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 Alex Kirby
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Melt Ponds Crucial<p>"The prospect of loss of sea ice by 2035 should really be focusing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible."</p><p><a href="http://www.reading.ac.uk/search/search-staff-details.aspx?id=10813" target="_blank">Dr. David Schroeder from the University of Reading</a>, UK, who co-led the implementation of the melt pond scheme in the climate model, says, "This shows just how important sea ice processes like melt ponds are in the Arctic, and why it is crucial that they are incorporated into climate models."</p><p>The extent of the areas <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/characteristics/formation.html" target="_blank">sea ice</a> covers varies between summer and winter. If more solar energy is absorbed at the surface, and temperatures rise further, a cycle of warming and melting occurs during summer months.</p><p>When the ice forms, the ocean water beneath becomes saltier and denser than the surrounding ocean. Saltier water sinks and moves along the ocean bottom towards the equator, while warm water from mid-depths to the surface travels from the equator towards the poles.</p><p>Scientists refer to this process as the ocean's global "conveyor-belt." Changes to the volume of sea ice can disrupt normal ocean circulation, with consequences for global climate. </p>
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Putin's Daughter Among Vaccinated<p>The Russian leader also said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated and is feeling well.</p><p>"One of my daughters got vaccinated, so in this sense, she took part in the testing," Putin said.</p><p>After the first vaccine shot, his daughter experienced a slight fever, 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F). Her temperature came down to just slightly above normal the next day. </p><p>"After the second shot, she had a slight fever again, and then everything was fine. She is feeling well and has a high antibody count," Putin said. </p><p>He didn't specify which of his two daughters, Maria or Katerina, received the vaccine.</p><p>Russian health authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to receive shots of the vaccine.</p>
Years of Work Reduced to Weeks<p>Russia is the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine. As <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coronavirus-vaccine-may-only-be-available-in-mid-2021/a-54362065" target="_blank">countries worldwide race to produce the first vaccine</a>, health experts warn that speed and national pride could compromise safety.</p><p>Scientists in Russia and abroad have questioned Moscow's decision to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials that normally last for months and involve thousands of people, but Putin emphasized that the vaccine underwent the necessary trials and that vaccination will be voluntary.</p><p>Russian officials have said that large-scale production of the vaccine will begin in September, and mass vaccination may start as early as October.</p><p>Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippines-duterte-volunteers-to-be-putins-russian-coronavirus-vaccine-guinea-pig/a-54523030" target="_blank">lauded Russia's efforts in developing the vaccine</a> and said that the Philippines is ready to work with Moscow on vaccine trials, supply and production. Duterte volunteered to "be the first they can experiment on."</p><p>"I will tell President Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte said, adding that he thinks Russia's vaccine will be ready for the Philippines by December.</p>
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By Arkilaus Kladit
My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.
Map of the Knasaimos traditional lands.
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Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.
Ruminating<p>According to the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796420/" target="_blank">ruminating</a> involves replaying a problem over and over in your mind. We ruminate by obsessing over our thoughts and thinking repetitively about various aspects of a past situation.</p><p>It usually involves regret, self-loathing and self-blaming. Rumination is associated with the development of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. </p><p>People prone to such patterns of thought may, for example, overanalyze every single detail of a relationship that breaks up. They often blame themselves for what has happened and are overcome with regret, with typical thoughts being: </p><p>- I should have been more patient and more supportive. </p><p>- I have lost the most perfect partner ever. </p><p>- No one will love me again.</p>
Worrying<p>Worrying is wanting to predict the future. It involves negative thoughts about things that might and might not happen.</p><p>- They'll not like me in the interview; they'll not give me the job. </p><p>- I haven't heard back from other employers. How long will I be unemployed?</p><p>These thoughts are energy-draining and distressing. They could happen to anyone under stress. But when you reach the point where your thoughts and worrying are preventing you from doing what you want to do — from living your life to the fullest — then you should take action.</p>
Catch Yourself Overthinking<p>Reuben Berger, a psychotherapist at the university hospital in the western German city of Bonn, recommends several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating.</p><p>One effective remedy, says Berger, is the <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9938" target="_blank">thought-stopping technique.</a></p><p>"When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: 'Stop!,'" he says, adding that it is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.</p><p>He even recommends having a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful, he says.</p><p>The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).</p><p>Berger says the technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and that it needs to be practiced every day. "Consistency is very important," he says. </p>
Thoughts Are Just Thoughts<p>Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren't facts, says Berger.</p><p>He says it is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?</p><p>Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.</p>
Mindfulness<p>Berger also recommends the use of mindfulness techniques, in which attention is paid to experiences in the moment without judging them, as a way of reducing worrying.</p><p>"Mindfulness helps you to distance yourself from your thoughts and to be more present in the moment," he says.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3432145/#R2" target="_blank">Several studies</a> have shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on reducing stress-related behaviors such as rumination and worrying, as focusing on the moment makes anxiety about other problems impossible.</p><p>Mindfulness can be practiced during routine activities by paying attention to your body and your surroundings. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning, you can focus on sensing the breeze, listen attentively to birds, feel the gravel under your feet and monitor your breath. </p>
Trick Your Brain Into Happiness<p>People plagued by obsessive thoughts do not always choose healthy ways like mindfulness to distract from them, however.</p><p> Dr. Edward Selby, a psychologist at Florida state university, has shown in a study that people try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse.</p><p>But he says that a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.</p><p>There are many activities that can be used to distract from rumination, he says, and people should choose the one that works best for them. Here are some examples:</p><p>- Listen to music</p><p>- Read a book</p><p>- Take a hot shower</p><p>- Dance or exercise </p><p>- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)</p><p>- Watch a movie</p><p>- Mindfulness meditation</p>
Changing the Perception of Events<p>The way people perceive a situation largely influences their emotions and behavior. It is not the situation itself that determines how they feel, but rather the way they interpret it.</p><p>Reframing negative thoughts can lead to positive emotions and, subsequently, healthier behaviors — including a reduction in damaging overthinking and worrying.</p><p>Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a gold standard in psychotherapy. CBT aims to change the way people think and act. It largely involves challenging unhelpful beliefs or attitudes such as overgeneralization — thinking "I always fail at public speaking" when you have had one bad experience in front of an audience, for example — or "catastrophization," i.e., imagining the worst possible outcome to a situation. </p><p>A psychotherapist can teach people how to implement such thought-changing techniques into their lives. Techniques vary depending on their issues and goals.</p>
Solutions Are at Hand<p>Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.</p><p>Incorporating any routine in your life when you're stressed isn't an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help. </p><p><em>If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, <a href="https://www.befrienders.org/" target="_blank">at this website.</a></em></p>
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