Tax Donkey Purgatory

SUBHEAD: Somehow the idea of a "Workforce World" evokes something even worse than the plantation era company towns of the last century. 

By Juan Wilson on 18 July 2014 for Island Breath -

Image above: Image of GoogleEarth plan of Workforce World by Juan Wilson derived from Garden Island published rendering below. Click to embiggen. For GoogleEarth KMZ file of layout click here.

The recent article titled WORKFORCE WORLD (see below) on the promotion of the Lima Ola project in Eleele prompted me to consider the impact on my neighborhood in the Hanapepe area.  The proposal will put stress existing infrastructure besides traffic, sewage, power and water.

Eleele Elementary School is under population pressure already. On many weekends Salt Pond Beach Park has no parking available for neighborhood families. A project the size of Lima Ola will need more jobs and commercial development than exists today.

From my professional experience as a planner I judge that this Lima Ola scheme is just the beginning of what will become major changes for the south side of Kauai that will lead to unsustainable suburban sprawl.

The developers and flaks behind this 550 unit master plan tell us that what they are trying to do is help out low and middle income people who need housing on the westside so they can work at the Pacific Missile Range Facility or perhaps on the several Agro-Chemical companies polluting the westside with GMO seed crops fed on experimental pesticide cocktails.

The idea that the future welfare of  Kauai will be dependent on the death dealing military industrial corporations (Ratheon, ITT, General Dynamics, Lockheed-Martin, BAE Systems, Dow, Dupont, Syngenta, BASF, etc, etc) that infest the westside of the island is laughable. It is without merit. These companies are not supporting Kauai, - They are killing the land and the ocean. They are laying waste to the Earth.

This "housing" project is one phase of many to suburbanize the south side from Hanapepe to Poipu on 3,000 plus acres of Alexander and Baldwin (A&B) land. That land is now being used mostly by Kauai Coffee and a bit by Dupont-Pioneer, but A&B has been think for years of a more profitable land use - suburbia.

I am not against all residential planning, although I think planning should not include efforts to accomodate ever increasing human population of Hawaii. The outer islands have the capability with current populations of being sustainable with some resilience. That is not true of Oahu. It is overpopulated several times over.   

But in America "Growth" is the magic word. It's the solution to all that ails us economically.

And land-rich, cash-poor large property owners like A&B must have wet-dreams of filling in every nook and cranny with more consumers for the plazas and galleria malls imagined as the jewels in their Barbie-World. They have a strong incentive to cash in on their land by selling it off for urban use. That's where the big dollars are. And our property-tax dependent county concurs.

If you want to know the future here just look at the nightmarish sprawl at Mililani on Oahu. What was once a pineapple plantation has become a desert of oil dependent cardboard Californication. Without cheap oil, cheap food, and overpaid jobs it all falls apart.

And that's the problem with Lima Ola Workforce World. There will not be jobs at the PMRF and the GMO outfits once the next wave of bursting bubble and economic collapse breaks the surface. A new Ford F-250 deluxe four-door extended-cab off-road pickup will be unaffordable for a tax donkey with a job. The need food and housing will trump a new tuck in that new and withered economy.

If you want to build housing think about making it self-sustainable and self-reliant. Think of growing your own food to share with your community. Think about providing useful service to your neighbors. Forget the jobs and the plazas. They won't be viable soon. So will you be on a 6,000 foot lot half covered in a particle-board house and blacktop for the cars.

We need homesteading, organic community gardens, permaculture and more. Sleep, work, play, grow, eat where you live. You won't need the car or the job in the right plan for Lima Ola.

If A&B really wants the best for Kauai and its people they should reduce the use of restricted pesticides on their lands, eliminate the leases to GMO companies, and begin a program with the County to offer homesteading opportunities on small acreage parcels along with community gardens and a permanent farmers market mauka and west of the Kauai Coffee Visitor's Center.

Workforce World

SUBHEAD: Housing officials want to break ground on $59.2 million project by 2017.
By Darin Moriki on 17 July 2014 for the Garden Island -

Image above: Architects rendering of the Workforce World plan. Note about 40% of the site is multifamily apartments, many of them multi-story. From original article.

It has been four years since County of Kauai officials acquired a 75-arce piece of land in Eleele from the McBryde Sugar Company to plan what some housing officials say is one of the county’s most ambitious affordable housing projects.

But in the years since then, ground hasn’t been broken on the now barren land set aside for the project.

That could change, however, within the next three years as Kauai County Housing Agency officials move forward to conduct studies, refine design plans and apply for permits to get the 550-unit Lima Ola master planned community off the ground. But not everyone agrees on the best path forward for the project.

Some county officials say the current plan to build out 165 single-family or duplex units and 385 multi-family units on the Westside is suitable to address a growing need for affordable housing on Kauai.

Other officials, however, say more planning is needed to ensure that specific elements, such as infrastructure improvements and traffic mitigation measures, will not increase construction costs and affect the affordability of units within the development.

“I know a lot of people are living in Kapaa and Lihue who are working on the Westside or at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, so this would benefit them — this would bring them closer to work,” Councilman Mel Rapozo said. “I think this helps Westside residents. I think there are sometimes three or four families living in a house on the

About 1,312 new housing units, according to Kauai County Housing Agency statistics, will be needed by 2016. Nearly 70 percent of those homes, or 925 individual units, will be needed to accommodate low- and very low-income families.

The development, which would potentially break ground between 2016 and 2017, according to county housing documents, is intended to accommodate residents whose income is between 80 percent to 140 percent of Kauai County’s median household income.

It would be scaled by the number of people who live in the home. The county’s median household income in general is $70,300, according to 2014 Kauai County Housing Agency data.

Eighty percent of the median housing income for a family of four, for example, is $72,600, while 140 percent of the median income for a family of four would be $98,400. Eighty percent of the single family income would be $50,850, while 140 percent is $68,950.

In all, County Housing Agency Director Kamuela Cobb-Adams estimated that the county has invested about $3.1 million into the project, including $2.69 million to purchase the land and about $130,000 to map out and design the development

To make the project more feasible, Cobb-Adams said county officials decreased per unit costs by re-engineering the design of the project and eliminating homeowners association fees that can make homeownership difficult.

County housing officials, Cobb-Adams said, are also pursuing partnership opportunities with state, county and federal organizations and searching for a variety of funding sources, such as state and federal grants, to help push the project forward.

>Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and Councilman Tim Bynum, however, said they were concerned that certain improvements, such as installing a pedestrian underpass or overpass near Laulea Street to bypass the traffic on Kaumualii Highway, could eventually make the project a tough sell.

“I think a smaller, down-scaled project, maybe along the highway, would be better than this huge project,” Yukimura said. “If you look at other places and other opportunities, they could be, in the long run, better. This project should pencil out as an affordable project, but when you start putting in the kinds of things that are going to make it workable, like an underpass, then it starts to fall apart.”

While some improvements are needed to ensure that the development is accessible and energy-efficient community, Cobb-Adams said the main focus is providing homes for as many families as possible.

“We’re trying to make it as green as possible, we’re trying to make it as smart growth as possible, we’re trying to make it as healthy as possible, and we’re trying to make it affordable,” Cobb-Adams said. “Affordability, however, is the No. 1 thing — food and shelter are the biggest issues on this island. From there we can build upon sidewalks and other planning issues.”


