Posted on | June 12, 2013 | 2 Comments
A look back to 2006 reveals a story in the USA Today that sounds a lot like the whistle blown by Edward Snowden. In fact, the massive, technologically-driven surveillance state got its biggest push over a decade ago under the inauspicious midwifery of Iran-Contra superstar Vice Admiral John Poindexter.
After 9/11 changed everything—including the Constitution—Poindexter slid into a cozy chair at the laboratory of shadow democracy called DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and quickly started experimenting with the market opportunity created by the PATRIOT Act. His work gave birth to the Total Information Awareness program.
The TIA was exactly what it sounded like—an omnipresent database containing as much information as it could possibly collect. In addition to gathering and storing all emails, text messages, credit card activity, traffic tickets, court records, social network traffic and medical records, it also included a biometric gizmo called “HumanID” that could analyze facial features, body movements, gait and other biological traits and determine the identity of a distant human target.
That was just one of many dystopian daydreams being pursued by Poindexter and his Military-Industrial contractor buddies at Hicks & Associates—a Northern Virginia “consulting firm” populated with defense insiders. Hicks & Associates was also a wholly-owned adjunct of big-time government contractor SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation).
However, the unbearable “totalness” of Poindexter’s Frankendata program did not sit well with members of Congress. Just a couple years after 9/11, Congress actually voted to defund the TIA.
But mere democracy could not stop it.
As Shane Harris of the National Journal reported in 2006, the TIA “lived on” like a B-movie monster. After Congress officially pulled the plug, key components of the TIA program were simply parceled out to other agencies. Cloaked in code-worded black budget secrecy, the money kept flowing into programs like Topsail (a cute re-naming of the TIA’s Genoa II program) and into the main TIA program, which was re-named “Basketball.”
Both Topsail and Basketball were quickly passed on to a little-known agency called ARDA (Advanced Research and Development Activity), which took control of the “research” and reengaged SAIC in a remunerative “public-private partnership” to further develop a program that (it’s worth noting again) had been officially ended by an act of Congress.
They just couldn’t keep up with an “intelligence community” they’d helped to unleash over the course of two dark days in October of 2001 when they passed the ironically and perhaps tragically-named PATRIOT Act.
With the Fourth Amendment irrevocably exiled to the Island of Quaint Notions—along with the Geneva Conventions—there was little they could do to stop the national security behemoth standing astride both sides of the Potomac River.
Even if they’d wanted to pursue TIA (aka Basketball) as it moved from DARPA to ARDA, intelligence busybodies made a renewed effort to obscure an agency that, according to an AP story, wasn’t even “listed in the U.S. Government Manual, the 684-page official compilation of federal departments, agencies and offices.”
But it did have a website.
So, in the interest of not-quite-full disclosure, ARDA’s website was taken down in 2005 and the agency rechristened the DTO (Disruptive Technology Office). Like its predecessors, the DTO was located at Fort Meade, Maryland on the site of…wait for it…the NSA.
Despite the shell games, speculation persisted that the TIA-Basketball-ARDA programs continued under the auspices of the DTO. So, in 2007 the DTO was folded into yet another acronymic agency—IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity).
When IARPA was founded, the former head of the DTO—Dr. Michael Macedonia—left to join the newly-created “National Security Division” of Forterra Systems, the self-described “market and technology leader in private virtual worlds.”
Forterra’s advisory board includes a former Air Force colonel named Jack Thorpe who, according to Businessweek, “…served as Program Manager and Office Director at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for 12 years.”
Isn’t that a happy coincidence?
Also not coincidentally, OLIVE is now the foundation of SAIC’s “Virtual Government” techno-product—“vGov.” According to a Tech News Daily blurb in 2010, vGov is a “virtual world that will function much like a secure ‘Second Life’ for government agencies.”
SAIC developed vGov in concert with the USDA, Department of Homeland Security, Air Force and National Defense University, and they anticipate a plethora of national security applications.
So, SAIC participated in the genesis of the TIA through its Hicks & Associates consultancy. It popped up throughout the shell games leading up to the folding of the DTO into IARPA. And it followed up on Dr. Macedonia’s shift over to Forterra by buying it up so they could get into the business of selling “Virtual Government” back to the US taxpayer.
