LOOKING TOWARDS AND BEYOND 2015: THE HARD STRATEGY AND DECISIONS IN A DETERIORATING WORLD

President Obama defending U.S Foreign Policy at West Point.
President Obama defending U.S Foreign Policy at West Point.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

In a world that increasingly seems bent on self-destruction, bad governance, and self-inflicted wounds, there is clearly an urgent need to, as they say, “get a grip” on things!  As President Obama has said, none of these problems are easy; they will take a long time to deal with and they can’t be done by just one nation. Nor can they be addressed by just doing nothing. The key is, as Obama again said, is “not to do stupid things”, and needless to say do intelligent things and do them well and do them with other like minded nations whenever possible. This means first of all examining with care our values and our real interest, the cost and practicality of possible options, and not least the probability of success and any unforeseen consequences; what some would call “blowback.”

The last Bush administration did none of this and this administration has learned hopefully that lessen of “not doing stupid things.” That does not mean withdrawing from the world, but it may mean forcefully responding to a crisis when necessary and practical. But what are the elements that either make good policy and strategy and what are the harsh constraints in devising good strategy and properly implementing it, and with others, in a true multilateral coalition?

First, one domestic constraint on an effective American role in addressing global challenges is our corrosive political landscape, which is too often driven by hate, ignorance, stupidity, and partisan politics and not by good values or the national interest. The right wing neo-con hawks have criticized Obama for “leading from behind”. This pejorative statement is simply partisan from those who got us into an unnecessary war at great cost to our nation, the lives of brave men and woman in the armed forces, and our embassy staff. Now they are looking at pushing a unilateral unnecessary war with Iran and seem to be fomenting a  crude “cold war” strategy and creating implacable enemies out of China and Russia. Sadly, some of this is to increase mindlessly the DOD budget on behalf of the military-industrial sector and to push narrow ideological and myopic interests.

This is not the way to make smart strategic and foreign policy decisions. It has already hurt our global role as Congress debates the coming budget and pushes restrictions on the president’s ability to conduct his foreign policies as this is written.

Second, external constraints were partly covered in our earlier post and several are looked at below and others will follow in this series. In our last look at forward strategy, we tried to take a “macro” perspective and asked: “did the institutions of our international community react, educate, and address with honesty and in comprehensive detail what these changes and trends portend for our frail planet? Does the international community know what needs to be done to safeguard the security and lives of its citizens?” Looking ahead, there are two categories of our analysis: (1) Recognizing the distinctly “macro global” trends of 2015, and (2) an attempt to understand these trends and consequences while devising possible responses to specific functional and regional problem areas.”  Another installment will be looking forward into 2015 and beyond, would be aimed specifically in key problem sectors describing the difficulties and opportunities that lay ahead for American foreign and security policy.

THE CHANGING GLOBAL AND STRATEGIC AND LANDSCAPE AND THE DECLINE OF GOVERNMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS TO ADDRESS OUR REAL AND COMING RISKS

There are many reasons why governments and international organizations seem increasingly incapable of addressing and mitigating our global challenges and high-risk dangers. Not least, as we have noted, is the growing indifference of many nations including in the United States to the plight of the most at risk and vulnerable. The recent global recession had a deep impact on the reaction of citizens who have a growing sense of hopelessness.  Encouraged in the United States  by right-wing Republicans, their billionaire backers, and their paid for media and pundits, have long pushed for disdain of role of government and international organizations in serving the well-being of common citizens in need.  These forces drove public opinion against sufficient support for preemptive action to address major dangers to national security and global stability and humanitarian crises. This means that organizations like UNESCO, UNDP, UNEP, UNHCR, World Health Organization, World Food Program, NATO, World Bank, and the UN system as a whole including the Security Council, are under funded and restricted by member states from taking effective action to address oncoming risks and conflicts. If this trend continues, the risk to American security and to the global system’s ability to address and mitigate serious major threats will continue to deteriorate and risks and costs will grow and not diminish. We need a new look on how to make these international institutions more effective and forward looking.  

