Change can be a bitch!

SUBHEAD: 2017 will be the year where most people's favorite worldview flies off the rails.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 13 January 2107 for The Automatic Earth -

Image above: From Revelers bundle up while gathered at Times Square during a New Year's Eve celebration Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in New York. Photo by Julio Cortez. (

2016 brought a lot of changes, or rather, brought them to light. In reality, the world has been changing for many years, but many prominent actors benefitted from the changes remaining hidden. Simply because their wealth and power and worldviews are better served that way.

It’s entirely unclear whether we will ever get a chance to see to what extent the efforts to hide developments have been successful, or even been perpetrated at all, because we don’t know to what extent truth and reality will be accessible in the future.

What we can say at this point in time is that the changes 2016 delivered were urgently needed. There are many people out there who just want to turn back the clock, and change everything back to how it was, but they can’t, and that’s a good thing, because the way things were was hurting too many people.

2016 will go down in history as the year when a big divide between groups of people in the western world became visible, a divide that had until then been papered over by real or imaginary wealth, as well as by ignorance and denial.

When politics and media conspire to paint for the public a picture of their choosing, they can be very successful, especially if that picture is what people very much wish to see, true or not.

But as we’ve seen recently, our traditional media have become completely useless when it comes to reporting news; the vast majority have switched to reporting their own opinions and pretending that is news.

On the one hand, there is a segment of society that either has noticed no changes, or is so desperate to hold on to what they have left, that they resist seeing them. On the other hand, there are those who feel left behind by that first group, and by the idea that the world that is still functioning and even doing well.

The first group has been captivated by, and believed in, the incessantly promoted message of recovery from an economic, financial and gradually also political crisis. The second see in their lives and that of their friends and neighbors that this recovery is an illusion.

It’s like the old saying goes: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. And that’s why you have Brexit and Trump and why you’re going to have much more of that, certainly across Europe. Things are not going well, and there is no recovery, for a large enough percentage of people that their votes and voices now swing the debates and elections.

It’s not even complicated. This week there was a report from Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class that concluded that half of Americans, 160 million people, can’t afford to have a broken arm treated (at $1,400).

And sure, you can say that perhaps that number is a bit too high, but there have been many such reports, that for instance say the majority of Americans have less than $1000 in savings, and can’t even afford a car repair.

In Britain numbers are not much different. Over the past decade, the country has been very busy creating an entire new underclass. If your economy is not doing well, and your answer to that is budget cuts and austerity, it’s inevitable that this happens, that you create some kind of two-tier or three-tier society. And then come election time, you run the risk of losing.

Both Britain and the US boast low unemployment numbers, but as soon as you lift the veil, what you see is low participation rates, low wages and huge numbers of part-time jobs stripped of all the benefits a job used to guarantee. It allows those who still sit pretty to continue doing that, but it’ll come right back to haunt you if you don’t turn it around, and fast enough.

For many people, Obama, Merkel, Cameron and the EU cabal have been disasters. For too many, as we now know. That doesn’t mean that Trump will fix the economic problems, but that’s not the issue.

People have voted for anything but more of the same. Which in Britain they’re not even getting either, so expect more mayhem there.

In most places, some variety of right wing alternative is the only option available that is far enough removed from ‘more of the same’. Moreover, many if not most incumbent parties are in a deep identity crisis. Trump did away with the Republicans AND the Democrats, and they had better understand why that is, or they’ll be wholly irrelevant soon.

In Britain, the most important votes in many decades was lost by the Tories, who subsequently performed a musical chairs act and stayed in power. You lost! Losers are not supposed to stay in power! But the other guys are all too busy infighting to notice.

That identity crisis, by the way, is not a new thing. If you look across the western political spectrum, there are all these left wing and right wing parties happily working together, either in coalition governments or through other ‘productive’ forms of cooperation.

So who are people going to vote for when they’re unhappy with what they’ve got? Where is that ‘change’ that they want? Not on the traditional left or right.

So you get Podemos and M5S and Trump and UKIP and Le Pen. It’s not their fault, or the voters’ fault, it’s the political establishment that has tricked itself into believing in the same illusion it’s been promoting to voters.

And yes, they have now proven that it’s possible to stave off, for a number of years, a deeper crisis, depression, by borrowing and printing ‘money’. Especially if you can at the same time hit the poorest in your society with impunity.

But in the end no amount of fake or false news on the economic front will allow you to continue the facade for too long, because people know when they can’t afford things anymore. The evidence here is somewhat more direct than with regards to political fake news, though they may well both follow the same pattern of ‘discovery’.

Our societies are still run as if there is no real crisis, as if it’s all just a temporary glitch, as if the incumbent models function just fine, and as if recovery is just around the corner. And we can make it look as if that is true, but only for an ever smaller amount of time, and for an ever smaller amount of people.

The basic issue here is not a political one. It’s economic. Our economic systems have failed, and they can’t be repaired. We should always have realized that no growth is forever, but at least we now know. Or could know, it’ll take a while to sink in.

Next up is a redo and revamp of those economic systems, but that is not going to be easy, and may not get done at all. The resistance may be too strong, warfare -economic or physical- may seem like a way out, there are many unknowns.

We could, ironically, get quite far in that redo if we simply cut all the waste for our economic processes, but then again, that would have us find out that much of the system runs entirely on wasting stuff, and wasting less kills the system.

However that may be, and however it may turn out, this is where we find ourselves. Protesting Trump and Brexit is inevitable, but it doesn’t address any core issues. From a purely economic point of view, Obama failed spectacularly, as did David Cameron, as does Angela Merkel. And as do, we will find out in 2017, many other incumbent ‘leaders’.

Their successors, whatever political colors they may come from, will all come to power promising, and subsequently attempting, to restart growth. Which is no longer feasible across an entire country, or even if it were, it would mean squeezing other countries. With corresponding risks.

Trump and Brexit are necessary, perhaps even long overdue, in order to break the illusion that things could go on as they were. But they are not solutions. America needs a big wake-up. Trump looks likely to deliver one. That is needed for the rest of the country to wake from its slumber.

Ask yourself: are you going to get weaker from dealing with a Trump presidency? Maybe not the best question, or at least not before having asked: do you know how weak you are right now?

For Britain to leave the EU is a great first step. As I’ve said many times, centralization is not an option without growth. And Brussels has shown us quite a few of the worst consequences of centralization. Nobody should want to be a part of that.

Summarized: for most people, 2017 will be the year of the inability to understand where their favorite worldview flew off the rails. Change can be a bitch. But change is needed to keep life alive.


The Rights of Nature

SUBHEAD: Indigenous philosophies are reframing the law as it applies to the rights of the natural environment.

By Kiana Herold on 6 January 2017 for the Intercontinental Cry-

Image above: Cofan Indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo looks over an oil contaminated river hear his home in northern Ecuador. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network. From original article.

Indigenous battles to defend nature have taken to the streets, leading to powerful mobilizations like the gathering at Standing Rock. They have also taken to the courts, through the development of innovative legal ways of protecting nature.

In Ecuador, Bolivia and New Zealand, indigenous activism has helped spur the creation of a novel legal phenomenon—the idea that nature itself can have rights.

The 2008 constitution of Ecuador was the first national constitution to establish rights of nature. In this legal paradigm shift, nature changed from being held as property to a rights-bearing entity.

Rights are typically given to actors who can claim them—humans—but they have expanded especially in recent years to non-human entities such as corporations, animals and the natural environment.

The notion that nature has rights is a huge conceptual advance in protecting the Earth. Prior to this framework, an environmental lawsuit could only be filed if a personal human injury was proven in connection to the environment. This can be quite difficult. Under Ecuadorian law, people can now sue on the ecosystem’s behalf, without it being connected to a direct human injury.

The Kichwa notion of “Sumak Kawsay” or “buen vivir” in Spanish translates roughly to good living in English. It expresses the idea of harmonious, balanced living among people and nature.

The idea centers on living “well” rather than “better” and thus rejects the capitalist logic of increasing accumulation and material improvement. In that sense, this model provides an alternative to the model of development, by instead prioritizing living sustainably with Pachamama, the Andean goddess of mother earth.

Nature is conceived as part of the social fabric of life, rather than a resource to be exploited or as a tool of production.