They’ve already scored a profitable-sounding “indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity” contract to provide “Virtual Government” to the USDA—and there is little doubt that vGov is being sold back to the intelligence community. Unfortunately, you probably need an avatar with a security clearance to find out exactly what is going on inside the “Virtual Government.”
And this really is the point of the NSA spying story—how the merger of corporations with government agencies has turned the US government into an actual “virtual government” populated with public-private avatars operating in a Second Life-style world all their own.
Insiders like John Poindexter, Jack Thorpe and Dr. Macedonia pass effortlessly between public and private, capitalizing on the ultimate captive market—the fearful taxpayer. And national security is, and has been since the end of World War II, one of the greatest sales pitches ever devised.
While the American taxpayer is fed a diet of shock and awe and fear and loathing, the people living in the recession-proof world of public-private partnerships work tirelessly to protect their job security under the guise of super-secret national security.
They live in an “indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity” America built on a virtual government of industrial complexes—the Military-Industrial Complex, the Prison-Industrial Complex, the Political-Industrial Complex, the Healthcare-Industrial Complex and—as we now see thanks to Edward Snowden—the Security-Industrial Complex.
So, the Wall Street Journal headline that reads “U.S. Relies on Spies for Hire to Sift Deluge of Intelligence” may have it backwards. The banal truth is more likely that “Spies for Hire Rely on the Deluge of Intelligence Collected by the U.S. to Have Something to Sift Through.”
And, therefore, they’ve got a reason to keep sending taxpayers the bill.Tweet
Posted on | June 3, 2013 | 22 Comments
And you’re gonna need food. A lot of food.
That’s where Jim Bakker comes in.
Yes, that Jim Bakker—as in Jim and Tammy Faye and “The PTL Club” television empire.
Yes, the selfsame Jim Bakker who, at the time of his epic fall from grace, seemed to embody all those deeply Christian and quintessentially American values broadcast globally by that fascinating genus of human being we call “the televangelist.”
Their holy trinity—a tax-free entrepreneurial spirit, a convenient confusion of “praying on” with “preying upon” and a devout belief that devout belief is a God-given market opportunity—keeps them rolling in clover until they inevitably get caught rolling in the hay.
But, as self-described “sinners” perpetually washed in the blood of a radical, 2000 year-old rabbi, they’ve always got the ultimate get-out-of-moral-peril-for-free card tucked up their finely-tailored sleeves. For the upwardly mobile Evangelical, forgiveness is always at hand.
So, emulating the classic Christian motif, Jim has done his time and he’s risen again to take to the airwaves. Now re-married to another bubbly-blonde co-host, he’s once-again spreading the word of God.
Well, he’s willing to spread the word of God, if you are willing to spread his “favorite” soy-nut butter.
That’s just one of the hard bargains Jim’s driving in his new incarnation as survivalist food pitchman. In fact, Jim’s got a whole catalog of foodstuffs that he is willing to “give” you as a “thank you” in return for your “love gift” to his “ministry.”
Forget those bland, chintzy wafers the Catholics are handing out. The menu for your “gift” of “love” can be quite tasty. And remunerative.
Jesus turned water into wine for free, but Jim is turning it into carrot juice for $35.00.
Forget loaves and fishes. How about chips and salsa? It only “costs” $65.00 to feed the multitudes (at your next Super Bowl party).
Now, this proposition may seem decidedly outside the generally-accepted practice of “religion” and, more directly, in violation of the highly profitable tax exemption afforded to various practitioners of the “spiritual arts” here in the good ol’ US of A. But fret not, oh ye of little faith—there is a “religious” connection to this de facto supermarket Jim’s running via a website and daily television show. You see, all this food is meant to prepare you for the days of woe foretold in the Book of Revelation.
This is not a simple matter of exchanging your “love” for “thank you” gifts.
No, Jim’s food is designed to prepare you for the End of the World as we know it. But you and your family will feel fine. Or, at the very least, you will face the coming of the Antichrist on a full stomach.
And what better way to prepare for the impending “Time of Trouble” than with buckets of food?
Seriously. Actual buckets of food.
Buckets that don’t have his name on ’em.
Why? Jim says the absence of his name will protect you from the derision and hatred that would most assuredly come if your neighbors saw “Jim Bakker” emblazoned all over the survivalist larder you’re assembling in your basement.
Now, that’s some truth on non-advertising.
