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General News    H3'ed 3/31/22

Tomgram: Stan Cox, Cap the Wells Before It's Too Late

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In case you hadn't noticed, we live on an eternally well-oiled and well-gased planet. Only recently, for instance, Joe Biden announced that the U.S. was going to ramp up the supplies of frozen liquid natural gas (LNG) it sends to Europe by 15 billion cubic meters in response to the invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia that followed. That's a lot of gas and, as a result, it looks like new LNG terminals will be opened in the Gulf of Mexico in the coming years. Hooray! The U.S., it seems, will be a fossil-fuel exporter until the end of time. The only sad news: the end of time may come sooner than we think.

In 2022, our choices on this planet seem increasingly clear and grim: blow it up, burn it up (or both). Yes, there have been increasing worries that, pushed against the wall by his failing invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin might turn to his nuclear arsenal in some fashion. Only recently, both Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia's security council, and its defense minister spoke openly about that possibility. Medvedev specifically insisted that, under certain circumstances, his country, which has the largest nuclear stockpile on the planet, might indeed consider the first use of such weaponry. As he put it, that would be in response to "an act of aggression" committed against Russia and its allies, which jeopardized the existence of the country itself, even without the use of nuclear weapons, that is, with the use of conventional weapons." In other words, nuclear weapons are again in play on planet Earth, but when it comes to ultimate destruction, what isn't?

Sadly enough, Putin and crew are in good company when it comes to preparing for planetary annihilation. After all, this country is now engaged in a three-decade-long "modernization" of its own nuclear arsenal at the cost of at least $1.7 trillion. And more generally, the Biden administration is responding to the new Cold War by preparing to ramp up the "defense budget" to a monumental $813.3 billion in 2023 and that, keep in mind, is before Congress even gets the chance, as they did last year, to hike it further. In fact, a group of 40 House and Senate Republicans is already lobbying for more!

Meanwhile, the globe's biggest arms dealer is preparing to sell yet more weaponry to a Saudi regime that the president called a "pariah" while running for office, a country waging a war in Yemen (for which sanctions are unimaginable) whose cruelty and brutality outweigh even the horror now taking place in Ukraine. So, war is increasingly well-oiled, while when it comes to oil and natural gas, let TomDispatch regular Stan Cox, author of The Path to a Livable Future: A New Politics to Fight Climate Change, Racism, and the Next Pandemic, fill you in on the fix in which we find ourselves. With Europe embroiled in a new war and the planet heating up ever more rapidly (check out the latest melting news from Antarctica, for example), he suggests where, if we were in a saner world, we might indeed head from here. If only" Tom

How Not to Cope with Vladimir Putin by Drilling and Pumping
A Bipartisan Oil Rush or the Phasing Out of Fossil Fuels?


While the Ukrainian people bear the lethal brunt of Russia's invasion, shockwaves from that war threaten to worsen other crises across the planet. The emergency that loomed largest before Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine began the heating of the Earth's climate is now looming larger still. The reason is simple enough: a war-induced rush to boost oil and gas production has significantly undercut efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

U.N. Secretary General Antà nio Guterres made that clear in an angry March 21st address blasting world leaders scrambling for yet more oil and gas. "Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil-fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil-fuel use," he said, adding, "This is madness." He linked obsessive fuel burning with the endpoint toward which today's clash of world powers could be pushing us, using a particularly frightening term from the original Cold War. "Addiction to fossil fuels is," he warned, "mutually assured destruction."

He's right. In this all-too-MAD moment, we're facing increasingly intertangled threats of the first order and can't keep looking away. To achieve mutually assured protection against both global broiling and global war, humanity will have to purge oil, natural gas, and coal from our lives as quickly as possible, a future reality the Ukraine disaster seems to be making less probable by the day.

To Cap Climate Risk, Cap the Wells

When Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent the cost of a barrel of oil into the triple digits, the fossil-fuel companies and their friends in government, always on the lookout for profitable opportunities amid market chaos, responded predictably.

Oil and gas trade associations in Alaska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas promptly called for even less regulation and more investment in their industry. The Texas association's president claimed that consumers, now facing steep price hikes at the gas pump, are "feeling the repercussions of canceled pipeline projects, delayed approvals for permits, and the discouragement of additional expansion" and want his industry unleashed. On that point, congressional Republicans couldn't agree more. In a CNBC op-ed, House minority leader and wannabe speaker Kevin McCarthy called for fast-tracking liquid natural gas exports to NATO countries, issuing drilling leases that the Interior Department has been holding back since last year, and "immediately approving projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline" that President Biden had functionally cancelled by revoking a key cross-border permit.

McCarthy's fellow Republican Bill Cassidy of Louisiana did him one better. He called for the launching of an "Operation Warp Speed for domestic production of energy." It would presumably be modeled on the congressionally funded 2020 program to boost Covid-19 vaccine development.

And it wasn't just the Republicans. The new oil rush is remarkably bipartisan. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), both acting distinctly in character, declared that oil and natural gas are gifts from God and that He has obliged us to pump and use them in perpetuity. Then there's the Biden administration. Speaking at a Houston clean-energy roundtable last May, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said all the right things about a damaged climate and fossil fuels. Just 10 months later, however, with that boycott of Russian oil already beginning to squeeze the economy, she returned to Houston and pleaded with oil and gas executives to ramp up their production to record levels. At the same time, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki urged those very companies to use the thousands of new drilling permits the administration has issued to "go get more supply out of the ground" pronto!

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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