The Preamble of the Ecuadorian Constitution reads:
“We women and men, the sovereign people of Ecuador recognizing our age-old roots, wrought by women and men from various peoples, Celebrating nature, the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), of which we are a part and which is vital to our existence…. Hereby decide to build a new form of public coexistence, in diversity and in harmony with nature, to achieve the good way of living, the sumac kawsay.”
The traditional Quechua relation to the natural world is firmly rooted in the Constitution. The interchangeable use of nature and Pacha Mama testifies to the indigenous influence on the Constitution.

The concept and the praxis

 In the 1970s, Christopher Stone, an American environmental legal scholar, articulated the legal notion of the rights of nature in his widely read essay Should Trees Have Standing? Stone envisioned a new way of conceptualizing nature through law that broke with the existing paradigm of the commodification of nature, often established through law.

Property rights are a primary example of commodifying the natural world. When treated as property, nature incurs damages that often go unrecognized. Stone writes that an argument for “personifying” nature can best be considered from a welfare economics perspective.

Under capitalist economic logic, many externalities that negatively impact the environment are not registered when calculating the cost of an action. Transforming nature legally from mere property to a rights-holding entity would force byproduct environmental effects of production to factor into cost calculations. Under this framework, nature would be better protected.

Incorporating rights of nature into a national constitution is a powerful paradigm shift, but may seem hypocritical and idealistic given states’ continuing dependence on extractive industries. In Ecuador, 14.8 percent of the GDP comes from profits from natural resources as of 2014.

Moreover, under Ecuadorian law, the rights of nature are subject to principles of so-called national development. Article 408 of the constitution stipulates that all natural resources are the property of the state, and that the state can decide to exploit them if deemed to be of national importance, as long as it “consults” the affected communities.

However, there is no state obligation to abide to the result of the consultation to these communities– a gaping hole in full protection of these environments and the people living within them.

Nonetheless, Ecuador’s Constitution was a significant step in changing the legal paradigm of rights to one that is inclusive of nature.

Bolivia follows

 Bolivia followed in Ecuador’s footsteps. Evo Morales, the first indigenous head of state in Latin America, was elected in 2005 and called for a constitutional reform that ultimately established rights to nature in 2009.

Again, indigenous philosophies were instrumental in the formulation of Bolivia’s new Constitution. The constitution’s preamble states that Bolivia is founded anew “with the strength of our Pachamama,” placing the indigenous understanding of nature as central to the very creation of the revised political state. Like in Ecuador, the Bolivian Constitution allows anyone to legally defend environmental rights.

Bolivia’s government soon instituted the Law of Mother Earth in 2010, later re-coining it as the Framework Law of Mother Earth and Integral Development to Live Well.

The law lays out a number of rights for nature, such as the right to life and to exist, to pure water, clean air, to be free from toxic and radioactive pollution, a ban on genetic modification, and freedom from interference by mega-infrastructure and development projects that disturb the balance of ecosystems and local communities.

Part of the rationale behind the law is the hope of helping the environment through reducing causes of climate change, which is directly in Bolivia’s interests. Increasing temperatures in Bolivia pose problems to the nation’s farming sector and water supply.

Again, however, this legal concept does not match economic realities. The rights of nature are directly at odds with extractive industries that are intimately tied to Bolivia’s model of economic development. Despite legal frameworks defending the rights of nature, Bolivia’s profits from natural resources comprise 12.6 percent of the GDP as of 2014.

But there are alternatives to the Andean experience. Across the Pacific, New Zealand has also granted a legal status of personhood to specific rivers and forest, thus enabling the environment itself to have rights.

The New Zealand Take on Rights of Nature

Unlike Ecuador and Bolivia, New Zealand’s rights of nature are not embedded in its constitutional law, but rather protect specific natural entities. Native communities in New Zealand were instrumental in creating new legal frameworks that give legal personhood, and thus rights, to land and rivers.

New Zealand has bestowed legal personhood on the 821-square mile Te Urewara Park, and the Whanganui River, the nation’s third-largest river. This was part of the government’s reparation efforts for the historical injustice at the foundation of New Zealand’s state: colonial conquest of land from native peoples.

The Tuhoe tribe’s ancestral homeland is currently the Te Urewara Park. With the imposition of colonial governance, most of their land was taken from them without consultation, resulting in great spiritual and socio-economic losses. The land was designated a national park in 1954.

The Tuhoe tribe never signed the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown, which stripped the tribe of their sovereign right over their land. They have since contested the British assertion of sovereignty that undergirds the formation of the modern New Zealand state.

Their centuries-long struggle finally yielded results. As part of New Zealand’s reparation process towards Indigenous Peoples, the national government negotiated with the Tuhoe tribe regarding their historic land.

In 2012 the Tuhoe tribe accepted the Crown’s offer of financial reparations, a historical account and apology and co-governance of Te Urewera lands. The national government renounced ownership of the land, giving the land its own personhood.

Under this framework, the land is now a legal entity in itself, owned neither by the government nor the Tuhoe tribe. The land is no longer property. It is its own untamed natural presence in and of itself, with, as per native understanding, its own life force and identity.

The land is now co-governed by the Tuhoe people and the New Zealand government.

The 2014 Te Urewara Act declares the park “a place of spiritual value.” The Act acknowledges that it is the sacred home of the Tuhoe people, integral to their “culture, language, customs and identity,” while also being of intrinsic value to all New Zealanders.

In a similar process of granting legal personhood, the local Maori tribe, the Iwi, helped the Whanganui River earn legal personhood status in 2014 after winning a long-fought court case.

This was part of a centuries-long struggle that the Whanganui tribes undertook to protect the river. Since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the river has been subject to gravel extraction, water diversion for hydro-electric plans, and river bed works to better navigability, under protest from local tribes.

The Maori fought to protect the river through a series of court cases beginning in 1938, defending their claim to the management of the river as its rightful guardian.

Throughout the court cases, negotiations were undergirded by the native saying “Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au,” which translates to “I am the river and the river is me.” This reflects native philsophies of reciprocal and equal relations between people and nature.

New Zealand's attorney general Chris Finlayson was quoted in the New York Times as acknowledging the Maori perspective as formative in the granting of rights to these natural entities, saying “In their worldview, ‘I am the river and the river is me,’” he said. “Their geographic region is part and parcel of who they are.”

Expanding Legal Horizons?

 The legal concept of rights of nature signal the influence of Indigenous Peoples as political actors in state-making, fundamentally reimagining law and how the natural world is conceived.

These ideas present a revolutionary rupture in the conventional anthropocentric understanding of sovereignty, and a realignment of how the natural world is valued.

In fact, they could chart the path forward for a new understanding of mankind’s relation to the natural world, even if they operate within the legal structures that are not conducive to indigenous philosophies.

It is true that the rights of nature as they currently stand have deep limitations, particularly given the ongoing extraction of non-renewable natural resources in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Problems of corruption, environmental inequality and economic dependence on extractive industries are major challenges to the full realization of the rights of nature.

Yet small acts can lead to lasting change. This shift in the way we relate to and legally protect nature, however small and plagued by obstacles, could be an incremental step toward a more sustainable relation to the planet that could allow us to preserve the earth for future generations.


Putdown of "radical enviro" groups

SUBHEAD: Heartland Institute wants to burn more fossil and uranium fuel as it goes after and the Sierra Club.

[IB Publisher's note: Somehow the Heartland Institute put me on their mailing list last December. Ive been getting their comments on  "energy independence",  "corporate freedom" and "radical environmentalism" ever since. Their climate change denial, Trump support and enthusiasm for any way possible to burn more fossil fuel and uranium are frighteningly oblivious to the ongoing extinction of life on Earth. One can only conclude these "people" are actually invading extraterrestrials with a plan to rid planet Earth of its current life forms and transform the planet into an alien biosphere for their own use. Bill McKibbon called that planet "Eaarth". Maybe we should call it planet "Trump".]

By Billy Acouste on 9 January 2017 In Island Breath -

Image above: Former Vice President (and Fossil Fuel Energy Tsar) Dick Cheney illustrated in his true extraterrestrial form. From (

A coalition of radical environmentalist groups, including and the Sierra Club, has organized protests today at the local offices of U.S. senators in several states to protest President-elect Donald Trump’s appointments of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Rick Perry as Energy Secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke as Secretary of Interior, and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

The following statements from environment policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution.

“I can certainly understand why anti-capitalist activists would oppose Pruitt at EPA, Perry at Energy, and Zinke at Interior as they are all intent on using real science in moving these issues forward. Zinke will ensure we properly manage our lands to benefit the nation.

Perry will manage our energy to make us independent of those who hate us. Pruitt will manage the environment to protect it without destroying the economy.