RIMPAC 2014 in Full March

SUBHEAD: Even if RIMPAC didn't harm wildlife or the environment these war games are pointless.

By Chris D'Angelo on 16 July 2014 for the Garden Island News -

Image above: Multinational Marine forces exit a CH-53 Sikorsky Chinook helicopter during the air assault portion of RIMPAC at Pacific Missile Range Facility on July 13th. From original article.

Those gazing out to sea from Kauai’s western coast over the weekend likely caught a glimpse of the action.

Rim of the Pacific, better known as RIMPAC, the world’s largest multi-national maritime war exercise, continued Saturday through Monday with heavy activity on, above and around Kauai — from helicopters and B-52 bombers flying overhead, to warships dotting the horizon and the sinking of a decommissioned Navy vessel.

Capt. Bruce Hay, commander of the Pacific Missile Range Facility, said RIMPAC 2014 has been progressing “exceedingly well” on the base’s ranges.

“It is rewarding to support the armed forces of the United States as well as other nations,” he wrote in a statement. “The ongoing operations at PMRF continue to be safe, professional and in compliance with all applicable regulations. We’re all going to be tired at the completion of this year’s RIMPAC.”

On Saturday, around noon, U.S. and multinational Marines descended at PMRF aboard several CH-53 helicopters and one MV-22 Osprey. It was part of an assault exercise to take back the airfield from enemy forces, PMRF spokesman Stefan Alford wrote in an email.

A second company of marines participated in an identical exercise about an hour later using the same aircrafts.

Alford said the drills did not include actual engagement as they were designed to train marines’ egress procedures from helicopters.

From Polihale State Park on Saturday, observant campers and day-users stood and watched as Boeing B-52 bombers dropped dark-colored objects into the ocean just offshore, causing large splashes below. Later, a small boat followed the aircraft’s flight path and appeared to pick up what was being dropped.

Alford said the B-52s were operating on PMRF’s range in support of a Mine Warfare sweeping exercise between Kauai and Niihau, and that the floatable shapes that were dropped are designed to simulate mines.

Image above: Still image from video of SINKEX 2014, the sinking of the USN Ogden on July 10th during war games nicknamed the “Naval Gun Fire Rodeo”. From (

On Sunday morning, a steady stream of warships — one behind the other — crossed through the 17-mile Kaulakahi Channel separating Kauai and Niihau, heading westward. The approximately 19 ships from various countries, including the United States, China, Norway, Singapore, India, Republic of Korea and Japan, were participating in a “Naval Gun Fire Rodeo,” an exercise to determine most accurate targeting, according to Alford.

He said the rodeo consists of ships firing live rounds into a specific set of coordinates, which explains the far-away explosions that could be heard from Polihale Beach.

The results of the rodeo are expected to be made during a presentation of awards July 31. Hay is scheduled to attend RIMPAC’s closing ceremonies on Oahu and present the trophy for the event, according to Alford.

RIMPAC escalated further on Monday, when warships, submarines and aircraft took aim at and sank the decommissioned USS Tuscaloosa at approximately 12:15 p.m., 5,000 feet deep and 57 nautical miles northwest of Kauai, according to a release by the U.S. Third Fleet.

Tuscaloosa was decommissioned in 1994 and now rests in a watery grave at the bottom of the Pacific.

Alford said Monday’s sinking was the second of two similar exercises, the first of which was held July 10.

The drills last through August 1st and take place in the Hawaii Operating Area and several off-shore ranges, including PMRF.

Comment by Bjesquire posted Wednesday, Jul 16th, 2014.

It's time to start asking real questions about the effects of RIMPAC on Kauai's people and the environment.
Many of the politicians tout the millions of dollars it brings to the Islands, but forget these war games cost millions of dollars to stage -- and the taxpayers have to pay the bill -- so how does this actually benefit the people of Hawaii? Because the military is secretive we may never know the true cost to the environment and the people who live and visit here.

Even if RIMPAC didn't harm wildlife or the environment, and by the way it is up to them to prove it doesn't, not the other way around, these war games are pointless. In a real war, you can't plan for a battle years in advance and ships aren't going to be sitting ducks in the water easy to blow up.
People are sick of the endless cheerleading in the Hawaii press about RIMPAC. Sorry, but this article reads like a press release.

There isn't one mention of any opposition to these war games or their negative consequences. If we wanted a press release we could go to RIMPAC's Facebook page (yes, they have one) to read their propaganda. 
The commander at PMRF insists “The ongoing operations at PMRF continue to be safe, professional and in compliance with all applicable regulations.” Let's see the actual proof. Who is going to hold them to account?

We're just supposed to believe him and think it's great? It's up to the military to prove RIMPAC is safe, not we, the people. Do we want Kauai to become a militarized zone?
With the Pivot to the Pacific, this is already happening. The Garden Island should ask their readers what they think.

Marines Test Monster Assault Vehicle
By Jeremy Bender on 11 July 2014 for Business Insider -

Image above: Still image from video of amphibious landing by experimental Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious Connector (or UHAC). The UHAC came ashore from the USS Rushmore, July 10, 2014 at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows on Oahu, Hawaii during a Marine Corps Advanced Warfighting Experiment. From (

The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research, is currently testing a beast of an amphibious lander.

The Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious Connector (UHAC) has been developed as a replacement to the current Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC). The UHAC would be used to bring ashore troops, equipment, and vehicles. It can even land multiple tanks at once.

The UHAC began testing on July 9 at the Marine Corps Training Area Bellows on Oahu, Hawaii and it is taking part in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014 which is currently underway until August 1. We have highlighted some of the amazing capabilities of the UHAC below.
The current iteration of the UHAC is only half the size of the expected final version, although it is still massive: 42 feet long, 26 feet wide, and 17 feet high.

At full capacity, the UHAC should be able to carry three main battle tanks ashore from a range of 200 nautical miles.

Altogether, the UHAC can carry payloads up to 190 tons, almost three times as much as the LCAC.

Unlike the LCAC, the UHAC can continue moving while onshore across mud flats, tidal marsh areas, and even over sea walls of up to 10 feet in height.

This movement is due to the UHAC’s treads, which are composed of low pressure captive air cells held within foam casings.

But the vehicle is limited to speeds up 20 knots, half that of the LCAC, due to drag from its foam treads.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: 21st Century Energy Wars 7/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC War on the Ocean 7/3/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Voila - World War Three 7/1/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Pacific Pivot 6/28/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC IMPACT 6/8/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC Then and Now 5/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC 4/22/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Asian Pivot - An ugly dance 12/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Help save Mariana Islands 11/13/13
Ea O Ka Aina: End RimPac destruction of Pacific 11/1/13 
Ea O Ka Aina: Moana Nui Confereence 11/1/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy to conquer Marianas again  9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Pagan Island beauty threatened 10/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Sleepwalking through destruction 7/16/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Okinawa breathes easier 4/27/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy Next-War-Itis 4/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: America bullies Koreans 4/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Despoiling Jeju island coast begins 3/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Jeju Islanders protests Navy Base 2/29/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii - Start of American Empire 2/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Korean Island of Peace 2/26/12   
Ea O Ka Aina: Military schmoozes Guam & Hawaii 3/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: In Search of Real Security - One 8/31/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Peace for the Blue Continent 8/10/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Shift in Pacific Power Balance 8/5/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RimPac to expand activities 6/29/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC War Games here in July 6/20/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Pacific Resistance to U.S. Military 5/24/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Guam Land Grab 11/30/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Guam as a modern Bikini Atoll 12/25/09
Ea O Ka Aina: GUAM - Another Strategic Island 11/8/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Diego Garcia - Another stolen island 11/6/09
Ea O Ka Aina: DARPA & Super-Cavitation on Kauai 3/24/09
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 - Navy fired up in Hawaii 7/2/08
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 uses destructive sonar 4/22/08
Island Breath: Navy Plans for the Pacific 9/3/07
Island Breath: Judge restricts sonar off California 08/07/07
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 sonar compromise 7/9/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 - Impact on Ocean 5/23/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2004 - Whale strandings on Kauai 9/2/04
Island Breath: PMRF Land Grab 3/15/04

Americans too stupid for labels?

