martes, 29 de octubre de 2013

¿Anochece en la Casa de Saud?

Bajo el título de "Suicidio saudita", Thierry Meyssan publica hoy una interesante nota para Red Voltaire. Se trata del extraño comportamiento del gobierno de Arabia Saudita ante lo que percibe como "claudicaciones" de Occidente en sus objetivos estratégicos. La impresión general es la de una sobreactuación saudita en toda la línea. Uno se pregunta cuánto de realismo y cuánto de desesperación hay en estos últimos gestos de un gobierno que, hasta ayer nomás, se caracterizaba por la moderación en sus mensajes.

Epígrafe: "Arabia Saudita retomó el plan qatarí tendiente a derrocar el régimen laico en Siria pero Riad parece incapaz de adaptarse al brusco retroceso de Estados Unidos. No sólo rechaza el acuerdo ruso-estadounidense sino que incluso prosigue la guerra y está anunciando diversas represalias para «castigar» a Estados Unidos. En opinión de Thierry Meyssan, esa obstinación equivale a un suicidio colectivo de la familia Saud."

Texto: "Abandonada en Siria por Estados Unidos, ¿se suicidará Arabia Saudita a falta de lograr llevarse la victoria? Eso es lo que puede pensarse al ver los siguientes acontecimientos:

El 30 de septiembre pasado, el príncipe Bandar Ben Sultan viajó a Rusia, donde no sólo fue recibido por su homólogo, el jefe de los servicios secretos, sino por el presidente Vladimir Putin. Hay dos versiones de ese encuentro. Según los sauditas, Bandar se expresó en nombre del reino y de Estados Unidos. Propuso comprar armamento ruso por una suma ascendente a 15 000 millones de dólares si Moscú abandonaba Siria. Según los rusos, Bandar se expresó con arrogancia, amenazando con el envío de yihadistas que pondrían en crisis la celebración de los Juegos Olímpicos de invierno en Sochi si Moscú persistía en su respaldo al régimen laico de Damasco y proponiendo un verdadero soborno. Sea cual sea la verdad, lo cierto es que el presidente Putin vio las palabras del príncipe saudita como un insulto a Rusia.

El pasado 30 de septiembre, el príncipe Saud Al-Faisal estaba inscrito como orador en el orden del día del debate general de 68ª Asamblea General de la ONU. Sin embargo, furioso ante el acercamiento entre Irán y Estados Unidos, este otro príncipe saudita –que funge como ministro de Relaciones Exteriores– simplemente abandonó la sede de la ONU, sin excusarse siquiera. Tan grande era su cólera que incluso se negó a que el discurso que iba a pronunciar, ya preparado e impreso de antemano, fuese distribuido a las delegaciones de los demás países.

El 11 de octubre, el secretario general adjunto de la ONU y ex responsable del Departamento de Estado para el Medio Oriente, Jeffrey Feltman, recibía a una delegación libanesa. Al hablar, en nombre del secretario general de la ONU Ban Ki-moon, Feltman no encontró palabras lo suficientemente duras para criticar la política exterior de Arabia Saudita, basada en «rencores» e incapaz de adaptarse a un mundo cambiante.

El 18 de octubre, la Asamblea General de la ONU elegía –193 votos a favor y 176 en contra– a Arabia Saudita para ocupar un puesto de miembro no permanente en el Consejo de Seguridad por un periodo de 2 años, que comenzaría el 1º de enero de 2014. El embajador saudita Abdallah El-Muallemi se felicitaba entonces por esa victoria que, según él, era un reflejo de «la eficacia de la política saudita caracterizada por la moderación» (sic). Sin embargo, unas pocas horas más tarde el príncipe Saud Al-Faisal publicaba un comunicado –de tono nasserista– sobre la incapacidad del Consejo de Seguridad y la negativa del reino a ocupar el puesto en ese órgano. Aunque mencionó el tema de Siria como motivo principal de esa decisión, el ministro saudita se dio el lujo de denunciar también la cuestión palestina y el tema de las armas de destrucción masiva en el Medio Oriente, o sea de designar simultáneamente como enemigos de la paz a Irán e Israel. Dado el hecho que la crítica contra la política de la ONU en Siria equivale a una denuncia directa contra Rusia y China, que recurrieron por 3 veces a su derecho de veto, el comunicado saudita era un insulto a Pekín, cuando China es actualmente el principal comprador del petróleo saudita. Ese viraje, que provocó consternación en las Naciones Unidas, fue sin embargoruidosamente saludado por Francia y Turquía, países que dicen compartir la «frustración» de Arabia Saudita sobre el tema de Siria.

El 21 de octubre, el Wall Street Journal revelaba que el príncipe Bandar Ben Sultan había invitado varios diplomáticos europeos acreditados en Riad a visitarlo en su domicilio, donde les narró el furor saudita ante el acercamiento entre Irán y Estados Unidos y el retroceso estadounidense en Siria. Ante sus atónitos interlocutores, el jefe de los servicios secretos sauditas anunció que el reino piensa vengarse retirando sus inversiones de Estados Unidos. Retomando el episodio del asiento en el Consejo de Seguridad, el Wall Street Journal precisó que –según el príncipe Bandar– el comunicado no estaba dirigido contra la actitud de Pekín sino contra Washington, precisión que resulta tanto más interesante cuanto que no corresponde a la situación.

Ante la incredulidad que suscitaron esas declaraciones y los comentarios conciliadores del Departamento de Estado,el príncipe saudita Turki Ben Faisal explicó a la agencia Reutersque su enemigo personal Bandar había hablado en nombre del reino y que esa nueva política no será objeto de revisión. Lo cual quiere decir que no existen divergencias al respecto entre las dos ramas rivales de la familia reinante en Arabia Saudita –los Sudairi y los Shuraim– sino una visión común que comparten los dos bandos.

En resumen, Arabia Saudita insultó a Rusia en julio pasado, insultó a China hace 2 semanas. Y ahora insulta a Estados Unidos. El reino anuncia que va a retirar sus inversiones de este último país, probablemente para volverse hacia Turquía y Francia, aunque ningún experto ve cómo pudiera ser eso posible. Ese comportamiento puede tener dos explicaciones: Riad finge cólera para que Washington pueda continuar la guerra en Siria sin responsabilizarse con ella o la familia Saud está cometiendo un suicidio político.

La primera hipótesis parece estar en contradicción con las palabras de Bandar ante los embajadores europeos. Si estuviese jugando a favor de Estados Unidos por debajo de la mesa, el jefe de los servicios secretos sauditas tendría especial cuidado en no ponerse a predicar revoluciones a sus aliados.

La segunda hipótesis recuerda el comportamiento de los camellos, animal preferido de los beduinos sauditas. Esos cuadrúpedos tienen la reputación de alimentar sus rencores durante largos años y de ser incapaces de vivir en paz mientras no hayan logrado concretar su venganza, sea cual sea el precio a pagar por ello.

Pero Riad parece haber olvidado que la supervivencia de Arabia Saudita está en juego desde que John O. Brennan fue nombrado director de la CIA, en marzo de 2013. Brennan, quien estuvo destacado en Arabia Saudita, es un resuelto adversario del dispositivo que sus predecesores montaron en el pasado con Riad: el yihadismo internacional. Brennan estima que si bien esos elementos hicieron un buen trabajo en su momento –en Afganistán, Yugoslavia y Chechenia–, hoy se han hecho demasiado numerosos e incontrolables. Lo que empezó siendo una banda de extremistas árabes enviados a combatir contra el Ejército Rojo se ha convertido con el tiempo en una constelación de grupos, presentes desde Marruecos hasta China, que hoy luchan más con la perspectiva de imponer el modelo de sociedad saudita que para vencer a los adversarios de Estados Unidos.

Ya en 2001, Estados Unidos había planeado liquidar al-Qaeda atribuyéndole los atentados del 11 de septiembre. Pero, con el asesinato oficial de Osama ben Laden en mayo de 2011, Washington prefirió rehabilitar esa red y la utilizó profusamente en Libia y en Siria. Sin al-Qaeda nunca hubiese sido posible el derrocamiento de Muammar el-Kadhafi, como ha quedado demostrado con la llegada de Abdelhakim Belhaj –ex número 2 de al-Qaeda en Libia– al cargo de gobernador militar de Trípoli. Según la visión de Brennan, es necesario reducir el yihadismo a su mínima expresión y conservarlo únicamente para su uso como fuerza de apoyo de la CIA en ciertas circunstancias.

El yihadismo no sólo es la única fuerza efectiva de Arabia Saudita, cuyo ejército se divide en dos unidades que obedecen cada una a uno de los clanes de la familia Saud, sino que además se ha convertido en la única razón de ser del reino en la medida en que Washington ya no necesita a Arabia Saudita para que le garantice el petróleo ni tampoco para que predique la causa de la paz con Israel. Lo anterior explica el regreso del Pentágono al viejo plan de los neoconservadores: «Expulsar de Arabia a los Saud», según el título de un PowerPoint proyectado en julio de 2002 a los miembros del Consejo Político del Departamento de Defensa. Ese proyecto prevé el desmantelamiento de Arabia Saudita en 5 zonas, 3 de las cuales estarían llamadas a convertirse en Estados independientes entre sí mientras que las otras 2 pasarían a formar parte de otros países.

