We begin this year with many milestones. 2006 was among the hottest years in recorded history. In Britain, it was the hottest year since they started keeping records in 1659. Ten of the hottest years in recorded history have occurred in the past 12 years. Snow has yet to fall in New York's Central Park. This hasn't happened in more than 100 years. And other records have been broken. ExxonMobil profits were slated to be the greatest ever. On Dec. 31, the Pentagon announced another grim milestone: 3,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. It was a year of global warming, global warring and global warning.
ExxonMobil is the world's largest publicly traded company. It is also the most profitable corporation in history. The Union of Concerned Scientists just issued a report documenting how ExxonMobil has implemented tobacco-industry tactics in its efforts to fight the movement to accept global warming as truth and to require massive regulation to help slow its onset.
According to the UCS, ExxonMobil "manufactures uncertainty" with a sophisticated and well-funded campaign. They funded a network of 43 "grass-roots" organizations with $16 million, recruited scientists willing to publish non-peer-reviewed articles that challenge established science, and flooded the media with these "experts," creating the essential "echo chamber." A critical part of ExxonMobil's strategy involves lavish spending on electoral campaigns and lobbying to ensure that Congress and the White House follow the line on questioning human-caused climate change.
While the rest of the world accepts the reality of global warming, the U.S., the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, has been stymied by the disinformation campaigns of the oil industry. Let's hope the new 110th Congress shifts climate-change policy at a glacial pace -- the rapidly receding 21st-century glaciers, that is. Key committees will be chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. Replacing chairman Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who describes global warming as a hoax, Boxer is bullish on fighting greenhouse gases. Dingell, from the heart of the auto industry in Michigan, is less direct and hedges on his willingness, for example, to push for better fuel efficiency in cars.
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The flip side of oil consumption is oil production. That is where the warring comes in.
The Independent of London reported this week in a piece titled "SpOILs of War" that the Iraqi Parliament is rushing to pass a law that will open Iraq's oil reserves to exploitation by foreign corporations. The law would allow these foreign companies to retain 75 percent of the profits until they recouped their initial drilling investments, thereafter to retain 20 percent, which is about double the take normally allowed. It would be the first opening for such companies since the Iraqi oil industry was nationalized in 1972. This comports with the recommendation of the business-friendly Iraq Study Group report of James Baker III. One underreported item was the recommendation to privatize the oil industry. Recall that the initial "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign in March 2003 specifically spared the Iraqi Oil Ministry building.
As global temperatures surge, so do oil-company profits, and U.S. soldiers in Iraq. President Bush, despite plummeting to his all-time low popularity in the polls on his handling of Iraq, forces tens of thousands more young Americans to march lock step into another year's deployment into the turmOIL of Iraq. As for Iraqis, the British medical journal The Lancet published a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health that an estimated 650,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the March 2003 invasion.
As for warning, the alarm has sounded: We need a sane energy policy that decreases our oil consumption (the Germans and French, "Old Europe," use half as much per capita as we do in the U.S.). The potential for environmental disaster, and the prospects of protracted wars for oil, demand no less.