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New UN Report Is Cautious On Making Climate Predictions by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360

New UN Report Is Cautious On Making Climate Predictions by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360.

24 MAR 2014: ANALYSIS

The draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world faces serious risks from warming and that the poor are especially vulnerable. But it avoids the kinds of specific forecasts that have sparked controversy in the past.

by fred pearce

Batten down the hatches; fill the grain stores; raise the flood defenses. We cannot know exactly what is coming, but it will probably be nasty, the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will warn next week. Global warming will cause wars, displace millions of people, and do trillion-dollar damage to the global economy.

But careful readers will note a new tone to its discussion of these issues that is markedly different from past efforts. It is more humble about what scientists can predict in advance, and far more interested in how societies can make themselves resilient. It also places climate risks much more

IPCC cautious predictions

Rob Elliott/AFP/Getty Images
The draft IPCC report cites sea level rise and storm surges among eight “key risks.”

firmly than before among a host of other problems faced by society, especially by the poor. That tone will annoy some for taking the edge off past warnings, but gratify others for providing a healthy dose of realism.

The study, the result of a five-year review of published papers, is from the IPCC’s scientists working on the impacts of climate change. It complements an IPCC study late last year on the planetary science and will be followed next month by another that will focus on what we should do about it.

A leak of the final draft prepared by scientists at the end of October 2013 is circulating. It is not the final version, which will be a summary for policymakers that will be released on March 31, though there is unlikely to be much change. And, since government delegates at international talks in Japan this week will scrutinize the final draft before signing off

Hopes that better science and greater computer power would allow more precise forecasts have often proved wrong.

for publication, what we have is effectively “the scientists’ cut.”

Past impacts reports from the IPCC were based around attempts to produce detailed forecasts of local climate in future decades and somewhat mechanistic assessments of what this would mean for society. But the new report is much more wary, especially of putting numbers on likely changes. Many previously firm-sounding forecasts have disappeared since the last major IPCC climate-impacts report in 2007, such as spreading droughts and crop losses in Africa and more violent hurricanes in the Atlantic.

The reason for avoiding precise forecasts is twofold. First, overly precise predictions got the authors of the 2007 report into trouble. The most famous faux pas was the claim that Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035, when 2350 is a more likely date. But there were other unsubstantiated forecasts, such as that “projected reductions in [crop] yield in some countries [in Africa] could be as much as 50% by 2020” — a misinterpretation of a paper, which was not peer-reviewed, that looked at rain-fed agriculture in just three North African countries.

The hundreds of authors of the draft report have been silent for some time, following IPCC rules by refusing to discuss their draft with journalists. But their chairman, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution in Stanford, California, told me soon after taking on the job in 2009 that he recognized serious mistakes had been made last time and that he was “committed to sufficient checking and cross-checking to ensure a truly error-free product next time.”

Another reason for the more measured tone is that hopes that better science and greater computer power would allow more precise forecasts than seven years ago have often proved wrong. For parts of the world, model forecasts of regional climate change are diverging rather than converging. The more we know, it seems, the less we know for sure.

Caution is the watchword. Take the treatment of Africa. Last time, the chapter on that continent began with a declaration that up to a quarter of a billion Africans “are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due

The draft report lays out eight ‘key risks,’ including sea level rise and storm surges that could affect hundreds of millions.

to climate change.” This time, the leaked draft states simply that while “a reduction in precipitation is likely over North Africa … projected rainfall change over sub-Saharan Africa is uncertain.”

The draft agrees that “climate change will amplify existing stress on water availability in Africa” and will “very likely” reduce cereal crop productivity. But this time the discussion is not about how big or small those reductions might be, but on how African farmers might cope with less water, through terracing and agroforestry for instance.

Asia has fallen into a similar forecasting limbo. Last time, the IPCC warned that there would be less water in most Asian river basins and up to a billion people could experience “increased water stress” as early as the 2020s. This time, “there is low confidence in future precipitation projections at a subregional level and thus in future freshwater availability in most parts of Asia.” Last time the IPCC predicted “an increase of 10 to 20% in tropical cyclone intensities” in Asia. This time it reports “low confidence in region-specific projections of [cyclone] frequency and intensity.”

Some certainties do remain. The leaked draft suggests growing agreement among climate modelers that Scandinavia and much of Canada will see more precipitation and that the southwestern U.S., southern Australia, the Middle East, southern Europe, and North Africa can expect more droughts and emptier rivers.