Al optar por probar fuerza con Estados Unidos, la familia Saud no deja opción a los estadounidenses. Es poco probable que Washington permita que unos cuantos beduinos adinerados le digan lo que tiene que hacer, lo cual hace muy previsible que decida meterlos en cintura. En 1975, Washington no vaciló en ordenar el asesinato del rey Faisal. Esta vez, es muy probable que actúe de forma aún más radical."

lunes, 28 de octubre de 2013

Problemas


Un sobrio análisis de Jack A. Smith para el sitio canadiense Global Research vuelve a la carga sobre el conjunto de problemas que enfrenta la sociedad estadounidense contemporánea. Uno se pregunta si no será, ya, demasiado tarde.

Título: The Inner Crisis of American Society: Civil Liberties, Militarization, Economic Inequality


Texto: “For all the enervating political tumult and shouting emanating from Washington these days, there is remarkably little to show for it except what has become virtually routine political paralysis. None of the key differences that are fought over by the politicians seem to directly relate to these five most crucial and threatening specific issues confronting the American people:


1. The erosion of American democracy by a political system flagrantly dominated by great wealth, the big corporations, Wall Street and the major banks. One person may have one vote, but a billionaire — by virtue of funding certain candidates — has the equivalent of thousands of votes on Election Day and in the federal and state legislatures and executive offices thereafter. This more closely resembles an oligarchy (rule by a small group of powerful people and interests) than genuine democracy.


2. The grave weakening of civil liberties and the privacy rights of the American people by the Bush and Obama Administrations has in a dozen years transformed the United States into a global Surveillance State. Whatever happened to the “checks and balances” that were supposed to exist in the U.S. political system to protect the people from such abuses? Our postal mail, email, Internet practices, phones and other electronic devises are now hacked at will by the U.S. government and many law enforcement agencies. Somewhere in the U.S., a potential Big Brother regime is patiently waiting in the wings for conditions to ripen. The apparatus is at the ready.


In this connection the Washington Post reported Oct. 5: “David Sanger, the New York Times reporter who has spent two decades reporting in Washington, says that the Obama administration is the ‘most closed, control-freak administration’ he’s ever covered. That criticism comes from a forthcoming report on U.S. press freedom written by former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie Jr., in which he claims that national security reporters face “vast and unprecedented challenges” as a result of government surveillance, secrecy and “sophisticated control” of the news media’s access to government.


3. Rapidly rising economic inequality has reached the point where about half the population now is either low wage or poor while the middle class is being depleted and the top 1% to 5% is living like royalty. Meanwhile, unemployment and foreclosures remain high while social programs that benefit the people are on the chopping block. How can there be a healthy democracy if there isn’t even the semblance of economic democracy for the poor, the working class, the lower middle class and now large sectors of the middle class as well?


 4. Climate change is already upon us and yet — despite some recent White House mumblings about lowering greenhouse gas emissions — the U.S. will shortly become world’s largest crude oil and natural gas producer, thanks to Obama Administration policies and the proliferation of hazardous fracking. Washington always demands to be recognized the world leader, by force if necessary, and now it’s leading the world toward a disaster by ignoring the climate crisis for fear of disrupting corporate and financial profits.


 5. The U.S. government is determined to remain the world’s military superpower, spending over $600 billion a year on the Pentagon and an equal amount on various “national security” endeavors — more than an annual $1.2 trillion all told.  President Obama is currently fighting ground or drone wars in Afghanistan, West Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, while continuing to increase the military buildup against China. In addition, Obama is sending special military forces of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to scores of countries around the globe to advance U.S. interests — and most Americans have no idea this is happening.


Obviously, from a left perspective, the main danger is the Republicans — the far right wing, the Tea Party reactionaries, most of big business and finance, libertarians, intimidated moderates, fundamentalist Bible thumpers, and remnant racists. They usually oppose abortion rights and deny global warming. Many want to “shrink” the federal government in order to eliminate Social Security and all social programs that benefit the people,  destroy all regulatory oversight of big business, and erect nearly insurmountable barriers against the labor movement.


However, the five key issues listed above are the product of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The Libertarians and the Tea Party strongly oppose the erosion of civil liberties. The libertarians are staunchly against imperialist war. Indeed, most Democrats seem to shrug off both issues when their party occupies the Oval Office.


The Democratic Party is a secondary danger (or lesser evil, if you prefer). Despite controlling the White House and Senate for five years and the House for two of those years — it has proven itself incapable of mounting an effective counterattack against rampant right wing ideology, not least because the center-right Democrats have neither the political orientation, nor the will to adequately serve the needs of American working families. Both parties, after all, are wedded to a private enterprise system utterly based on economic inequality at home and imperialist wars abroad. Can this be honestly doubted by liberals and progressives, even as they undoubtedly will pull the lever for Hilary Clinton and more of the same in 2016?


What has the Democratic Party done to halt the erosion of American democracy? What has it done to strengthen civil liberties? What has it done (in the last 50 years) to reverse the ever-widening inequality gap between rich and poor? What has it done to end wars and substantially reduce the bloated military/national security budgets in order to invest in social programs? What has it done to promptly take major steps to convert from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy? It has done nothing of significance.


Our American society is swiftly changing for the worst. We all can see this. It has a way to go yet, and can be stopped and reversed before the rightist momentum becomes uncontrollable. To accomplish this, a new progressive/left politics is absolutely necessary. The march of the right wing must be halted and pushed back. The march of the left (not the center right lesser evil) must commence. All else, in our view, is wishful thinking.”

viernes, 25 de octubre de 2013

¿Petro qué?


Lo bueno de las crisis globales es que la gente de golpe empieza a hablar claro. Como en esta nota de Michael Snyder, del blog The Economic Collapse. Habla claro ya desde la primera frase: “The number one American export is U.S. dollars”, nos dice. Ese es el tipo de oración que a uno le alegra la mañana. En fin, dólares. Y petrodólares, claro; ¿se acuerdan? Vayamos a la nota:
 

Título: The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar
 

Texto: “The number one American export is U.S. dollars.  It is paper currency that is backed up by absolutely nothing, but the rest of the world has been using it to trade with one another and so there is tremendous global demand for our dollars.  The linchpin of this system is the petrodollar.  For decades, if you have wanted to buy oil virtually anywhere in the world you have had to do so with U.S. dollars.  But if one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, decided to start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, the petrodollar monopoly would disintegrate very rapidly.  For years, everyone assumed that nothing like that would happen any time soon, but now Saudi officials are warning of a "major shift" in relations with the United States.  In fact, the Saudis are so upset at the Obama administration that "all options" are reportedly "on the table".  If it gets to the point where the Saudis decide to make a major move away from the petrodollar monopoly, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.
 

The biggest reason why having good relations with Saudi Arabia is so important to the United States is because the petrodollar monopoly will not work without them.  For decades, Washington D.C. has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Saudis happy.  But now the Saudis are becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. military is not being used to fight their wars for them.  The following is from a recent Daily Mail report...
 

Upset at President Barack Obama's policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.
 

Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a 'major shift' in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria's civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.
 

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
Saudi Arabia desperately wants the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war on the side of the "rebels".  This has not happened yet, and the Saudis are very upset about that.
 

Of course the Saudis could always go and fight their own war, but that is not the way that the Saudis do things.
 

So since the Saudis are not getting their way, they are threatening to punish the U.S. for their inaction.  
According to Reuters, the Saudis are saying that "all options are on the table now"...
 

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank's net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.
 

"All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact," the Saudi source said.

Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is.  If the Saudis break the petrodollar monopoly, it would severely damage the U.S. economy.  For those that do not fully understand the importance of the petrodollar, the following is a good summary of how the petrodollar works from an article by Christopher Doran...
 

In a nutshell, any country that wants to purchase oil from an oil producing country has to do so in U.S. dollars. This is a long standing agreement within all oil exporting nations, aka OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The UK for example, cannot simply buy oil from Saudi Arabia by exchanging British pounds. Instead, the UK must exchange its pounds for U.S. dollars. The major exception at present is, of course, Iran.
 

This means that every country in the world that imports oil—which is the vast majority of the world's nations—has to have immense quantities of dollars in reserve.
 

These dollars of course are not hidden under the proverbial national mattress. They are invested. And because they are U.S. dollars, they are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and other interest bearing securities that can be easily converted to purchase dollar-priced commodities like oil. This is what has allowed the 

U.S. to run up trillions of dollars of debt: the rest of the world simply buys up that debt in the form of U.S. interest bearing securities.
 

This arrangement works out very well for the United States because we can wildly print money and run up gigantic amounts of debt and the rest of the world gobbles it all up.
In 2012, the United States ran a trade deficit of about $540,000,000,000 with the rest of the planet.  In other words, about half a trillion more dollars left the country than came into the country.  These dollars represent the number one "product" that the U.S. exports.  We make dollars and exchange them for the things that we need.  Major exporting countries (such as Saudi Arabia) take many of those dollars and "invest" them in our debt at ultra-low interest rates.  It is this system that makes our massively inflated standard of living possible.
 

When this system ends, the era of cheap imports and super low interest rates will be over and the "adjustment" to our standard of living will be excruciatingly painful.
And without a doubt, the day is rapidly approaching when the petrodollar monopoly will end.
 

Today, Russia is the number one exporter of oil in the world.
 

China is now the number one importer of oil in the world, and at this point they are actually importing more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States is.
 