SUBHEAD: Congressional panel says American public is too stupid to utilize GMO labeling information.

By Michael, McAuliff on 10 July 2014 for Huffington Post -

Image above: Still image of apple with organically grown price code label video below. 

It's pretty rare that members of Congress and all the witnesses they've called will declare out loud that Americans are just too ignorant to be given a piece of information, but that was a key conclusion of a session of the House Agriculture Committee this week.

The issue was genetically modified organisms, or GMOs as they're often known in the food industry. And members of the subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, as well as their four experts, agreed that the genetic engineering of food crops has been a thorough success responsible for feeding the hungry, improving nutrition and reducing the use of pesticides.

People who oppose GMOs or want them labeled so that consumers can know what they're eating are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance, the panel agreed. Labeling GMO foods would only stoke those fears, and harm a beneficial thing, so it should not be allowed, the lawmakers and witnesses agreed.

"I really worry that labeling does more harm than good, that it leads too many people away from it and it diminishes the market for GMOs that are the solution to a lot of the problems we face," said David Just, a professor at Cornell University and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) agreed with Just and asked him, "What is the biggest drawback? Is it the ignorance of what the product is, just from a lack of education?"

"It is ignorance of the product, and it's a general skepticism of anything they eat that is too processed or treated in some way that they don't quite understand," Just said.

"Even using long scientific-sounding words make it sound like it's been grown in a test tube, and people get scared of it," Just added.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) agreed with another witness, Calestous Juma, an international development professor at Harvard's Kennedy School, that political leaders had been cowed by misinformed populaces into bending on GMOs, especially in the European Union, where Juma said hundreds of millions of euros have been spent on studies that have found GMOs safe.

"It's obvious that while the science in the EU in incontrovertible about the health and safety benefits of genetically modified hybrid crops, that because of politics, people are afraid to lead, and inform consumers," Schrader said.

Juma cited an extensive report by the European Commission. (There is at least one controversial group that disagrees with him.)

Certainly, there is misinformation about GMOs, as highlighted in a New York Times feature on a Hawaiian ban of most GMOs. But entirely missing from the hearing was any suggestion that there are real concerns about the impact of genetically engineered food, such as the growth of pesticide-resistant "super weeds," over-reliance on single-crop factory farming, decreased biodiversity, and a lack of a consistent approval process. (Read more pros and cons here.)
The issue may soon gain fresh relevance on Capitol Hill, where a measure backed by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) to stop states from requiring GMO labeling could get marked up as early as September. The bill also would allow genetically engineered food to be labeled "100 percent natural."

The idea of the bill brought Ben and Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield to Capitol Hill Thursday to push back, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who backs labeling.

Greenfield told HuffPost that labeling is a simple, inexpensive matter of letting people know what's in their food, and letting them decide what they want to support and eat.

"This idea that consumers will be scared away -- the label will be a very simple thing, a few words on a container saying something like 'may be produced with genetic engineering.' It's not scary," Greenfield said.

Watch the video above to see experts and members of Congress conclude Americans should be denied GMO labels because they are too ignorant, as well as Greenfield's reaction.

Video above: How to identify conventional, organic and GMO produce. From (


Bright Were The Halls Then

SUBHEAD: History indicates we'll chanting poems about the ruins of our cities four or five centuries from now.

By John Michael Greer on 9 July 2014 for Archdruid Report -

Image above: The US Capital building under construction in 1861. From (

Arnold Toynbee, whose magisterial writings on history have been a recurring source of inspiration for this blog, has pointed out an intriguing difference between the way civilizations rise and the way they fall. On the way up, he noted, each civilization tends to diverge not merely from its neighbors but from all other civilizations throughout history.  

 Its political and religious institutions, its arts and architecture, and all the other details of its daily life take on distinctive forms, so that as it nears maturity, even the briefest glance at one of its creations is often enough to identify its source.

Once the peak is past and the long road down begins, though, that pattern of divergence shifts into reverse, slowly at first, and then with increasing speed.

A curious sort of homogenization takes place: distinctive features are lost, and common patterns emerge in their place.  That doesn’t happen all at once, and different cultural forms lose their distinctive outlines at different rates, but the further down the trajectory of decline and fall a civilization proceeds, the more it resembles every other civilization in decline.

By the time that trajectory bottoms out, the resemblance is all but total; compare one postcollapse society to another—the societies of post-Roman Europe, let’s say, with those of post-Mycenean Greece—and it can be hard to believe that dark age societies so similar could have emerged out of the wreckage of civilizations so different.

It’s interesting to speculate about why this reversion to the mean should be so regular a theme in the twilight and afermath of so many civilizations. Still, the recurring patterns of decline and fall have another implication—or, if you will, another application. I’ve noted here and elsewhere that modern industrial society, especially but not only here in North America, is showing all the usual symptoms of a civilization on its way toward history’s compost bin.

If we’ve started along the familiar track of decline and fall—and I think a very good case can be made for that hypothesis—it should be possible to map the standard features of the way down onto the details of our current situation, and come up with a fairly accurate sense of the shape of the future ahead of us.

All the caveats raised in last week’s Archdruid Report post deserve repetition here, of course. The part of history that can be guessed in advance is a matter of broad trends and overall patterns, not the sort of specific incidents that make up so much of history as it happens.

Exactly how the pressures bearing down on late industrial America will work out in the day-by-day realities of politics, economics, and society will be determined by the usual interplay of individual choices and pure dumb luck.

That said, the broad trends and overall patterns are worth tracking in their own right, and some things that look as though they ought to belong to the realm of the unpredictable—for example, the political and military dynamics of border regions, or the relations among the imperial society’s political class, its increasingly disenfranchised lower classes, and the peoples outside its borders—follow predictable patterns in case after case in history, and show every sign of doing the same thing this time around too.

What I’m suggesting, in fact, is that in a very real sense, it’s possible to map out the history of North America over the next five centuries or so in advance. That’s a sweeping claim, and I’m well aware that the immediate response of at least some of my readers will be to reject the possibility out of hand.

I’d like to encourage those who have this reaction to try to keep an open mind. In the posts to come, I plan on illustrating every significant point I make with historical examples from the twilight years of other civilizations, as well as evidence from the current example insofar as that’s available yet.

Thus it should be possible for my readers to follow the argument as it unfolds and see how it hangs together.

Now of course all this presupposes that the lessons of the past actually have some relevance to our future. I’m aware that that’s a controversial proposal these days, but to my mind the controversy says more about the popular idiocies of our time than it does about the facts on the ground.

