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The Truth About Oil

November 14, 2009

Veterans Day 2009: Veterans, Persian Gulf Wars, and Energy Security

Freedom is not free: The price may be energy security.

I first learned about energy security, using oil as a diplomacy weapon, and alternative fuels from my father.  My father was a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp for the last 3 1/2 years of World War II.  He rarely talked about his experience as a POW, but one day he did take a moment to answer my juvenile and naïve question “Did you have any fun in prison camp, was it like Hogan’s Heroes?”  His response changed my life.  “We siphoned the fuel out of the Japanese trucks and drank it.”

Dad-AngelIsland My father went on to explain how the U.S. threatened Japan with an oil embargo in an effort to get them to side with us in World War II.  At that time the U.S. was the world’s largest oil producer.  Their answer to our threat was to bomb Pearl Harbor – which was the first oil related attack on U.S. soil.  Because the Japanese no longer had oil supplies from the U.S., and their allies did not have any either, they had to convert their Saki industry to fuel their domestic military fleet. They had to save whatever oil they could buy to fuel their planes and other military equipment that could not be replaced with ethanol (Germany used methanol).

My high school class was the first not to face a mandatory draft for military service in a generation or two. The visions of the Vietnam War on TV were still fresh in my mind, the price of gasoline doubled the year I got my drivers license, and being from a military family I had a sinking feeling that the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 was the prelude to the next military mission.  With a dreadful fear of boot camp, some family photos, and very selfsih desire to stay out of the next war, necessity drove me to search for the mother of all un-petroleum inventions. I started researching alternatives to oil with father’s conversation in mind.  In 1977 I presented my father with my future plan based on his POW story.  At first he did not share my optimism about alcohol fuels and my American [day] Dream. He said “The United States Congress does not have the optical will and private industry does not have a genuine interest in changing status quo. 99% of the people don’t care – because they don’t know – and there are few leaders with the courage or enough money to tell them different.”  I spent the next 30 years proving him right.

Dad-MugshotI sincerely believe we are in a longer term war over oil.  It is becoming increasing clear every day since we did not find weapons of mass destruction and Sadam Hussein’s trail ended that our involvement in the Middle East may be less complex than it appears on the surface.  Some may disagree with my view that that Persian Gulf Wars I, II and II, and the Global War on Terror have everything to do with oil, but most may agree oil accounts for at  least 50% of our mission and can be rated as one of the top two reasons.

But the next 30 years are going to be different!  Times are changing and political will is growing stronger.  We have a renewable fuel standard and there are more democratic and republican leaders everyday that have the courage to tell Americans they are addicted to oil and it’s time for intervention.  The internet and blogs, in combination with the growing number of countries that respect democracy, education, and the freedom of speech will help people find the truth about oil.  In the meantime, our military fights every hour of every day to selflessly protect democracy, capitalism, the world economy and the pursuit of liberty for all – even if one of the root causes is oil.  The next time you fill up with gasoline, even if it is only 10% ethanol, stand tall and know that Americans have been heard, the challenge is being met, and our true national leaders are rising to the occasion.

Dad-Flags The next time you feel like you need a good God Bless America find some E85 and put it in your FFV as your personal effort to acknowledge our energy security mission and hopefully bring the troops home one day -- and God bless you if one of them is yours.  The people who think “business isn’t personal” obviously don’t know anything about the energy  business and energy security.

On Veterans Day I went to Arlington Cemetery to place a flag on my father’s grave. I could not help but notice the rows in Section 60 were growing with Persian Gulf War veterans. As the rows move east the birthdates change from the 1920’s to the 1980’s.  World War II, Vietnam, and Korea are replaced with Operation Desert Storm (Second Persian Gulf War), Operation Iraq Freedom (Third Persian Gulf War) Operation Enduring Freedom (War in Afghanistan).  The memorial for Operation Ultimate Justice (Global War on Terror) is across the street at the Pentagon.

Section 60 Veterans Day 2009 lead me down a path that filled with three generations of conflicts over oil and back to that conversation that changed my life.  Take a moment to talk to a veteran about war and oil – it might just change your life too – and maybe even change your mind about the next type of car you buy.

God Bless America and our troops that protect her.

Some recommended reading to learn more about Energy Security. 