“I do not understand, however, why they would oppose Tillerson, who believes in man-caused global warming and supports the Paris Climate Agreement. I hope he is Trump’s sacrificial goat to the Senate committees that will be questioning his appointees.”

Jay Lehr
Science Director
The Heartland Institute

“Ryan Zinke, Rick Perry, and Scott Pruitt have long experience dealing with federal agency overreach – battling policies that violate constitutional limits and laws duly enacted by Congress, and result in economic and often environmental harm. They understand the nation’s national and economic security requires continued access to and use of safe, affordable, abundant, and reliable fossil fuels.

They also know that climate disaster claims made by radical environmental misanthropes and their allies with the Obama administration are overblown.

Few people are better suited to undertake the radical reforms necessary to bring the federal regulatory behemoth to heel – ensuring future environmental regulations are based on sound science, sanctioned in law, minimize any harmful economic impacts, and place the needs of the average person above the desires of politically connected environmental insiders.

“Rex Tillerson, on the other hand, holds positions on climate change and the Paris Climate Agreement that are troubling and out of step with the rest of Trump’s appointments. Thus, it is with some humor I see environmental groups fighting his appointment as Secretary of State. This shows green radicals are less concerned about protecting the world from purported human-caused climate change than they are about fighting Trump at every turn.”

H. Sterling Burnett
Research Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News

“The rhetoric and tactics used by are unfortunate and saddening. The founder of this group, Bill McKibben, is no stranger to misleading the public on a variety of energy and environmental issues, such as hydraulic fracturing.

The fact of the matter is, Germany has aggressively pursued renewable energy targets and they have nothing to show for it. Over the past several years German electricity prices have skyrocketed. They are now more than three times the rates in the United States, and their carbon dioxide emissions have increased during this time.

“In contrast, cheap natural gas has allowed the U.S. to cut carbon dioxide emissions more than any other country in the world since 2005. With their opposition to nuclear power – the lowest-cost form of near-zero carbon dioxide emission energy – solidifies its place in the realm of unserious advocacy groups.”

Isaac Orr
Research Fellow, Energy and Environment Policy
The Heartland Institute

“ is doing yeoman’s labor to prove Paul Johnson’s line that radical environmentalism is nothing more than ‘emotionalism masquerading as science.’ Frankly, I’m happy these radicals waste their time and money on playacting episodes such as these instead of actually working.

Having a sit-in and serenading to the congregation is a much less dangerous way to spend their time than pushing their anti-human, anti-civilizational message in ways that may actually be destructive.”

Tim Benson
Policy Analyst
The Heartland Institute

“The only ‘denial’ going on is that by the global warming extremists who are in denial about Donald Trump winning the election and the American people rejecting climate alarmism. If and its allies wish to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, they should reverse their dogmatic opposition to all energy sources except wind and solar power.

Natural gas, nuclear, and hydro power all dramatically reduce or eliminate carbon dioxide emissions in an economically sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. If global warming truly is the greatest threat facing the planet, will enthusiastically support immediate action to remove government obstacles to these energy sources.”

James Taylor
Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy
The Heartland Institute

“The only denial going on is in not trying to understand or even listen to the good technical reasons to question the politically rooted and fatally defective received wisdom about science and climate.”

Christopher Essex
Professor, Department of Applied Mathematics
University of Western Ontario

“An upheaval in climate and energy regulation is upon us. The succession of the Trump administration and the appointment of Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, and Ryan Zinke to prominent federal positions marks the beginning of a return to sensible energy and environmental policy, a change that is long overdue.”

Steve Goreham
Executive Director
Climate Science Coalition of America
Policy Advisor, Environment and Energy
The Heartland Institute

“The time to argue has passed, and no amount of shouting will change anything. Protesting before Trump’s cabinet choices even take the oath of office lays bare the absolute disdain our nation’s tax-subsidized gripers reserve for the democratic process when it doesn’t go their way – to say nothing of the scorn they hold against America itself.

The days leading up to January 20 should be a time for the supporters of soon-to-be ex-President Obama to reflect on the power of democracy at work in this great republic, not for pretending we didn’t just have an election.”

Mischa Popoff
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 33-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.


Stop Monsanto-Bayer Merger

SUBHEAD: For American food security tell Trump oppose consolidation of corporate seed monopoly.

By Juan Wilson on 14 January 2017 for Island Breath -

Image above: Illustration of Bayer-Monsanto merger. From following article below.

Today I received an email from the Center for Food Safety. It said:
President-elect Trump recently sat down with Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant at Trump Tower and had a “productive meeting” on “the future of the agriculture industry” and the pending merger between the two companies.

Trump has heard from the CEOs. Now we need you to make your voice heard. Add your name and tell President-elect Trump: NO to the dangerous Bayer-Monsanto merger!
To send a message to Trump on this issue click on the link below.

Using this link my message to Trump was:

I am a planner and architect living on Kauai in Hawaii. We are at the epicenter of experimental pesticide development.  These pesticides have a synergistic interaction with GMO plants.

Most of the major GMO Big Ag companies are here: Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, Monsanto, Pioneer, BASF, Dekalb.

In Hanapepe Valley, where I live, we have Dekalb. In 1998 Monsanto bought Dekalb. Now Dupont owns Pioneer, Dow joined DuPont just recently.

The larger these companies have gotten, the worse their effect on the island has been. Their money and muscle have made them more audacious.

Our county government enacted an ordinance requiring a few hundred foot buffer zone between experimental fields and such land uses as schools and residential areas.

However, the big corporate lawyers came in and pushed back hard. The companies bought our off politicians and took over our County Council.

Experimental GMO fields are here for a reason. Besides the sunny weather and access to water there is a more important feature to Kauai. If something dreadful happens in a GMO field we are the most isolated land mass in the United States. We are expendable... lab rats.

Stop the corporate mergers of pesticide/chemical companies who are ruining farmland and food quality to provide GMO junk food and addictive high-fructose-corn-syrup.

Foreign takeovers of critical American industries are ill advised... especially when they are in industries crucial to our survival - like providing our food.

The Chinese have recently taken over Syngenta. Syngenta's fields surround the Pacific Missile Range Facility where crucial US weapon development tests are performed.

Bayer is a German company that produced the brand Heroin as a cough suppressor. They became part of IG Farben, a company that developed Zyclon-B, the poisonous gas used by Nazi Germany to exterminate non-Aryans.

Monsanto's has its own ghosts in the attic. It is a monstrous corporation with its Hawaiian headquarters on Maui adjacent to the high-tech supercomputer telecommunications center in Kihei.

Food security is as important as military security. We need resilience, flexibility, sustainability and variety to maintain food security.

The goal of the big chemical/pesticide corporations is to make farmers developing their own seeds illegal.

Let's get back to real farming in America before all the water and soil are washed away.

I am very concerned about the ongoing consolidation trends in the seed sector and urge you to reject the merger between Monsanto and Bayer.

Giving a foreign-owned, Bayer-Monsanto mega-corporation, unchecked power over what goes into our food supply is downright dangerous. Even Bruce Rastetter is against the deal, saying it would limit competition, raise costs for farmers, and stunt job growth.

The combination of Bayer and Monsanto would diminish competition in the increasingly intertwined markets for seeds and pesticides, reduce socially beneficial innovation, increase seed prices, and reduce seed choices for farmers

Bayer-Monsanto is 'Five-Alarm Threat'

SUBHEAD: White paper from two former Justice Department officials warns merger would violate antitrust laws and lessen competition.

By Dierdre Fulton on 3 August 2016 for Common Dreams -

A new legal opinion penned by two former Justice Department officials bolsters warnings that the proposed merger between agroindustrial giants Bayer and Monsanto "is a five-alarm threat to our food supply and to farmers around the world."

The white paper (pdf) by Maurice E. Stucke and Allen P. Grunes, both former employees of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, states that Bayer's proposed takeover of Monsanto would:
  • Increase concentration in already concentrated industries for genetic traits, seed, and herbicides. For example, Bayer-Monsanto post-merger would account for approximately 70 percent of the U.S. acreage for cotton, with similar or higher shares in different regions of the U.S.
  • Increase Monsanto's already significant market power and increase its dominance in herbicides and genetic traits for seed.
  • Eliminate not only the direct competition between Bayer and Monsanto for traits, herbicide, and crop seed, but also the head-to-head competition in agricultural biotechnology innovation markets and reduce opportunities for pro-competitive research and development (R&D) collaborations.
  • Likely lead to higher input prices, less choice and higher food prices for consumers, including fewer non-biotechnology options available to farmers and consumers.
Indeed, Stucke and Grunes write that given their findings, "the antitrust enforcers must not allow this merger to proceed."