Southern Europe looks set to fry, with crops shriveling in the fields, reservoirs emptying, deserts spreading, tourists staying away, and demand for air conditioning going through the roof. Even its vineyards will suffer, though a reference in a March 2013 draft to Venice being “lost forever” beneath the waves has since been removed.

Globally, the draft report lays out eight “key risks”: sea level rise and storm surges in coastal areas that could affect “hundreds of millions… by 2100”; food insecurity for the poor from warming and drought; inland flooding of cities; loss of access to water for drinking and irrigation; breakdown of infrastructure due to extreme events; loss of fisheries, due to a “global redistribution of maximum catch potential”; loss of terrestrial ecosystems such as

The idea that climate change is of an entirely different order to other threats faced by the world has been rooted out.

“forest dieback … in the next one to three decades”; and extreme heat, especially for the poor in cities.

But it asks us to be grown-up about the uncertainties involved in what plays out when. “Responding to climate-related risks involves making decisions and taking actions in the face of continuing uncertainty about the extent of climate change and the severity of impacts in a changing world,” the draft report says. Or as Field put it to journalists in 2010: “Most people spend their lives making decisions under uncertainty, and that’s what dealing effectively with climate change demands — the same kind of decisions you make when you decide to buckle your seatbelt.”

The 2007 report was almost all about the impacts of climate change. Most of this report, and in particular most of the summary for policymakers, is about resilience and adaptation to inevitable climate change.

Central to that new take is setting climate change in a context of other risks, uncertainties and mega-trends such as poverty and social inequality, urbanization, and the globalization of food systems. What some call “climate exceptionalism” — the idea that climate change is something of an entirely different order to other threats faced by the world — has been rooted out. Here climate change is painted as pervasive, since nobody can avoid it wholly, but as usually only one among many pressures, especially on the poor.

“Climate-related hazards constitute an additional burden to people living in poverty, acting as a threat multiplier,” it says. “Vulnerability is rarely due to a single cause.” Even for someone living on a sand spit in coastal Bangladesh, at constant risk of being washed away by rising tides and

On food security, the report is markedly more gloomy than the previous assessment in 2007.

superstorms, the country’s pervasive land inequality may be a bigger threat.

Thus climate will exacerbate and amplify pre-existing problems. The report notes how a drought in Australia in 2007 sent global food prices soaring in 2008. But it cannot answer whether we should blame climate change or a dysfunctional food system.

Food security is, nonetheless, one area where the report is markedly more gloomy that its immediate predecessor. The 2007 assessment argued that increases in crop yields in mid-latitudes could offset losses in hotter climates, at least for the next few decades. “Globally,” it said, “the potential for food production is projected to increase with increases in local average temperature over a range of 1-3 degrees C.” But that optimism has faded. The leaked draft forecasts that “local temperature increases of 1 degrees C or more… are projected to negatively impact yields.”

Average yields of major grains could fall by up to 2 percent a decade from here until the end of the century, it predicts. With demand for food crops likely to rise by 14 percent a decade, that sounds a daunting prospect — though it also suggests that climate change is only a small element in the emerging 21st century crisis over global food security.

Some nightmare scenarios are robustly defused. Past IPCC reports have warned that there might be as many as 50 million “climate refugees” around the world, who will flee drought, rising tides and spreading deserts. This report is set to dismiss that idea. “The current alarmist predictions of massive flows of so-called ‘environmental refugees’ are not supported by past experiences of responses to droughts and extreme weather,” the draft

MORE FROM YALE e360

Has the U.N. Climate Panel
Now Outlived Its Usefulness?

sea level rise

Some scientists are saying the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is overly conservative and fails to mention some of the most worrisome possible scenarios. The panel, they contend, is no longer fulfilling its mission of informing policy makers of the risks of global warming.
READ MORE

says. “Predictions for future migration flows are tentative at best.” It also points out that migration is a good “coping strategy,” often to be encouraged rather than feared.

The report may irritate politicians in poor countries who look to blame climate change caused by the rich world for the ills of their people and want to demand reparations. But it may also dismay those who want to cite other factors to “prove” that climate change is never to blame. The world is more complicated, the scientists who prepared the draft conclude. The lesson of their report is that climate change will be implicated in a vast array of global ills, but it will rarely be the sole cause.

