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea Wednesday as Shiite rebels and their allies moved on his last refuge in the south, captured its airport and put a bounty on his head, officials said.

The departure of the close U.S. ally and the imminent fall of the southern port of Aden pushed Yemen further toward a violent collapse. It also threatened to turn the impoverished but strategic country into another proxy battle between the Middle East’s Sunni powers and Shiite-led Iran.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.

The stakes are very high for Europe, especially.

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Entropy takes over.

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Another excellent post from The Belmont Club, Which I read every day.

The barbarians of ISIS destroy ancient artifacts, in an outrage like those committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s rejection this month of international appeals to halt the destruction of much of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic heritage — their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar termed them idols — indicates that those most determined to impose their vision of a perfect Islamic state are firmly in control.

That article was from the period before the US invasion. Many artifacts were repaired but that will stop and the destruction will resume after we leave.

The Mosul destruction is to be expected everywhere the Takfiri tide rises enough to control an entity.

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China and Russia

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

The future is unrolling before our eyes as idiots parade around in the US not knowing what they are doing.

I am always amazed at how prescient Tom Clancy was.

Richard Fernandez has a post about China and Russia’s resources in Siberia. That was the plot of the Tom Clancy novel, “The Bear and the Dragon.” In it he predicted a war between China and Russia for the riches of what he described as “The Northern Resource Area.”

The battle of Khalkhin ended Japan’s plan for ” Hokushin-ron”

800px-Hokushin-ron-Map

Clancy’s concept was that China would some day adopt this strategy and it seems to be coming to pass. The Soviet Union, prior to the German invasion of 1941, was strong enough to repel Japan, which concluded a nonaggression treaty, this freeing their rear for Pearl Harbor. Now, Putin’s Russia may not be strong enough to repel China. David Goldman sees the Chinese strategy in a time of US weakness and fecklessness.

Everything in tragedy happens for a reason, and the result always is sad; most things in comedy happen by accident and the outcome typically is happy. Sino-American relations are not destined for conflict, although that is possible. The misunderstandings that bedevil relations between the world’s two most powerful countries remain comedic rather than tragic. That probably is as good as it gets, for no amount of explanation will enable Chinese and Americans to make sense of each other.

Where the Chinese are defensive and cautious, the Americans tend to perceive them as aggressive; where the Chinese are expansive ambitious, the Americans ignore them altogether. The United States is a Pacific power accustomed to maritime dominance.

Under Obama, few can understand US foreign policy, least of all him.

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The Iran Nuclear Program

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

The deadline for the US-Iran nuclear talks is coming soon. Next week, in fact.

The negotiations so far have been an exercise in duplicity. I thought they might have a bomb purchased from North Korea in 2013 but that may not be true.

the RAND Corporation reports that the third North Korean nuclear test appears to many experts to be fundamentally different from its previous two efforts. North Korea’s first tests used plutonium to trigger the nuclear explosion. This one, according to some atmospheric tests, likely used highly enriched uranium, exactly the form of nuclear weapon pursued by Iran.

We have heard no more about this.

What next ? Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht have some thoughts about this. Gerecht is a former CIA agent who is fluent in Farsi and who has been studying Iran since the revolution in 1979. I read his book Know Thine Enemy, written under a pseudonym, a few years ago.

If the White House doesn’t end November with a cascade of concessions leading to a deal, there are four paths forward. None is appealing. Two might be effective—but the president is unlikely to choose either one.

They provide four options.

One-The White House could give up on diplomacy and pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear sites.

There is no chance that Obama would do this. Would Israel ? Maybe but only if the urgency seems critical.

Two. The administration could give up on the current talks and default back to sanctions, but again trying to undercut their seriousness, as the president attempted to do in 2011 and 2012.

Congress may have a say here, especially the new Congress.

Congress imposed the most economically painful measures—targeting Iran’s oil exports, central bank and access to the Swift interbank system—over his objections. The president has always hoped that “rationality” would take hold in Tehran, that the regime would see the economic benefits that come with good behavior. The Islamic Republic has enjoyed an economic reprieve, thanks to Mr. Obama’s decision last year to de-escalate sanctions pressure by blocking new congressional action and giving billions of dollars in direct sanctions relief as part of the interim deal.

This is the Obama we saw in 2009 when the Iranians tried to revolt.

Any hope they might have had in the Obama White House was quickly dismissed in the administration’s two statements on the matter. The first came from the president himself, anticipating a Mousavi victory (it is too soon to speculate on the source of this happy thought), and of course, in his narcissistic way, taking personal credit for it.

What else ? Three. New, even more biting sanctions could be enacted, causing Tehran considerable pain. Current energy markets, with a declining price for crude, offer ample room for Congress to threaten sanctions against any country’s central bank involved in buying Iran’s oil exports, or in giving Tehran access to oil revenues now being held overseas and available only for trade with Iran’s five main oil buyers—China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey.

The new Congress might be willing to do this. Will Obama ?

The wiser bet is that sanctions—though important in restoring the U.S.’s negotiating leverage—will fail without other forms of coercion. And Ayatollah Khamenei, if he isn’t otherwise deterred, may well respond to new, economy-crushing sanctions by accelerating the nuclear program, presenting Mr. Obama with the choice he most dreads: launch militarily strikes or accept Iran as a nuclear state.

It seems obvious to me that he is willing to accept their bomb and then allege that “Containment” would suffice. Would anything work ?

