Bush’s signature piece in his final year was to have been peace in Palestine, but the emissaries he sent to get it done were as inept at making peace as they were at making war. Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice had promised the Saudi royal family, lifelong friends of the House of Bush, that they would have a roadmap, a road, a full tank of gas, and a cooler of Powershot by now.
They haven’t even found the map.
And the Saudis know it. They have been stalled and jerked around long enough, and its time now to trim the Powershot supply for the American Empire. According to today’s Gulf Daily News ("The Voice of Bahrain") Saudi Arabia has sliced oil production to about nine million barrels per day (bpd).
For those who have been following this, that is another 200,000 bpd cut. Actual Saudi production capacity, which is what the Empire needs to continue, is said by the Saudis to be somewhere north of 11 mbpd, rising to 12.5 mbpd by next year. This latest production cut is not a small overture. It is a slap-down.
The Gulf Daily News cannot be a joy to read at the White House. Global oil consumption will rise by 1.27 mbpd in 2008, the International Energy Agency tells us in its latest monthly report, putting further price pressure on oil products, from gasoline and plastics to fertilizer and jet fuel. Worse, if you look at the USA’s other principal trading partners for crude oil, they are all on the same down escalator, headed for the nearest exit.
Mexico’s giant Cantarell field is in terminal decline and any thought of offshore replacement wells has fallen into a political Marianas Trench. The puppet government installed by Diebold, headed by Felipe Calderon, is being prevented from nationalizing Petroleos Mexicanos by the pot-banging opposition, who knew the election was rigged and now want to protect Mexico’s state-owned company from being looted. Without foreign investments in oil exploration, the Calderon government is forced to choose between skimming PEMEX profits to pay for its economic plan (more tourism) or investing in high-tech offshore drilling technology run by Mexicans. So far, they have preferred to keep skimming. It’s an addiction.
All of that is great news for the fragile coastal environment of Yucatan, but bad news for Houston, where EIA beancounters will soon be seeing much less Mexican crude arriving at refineries. Moreover, in another year or so, Houston shipwatchers will be counting far fewer Venezuelan tankers sailing up the harbor channel.
Part of Venezuela’s mutual defense treaty with China (if China is attacked by, say, Tibet, Venezuela has promised to send troops) allows China to build the special refineries needed to process Orinoco Heavy. Those special refineries never existed outside the USA before, and it means that in a year or so, Venezuelan tankers will be skirting the Penisula de la Guajira and dropping Southwest toward the Panama Canal instead of sailing Northwest past Jamaica and into the Gulf.
Of the four countries that export more than a million barrels of oil to the USA every day, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Venezuela have now begun twisting off their respective spigots, although the pinch and squeeking sound is still a little ways into our future. The fourth dealer is Canada. Can Canada make up the difference? Can any of the smaller suppliers — Nigeria, for instance? No. Of course not.
Peace in Palestine was the precondition that the Saudis placed on giving the USA a chance to transition more smoothly out of the petroleum era, or procrastinate longer, take your choice. With more deaths every day in Gaza —from lack of water, lack of food, lack of hospital access, and lack of hope — the American Empire is now looking more like Napoleon’s legions, right after they took Moscow. It is spread out thinly, with no supply line, in retreat, and the winter is blowing cold.
Just to balance this piece with a prescription for a way out, let me add an epilogue. The day after the US election next November, Mr. Obama needs to find the means to accomplish what Lamar Alexander did when he was elected Governor of Tennessee in 1979. He didn’t wait for the scheduled inauguration, but was directly sworn to the oath of office by the Tennessee Supreme Court in order to bring an abrupt halt to his predecessor’s crime spree.
After that nifty trick, Mr. Obama needs to appoint several emergency commissions. One will have to be for Truth and Reconciliation, or perhaps a Nuremberg trial, assigning responsibility for eight years of murder, torture and mayhem.
Another will focus on the hemorrhaging economy and provide a Rooseveltian program for jobs, housing, rail and agricultural revitalization. Still another will revamp US foreign and military policy, phasing the withdrawals from unsustainable bases all over the world and employing those assets at home, where they can begin the urgent work of greening our deserts, net sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, cleaning up after hurricanes or floods, and making and storing more food.
If too much Fox News has conditioned you to think of Roosevelt as an evil socialist, brace yourself for rapid reconditioning. Capitalism is based on endless growth. We are entering an era of sustained contraction. When Enterprise Capitalism fails, Progressive Social Democracy is a viable alternative to Feudal Theocracy or Militarized Autocracy. Fox News would give you the last of those choices as the best. I’m prodding President Obama towards PSD. We'll need socialized medicine, housing, food security and jobs. We'll need it to be delivered in a local, compassionate, egalitarian and non-bureaucratic fashion.
There will indeed be a need for grand scale public projects. But, instead of building another carrier fleet, the Pentagon can help Mr. Obama build desalination plants on the coasts, powered by wind and tidal energy, to pump water inland to stop the deserts’ spread. Mr. Obama can also shut down NASA’s Mission to Mars and redirect that effort towards renewable energy applications for transportation, communications and vital infrastructure.
I’m only getting warmed up. In his first hundred days, Mr. Obama should announce a program to reverse population growth through family planning and economic incentives. Foreign aid, both monetary and technical, must henceforth be conditioned on good-faith efforts by recipient countries to curb population. At home, we should set a goal of one half in one century (a modest population decline, really — just 0.7 %/yr).
Our atmospheric carbon reduction goal should be 110% by 2010. (Thank you George Monbiot.)
While the private automobile becomes increasingly expensive to fuel and service, public transportation can be publicly subsidized, even free to use in many markets, to speed conversion. Rail nodes will once more extend to every small town and neighborhood, making bike-and-jitney-to-rail possible for many routine needs and permitting freight and commerce to stay in motion. Powering this system can be an giant grid of natural energy systems — rain, sun, wind, tide, wave and geothermal.
This is not a science fiction fantasy. This is inevitable. Or else.
“[S]aid Scrooge, 'answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?'
“Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.”
Our choice is to change or die.