TOP LEVEL THREATS: PROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND DESTABILIZED REGIONS AND NATIONS 

Despite all the headlines about terrorism, the far greater risk to U.S. and global security at the existential level are weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue or unstable and confrontational nations. This includes Russia under the unpredictable President Putin and Pakistan and India with nuclear weapons; nations both of which are in conflict with each other. North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is led by an unpredictable leader, and the possibility of an Iran with nuclear weapons in a region of ubiquitous conflict and instability. Each of these problematic centers will remain well into 2015  and beyond and need a much higher level of attention by all global actors than has been seen hereto through by all nations and especially among some in Congress who seem to think “war” is the answer to every issue.  I suggest to our readers to look at the post of Secretary Kerry’s Geneva press conference for an insight into this problem with a focus on Iran and beyond.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES TOP LEVEL THREATS

As President Obama has made clear there is no more important crisis the globe faces that climate change and its consequences.  Many members of the Republican Congress do not think it exists, or do not think that it is caused by human activities, and even encourage energy sources that are among the worst polluters. This roadblock needs to be overcome with an enlightened global leadership, and the environmental community and citizens need to act. This is what the president had done by domestic legal regulations and international agreements that do not require Senate ratification. The agreement with China, the trip to India with this as a key topic, and with efforts to at last forge a global consensus on a broad range of climate impacting actions indicates some useful progress. More is still needed.  I think 2015 and 2016 will see major moves abroad with our allies on this issue while opposition by Republicans will persist.  

GLOBAL POVERTY, CIVIL UNREST, POPULATION MOVEMENTS AND GROWING COMMUNAL AND REGIONAL WARS AND TERRORISM

There is little question that America and the rest of the world will increasingly be impacted by the larger forces we have already seen arising. Frankly, they are at a cost of our past indifference to what is happening beyond our borders. Few paid attention to these forces; many of our leaders and our citizens and especially our corrupted media are giving more space and time to what the last stupid celebrity did, diverting our people from facing serious issues and solutions.

Terrorism is just one result of indifference by governments, powerful elites, and business to a larger social responsibility.  It will not go away overnight but it can be mitigated and in part overcome. The primary action needed is to give jobs to those that live in hopelessness and despair. The other is to fight the ideology of hate and those that use terrorism to achieve their aims.  Here the answer is not just military. Often here is where diplomacy and collective political and economic action can and should mitigate the conditions that breed conflict and narrow nationalism or racial hate. 

Countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, much of the conflict-ridden Middle East and many parts of Africa need greater help than has so far been given. If we do not recognize this we will be over whelmed over time by several results: more conflict, an increased spread of diseases, greater poverty, and humanitarian and natural disasters and in the end a high risk world for all.

THE SO-CALLED RISE OF MAJOR “NEW” ACTORS ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE

A lot has been written about the rise of “new” powers like China, India, and, for some, Russia.  This concept is often joined by the so-called “decline” of America and Europe. Frankly, this has both a part of truth but also a lot of nonsense.  Yes, India and China are growing but each has still deep-seated weaknesses, which will undermine their inherent potential for decades due not least to the large inequality that exists and social, racial, and ethnic divisions within each society. For Russia, despite all the aggressive and destructive actions, it is a state of concealed but deep crisis and decline that seems, under Putin, to reject modernity or even rationality and has destroyed its citizens meaningful participation in their collective decisions. This can’t last in the present equilibrium that is unstable over the long run. Putin is an historical tragedy for Russia at this time.  But the West and the rest of the world need a strategy to draw Russia over time into a community of cooperating and responsible states and we should never give up this goal. 

Some European leaders recognize this, but the silly forces on the right seem to think unneeded war with a nuclear-armed irrational nation is a bit of a lark. In 2015, Obama seems to know this and is struggling to find the right balance of restraint and prevention of aggression and the “inducement” of diplomacy, economic gain, and cooperation. We are likely to see more of this but Ukraine is the testing ground for both sides in 2015 and beyond and the only “good” solution requires Ukraine to remain a viable independent and unified state that can choose its destiny in the long run.