Climate change skeptics may want to characterize the report as debunking what they regard as the scaremongering of past reports. They may latch onto statements such as that “for most economic sectors,” factors such as changing demography, technology, lifestyles, and governance “will be large relative to the impacts of climate change.” And the report is, on the face of it, more optimistic than the famous review of the economics of climate change by Britain’s Nicholas Stern in 2006.

Stern put the likely cost to the global economy of warming this century at 5-20 percent of GDP. The new IPCC draft says that a global average temperature increase of 2.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels may lead to a global loss of income of between 0.2 and 2 percent.

But if Americans think this puts them in a good position, they are wrong. While the report is silent on whether there might be more or stronger hurricanes hitting North America from the Atlantic (and “Katrina aside,” saw no trend in U.S. hurricane deaths since 1970), it states that “much of North American infrastructure is currently vulnerable to extreme weather events.”

The message is clear. We may not be able to make hard and fast predictions, but prudency requires that we prepare for the worst.

Citi Fails Fed Stress Test … The REAL Story Washington's Blog

Citi Fails Fed Stress Test … The REAL Story Washington’s Blog.

“Too Big To Fail” … Fails

Bloomberg reports that Citigroup has failed the Fed’s new round of stress tests:

Citigroup Inc.’s capital plan was among five that failed Federal Reserve stress tests, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. passed only after reducing their requests for buybacks and dividends.

Citigroup, as well as U.S. units of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, HSBC Holdings Plc and Banco Santander SA, failed because of qualitative concerns about their processes, the Fed said today in a statement. Zions Bancorporation was rejected as its capital fell below the minimum required. The central bank approved plans for 25 banks.

In reality, Citi flat lined” – went totally bust – in 2008.  It was insolvent.

And former FDIC chief Sheila Bair said that the whole bailout thing was really focused on bringing a very dead Citi back from the grave.

Indeed, the big banks – including Citi – have repeatedly gone bankrupt.

For example, the New York Times wrote in 2009:

Over the past 80 years, the United States government has engineered not one, not two, not three, but at least four rescues of the institution now known as Citigroup.

So why did the U.S. government give Citi a passing grade in previous stress tests?

Because they were rigged to give all of the students an “A”.

Time Magazine called then Secretary Treasury Tim Geithner a “con man” and the stress tests a “confidence game” because those tests were so inaccurate.

But the bigger story is that absolutely nothing was done to address the causes of the 2008 financial crisis, or to fix the system:

  • The faulty incentive system – huge bonuses that encourage reckless risk-taking by bankers – arestill here
  • Another big problem – shadow banking – has only gotten worse

Indeed, the only the government has done is to try to cover up the problems that created the 2008 crisis in the first place … and to throw huge amounts of money at the fattest of the fatcats.

Remember, Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has demonstrated that failure to punish white collar criminals – and instead bailing them out- creates incentives for more economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in the future.

Indeed, professor of law and economics (and chief S&L prosecutor) William Black notes that we’ve known of this dynamic for “hundreds of years”.  (Actually, the government has ignored severalthousand years of economic wisdom.)

Heck of a job, guys …

This house would call Edward Snowden a hero.

This house would call Edward Snowden a hero.

Video and Transcript – Oxford Union Debate

Chris Hedges speech arguing in favor of the proposition “This house would call Edward Snowden a hero.”

 

I have been to war. I have seen physical courage. But this kind of courage is not moral courage. Very few of even the bravest warriors have moral courage. For moral courage means to defy the crowd, to stand up as a solitary individual, to shun the intoxicating embrace of comradeship, to be disobedient to authority, even at the risk of your life, for a higher principle. And with moral courage comes persecution.

The American Army pilot Hugh Thompson had moral courage. He landed his helicopter between a platoon of U.S. soldiers and 10 terrified Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre. He ordered his gunner to fire his M60 machine gun on the advancing U.S. soldiers if they began to shoot the villagers. And for this act of moral courage, Thompson, like Snowden, was hounded and reviled. Moral courage always looks like this. It is always defined by the state as treason—the Army attempted to cover up the massacre and court-martial Thompson. It is the courage to act and to speak the truth. Thompson had it. Daniel Ellsberg had it. Martin Luther King had it. What those in authority once said about them they say today about Snowden. 