In July, Monsanto rejected Bayer's $64 billion takeover offer as "financially inadequate," but said it was open to continued negotiations. And this week, Bayer's second-quarter figures—which revealed a weak crop sciences division—were seen by some as "justification for the acquisition."

But nothing justifies a "five-alarm threat to our food supply and to farmers around the world," declared Anne Isakowitsch, senior campaigner with global consumer watchdog SumOfUs, which publicly released the legal opinion on Wednesday.

"This new mega corporation would be the world's biggest seed maker and pesticide company," she said, "defying important antitrust protections, giving it unacceptable control over critical aspects of our food supply—undermining consumer choice and the freedom and stability of farmers worldwide."

That opinion is widely shared by food safety advocates as well as the more than 500,000 people who have signed onto a petition opposing the deal.

Many have observed that the Bayer-Monsanto deal is just one of several Big Ag mega-mergers—along with those between Dow and DuPont and ChemChina and Syngenta—that "already threaten to hyper-consolidate the biotech seed industry," as Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said in May.

"The shocking consolidation in the biotech seed and agrochemical industry turns over the food system to a cabal of chemical companies that would make it even harder for farmers, consumers and communities to build a vibrant, sustainable food system," she said at the time.


Solar power for Chenobyl

SUBHEAD: Chinese to build world's largest PV array at site of nuclear meltdown in the Ukraine.

By Kieren Cooke on 12 January 2017 for Climate News Network -

Image above: Memorial statue in front of the sarcophagus over the remains of the abandoned nuclear reactor building at Chernobyl. From (

It was the worst nuclear accident in history, directly causing the deaths of 50 people, with at least an additional 4,000 fatalities believed to be caused by exposure to radiation.

The 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine also resulted in vast areas of land being contaminated by nuclear fallout, with a 30-kilometre exclusion zone, which encompassed the town of Pripyat, being declared in the area round the facility.

Solar power plant
Now two companies from China plan to build a one-gigawatt solar power plant on 2,500 hectares of land in the exclusion zone to the south of the Chernobyl plant.

Ukrainian officials say the companies estimate they will spend up to $1 billion on the project over the next two years.

A subsidiary of Golden Concord Holdings (GLC), one of China’s biggest renewable energy concerns, will supply and install solar panels at the site, while a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Machinery Corporation (SINOMACH) will build and run the plant.

“It is cheap land, and abundant sunlight constitutes a solid foundation for the project,” says Ostap Semerak, Ukraine’s minister of environment and natural resources.

“In addition, the remaining electric transmission facilities are ready for reuse.”

In a press release, GLC state work on the solar plant will probably start this year and talk of the advantages of building the facility.

“There will be remarkable social benefits and economical ones as we try to renovate the once-damaged area with green and renewable energy,” says Shu Hua, chairman of the GLC subsidiary.

“We are glad that we are making joint efforts with Ukraine to rebuild the community for the local people.”

Radiation that escaped as a result of the explosion at Chernobyl reached as far away as the mountains and hills of Wales in the UK, and a substantial portion of the radioactive dust released fell on farmlands in Belarus, north of Ukraine.

Till now the exclusion zone, including the town of Pripyat, has been out of bounds for most people, with only limited farming activity permitted on lands that are still regarded as contaminated.
Many former residents of the area are allowed back only once or twice a year for visits – to their old homes or to tend their relatives’ graves. However, a growing number of tourists have been visiting the Chernobyl area recently.

There has also been renewed interest in Chernobyl due to recent major engineering work at the plant, with a new steel-clad sarcophagus – described as the largest movable land-based structure ever built – being wheeled into position over much of the structure, to prevent any further leaks of radiation.
As yet, neither the Ukrainians nor the Chinese have disclosed the safety measures that will be adopted during the construction of the solar plant.

Chernobyl wildlife
Ecologists who have visited the exclusion zone around Chernobyl say that there is an abundance of wildlife in the area, with substantial populations of elk, deer, wild boar and wolves.

Other researchers say there is still evidence of contamination, with limited insect activity, and disease in many smaller mammals.

• Kieran Cooke, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times. He now focuses on environmental issues


Fukushima radiation on West Coast

SUBHEAD: Scientists find radioactive plume has spread throughout vast area of Pacific Ocean.

By Admin on 9 December 2017 for ENE News -

Image above: Miscarried conjoined gray whale calves( thought to be the first ever discovered) found on beach in  Laguna Ojo de Liebre in Baja California, Mexico in January 2014. Photo by Jesus Gomez. From (

[IB Publisher's note: This is less than a surprise. It is obvious much of the actual gathered information has not been revealed. Check out the meager published information accumulated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and think about how much more information has been gathered by the US Navy, NASA and other agencies of the United States government. Such knowledge, if made public would end nuclear power, and subsequently the nuclear weapons industries. More impact to us who live in Hawaii, it would also destroy the Pacific Ocean fishing industry and tourism to Hawaii. In other words, we don't want to know the truth!]
The Tribune, Jan 5, 2017 and updated Jan 9, 2017
(emphasis added): UCUT study finds trace amounts of radiation in migratory salmon Columbia River –  In early December, a number of news agencies reported seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear plant was detected in the Pacific Ocean along on the West Coast.

The plant… is feared to still be contaminating the ocean. The impact of the radiation in the Columbia River—and on migratory salmon that spend their developmental years in the Pacific—is still relatively unknown, but recent studies point to causes for concern. Last year, the Okanagan Nation Alliance found Cesium-134, the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima, in sockeye that had migrated up the Okanogan River to British Columbia.

Now, a study by Upper Columbia United Tribes has found trace amounts of radiation in Columbia River sockeye as well as Chinook salmon, UCUT biologist Marc Gauthier said Tuesday to the Colville Business Council’s Natural Resource Committee… In the Columbia River salmon, UCUT found… trace amounts of strontium-90, which is another Fukushima radionuclide, according to Gauthier. “There’s some unknowns, some questions that this information raises,” said Gauthier.

Castanet (BC, Canada), Dec 23, 2016: 
A sockeye salmon containing trace amounts of a radioactive isotope from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan was found in Okanagan Lake. The discovery was made in the summer of 2015 by the Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring network [InFORM]

The organization has found eight fish with detectable levels of “artificial isotopes from human activities”… In one of those eight fish, the one found in Okanagan Lake, researchers were able to detect the element Cesium-134… UPDATE: While [InFORM] reported the Cesium-134 containing sockeye was found in Okanagan Lake, the government data the report references shows that the sockeye samples were actually taken from the Okanagan River

Statesman Journal, Dec 7, 2016:  
Fukushima radiation has reached U.S. shores — For the first time, seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected on the West Coast… in seawater samples taken from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are reporting. Because of its short half-life, cesium-134 can only have come from Fukushima.

Also for the first time, cesium-134 has been detected in a Canadian salmon, the Fukushima InFORM project, led by University of Victoria chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen, is reporting… The Oregon samples, marking the first time cesium-134 has been detected on U.S. shores, were taken in January and February of 2016… [InFORM] reported that a single sockeye salmon, sampled from Okanagan Lake in the summer of 2015, had tested positive for cesium-134… There is no significant risk to consumers, Cullen said…

A recent InFORM analysis of [Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken] Buesseler’s data concluded that concentrations of cesium-137 have increased considerably in the central northeast Pacific, although they still are at levels that pose no concern. “It appears that the plume has spread throughout this vast area from Alaska to California,” the scientists wrote…  

Radiation levels have not yet peaked. “As the contamination plume progresses towards our coast we expect levels closer to shore to increase over the coming year,” Cullen said…

KBET, Dec 9, 2016: 
RADIOACTIVE ‘FUKUSHIMA FISH’ WEST COAST USA… RADIOACTIVE fish found off the United States has raised fears the country’s food chain is polluted – and the Fukushima nuclear disaster is being blamed. Highly toxic Cesium-134 – the “fingerprint” of Fukushima – was found in Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach, Oregon.

The terrifying discovery was reported by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution… Radiation levels have not yet peaked as a toxic plume makes its way towards the United States.

CBS News (transcript excerpt), Dec 9, 2016: 
Officials are continuing to monitor the situation, saying the bulk of radiation from the Fukushima plant has not yet made its way across the Pacific.