More on specific challenges will come in future posts and a look a creating a more effective international structure and the ability to foresee earlier coming dangers and respond.  

We welcome your comments!

2015: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNKNOWN CHALLENGES GOING FORWARD?

DANGERS, OPPORTUNITIES, AND CHOICES IN 2015 AND BEYOND

By: Harry C. Blaney III

After looking back at 2014, which was in so many ways a time of change and a time of conflict and tragedy for many around the world but there were also moments of active and sometimes productive diplomacy and renewal that transpired. In some areas of the world, it was lamentably much of the same. The sad questions that remain: Was the globe well served by its leaders? Did the citizens of each nation take the lessons of our times with renewed understanding and engagement? Did the institutions of our international community react, educate, and address with honesty and in comprehensive detail what these changes and trends portend for our frail planet? Does the international community know what needs to be done to safeguard the security and lives of its citizens?

Looking ahead, there are two categories of our analysis: (1) Recognizing the distinctly “macro global” trends of 2015, and (2) an attempt to understand these trends and consequences while devising possible responses to specific functional and regional problem areas.

In the “macro” or what some call the “geo-strategic” level, and what I have also called major global challenges, we are indeed facing the kind of significant risks and dangers which are among the most confounding and complex, along with not as easily understood barriers to progress. We often see across-the-board disruptive forces that impact much of the rest of the specific regional and functional issues we face.

Looking forward, there are two important issues. First, what are the underlying landscapes and trends that are shaping our global system? Second, what can the United States, our allies and friends, do to improve global security, poverty, and reduce violence and secure well being as we move forth into 2015 and beyond?

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S “SECOND WIND” ON GLOBAL ISSUES AND SECURITY

 One of the most important new developments is a tougher, more focused and more innovative stand by President Obama in foreign affairs including national security. This policy is still created with great deliberation, but also with more of a will to act “out of the box” than it did before the November election.

                 

Already, there are several examples of this development. One example is the agreement with China regarding a climate change limitation of greenhouse gasses that bypasses Congress. Another example that has great importance is the decision to open negotiations with Cuba, creating the ability to establish diplomatic relations and to relax decade’s old failed sanctions, overall promoting closer and a more intense engagement. His immediate action to deal with Ebola showed when prompt action was clearly needed he would act.  The very recent decision to continue to negotiate with Iran over their nuclear program as well as to start a quiet dialogue on broader issues, like how to handle ISIS, has also become another signal of this new development.  All show a new tendency to take political risks at home to achieve key American objectives.  

 

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama made it clear that he would be more active in taking the lead on a host of outstanding and difficult issues abroad. As our world grows more conflict prone, he is more assertive to make our best efforts to try to mitigate the worst consequences of upheaval, humanitarian disasters, global health dangers, the rich-poor poverty gap, terrorism and its repercussions, and last but not least the so called “rise” of China and Russian aggression. Presidential meetings in Saudi Arabia and India indicate a game-changing mode. But his caution and deliberation are likely to continue.

 

It is clear that the White House, Department of State, and Department of Defense are all currently going through a “re-thinking” of American strategy to account for the fast moving changes that are developing around the world. Included in this reassessment are relations with Russia; especially dealing more actively with the escalating Ukrainian-Russian conflict. This is extremely relevant as this conflict not only touches the security of our NATO countries, but also shows a perspective for a long-term diplomatic modus vivendi with Russia. But, as this is being written, there is a building consensus on both sides of the Atlantic that some added assistance to Ukraine is necessary.

 

Look for new instruments and modalities from Obama to shape the foreign affairs agenda and debate in the coming months. Also look for Secretary John Kerry to be even more active in setting the stage in places like the Middle East, China, Africa, and India.  Expect a host of added initiatives over the coming months and even into 2016. President Obama is clearly laying a more active and innovative American agenda in the foreign affairs field, even beyond his term in office.

 

A second installment of this post, looking forward into 2015 and beyond,  specifically in key problem sectors describing the difficulties and opportunities that lay ahead for American foreign and security policy will follow in the coming days.

 

We welcome your comments!