So why should Russia, China and virtually everyone else continue to be forced to use U.S. dollars to trade oil?
 

That is a very good question.
 

In fact, China has been making a whole lot of noise recently about the fact that it is time to start becoming less dependent on the U.S. dollar.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article authored by Michael Pento...
 

Our addictions to debt and cheap money have finally caused our major international creditors to call for an end to dollar hegemony and to push for a "de-Americanized" world.
 

China, the largest U.S. creditor with $1.28 trillion in Treasury bonds, recently put out a commentary through the state-run Xinhua news agency stating that, "Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated."
 

But you very rarely hear anything about this on the evening news, and most Americans do not understand these things at all.  The fact that the U.S. produces the de facto reserve currency of the planet is an absolutely massive advantage for us.  According to John Mauldin, this advantage allows us to consume far more wealth than we actually produce...
What that means in practical terms is that the United States can purchase more with its currency than it produces and sells. In theory those accounts should balance.
 

But the world's reserve currency, for all intent and purposes, becomes a product. The world needs dollars in order to conduct its trade. Today, if someone in Peru wants to buy something from Thailand, they first convert their local currency into US dollars and then purchase the product with those dollars. Those dollars eventually wind up at the Central Bank of Thailand, which includes them in its reserve balance. When someone in Thailand wants to purchase an imported product, their bank accesses those dollars, which may go anywhere in the world that will take the US dollar, which is to say pretty much anywhere.
 

And as Mauldin went on to explain in that same article, a significant amount of the money that we ship out to the rest of the globe ends up getting reinvested in U.S. government debt...
 

That privilege allows US citizens to purchase goods and services at prices somewhat lower than those people in the rest of the world must pay. We can produce electronic fiat dollars, and the rest of the world accepts them because they need them to in order to trade with each other. And they do so because they trust the dollar more than they do any other currency that is readily available. You can take those dollars and come to the United States and purchase all manner of goods, including real estate and stocks. Just this week a Chinese company spent $600 million to buy a building in New York City. Such transactions happen all the time.
 

And there is one other item those dollars are used to pay for: US Treasury bonds. We buy oil and all manner of goods with our electronic dollars, and those dollars typically end up on the reserve balance sheets of other central banks, which buy our government bonds. It's hard to quantify the exact amount, but these transactions significantly lower the cost of borrowing for the US government. On a $16 trillion debt, every basis point (1/10 of 1%) means a saving of $16 billion annually. So 5 basis points would be $80 billion a year. There are credible estimates that the savings are well in excess of $100 billion a year. Thus, as the debt grows, the savings also grow! That also means the total debt compounds at a lower rate.
 

Unfortunately, this system only works if the rest of the planet has faith in it, and right now the United States is systematically destroying the faith that the rest of the world has in our financial system.
 

One way that this is being done is by our reckless accumulation of debt.  The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.  The rest of the world is watching this and they are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to pay them back the money that we owe them.
 

Quantitative easing is another factor that is severely damaging worldwide faith in the U.S. financial system.  

The rest of the globe is watching as the Federal Reserve wildly prints up money and monetizes our debt.  

They are beginning to wonder why they should continue to loan us gobs of money at super low interest rates when we are beginning to resemble the Weimar Republic.
 

The long-term damage that we are doing to the "U.S. brand" far, far outweighs any short-term benefits of quantitative easing.
 

And as Richard Koo has brilliantly demonstrated, quantitative easing is going to cause long-term interest rates to eventually rise much higher than they normally should have.
 

What all of this means is that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are systematically destroying the financial system that has enabled us to enjoy such a high standard of living for the past several decades.
 

Yes, the U.S. economy is not doing well at the moment, but we haven't seen anything yet.  When the monopoly of the petrodollar is broken, it is going to be absolutely devastating.
 

And as I wrote about the other day, when the next great economic crisis strikes it is going to pull back the curtain and reveal the rot and decay that have been eating away at the social fabric of America for a very long time.
 

Just check out what happened in Detroit recently.  The new police chief was almost carjacked while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle...
 

Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.
 

While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.
 

Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.
 

Isn't that crazy?
 

These days, the criminals are not even afraid to go after the police while they are sitting in their own vehicles.
And this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get much, much worse than this.
So let us hope that this period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now will last for as long as possible.


The times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and I hope that you are getting ready for them.”

jueves, 24 de octubre de 2013

La casita del Obispo

 La casita del Obispo de Limburgo (Alemania), Monseñor  Tebartz-van Els

Una nota de Andrea Tornielli, desde Ciudad del Vaticano para el Vatican Insider, muestra cómo ha empezado el ajuste fino en la curia europea.

Título: El obispo “derroche”, por ahora, no vuelve a su diócesis


Epígrafe: La decisión del Papa: mons. Tebartz-van Elst se queda, por el momento, lejos de la diócesis de Limburgo, mientras una comsión investiga sobre los gastos para la reestructuración del centro diocesano
 

Texto: "Papa Francisco ha estado «constantemente» («ampliamente» y «objetivamente») informado sobre la situación de la diócesis alemana de Limburgo, cuyo obispo Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst ha sido duramente criticado por los gastos para la reestructuración de un edificio histórico de la diócesis (en donde, además, se encuentra su residencia), que pasaron de los 5,5 millones previstos a 31 millones de euros.

Hace dos días, el obispo fue recibido en una audiencia por el Papa, quien antes se había reunido con el cardenal de Colonia Joachim Meisner, amigo de Tebartz-van Elst y uno de los que lo apoyan. «En la diócesis –informa un comunicado de la Santa Sede que fue difundido hoy por la mañana– se vino a crear una situación en la que» el obispo, «en el momento actual no puede ejercer su ministerio episcopal». De esta manera se reconoce la dificultad de la situación y la tensión alrededor de ella.


Después de la visita del cardenal Giovanni Lajolo, enviado por la Santa Sede a Limburgo el mes pasado, «la Conferencia episcopal alemana, conforme a un acuerdo entre el obispo y el capítulo de la catedral de Limburgo, ha creado una comisión para emprender un examen profundo de la cuestión de la construcción de la sede episcopal».


«A la espera de los resultados de tal examen –dice el comunicado vaticano– y de las vinculadas responsabilidades al respecto, la Santa Sede considera oportuno autorizar, para mons. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, un periodo de permanencia fuera de la diócesis. Por decisión de la Santa Sede entra en vigor a partir de hoy el nombramiento del Stadtdekan Wolfgang Rösch como vicario Generale; nombramiento que había sido anunciado por el obispo de Limburgo para el primero de enero de 2014. El vicario general Rösch administrará la diócesis de Limburgo durante la ausencia del obispo diocesano en el ámbito de las competencias vinculadas con tal ente».


Después de la audiencia con Francisco, el obispo había publicado en el sitio de la diócesis de Limburgo un breve comentario en el que hablaba con optimismo de su encuentro. Entre los prelados romanos más cercanos a Tebartz-van Elst circulaban algunos rumores sobre la audiencia: «estuvo bien», decían. La Santa Sede ahora reconoce la situación espinosa, acuerda que el obispo permanezca fuera de la diócesis mientras no estén claras las cosas en esta historia que ha desencadenado una fuerte polémica incluso entre los medios de comunicación alemanes. Y, aunque no se pronuncia sobre su futuro, el hecho de que haya dejado la gestión de la diócesis al nuevo vicario general, elegido por el mismo Tebartz-van Elst, parece representar una muestra de confianza."

miércoles, 23 de octubre de 2013

Petróleo en el Africa subsahariana

A los efectos de ir confeccionando el mapa de las futuras guerritas planificadas desde (al menos) Occidente para el Africa subsahariana, conviene ir registrando dónde están las reservas de petróleo. Como para que el día de mañana no nos resulte una sorpresa, por ejemplo, que los diarios británicos hablan mal de Etiopía. En fin, igual, los negritos siempre se portan mal, vieron?

Leemos en el sitio web "Of Two Minds", de Charles Hugh Smith, el siguiente post:

Título: The Scramble for Africa's Oil

Subtítulo: Oil-rich nations are bedeviled by the Resource Curse


Texto: The global scramble for Africa's estimated 25 billion barrels of oil is on. Those scrambling to secure (and/or exploit) the continent's abundance of fossil fuels include each oil-rich nation's political and economic Elites, international oil corporations, regional powers, trading blocs and the four major (and energy-hungry) economic players: the E.U., the U.S., Japan and China.

Oil-rich nations are bedeviled by the Resource Curse. An abundance of natural resource wealth distorts the national economy and politics in a number of ways: private investment in other less exploitable/profitable sectors of the economy stagnates, leaving the government and economy highly dependent on resource revenues; local Elites quickly gain control of the income stream from the resource wealth and divert it to their own accounts and cronies, institutionalizing corruption, and this diversion of national income to Elites starves the nation of investment in infrastructure, education, transportation networks and all the other foundations of a vibrant, competitive economy.

In geopolitical terms, oil-rich nations become "areas of interest" to neighboring states and energy-hungry global powers, further complicating and distorting national development.

Though many hope that this flood of energy wealth can be used to fund much-needed infrastructure, education and public health projects throughout the continent, the key systems of governance, governmental transparency, an open media and a political process that enables public participation are problematic in many (if not all) of Africa's energy-rich nations.

Unfortunately, these systemic weaknesses render these nations even more vulnerable to the distortions of the Resource Curse.