“My country, right or wrong” is the moral equivalent of “my mother, drunk or sober,” G.K. Chesterton reminded us.

So let me speak to you about those drunk with the power to sweep up all your email correspondence, your tweets, your Web searches, your phone records, your file transfers, your live chats, your financial data, your medical data, your criminal and civil court records and your movements, those who are awash in billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars, those who have banks of sophisticated computer systems, along with biosensors, scanners, face recognition technologies and miniature drones, those who have obliterated your anonymity, your privacy and, yes, your liberty.

There is no free press without the ability of the reporters to protect the confidentiality of those who have the moral courage to make public the abuse of power. Those few individuals inside government who dared to speak out about the system of mass surveillance have been charged as spies or hounded into exile. An omnipresent surveillance state—and I covered the East German Stasi state—creates a climate of paranoia and fear. It makes democratic dissent impossible. Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state. It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today; it will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control. The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote, is not, in the end, to discover crimes, “but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.” The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.

Those who wield this unchecked power become delusional. Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, hired a Hollywood set designer to turn his command center at Fort Meade into a replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise so he could sit in the captain’s chair and pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had the audacity to lie under oath to Congress. This spectacle was a rare glimpse into the absurdist theater that now characterizes American political life. A congressional oversight committee holds public hearings. It is lied to. It knows it is being lied to. The person who lies knows the committee members know he is lying. And the committee, to protect their security clearances, says and does nothing.

These voyeurs listen to everyone and everything. They bugged the conclave that elected the new pope. They bugged the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They bugged most of the leaders of Europe. They intercepted the talking points of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of a meeting with President Obama. Perhaps the esteemed opposition can enlighten us as to the security threats posed by the conclave of Catholic cardinals, the German chancellor and the U.N. secretary-general. They bugged business like the Brazilian oil company Petrobras and American law firms engaged in trade deals with Indochina for shrimp and clove cigarettes. They carried out a major eavesdropping effort focused on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007. They bugged their ex-lovers, their wives and their girlfriends. And the NSA stores our data in perpetuity.

I was a plaintiff before the Supreme Court in a case that challenged the warrantless wiretapping, a case dismissed because the court believed the government’s assertion that our concern about surveillance was “speculation.” We had, the court said, no standing … no right to bring the case. And we had no way to challenge this assertion—which we now know to be a lie—until Snowden.

In the United States the Fourth Amendment limits the state’s ability to search and seize to a specific place, time and event approved by a magistrate. And it is impossible to square the bluntness of the Fourth Amendment with the arbitrary search and seizure of all our personal communications. Former Vice President Al Gore said, correctly, that Snowden disclosed evidence of crimes against the United States Constitution.

We who have been fighting against mass state surveillance for years—including my friend Bill Binney within the NSA—made no headway by appealing to the traditional centers of power. It was only after Snowden methodically leaked documents that disclosed crimes committed by the state that genuine public debate began. Elected officials, for the first time, promised reform. The president, who had previously dismissed our questions about the extent of state surveillance by insisting there was strict congressional and judicial oversight, appointed a panel to review intelligence. Three judges have, since the Snowden revelations, ruled on the mass surveillance, with two saying the NSA spying was unconstitutional and the third backing it. None of this would have happened—none of it—without Snowden.

Snowden had access to the full roster of everyone working at the NSA. He could have made public the entire intelligence community and undercover assets worldwide. He could have exposed the locations of every clandestine station and their missions. He could have shut down the surveillance system, as he has said, “in an afternoon.” But this was never his intention. He wanted only to halt the wholesale surveillance, which until he documented it was being carried out without our consent or knowledge.

No doubt we will hear from the opposition tonight all the ways Snowden should have made his grievances heard, but I can tell you from personal experience, as can Bill, that this argument is as cogent as the offer made by the March Hare during the Mad Tea Party in “Alice in Wonderland.”

“Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.

“I don’t see any wine,” she remarked.

“There isn’t any,” said the March Hare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activist Post: World Leaders Play ‘Nuclear War Game’ During Netherlands Summit to Test Nuclear Attack Responses

Activist Post: World Leaders Play ‘Nuclear War Game’ During Netherlands Summit to Test Nuclear Attack Responses.