POST ELECTION RESULTS: IMPACT AND SIGNIFICANCE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY

obama and putin
President Barack Obama talks with President Vladimir Putin as they join other leaders en route to the APEC Family Photo at the International Convention Center in Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By Harry C. Blaney III

No one should doubt that the result of the 2014 Midterm elections will have a major impact on America’s international role. It will make more difficult for President Barack Obama to conduct America’s business abroad, but it will not stop him from carrying out a vigorous foreign affairs and national security agenda. The constitution gives the president wide powers in this field. This includes his authority to make policy and take action by executive order on foreign affairs and domestic issues; and he has much room to promote U.S. goals globally.

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400 Parts Per Million: Global Climate Change a National Security Disaster and Global Existential Risk

The recent milestone of CO2 reaching 400 parts per million of our atmosphere is surely a wakeup call as are the many natural and ecological disasters that almost every part of our globe has experienced over the last decade. Carbon dioxide is the primary global warming pollutant and much of it has been injected into our air by human activities.

Scientists have known about this problem of climate change for decades. I devoted a whole chapter to the question in a book entitled Global Challenges: A World At  Risk published in 1979, as did hundreds of scientists and other experts  throughout the 60s, 70s, ands 80s.  No one really paid much attention who had the power to actually do something meaningful.  We got some global action via the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change but despite several other major global meetings resolute binding actions were not forthcoming. However, this was NOT the fault of the UN or its related organizations which made major efforts to advance concrete actions, the fault lies with the leaders of the nations participating.

Now after many disasters, the question of climate change has gathered the attention of some affected citizens, some in the media, and academics around the world. But neither the political will nor the public demand has driven nations and global institutions run by governments to act decisively to reduce the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses getting into our atmosphere.

The reasons for this inaction and the lurking disaster it portends for all humankind are many.

First, the opposition has been of what one can call the “flat earth” types who for ignorance or political or economic interests are climate change “deniers.”  The science is against them but facts and science have increasingly had little influence on those who profit from citizens’ ignorance. American opinion polls have shown hefty minorities who do not believe in climate change and man’s role in the CO2 increase.

Second, is the role that money increasingly plays in American politics has grown thanks in part to the Citizens United decision. Its influence and that of the very conservative rich elements have largely cornered the market on governmental decisions and media outlets, through control over Congressional action, state governments, and not least over the Supreme Court.

Third, the impact of the global economic and fiscal crisis abroad and at home brought on by greed and in some cases criminal acts by management of banks and financial institutions, brought about the resulting austerity policies in Europe. This was led by Germany’s counterproductive demands for slashing government spending, which causedmass unemployment in many EU countries. When you are experiencing a major recession that looks to many as a depression, you worry about putting food on the table, not about global warming and paying for necessary new remedial programs.

Fourth, has been the fundamental weakness of the international institutions and system of governance to address and deal with major global challenges. We have denied them the tools to act effectively and the blame rests with our governments and not with the institutions themselves. We have not given the resources or the authority to carry out actions that are required to fully address the crisis we are facing.  Part of this fault has been the Republican war on international cooperation and institutions in America. This weakness was shown by the inability to agree to a binding global framework convention on global climate change. Global agreement was undercut by the diverse opposing positions: the developing world wanted the “rich nations” to act alone to deal with the problem or pay for any effort.  Some key developed nations i.e. large polluters like China, America, Australia, etc. were driven by narrow economic influences and did not have the political will to sign up and in the end ratify a binding treaty.

So, in the face of these large obstacles what can be done?

The first action is to change our policies by changing our politics and legislative bodies, the education of our people, and scientists speaking out to inform our citizens of the impending dangers and proposing programs that will address global warming. A little courage by our politicians would help a lot also.

On a global level, as long as there is a series of intransigent national and international obstacles and weak leaders, we need to make smaller regional and sector matter agreements and initiatives that create a serious start to slow global warming and its impact on our fragile globe. The EU efforts to cap CO2 and develop clean renewable energy sources are an example. So are the actions by California to lower its energy use through conservation and efficiency programs, which is spreading to other states and regions.  President Obama’s push for rapid R&D and installation of solar energy is a key way to address the problem on a unilateral basis but has been fought tooth and nail by the Republicans and some Democrats in bed with the dirty energy barons.