Imagine the ridicule—particularly if you tell friends and neighbors that you gave Jim $1,000.00 of your hard-earned “love” for ten buckets of dehydrated black bean burger.
In fact, you can spend up to $3,000 (donation + shipping) on a massive “Time of Trouble” kit that will keep for years and, when the holy water hits the fan, will provide you and yours 7,675 servings of dehydrated food to see you through to the triumphant return of the Lord as he finally invites his faithful flock to join him on his elevator to eternity.
And the elevator is coming, my friends. The signs are manifold. The trick, according to Jim, is to know what it all means. On his blog, Jim writes: “One of the dangers of the End Times is hearing so much and understanding so little.”
Truer words have rarely been written.
So, rather than “understanding” all that science about extreme weather and climate change, Jim wants you to know that the tornadoes in Oklahoma and hurricanes like Katrina are the direct result of American policies toward Israel. In fact, the deadly tornado in Moore came shortly and suspiciously after President Obama appeared with Turkey’s Prime Minister and called for a two-state solution to the plight of the Palestinians.
The persecution of believers is another flashing sign of the Apocalypse. Enter the IRS. They targeted Franklin Graham. Even worse, the IRS went after “God’s People” by targeting pro-Israeli groups—and, says Jim, God doesn’t like it. Expect more climatologically-expressed displeasure from the Almighty.
These are “harbingers,” which also happens to be the title of a book written by Jim’s other favorite rabbi. In it, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn (pronounced “Con”) details the ways America is just like Israel of the Old Testament. Amping up Christian Zionism, Cahn’s perfect pitch deftly exploits many Protestants’ long-standing envy of God’s special preference for Jews as his Chosen People. According to Cahn, not only is Passover a suitable holiday for Christians, but “…if you are Born Again, you are a citizen of Israel.” Even better, says Cahn, if you are Born Again “…you are as Jewish as I am!”
Can’t you just see the mayo on the knishes?
If that’s not a sign of the Apocalypse, what is?
How about Bee Colony Collapse Disorder? Jim weighed in on dying bees, which he (of course) calls “Bee-mageddon.” Talking at length about the massive decline in bee populations, Jim never mentioned pesticides or the EU’s ban on neonicotinoids. Rather, this is all part of the coming lack of food foretold in Matthew 24:7.
Which offers a perfect segue into a pitch for his buckets of food. And it is a perfect diversion from the hard truths and scientific realities of the world as it is rather than how it was for ancient tribesmen living in a magical world of competing gods, supernatural events, severe misogyny and ritual sacrifice. In that ancient world, God sanctioned genocide (more than once), manipulated history, chose sides and appointed mere mortals as his proxies on earth.
Today, those self-appointed and self-aggrandizing proxies are the real harbingers of catastrophe. They keep too many Americans locked in the darkened, candlelit world of Creationism, clinging to anti-scientific tropes and hypnotized by a bizarre affixation of ruthless capitalism to God’s will. They are slow-motion suicide bombers armed with a self-fulfilling prophecy that divorces humanity from the despoiling of the planet and embraces the world’s end as a welcomed event.
Progress on climate, circumspection about two centuries of messianic imperialism and concern for the environmental consequences of human greed—these do not factor into the whiz-bang millenarianism of Christian fundamentalists. In fact, the worse it gets, the more evidence they see of God’s action-packed plan for a big finish to the whole of history.
And until that day comes, my friends, Jim Bakker will be collecting the profits of doom.Tweet
Posted on | May 20, 2013 | 3 Comments
Imagine the possibilities—to closely monitor your protection racket, to efficiently clip your enemies and to perpetually project your power throughout your family’s territory.
And it could all be done with push-button ease from the Bada Bing.
But you don’t have to wait for the J.J. Abrams Sci-Fi “re-boot” of the Sopranos franchise to see exactly how this all might unfold. That’s because it is happening right now, with America in the role of the Capo dei Capi and the globe-spanning American empire as the family business it runs with a cold and calculated efficiency.
Everyone is a potential target in the War on Terror’s lingering “With Us or Against Us” protection racket, and drones are the crooked-nosed enforcers that kill without remorse, without hesitation and without accountability—except to the inner sanctum of top bosses who operate according to their own secret code and compile their own secret hit lists.