Paul Lawrance
Activist PostDuring the G7 nuclear summit in the Netherlands this week,heads of government played a interactive nuclear war game that was designed to test their response to a terrorist plan to set off a “dirty bomb” in a Western metropolis.

President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese premier Xi Jinping were all a part of the games which showed a series of short films where terrorists planed to use stolen nuclear material to set off a “dirty bomb” in a unnamed Western metropolis, reports The Telegraph.

A diplomatic source told The Telegraph that the heads of state had to react to the films in real time as they were equipped with a computer tablet with a touch screen displaying responses.

“It could be the city of London or Wall Street, Milan or anywhere,” summit goers were told,according to The Telegraph’s report.

“US officials” said the games where meant to give the state leaders at the summit a “scare you to death” feeling that would make then think deeply into their reaction during a nuclear attack.

In the end, as it is being reported, the leaders were able to thwart the attack due to their decision making.

Another interesting note:

During a press conference in the Netherlands on Tuesday, President Barrack Obama said he is more concerned about a nuke going off in Manhattan then he is of any threat coming from Russia.

“Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the No. 1 national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan,” Obama said in response to a reports question on whether or not Russia is the biggest political foe of the US.

Paul Lawrance writes for Eyes Open Report, where this first appeared

The Chevron Newspaper, Collapsing Consciously & Prison for Internet Trolling  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

The Chevron Newspaper, Collapsing Consciously & Prison for Internet Trolling  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

On this episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin remarks on a Richmond, California newspaper sponsored by Chevron, calling out the absurd propaganda about the oil industry featured in the publication. Abby then talks about the crackdown on individuals who choose to live ‘Off the Grid’ citing a examples such as a man in Oregon who faced jail-time for collecting rainwater and a Florida woman who was forced to re-connect to the state’s electrical grid. Abby then speaks with Carolyn Baker, Author of ‘Collapsing Consciously’ about confronting our emotions concerning the inevitable collapse of industrial civilization, and what actions we can take to address those fears. Abby then talks about two Supreme Court cases involving the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that private companies offer free access to birth control, and the absurd fight against providing this coverage due to religious corporate personhood. BTS wraps up the show with an interview with attorney Tor Ekland, and journalist, Nicole Powers, discussing the case of internet hacker, Andrew Auernheimer, better known under the pseudonym ‘Weev’, who received a 41 month prison sentence after finding a flaw in AT&T’s public server.

A First Look at a New Report on Crony Capitalism – Trillions in Corporate Welfare | A Lightning War for Liberty

A First Look at a New Report on Crony Capitalism – Trillions in Corporate Welfare | A Lightning War for Liberty.

Posted on March 26, 2014

One of the primary topics on this website since it was launched has been the extremely destructive and explosive rise of crony capitalism throughout the USA. It is crony capitalism, as opposed to free markets, that has led to the gross inequality in American society we have today. Cronyism for the super wealthy starts at the very top with the Federal Reserve System, which consists of topdown economic central planners who manipulate the money supply and hence interest rates for the benefit of the financial oligarch class. It then trickles down through lobbyist money into the halls of Washington D.C., and ultimately filters down to local governments and then the average person on the street gaming welfare or disability.

As such, we now live in a culture of corruption and theft that is pervasive throughout society. One thing that bothers me to no end is when fake Republicans focus their criticism on struggling people who need welfare or food stamps to survive. They have this absurd notion that the whole welfare system doesn’t start with the multinational corporations and Central Banks at the top. In reality, it is at the top where the cancer starts, and that’s where we should focus in order to achieve real change.

That’s where a new report from Open the Books on corporate welfare comes in. In a preview of the publication, the organization notes:

If Republicans are going to get truly serious about cutting government spending, they are going to have to snip the umbilical cord from the Treasury to corporate America.  You can’t reform welfare programs for the poor until you’ve gotten Daddy Warbucks off the dole. Voters will insist on that — as well they should.

So why hasn’t it happened? Why hasn’t the GOP pledged to end corporate welfare as we know it?

Part of the explanation is that too many have gotten confused about the difference between free-market capitalism and crony capitalism.

Federal_Contract_Spending_Spirals

And part of the problem is corporate welfare that is so well hidden from public view in the budget that no one has really measured how big this mountain of giveaway cash to the Fortune 500 really is. Finding out is like trying to break into the CIA.

Until now. Open the Books, an Illinois-based watchdog group, has been scrupulously monitoring all federal grants, loans, direct payments and insurance subsidies flowing to individuals and companies.