I’ve discussed in previous posts how people in today’s America have taken to using thoughtstoppers such as "but it’s different this time!" to protect themselves from learning anything from history—a habit that no doubt does wonders for their peace of mind today, though it pretty much guarantees them a face-first collision with a brick wall of misery and failure not much further down time’s road.

Those who insist on clinging to that habit are not going to find the next year or so of posts here to their taste.

They won’t be the only ones. Among the resources I plan on using to trace out the history of the next five centuries is the current state of the art in the environmental sciences, and that includes the very substantial body of evidence and research on anthropogenic climate change.

I’m aware that some people consider that controversial, and of course some very rich corporate interests have invested a lot of money into convincing people that it’s controversial, but I’ve read extensively on all sides of the subject, and the arguments against taking anthropogenic climate change seriously strike me as specious. I don’t propose to debate the matter here, either—there are plenty of forums for that.

While I propose to leaven current model-based estimates on climate change and sea level rise with the evidence from paleoclimatology, those who insist that there’s nothing at all the matter with treating the atmosphere as an aerial sewer for greenhouse gases are not going to be happy with the posts ahead.

I also propose to discuss industrial civilization’s decline and fall without trying to sugarcoat the harsher dimensions of that process, and that’s going to ruffle yet another set of feathers. Regular readers will recall a post earlier this year discussing the desperate attempts to insist that it won’t be that bad, really it won’t, that were starting to show up in the flurry of criticism each of these weekly essays reliably fields.

That’s even more common now than it was then; nowadays, in fact, whenever one of my posts uses words such as "decline" or "dark age," I can count on being taken to task by critics who insist earnestly that such language is too negative, that of course we’re facing a shift to a different kind of society but I shouldn’t describe it in such disempowering terms, and so on through the whole vocabulary of the obligatory optimism that’s so fashionable among the privileged these days.

I’m pretty sure, as noted in the blog post just cited, that this marks the beginning of a shift by the peak oil community as a whole out of the second of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ famous five stages, the stage of anger, into the third stage of bargaining. That’s welcome, in that it brings us closer to the point at which people have finished dealing with their own psychological issues and can get to work coping with the predicament of our time, but it’s still as much an evasion of that predicament as denial and anger were.

The fall of a civilization is not a pleasant prospect—and that’s what we’re talking about, of course: the decline and fall of industrial civilization, the long passage through a dark age, and the first stirrings of the successor societies that will build on our ruins. That’s how the life cycle of a civilization ends, and it’s the way that ours is ending right now.

What that means in practice is that most of the familiar assumptions people in the industrial world like to make about the future will be stood on their heads in the decades and centuries ahead.

Most of the rhetoric being splashed about these days in support of this or that or the other Great Turning that will save us from the consequences of our own actions assumes, as a matter of course, that a majority of people in the United States—or, heaven help us, in the whole industrial world—can and will come together around some broadly accepted set of values and some agreed-upon plan of action to rescue industrial civilization from the rising spiral of crises that surrounds it.

My readers may have noticed that things seem to be moving in the opposite direction, and history suggests that they’re quite correct.

Among the standard phenomena of decline and fall, in fact, is the shattering of the collective consensus that gives a growing society the capacity to act together to accomplish much of anything at all.  The schism between the political class and the rest of the population—you can certainly call these "the 1%" and "the 99%" if you wish—is simply the most visible of the fissures that spread through every declining civilization, breaking it into a crazy quilt of dissident fragments pursuing competing ideals and agendas.

That process has a predictable endpoint, too:  as the increasingly grotesque misbehavior of the political class loses it whatever respect and loyalty it once received from the rest of society, and the masses abandon their trust in the political institutions of their society, charismatic leaders from outside the political class fill the vacuum, violence becomes the normal arbiter of power, and the rule of law becomes a polite fiction when it isn’t simply abandoned altogether.

The economic sphere of a society in decline undergoes a parallel fragmentation for different reasons. In ages of economic expansion, the labor of the working classes yields enough profit to cover the costs of a more or less complex superstructure, whether that superstructure consists of the pharaohs and priesthoods of ancient Egypt or the bureaucrats and investment bankers of late industrial America.

As expansion gives way to contraction, the production of goods and services no longer yields the profit ot once did, but the members of the political class, whose power and wealth depend on the superstructure, are predictably unwilling to lose their privileged status and have the power to keep themselves fed at everyone else’s expense.
The reliable result is a squeeze on productive economic activity that drives a declining civilization into one convulsive financial crisis after another, and ends by shredding its capacity to produce even the most necessary goods and services.

In response, people begin dropping out of the economic mainstream altogether, because scrabbling for subsistence on the economic fringes is less futile than trying to get by in a system increasingly rigged against them. Rising taxes, declining government services, and systematic privatization of public goods by the rich compete to alienate more and more people from the established order, and the debasement of the money system in an attempt to make up for faltering tax revenues drives more and more economic activity into forms of exchange that don’t involve money at all.

As the monetary system fails, in turn, economies of scale become impossible to exploit; the economy fragments and simplifies until bare economic subsistence on local resources, occasionally supplemented by plunder, becomes the sole surviving form of economic activity.

Taken together, these patterns of political fragmentation and economic unraveling send the political class of a failing civilization on a feet-first journey through the exit doors of history.  The only skills its members have, by and large, are those needed to manipulate the complex political and economic levers of their society, and their power depends entirely on the active loyalty of their subordinates, all the way down the chain of command, and the passive obedience of the rest of society.

The collapse of political institutions strips the political class of any claim to legitimacy, the breakdown of the economic system limits its ability to buy the loyalty of those that it can no longer inspire, the breakdown of the levers of control strips its members of the only actual power they’ve got, and that’s when they find themselves having to compete for followers with the charismatic leaders rising just then from the lower echelons of society.

The endgame, far more often than not, comes when the political class tries to hire the rising leaders of the disenfranchised as a source of muscle to control the rest of the populace, and finds out the hard way that it’s the people who carry the weapons, not the ones who think they’re giving the orders, who actually exercise power.

The implosion of the political class has implications that go well beyond a simple change in personnel at the upper levels of society. The political and social fragmentation mentioned earlier applies just as forcefully to the less tangible dimensions of human life—its ideas and ideals, its beliefs and values and cultural practices.

As a civilization tips over into decline, its educational and cultural institutions, its arts, literature, sciences, philosophies and religions all become identified with its political class; this isn’t an accident, as the political class generally goes out of its way to exploit all these things for the sake of its own faltering authority and influence.

To those outside the political class, in turn, the high culture of the civilization becomes alien and hateful, and when the political class goes down, the cultural resources that it harnessed to its service go down with it.

Sometimes, some of those resources get salvaged by subcultures for their own purposes, as Christian monks and nuns salvaged portions of classical Greek and Roman philosophy and science for the greater glory of God.

That’s not guaranteed, though, and even when it does happen, the salvage crew picks and chooses for its own reasons—the survival of classical Greek astronomy in the early medieval West, for example, happened simply because the Church needed to know how to calculate the date of Easter.

Where no such motive exists, losses can be total: of the immense corpus of Roman music, the only thing that survives is a fragment of one tune that takes about 25 seconds to play, and there are historical examples in which even the simple trick of literacy got lost during the implosion of a civilization, and had to be imported centuries later from somewhere else.

