Thursday, November 29, 2007

 

Biofuel Feedstock: Where Will We Get It?

Just as I pointed out in the previous post, proponents of the large-scale biofuel industry are overlooking a looming problem that will crimp their plans: getting the feedstock. Biofuel producers have set their sights on corn stover and other crop residue, but farmers will naturally want to keep that on their fields, and even more so as chemical fertilizers increase in price. It’s a no-brainer, so why has it taken people so long to notice it? Fortunately, here is an article that addresses this very issue.

What’s more, farmers will be looking for even more organic inputs in the future, to replace too-expensive chemical fertilizers. This problem has yet to be recognized, even though it’s easy to see.

Monday, November 12, 2007

 

Producing Fuels with Biomass: The Obstacle No One Sees

Much work is being done on biofuels and hydrogen, which are in the spotlight because fossil fuels keep getting more expensive. But that also means that sooner or later farmers will be forced to abandon chemical agricultural inputs, because they’re made with oil and natural gas. What will they use instead? Of course they’ll go back to organic matter. As will the millions of people who will in the near future become backyard gardeners just to keep food on the table.

Can you see trouble brewing here? Fuel producers who use biomass will plant feedstock crops, but when they come back in a couple of months for the harvest, they’ll find their crops have already been cut by local farmers and gardeners looking for organic inputs. And food will trump car fuel, any day.

So, coming up with nifty new technologies to make ethanol or hydrogen or whatever is going to be the easy part. Building a biofuel or hydrogen plant will be relatively easy. The hard part will be coming up with feedstock.

Farmers will not give up crop residue on their fields or the animal dung in their barnyards for biofuels because those materials will be badly needed fertilizer. Think you’ll be able to use fallen leaves in your bioreactors? Fageddaboutit. Roadside weeds? No way. Wood chips? Makers of compost will snap them up. Food producers are going to compete head-on with fuel producers for biomass, and as drought conditions entrench themselves in the US due to climate change, it’s only going to get worse. Anything organic at all will be in high demand as soil amendments.

Yet if you read all the articles about biofuels and hydrogen, they just center on the technology and take feedstock for granted. But in the future the limited availability of feedstock is going to be the major stumbling block to making fuels using biomass.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

 

Cost of Iraq War Compared to Energy Investment

Here’s a graph which compares the amount of money spent on the war in Iraq to the amounts spent on R&D in various types of energy. Without even looking, you can guess there’s going to be a huge difference. The graph just brings the message home, well, graphically.

Now, you are going to say that this doesn’t make sense, and of course you are right. Instead of bringing destruction and misery and death to Iraq, the money could have been used to repair America’s sagging infrastructure, invest in renewables, help the poor, or any number of other worthy purposes.

But this does make sense to those whose agenda is preserving the Empire. As I observed in the previous post, those who decided to spend our money this way are thinking of the tremendous geopolitical advantage that controlling Iraq’s oil will confer on them. They are willing to spend a lot of money on achieving that end, and so expenditures like this are not considered too high.

So in the end, it all comes down to your point of view.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

 

‘War-Not-for-Oil Thesis’ Is Flawed

The arguments about why the US attacked and occupied Iraq mainly come down to “the US did it for Israel” and “the US did it for the oil.” In short, I think it was for both. Obviously — as detailed by writers like James Petras — the Zionist power configuration works hard to push the US into aggression in the Middle East. Once you read the evidence, it’s impossible to deny the role of Zionist pressure for war and involvement in 9/11, for starters. In fact, those who argue (correctly) that the war is for oil might do well to review the work of these writers to see the involvement of Zionism.

On the other hand, those who provide this evidence of Zionist pressure deny that the invasion and occupation have anything to do with oil. But the “war for Israel but not for oil” (WFIBNFO) argument is disingenuous. And more than that, it’s just plain wrong. Here I shall set forth the case that oil is the main motivation.

Granted, some of the “war for oil” arguments are very weak at best, and it is good that they are shot down. For example, some people claim that Big Oil wanted the US to invade, but this doesn’t really make much sense. Better and cheaper ways could have been found for Western oil companies to exploit Iraq’s oil. And it’s obvious to any thinking person that oil companies can’t drill on a battlefield. Just look at the difficulties oil drilling operations face in countries with political instability, such as Nigeria. Oil companies don’t want to risk their expensive equipment and precious manpower (the oil industry currently has a manpower shortage) on a battlefield. Of course we don’t know what oil company representatives on Dick Cheney’s energy task force said, but it’s highly unlikely they chanted for war. And there is little or no indication that oil companies were actively lobbying for war. At most, I suspect they said, “If you want a war, then get it over quickly and stabilize Iraq, or we can’t work.” So, this argument for Big Oil complicity is pretty lame and has very little going for it.