It’s an attempt to force federal agencies to release information on where the $4 trillion budget is really spent — and Open the Books will release a new report on corporate welfare payments to the Fortune 100 companies from 2000 to 2012.

Over that period, the 100 received $1.2 trillion in payments from the federal government.

That number does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars in housing, bank and auto company bailouts in 2008 and 2009, because those payments and where they went are kept mostly invisible in the federal agency books.

As suspected, the biggest welfare queens in the U.S. are the super wealthy themselves, but they’d rather you focus on some single mother on welfare simply trying to survive.

The full report can be downloaded here.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

Showdown in Ukraine: Putin’s Quest for Ports, Oil, Pipelines and Gas

Showdown in Ukraine: Putin’s Quest for Ports, Oil, Pipelines and Gas.

By Claude Salhani | Tue, 25 March 2014 22:44 | 6

Yes, Russia is guilty of meddling in Ukraine, but then again so are the United States and the European Union. The major difference is that far less was said and much less reported by the international media over the Americans’ and Europeans’ interference than of Russia’s actions and the reactions it caused.

Where Russia is involved many in the West believe that one only needs to scratch the surface to see traces of the old Soviet Union begin to resurface. After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin is a former KGB officer. The truth is much more complicated than that: or perhaps somewhat simpler.

The Cold War that divided the East and West maybe over but the old rivalry still lingers. The rivalry between the West and Russia is no longer one over diverging political philosophies, but purely over resources – and the capitalistic gains they produce from mainly oil, gas and pipelines.

The West and in particular the United States seems to be suffering from collective memory disorder and have forgotten all the mud they slapped onto Putin’s face during the past 15 or so years. Or at least they expected him to forget and forgive.

Related Article: Ukraine – Full Circle to the EU Integration Issue

But then again Russian troops did move in to grab control of Crimea, taking over the territory from the Ukrainians. You can counter that argument by pointing to the US and NATO, who not only interfered, but swallowed former Soviet domains bringing them into the North Atlantic alliance, pushing NATO closer to Russia’s borders.

Yes, Russia needs access to warm water ports for its Black Sea fleet and many analysts also believe that this is a major issue of concern for Moscow, which it is. But the plot, as they say, thickens.

There is also another reason for Putin’s intervention in Ukraine and that has to do with Russia elbowing for dominance of the very lucrative and strategically important “energy corridors.”
That is very likely to be the major reason why Putin is willing to risk going to war with the West over Crimea, the pipelines that traverses the Caucasus and the oil and natural gas these pipelines carry westwards to Europe.

Given the geography of the region there are only so many lanes where the pipelines can be laid; and most of them transit through Ukraine. Others travel across Azerbaijan and Turkey. Most of Western Europe’s gas and much of Eastern Europe’s gas travels through Ukraine.

If Russia has vested interest in “recolonizing” Ukraine, the United States on the other hand has its own interests in Ukraine and other former Soviet areas.

What is going on today is nothing short of a race for control of what’s going to dominate the energy markets over the next two or three decades: the energy corridors from Central Asia, the Caucuses and through Russia and Ukraine.

As stated in a report published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, “the proclamation of independence, the adoption of state symbols and a national anthem, the establishment of armed forces and even the presence on Ukrainian territory of nuclear missiles—all important elements of independent statehood—amount little if another power, Russia, controls access to fuel without which Ukraine cannot survive economically.

Related Article: This Week in Energy: How Would LNG Get to Ukraine?

That same report denotes that “Ukraine’s strategic location between the main energy producers (Russia and the Caspian Sea area) and consumers in the Eurasian region, its large transit network, and its available underground gas storage capacities,” make the country “a potentially crucial player in European energy transit” – a position that will “grow as Western European demands for Russian and Caspian gas and oil continue to increase.”

Ukraine’s dependence on Russian energy imports has had “negative implications for US strategy in the region.”

As long as Russia controls the flow of oil and gas it has the upper hand. Russia’s Gazprom currently controls almost a fifth of the world’s gas reserves.

More than half of Ukraine’s and nearly 30% of Europe’s gas comes from Russia.  Moscow wants to try and keep things going its way; Washington and Brussels find it in their interests to try and alter that by creating multiple channels for central Asian and Caspian oil to flow westwards.
Ukraine today finds itself in the center of the new East-West dispute.