Our media and schools and churches would help by not giving credence to bad and indeed wrong ideas such as so called “science” that denies climate change and its causes.  But that requires honest and disinterested media which is a rarity in America. However, here again citizens and experts can speak up (too few do) and challenge the mindless and false views from Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation and their ilk. The problem, as Pogo said, is us.

Paul Ryan on the Issues: Energy Policy and Climate Change

Climate change and energy policy have seemed to take a back burner during this 2012 presidential election season. But with much of the United States in a drought and many cities experiencing record heat, the candidate’s policies on climate change should be made a part of the campaign dialogue. Mitt Romney has not said much on the issue of climate change except for his belief that “we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.” 

The appointment of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate should make conservationists concerned as his policy record on environmentalism and climate change is abysmal. Paul Ryan received a 3% voter rating from the League of Conservation Voters for the 1st Session of the 112th Congress – which is basically as low as you can get.

Ryan’s voting record demonstrates his virulent denial of climate science. Paul Ryan has argued that snow invalidates global warming policy, stating in his 2009 op-ed that “unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow”.  He has stated that climatologists “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change” and has supported legislation that would prevent the limitation of green house gases and block the US Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters.

Here is a sample of his voting record:

Paul Ryan voted to Eliminate EPA limits on Greenhouse Pollution. He voted in favor of H.R. 910 (4/07/11) to block the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas pollution. According to the League of Conservation Voters, this bill would “permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act” and “undermine fuel economy standards. This harmful bill would jeopardize public health and the environment, and increase the nation’s dangerous dependence on oil.

Paul Ryan voted to block the USDA from preparing for climate change. He voted in favor of the Scalise Amendment to the FY12 Agriculture Appropriations bill(6/16/11), to bar the US Department of Agriculture from implementing its Climate Protection Plan.  As stated by the League of Conservation Voters, voting “yes” to this amendment was anti-environment. The League states, “Our nation’s food sources and forests are threatened by the increased severity and variability of climate and weather-related events.  The Agriculture Department is working with farmers, the agriculture industry, and forest managers to prepare for these threats and to develop better farming and forestry practices to help reduce the negative impacts of climate change.”

Paul Ryan voted for Keystone XL Pipeline. Ryan voted to expedite the consideration and approval of the construction and operation of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline (7/26/11). Representative Lee Terry (R-NE) sponsored H.R. 1938, the misnamed North American-Made Energy Security Act, to rush a decision on whether to grant a presidential permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline across six states in order to carry tar sands—the dirtiest oil on the planet—from Canada’s boreal forest to an international shipping port in Texas.  The League of Conservation Voters states that “this pipeline would threaten the environment with far more global warming pollution than conventional crude oil and jeopardize surrounding communities, ecosystems, and watersheds.”

Paul Ryan voted against the Energy Efficiency Loan H.R. 4785. This bill (which ultimately passed) aimed to amend the miscellaneous rural development provisions of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to make loans to certain entities that will use the funds to make loans to consumers to implement energy efficiency measures involving structural improvements and investments in cost-effective, commercial off-the-shelf technologies to reduce home energy use. Journalist Deena Shanker, responded to these votes, stating that the fact “that Ryan would oppose cutting tax incentives for oil companies in order to help those working in renewable shows how his support for Americans and their businesses is reserved only for those exploiting the environment”

Paul Ryan budget kept big oil subsides and slashed clean energy investment. Ryan’s FY 2013 Budget Resolution retained a decades’ worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion, while slashing funding for investments in clean energy research, development, deployment, and commercialization, along with other energy programs. The plan called for a $3 billion cut in energy programs in FY 2013 alone.

In addition to his opposition to meaningful action to reduce global warming pollution, Paul Ryan’s budget called for “drastic cuts in federal spending on energy research and development and for the outright elimination of subsidies and tax breaks for wind, solar power and other alternative energy technologies.”