Video above: CBS News broadcast.  From (

See also: 
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii Seafood Guide Update 1/1/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima cleanup cost doubles 12/9/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Tokyo damaged by nuclear pellet rain 9/24/16
Ea O KA Aina: Nuclear Power and Climate Failure 8/24/16 
Ea O Ka Aina: High radioactivity in Tokyo  8/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Blinders 8/18/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima and Chernobyl 5/29/16

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute: Our Radioactive Ocean 5/20/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation damages Japan 4/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima's Nuclear Nightmare 3/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fifth Fukushima Anniversary 3/11/16

A Green Journal: Fukushima Nano Bucky Ball Hot Particles 2/19/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima impacts are ongoing 11/8/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Petroleum and Nuclear Coverups 10/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Contamination 10/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Radioactive floods damage Japan 9/22/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fir trees damaged by Fukushima 8/30/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan restarts a nuclear plant 8/11/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima disaster will continue 7/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Too many fish in the sea? 6/22/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima prefecture uninhabitable 6/6/15
Ea O Ka Aina: In case you've forgotten Fukushima 5/27/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Radiation damages top predator bird 4/24/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukshima die-offs occurring 4/17/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Impact Update 4/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima - the end of atomic power 3/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Where is the Fukushima Data? 2/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fuku-Undo 2/4/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima MOX fuel crossed Pacific 2/4/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worst human disaster 1/26/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan to kill Pacific Ocean 1/23/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan's Environmental Catastrophe 8/25/14

ENE News: Nuclear fuel found 15 miles from Tokyo 8/10/14 Ea O Ka Aina: Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC 4/22/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Daiichi hot particles 5/30/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Japanese radiation denial 5/12/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Entomb Fukushima Daiichi now 4/6/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Disaster 3 Years Old 4/3/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Tsunami, Fukushima and Kauai 3/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Japanese contamination 2/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Bill for Fukushima monitoring 2/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Tepco under reporting of radiation 2/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Fallout in Alaska 1/25/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima engineer against nukes 1/17/14
Ea O Ka Aina: California to monitor ocean radiation 1/14/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Demystifying Fukushima Reactor #3 1/1/14
Ea O Ka Aina: US & Japan know criticality brewing 12/29/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Forever 12/17/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Brief radiation spike on Kauai 12/27/13
Ea O Ka Aina: USS Ronald Reagan & Fukushima 12/15/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Pacific Impact 12/11/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Berkeley and Fukushima health risks 12/10/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Madness engulfs Japan 12/4/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Edo Japan and Fukushima Recovery 11/30/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Reaction to Fukushima is Fascism 11/30/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Radioisotopes in the Northern Pacific 11/22/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima cleanup in critical phase 11/18/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima fuel removal to start 11/14/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima, What me worry? 11/13/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Remove other Fukushina fuel 10/29/13
Ea O Ka Aina: End to Japanese Nuclear Power? 10/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima & Poisoned Fish 10/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fuel Danger at Fukushima 9/27/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Reactor #4 Spent Fuel Pool 9/16/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima is Not Going Away 9/9/13
Ea O Ka Aina: X-Men like Ice Wall for Fukushima 9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima House of Horrors 8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Apocalypse 8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radioactive Dust 8/20/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Cocooning Fukushima Daiichi 8/16/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation coverup 8/12/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Leakage at Fukushima an emergency 8/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima burns on and on 7/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: What the Fukashima? 7/24/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Spiking 7/15/13
Ea O Ka Aina: G20 Agenda Item #1 - Fix Fukushima 7/7/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima and hypothyroid in Hawaii 4/9/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan to release radioactive water 2/8/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima as Roshoman 1/14/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushia Radiation Report 10/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Fallout 9/14/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Unit 4 Danger 7/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima denial & extinction ethics 5/14/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worse than Chernobyl 4/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima dangers continue 4/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima children condemned 3/8/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima fights chain reaction 2/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Tepco faking Fukushima fix 12/24/11
Ea O Ka Aina: The Non Battle for Fukushima 11/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Debris nears Midway 10/14/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Danger 7/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Abandoned 9/28/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Deadly Radiation at Fukushima 8/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima poisons Japanese food 7/25/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Black Rain in Japan 7/22/11
Ea O Ka Aina: UK PR downplays Fukushima 7/1/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima #2 & #3 meltdown 5/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima sustained chain reaction 5/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Ocean Radioactivity in Fukushima 4/16/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan raises nuclear disaster level 4/12/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima No Go Zone Expanding 4/11/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima to be Decommissioned 4/8/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Poisons Fish 4/6/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Learning from Fukushima 4/4/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Leak goes Unplugged 4/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Stick a fork in it - It's done! 4/2/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima reactors reach criticality 3/31/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Non-Containment 3/30/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Meltdown 3/29/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Water Blessing & Curse 3/28/11


Exxon must reveal CO2 research

SUBHEAD: A Massachusetts judge has refused to block the climate fraud investigation of Exxon.

By By David Hasemyer on 12 January 2017 for Inside Climate News -

Image above: An ice sculpture fashioned by protesters slowly melts outside the Exxon Mobil shareholders meeting in Dallas. From (

Exxon had fought state Attorney General Maura Healey's demand for documents about potential climate fraud, but a Massachusetts judge backs Healey's right to the probe.  

A Massachusetts Superior Court judge has refused to block the climate fraud investigation of ExxonMobil opened last year by state Attorney General Maura Healey.

The ruling Wednesday means Exxon must comply with Healey's civil investigative demand for company records. Healey requested the documents as part of an investigation to determine if Exxon misled consumers about the risks climate change posed to its business.

Exxon had argued Healey lacked the jurisdiction to pursue the investigation and maintained Texas was the proper venue for any legal action because the company is headquartered in Dallas.

But Judge Heidi Brieger disagreed.

"This matter involves the Massachusetts consumer protection statute and Massachusetts case law arising under it about which the Massachusetts Superior Court is certainly more familiar than would be a federal court in Texas," according to Brieger's ruling.

The parallel legal battle Exxon is waging in a federal court in Texas to derail Healey's investigation remains under way.

The Massachusetts court ruling affirms the authority of the attorney general to investigate fraud, said Chloe Gotsis, a spokeswoman for Healey.

"Exxon must now end its obstructive tactics and come clean about whether it misled Massachusetts consumers and investors about what it knew about climate change, its causes and effects," Gotsis said.

A spokesman for Exxon did not respond to a request for comment.

Healey opened the investigation in April under the state's consumer protection laws seeking documents back to 1976 related to Exxon's understanding of climate change and the effects it could have on its business.

The civil investigative demand—similar to a subpoena—included a request for documents detailing the company's decades of climate research, how it was preparing for sea-level rise and materials prepared for potential investors.

The demand also sought statements by Exxon officials, including by the company's then-chief executive, Rex Tillerson, who was questioned Wednesday about climate change during his Senate confirmation hearing to become secretary of state.

The company argued that Healey's investigation amounted to an "arbitrary and capricious" abuse of power and was politically motivated.

But the judge said that under state law Healey was empowered to open the investigation based on her belief that a person or company was engaged in unfair or deceptive business practices in the state and that she should have "broad access" to Exxon records to determine if there were any violations of law.

Brieger also rejected Exxon's contention that the company was targeted by Healey because of its views on global warming.

"The court finds that the Attorney General has assayed sufficient grounds her concerns about Exxon's possible misrepresentations to Massachusetts consumers—upon which to issue the CID," said the 14-page ruling.

"In light of these concerns, the court concludes that Exxon has not met its burden showing that the Attorney General is acting arbitrarily or capriciously toward it."

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Exxon - The Road not Taken 12/25/16


Climate Catastrophe Imminent

SUBHEAD: One year is left of world's carbon budget until planet heats up 1.5º over pre-industrial temperatures.

By Nika Knight on 10 January 2017 for Common Dreams -

Image above: As the planet warms, more extreme conditions are imminent. As a result a series of enduring droughts in East Africa has already caused widespread deaths, malnutrition, and fueled the migration of refugees to Europe. Photo From original article and (

Our window of time to act on climate may be shrinking even faster than previously thought.
We may only have one year remaining before we lock in 1.5ºC of warming—the ideal goal outlined in the Paris climate agreement—after which we'll see catastrophic and irreversible climate shifts, many experts have warned.

That's under the most pessimistic calculations. According to the most optimistic prediction, we have four years to kick our carbon habit and avert 1.5º of warming.