All these transformations impact the human ecology of a falling civilization—that is, the basic relationships with the natural world on which every human society depends for day to day survival.

Most civilizations know perfectly well what has to be done to keep topsoil in place, irrigation water flowing, harvests coming in, and all the other details of human interaction with the environment on a stable footing. The problem is always how to meet the required costs as economic growth ends, contraction sets in, and the ability of central governments to enforce their edicts begins to unravel. 

The habit of feeding the superstructure at the expense of everything else impacts the environment just as forcefully as it does the working classes:  just as wages drop to starvation levels and keep falling, funding for necessary investments in infrastructure, fallow periods needed for crop rotation, and the other inputs that keep an agricultural system going in a sustainable manner all get cut.

As a result, topsoil washes away, agricultural hinterlands degrade into deserts or swamps, vital infrastructure collapses from malign neglect, and the ability of the land to support human life starts on the cascading descent that characterizes the end stage of decline—and so, in turn, does population, because human numbers in the last analysis are a dependent variable, not an independent one.

Populations don’t grow or shrink because people just up and decide one day to have more or fewer babies; they’re constrained by ecological limits.

In an expanding civilization, as its wealth and resource base increases, the population expands as well, since people can afford to have more children, and since more of the children born each year have access to the nutrition and basic health care that let them survive to breeding age themselves.  When growth gives way to decline, population typically keeps rising for another generation or so due to sheer demographic momentum, and then begins to fall.

The consequences can be traced in the history of every collapsing civilization.  As the rural economy implodes due to agricultural failure on top of the more general economic decline, a growing fraction of the population concentrates in urban slum districts, and as public health measures collapse, these turn into incubators for infectious disease.

Epidemics are thus a common feature in the history of declining civilizations, and of course war and famine are also significant factors, but an even larger toll is taken by the constant upward pressure exerted on death rates by poverty, malnutrition, crowding, and stress.

As deaths outnumber births, population goes into a decline that can easily continue for centuries. It’s far from uncommon for the population of an area in the wake of a civilization to equal less than 10% of the figure it reached at the precollapse peak.

Factor these patterns together, follow them out over the usual one to three centuries of spiralling decline, and you have the standard picture of a dark age society: a mostly deserted countryside of small and scattered villages where subsistence farmers, illiterate and impoverished, struggle to coax fertility back into the depleted topsoil.

Their goverments consist of the personal rule of local warlords, who take a share of each year’s harvest in exchange for protection from raiders and rough justice administered in the shade of any convenient tree.

Their literature consists of poems, lovingly memorized and chanted to the sound of a simple stringed instrument, recalling the great deeds of the charismatic leaders of a vanished age, and these same poems also contain everything they know about their history.

Their health care consists of herbs, a little rough surgery, and incantations cannily used to exploit the placebo effect. Their science—well, I’ll let you imagine that for yourself.

And the legacy of the past? Here’s some of what an anonymous poet in one dark age had to say about the previous civilization:
Bright were the halls then, many the bath-houses,
High the gables, loud the joyful clamor,
Many the meadhalls full of delights
Until mighty Fate overthrew it all.
Wide was the slaughter, the plague-time came,
Death took away all those brave men.
Broken their ramparts, fallen their halls,>
The city decayed; those who built it
Fell to the earth. Thus these courts crumble,
And roof-tiles fall from this arch of stone.
Fans of Anglo-Saxon poetry will recognize that as a passage from "The Ruin." If the processes of history follow their normal pattern, they will be chanting poems like this about the ruins of our cities four or five centuries from now.

How we’ll get there, and what is likely to happen en route, will be the subject of most of the posts here for the next year or so.


Up To Their Ears Indeed

SUBHEAD: Dow has been fighting transparency and labeling of GMO food products. What is this corn they donate to our Food Bank.

By Michael Shooltz on 8 July 2014 in Island Breath -

Image above: Dow Agroscience’s John Rapozo is joined by Leona Perez of the Kauai Independent Food Bank loading freshly harvested corn onto a pallet Thursday afternoon as Burt Vidinha, Roger Aguda and Roy Rapozo of Dow Agroscience box the load in the Dow truck at the KIFB facility in Nawiliwili. From TGI article below.

Friday, July fourth's Garden Island featured a story titled "Up To Their Ears" which described the donation of a truckload of 4,000 pounds of "corn" to the Kauai Island Independent Food Bank.  

The donor was Dow Agrosciences. It went on to state, "The big rig wheeling in meant there was a lot of work to do." I couldn't agree more.  It left a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I thought of our fellow Kauaians consuming that toxic corn.

Dow Agrosciences is one of the Chemical Companies suing the County to avoid the disclosure requirements of Bill 2491/960. They are also one of the Chemical Companies spending millions to defeat labeling bills around the country which would require telling consumers when they are eating GMO products. Is it reasonable to assume that they would suddenly become transparent about what kind of corn they are delivering to the Food Bank here on Kauai?

Only two days ago I had a conversation with a local man from Waimea. He is a hunter and regularly hunts for pig and goat on the west side of Kauai. He shared with me that he and his fellow hunters are concerned because they are finding that the pigs and goats that they are now harvesting are often filled with tumors, both externally on their skin, and internally,  and that they have to just leave them where they died as fertilizer. He was the second west side hunter that has shared the same information with me.

The pigs and goats on the west side are filled with tumors. They drink the water, breath the air, and feed in the test fields. Of course this is only anecdotal evidence.

The chemical companies continue to dump one thousand pounds of toxins on Kauai every day, seven thousand pounds per week, and 30,000 pounds per month. The Garden Island article was quite correct.  "The big rig wheeling in meant there was a lot of work to do.

Up to Their Ears

By Dennis Fujimoto on 4 July 2014 for the Garden Island News -

Leona Perez of the Kauai Independent Food Bank was just waiting for the close of day Thursday when the truck from Dow Agrosciences rolled into the loading area.

The big rig wheeling in meant there was a lot of work to do.

“I was OK with that until they opened the gates,” Perez said. “The corn, all loose ears, was filled all the way to the gate. I wasn’t going to unload all of that.”

Kelvin Moniz, the KIFB executive director, said he was on his way to attend Freedom Fest at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at the invitation of the base commander.

“I couldn’t let the guys do that by themselves,” Moniz said. “I turned around and came back to help.”
As the fresh corn was being unloaded, Randell Giminiz rolled in with the van overflowing with food from Kojima Store which celebrated its final day on June 30.

“This is stuff which was left over when the doors closed,” Moniz said, estimating there was more than 3,000 pounds of food. “We don’t have time to weigh all this in before the July 4 holiday, but it’s more than $5,000. Randell has been working at Kojima’s all day.”

A note from Kojima’s to The Garden Island states that “even after closing its doors this past June, Kojima’s is still expressing its mahalo to Kauai by generously donating more than $13,000 of food to the Kauai Independent Food Bank.”

Moniz juggled the Kojima Store arrival with the unloading of freshly harvested corn.

“Stephanie Iona coordinated this effort,” Moniz said. “Dow planted an acre of corn for distribution to the Freedom Fest and to its employees. Those ears were hand-picked and delivered, Wednesday.

But Dow needed to clear the acre of the remaining corn and used a machine to harvest everything Thursday and deliver to the two food banks.”

