A MUST READ!
Petraeus! Is Baghdad Burning?
Jan 12, 2007
By Stan Goff
Editor’s note: In this piece, a retired U.S. Special Forces soldier takes an oil-filtered look at Bush’s “surge” plan for Iraq.
“Jodl! Is Paris burning?”
Aug. 25, 1944
The United States makes up about 5 percent of the Earth’s population, but as an aggregate we burn more than 25 percent of its fossil energy. That’s roughly true of all three main forms of fossil energy—oil, natural gas and coal.
The coal we get mainly by having West Virginians surrender their mountains, where coal operators now lop the tops off those mountains to get at the seams of coal and dump the rubble into nearby watercourses. That’s what we do for most of our electricity. Canada sells us most of the natural gas we use ... nearly 90 percent in fact.
The reason I lead into a discussion of the Bush administration’s military “surge” plan for Iraq by talking about fossil fuels is that neither the government nor the media seem inclined to talk about the subject.
The problem we have is that our nation’s transportation fleet is almost completely dependent on that other store of ancient sunlight, petroleum. Neither natural gas nor coal can feasibly run fleets of tractor-trailer trucks, trains, airplanes and a quarter-billion passenger vehicles (around 98 million of which are SUVs and larger). Neither coal nor natural gas can run ships, tanks and attack helicopters either.
The other thing we need oil for is food ... more than people realize. In Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” he traces the U.S. food chain back to the oil fields through corn, which is now the basis of most of our other foods, then back to the oil field. It is widely known that each calorie of food consumed in the world today represents an expenditure of 10 calories of fossil energy, but Pollan’s remarks while observing a cattle feed lot, where the beef-on-the-hoof was being force-fed corn produced by Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, are more to the point than any statistical review:
I don’t have a sufficiently vivid imagination to look at my steer and see a barrel of oil, but petroleum is one of the most important ingredients in the production of modern meat, and the Persian Gulf is surely a link in the food chain that passes through this (or any) feedlot. Steer 534 started his life part of a food chain that derived all of its energy from the sun, which nourished the grasses that nourished him and his mother. When 534 moved from ranch to feedlot, from grass to corn, he joined an industrial food chain powered by fossil fuel—and therefore defended by the U.S. military, another never counted cost of cheap food.
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Iraqi police officers, assigned to protect oil production and distribution, watch from across the Tigris River as fire and smoke
rise from a pipeline blaze after an explosion
near Beiji, Iraq, in 2005. The Beiji refinery
is the largest in Iraq