Perhaps that’s why the President of Rwanda, when pressured by Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson to “put a bag” on a Congolese troublemaker in his “crew,” asked the global Godfather’s consigliore for a favor. According to an interview excerpted in The Guardian, President Paul Kagame said “…since you are used to sending drones and gunning people down, why don’t you send a drone and get rid of him and stop this nonsense? And he [Carson] just laughed. I told him: ‘I’m serious’.”
Of course he was serious. That’s the way imperialism works in the 21st Century.
If all this sounds a bit fanciful and outlandish, the fact is that Kagame’s plea is rooted in the very real practice of whacking a regime’s political enemies as a quid pro quo for use of airspace by US drones. Although the story was quickly lost to the monomaniacal coverage of the Boston Bombing, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf verified the terms of the US protection racket, which was agreed to during his time as the US-backed leader of his country.
Recast as a stool pigeon, Musharraf sang like a canary before his sudden arrest and ensuing tangle of legal woes essentially “put a bag on him” before Pakistan’s election.
But the questions he raised are more pertinent than ever, particularly as it relates to the ongoing war almost no one in America knows about—the war in Yemen.
According to a sidebar on a USA Today story about yet another “suspected” US drone strike killing four suspected militants in that repeatedly bombed country: “Drone attacks in Yemen have spiked since the new U.S.-backed president took power last year.”
So, what accounts for that spike?
Is it simply that the US finally found a crusader against “Terror” who is committed to ridding his country of evildoers?
Or, in light of Musharraf’s revelations, is the US simply eliminating the internal enemies of yet another crony Capo who cut a deal to keep him and his crew in power while the American protectorate over a strategically-located region remains firmly in place?
How can we ever really know that President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and the US are not using “Al Qaeda” as a convenient catch-all cover-story to hide something far more mundane than a War on Terror?
And what about all those other drone strikes over the last decade—in Afghanistan and Somalia?
Because the mainstream media is absent, supine or intimidated, those vital questions about exactly what a “militant” is or who these victims really are—from Pakistan to Yemen and beyond—is largely dependent upon information coming from the people with a vested interest in spinning the story into the best light possible.
How are we to know if this is truly a War on Terror, or just the same old imperial protection racket so blatantly and obviously a part of the way America has traditionally done business?
In truth, American Imperialism has always had a mafia-like quality to it. Massive interventions, permanent occupations and outright annexation have not been the preferred “M.O.” of the US around the world. Rather, the Godfathers of American Exceptionalism prefer protection rackets—picking out a local Capo to govern his territory while, in turn, giving US corporations “a taste” of “the action”—bananas, oil, minerals, construction contracts, market access, cheap labor—in the little dictator’s country.
If the dictator needs something—weapons, “special” enforcers, loan sharking, money laundering—they simply come to the boss and ask. In turn, the dictator —from Panama to the Philippines, from Egypt to Iran, and so many more—gets “protection” at home and abroad.
But the messier parts of that protection racket don’t really square up with America’s self-aggrandized view of itself and its mission. At least, not with the view that’s been sold in high school civics classes, in those glossy images of popularized American history or by the mainstream media’s factory of flag-waving fealty.
Now, the drone war is laundering all those illusions through yet another protection racket—the fear of radicalized terrorists whose only motivation is the mere existence of America. It protects the people and their leaders from the truth and consequences of global empire.
Americans can still choose to accept or reject these illusions about the benign or justified exercise of US power around the world. But for too many innocents on the front-line of this drone war, America is making them an offer they simply can’t refuse.Tweet
Posted on | May 16, 2013 | 13 Comments
But he’s not very reflective.
That’s because, quite ironically, he’s fallen into the War on Terror trap—the comfortable and comforting stereotype of angry Muslims as irrational ideologues armed with religious hair-triggers and little else.
Like so many of the so-called “Left” in America, Maher has basically accepted the key notion that a whole population of like-minded people have decided to kill Americans because of an irrational religious belief system.
Maher’s go-to example of the Muslim world’s “unique” religious insanity is the way Muslims seem to go ballistic whenever “The Prophet” is offended—in cartoons, bad movies or by American soldiers burning Korans.
It’s not that it hasn’t happened. It has. Muslim outrage over real or perceived sleights to The Prophet and Islam—which forbids graven imagery of God and, in some cases, Mohammed—is no laughing matter.