1. Winning the Oil Endgame, by Amory B. Lovins, published by the Rocky Mountain Institute in cooperation with the Department of Defense.
2. Freedom from Oil, David Sandalow, published by McGraw Hill.
3. Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum, by Michael Klare, published by Henry Holt and Company (an Owl Book)
4. Energy Security Challenges for the 21st Century, by Gal Luft and Anne Korin, published by Praeger Security International.
5. Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak, by Kenneth S. Deffeyes, published by Hill and Wang (a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
6. Turning Oil Into Salt: Energy Independence Through Fuel Choice, Anne Korin, Gal Luft, published by BookSurge Publishing
7. Energy Victory, by Robert Zubrin, published by Prometheus Books
8. Over a Barrel: Breaking the Middle East Oil Cartel, by Raymond J. Learsy, published by Nelson Current
9. Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy by Matthew R. Simmons, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
10. The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World, by Paul Roberts, published by Houghton Mifflin Company (A Mariner Book).
11. The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and The Coming Global Financial Catastrophe, by Jeremy Leggett, published by Random House
12. The Plan: How To Rescue Society When The Oil Stops – Or The Day Before, by Edwin Black, published by Dialog Press
13. Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, by Peter Maass, published by Alfred A. Knoff (Random House)


April 04, 2008

The [Clean] Energy Scam?

Biofuels advocates need to encourage smart, passionate and award winning writers like Michael Grunwald to focus on crude oil – which was never mentioned in his “The Clean Energy Scam” article.  Without a comparison to oil and its immediate and personal impact on everyone on the planet, an understanding of the role biofuels can play as part of the solution is impossible.  Maybe an intended consequence of the article?  If one was to fairly asses the role of ethanol one must first asses the problems associated with using crude oil in general and importing crude oil specifically – and don’t forget to mention the word addiction.  The hard hitting lead in to the article could have easily been improved with a simple search and replace function changing biofuels/ethanol to crude oil. Then the issues of environmental destruction, tax subsidies, global warming, and rape [of the economy] would have been used in the proper context. Then add the words terrorism, jihad against our country, war, 4,000 troops and $4.00 gasoline, the threat and possible spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East (which will soon contain 83% of the world’s proven oil reserves), peak oil, increased carbon dioxide releases from processing tar sands (the savior of increased oil production zealots), our $500 billion annual crude oil import bill, and the rising cost of gasoline in a down market that has less competition everyday, and then you would have the proper context for comparing ethanol.

When considering the hierarchy of our personal and energy needs, we need to focus on doing something immediately about oil for all the reasons above, bet on new technology as we always have, and develop competitive forces in the fuels marketplace to drive down the price of gasoline, and then oil, so we can afford to be environmentally conscience.  We also don’t need to trade off loosing sight of the longer-term effects and longer-term solutions to global warming.  The country needs to do something instead of just complaining, blaming, and continuing to do nothing as the nation has done for the past 30 years. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 contains many provisions that address all of the concerns mentioned in Mr. Grunwald’s article.  This new energy bill developed by Congress, with the support of  the environmental community, has created an open and fair process to evaluate life cycle models, greenhouse gas emissions, and the role biofuels and ethanol can in supporting our economy, consumers, and the environment.  This process will also help the U.S. become a responsible exporter of technology that can lead other countries away from the economic and environmental, political havoc oil has caused them.

Eureka!!! Ethanol is the “protein chip” people are looking for in the Time article.  Most people that are just critics or are unfamiliar with ethanol production somehow forget the production process uses only the starch portion of corn and leaves a high protein feed for animal feed -- yet somehow those same critics never forget to charge the energy used to produce that high protein feed back to the life cycle energy against ethanol.  As the ethanol industry continues to evolve and move toward cellulose and other waste feedstocks, corn ethanol protects farm land from turning into housing developments which then forces consumers to use more oil to drive farther to work.  Worried about the rising cost of food –  Mr. Grunwald should have mentioned the price of oil.  Maybe the U.S. should approach OPEC for a contribution to the missing $500 million for the United Nation’s food program.  If poor economies can not afford oil, they can not create jobs, people can not afford food, and maybe more importantly those same people cannot afford to care about the impact of global warming on the planet.

Michael Grunwell's sweeping indictment of the biofuels movement in "The Clean Energy Scam" was the most stunning piece of misinformation I have seen published in a major news outlet. The article laid the blame for everything from destabilization in Pakistan to deforestation in Brazil at the feet of biofuel.  Astonishingly, Grunwell did not quote a single supporter of the cleaner-burning fuel in the cover article!   -- Harold Wimmer, CEO, American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest 

Recycling the myths about food vs. fuel and the recent “new studies” on lifecycle impacts of biofuels (which were publicly blasted by a multitude of experts as unfair, biased, and blatantly an abuse of data) is not helpful to a world that is trying to move away from crude oil.  In the proper context one could easily see that oil is the problem and biofuels is part of a solution.  In the past 30 years of trying, ethanol is the last and only solution standing.  Who and what are we waiting for? The perfect panacea and silver bullet that ethanol critics always accuse ethanol of trying to be?  Let’s improve ethanol and move forward without taking two steps back.  The conservation of fuels is a good idea, but it has never worked. Replacing fuels and replacing vehicles with flexible fuel vehicles that can burn those substitute fuels is working. Let’s work together to keep America working.