In order to solve the very real climate crisis that the world is facing, we need political leadership that recognizes the need for action and will fight for policies that move us toward a clean energy economy.

We welcome your comments!

For more information on Paul Ryan and his views check out our page: Paul Ryan on the Issues

Rethinking National Security and Climate Change and Global Environmental Policy

In this highly political season in the U.S. we seem to be in a situation of debating with the dumb and the deaf but we are really not debating at all since the other side (mostly) knows our planet is heating up and that CO2 from human activities is largely to blame.  But it is not in their interest to acknowledge a reality that is already torching our lands and destroying billions of dollars in food and other crops around the world, and impacting the poor, farmers, food companies, and transportation and processing industries.

But even in our advanced economy, climate change is devastating our environment and especially our rural landscape where much of those Americans who are “global warming deniers” seem to live. Many of the most adamant “deniers” in Congress live or represent areas where the devastation is greatest. What is wrong with this picture?

The answer is in special interest money from oil companies like EXXON/Mobile, from billionaire Koch brothers, and from Almerson a gambling billionaire who has largely bought Romney and much of the Republican Party.

Recently the Republican Party including Mitt Romney, who should know better, seems to pander to and follow such deniers who are his supporters and advisors.  Here is Romney’s damning quote:  “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”  

It is not surprising that the GOP leaders have turned their backs on addressing in any serious way the reality of climate change. They have doubled up their indifference to it’s impact by even preventing a farm bill from passing in Congress this past month which would have helped to diminish the drought devastation that has cut across the wide farm belt, specifically hitting the Mid-West and West but also the South and East.

The great ability of our farmers to produce food, much of which is exported to feed the hungry abroad and our poor at home is indeed a key element in a deeper understanding of our national security, and not least our moral obligations. It is a key element to our global policy goals.

Among the “climate deniers” or opponents to acting to address the climate crisis, are first of all Mitt Romney who is not sure human impact is a factor in CO2 growth, but you can also add The House Speaker Representative John Boehner who said nonsensically : “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical,” Mr. Boehner told ABC News in an April 2009 interview. “Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.” He did not even address the science behind CO2 emissions and its proven role in planet warming.

As to why President Obama has not be fully able to carry out his policies of energy independence with priority on “ green technologies, look no further that the position of Senator James Inhofe (Ranking member, US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works): He said, “President Obama’s green energy agenda has been a disaster. The time has come to put these tired, failed policies to rest and embrace the US energy boom so that we can put Americans back to work” The fact is that major investment in clean energies will create American jobs and save the environment at the same time. It will also help our broad national security interests and lower our dependence on risky oil imports.

The climate threat is a critical danger to all nations including America that only a full out nuclear war can match.  As James Hansen, the Nobel Laureate wrote recently:

“…… near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically.”

The prediction long-term is worse, according to Hansen, and includes, with the production of such carbon sources of the tar sands, that “heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.”

Recently there has been a lot of criticism of President Obama for not doing enough to push for clean energy programs. But too many of the critics appear to be unwilling to put the real blame on those in the Republican Party who have both an effective veto in Congress and support from the dominant right wing judges in our courts.

Yes, the time to debate and act on our long-term climate direction is long overdue but massive money spent by industries has drowned out the voices of reason, either the scientists themselves or even our more responsible political leaders. Money is not only buying what is left of our democracy it is also buying the destruction of our planet for future generations. It is time however for informed citizens to recognize who the real culprits destroying our global ecosystem are and to speak up with vigor.

Comments are welcome!

For more quotes on Climate Change and Energy Security, click here!

The Energy Debate, National Security, and a Sane Energy Policy

President Obama during a speech in Cushing, Oklahoma: “We want every source of American-made energy. I don’t want the energy jobs of tomorrow going to other countries. I want them here in theUnited States of America. And that’s what an all-of-the-above strategy is all about. That’s how we break our dependence on foreign oil.”

President Obama during a visit to Copper Mountain Solar 1 plant: “If some politicians get their way, there won’t be any more public investments in solar energy. These folks dismiss the promise of solar power and wind power and fuel-efficient cars. . . . If these people were around whenColumbus set sail, they would’ve been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.”