No energy-importing power center can afford to be sidelined in the scramble for Africa's fossil fuel wealth. Sadly, that insures global and regional powers will continue jockeying for oil leases (vulnerable to cancellation when corrupt regimes change hands), development contracts and political influence within controlling Elites, a process that rewards the least savory aspects of corrupt regimes.

Global rivals who have lost out will be tempted to support armed rebellions that weaken their rival's influence, encouraging conflicts that are inherently destabilizing, not just to the oil-rich nations but to the region.

Arrayed against these powerful forces of corruption and destabilization are grassroots groups supporting democracy and national development and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by foundations.

In the abstract, almost everyone agrees that this energy wealth should benefit all residents of oil-rich nations. But as long as it is cheaper in terms of time and money to secure oil by making deals with kleptocrats and corrupt Elites, there will be few incentives for major powers to risk losing access to oil/natural gas by supporting policies that would spread the wealth and encourage democracy.

Sadly, few consumers of energy care where the energy they burn comes from, or what distortions were created by the extraction and processing of that energy.

As the Cliff Robertson character said at the end of the prescient 1975 film, Three Days of the Condor: "When the people are cold and their engines stop running, they're not going to ask us why; they'll just want us to go get it." It's difficult to refute that, whether the people are American, Chinese or European."

martes, 22 de octubre de 2013

Mientras tanto, en Arabia Saudita...

Ayer leíamos sobre el atentado prepetrado por supuestos commandos chechenos en Rusia y se nos ocurrió algo parecido a lo que sugiere esta nota en los últimos tres párrafos. La tomamos de Zero Hedge. Tiempos interesantes, sin dudas. 

Título: This Lack Of Syrian Aggression Will Not Stand, Man: Saudi's Bandar Bin Sultan Furious At US

Texto: “That Saudi Arabia has been furious at the US for refusing to be the monarchy's puppet Globocop, and in the last minute declining to bomb Syria following Putin's gambit in which World War III seemed a distinctly possible consequence of John Kerry's hamheaded "YouTube-substantiated" false flag campaign, is no secret. However, while the US has largely forgotten this latest foreign policy debacle and the humiliation it brought upon the Department of State, Saudi Arabia is nowhere close to forgetting. Or forgiving. And this time the anger comes from the one man who truly matters, and whom we dubbed several months ago as the puppetmaster behind the Syrian campaign:the man in charge of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan.

The WSJ reports overnight, that Prince Bandar told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington's policy in the region, participants in the meeting said.  This demonstratively framed announcement follows Saudi Arabia's surprise decision on Friday to renounce a seat on the United Nations Security Council. "The Saudi government, after preparing and campaigning for the seat for a year, cited what it said was the council's ineffectiveness in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian and Syrian conflicts."

In short: Bin Sultan has decided to take the stage and make it quite clear that this lack of aggression by the US will not stand. The question is: what can or will he do?

Diplomats here said Prince Bandar, who is leading the kingdom's efforts to fund, train and arm rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, invited a Western diplomat to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah over the weekend to voice Riyadh's frustration with the Obama administration and its regional policies, including the decision not to bomb Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons in August.

"This was a message for the U.S., not the U.N.," Prince Bandar was quoted by diplomats as specifying of Saudi Arabia's decision to walk away from the Security Council membership.

...

U.S. officials said they interpreted Prince Bandar's message to the Western diplomat as an expression of discontent designed to push the U.S. in a different direction. "Obviously he wants us to do more," said a senior U.S. official.

Obviously. What is odd is that the "proxy" intelligence chief appears to have usurped foreign policy decision-making from the Saudi king himself.

Top decisions in Saudi Arabia come from the king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and it isn't known if Prince Bandar's reported remarks reflected a decision by the monarch, or an effort by Prince Bandar to influence the king. However, the diplomats said, Prince Bandar told them he intends to roll back a partnership with the U.S. in which the Central Intelligence Agency and other nations' security bodies have covertly helped train Syrian rebels to fight Mr. Assad, Prince Bandar said, according to the diplomats. Saudi Arabia would work with other allies instead in that effort, including Jordan and France, the prince was quoted as saying.

If there was any confusion that the entire Syrian campaign was purely at the behest of the Qataris and the Saudis as we first suggested in May, it can finally be put to bed.
The monarchy was particularly angered by Mr. Obama's decision to scrap plans to bomb Syria in response to the alleged chemical-weapons attack in August and, more recently, tentative overtures between Mr. Obama and Iran's new president.

Diplomats and officials familiar with events recounted two previously undisclosed episodes during the buildup to the aborted Western strike on Syria that allegedly further unsettled the Saudi-U.S. relationship.

In the run-up to the expected U.S. strikes, Saudi leaders asked for detailed U.S. plans for posting Navy ships to guard the Saudi oil center, the Eastern Province, during any strike on Syria, an official familiar with that discussion said. The Saudis were surprised when the Americans told them U.S. ships wouldn't be able to fully protect the oil region, the official said.

Disappointed, the Saudis told the U.S. that they were open to alternatives to their long-standing defense partnership, emphasizing that they would look for good weapons at good prices, whatever the source, the official said.

In the second episode, one Western diplomat described Saudi Arabia as eager to be a military partner in what was to have been the U.S.-led military strikes on Syria. As part of that, the Saudis asked to be given the list of military targets for the proposed strikes. The Saudis indicated they never got the information, the diplomat said.

...

"The Saudis are very upset. They don't know where the Americans want to go," said a senior European diplomat not in Riyadh.

To be sure, not just Prccne Bandar is angry - everyone else in Saudi is now fuming at Obama too:

In Washington in recent days, Saudi officials have privately complained to U.S. lawmakers that they increasingly feel cut out of U.S. decision-making on Syria and Iran. A senior American official described the king as "angry."

 Another senior U.S. official added: "Our interests increasingly don't align."

Fair enough: but what can it do? It is no secret, that as the primary hub of the petrodollar system which is instrumental to keeping the dollar's reserve status, Saudi has no choice but to cooperate with the US, or else risk even further deterioration of the USD reserve status. A development which would certainly please China... and Russia, both of which are actively engaging in Plan B preparations for the day when the USD is merely the latest dethroned reserve currency on the scrap heap of all such formerly world-dominant currencies.

Perhaps the only party that Saudi can lash out at, since it certainly fears escalating its animosity with the US even more, is Russia. And perhaps it did yesterday, when as we reported, a suicide-bombing terrorist incident captured on a dashcam killed many people, and was supposedly organized by an Islamist extremist - of the kind that Bandar told Putin several months ago are controlled and funded by Saudi intelligence chief.

If true, and if Saudi wants to project its impotence vis-a-vis the US by attacking Russia, this will likely culminate with the Sochi winter Olympics. So will Prince Bandar be crazy enough to take on none other than the former KGB chief? And more importantly, just like in the US Syrian fiasco, what happens when and if Putin retaliates against the true power that holds the USD in place?”

domingo, 20 de octubre de 2013

Brasil, por otro Orden


Una nota de Darío Pignotti para Página 12 confirma nuestras presunciones previas sobre el viraje de la estrategia brasileña en relación con los EEUU. Vamos a la nota:

Título: Brasil se
aleja de EE.UU.

Epígrafe: Que no haya ninguna petrolera norteamericana en el lance de mañana por el megacampo de Libra indica que la colisión diplomática tuvo una repercusión práctica. La geopolítica petrolera de Brasilia se inclina hacia Beijing.


Texto: Las ediciones electrónicas de The Wall Street Journal y The Financial Times dedicarán mañana una cobertura agitada, recogiendo repercusiones minuto a minuto sobre la subasta que se realizará en Brasil por el campo petrolero Libra, que ocupa 1500 km2, está dotado de unos 12.000 millones de barriles alojados en aguas ultraprofundas situadas a 183 kilómetros del estado de Río de Janeiro y será capaz de producir, dentro de algunos años, 1,4 millones de barriles por día, volumen equivalente al 70 por ciento de todo lo generado hoy en el país.


Petrobras y tres petroleras chinas (no se descarta la formación de un consorcio chino-brasileño a última hora) figuran entre las once compañías que participarán en la disputa por Libra, en la que estarán ausentes las “grandes hermanas” norteamericanas debido a estrés diplomático surgido entre Brasilia y Washington, luego del destape del espionaje perpetrado por la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA) contra Petrobras y la presidenta Dilma Rousseff, entre otros blancos sensibles.


Por debajo de las noticias en tiempo real que nos sofocarán el lunes a base de índices bursátiles y brokers con sus opiniones de corto plazo, subyace una historia transcurrida en los últimos años cuyo repaso permitirá comprender lo que está en juego: una reacomodación de fuerzas en la geopolítica del petróleo.


Celso Amorim era canciller, en julio de 2008, cuando recibió una llamada de su colega norteamericana Condoleezza Rice sugiriéndole recibir sin alarma la reactivación de la IV Flota bajo jurisdicción del Comando Sur, anunciada pocos meses después del descubrimiento, en 2007, de grandiosas reservas de hidrocarburos en las cuencas de Campos y Santos, localizadas en el litoral de Río de Janeiro y San Pablo.


