The new US energy policy of the Trump era is, in some ways, the oldest energy policy on Earth. Every great power has sought to mobilize the energy resources at its command, whether those be slaves, wind-power, coal, or oil, to further its hegemonic ambitions. What makes the Trumpian variant—the unfettered exploitation of America’s fossil-fuel reserves—unique lies only in the moment it’s being applied and the likely devastation that will result, thanks not only to the 1950s-style polluting of America’s air, waters, and urban environment, but to the devastating hand it will lend to a globally warming world.
Tag Archives: Energy
“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”
That’s the warning in Proverbs 11:29, advice that relies upon common knowledge that there is no tangible value to the wind. One cannot hold or possess moving air, after all, and even if one could, too much gas moves in too many places to give it value. The Mistral, Scirocco, Santa Ana, and Nor’easter have never been scarce. But on the Spanish side of the Strait of Gibraltar, where I conduct ethnographic fieldwork, the Levante and Poniente power multiple wind farms, generating electricity for the region of Andalusia.
The new 55-page “America First” National Security Strategy
(NSS), drafted over the course of 2017, defines Russia and China as “revisionist” powers, “rivals”, and for all practical purposes strategic competitors of the United States.
The NSS stops short of defining Russia and China as enemies, allowing for an “attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries”. Still, Beijing qualified it as “reckless” and “irrational.” The Kremlin noted its “imperialist character” and “disregard for a multipolar world”. Iran, predictably, is described by the NSS as “the world’s most significant state sponsor of terrorism.”
Russia, China and Iran happen to be the three key movers and shakers in the ongoing geopolitical and geoeconomic process of Eurasia integration.
The 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress made it clear that the New Silk Roads – aka, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – launched by President Xi Jinping just four years ago, provides the concept around which all Chinese foreign policy is to revolve for the foreseeable future. Up until the symbolic 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, in 2049, in fact.
Virtually every nook and cranny of the Chinese administration is invested in making the BRI Grand Strategy a success: economic actors, financial players, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the private sector, the diplomatic machine, think tanks, and – of course – the media, are all on board.
It’s under this long-term framework that sundry BRI projects should be examined. And their reach, let’s be clear, involves most of Eurasia – including everything from the Central Asian steppes to the Caucasus and the Western Balkans.
Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani will hold a summit this Wednesday in Sochi to discuss Syria. Russia, Turkey and Iran are the three power players at the Astana negotiations — where multiple cease-fires, as hard to implement as they are, at least evolve, slowly but surely, towards the ultimate target — a political settlement.
A stable Syria is crucial to all parties involved in Eurasia integration. As Asia Times reported, China has made it clear that a pacified Syria will eventually become a hub of the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — building on the previous business bonanza of legions of small traders commuting between Yiwu and the Levant.
Away from intractable war and peace issues, it’s even more enlightening to observe how Turkey, Iran and Russia are playing their overlapping versions of Eurasia economic integration and/or BRI-related business.
Much has to do with the energy/transportation connectivity between railway networks — and, further on the down the road, high-speed rail — and what I have described, since the early 2000s, as Pipelineistan.
In 1905 the Spanish writer Vicente Blasco Ibáñez described the horrible conditions of day laborers in the vineyards outside Jerez. Barely paid, almost starving, and sleeping on hay, the day laborers in Blasco Ibáñez’s novel, La Bodega, stumble through life as “cadavers, with twisted spines and dry limbs, deformed and clumsy.” But Blasco Ibáñez—a sort of Dickens of Andalusia—imagines a different fate for his protagonist. Our hero escapes with his fiancée to South America, “that young world” where land ownership is not a prerequisite for a good life. “What an Eden,” the narrator interjects, “so much better for the eager and strong peasant, a slave until then in body and soul to those who do not work.” The lovers “would be new, innocent, and industrious.” The novel ends happily—there is no doubt of that—but on a mixed metaphor, with an Eden where people work hard. Indeed Blasco Ibáñez’s term for “industrious”—laborioso—also translates as “toilsome.” What sort of Eden is this, where women and men till the soil? In Genesis, Adam and Eve simply pick fruit from orchards in perpetual bloom. At the Fall, God invents work as punishment and commands his children, “You shall gain your bread by the sweat of your own brow.” Blasco, however, views a certain form of labor as a reward, and most social critics have shared this perspective. Like most myths, Eden tolerates ambiguity.
Here’s the good news: wind power, solar power, and other renewable forms of energy are expanding far more quickly than anyone expected, ensuring that these systems will provide an ever-increasing share of our future energy supply. According to the most recent projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, global consumption of wind, solar, hydropower, and other renewables will double between now and 2040, jumping from 64 to 131 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs).
And here’s the bad news: the consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas is also growing, making it likely that, whatever the advances of renewable energy, fossil fuels will continue to dominate the global landscape for decades to come, accelerating the pace of global warming and ensuring the intensification of climate-change catastrophes.
The rapid growth of renewable energy has given us much to cheer about. Not so long ago, energy analysts were reporting that wind and solar systems were too costly to compete with oil, coal, and natural gas in the global marketplace. Renewables would, it was then assumed, require pricey subsidies that might not always be available. That was then and this is now. Today, remarkably enough, wind and solar are already competitive with fossil fuels for many uses and in many markets.
That Donald Trump is a grand disruptor when it comes to international affairs is now a commonplace observation in the establishment media. By snubbing NATO and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, we’ve been told, President Trump is dismantling the liberal world order created by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the end of World War II. “Present at the Destruction” is the way Foreign Affairs magazine, the flagship publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, put it on its latest cover. Similar headlines can be found on the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. But these prophecies of impending global disorder miss a crucial point: in his own quixotic way, Donald Trump is not only trying to obliterate the existing world order, but also attempting to lay the foundations for a new one, a world in which fossil-fuel powers will contend for supremacy with post-carbon, green-energy states.
The Russia sanctions bill that passed the US Senate by 98:2 on June 15 is a bombshell; it directly demonizes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, under the Baltic Sea, which is bound to double Gazprom’s energy capacity to supply gas to Europe.The 9.5 billion euro pipeline is being financed by five companies; Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall; Austria’s OMV; France’s Engie; and Anglo-Dutch Shell. All these majors operate in Russia, and have, or will establish, pipeline contracts with Gazprom.In a joint statement, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern stressed that, “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America”; “instruments for political sanctions should not be tied to economic interests”; and the whole thing heralds a “new and very negative quality in European-American relations”.
LIKE vinyl records and popped collars, rows between the United States and Europe over Russian energy are making a comeback. In the early 1980s Ronald Reagan’s attempts to thwart a Soviet pipeline that would bring Siberian gas to Europe irritated the West Germans and drove the French to proclaim the end of the transatlantic alliance. The cast of characters has shifted a little today, but many of the arguments are the same. In Nord Stream 2 (NS2), a proposed Russian gas pipeline, Germany sees a respectable project that will cut energy costs and lock in secure supplies. American politicians (and the ex-communist countries of eastern Europe) detect a Kremlin plot to deepen Europe’s addiction to cheap Russian gas. They decry German spinelessness.