There's a sad pattern in the third world. A dictator rises to power, and proceeds to install his cronies in every public office of significance, slants the nation's laws (such as they are) so that his own enterprises take a cut of every transaction, and loots the public treasury for good measure. He may start wars against neighbors to rally the public and paint the opposition as unpatriotic. The nation sinks into poverty and misery as the dictator and his cronies get rich.
Thank goodness this only happens to other people.
Or is it too early to crow?
The USA has a love/hate relationship with petroleum, especially imports. It makes our cars and trucks go and runs a fair fraction of the rest of our economy, but it also fouls our air, takes more of our income at the pump than we're comfortable with and finances the enemy's side of the War on
Ever since the oil price shocks of the 1970's, there has been an on-again, off-again effort to address the issue of petroleum dependence. In the "DO SOMETHING!" atmosphere of stagflation, Jimmy Carter's "Moral Equivalent Of War" started with a dozen programs trying to attack the problem from different angles, not all of which were direct but all having potential. Oil shale. Synfuels from the USA's 250-year supply of coal. Wind power. Solar. That's about the time I first heard of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC); MHD was also on magazine covers, and all kinds of plants doing all kinds of new things that Might Be The Fix had their fifteen minutes of fame. The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) was started in this spurt of mixed optimism and desperation. The national speed limit went down to 55 MPH. The changes went right up to the top; the White House itself got solar collectors, and the thermostats in the building were changed to allow greater temperature tolerances to save energy.
Then (to seriously oversimplify matters) two things happened. Jimmy Carter, whose MEOW instead of properly rattling our sabers toward Iran got him branded as a pussy, lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980; Reagan installed some no-nonsense talent at the Federal Reserve. And the inflationary bubble caused by the oil-price hikes of the previous decade finished working its way through the system, causing America to breathe a collective sigh of relief and go back to business as usual.
While everyone's attention was on other things, in Washington's back rooms it was politics as usual. Most of the Carter-era programs were cut back severely, some eliminated. The progress at NREL slowed drastically. And America's demand for imported oil, our Achilles' heel that we had pledged to go back to the river Styx to eliminate once and for all, began to creep up again.
For twelve years little was done. Progress crept along in the labs, but not much got out of them. Then came Clinton. His first attempt at a carbon tax, with umpteen different levies for various uses of more or less the same fuel, accompanied Hillarycare to a well-deserved death in Congress. But he didn't stop after just one attempt. On a day that he wasn't leaving embarrassing stains in hard-to-explain places, he started the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV): a program to have the auto companies deliver a full-size passenger sedan which would go 80 miles on a gallon of fuel.
PNGV paid the Big 3 roughly a billion dollars through 2000. Compared to California's ZEV mandate, which put a thousand or so electric cars on the roads for a few years, it didn't actually make any product. But it was a long-term program, not set to make vehicles for sale until model year 2008; by 2000, at least one of the prototypes (Daimler-Chrysler's ESX3) was yielding 72 MPG and had an estimated cost premium of just $3500 over the conventional models of the day. This was already about 3 times the average economy of the contemporary fleet; such vehicles would have pushed America a large part of the way toward the goal everyone had thought so important twenty-four years earlier. (Events did not stand still during this time; oil prices went up and down, to impressive lows during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98; due in part to this and the CAFE and emissions loophole for "light trucks", the the minivan and then the SUV were born. Meanwhile, the looming menace of global warming became harder and harder to deny, and so was the world's progression toward its collective Hubbert peak.)
And then George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000. The PNGV died shortly after his inauguration, victim of a knife in the back in a dark alley. The auto companies breathed their own sigh of relief at the demise of this threat to the old and familiar, and looked the other way as the body was quietly disposed of.
In a previous life, G.W. Bush was an oil man. In not-long-previous lives so were his veep, several of his cabinet picks and a huge number of his friends and associates. They were a very insular group by historical standards, not given much to listening to voices outside their circle. But they knew oil, and what was good for oil people. This they did. But they couldn't just leave things at that; the PNGV did have its friends and the American people still had a lingering resentment of imported oil. This called for a payoff. The blood money arrived in the form of a hydrogen vehicle program with a bunch of useful properties: it gave the auto companies something to research in their labs, money to pay the researchers, and no demand to change their modus operandi for probably another 20 years. It made the American people who weren't paying close attention (which was most of them) think that Something Was Being Done. Last, it made the oil, coal and gas interests snicker, because they knew that the oil business would have no competition for the foreseeable future and the cheapest sources of hydrogen for quite some time were going to be natural gas and coal; nuclear had a chance too. All of this was Good For Business, or at least those businesses which were in the Bush camp.
11-Sep-2001 came and went, with the huge upheaval in military, security and law-enforcment apparatus. Two wars were fought as a direct consequence. 9/11 should have caused a reversal of this carefully-laid scheme, as the source of the danger to America became obvious and the folly of waiting another two decades to address it was laid out in excruciating detail. Yet the administration stayed its previous course, holding steady not just then but for the next 45 months. Sticking to the charade that the lightest element was the cure for the nation's ills, G.W. himself cut the ribbon on a hydrogen fuelling station in Washington DC in May
and on the fifteenth of June he touted this act in a press conference as if it meant something.
He knew otherwise. Three months earlier, high administration officials were party to a meeting of the Bilderberg group in Germany. The group is highly secretive, but someone claiming to have infiltrated it has written a report
for the magazine Counterpunch. One exchange is particularly pertinent:
Another Bilderberger asked about hydrogen alternative to the oil supply. The US government official agreed gloomily that hydrogen salvation to the world's eminent [sic] energy crisis is a fantasy.
If the account is accurate, the White House actually did know what most everyone with an interest in the subject and a little knowledge of physics, chemistry and Google already knew. This revealed what they were up to: instead of being amazingly blind and stupid, the Bush administration turns out to have been lying to (if not completely deceiving) its own public for the previous four years.
That makes me feel so much better. Not.
The administration has had ample notice and opportunity. At this writing, it has been forty-five months and 6 days since Mohammed Atta and his gang turned four airliners into cruise missiles and got 3 of them to their targets. The toxic ideology which fuelled them has been revealed, and the source of its funding and strength is known. If the White House had called for a revival of the PNGV, or production of 70 MPG fish-cars
, or other measures that they have to know would have addressed the problem, the rush by Congress and the public to make it happen would have looked like a stampede.
What has the president done instead?
- Lied to the American public about the prospects for other fuels.
- Drained the US treasury for overpriced oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, boosting broker profits at the expense of the treasury.
- Promoted needless use of gas-guzzling vehicles via excessive tax breaks, boosting refiner markups and profits.
- Helped drain the pockets of the American public for more fuel than we really needed at higher prices than we should have been paying.
- Been all buddy-buddy with the very royals whose nation breeds and exports the disease we're fighting in Asia and around the world.
In short, he's frustrated both our offensive and defensive responses and given aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war... so that his cronies could profit.
Is it too soon to call it treason?
Hat tip: Searching For The Truth
, for the Bilderberger link and quotes.