But isn’t it interesting that the supposedly “Liberal” Obama Administration is currently fending off scandal-hungry Republicans because they tried to pawn off a “terrorist” attack on a paramilitary target (the Benghazi “diplomatic facility” also housed a “CIA annex”) as little more than a predictably frenzied Muslim response to an offensive movie?
That’s where Maher picked it up on an episode of “Real Time” when the topic strayed from GOP efforts to hang Benghazi on the Democrats to Maher’s relentless drumbeat about the inherent nuttiness of Muslims. Bill even entertained the possibility that it is better to keep dictatorships in control of Muslims because, like the Arab Spring in Egypt, when you let them have some freedom, they naturally become a mob of theocratic loonies. In other words, their kooky religion means Muslim masses cannot be trusted to govern themselves.
Unfortunately for Maher, he had Glenn Greenwald—America’s leading voice of reason and roving moral conscience—sitting across the table from him. Not coincidentally, Greenwald lives in Brazil and writes for a British paper, but those aspects of his pseudo-exiled status haven’t stopped him from holding a sharply-focused mirror up to America’s darker side, or from reaching a growing audience of disillusioned Americans.
And when it came time to hold up a mirror to Maher’s jingoistic and oddly unreflective take on Egypt, Greenwald did not disappoint:
Maher’s dismissive take on the consequences of American imperialism is not only puzzling, but it is also a bit alarming. If this is the view of a high-profile “Liberal” regarding America’s ongoing assault on key Muslim countries and its proxy wars around the globe, the future of the “Left” looks pretty bleak.
Really, hasn’t that been the story of the Obama years thus far?
Like the Cold War before it, the Neo-Con’s War on Terror has been transformed by Obama into a normalized fact of American politics that both sides must heed, lest they forgo their status as “patriotic Americans.”
And Bill is nothing if not patriotic. The way we know he’s true-blue? He’s got the one thing necessary to be a real, post-9/11 “patriot” actor—a blind spot.
To accept the drone war and the black hole of Gitmo and a policy of extrajudicial assassinations and all those convenient tropes about Muslim “radicalization,” one must remain blind to the implicit and, more shockingly, to the explicit causes of Muslim furor against—and let’s be honest here—the highly militarized American empire dominating their lives.
That blind spot keeps the culpability out and the easy assumptions in. How else can one square their beloved American “values” with actual American actions that kill so many innocents—men, women and children—in far-off lands?
When Greenwald countered Maher’s arguments with obvious comparables of religious extremism—Lt. Gen. Boykin’s “Our god is bigger” rationale for destroying Iraq and radical Judaism’s role in extending a religiously-based homeland in the Occupied Territories—Bill’s bizarre response was to attack Greenwald’s “silly liberal view that all religions are alike because it makes you feel good.”
Really, Bill? Are you the same crusader for rationality who made “Religulous?”
Did you forget about George the Younger’s claim that his decisions, particularly about going to war, were answerable to a “higher father?”
Or the imposition of Evangelical teachings at the Air Force Academy?
Or the way “God” and “faith” are now litmus tests all politicians must pass if they have any chance of being elected?
How about the odd alliance between Christian Zionists and Israeli advocates of a greater Israel, both of which rely on “holy books”—the New and Old Testaments, respectively—to establish their God’s role as a metaphysical real estate agent?
In Maher’s case, the blind spot is almost comical. An avowed, proud and exceedingly loud atheist, it is amazing that he is unwilling or unable to see the role religion played and still does play in America’s imperial ideology. Like many of the right-wingers he likes to razz, he’s blotting out Christianity’s role in the genocide of the American Indians, the missionary impulse toward “Little Brown Brothers” in Asia or the way propaganda about “Godless Communism” was the centerpiece of Cold War jingoism for the better part of the “American Century.”
But the most glaring example of Bill’s blind spot was the segment that immediately followed his tense exchange with Greenwald. It was a recurring gag titled “The Search for America’s Craziest Congressman,” this time featuring Rep. Paul “Evolution is a lie from the pit of Hell” Broun (R-GA) and Rep. Michelle “The Muslim Brotherhood controls our foreign policy” Bachmann (R-MN). Two incredibly religiously fundamentalist Christians harboring an array of strange views, Maher even termed them as a “danger to democracy.”