Ni el canciller Amorim ni su jefe, el ex presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, tomaron en serio la retórica tranquilizadora de la funcionaria de George W. Bush. Antes bien lo contrario, hubo alarma en el Palacio del Planalto. Lula, Amorim y la entonces ministra Dilma Rousseff, que comenzaba a perfilarse como candidata presidencial, comprendieron que el paso de la US Navy por las costas cariocas sería una ostentación de poderío militar sobre los 50.000 millones de barriles de crudo de buena calidad alojados a más de 5000 metros de profundidad, en una zona geológica conocida como “presal”.


Más allá de los cuestionamientos en foros internacionales, especialmente latinoamericanos, fue poco lo que el Palacio del Planalto pudo hacer de inmediato contra la supremacía militar de Estados Unidos y su decisión de que la IV Flota, brazo armado de las petroleras de bandera norteamericana Exxon y Chevron en el Hemisferio, ponga proa hacia el sur.


Lula y su consejera sobre energía, Dilma, se vieron ante un dilema: o adoptar una salida a la mexicana, como la del actual presidente Enrique Peña Nieto, que mostró su disposición a privatizar Pemex, aunque el término empleado sea “modernización”, o inyectar dinero y mística nacionalista para robustecer a Petrobras como vector de una estrategia destinada a salvaguardar la soberanía energética. Finalmente, el gobierno del Partido de los Trabajadores (PT) optó por la segunda vía y la instrumentó con una batería de medidas de amplio espectro.


Capitalizó Petrobras para revertir el vaciamiento heredado de la gestión del ex presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002) y logró aprobar a fines de 2010 una ley petrolera “estatizante e intervencionista”, de acuerdo con la interpretación dada por políticos de extracción neoliberal y el lobby británico-estadounidense, parecer amplificado por las empresas de noticias locales.


Resucitó el proyecto de construir un submarino atómico con Francia, con quien firmó en 2009 un acuerdo militar (que avanzó menos de lo prometido); demandó ante organismos internacionales la extensión de la plataforma marina con el propósito de que nadie dispute la titularidad de las cuencas petroleras y promovió el Consejo de Defensa de Unasur, con el apoyo de Argentina y Venezuela y el ninguneo de Colombia.


Como brazo auxiliar de esa línea de acción gubernamental operó el PT a través de su perseverante aproximación con el Partido Comunista Chino, antesala para establecer lazos de confianza política con la nomenclatura del Estado asiático, con cuyo Banco de Desarrollo finalmente firmaría en 2010 una serie de preacuerdos para la concesión de préstamos por decenas de miles de millones de dólares a Petrobras.


Paralelamente a los movimientos brasileños en salvaguarda de su interés nacional y para hacerse de un lugar entre las potencias petroleras, la agencia estadounidense NSA robaba informaciones estratégicas del Ministerio de Minas y Energía y los diplomáticos destacados en Brasilia enviaban telegramas secretos a Washington tipificando al canciller Amorim como un diplomático “antinorteamericano”.


Tres meses atrás, cuando Dilma Rousseff tomó conocimiento de las primeras noticias sobre las maniobras de la NSA, una fuente del Planalto dijo a Página/12 que la presidenta evitaría “radicalizar” la situación pues confiaba en una conciliación con Estados Unidos, a donde planeaba viajar para una visita oficial el 23 de octubre. Pero la posición de Dilma se hizo irreductible en septiembre al saber que los espías habían violado hasta las comunicaciones de Petrobras.


La decisión de suspender la visita de Estado a Washington, pese a que Barack Obama renovó su invitación personalmente, no debe ser confundida como algo gestual, porque sus consecuencias afectaron decisiones vitales.


Que no haya ninguna petrolera norteamericana en el lance de mañana por el megacampo de Libra y sí tres poderosas empresas chinas, de las cuales dos son estatales, indica que la colisión diplomática tuvo una repercusión práctica.


Que fuentes cercanas al gobierno hayan dejado trascender la posible formación de un consorcio entre Petrobras y alguna empresa china, revela que la geopolítica petrolera de Brasilia se inclina hacia Beijing, que además es su primer socio comercial. Y si lo anterior no bastara para describir el distanciamiento estratégico entre el Planalto y la Casa Blanca, la semana pasada el indigesto (para Washington) ministro Celso Amorim, ahora a cargo de Defensa, inició conversaciones con Rusia para analizar la compra de cazabombarderos Sukoi.


Fue solo un sondeo, pero si esa compra se formaliza será un revés considerable para la corporación industrial-militar norteamericana que imaginaba vender sus cazas Super Hornet a Brasil, durante la visita que Dilma no hará.”

viernes, 18 de octubre de 2013

Liderazgos

Cuando los voceros del establishment salen a dudar del propio establishment, es porque estamos viviendo tiempos de cambios. La siguiente nota es del diario español El País:
 

Título: La crisis pone en entredicho el liderazgo mundial de EE UU
 

Texto: El Congreso vota al final de la noche un acuerdo que devuelve por unos pocos meses la tranquilidad presupuestaria, pero eso no despeja las dudas creadas sobre la gobernabilidad de la mayor potencia internacional
 

La larga y grave crisis presupuestaria, resuelta anoche con un pacto de última hora que solo alarga los plazos hasta el siguiente duelo, ha debilitado el liderazgo internacional de Estados Unidos y ha dado argumentos a quienes apuestan por un mundo multipolar en respuesta al inminente declive norteamericano. Si la potencia que debe garantizar la estabilidad económica mundial tiene en vilo al resto de las naciones cada tres meses, si el líder que debe proveer seguridad a sus aliados está maniatado por sus problemas internos de gobernabilidad, esta crisis puede acabar siendo la señal de alarma sobre la necesidad de cambios más profundos.
 

Después de varias semanas de tiras y aflojas, votos y más votos, negociaciones y acusaciones de todo tipo entre republicanos y demócratas, entre el Congreso y la Casa Blanca, el Senado y la Cámara de Representantes votaron anoche una ley que permite elevar el techo de deuda solo hasta el 7 de febrero y extender el presupuesto para reabrir la Administración federal hasta el 15 de enero. Eso garantiza un comienzo del próximo año de nuevo envuelto en urgencias y peligros sobre la situación presupuestaria en EE UU. Ya se vivieron angustias similares en el verano de 2011 y en la Navidad de 2012. ¿Hasta cuándo puede esto continuar? ¿Qué solución tiene?
 

El sistema norteamericano se caracteriza por una estricta división de poderes y por la existencia de numerosos instrumentos de contrapeso para evitar los abusos. El Congreso tiene el control de la elevación del límite de deuda para asegurarse de que el Gobierno gasta exactamente lo presupuestado. Su aprobación ha sido durante décadas oportunidad para que cada partido plantease sus demandas y cada cual dejara oír su voz. Cuando era senador, Barack Obama votó en contra de elevarle el techo de deuda a George W. Bush, aunque más tarde confesó su arrepentimiento.

Esas negociaciones, que solían afectar a asuntos menores, se han ido resolviendo siempre sin mayores tensiones y sin que siquiera trascendieran a la opinión pública. Hasta que el Tea Party mandó parar. Hasta que el Tea Party llegó a Washington con la voluntad de aprovechar cada ocasión para impulsar su radical programa de reformas. En esta ocasión, lo que pedía para evitar la suspensión de pagos era nada menos que acabar con la reforma sanitaria de Obama, el programa emblemático de su presidencia.


El modelo de favorecer a las minorías ha funcionado mientras esas minorías compartían un visión similar sobre sus responsabilidades institucionales


El modelo de crear contrapesos de poderes y de favorecer a las minorías ha funcionado mientras esos poderes y esas minorías compartían un visión similar sobre sus responsabilidades institucionales. Pero ha quedado en entredicho cuando el futuro del país quedaba pendiente de que un solo senador del Tea Party decidiera si bloqueaba la votación del acuerdo alcanzado por la inmensa mayoría o cuando la influencia y la capacidad de intimidación de la minoría del Tea Party en la Cámara de Representes anulaba las funciones del propio presidente de ese órgano.


Esas anomalías, que tienen explicaciones históricas y se corresponden con una determinada evolución de la sociedad norteamericana y de su sistema político, han confluido en esta crisis para llevar a EE UU a las puertas de la catástrofe económica y del ridículo internacional. Las consecuencias económicas han sido largamente enumeradas y son obvias: si una gran nación amenaza con no pagar sus deudas solo puede provocar desconfianza y turbulencias de similares proporciones.


Pero son aún peores y más profundas las consecuencias políticas. Durante este periodo de crisis, Obama tuvo que ausentarse de una cumbre, donde cedió el protagonismo a China, y cancelar viajes a cuatro países de Asia, un territorio vital para la seguridad y la expansión económica de EE UU, probablemente el espacio en el que se disputa el liderazgo de la segunda mitad de este siglo.


Aunque comenzó el deshielo con Irán, esta crisis con el Congreso ha servido para recordar los obstáculos que el presidente va a encontrar cuando necesite la aprobación parlamentaria para uno de los pasos imprescindibles de cara a la plena normalización con el régimen islámico: el levantamiento de las sanciones.
La crisis presupuestaria ha relegado a un segundo plano una apuesta tan fundamental de Obama como la reforma migratoria, que ya había sido aprobada en el Senado con la inclusión de una vía para la legalización de más de 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados, y ha dejado tan exhausta a la clase política que se hace casi imposible pensar en una agenda relativamente ambiciosa de cambios en todo lo que queda de presidencia.