And to limit warming to 2ºC—the limit agreed upon in the Paris climate accord—we have nine years to act under the most pessimistic scenario, and 23 years to act under the most optimistic.

"So far, there is no track record for reducing emissions globally," explained Fabian Löhe, spokesperson for MCC, in an email to Common Dreams. "Instead, greenhouse gas emissions have been rising at a faster pace during the last decade than previously—despite growing awareness and political action across the globe.

Once we have exhausted the carbon budget, every ton of CO2 that is released by cars, buildings, or industrial plants would need to be compensated for during the 21st century by removing the CO2 from the atmosphere again.

Generating such 'negative emissions' is even more challenging and we do not know today at which scale we might be able to do that."

Climate activists and environmentalists have also long warned of the potential negative consequences of geoengineering and other carbon capture schemes, as Common Dreams has reported.

"Hence, the clock shows that time is running out: it is not enough to act sometime in the future, but it is necessary to implement more ambitious climate policies already in the very short-term," Löhe added.

"Take all of the most difficult features of individual pathways to 2ºC—like fast and ambitious climate action in all countries of the world, the full availability of all required emissions reduction and carbon removal technologies, as well as aggressive energy demand reductions across the globe—the feasibility of which were so heatedly debated prior to Paris," Löhe said. "This gives you an idea of the challenge associated with the more ambitious 1.5°C goal."

That's according to the ticking carbon budget clock created by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC). The clock's countdown now shows that only one year is left in the world's carbon budget before the planet heats up more than 1.5º over pre-industrial temperatures.


The Peak Oil President

SUBHEAD: Trump is not the peak oil president I chose, but promises to be a pivotal historical figure.

By Richard Heinberg on 11 January 2017 for the Post Carbon Institute -

Image above: Picture of Trump with "Trump Digs Coal" sign. Photo by Evan El-Amin. From Original article.

The frequency of Internet searches for the term “peak oil” has waned dramatically in recent years; now even the number of articles announcing the “death” of peak oil has dwindled, so universal is the assumption that the concept is completely debunked. Why bother beating a dead horse?

With supreme irony, it could be within the next few years when the maximum-ever rate of world oil production is actually achieved, to be followed by terminal decline. It’s too early to make a definitive claim, but the evidence is starting to stack up. And the implications are mind-boggling.

Last year’s average daily oil production rate will probably end up (when authoritative statistics are published) being about the same as 2015’s—roughly 80 million barrels per day, if we count crude oil only and exclude biofuels and natural gas liquids. And 2017’s output may well be down, due to the industry’s cutbacks on investment in new projects.

Yet there are good reasons to be cautious in claiming a peak. Famously, several analysts have already called the peak too early—in 2005, 2008, and 2010. It was an understandable error. World production of conventional oil was indeed stalling during that time; what the too-early peakists missed was that a combination of extremely high oil prices, loose regulation, and stupid-easy financing would lead to increasing rates of extraction of marginal resources like tar sands and tight oil, starting in 2011.

Further, the precise date of the global peak actually has relatively little significance, as the economic impacts of oil depletion will be spread over many years before and after that date.

Indeed, those impacts have been visible for at least the past decade and arguably much longer, taking the forms of booming and crashing oil prices; economic turmoil within the oil industry; flattening demand, particularly in highly developed nations; and military conflicts in the Middle East.

Nevertheless, the term “peak oil” implies a point in time, and plenty of people will disregard the very notion of a peak until it can be demonstrated in the rear-view mirror of oil production statistics.
In the 2003 edition of my book The Party’s Over, I endorsed the forecast of petroleum geologist Jean Laherrère for a peak of conventional world oil production in 2010, and of unconventional oil (and therefore total world oil) in 2015.

Current statistics suggest that Laherrère probably made the best of the various peak-oil forecasts. Laherrère has continued to update his analysis in the intervening years, and on the basis of current data believes world oil production is peaking essentially now.

There was a lot that just about all peakists got wrong. Most of us subscribed to a simplistic notion of energy economics in which, as depletion bit harder, oil prices would just go up and up (I made no attempt to forecast oil prices in The Party’s Over).

Well, prices did shoot higher for a while, and that’s when the peak oil concept gained its widest exposure. But high prices killed demand and also incentivized much higher rates of production of very-high-cost oil.

The eventual result was the situation we see now, where tepid demand confronts a supply glut resulting from drillers spending other people’s speculative money on unprofitable tight oil projects—and an industry therefore operating in crisis mode.

Recently, we’ve seen more sophisticated energy-economy analysis from Gail Tverberg and others, explaining why petroleum depletion can result in low oil prices and a temporary supply glut, as consumers’ ability to afford oil declines faster than actual oil production does.

Any talk of peak oil today faces seemingly contradictory evidence. OPEC has recently cut back on supplies in order to reduce a global glut of crude, and oil prices are down significantly from levels seen in the years 2011-2014.

Also, enormous amounts of oil sit in storage. Surely (the conventional wisdom goes) as soon as the market rebalances, oil prices will go back up, drilling and exploration will resume again, and production rates will hit new record levels.

For reasons we’re about to explore, that conventional wisdom may be as flawed as peakists’ early understanding of oil economics.

I will present two exhibits on which to base my case for that assertion. I’ll also offer a quick review of a couple of new and relevant books. Then, in a fairly long final section, I’ll discuss the implications of a possible peak of world oil production in today’s economic and political context.

This will entail an exploration of whether Donald Trump might turn out to be the peak oil president, and what that may mean in terms of policies and outcomes. This is a lot of ground to cover; indeed, I thought about dividing this essay into several smaller posts. However, the themes seemed just too deeply intertwined. In any case, the result is fairly lengthy and meandering, so have a cup of tea handy.

Exhibit A: David Hughes’s Reports,
Including “2016 Tight Oil Reality Check”

During the past dozen years world conventional oil production has flatlined, as noted above, and nearly all of the increase in global supplies since 2005 has come from unconventional sources—tar sands, tight oil in the U.S. (produced through hydrofracturing and horizontal drilling), and deepwater oil. It is U.S. tight oil that has done the most to boost global oil supplies in these years.

Thus the prospects for future production from this resource are highly relevant for understanding the overall status of world petroleum.

The oil industry and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy claim that tight oil production can expand at relatively low prices until roughly 2040, presumably forestalling world oil supply problems.

However, the EIA’s forecast has drawn criticism. Since 2013, earth scientist David Hughes has been providing Post Carbon Institute with regularly updated, detailed assessments of American shale gas and tight oil resources and production. His first publication in the series, Drill, Baby, Drill, made two important points:
“First, shale gas and shale oil wells have proven to deplete quickly, the best fields have already been tapped, and no major new field discoveries are expected; thus with average per-well productivity declining and ever-more wells (and fields) required simply to maintain production, an ‘exploration treadmill’ limits the long-term potential of shale resources. Second, although tar sands, deepwater oil, oil shales, coalbed methane, and other non-conventional fossil fuel resources exist in vast deposits, their exploitation . . . require[s] . . . enormous expenditures of resources and logistical effort. . . .”
Hughes’s latest report examines the EIA’s most recent forecasts for tight oil. Since the oil price collapse of mid-2014, costs of production have declined and well productivity has increased. These developments have led many observers (including the EIA) to assume that the industry is learning, technology is improving, and tight oil production (which has fallen by nearly 20 percent since early 2015) will soon rebound to new highs. But Hughes points out that improvements in per-well productivity are mostly due to “high-grading”—the practice of curtailing drilling outside relatively small “sweet spots” where resources are concentrated. The length of horizontal wells has increased,
“. . . but as each well can now drain more of the reservoir it has reduced the number of locations available to drill. The net effect is that, at a constant drilling rate, better technology will exhaust a play more quickly at a lower cost—but will not substantially increase ultimate recovery.”
As for declining production costs, Hughes is skeptical that this is a sustainable trend:
“The improvement in the number of wells a rig can drill per unit of time has partially offset the effect on production of the steep decline in rig counts since mid-2014, and has improved economics. The service industry’s rate cuts have also had a major impact on the economics of the average well. But there are a limited number of drilling locations in sweet spots, and high grading plus the downturn in oil prices has resulted in their exhaustion at disproportionately high rates, leaving higher-cost oil for later. An analysis of top counties in plays like the Bakken and Eagle Ford shows that average well productivity has begun to decline, meaning that the best locations have been exhausted along with possible well interference (from wells being drilled too close together).”
If oil prices tick much higher, service companies will hike their rates again. Overall, tight oil producers have been losing money for years, and that situation doesn’t look likely to change.