Next he brought out Zachary Quinto, an openly gay actor currently making a name for himself as the rebooted Mr. Spock. Defying all logic, Maher started the discussion on newly-out-of-the-closet NBA center Jason Collins, referencing the critique of Collins’ gayness by ESPN commentator Chris Broussard. Maher lampooned Broussard for opening his commentary with “As a Christian,” which Bill pointed out means he’s a moron, and then he admonished those who “…use the Bible as a cudgel against the Gay.”
But the irony didn’t end there.
Maher moved the discussion to the NRA and gun rights, picking up his consistent theme about Americans loving guns and being violent. He predictably attacked the “fantasy” held by many “right-wing” gun owners that they may need them to rise up against tyranny here in America.
Huh. Crazy ideologues just looking for a reason to revolt. Go figure.
Then came the coup de grâce.
In his “New Rules” segment, Bill got some good laughs about the Christian heavy metal singer who tried to have his wife killed by a hired assassin. The joke turned on the fact that the Bible does, in fact, offer a variety of valid reasons to kill one’s wife and nearly two dozen verses that expressly support it.
Had Bill looked in the mirror after delivering that punchline, he’d have seen that the joke was suddenly and irreversibly on him.Tweet
Posted on | May 13, 2013 | 3 Comments
Neither does anyone else.
That’s because the operational theory of why, at the turn of the century, Big Oil tightened its grip on the political system and used it to acquire as much of the “dwindling” resource as possible, often through proxy imperialism, has suddenly become irrelevant.
It’s not as if the fear of an impending, precipitous decline in oil production wasn’t an effective tool to massage markets, influence decision-makers and pique oil-thirsty populations into supporting petroleum-based wars, even if only subconsciously.
It was effective.
Rather, the planet is suddenly awash in oil. New discoveries in Africa, the long-awaited Caspian Sea oil and gas pipeline, expanding reserves in the US and the possibilities of the South China Sea have turned the earth’s ecosystem into a fountain of youthful exuberance for Big Oil.
Add to that the ever-more refined technologies now employed to extract shale oil, to cook up Canada’s toxic tar-sand goop and to build massive new infrastructure projects to move it around the continent and the globe, and you’ve got an oil supply that isn’t going to “peak” anytime in the foreseeable future.
In fact, with oil-fueled climate change opening the last great unspoiled frontier—the Arctic Ocean—the folks at Big Oil could be getting even more bang out of your gas bucks. The big melt from burning lotsa hydrocarbons is a big “two-fer” for Big Oil.
It’s good to be the king, and right now it looks like Big Oil is the king of the world!
But there is a problem.
Every day, Big Oil’s executives, geologists, engineers, lobbyists and political cronies wake up to an existential threat. It cannot be destroyed by a proxy army. It cannot be bribed. And all the lobbying the world will never, ever keep it from rising each and every day, looming over them and challenging their every move.
Big Oil cannot hide from the Sun.
It turns out that Old Sol not only provides the essential energy that powers all life on earth, but—thanks to the ingenuity of some particularly troublesome human beings—its reliable light can be “transformed” into “usable electricity” through a “miracle device” called a “photovoltaic cell!”
Just imagine—what if people could stop burning oil and gas and even coal, and just use these miracle devices to transform Old Sol’s sunny disposition into the power needed to run just about everything?
Well, if you are one of the masters of the oil universe, you’ve probably lost a lot of sleep worrying about that very question. But worrying is not enough. Big Oil is taking action to stop the Sun’s onslaught on their energy monopoly. Big Oil is working hard to counter market-driven innovations that are not only making solar power more and more affordable, but also making solar power a progressively more attractive investment to Big Oil’s heretofore reliable benefactors on Wall Street.
In fact, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) recently issued a report touting the future of renewable energy as an investment. Suddenly, this is not about tree-hugging ethics. Now this is about the bottom line.
According to BNEF, annual investment in new renewable power capacity is going to rise significantly between now and 2030. The report states: “The likeliest scenario implies a jump of 230%, to $630bn per year by 2030, driven by further improvements in the cost-competitiveness of wind and solar technologies relative to fossil fuel alternatives….”
But wait, there’s more: “Improvements in cost-competitiveness means that renewables will account for between 69% and 74% of new power capacity added by 2030 worldwide.”
And it gets even better. Not only are renewables crossing the line from hippie dream to golden goose, the manufacturing sector is moving so fast that there is a “glut” of solar panels. That’s right. Solar panels are no longer “too expensive” or an “unrealistic” alternative to Big Oil’s monopoly hold on energy production. Instead, there is a production glut in solar manufacturing.