Moniz estimated the Dow Agroscience contribution at about 4,000 pounds.

21st Century Energy Wars

SUBHEAD: Global conflicts are increasingly fueled by the desire for oil and natural gas -- and the funds they generate.

By Michael T. Klare on 8 July 2014 for Tom Dispatch  -

Image above: Illustration of major powers facing off over energy resources from Asia to the Arctic by Jon Berkeley. From (

Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine, the East and South China Seas: wherever you look, the world is aflame with new or intensifying conflicts.  At first glance, these upheavals appear to be independent events, driven by their own unique and idiosyncratic circumstances.

But look more closely and they share several key characteristics -- notably, a witch’s brew of ethnic, religious, and national antagonisms that have been stirred to the boiling point by a fixation on energy.
In each of these conflicts, the fighting is driven in large part by the eruption of long-standing historic antagonisms among neighboring (often intermingled) tribes, sects, and peoples.

In Iraq and Syria, it is a clash among Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turkmen, and others; in Nigeria, among Muslims, Christians, and assorted tribal groupings; in South Sudan, between the Dinka and Nuer; in Ukraine, between Ukrainian loyalists and Russian-speakers aligned with Moscow; in the East and South China Sea, among the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and others.

It would be easy to attribute all this to age-old hatreds, as suggested by many analysts; but while such hostilities do help drive these conflicts, they are fueled by a most modern impulse as well: the desire to control valuable oil and natural gas assets.

Make no mistake about it, these are twenty-first-century energy wars.

It should surprise no one that energy plays such a significant role in these conflicts.  Oil and gas are, after all, the world’s most important and valuable commodities and constitute a major source of income for the governments and corporations that control their production and distribution.

Indeed, the governments of Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, South Sudan, and Syria derive the great bulk of their revenues from oil sales, while the major energy firms (many state-owned) exercise immense power in these and the other countries involved.

Whoever controls these states, or the oil- and gas-producing areas within them, also controls the collection and allocation of crucial revenues.  Despite the patina of historical enmities, many of these conflicts, then, are really struggles for control over the principal source of national income.

Moreover, we live in an energy-centric world where control over oil and gas resources (and their means of delivery) translates into geopolitical clout for some and economic vulnerability for others.  Because so many countries are dependent on energy imports, nations with surpluses to export -- including Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, and South Sudan -- often exercise disproportionate influence on the world stage.

What happens in these countries sometimes matters as much to the rest of us as to the people living in them, and so the risk of external involvement in their conflicts -- whether in the form of direct intervention, arms transfers, the sending in of military advisers, or economic assistance -- is greater than almost anywhere else.

The struggle over energy resources has been a conspicuous factor in many recent conflicts, including the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, the Gulf War of 1990-1991, and the Sudanese Civil War of 1983-2005.  On first glance, the fossil-fuel factor in the most recent outbreaks of tension and fighting may seem less evident.  But look more closely and you’ll see that each of these conflicts is, at heart, an energy war.

Iraq, Syria, and ISIS
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni extremist group that controls large chunks of western Syria and northern Iraq, is a well-armed militia intent on creating an Islamic caliphate in the areas it controls.

In some respects, it is a fanatical, sectarian religious organization, seeking to reproduce the pure, uncorrupted piety of the early Islamic era.  At the same time, it is engaged in a conventional nation-building project, seeking to create a fully functioning state with all its attributes.
As the United States learned to its dismay in Iraq and Afghanistan, nation-building is expensive: institutions must be created and financed, armies recruited and paid, weapons and fuel procured, and infrastructure maintained.

Without oil (or some other lucrative source of income), ISIS could never hope to accomplish its ambitious goals.  However, as it now occupies key oil-producing areas of Syria and oil-refining facilities in Iraq, it is in a unique position to do so.  Oil, then, is absolutely essential to the organization’s grand strategy.

Syria was never a major oil producer, but its prewar production of some 400,000 barrels per day did provide the regime of Bashar al-Assad with a major source of income.  Now, most of the country’s oil fields are under the control of rebel groups, including ISIS, the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, and local Kurdish militias.

Although production from the fields has dropped significantly, enough is being extracted and sold through various clandestine channels to provide the rebels with income and operating funds.  “Syria is an oil country and has resources, but in the past they were all stolen by the regime,” said Abu Nizar, an anti-government activist.  “Now they are being stolen by those who are profiting from the revolution.”

At first, many rebel groups were involved in these extractive activities, but since January, when it assumed control of Raqqa, the capital of the province of that name, ISIS has been the dominant player in the oil fields.  In addition, it has seized fields in neighboring Deir al-Zour Province along the Iraq border.

Indeed, many of the U.S.-supplied weapons it acquired from the fleeing Iraqi army after its recent drive into Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities have been moved into Deir al-Zour to help in the organization’s campaign to take full control of the region.  In Iraq, ISIS is fighting to gain control over Iraq’s largest refinery at Baiji in the central part of the country.

It appears that ISIS sells oil from the fields it controls to shadowy middlemen who in turn arrange for its transport -- mostly by tanker trucks -- to buyers in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.  These sales are said to provide the organization with the funds needed to pay its troops and acquire its vast stockpiles of arms and ammunition.

Many observers also claim that ISIS is selling oil to the Assad regime in return for immunity from government air strikes of the sort being launched against other rebel groups.  “Many locals in Raqqa accuse ISIS of collaborating with the Syrian regime,” a Kurdish journalist, Sirwan Kajjo, reported in early June.  “Locals say that while other rebel groups in Raqqa have been under attack by regime air strikes on a regular basis, ISIS headquarters have not once been attacked.”

However the present fighting in northern Iraq plays out, it is obvious that there, too, oil is a central factor.  ISIS seeks both to deny petroleum supplies and oil revenue to the Baghdad government and to bolster its own coffers, enhancing its capacity for nation-building and further military advances.  At the same time, the Kurds and various Sunni tribes -- some allied with ISIS -- want control over oil fields located in the areas under their control and a greater share of the nation’s oil wealth.

Ukraine, the Crimea, and Russia
The present crisis in Ukraine began in November 2013 when President Viktor Yanukovych repudiated an agreement for closer economic and political ties with the European Union (EU), opting instead for closer ties with Russia.  That act touched off fierce anti-government protests in Kiev and eventually led to Yanukovych’s flight from the capital.

 With Moscow’s principal ally pushed from the scene and pro-EU forces in control of the capital, Russian President Vladimir Putin moved to seize control of the Crimea and foment a separatist drive in eastern Ukraine.  For both sides, the resulting struggle has been about political legitimacy and national identity -- but as in other recent conflicts, it has also been about energy.

Ukraine is not itself a significant energy producer.  It is, however, a major transit route for the delivery of Russian natural gas to Europe.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Europe obtained 30% of its gas from Russia in 2013 -- most of it from the state-controlled gas giant Gazprom -- and approximately half of this was transported by pipelines crossing Ukraine.

As a result, that country plays a critical role in the complex energy relationship between Europe and Russia, one that has proved incredibly lucrative for the shadowy elites and oligarchs who control the flow of gas, whille at the same time provoking intense controversy. Disputes over the price Ukraine pays for its own imports of Russian gas twice provoked a cutoff in deliveries by Gazprom, leading to diminished supplies in Europe as well.

