It's Time to Break Saudi's Oil Monopoly and Embrace Clean Transportation
Oil touched $50 last week, close to double its slump price earlier this year, before falling slightly below that benchmark. Short-term impacts—the wildfire in Canada and outages in Nigeria—helped reduce stocks and drive up the price; then Iraq production increases stalled the rally. The market seemed to have averted the risk of an extended period of $20-30 prices, unsustainable for oil dependent nations, even the richest like the Saudis, whose "pump and dump" strategy lies behind the current low-price environment.
At $40-60/barrel, however, the Saudis can stay the course. They can afford that price in terms of their budget deficit, if not easily. Some U.S. shale plays come back into production, but the capital heavy projects in the Arctic, ultra-deep ocean or Canadian tar sands are still off the table as prudent investments. Medium term, as non-OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries], non-shale production falls, with no new big ticket projects coming on-line to replace depleted wells, reserves fall. Increasing demand will then require increasing dependence on OPEC and soaring prices. Even if U.S. shale roars back in response, it can't make up for an investment slump everywhere else. The Saudis can then set the price they want.
Western governments know this. They treat the Kingdom with kid gloves. In Kossovo, even while it was effectively an American protectorate, the Saudis were allowed to implant jihadi mullahs to create an ideological base for their Wahhabi Islam. In the process they “transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremists and a pipeline for jihadists." Kossovo now sends more recruits to ISIS than any nation in Europe: 314 identified to date from a tiny country.
Kossovo is not alone. Wiki-Leaks found that the Saudi consulate in New Delhi had 140 imams on its payroll—and Indian Muslims lament the erosion of the tolerant Islam that was indigenous to their country.
In Washington, efforts to disclose the role of the Saudis in the 9-11 attacks, laid out in 28 still secret pages of the 9-11 Commission Report, are still stalled by counter-lobbying from the Saudi Government—although some of its representatives have previously asserted they have nothing to hide and would welcome the release of the documents.
So cheaper oil, even oil below $50, has not freed the U.S. from the security threats of oil's monopoly over global transportation, while it has threatened to continue (or even exacerbate) the escalating disruption of global climate stemming from continued reliance on oil and other fossil fuels.
The Saudi Strategy to extend oil's hegemony seems to be gathering steam.
But technology and politics are hinting there is a pathway to a world Beyond Oil. Recent months have been full of breakthroughs among advocates of clean transportation technologies like EV's. The biggest splash was Elon Musk's staggering 400,000 early orders for the launch of his Model 3. But significant new opportunities for EV's were also signaled by the declaration by Indian Energy Minister Piyush Goyal that he wanted a national goal of complete electrification of the Indian motor vehicle fleet by 2030! The German government, its market lagging the rest of Europe in EU sales, committed $1.4 billion to catch up. The Austrian Ministry of Agriculture and Environment is working on a plan that would ban the sale of new gas and diesel cars by 2020. Lawmakers in the lower house of the Dutch Parliament approved a motion in March that would ban the sale of new gas and diesel cars five years later.
These kinds of policy support for a more rapid transition to cleaner, non-petroleum based transportation choices matter—a lot. Indeed, even if clean transportation vehicles have higher sticker prices than diesel or gasoline engines, their positive impact on future oil prices makes them a very good deal for oil importers like the EU, the U.S., India and China. A recent study by Cambridge Econometrics, Oil Market Futures, concluded that investing in clean transportation could help head off the next oil price spike. It also found that without such leadership, oil prices could easily reach $130 by 2050, even though most of the U.S. shale reserves would become profitable again once prices reach $80. Importantly, it estimated public policies to encourage reduced reliance on oil could save $33 trillion in transportation spending over the decade from 2020-2030.
What is lacking, particularly in the U.S., is a robust public conversation about breaking oil's monopoly and replacing it with cleaner transportation. While states on the West Coast and in the Northeast push for lower oil dependence and the Obama Administration works on fuel economy standards, the oil and auto industries are gearing up a massive political assault on these efforts. Oil companies are pouring tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions into California legislative efforts. The President has done little to make the fight to get off oil a clear priority for his final year in office. Donald Trump, of course, thinks the answer is simply to drill even more wells, precisely the strategy that has left us vulnerable to the Russians and Saudis today.
But one intriguing idea has been offered up—that the next president should set up a National Commission to investigate the manipulation of the global oil market by exporters like Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran. The idea was offered by Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), a coalition of business and national security leaders. SAFE's goal is not so much to discover new conspiracies—OPEC conducts its market manipulation in the broad light of day and economists have agreed for decades that in a competitive oil market, prices would be far lower.
But what has been lacking is a mechanism to focus public attention on the problem and the solution—ensuring that Americans have genuine transportation choices rather than being forced to fuel up with gasoline, diesel or jet fuel all derived from crude oil. SAFE's proposed OPEC Commission could serve that function, forcing Washington to address the problem. The first Congressional support for the idea came from some interesting sources: Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks, Minnesota Democrat Colin Peterson and Donald Trump's own energy advisor, North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer. (Trump himself did not embrace the idea, nor have either of the Democratic Presidential candidates).
So right now the Saudi bet is paying off—now it's up to oil importing nations like the U.S. to decide if they want to be whipsawed by $100 oil (or higher) yet one more time—or if they will embrace clean transportation, save trillions, defang Russia and the Wahhabis, with pollution free alternatives to oil.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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