El partido de Lincoln no puede convertirse en el partido de Ted Cruz


En las situaciones límite se obtienen, en ocasiones, los resultados que se resistían en condiciones de tranquilidad. No se puede descartar que esta crisis actúe como catalizador del amplio acuerdo presupuestario que ha sido imposible durante años. Todo indica que el Tea Party saldrá derrotado y que el Partido Republicano tendrá que poner orden en sus filas para recuperar el papel que ha tenido siempre en este país. El partido de Lincoln no puede convertirse en el partido de Ted Cruz.


Pero todo eso sería obvio si el Tea Party fuese una fuerza política convencional y si existiese en el Partido Republicano una cabeza capaz de convocar a las mayorías, lo que en ningún caso ocurre. El Tea Party no es de este mundo. El Tea Party celebró el pasado fin de semana una concentración en la que le pedía a Obama que “pliegue su Corán y se largue de aquí”. Si alguien lo controla, ese alguien no tiene un escaño en Washington. John McCain, un representante del viejo orden en el Partido Republicano, confesaba ayer con dolor: “Los republicanos tenemos que admitir que hemos perdido esta batalla”. Pero hasta ahí llega McCain. Es útil como voz discrepante, como referencia moral, incluso, pero ya perdió unas elecciones y ha perdido casi toda influencia dentro de su partido desde entonces.


El final de esta crisis puede ser solo el comienzo de otra aún más difícil de resolver"

lunes, 14 de octubre de 2013

Desintegraciones



Continúa la desintegración de Libia, puntualmente. Tenemos a Tripolitania en la esquina noroeste, Cirenaica (donde está el petróleo) en toda la mitad este y, finalmente, la región de Fezzan, en el centro y sudoeste, que se acaba de declarar "independiente, o al menos autónoma", dale que va. De la costa mediterránea de Cirenaica partió, casualmente, la última barcaza con emigrantes ilegales que naufragó hace pocos días llegando a Lampedusa. Gracias, NATO. Leemos en el sitio web de Al Manar:

Título: Continúa la desintegración de Libia

Texto: “No se logra detener el proceso de desintegración de Libia desatado por el asesinato del Muammar el Gadafi. Así lo demuestra un nuevo informe de la ONU. En un contexto de separación de las provincias en la Libia «liberada del dictador» están registrándose ejecuciones expeditivas, una opresión política masiva y torturas.


Según el informe común de la Misión de Apoyo de la ONU en Libia (MANUL) y del Alto Comisionado de la ONU para los Derechos Humanos, al menos 27 personas habían muerto en las cárceles de ese país a finales de 2011 y había 8 000 detenidos. Estos últimos fueron encarcelados en 2011 como «partidarios de Gadafi». La mayoría de esas personas ni siquiera han sido investigadas y nadie sabe por cuánto tiempo estarán en la cárcel ya que el sistema judicial prácticamente ha dejado de funcionar.


El New York Times indica que en la nueva Libia se arresta a la gente por motivos religiosos y étnicos o por la simple sospecha de que no son leales a «la democracia». Los prisioneros a los que tuvieron acceso los inspectores de la ONU relataron que habían sido golpeados y torturados con fuego y con privación de alimentos en las cárceles.


En abril de este año se votó en Libia una ley que prohíbe la tortura y condena los secuestros pero esa ley no tiene ningún efecto real, lo cual es solamente otro aspecto de la desintegración del Estado libio. Las regiones van retirándose poco a poco, proceso que además no está exento de derramamiento de sangre.


De ese modo, el 27 de septiembre [de 2013] la región de Fezzan proclamó su independencia, o al menos su total autonomía, decisión que tomaron los jefes tribales «por el mal trabajo del Congreso». En junio, la región [rica en petróleo] de Cirenaica tomó una decisión similar. De las tres regiones históricas de Libia, únicamente la Tripolitania sigue formando parte del país. Por el momento, no hay fuerza capaz de reunir de nuevo a esos tres Estados históricos que conformaban la nación libia desde 1951."

domingo, 13 de octubre de 2013

Lampedusa



Como consecuencia de una serie de naufragios de barcazas que transportan inmigrantes ilegales a Europa, la isla italiana de Lampedusa se ha quedado sin espacio físico para enterrar a los muertos. Literalmente. Ya son más de 10.000 (diez mil) los cadáveres de ilegales que pretendían entrar a Europa cruzando el Mediterráneo. Ahora parece que los van a empezar a enterrar en Sicilia.

Adivinaron: los ilegales no son suecas rubias y tetonas. Son negros africanos en una abrumadora mayoría. Por lo general hambrientos. Por este motivo, raramente la tragedia de estos expulsados de su tierra pasa de la página 28 de cualquier diario europeo. Pero la cosa está pasando a mayores. Parece que el número (diez mil muertos) ha comenzado a conmover a los hijos de la Ilustración, los que han comenzado a preguntarse si no estarán haciendo algo mal.

Desde estas pampas, uno se hace algunas preguntas: ¿Se puede invadir un país, como por ejemplo Libia (desde donde salió la última barcaza, aclaremos), hacerlo polvo a bombazos, perpetrar un magnicidio y un genocidio, reventarles la economía, destrozarles el estado, partir el país en tres pedazos, y luego pretender que esta gente no se queje, que no quiera irse a buscar un futuro mejor a otra parte? ¿Se puede invadir Mali con cualquier excusa? ¿Se puede partir un país como Sudán en dos partes, con el apoyo moral del Tribunal de La Haya, al sólo efecto de que salga más barato el petróleo de importación? Se puede joder a todo un continente (Africa) durante no menos de seiscientos años, una y otra vez, para sacarles todo lo que consideran de valor, desde esclavos a petróleo, desde uranio a diamantes, desde marfil a oro, y luego indignarse porque los negritos entran a casa con las patas sucias?

Leemos los compungidos títulos del diario español El País de los últimos días. Empalagan estas lágrimas de cocodrilo, ese tonito de indignación moral. Enfurecen. Vienen del mismo pasquín que justificó cada bomba lanzada a Libia por la NATO, cada tiro al pecho de Muhammad al Gaddafi. Dan asco, chicos. ASCO.

13/10/201322:52
Título: “Alumbrar un hijo y después morir”, por Pablo Ordaz, Lampedusa
Epígrafe: “Una siria dio a luz en alta mar asistida por seis médicos que viajaban en la barcaza. Solo el padre se salvó en el posterior naufragio”

13/10/201312:51
Título: “Italia despliega militares en el Mediterráneo para evitar los naufragios”, por Pablo Ordaz, Lampedusa
Epígrafe: “Roma triplicará las unidades navales de patrulla en el Canal de Sicilia. "No podemos esperar a Europa", dice el primer ministro Letta”

11/10/201319:00
Título: “Nueva tragedia al naufragar una barcaza en el Canal de Sicilia”, por Pablo Ordaz, Roma
Epígrafe: “Al menos 34 personas fallecen. Otros 200 inmigrantes han sido rescatados por la Armada italiana y patrulleras de Malta”

11/10/201300:01
Título: “No hay diques para tanto mar”, por Ana Carbajosa
Epígrafe: “La tragedia de Lampedusa resucita el debate sobre cómo ordenar los flujos migratorios en medio de un clima político contrario a la apertura de fronteras”

11/10/201300:00
Título: “A otra cosa”, por Juan José Millás
Epígrafe: “Señale la contradicción de que nos duelan los muertos cuando las leyes prohíben auxiliar a los náufragos”

10/10/201320:56
Título: “Sonámbulos”, por José Ignacio Torreblanca
Epígrafe: “Las muertes en Lampedusa son el resultado de políticas adoptadas con la aprobación de un sector muy amplio de nuestras sociedades”

10/10/201300:00
Título: “¡Vergüenza!”, por Ángel Imbrogno Sanz Madrid

09/10/201316:10
Título: “Barroso y Letta visitan Lampedusa”
Epígrafe: “Siete días después del naufragio, el primer ministro italiano, Enrico Letta, en compañía del presidente de la Comisión Europea, José Manuel Durão Barroso, se han acercado a Lampedusa, donde todavía se siguen rescatando cadáveres de entre los restos del barco hundido”

09/10/201310:54
Título: “Lampedusa abuchea a Europa”, por Pablo Ordaz, Roma
Epígrafe: “El primer ministro italiano y el presidente de la Comisión visitan el lugar donde murieron 302 inmigrantes la semana pasada”

09/10/201300:00
Título: “La hipocresía italiana”

08/10/201322:03
Título: “La UE fracasa en pactar un plan de salvamento”, por Lucía Abellán, Bruselas
Epígrafe: “Los Estados miembros no ofrecen ni calendarios ni dotación económica para paliar el drama de quienes se lanzan al mar para llegar a Europa”

08/10/201313:24
Título: “Bruselas propone crear una misión de rescate para inmigrantes en el Mediterráneo”, por Lucía Abellán Bruselas
Epígrafe: “Los ministros de Interior de la UE discuten hoy cómo impedir tragedias como las de Lampedusa”

07/10/201321:27
Título: “El limbo”, por Jordi Vaquer
Epígrafe: “A los supervivientes del naufragio en la isla de Lampedusa les espera la repatriación o un laberinto burocrático de años”

07/10/201320:41
Título: “Los niños dibujan la tragedia de Lampedusa”
Epígrafe: “Alumnos de la Escuela Elemental de Lampedusa (Italia) dibujan la tragedia del naufragio del barco de inmigrantes frente a la costa de la isla italiana de Lampedusa con 232 muertos y sigue la búsqueda de un centenar”