Given this background, it is not surprising that a key objective of the “association agreement” between the EU and Ukraine that was repudiated by Yanukovych (and has now been signed by the new Ukrainian government) calls for the extension of EU energy rules to Ukraine’s energy system -- essentially eliminating the cozy deals between Ukrainian elites and Gazprom.

By entering into the agreement, EU officials claim, Ukraine will begin “a process of approximating its energy legislation to the EU norms and standards, thus facilitating internal market reforms.”

Russian leaders have many reasons to despise the association agreement.  For one thing, it will move Ukraine, a country on its border, into a closer political and economic embrace with the West.

Of special concern, however, are the provisions about energy, given Russia’s economic reliance on gas sales to Europe -- not to mention the threat they pose to the personal fortunes of well-connected Russian elites.  In late 2013 Yanukovych came under immense pressure from Vladimir Putin to turn his back on the EU and agree instead to an economic union with Russia and Belarus, an arrangement that would have protected the privileged status of elites in both countries.

However, by moving in this direction, Yanukovych put a bright spotlight on the crony politics that had long plagued Ukraine’s energy system, thereby triggering protests in Kiev’s Independence Square (the Maidan) -- that led to his downfall.
Once the protests began, a cascade of events led to the current standoff, with the Crimea in Russian hands, large parts of the east under the control of pro-Russian separatists, and the rump western areas moving ever closer to the EU.  In this ongoing struggle, identity politics has come to play a prominent role, with leaders on all sides appealing to national and ethnic loyalties.  Energy, nevertheless, remains a major factor in the equation.  Gazprom has repeatedly raised the price it charges Ukraine for its imports of natural gas, and on June 16th cut off its supply entirely, claiming non-payment for past deliveries.  A day later, an explosion damaged one of the main pipelines carrying Russian gas to Ukraine -- an event still being investigated.  Negotiations over the gas price remain a major issue in the ongoing negotiations between Ukraine’s newly elected president, Petro Poroshenko, and Vladimir Putin.

Energy also played a key role in Russia’s determination to take the Crimea by military means.  By annexing that region, Russia virtually doubled the offshore territory it controls in the Black Sea, which is thought to house billions of barrels of oil and vast reserves of natural gas.

Prior to the crisis, several Western oil firms, including ExxonMobil, were negotiating with Ukraine for access to those reserves.  Now, they will be negotiating with Moscow.  “It’s a big deal,” said Carol Saivetz, a Eurasian expert at MIT.  “It deprives Ukraine of the possibility of developing these resources and gives them to Russia.”

Nigeria and South Sudan
The conflicts in South Sudan and Nigeria are distinctive in many respects, yet both share a key common factor: widespread anger and distrust towards government officials who have become wealthy, corrupt, and autocratic thanks to access to abundant oil revenues.

In Nigeria, the insurgent group Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow the existing political system and establish a puritanical, Muslim-ruled state.  Although most Nigerians decry the group’s violent methods (including the kidnapping of hundreds of teenage girls from a state-run school), it has drawn strength from disgust in the poverty-stricken northern part of the country with the corruption-riddled central government in distant Abuja, the capital.

Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, pumping out some 2.5 million barrels per day.  With oil selling at around $100 per barrel, this represents a potentially staggering source of wealth for the nation, even after the private companies involved in the day-to-day extractive operations take their share.

Were these revenues -- estimated in the tens of billions of dollars per year -- used to spur development and improve the lot of the population, Nigeria could be a great beacon of hope for Africa.  Instead, much of the money disappears into the pockets (and foreign bank accounts) of Nigeria’s well-connected elites.

In February, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, told a parliamentary investigating committee that the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to transfer some $20 billion in proceeds from oil sales to the national treasury, as required by law.  It had all evidently been diverted to private accounts.  “A substantial amount of money has gone,” he told the New York Times.  “I wasn’t just talking about numbers.  I showed it was a scam.”

 For many Nigerians -- a majority of whom subsist on less than $2 per day -- the corruption in Abuja, when combined with the wanton brutality of the government’s security forces, is a source of abiding anger and resentment, generating recruits for insurgent groups like Boko Haram and winning them begrudging admiration.  “They know well the frustration that would drive someone to take up arms against the state,” said National Geographic reporter James Verini of people he interviewed in battle-scarred areas of northern Nigeria.

At this stage, the government has displayed zero capacity to overcome the insurgency, while its ineptitude and heavy-handed military tactics have only further alienated ordinary Nigerians.

The conflict in South Sudan has different roots, but shares a common link to energy.  Indeed, the very formation of South Sudan is a product of oil politics.  A civil war in Sudan that lasted from 1955 to 1972 only ended when the Muslim-dominated government in the north agreed to grant more autonomy to the peoples of the southern part of the country, largely practitioners of traditional African religions or Christianity.  However, when oil was discovered in the south, the rulers of northern Sudan repudiated many of their earlier promises and sought to gain control over the oil fields, sparking a second civil war, which lasted from 1983 to 2005.

An estimated two million people lost their lives in this round of fighting.  In the end, the south was granted full autonomy and the right to vote on secession.  Following a January 2011 referendum in which 98.8% of southerners voted to secede, the country became independent on that July 9th.

The new state had barely been established, however, when conflict with the north over its oil resumed.  While South Sudan has a plethora of oil, the only pipeline allowing the country to export its energy stretches across North Sudan to the Red Sea.  This ensured that the south would be dependent on the north for the major source of government revenues.

Furious at the loss of the fields, the northerners charged excessively high rates for transporting the oil, precipitating a cutoff in oil deliveries by the south and sporadic violence along the two countries’ still-disputed border.

Finally, in August 2012, the two sides agreed to a formula for sharing the wealth and the flow of oil resumed. Fighting has, however, continued in certain border areas controlled by the north but populated by groups linked to the south.

With the flow of oil income assured, the leader of South Sudan, President Salva Kiir, sought to consolidate his control over the country and all those oil revenues.  Claiming an imminent coup attempt by his rivals, led by Vice President Riek Machar, he disbanded his multiethnic government on July 24, 2013, and began arresting allies of Machar.

The resulting power struggle quickly turned into an ethnic civil war, with the kin of President Kiir, a Dinka, battling members of the Nuer group, of which Machar is a member.  Despite several attempts to negotiate a cease-fire, fighting has been under way since December, with thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.

As in Syria and Iraq, much of the fighting in South Sudan has centered around the vital oil fields, with both sides determined to control them and collect the revenues they generate.  As of March, while still under government control, the Paloch field in Upper Nile State was producing some 150,000 barrels a day, worth about $15 million to the government and participating oil companies.  The rebel forces, led by former Vice President Machar, are trying to seize those fields to deny this revenue to the government.

“The presence of forces loyal to Salva Kiir in Paloch, to buy more arms to kill our people... is not acceptable to us,” Machar said in April.  “We want to take control of the oil field.  It’s our oil.”  As of now, the field remains in government hands, with rebel forces reportedly making gains in the vicinity.

The South China Sea
In both the East China and South China seas, China and its neighbors claim assorted atolls and islands that sit astride vast undersea oil and gas reserves.  The waters of both have been the site of recurring naval clashes over the past few years, with the South China Sea recently grabbing the spotlight.  