Ironically, the very assets that make Ukraine an important player in the new geopolitical game being played out between Washington and Moscow is also its greatest disadvantage.

By Claude Salhani of Oilprice.com

World crude production 2013 without shale oil is back to 2005 levels

World crude production 2013 without shale oil is back to 2005 levels.

BY 

MATT

– MARCH 13, 2014

Unnoticed by the mainstream media, US shale oil covers up a recent decline of crude oil production of 1.5 mb/d  in the rest of world (using data up to Oct 2013). This means that without US shale oil the world would be in a deep oil crisis similar to the decline phase 2006/07  when oil prices went up. The decline comes from many countries but is also caused by fights over oil and oil-related issues in Iran, Libya and other countries which can be seen on TV every day.

Fig 1: World’s incremental crude oil production Oct 2013

Incremental production for each country is calculated as the difference between total production and the minimum production between Jan 2001 and Oct 2013. The sum of minima is the base production. Countries which had substantial changes in production appear as large areas in the graph. Russia supplied – quite reliably – the largest increment and the North Sea (UK and Norway) had the largest losses. Countries which feature prominently are Venezuela (low production in Jan 2003 due to a strike), Iraq (low production in April 2003 during the Iraq war), Libya (war in 2011), Iran (sanctions) and Saudi Arabia (production increase since 2002 and swing role)

Production is stacked from bottom as follows:

(1) countries with growing production: Kazachstan (recently flat), Russia (only +100 kb/d last year), Colombia (+60 kb/d), China (recently flat) and Canada (+200 kb/d syncrude from tarsands)

(2) Countries flat or in decline like UK and Norway

(3) countries which recently peaked: Brazil and Azerbaijan

Groups (1) to (3) peaked in Nov 2011 (dashed line) and declined by 1.2 mb/ since then

(4) OPEC countries with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Libya

(5) US on top to see the impact of shale oil

Fig 2: US shale covers up recent decline in rest of world

The world without shale oil declined after a recent peak in Feb 2012.to an average of 73.4 mb/d in 2013, incidentally the same average seen for the whole period since 2005 when crude production was 73.6 mb/d

Fig 3: Annual crude oil production and US shale oil vs IAE’s WEO projections

The rest of world continues on a bumpy crude oil production plateau. Oil demand and supply projections of the International Energy Agency in 2004 and 2008 did not materialize. Only the 2010 WEO came close but only due to US shale oil which had not been predicted at the time to the extend it actually increased.

Let’s have a look at the main players in the upper part of Fig 1

Fig 4: Incremental crude production of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and US

We can see that Saudi Arabia declined in 2006/07 (prices up), pumped more in the Oilympic peak year of 2008, (but not enough and prices skyrocketed), served as a (negative) swing producer during the financial crisis year of 2009 and stepped in (belatedly) when the war in Libya started and continued pumping at record levels when sanctions on Iran started. US shale oil has not brought down oil prices substantially and definitely the US does not act as swing producer. Most shale oil producers would go into receivership if they stopped pumping. Saudi Arabia apparently tries to compensate for Libyan and Iranian production losses but does not seem to reduce crude production to offset US shale oil. Iraq will have to return to OPEC’s quota system. It will be interesting to watch at which production level that will be agreed upon and whether Iraq will adhere to it. In any case, all ME oil producers need to balance their budgets as highlighted in this post:

14/8/2013    OPEC’s average fiscal break-even oil price increases by 7% in 2013
http://crudeoilpeak.info/opec-fiscal-breakeven-oil-price-increases-7-in-2013
.

Fig 5: Middle East only.

Decline in Syria and Yemen was offset by increases in Kuwait, UEA and Qatar. Iraq could not offset Iran’s production drops.

Russia and FSU

Fig 6: Eurasia

Former FSU countries: Azerbaijan declines at 50 kb/d after its peak in 2010. Kazakhstan is flat since 2010.

Fig 7: Russian crude oil production growth is slowing

Russia, producing now at 10 mb/d, is still growing at around 100 kb/d but this growth rate is down from 2010 and 2012 years.

