Monday, January 12, 2009

The Middle East is ABC

Note: Relevant addendum added further below.

As the tragic events in Gaza continue to unfold, mirroring countless similar ones over the previous decades, I have a suggestion: make the entire Middle East geopolitically irrelevant and let's the rest of us stop stirring this hornet's nest. How? Reduce and ultimately stop using crude oil and natural gas as prime energy sources.

No one who has even a smattering of historical knowledge about the area would dispute that the Middle East is ABC: All 'Bout Crude. A truly excellent source is Daniel Yergin's classic book "The Prize", for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

I am not going to even attempt to apportion blame for the essentially internecine slaughter that has been going on between Jews and Arabs - both are Semites - since at least 1947, when the modern State of Israel was founded. All I am saying is that the region's importance as a source of hydrocarbons intensifies and gives singular importance to their conflict. Our insatiable thirst for oil generates resource wars, by proxy in the past and with our direct involvement more recently.

Seen from another viewpoint, if peoples in the region did not have all this petro-wealth to "divide" between them as oil owners and/or "watchdogs" respectively, the fight would be pretty meaningless from a global perspective and would quickly devolve into a regional spat over water rights.

Obviously, both Jews and Arabs would hate such a development. I am convinced that one of the reasons they keep fighting each other is to keep the rest of us involved, one way or another. This may have been understandable in the past, when resource depletion and climate change were irrelevant as factors driving geopolitical priorities, but this is clearly no longer the case. We cannot afford to keep on with the present carbon-as-usual economy and MUST move on to the Green, Renewable and Sustainable model.

Determining The Fate of Hydrocarbon Baby

We are all familiar with King Solomon's wise judgement to order a baby cut in two so as to determine who its true mother was. I suggest a variation: let's in fact "kill" the hydrocarbon baby so the two mothers have nothing to fight over.

Addendum: Someone is getting this exact message. And guess who it is? The Arab oil exporters who wish to maintain their relevancy. Here is an article from the NY Times: Gulf Oil States Seeking a Lead in Clean Energy.

A relevant excerpt (bold added for emphasis)...

The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, announced last January that he would invest $15 billion in renewable energy. That is the same amount that President-elect Obama has proposed investing — in the entire United States — “to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future.”


  1. That would be great except that 70% of oil is used for transportation. Even if we were to build and use every available alternative energy source for home heating, cooling, public transportation and so forth, that only amounts to 30% of the energy we use. The real problem is how to replace personal travel from one place to the next. There isn't any energy source available for such things as 18-wheelers. I'm not even sure solar- and wind-powered electric lines would be adequate for large freight trains.

    As for the Middle East and Gaza, have we ever proposed building desalinization and water-treatment plants for Palestine? Maybe we should. I don't know that it would work, or how much it would cost to build and run, but I would think that it would alleviate some of the fighting over water rights.

  2. Okie: efficient desalinization needs either space (for solar panels, gobs of them) or uranium. The first commodity is scarce in Gaza, the second, well. There's reportedly some uranium nearby indeed, at Dimona.

  3. The US just shipped 6.6 million pounds of ammo to Israel. Congress, in a landslide vote, just gave its approval to Israel.

    This thing is only escalating. Gaza is just more US-backed slaughter.

    This whole thing is very likely about to get out of control and cost the US dearly.

    I am going on record, right now, we will see a USD collapse and an American Empire collapse in 2009.

    Joe M.

  4. Joe...

    I'm not going to go as far as a collapse of the USD and worldwide American presence this year, but things are definitely going to get ugly.

  5. Okie, good to see you back! ;-)

    Great post Hell, I couldn't agree more

    Also, do you know of a link that us non-financial types can watch which gives a real time and easy to understand report on how much actual quantitative easing the Fed is doing (i.e a little not too big a problem, while if it's a lot then "Warning Will Rogers")?

  6. Arm both sides. Let them keep shooting until their populations have been reduced sufficiently to come into alignment with the resources they have available to sustain them. That's when the fighting will stop. Since most of the region is rocks and sand, the wait is going to be considerable.

  7. H, You seem to be in concert with Gail the Actuary over on theOilDrum.

    Better ask the Shrinks how you get the Junkies to go Cold Turkey - well Warm Turkey maybe.

    As for the ME: water is the key. You have little use for oil if you have a declining water supply. Since populations are increasing in ME the water problem may go critical very fast.