Also, we know that other arguments for the war set forth by the Cheney regime — such as weapons of mass destruction, involvement in 9/11, and al Qaeda ties — were totally bogus to begin with.

But does this mean the US isn’t after the oil? The arguments I have reviewed above are presented again and again by the WFIBNFO faction. But since these arguments are easily refuted to begin with, they are in effect just straw men presented to support an inherently untenable position. This is the same trick used by those who support the US government’s flimsy 9/11 story. They attack the physical evidence argument, which is very weak and in effect a quicksand hole into which they draw their opponents, while at the same time they studiously avoid discussion of damning evidence such as the money trail or war games.

Similarly, the WFIBNFO camp overlooks geopolitical reality, namely that the US Empire is at a desperate crossroads. The dollar is sinking, the US economy is in the sewer, the government is awash in red ink and dependent on the largesse of other countries to keep running, the US military is falling apart, and geopolitical competitors like China and Russia are flexing their muscles. A combination of geology, geopolitics, and soaring demand is making oil more expensive by the day. Now that is a powerful cocktail of bad news, but empires look for opportunities to sustain themselves, and the US has found one: the oil of Iraq (and possibly that of Iran). As Henry Kissinger supposedly said, “Control the oil and you control entire nations; control the food and you control the people.” Whoever said it sure knew what they were talking about, and now this is more true than ever before. Since food in our modern world is produced with oil, controlling oil means also controlling food. In fact, since the modern world economy is oil-based, controlling oil means literally controlling everything.

Iraq has a lot of high-quality oil that can be easily exploited. Especially now — when oil companies are increasingly obliged to forage in deep-sea areas to come up with new discoveries, when they are going after low-EROEI “junk oil” like tar sands and shale oil — being able to control the oil wealth of Iraq (and perhaps of Iran) and keep it out of the hands of competitors would confer upon the US a spectacular strategic and geopolitical advantage. To believe that the Empire would be sitting on that oil and not be interested in, or be oblivious to, the huge advantage gained by controlling it is an intellectual blunder of staggering proportions.

Further, how does the WFIBNFO camp explain away things like the creation of AFRICOM? Obviously, its purpose is to secure the energy wealth of Africa for the Empire, not steal land for Israel. How does the WFIBNFO camp explain the mad dash by the world’s big players to lay claim over vast stretches of ocean, such as the north polar region? Is this for Israel, too? Naturally, it’s for oil and gas. Iraq is part of a worldwide pattern in which the big players are all making grabs for whatever they can get while the getting is good.

What about the vision for the NAFTA Superhighway? Obviously this assumes that the US will have access to a large supply of affordable oil. And where will it come from? Iraq, and perhaps Iran. And how about maintaining the consumptive American lifestyle? Americans believe they are entitled to the world’s energy and resources. We need Iraq’s oil, and therefore it’s “ours.” That is why both parties are in favor of staying in Iraq and continuing the neocon program.

Further, the US war machine is the world’s single biggest oil user. Do the WFIBNFO people think the Pentagon will run its worldwide military force on ethanol and solar? Time for a reality check.

It’s unlikely that something so obvious is lost on the people in the WFIBNFO camp, as their writings show that they are not stupid. To prop up their WFIBNFO reasoning, they just ignore these extremely powerful motives for trying to take over Iraq’s oil. If you were the leadership of the US Empire, how would you pull America’s fat out of the fire and maintain your position as King of the Mountain? How would you run your war machine? How would you maintain a society and economy that will collapse without a plentiful supply of affordable oil? Trying to take control of the oil is a desperate gambit, but it’s the best shot the Empire has.

Addendum: War for Israel = War for Oil

There is another fact which shows the dishonesty of the WFIBNFO camp by their ignoring it: Israel’s desperate need for oil. Throughout the history of Israel, its leaders have expressed grave concerns over oil supplies, which only stands to reason because Israel has virtually no oil of its own.

Further, Zionism pundits tell us about the plan for Greater Israel, but don’t say anything about this plan’s obvious need for oil. Without lots of oil, how will Israel hold onto the Palestinian land it has already stolen? How will it further its expansion into Arab lands and maintain its hold on them? How will settlers move into those lands and occupy them? How will the IDF power its war machine? Will they use camels? This plan obviously assumes that Israel will have access to plenty of oil, and Iraq’s oil is practically next door. Without oil, Israel is a basket case, and any plans for Greater Israel or further expansion of any kind are totally unrealistic. Given these circumstances, Israel’s drooling over Iraq’s oil is a no-brainer. The obvious connection here is that Zionist pressure on the US to attack Iraq and Iran equals Zionist pressure to take control of their oil. Yet Zionism pundits just ignore this inconvenient fact because it refutes their WFIBNFO thesis.

What’s more, the US is obligated to keep Israel supplied with oil. This gives the US a double motive to steal the oil of Iraq and Iran.

So in the final analysis, now matter how you look at it, this war is for oil.

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