Hughes assigns a “very high” optimism bias rating for the overall EIA 2016 tight oil forecast, “based on the fundamentals, given what is known from an analysis of well quality and production data from subareas within each play.” His reports suggest that even if oil prices had remained above $100 per barrel (instead of dropping in 2014 to its current range of $35-$60), U.S. tight oil production still would have ended up peaking before 2020.

If oil prices significantly rebound and drilling rates do the same, production will increase above current levels (already there has been a slight uptick in Bakken output); but even in that case, the glory days of U.S. tight oil are in the past. The high-water mark of production in early 2015 is unlikely to be surpassed by much, or for long, before terminal decline sets in.

Exhibit B: HSBC Report, “Global Oil Supply”

As noted above, conventional oil production rates have been on a plateau for over 10 years. A plateau cannot be considered a peak until overall production commences a sustained decline. Further, this plateau has provided a base from which unconventional oil (mostly tight oil) has boosted total world output to record levels. Therefore two questions central to any discussion of the direction of world oil production are:
  1. When will the plateau in conventional oil production end?, and,
  2. Will it terminate in a sustained production increase, or a decrease?
A recent report from the investment bank HSBC offers plenty of reasons for thinking the end of the plateau will come soon and long-term production decline will commence. Released in mid-2016 to little fanfare, the report Global oil supply: Will mature field declines drive the next supply crunch? does not address the topic of “peak oil” per se.

Instead, it examines the rate at which production from currently producing oilfields is diminishing, and prospects for replacement of that production from new oilfields and with more intensive methods of production.

The authors calculate that 81 percent of current world oil production is from oilfields seeing declining rates of production. In their view, a “sensible range for average decline rate on post-peak production is 5 to 7 percent,” which equates to about 3 to 4.5 million barrels per day (mbd) of reduced production each year.
“By 2040, this means the world could need to replace over 4 times the current crude oil output of Saudi Arabia (or more than 40 million barrels a day, just to keep output flat.”
The authors also note that output from smaller oilfields typically declines twice as fast as that from large ones, and that “the global supply mix relies increasingly on small fields: the typical new oilfield size has fallen from 500-1,000mb [million barrels] 40 years ago to only 75mb this decade.”

Further, new discoveries of oil are shrinking, partly due to shrinking exploration budgets—though the trend began long before the oil industry’s recent troubles. “Last year the exploration success rate hit a record low of 5 percent, and the average discovery size was 24mbbls [million barrels].”

All of this implies that, while in the past decade downturns in output from old oilfields were replaced with new production enabling steady overall conventional oil supplies, replacement of production is much more doubtful in the immediate years ahead.
“The oil market may be oversupplied at present, but we see it returning to balance in 2017. By that stage, effective spare capacity could shrink to just 1 percent of global supply/demand of 96mbd [of all liquid fuels including biofuels], leaving the market far more susceptible to disruptions than has been the case in recent years. Oil demand is still growing by ~1mbd every year, and no central scenarios that we recently assessed see oil demand peaking before 2040.”
HSBC evidently did not include “central scenarios” in which demand is curtailed by the implementation of climate change mitigation policies or as a result of general economic contraction.

In a contraction scenario, which I regard as quite likely, it might be difficult to determine whether, and to what degree, economic decline resulted from the oil industry’s failure to maintain net energy productivity in the face of rising energy costs for its activities.

Bonus Exhibit: Reviews of Cold War Energy by Douglas B. Reynolds; and Failing States, Collapsing Systems by Nafeez M. Ahmed

Peak oil books have largely fallen out of fashion. For a few years, it seemed a new one was appearing every month; now the pace is down to about one or two per year. The most recent is by Douglas Reynolds, professor of energy economics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and it’s a good one.
In his first chapter, Reynolds explains why peak oil killed the Soviet Union.

Most historians attribute the USSR’s crackup—“one of the most significant economic events of the 20th century” —to economic mismanagement or an arms buildup by the Reagan administration, but Reynolds finds these explanations lacking. The more likely trigger, in his view, was a sudden decline in Soviet oil production. An initial peak in 1983 led to further investment and subsequent output stabilization.

But in 1989 production fell again, then plummeted in 1990—falling about 25 percent in the years immediately after 1988. The mostly closed Soviet economy was not excessively dependent on oil export revenues; however, it did depend on oil as the primary energy source to run the nation’s transport and food systems.

Some observers claim it was the drop in world oil prices in the 1980s, orchestrated by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, that killed the Soviet economy. Reynolds disputes this. He argues instead that Soviet oil production technology of the era had hit its limits, and it was scarcity of the physical commodity that undermined the nation’s economy and hence its political regime.

Later, in the post-Soviet era, new enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology, mostly imported from the U.S., enabled Russian oil production to achieve new record levels. EOR production will eventually hit its own limits, according to the author, though Russian output has so far (as of 2016) managed to avert a crash.

Reynolds applies this historical analysis to economic growth theory, arguing that conventional theory fails to take adequate account of the role of energy, particularly petroleum, in explaining the factors of growth.

Further chapters address “Energy Theory of Value” and “Energy Return on Investment”—subjects of keen interest to peak-oil-aware students of economics. He also introduces “The Marginal Energy Return on Investment” as a measure of energy that makes sense to both physicists and economists. The author’s professional qualifications enable him to treat these subjects in a clear and original way.

Then Reynolds addresses current world oil trends, including America’s oil production. The U.S. hit its all-time crude oil production high in 1970, but has seen two periods of post-peak output expansion—the first in the 1980s due to exploitation of Alaskan resources on the North Slope; the second in recent years as a result of applying hydrofracturing and horizontal drilling technologies to tight oil resources, mostly in North Dakota and Texas.

The latter has given the world a reprieve from what would otherwise have been an earlier onset of total oil production decline, though it is as yet unclear how long the reprieve will last (see Exhibit A above).

Readers familiar with the peak oil literature will remember that Dmitry Orlov covered some of these same themes in his book Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects.

However, Reynolds brings a very different set of skills and experiences to the discussion, and in drawing lessons from Soviet history comes to the following conclusions, some of which go beyond Orlov’s earlier work:
  • Peak oil eventually comes.
  • Oil consumption decline causes economic decline. Even a vibrant economy can succumb to peak oil.
  • Oil is hard to substitute. Free markets can help with adaptation, but primarily on the demand side.
  • Peak oil will cause peak government. There will be hyperinflation, and corruption will increase.
  • A peak oil collapse can cause the disintegration of regional political ties. There will be new alliances.
  • The military will decline.
Another new book, Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence, by Nafeez Ahmed, covers overlapping subject matter. While peak oil is just one of the “biophysical triggers” of war, revolution, and terrorism that the author explores, Ahmed is one of the world’s best-informed journalists on energy supply issues.

Since the 2008 financial crash, social unrest has periodically erupted on every major continent—“from Greece to Ukraine, from China to Thailand, from Brazil to Turkey, and beyond.”

Ahmed argues that policymakers and media observers have failed to comprehend the underlying causes of this tumult: the depletion of easily and cheaply accessed fossil fuels. The world’s increasing dependence on harder-to-get-at oil, in particular, has multiplying consequences for Earth’s climate, global food systems, and national economies, he claims.

Promotional materials for Ahmed’s book claim that it is the first to develop “an empirically grounded theoretical model of the complex interaction between biophysical processes and geopolitical crises, demonstrated through the analysis of a wide range of detailed case studies of historic, concurrent and probable state failures in the Middle East, Northwest Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Europe and North America.”

While simplistic geopolitical theories are all too common, the best of them acknowledge the pivotal importance of essential resources.

In modern economies, the production and distribution of nearly all essential commodities (including food; see Figure 4) depends on energy in the forms of oil and electricity—most of which is typically generated from the burning of coal or natural gas.

Thus energy systems, food systems, economic systems, and geopolitics are today inseparable, and a profound underlying shift in the quality and cost of our top energy source—i.e., petroleum—cannot help but have consequences that ripple through entire societies.

According to Ahmed, the depletion-led waning of the fossil fuel era is being accompanied by the compounding impacts of fossil fuel combustion, mostly in the form of climate change.

The result is increasing disruptions in the availability of economic and ecological support services, even as more and more people require those services due to more frequent environmental disasters and continued population growth. This is a recipe for unstable governments, the rise of demagogues, the breakdown of alliances, and the emergence of new social movements.