The IEA WEO 2013 writes: “Oil production in Russia is approaching the record levels of the Soviet era, but maintaining this trend will be difficult, given the need to combat declines at the giant western Siberian fields that currently produce the bulk of the country’s oil.”

 http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/publications/weo-2013/

Europe

Fig 8: The North Sea is in full decline

Africa

Fig 9: Incremental production in Africa

Irrespective of what is happening in Libya, Africa peaked.

Latin America

Fig 10: Latin America

Brazil seems to have peaked while Colombia slowly increased heavy oil production. Venezuela’s data appear sus as they have not been updated since Jan 2011

Summary

Since end 2010, the group of still growing countries (+1.2 mb/d) can’t offset decline elsewhere (-2.4 mb/d), giving a resulting decline of 1.2 mb/d or 400 kb/d p.a. This is mainly oil-geologically determined decline.

OPEC, which is usually called upon to provide for the difference between demand and non-OPEC production, has got its own problems (geopolitical feed-back loops caused by peaking oil production) and was not able to fill that gap. Global crude oil without US shale oil declined by 1.5 mb/d since its most recent peak in Feb 2012.

Conclusion:

While the mainstream media lulls the public into believing that US shale oil is a revolution, peaking oil production in many countries eats like a cancer through the oil supply system. The big problem is that more oil dependent infrastructure is being built which will not be needed when US shale oil peaks and the underlying decline is revealed.

charles hugh smith-Does Our System Select for Incompetent Sociopaths?

charles hugh smith-Does Our System Select for Incompetent Sociopaths?.

(March 26, 2014)

What is the shelf life of a system that rewards confidence-gaming sociopaths rather than competence?

Let’s connect the dots of natural selection and the pathology of power.

In his 2012 book The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, author Kevin Dutton described how the attributes of sociopathology are in a sense value-neutral: the sociopathological attributes that characterize a dangerous criminal may also characterize a cool, high-performing neurosurgeon.

As Dutton explains in his essay What Psychopaths Teach Us about How to Succeed(Scientific American):

Psychopaths are fearless, confident, charismatic, ruthless and focused. Yet, contrary to popular belief, they are not necessarily violent. Far from its being an open-and-shut case–you’re either a psychopath or you’re not–there are, instead, inner and outer zones of the disorder: a bit like the fare zones on a subway map. There is a spectrum of psychopathy along which each of us has our place, with only a small minority of A-listers resident in the “inner city.”

While there is obviously a place for high-functioning sociopaths in professions which reward those characteristics, what about sociopaths who substitute deviousness and deception for competence? For some context, let’s turn to thePathology Of Power by Norman Cousins, published in 1988.

Cousins was particularly concerned with the National Security State, a.k.a. the military-industrial complex, which at that point in U.S. history was engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Empire. Cousins described the pathology of power thusly:

 

“Connected to the tendency of power to corrupt are yet other tendencies that emerge from the pages of the historians:1. The tendency of power to drive intelligence underground;
2. The tendency of power to become a theology, admitting no other gods before it;
3. The tendency of power to distort and damage the traditions and institutions it was designed to protect;
4. The tendency of power to create a language of its own, making other forms of communication incoherent and irrelevant;
5. The tendency of power to set the stage for its own use.

In broader terms, we might add: the tendency of power to manifest hubris, arrogance, bullying, deception and the substitution of rule by Elites for rule of law.

Natural selection isn’t only operative in Nature; it is equally operative in human organizations, economies and societies. People respond to whatever set of incentives and disincentives are present. If deceiving and conning others is heavily incentivized, while integrity and honesty are punished, people will gravitate to running cons and embezzlement schemes.

What behaviors does our Status Quo reward? Misrepresentation, obfuscation, legalized looting, embezzlement, fraud, a variety of cons, gaming the system, deviousness, lying and cleverly designed deceptions.

Let’s connect the pathology of power and the behaviors selected by our Status Quo. What we end up with is a system that selects for a specific category of sociopaths: those whose only competence is in running cons.

No wonder we have a leadership that is selected not for competence but for deviousness. What’s incentivized in our system is spinning half-truths and propaganda with a straight face and running cons that entrench the pathology of power.

What is the shelf life of a system that rewards confidence-gaming sociopaths rather than competence? Unless we change the incentives and disincentives, the system is doomed.

Of related interest:

The Normalization of Sociopathology in America (October 16, 2010)

The Federal Reserve and the Pathology of Power (November 18, 2010)

The Banality of (Financial) Evil (November 9, 2010)

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