Mitt Romney on energy: “I will ensure we utilize to the fullest extent our nation’s nuclear know-how and immense reserves in oil, gas and coal. We are an energy-rich country that, thanks to environmental extremism, has chosen to live like an energy-poor country. That has to end.”

Mitt Romney on climate change: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Mitt Romney on energy: “I think the EPA, acting in concert with the president, really doesn’t like oil, gas, coal, and nuclear. I really do believe that the EPA wants to get its hands on all of energy and be able to crush it to cause prices to go through the roof. …The EPA should not be regulating carbon dioxide.”

Rick Santorum on oil: “This president, systematically, is doing everything he can to raise the price of energy in this country. He’s shutting down all sorts of opportunities for us to drill for oil. This is what the president’s agenda is. It’s not about you. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology.”

Rick Santorum on “Face the Nation”: “Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalists. That’s why I was talking about energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. And I think that is a phony ideal. I don’t believe that that’s what we’re here to do. That man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth. But we’re not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down.”

There are only a few subjects that have become more “silly” during this season of presidential and congressional debates than energy policy and its related environmental and economic impacts and consequences. First point is that President Obama is largely right in that we live in a global energy market and most prices reflect the supply and demand of that market. Except when they don’t. 

I saw this when I was the Member of the Policy Planning staff following energy issues, among other subjects, for the Secretary of State in the 1970s, during the then “energy crisis.” At that time I played a significant role in helping to develop our response to what was in reality an artificial effort by the Arab oil producing states to control the international market and raise prices along with an effort to boycott some importing nations.   

There are today “artificial,” “emotional,” and “political” aspects of national and international energy markets. Many examples abound since the 1970s. Recently, the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources in Saudi Arabia, Ali Naimi, wrote an article for the Financial Times, on Thursday, March 29th 2012, entitled “Saudi Arabia will act to lower soaring oil prices.”  His article illustrates how the global energy market is both driven by normal supply and demand and also by artificial, external, and not always rational influences. In short, he outlined that there is no shortage of oil on a global basis, stocks are full (this was confirmed by another article that noted that our main stocks here in the U.S. are also full). Naimi also said, “there is no rational reason why oil prices are continuing to remain at these high levels. It is the perceived potential shortage of oil keeping oil prices high.” His further statement was that Saudi Arabia “…will use spare production capacity to supply the oil market with any additional required volumes.” No while other “experts” have questioned if Saudi Arabia can in reality do this, those that know the spare capacity think it is doable.

The question remains when this “spare capacity” will be effective and hit the global market. Right now Saudi holding tanks are filled and Naimi noted that its capacity is 12.5 million barrels per day “way beyond current levels.”

President Obama is rightly struggling to reduce our imports of Middle East oil and has made significant progress, not least increasing the efficiency of our cars, in this effort but our allies in Europe and Asia will need Saudi oil, especially if a war starts in the region or Iran oil is “taken off the market.” 

So what is the Republican complaint?  They are wrong about “drill baby drill” since such oil is at least a year or more away from getting into our gas guzzling cars. Nor will more oil be the long-term answer to global warming.  

The Republicans oppose cutting the massive subsidies of many billions of dollars we are adding to the already massive profits the major oil companies are making even at these high prices. And most importantly for our national security interests, they oppose Obama’s effort to develop advanced clean energy alternatives to oil and coal. They do not address or deal with our real national security to safeguard our global climate and our earth’s ecosystem. 

Obama seems more likely to effectively address both the energy issues our nation faces and its concomitant massive and dangerous climate change impacts than candidates that will, at the expense of middle class Americans, continue to do the bidding of big oil and make irresponsible jesters of wanting to make now an unnecessary “war” on Iran. They must be happy that their talk of war has already given big profits to the oil companies at the expense of citizens who see fewer dollars in their pockets. Their “war mongering” only means great jumps in gas prices to the average American and leaves the rich and oil companies with even more money to influence our politics and our democratic system. We need real world solutions, a rational sensible debate, and not efforts to undermine both our real security and our economy.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

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