Nevertheless, the author holds out hope for a paradigmatic revolution in how civilization operates—“a fundamental epistemological shift recognizing humanity’s embeddedness in the natural world.”

Failing States, Collapsing Systems argues that international relations and domestic politics can only be understood by recognizing how “the political is embedded in the biophysical.” The book contains helpful graphical illustrations of oil production data, population, the food price index, economic growth, debt, and other relevant issues.

Implications for the Trump Administration

All of this underscores the realization that peak oil is potentially a very big deal (as many of us have been saying for a long time now).

Again, the precise timing of the onset of the inevitable global petroleum production decline is still uncertain, though trends cited above suggest the oil world is getting increasingly “peaky”—both in terms of supply issues and signs of geopolitical flux.

Also, the peak will in all likelihood not be marked as a sudden event, but instead will manifest itself via complex, protracted processes that include interactions among the oil industry, the economic system, the food system, and so on.

Indeed, it’s highly likely that the vast majority of people will view the symptoms of the peak as the actual cause of the increasing stress they are experiencing—never recognizing the role that energy plays in the economy and the general functioning of society.

To this volatile mixture now add one Donald Trump. Serious and numerous questions immediately arise.

What will the Trump transition mean for energy? The president-elect appears to have some understanding of the importance of energy for the health of the economy, and he has promised to expand energy production. But how successful is he likely to be in this?

In a separate essay I have already addressed the impracticality of Trump’s goal of ramping up domestic coal mining. Suffice it to say, the coal industry is dying regardless what the new president does.

But what about oil and gas? The nomination of Rex Tillerson (CEO of ExxonMobil) as the next Secretary of State is a powerful clue. Matthieu Auzanneau, writing for Le Monde, notes that Tillerson is departing Exxon as the company drifts toward insolvency as a result of declining reserves, rising costs, and falling profits. Russia, the world’s top petro-state, faces the same problem.

 Could Tillerson, whose business liaisons with Russia are legendary, make oil exploration alliances a cornerstone of diplomacy?

Meanwhile, Rick Perry, former Texas governor, who witnessed a huge drilling boom in his home state and a simultaneous expansion of wind power, has been picked to head the Department of Energy. And Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate denier and unfailingly loyal fossil fuel advocate, is slated to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Clearly, Trump is interested in facilitating more drilling, and in shifting the economic and regulatory frameworks that constrain it.

Removing or changing regulations could help to increase oil and gas production, but probably not by much. While exemptions to the Clean Water Act (pushed through by then-Vice President Dick Cheney in 2005) helped spur America’s fracking revolution, regulations are generally not the biggest factor in whether oil or gas production goes up or down; the main trigger is prices.

Similarly, while the opening of more federal lands to drilling would constitute a gesture welcome to the oil and gas industry, it would not necessarily result in an imminent boost to production, since those lands hold few prospects that would entice the now heavily indebted industry to invest in risky exploration.

A significant factor in the fracking boom was low interest rates; but interest rates are set by Federal Reserve policy, which the Trump administration cannot directly control.

How about renewable energy? Trump has made some unfriendly comments about solar and wind power, and may seek to reduce federal subsidies for renewables.

While this attitude may flip (Trump’s views have been known to change dramatically and quickly; also recall Rick Perry’s support for wind power in Texas), even in the best-case scenario it is unlikely that we will see the dramatic shift toward renewables that would actually be needed in order to significantly mitigate climate change or help the nation adapt to the impacts of fossil fuel depletion.

An enormous build-out of post-fossil fuel infrastructure is needed, and Trump has big infrastructure plans—but those plans amount to doubling down on the nation’s existing reliance on fossil fuels by building yet more highways, bridges, and airports.

And the way he proposes to fund the expansion permits skepticism that much will actually get built in any case. (It’s worth noting, parenthetically, that Middle East sovereign wealth funds are pledging to invest in U.S. infrastructure—an investment that just might be geared at least in part toward keeping America hooked on fossil fuels.)

The advent of President Donald J. Trump clearly has implications for global geopolitics, but of what sort?

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, U.S. geostrategists have embraced the goal of global hegemony, which meant:
  • Preventing alliances between key Eurasian powers (Russia, China, Iran) and encircling them with U.S. military bases;
  • Maintaining a coherent group of prosperous allies (especially including Europe, Japan, and South Korea); 
  • Using military force to ensure no noncompliant nation is left standing in the Middle East; 
  • Pursuing global wealth consolidation through dollar-denominated trade under the auspices of U.S.-led international treaties and institutions.
In recent years this set of policies has been increasingly stymied by:
  • China’s dizzying economic ascent (which occurred with U.S. encouragement but is now posing a geopolitical liability);
  • Russia’s stabilization and recovery under a leader who resists U.S. control;
  • The spectacular failure of U.S. wars in the Middle East; by economic decline and political dissension within the European Union; 
  • Increasing economic cooperation and security alignment among Russia, China, Iran, and other nations (including trade and banking arrangements that circumvent the dollar and U.S.-dominated global economic institutions like the IMF).
Together, these developments seriously imperil the U.S. project of continued world supremacy. Indeed, the erosion of American power has reached a crucial tipping point where the goals and tactics of the incumbent geostrategists must be questioned, even by insiders.

Again, Trump arrives at a key moment, arguing against the demonization of Russia, promising to implement protectionist trade rules to bring manufacturing back to the U.S, and pledging no new wars in the Middle East. It is too early to speak of this tweet-list as constituting a coherent alternative geopolitical strategy.

 But Trump is already at odds with currently dominant elements within the CIA and the State Department (which, along with the Pentagon and military contractors, comprise the so-called Deep State), and is allying himself with previously sidelined voices. Formidable and secretive, the Deep State has a momentum of its own, which any national leader resists at his or her own peril.

The past few U.S. administrations have presided over a period of economic stagnation in which the illusion of continued growth was maintained by jiggered statistics, massive bailouts, a historic ballooning of public and private debt, and the financialization of the economy, with nearly all gains going to the one-percenters while most others fared worse and worse.

Now the backstops to economic contraction are failing. Regardless whether Trump or Clinton prevailed in 2016, the next leader would face serious decay and instability across the spectrum of systems supporting the nation’s ongoing functions.

If this is indeed the timeframe when the global energy economy flips from fossil fuel-powered growth to depletion-led contraction, then the recent election presents us with a bewildering new landscape of circumstances in which that flip will occur, and an astonishing new set of actors. In a chilling paragraph, journalist Chris Hedges frames the moment in familiar terms:
“The final stages of capitalism, Karl Marx predicted, would be marked by global capital being unable to expand and generate profits at former levels. Capitalists would begin to consume the government along with the physical and social structures that sustained them. Democracy, social welfare, electoral participation, the common good and investment in public transportation, roads, bridges, utilities, industry, education, ecosystem protection and health care would be sacrificed to feed the mania for short-term profit. These assaults would destroy the host. This is the stage of late capitalism that Donald Trump represents.”
Hedges calls the new administration’s guiding impulse kleptocracy—rule by thieves. The signs of imminent kleptocracy are certainly abundant: proposed heads of governmental departments have promised to destroy regulations and privatize assets—all under the justification that doing so will lead to more growth and more jobs.

Given these radical shifts in priorities, expect a purge of government agencies. For those who pledge allegiance to Trump, there may be a secure salary in store. One doesn’t have to be particularly qualified or competent, just willing to turn in any co-worker heard grumbling about the exalted leader. Expect no work on climate change to go forward.

The compilation of accurate statistics (on the environment, energy production, and the economy) may be largely abandoned. Companies eager to help with the program may be awarded generous government contracts; those that make a fuss may be penalized.

States and cities that try to fight back against the new administration’s policies may be treated as sites of domestic rebellion. In the worst conceivable case, terrorist attacks could justify a massive national clampdown, in which uncompromising journalists and teachers might be targeted in the name of national unity.

The new administration will remain deeply resented by enormous swathes of the populace. A gutting of regulations might temporarily grease the skids of commerce, but at the cost of exposing vastly more people to fraud, pollution, preventable accidents, and poverty. This could eventually make a lot of folks very, very angry.

If the new leadership uses ever more desperate means to consolidate and wield power, expect ever more extreme acts of resistance.

Anyone who claims to know in advance how all this will shake out is blowing smoke. This is the most combustible mix of circumstances I’ve seen in my lifetime. Donald Trump is certainly not the peak oil president I would have chosen. But he promises to be a pivotal historical figure.