    Any words of wisdom on a Debt Jubilee? Could hardly be worse than the current crop of 'Fail-outs'?

    Brian P

  8. Disagree with your premise Hel.

    The focus and one sided support is mostly because of the usual corruption of our government--with an insidious twist. IMHO if there was no oil there the US would still supply unconditional support (moral and material) for Israel because of PAC money and the risk of being smeared as anti-Semitic by the various Jewish "defense leagues".

    Don't blame Jews and Israelis for wanting to prevent another genocide but there comes a point when over-vigilance and paranoia become self destructive.

  9. You gotta be kidding, if you think the Zionist power in USA will allow US to get out of middle east.

    So what do you suggest Hell - US stop paying Israel 3B/year and more? Go tell that in public, and see what reaction you get.

  10. "There isn't any energy source available for such things as 18-wheelers."

    Oil has made it possible for people to live in unsustainable locations. And for populations to swell to unsustainable numbers. Being that we're at their mercy, its amazing the Middle East doesn't behave even worse.

  11. The obvious solution to this problem is to give all the Palestinians US citizenship ...

  12. Okie, electric vehicles can be powered by renewable energy. Of course, we have a long way to go.

  13. In the meantime I am betting middle east antics on either side of the divide will be less and less tolerated by everyone else in the world collective (except by those who don't see them as consumption).

  14. Joe This thing is only escalating. Gaza is just more US-backed slaughter.

    You, sir, is a Wuss ;-)

    The entire Israel/Palestine conflict hardly registers on the atrocity scale; it's the state equivalent of a bunch of gang-bangers doing random drive-by shootings; like f.ex. in Caracas, Venezuela, where about 1900 people got murdered in December alone - without the soppy news coverage too.

    We are only served "wounded children" stories whenever the Palestinians picks yet another fight they cannot handle, much less win.

    Anyways; The "real fun & games" starts when f.ex. Pakistan, Turkey or Egypt goes tits-up, squashed between the +5% per anno population growth and their perpetual negative economic growth to feed the new arrivals with.

    There is even, as a bonus IMO, a good chance that the taliban will manage to cut *the* supply route from Peshawar inside Pakistan, leaving the western forces in Afghanistan stranded.

    The move from Oil will happen but driven by circumstances and not due to any great plan of our own volition.

  15. Though I am admittedly a 'fractalits', I have never really been able get into Elliot Wave theory and its intellectual cousins in the political sphere- the infinite variety of conspiracy theories.

    And while I understand I have a certain cognitive dissonance in this regards, as both Elliot Wave/Conspiracy Theories and fractals tend to share many common features with chaos/complexity theory (e.g self-similar dynamic cycles, etc... and I don't even mean all those scale invariant fibonacci curves), still they always seem useless to me as prediction instruments. For changing initial conditions by even a miniscule amount (say one digit by even 0.001) creates an entirely different fractal, an observation commonly known as The butterfly effect).

    But when I read comments like your Joe or yours Anon, there is always that little voice in the back of my head reminding me of what military historians have known for a very long time, that war is fractal and that war casualties very definitely follow power laws.

    There is a large body of literature discussing this issue if you were unaware:

    So when I read comments like yours, I am always left hoping the 'rules' won't apply during my and my children's tenure on this planet.

    One can always hope.

    We are strange loops indeed.

  16. @Dr. Strangeloop,

    "Other applications
    l Evolution
    l Mass Extinction
    l Stock Market Prices
    l The Brain"

    I found this list amusing. It comes from some PDF from a U of Calgary prof(physics?). I came across it trying to understand one of your links. Understanding complexity is complicated.

  17. Yes, it is complex ;-)

    Though if it helps, I find it easiest to remember most things are non-linear (especially ideas) and the only part of a chaotic system I will ever really comprehend is the fractal component (it is kind of like a constant in a 3+ dimensional equation).

    The rest of the system is almost by definition impossible to comprehend so don't focus too much energy on it.

  18. Dink, if you have an email address I can send you a power point I am working on regarding fractals and health care spending (which Okie has promised to give me feedback on as well). You should be able to start seeing other fractals from there

  19. Thai, try the following link and see if you can get something close to what you are looking for regarding quantitative easing.

    If this doesn't work, contact the proprietor of the site, John Williams, directly, and see if he can steer you somewhere that has the data you are looking for. And thanks for posting the links regarding the physics of war.

  20. Thai,

    Sounds interesting.