Yes, you read that correctly. A glut!
That glut may be the real reason Solyndra, along with other notable solar manufacturers, collapsed over the past few years. They were simply overtaken by rapid advances in manufacturing and cheap Chinese labor. That combination made their original production model quickly and irrevocably obsolete. That’s not an example of pie-in-the-sky green technology cronyism run amok. Rather, it is an indication that market forces are moving at a breakneck speed to give us all the miracle of photovoltaic power at exactly the moment the planet needs it most.
- without all that climate-altering CO2
- without all the cancers and asthma and birth defects from exhaust
- without ecosystem-destroying spills and explosions and pipeline bursts
- without all those wars and political bribery and support of repressive Petrostates
- and without all those moral, ethical and environmental compromises that are taking the whole damn planet with us in a death spiral of destructive consumption
But don’t start selling off your shares of Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell or Halliburton just yet. The oil industry has spent billions of dollars on the care and welfare of their collective hold on the energy market and, in effect, the lifeblood of the modern world.
The primary strategy in Big Oil’s preemptive war against the revolutionary, liberating power of Old Sol is to “out-glut” the “renewables glut.”
In fact, US oil inventories reached an 82-year high on May Day, with stockpiles jumping to 395.3 million barrels at the end of the previous week. Take that in for a minute. An 82-year high! The price per barrel has settled above $90—down from a high of $118 in February of 2013, but still a far cry from the $11-$25 per barrel seen during the salad days of the Clinton years.
Not surprisingly, the price at the pump did not dip to 82-year lows. But it has dropped, and CNNMoney touted this as a boon to consumers and the flagging economic recovery with a grabby homepage headline: “Falling Gas Prices to the Rescue.”
But who is being rescued?
Consumers? Small businesses? Obama’s economic team?
Or is Big Oil rescuing itself?
Already fattened up on Bush Era spikes in oil and gas prices, it makes sense that they’d “sacrifice” a few quarters or even years of “flat profits” to flood the market with hydrocarbons and outflank the advances being made by renewables and, specifically, solar energy.
In March of 2013—just weeks before that 82-year spike in oil inventories—the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reported that photovoltaic power plants generated 100 percent of newly added electric power capacity for the entire United States. That was a first in US history, by the way.
This may be the reason why Saudi Arabia is embracing the US shale boom currently transforming America into an energy exporter. In a pure free market sense, this doesn’t make much sense for the petroleum-reliant Saudis. But Khalid Al-Falih, CEO of Saudi Aramco, gushed to the Financial Times about the positive impact of American oil and its crucial role in “reassuring” consumers about the “reliability of oil supplies.”
More to the point, Al-Falih told FT that more US oil production “…just cements in the public and global consensus what we’ve already known. Oil is going to be the fuel of choice…for an extended period of time, and we need to manage it, we need to invest in it.”
The fracking frenzy is the main front Big Oil’s preemptive war against the growing glut in renewable capacity. Armed with a swelling supply of so-called “clean” burning “natural” gas, the plan to “out-glut” the solar glut is playing out in the heartland of America.
A massive spike in natural gas production is not only poisoning water supplies and causing earthquakes, it is undercutting the transition to renewables—solar, in particular—and forcing cash-strapped governments to forgo the future in favor of a cheap and easy present.
Natural gas is, in effect, a “force-multiplier” for Big Oil, preserving the hydrocarbon infrastructure for decades to come and undercutting both rapid advancements in renewable technologies and the American public’s stated desire for more emphasis on solar and wind. They are comfortable with more “natural gas,” too—probably because of the snazzy branding of hydrocarbon gas as “clean” and “natural.”
But nothing trumps the bottom line. And Big Oil knows it. All the bad news about climate and extinctions and pipeline spills in the world will not overcome simple economics, particularly in hard economic times. Perhaps that’s why so many are so convinced that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is, in fact, “game over” for the planet.
If approved, that new surge of oil into the market—coupled with the fracking boom and a massive, newly identified source of methane “trapped” in ocean seabeds called “fire ice”—will amplify Khalid Al-Falih’s “reassuring reliability” and truly “cement” Big Oil’s monopoly on the future.
And that is a dark future, indeed.Tweet « go back — keep looking »