An energy-rich offshoot of the western Pacific, that sea, long a focus of contention, is rimmed by China, Vietnam, the island of Borneo, and the Philippine Islands.  Tensions peaked in May when the Chinese deployed their largest deepwater drilling rig, the HD-981, in waters claimed by Vietnam.

Once in the drilling area, about 120 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam, the Chinese surrounded the HD-981 with a large flotilla of navy and coast guard ships.  When Vietnamese coast guard vessels attempted to penetrate this defensive ring in an effort to drive off the rig, they were rammed by Chinese ships and pummeled by water cannon.

No lives have yet been lost in these encounters, but anti-Chinese rioting in Vietnam in response to the sea-borne encroachment left several dead and the clashes at sea are expected to continue for several months until the Chinese move the rig to another (possibly equally contested) location.

The riots and clashes sparked by the deployment of HD-981 have been driven in large part by nationalism and resentment over past humiliations.  The Chinese, insisting that various tiny islands in the South China Sea were once ruled by their country, still seek to overcome the territorial losses and humiliations they suffered at the hands the Western powers and Imperial Japan.

The Vietnamese, long accustomed to Chinese invasions, seek to protect what they view as their sovereign territory.
For common citizens in both countries, demonstrating resolve in the dispute is a matter of national pride.

But to view the Chinese drive in the South China Sea as a simple matter of nationalistic impulses would be a mistake.

The owner of HD-981, the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), has conducted extensive seismic testing in the disputed area and evidently believes there is a large reservoir of energy there.  “The South China Sea is estimated to have 23 billion tons to 30 billion tons of oil and 16 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, accounting for one-third of China's total oil and gas resources,” the Chinese news agency Xinhua noted.

Moreover, China announced in June that it was deploying a second drilling rig to the contested waters of the South China Sea, this time at the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin.

As the world’s biggest consumer of energy, China is desperate to acquire fresh fossil fuel supplies wherever it can.  Although its leaders are prepared to make increasingly large purchases of African, Russian, and Middle Eastern oil and gas to satisfy the nation’s growing energy requirements, they not surprisingly prefer to develop and exploit domestic supplies.

For them, the South China Sea is not a “foreign” source of energy but a Chinese one, and they appear determined to use whatever means necessary to secure it.  Because other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, also seek to exploit these oil and gas reserves, further clashes, at increasing levels of violence, seem almost inevitable.

No End to Fighting
As these conflicts and others like them suggest, fighting for control over key energy assets or the distribution of oil revenues is a critical factor in most contemporary warfare.  While ethnic and religious divisions may provide the political and ideological fuel for these battles, it is the potential for mammoth oil profits that keeps the struggles alive.

Without the promise of such resources, many of these conflicts would eventually die out for lack of funds to buy arms and pay troops.  So long as the oil keeps flowing, however, the belligerents have both the means and incentive to keep fighting.
In a fossil-fuel world, control over oil and gas reserves is an essential component of national power.  “Oil fuels more than automobiles and airplanes,” Robert Ebel of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told a State Department audience in 2002.  “Oil fuels military power, national treasuries, and international politics.”

Far more than an ordinary trade commodity, “it is a determinant of well being, of national security, and international power for those who possess this vital resource, and the converse for those who do not.”

If anything, that’s even truer today, and as energy wars expand, the truth of this will only become more evident.  Someday, perhaps, the development of renewable sources of energy may invalidate this dictum.  But in our present world, if you see a conflict developing, look for the energy.  It’ll be there somewhere on this fossil-fueled planet of ours.

• Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.


Perpetual War vs No Growth

SUBHEAD: Oil wars in Middle East are a symptom of a growth dependent economy needing fossil fuels.

By Brent Blackwelder on 10 July 2014 for The Daly News -

Image above: Iraq War III? US sends 300 more troops to Iraq, raising the total to about 750 in place to protect embassy. From

Iraq has been in the news again as civil war looms. President Obama has sent several hundred military advisers to Iraq, perhaps in preparation for Iraq War III. George W. Bush proclaimed victory in Iraq War II and told the American Legion “Slowly but surely, we are helping to transform the broader Middle East from an arc of instability into an arc of freedom.” But the grim fact today is that US actions have achieved the very opposite of what was officially described to the American public as the objective.

A true cost or steady state economy can never be reached in a society consumed with perpetual war, especially warfare over oil. A steady state economy must have its energy supply based on renewable sources like solar and wind. To reach a true cost, steady state economy, the resources currently devoted to waging war must be transformed, and the use of natural resources like oil that are causing wars must be shifted.

Recent developments in Iraq highlight the decades of failure to put in place renewable energy that would have minimized the use of oil in the transportation sector. Trillions of dollars have now been spent on the Iraq II war, where more civilians than soldiers have been killed and billions more will need to be spent caring for severely wounded veterans from these ongoing wars.

A look at news coverage of the situation in Iraq shows what has been really driving the situation. In a June 3, 2013 New York Times article “China is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom,” Michael Makovsky, former Defense Department official under the Bush administration, complained that “We lost out. The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply.”

One year later, the New York Times featured a story about all this “progress” being put in jeopardy with the intense military offensive by extremist insurgents. The president of the oil service company Mediterranean International told the Times “The collapse of Iraq would bring an international oil crisis.”

To escape from perpetual warfare over oil, I propose that the biggest category of funding in all the world’s military budgets should be for installing rooftop solar energy and wind turbines. These renewable resources are widely available, they do not require large central generating facilities for electricity or refineries and pipelines for oil and natural gas usage, they are tension reducers rather than enhancers, they are essentially waterless technologies, and they do not produce the serious pollution and climate disruption caused by fossil fuels.

The younger generation does not realize that Iraq War I in 1991 caused the largest oil spills in history: on the land, in the sea, and in the air. Massive clouds of oily pollution carried as far away as India. Did stability come as a result? Rather than stability, resentments worsened over the US behavior. Osama bin Laden cited the actions of the United States and transnational oil companies as the reason for his launching the terrorist bombing on 9/11.

While some strong efforts are being made to transform energy economies into a more environmentally sustainable form, particularly in some European nations, vast sums continue to be provided to support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The sums that could have been used for a solar revolution have fundamentally been undermining the movement for renewables.

But there is good news on the solar front. In one month this year, Germany got more than 70% of its electricity from renewable energy. Germany, with 36,000 megawatts (MW) in solar capacity, leads the world. But in 2013, China added at least 11,300 MW, making it second to Germany with 18,300 MW in overall capacity.

Solar power is starting to take off in the United States with about 4,800 MW added in 2013, increasing our total photovoltaic capacity by 65 percent to 12,000 MW–still far behind Germany, which is about the size of Montana.

President Obama supports legislation to deal with global climate disruption and has made some significant gains in transportation fuel economy, but the US is not a leader in bringing electric vehicles run by solar power into widespread use.

The price of rooftop solar has dropped 75 percent in the last five years and flat roofs are available throughout metropolitan areas, so the opportunity for Obama to do a lot more is present, but oil wars in the 20th Century have continued under his administration, even as many top military people worldwide are calling attention to environmentally driven conflicts as being top security threats

Before launching a war against any country, the United States should take the vegetable test: would we be on the attack if that country’s leading export were carrots or green beans?

The key step to reaching a true cost, steady state economy is to keep the emerging solar revolution going full speed ahead. It is the underpinning of stability–the kind of stability needed for an environmentally sustainable economy.