07/10/201301:03
Título: “La SER viaja a Lampedusa”, por El País, Madrid
Epígrafe: “‘Hora 25’ se desplaza a la isla italiana tras el naugrafio de cientos de inmigrantes”

07/10/201300:01
Título: “Veleta”, por David Trueba
Epígrafe: “El dramático naufragio de una embarcación rebosante de emigrantes junto a la costa de Lampedusa ha reorientado la sensibilidad de los europeos”

07/10/201300:00
Título: “La tragedia de Lampedusa”, por Juan Almagro Costa / Antonio Sánchez-Marín Enciso

06/10/201300:01
Título: “Subsidiariedad irresponsable”, por Lluís Bassets
Epígrafe: “Lampedusa, un inmenso cementerio con centenares de tumbas de ahogados frente a sus costas, se siente desasistida por Italia”

06/10/201300:00
Título: “Estrategia letal”, por El País
Epígrafe: “La tragedia de Lampedusa es el resultado de la indiferencia y la deriva xenófoba de Europa”

05/10/201322:16
Título: “Solo los muertos pueden quedarse”. Por Pablo Ordaz, Roma
Epígrafe: “Italia concede la nacionalidad a los fallecidos frente a la isla de Lampedusa mientras denuncia a los supervivientes por inmigración ilegal”

04/10/201321:41
Título: “Morir en Lampedusa”, por Sami Naïr
Epígrafe: “La Unión Europea dispone de los medios necesarios para establecer una gran política de acogida de inmigrantes”

04/10/201321:41
Título: “De nuevo en el muelle de la muerte”, por Domenico Quirico (La Stampa)
Epígrafe: “Ninguno de mis ‘clandestinos’ quería ser compadecido. Su dolor es secreto”

04/10/201319:58
Título: “La UE recuerda que la política migratoria es de los Estados”, por Esperanza Escribano Claramunt, Bruselas
Epígrafe: “Ante las críticas de Italia por la inactividad europea en la gestión del naufragio de Lampedusa, la Comisión se lava las manos”

Desamericanizándonos


Cuando lo leímos primero en Zero Hedge, nos pareció un poco fantasioso, así que fuimos derecho a la agencia oficial china Xinhua para ver si era cierto. Era cierto. Incluso más: Zero Hedge titula “China's Official Press Agency Calls For New Reserve Currency, And New World Order”. Pero el título del artículo original habla directamente de “desamericanizar el mundo”. Lo escribe Liu Chang en la sección "Commentary”.

Título: U.S. fiscal failure warrants a de-Americanized world


Texto: “BEIJING, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- As U.S. politicians of both political parties are still shuffling back and forth between the White House and the Capitol Hill without striking a viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.


Emerging from the bloodshed of the Second World War as the world's most powerful nation, the United States has since then been trying to build a global empire by imposing a postwar world order, fueling recovery in Europe, and encouraging regime-change in nations that it deems hardly Washington-friendly.


With its seemingly unrivaled economic and military might, the United States has declared that it has vital national interests to protect in nearly every corner of the globe, and been habituated to meddling in the business of other countries and regions far away from its shores.


Meanwhile, the U.S. government has gone to all lengths to appear before the world as the one that claims the moral high ground, yet covertly doing things that are as audacious as torturing prisoners of war, slaying civilians in drone attacks, and spying on world leaders.


Under what is known as the Pax-Americana, we fail to see a world where the United States is helping to defuse violence and conflicts, reduce poor and displaced population, and bring about real, lasting peace.


Moreover, instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.


As a result, the world is still crawling its way out of an economic disaster thanks to the voracious Wall Street elites, while bombings and killings have become virtually daily routines in Iraq years after Washington claimed it has liberated its people from tyrannical rule.


Most recently, the cyclical stagnation in Washington for a viable bipartisan solution over a federal budget and an approval for raising debt ceiling has again left many nations' tremendous dollar assets in jeopardy and the international community highly agonized.


Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated, and a new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing.


To that end, several corner stones should be laid to underpin a de-Americanized world.


For starters, all nations need to hew to the basic principles of the international law, including respect for sovereignty, and keeping hands off domestic affairs of others.


Furthermore, the authority of the United Nations in handling global hotspot issues has to be recognized. That means no one has the right to wage any form of military action against others without a UN mandate.


Apart from that, the world's financial system also has to embrace some substantial reforms.


The developing and emerging market economies need to have more say in major international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, so that they could better reflect the transformations of the global economic and political landscape.


What may also be included as a key part of an effective reform is the introduction of a new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant U.S. dollar, so that the international community could permanently stay away from the spillover of the intensifying domestic political turmoil in the United States.


Of course, the purpose of promoting these changes is not to completely toss the United States aside, which is also impossible. Rather, it is to encourage Washington to play a much more constructive role in addressing global affairs.


And among all options, it is suggested that the beltway politicians first begin with ending the pernicious impasse.”

Un dilema civilizatorio

Lo que sigue es complicado. Habla sobre la caída global en la producción de petróleo convencional, sobre los problemas financieros implícitos en la aplicación de las tecnologías de fracking en las alternativas no convencionales, y sobre la imposiblidad de encontrar sustitutos al petróleo que cumplan con todas las funciones de este. Lo escribió Gail Tverberg en su sitio web, “Our finite World” (http://ourfiniteworld.com/). Lo que se dice un bajón. Está escrito pensando en los Estados Unidos, pero tranquilamente puede hacerse extensivo al resto del planeta. Las implicaciones son profundas y duraderas, capaces de alterar el actual orden político, económico, estratégico y social. Lo que se dice un dilema civilizatorio.
 

Título: Our Oil Problems are Not Over!
 

Texto: "If a person reads US newspapers, it is easy to get the impression that all of the world’s oil problems are over. But this is not really the case.

An Overlooked Part of the Problem: High Oil Prices


A major piece of the world’s oil problem is high price. Prices continue to be far above historic levels, now in 2013.
 

Figure 1. World oil price (Brent equivalent) in 2011$, based on 
BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

High oil prices disrupt economies around the world because when oil prices rise, the wages of the vast majority of workers do not rise to compensate. Workers find that they need to adjust their spending patterns because the higher price of oil leads to higher prices for many things, including the cost of commuting, the cost of food, and the cost of buying goods that have been shipped long distance.


When workers adjust their spending patterns, discretionary spending is cut. This leads to patterns we associate with recession, or perhaps just slow growth. Unemployment rises, and there is less demand for new homes and cars.


Governments are also affected, because many of their costs, such as building roads, are higher. They also have to pay benefits to workers who can’t find jobs, or who can only find only low-paying jobs. 


Governments find it increasingly difficult to collect enough taxes because of the low wages of workers. Problems with rising deficits and the debt ceiling become the order of the day. Does any of this sound familiar?

One of our biggest issues today is that we don’t have a way of getting oil prices back down again, without a drop in oil extraction. The “easy to extract” oil (and thus the  inexpensive-to-extract oil) was extracted first. There is still a huge amount of oil in the ground. The issue is that we can’t get it out, except at high prices—the same high prices that either (a) cause recession, or if governments can disguise the problem with deficit spending and low interest rates, (b) cause persistently low employment plus slow growth.


The Recent Rise in US Crude Oil Production


It is true that United States oil production is now higher than it has been in the recent past. The rise in production relates primarily to “tight oil”—the kind of oil production that is enabled by very extensive hydraulic fracturing (also called fracking). (Figure 2)
 


Figure 2. US crude oil production, divided into “tight oil”, oil from Alaska, 
and all other, based on EIA data.

We are often told that this rise in production is because of the invention of fracking. This is not really true; fracking has been used for decades, but not in the quantity it is used today. Oil production is up because oil prices continue to be high. High oil prices allow producers to use fracking in the quantity it is used today, on sites that without the technique would not be able to produce oil. Even with recent improvements in techniques, fracking remains expensive. Continued extraction of tight oil depends on oil prices remaining high.

There are other things besides high oil price that enable tight oil production. One of these things is plenty of credit, available at low interest rates. Tight oil by its nature requires considerable up front investment. Cash flow tends to be negative as production is ramped up. This means that there is a need for a lot of debt financing, so low rates are helpful. Ultra low interest rates, such as those provided by quantitative easing, also enable equity (stock) financing, because investors are so starved for reasonable returns that they will buy stocks of iffy companies, in the hope of capital gains.


Another thing that enables tight oil extraction in the United States is our law structure. In the United States, property laws permit landowners to share in the profits from oil drilling. In most other countries, profits are split between the company and the government, with nothing for local property owners. Because of the financial incentive, US property owners are often willing to put up with the hassles of hydraulic fracturing. This isn’t necessarily true elsewhere.


The United States also has other advantages that are not available in much of the world: lots of pipelines already in place, many drilling rigs available, a reasonable level of water supply, and population which is not terribly dense, so that fracking can often be done away from populated areas. The spread of technology for doing fracking around the world is far from a slam-dunk, because of the many obstacles to extraction elsewhere. These can at times be overcome with different techniques, but this adds another layer of costs, meaning oil prices need to be higher yet.