The White House could try to reinforce new sanctions with the credible show of military force to intimidate the Iranian regime. President Hasan Rouhani has rather pleadingly confessed in speeches and in his memoirs that the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 scared the clerical regime and led him to advocate, as Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003-05, a tactical pause in the regime’s nuclear aspirations.
To achieve a more lasting impression now would require a significant military operation. Only one target would serve that purpose: Bashar Assad. Syria is Iran’s most helpful ally among Arab states. Taking Mr. Assad down would let Tehran know that America’s withdrawal from the Middle East and President Obama’s dreams of an entente with Iran are over.

I don’t see Obama doing this. Could Congress ?

Taking out Mr. Assad is unavoidable if Washington is serious about stopping the radicalization of Syria’s Sunni population and getting their help in defeating the radical Islamic State, also known as ISIS. And such an about-face by Washington would be shocking—perhaps paralyzing—in Tehran. Yet it is hard to imagine Mr. Obama taking such action.

Which means that Washington and its European allies will most likely angle for another extension of the talks. Ayatollah Khamenei may accept. The Iranian economy, despite the oil-price drop, has been noticeably improving since the interim deal was concluded in January—and the continuation of the talks poses no threat to further nuclear progress.

The Iranian bomb is probably inevitable, which will pose a severe challenge for Netanyahu, who seems the only adult in the room.

Putin, Crimea and Ukraine

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

UPDATE: Michael Totten has an update on Crimea.

The new ruler is a former gangster whose street name was “Goblin.”

Lawmakers were summoned, stripped of their cellphones as they entered the chamber. The Crimean media was banished. Then, behind closed doors, Crimea’s government was dismissed and a new one formed, with Sergey Akysonov, head of the Russian Unity party, installed as Crimea’s new premier.

It if was a crime, it was just the beginning. Akysonov’s ascent to power at the point of a gun presaged all that has happened since — the announcement of a referendum on Crimean independence and the slow, methodical fanning out of Russian forces throughout the peninsula, ostensibly to protect Russians here from a threat no one can seem to find.

But here’s the most interesting bit: Aksyonov’s sudden rise as Moscow’s crucial point man in Crimea has revived simmering allegations of an underworld past going back to the lawless 1990s, when Akysonov is said to have gone by the street name “Goblin,” a lieutenant in the Crimean crime syndicate Salem.

Putin is dealing from a weak hand but Germany was near bankruptcy when Hitler invaded Poland. Holman Jenkins at WSJ, has a nice summary of where we are.

Vladimir Putin probably would not have spent 90 minutes on the phone with President Obama on Saturday if he intended to make a grab for eastern Ukraine. He would not have jawed twice on Friday and Sunday on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who subsequently doubted his grip on reality.

He is not going to try to annex the eastern Ukraine where Russian speakers are alleged to be crying for rescue from The Ukraine.

He is even using fake videos like the Palestinians have done before to make his argument. The Russian speakers are not buying.

The Russian speakers are only about 17% of the whole Ukraine population.

350px-Russians_Ukraine_2001

They are concentrated in the eastern portions which are also the poorest and least productive. Ukraine could do without them except for the precedent set.

Western leaders are a risk-averse, short-term-minded lot, but if their decisions are dictated by a conviction of Mr. Putin’s iron grip on Russia, they make a mistake. Many sanguine voices, in fact, already note how the U.S. shale revolution has weakened Mr. Putin’s hand. If Western leaders were so inclined, they might surprise themselves at how vulnerable Mr. Putin’s petro-dependency makes him.

Ukraine has signed contracts with western oil firms to explore what seems to be a large area of oil shale. This is a big threat to Russia’s sole export and prop of its declining economy.

Withdraw Europe’s support for pipelines Mr. Putin wants to build. These, by way of the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, aim to reduce Ukraine’s leverage as transit path for gas exports that generate much of his regime’s income. Mr. Putin might like to shut off the gas but he can’t. He needs the money.

Get moving on the pending U.S. trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade partnerships, which grant member countries automatic approval of U.S. liquefied gas exports. The mere prospect of U.S. exports has already eroded Russia’s pricing power.

Let Exxon and other Western oil firms queuing up to explore Siberia and Russia’s Arctic know their efforts are not currently appreciated. A single caustic hearing on Capitol Hill should do it.

They could do as well in Ukraine.

Ukraine, with its control of strategic pipelines, moving toward energy independence and even energy competition with Russia (it recently signed shale deals with Shell and Chevron ) was not acceptable.

Most of all, “Putin lost Ukraine” would have been a powerful meme in the hands of his enemies, who are numerous and don’t actually care about Ukraine.

The West followed down his path, which bears passing resemblance to the petro-regime of Saddam Hussein, because Russia has nuclear weapons and Mr. Putin seemed preferable to chaos. The West may eventually get chaos anyway. Secretary of State John Kerry managed to put his finger on a truth. Mr. Putin knows no more about the true sources of 21st-century wealth and power than a swordfish knows about macramé. No, the Cold War is not returning. Russia does not have the heft to sustain a Cold War even against placid Europeans or a strategically listless President Obama. His current Western enablers just hope Mr. Putin self-destructs on somebody else’s watch.

The Russian speakers in east Ukraine are not convinced this is the right course.

But in Monday’s survey, 82% of his party’s loyalists rejected any such generosity. Even the adherents of the Communist Party, who tend to feel entitled to all of Russia’s former Soviet domains, said with a broad majority — 62% — that Russia should not jump into Ukraine’s internal crisis.

Putin’s captive media in Russia can convince Russians in Russia that the west was behind the coup in Ukraine.

Moreover, 45% blamed western influence for bringing people on to the streets of Kiev, where the “Euromaidan” protests that were originally in favour of further European integration later turned into a general condemnation of the corrupt regime.

The results are still in doubt.