The amount by which tight oil production will continue to rise is open to a variety of interpretations. If oil prices drop because of recession, there may be very little additional production.  If credit availability dries up, tight oil production may drop. If everything goes well, US production may rise. If miracles happen, tight oil production may even rise in many areas around the world.


As I have indicated previously, I am concerned about a financial discontinuity in the very near future–a few months to a year or two–a discontinuity that is ultimately related to high oil prices. This financial discontinuity could even be related to the current government shutdown, if it goes on for an extended period. If we are reaching a discontinuity, credit markets may be so disrupted and other changes may be so significant that past projections will be irrelevant.


A Second Overlooked Part of the Problem: Inadequate Rise in World Oil Production


The second major issue we are encountering now, besides high oil price, is an inadequate rise in world oil production. Many people are concerned about a possible unplanned decrease in world oil supply (so-called “peak oil”). While this may happen, worrying about this issue misses an important issue that comes earlier: for a growing world economy, we really need a reasonably large annual increase in oil supply.

Even if we include all kinds of liquids that aren’t quite oil, such as ethanol, natural gas liquids, and coal-to-liquid, the growth of oil supply has tapered off considerably in the last 50 years. (Figure 3).


 
Figure 3. Growth in world oil supply, with fitted trend lines, 
based on BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

If we fit trend lines to historical oil production, we see that the lines become progressively flatter. To make matters worse, the number of potential customers for this oil has been rising, thanks to globalization. The World Trade Organization was formed in 1995. Adding China to the World Trade Organization in December 2001 particularly ramped up demand for all types of energy products, including oil. As China’s use of oil products soared, it put huge pressure on world oil prices. The combination of flat production and rapidly rising demand led to rapidly rising oil prices between 2003 and 2008 (Figure 4, below.) Oil prices temporarily dropped during the Great Recession, but are now back up above $100 barrel.

Figure 4. World crude oil production and monthly average Brent spot oil price, 
both based on EIA data.

Whether or not recent oil production really is sufficient for a growing world economy is debatable. Certainly in terms of supply equaling demand, there was enough. But in terms of how this supply was divided, it has been very unequal (Figure 5).



Figure 5. Oil consumption based on BP’s 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

The big historical users of oil, that is the United States, the European Union, and Japan, have seen their use of oil drop, while oil use has continued to rise in the rest of the world. The countries that have seen a drop in oil consumption also tend to be the countries that experienced the greatest downturn during the Great Recession. These same countries are now struggling with slow economic growth and little gain in the number of high-paying jobs available.


There is good reason to expect that oil use and economic growth would be highly correlated. This expected correlation comes in two different directions—from the demand side and from the supply side. From the demand side, if businesses are growing, and if workers have jobs that allow them to buy an increasing amount of goods that use oil (such as cars or motorcycles, or new houses), the demand for oil products is likely to be growing as well.


Availability of oil is also important from the supply side—that is making and transporting goods. As mentioned previously, oil is required to transport goods, and it is used in many other places in the economy—such as in growing food, in the construction of buildings, and as a chemical feedstock. Of course, if oil is cheap, it is much better on the supply side than if it is expensive, because if it is expensive, the high price of oil tends to send the required selling price of goods upward, and (oops!) lead to fewer sales, cutbacks in production and recession.


How Financial Limits Tie in With Oil Reserves


There is a common belief that we have plenty if oil, because companies and governments report high oil reserves. For example, using BP’s 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy, the amount of oil that companies seem to think is extractable is (1668.9 billion barrels of oil reserves/ 31.5 billion barrels of oil produced in 2012) = 53 years worth of oil at the 2012 rate of production. If we look at oil resources that are supposedly available, which include oil that may be available with further exploration and development, the amount seems to be higher yet. So it doesn’t look like there could possibly be a problem.


The reason why this belief is false is because the real cut-off is financial, and those making the estimates have no way of figuring out when the financial cut-off will occur. So they assume that we can extract oil that is very likely to stay in the ground indefinitely. One way of illustrating this problem is shown in Figure 6.


Figure 6. Resource triangle, with dotted line indicating uncertain financial cut-off.

Oil resources in the ground can be thought of as being somewhat like the triangle of resources shown. There is a lot of oil that is expensive to extract near the bottom of the triangle, but relatively little that is inexpensive to extract at the top. Oil companies start with the inexpensive to extract oil at the top of the triangle, and gradually work their way down through the triangle.


The least expensive oil is the oil that can be extracted with minimal problems. It is typically located near the surface, onshore, and can be extracted with the simplest equipment. Most of the easy, and thus cheap, to extract oil is now gone.


Now, if we want oil, we are being force to extract the more expensive oil, found lower in the triangle. Such oil may be deep under the sea, or near the North Pole, or may require hydraulic fracturing to extract. Sometimes the higher oil cost relates to indirect expense. For example, governments of oil exporters usually charge high taxes on exported oil. These taxes are used to keep their populations pacified with food subsidies and other benefits, such as desalinated water, so they do not revolt.


At the bottom of the triangle is an invisible financial limit, which I have shown as a dotted line. One way the limit “works” is by inducing recession in countries that obtain a very large percentage of their energy consumption from high-priced oil. Another way the financial limit works is by inducing financial collapse in oil companies. This happens when companies have huge up-front expense before they can recover their costs by selling  oil they have extracted at high oil prices.


As an example of a company hitting such a financial limit, Brazil’s second largest oil company, OGX, is trying to extract oil offshore Brazil, including the presalt area (that is oil beneath a salt layer that is difficult to drill through). OGX recently missed a debt payment because of its inability to obtain sufficient financing to work its way around a long-term negative cash flow situation.  It reports that most of the oil fields it has explored are not economically viable–the cost of extraction would be higher than the price available in the world oil market.


Because the financial limit is invisible, companies and government agencies have no way of excluding the too-expensive-to-extract oil from their estimates. A reasonable case can be made that at $100 barrel, oil price is already adversely affecting the economy. Without quantitative easing and deficit spending, the economy would be in recession from high oil prices now. Thus we are already hitting the financial limit, even though companies can see a huge amount of more oil that is theoretically available to extract. The only minor catches are that (a) consumers need to be able to afford to purchase the high-priced oil, and (b) oil companies need to be able to obtain ever-more cheap financing to extract it.


How Oil Limits Tie in with Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI)


Dr. Charles Hall and others have calculated Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) for various fuels (Hall and Klitgaard 2012). The basic premise is that the more energy is needed to extract a fuel, the less efficient it is for providing needing desired energy for society. Hall’s research has shown that over time, the EROI for each fuel extracted tends to decline. This is very similar to the rising cost of extraction over time I am showing in Figure 6. The main difference is that I include all relevant costs, including wage costs, taxes, financing costs, and distribution costs, rather than just energy costs associated with extraction.


I have talked about required oil prices already being too high, and thus causing recession. In many ways, this is parallel to saying that the EROI of oil is already too low, and is leading to recessionary problems.


Some people (for example, Garcia 2009, which seems to be used in used in Randers 2012)  would like to use EROI comparisons to determine what might be a suitable substitute for oil. I do not consider this a suitable use for EROI for several reasons:


* Substitutability away from oil is very poor in the short-term, especially if we are up against a financial limit that will make substitution even more difficult in the future. The use of EROI in this manner assumes that substitution is really possible.


* EROI does not consider some important variables, including the timing of investment (and thus the need for long-term financing), and governments’ dependence on tax revenue from oil. Even in the US, governments obtain considerable revenue from oil extraction. According to Barry Rogers in the Oil & Gas Journal, in North Dakota, the total “government take” amounts to $33.29 on an average $80 barrel of tight oil.


* If substitution were to take place, huge transition costs would be incurred, such as  early retirement of the current vehicle fleet, and higher capital costs (and thus more energy expenditure) related to the new vehicles. Simply considering EROI would miss these costs.


Conclusion


When we hit oil limits, we are really up against Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. Applied in this situation, this law would say that if a necessary fuel is missing, the economy will not operate properly. This law originally was used to describe a problem in raising agricultural crops. If a necessary nutrient (such as phosphorous) was not present, it didn’t matter whether excess amounts of other nutrients were added. The plants could not grow properly unless the missing nutrient was available.


With oil, the situation is pretty similar. The economy cannot operate as usual, without an adequate supply of cheap oil (or in EROI terms, high-EROI) oil. All of the talk about substitution for oil is irrelevant, if our problem is a financial problem we are hitting right now, or in the very near future.


In order to have prevented our financial problems, several years ago we would to have needed to put in place a substitute for oil with very little or no transition costs. Ideally, the substitute could have kept transportation costs very cheap—comparable to the cost before the run-up in oil prices in starting about 2003.  Ideally, the substitute would also have worked for other oil uses, such as for powering irrigation pumps, for powering agricultural equipment, and as a chemical feedstock for asphalt, for medicines, for herbicides and pesticides. To be truly an oil substitute, the new product would need to be available sufficiently cheaply that it could be taxed heavily, to make up for lost revenue from oil royalties and other taxes.


Now we are faced with what looks like an unsolvable problem. We need a cheap oil substitute, yesterday. The stories we heard saying, “Substitutes will work when the oil price rises high enough,” were a bunch of nonsense. The folks who came up with this idea didn’t realize what a negative impact high oil prices have on the economy. A high-priced substitute for oil is not at all helpful. Neither is one with huge transition costs.


Without a substitute, we need to figure out how to live in a very changed world, one facing financial collapse–a very difficult problem indeed.”