SCHOOL’S BACK IN. A quick Math 101 refresher to keep in mind: a billion is a thousand million; a trillion is a million millions, or a thousand billions. Don’t forget to review the homework assignments at the end.
According to thinkprogress.org, proven fossil fuel reserves will last the planet until 2050 at current consumption rates. At present day prices, that makes a pie worth around $22 trillion, but the catch is that in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees C —a level some scientists now believe is actually too high— 80% of those fossil fuels have to remain unburned.
When Big Fossil Fuel boasts of the millions they are investing in green energy, what they are really saying is that they spend more money advertising their green credentials than they do in actually financing green projects on the ground. When they spend millions on lobbyists they are doing it to maintain annual hundred billion dollar profit margins, which across the fossil fuel board add up to trillions per decade. When government talks of their investments in alternative energies with a price tag of tens of billions, they are talking a time frame of ten years, so by comparison, are still only dipping their toe in the water.
Unless we start putting trillions of dollars into alternative energy, we are unlikely to challenge the stranglehold that fossil fuel has over the economy. However, considering how we spend our trillions at present, it is neither unrealistic nor unreasonable to make the leap towards a non-carbon economy.
Let us call the collaboration of vested interests that currently have the controlling interest in running the planet the military industrialized fossil fuel complex (MIFFC). And let us use the full weight of the word collaboration —as it was applied to those non-Germans who sided with the invading Nazis— meaning, in the current context, aligning oneself with the forces of genocide, with those interests that are willingly perpetrating Crimes against Humanity and the Planet. A report by DARA last month “calculated that five million deaths occur each year from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-intensive economies.” Which is, by any standard, pretty genocidal.
The little-aired truth is that fossil fuel corporations, learning from the methods of their friends in the tobacco industry, have knowingly and deliberately collaborated, AT LEAST AS FAR BACK AS 1989, to obfuscate the science of global warming. Referencing ten years of prior research, James Hansen testified before the Senate in 1988 that global warming was already happening. In response, the UN sanctioned the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988, and the fossil fuel industry—worried about the detrimental economic impact that global warming would have on its profits—set up its Global Climate Coalition in 1989. The GCC, a coalition of 50 fossil-fuel-reliant businesses, was later credited with convincing the Senate to reject the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, not least through the efforts of lobbyists employed by its members, and fossil fuel’s political donations to Senators.
During the subsequent, and continuing, era of buying politicians and running perception management campaigns, led by PR companies mobilizing fake grassroots groups and bogus scientists, paid for by fossil fuel and its friends, the specific aim has been to malign the science of global warming in the public eye, and in so doing slowing any progress towards a non-fossil-fuel economy.
Their mission—hugely successful thus far, and measurable by increasing parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere and increasingly extreme weather events—has been to keep fossil fuels, and particularly oil, the fuel of choice. Our mission is to see oil and coal go the way of tobacco. Whilst cigarettes still exist of course, after decades of propaganda to the contrary, no one today seriously believes that they are anything but bad for your health. With the environment, the stakes are much higher as it is not nicotine warming the earth, but greenhouse gases.
The smart lie which keeps the MIFFC up and running is that we the people have some freedom of choice in the matter. That when we go to the gas station and fill up the tank we are choosing oil over other energy sources. Or that in the choice of electric companies, we have a choice in which fossil fuel they use to generate power. What we are actually allowed to choose is one brand of oil over another, one fossil fuel power company over another. Fossil fuel itself aggressively remains the monopoly.
It is a political choice to keep fossil fuels center stage, but it is one made by the royal we-the-corporations, not by we the people. The addiction to fossil fuel exists because it has proven again and again to been hugely profitable for those who control it. Despite the plethora of car designs since the Model T Ford, the basic construction of the internal combustion engine has not fundamentally changed in a century. More horsepower simply means more consumption, keeping us more hooked.
Before World War I, Winston Churchill took a huge risk, switching the British Navy from being coal powered to oil powered, a choice of one fossil fuel over another. The gamble being, Britain had plenty of domestic coal reserves, but at that time had no oil reserves. It paid off in terms of increased military efficiency, extending Britain’s shelf-life as the superpower of the day, and was possible because Britain could facilitate oil supply from within the reaches of its Empire.
The geo-strategic modus remains unchanged today. As a ‘war for oil’ the invasion of Iraq seems like an abject failure. Iraqi oil output still languishes at around 3.4 million barrels per day, below pre-invasion levels. This misunderstands the nature of nature of MIFFC.
The Iraq war, and the war on Afghanistan— eleven years old this past week— is a continuation of what the US military has done since taking over Britain’s role as global cop in the Middle East in the 1970’s. Quite simply it means having a military boot-print somewhere, anywhere, in the shifting sand of the region, as a means of competitor deterrence. It doesn’t matter if US ‘permanent’ bases rotate around every few years, from Iran, to Saudi Arabia, to Iraq, to Afghanistan. As long as the military is in the area, the oil can stay in the ground, because no competitor is getting their hands on it. And as long as no one else can get their hands on it, then no one else can develop an economy, which fuels a machine, which could actually challenge the overwhelming superpower status of the current configuration of MIFFC.
The cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are $1 trillion and counting if you take President Obama’s word for it or $3.2 to $4 trillion if go with the math provided by costsofwar.org. I am not the first person to note that this could have paid for a switch to a non-carbon economy in the US and been an example of leadership to the world. From the sick perspective of MIFCC it is money well spent, because there is still a $22 trillion Fossil Fuel pie to chomp away at. And it is not like the oil barons had to finance the wars themselves.
Living in an enforced permanent war economy, whether we personally choose to drive a car or not, we pay taxes, not only for the military hardware and personnel, but for their gas bill to stay in position with regard to that $22 trillion pie. Meanwhile our pension companies invest in MIFCC stock across the board, because it provides returns in effect guaranteed by military force. The US military, both the biggest purchaser of oil in the world and the biggest consumer of oil in the US, gorges itself on a 1 million barrels-per-day appetite, which dwarfs that of many individual countries. The whole shebang runs off oil. To stay ahead in the game requires throwing more trillions of dollars at the military, to increase its reach and horsepower, keeping oil as the fuel of choice, as the life-blood of the machine.
In the face of a burning planet, US-led wars are bankrolled by the rather quaint but utterly obsolete idea of nationhood with its catch-words ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy, where the people pay taxes as a guarantee of elected representation and the military exists to defend the freedom of the nation’s citizens. Like we have any say in how MIFFC operates? A warming atmosphere doesn’t recognizes national boundaries any more than a global corporation does.
Calling it the US military is actually a misnomer. The military machine which recruits on the basis of myth and legend and loyalty to the idea of stars and stripes, in actuality serves the fossil fuel cartel who have long since outgrown the usefulness, other than as a cover story, of nationhood. American men and women are not being sent to war to kill and die for their country, but to serve as the uniformed presence of the cartel in the ‘hood. Our troops combat the resentment which the MIFFC has previously generated, and further exacerbate by reducing the economy and infrastructure of some other nation to rubble.
The more resentment stirred up, the greater the scope to justify maintaining armies abroad, using traditional but fictional narratives of war. And in deterring any potential rival cartel from thinking of getting their hands on too much of the fuel of choice, the US military defends the freedom of the 1% to be able to continue to live in circumstances of obscene wealth (and not all of the 1% are American). We are not being offered a choice of whether or not the planet should be run into the ground. That is what is actually happening, and any shift to the contrary is one that we that will have to assert by all means necessary. The switch to a non-carbon economy then means looking beyond traditional electoral narratives and taking on all aspects of Military Industrial Fossil Fuel Complex.
We are offered a feeble choice of two Presidential contenders—who are bound to do everything in their power to serve and protect the interests of corporations, as the Congressional political system demands of them—disguised as a fake war or words between Democrat and Republican.
The first presidential debate was thus a puppet show game of math, Punch slamming Judy, Judy slamming back. Obama swiping at Romney for his promise to give the US military a further $2 trillion it had not asked for, Romney slamming back with a jibe that the $90 billion Obama gave to green initiatives was money well wasted. Romney went on to say that $90 billion would have hired 2 million teachers, though Obama declined to point out that Romney’s extra $2 trillion for the military would pay for 44 million teachers.
Of course much of that $90 billion was approved by Bush junior before Obama took office, but then Obama has never been a slouch in giving the military what it wants, so let’s not get bogged down with detail. The US government have never seriously denied the military what it wants, and in the near future as resources gets scarcer and the US military actually needs some of the oil that is under Iraq, or Iran, whether it is Obama, or Romney or whether Jenna Bush beats Chelsea Clinton in 2020 they will keep throwing trillions at the fossil fuel war economy until we do our homework.
- Put the trillions in service of the people and the planet.
- Effect the separation of state and corporation. Dismantle the Military Industrial Fossil Fuel Complex.
- Remove the special privilege extended to the fossil fuel corporations —cost free dumping of its major waste product CO2— and bill them for clean-up costs backdated to 1988.
- Put the Big Fossil Fuel corporations on trial for Crimes against Humanity and the Planet. Strip corporations of their ‘rights as an individual’. Remove ‘limited liability’ protection from corporations. Seek damages as reparations based on Big Fossil fuel profits since 1988.
- Effect a law of reverse eminent domain, whereby we the people can reclaim land and assets previously land-grabbed by corporations and banks, under the guiding principle that we are securing the planetary environment for future generations (eg. according to the Tax Justice Network report between $21 and $32 trillion is sitting in untaxed offshore accounts, with up to $12.8 trillion accrued by US individuals and companies. Seize the monies and put it to work.)
- Scale back the US military to that of a robust defensive force akin to that of Switzerland, and proportionately tone down red-white-and-blue hoopla which is too easily misappropriated by those seeking to send people to war.
- Use monies saved and seized to create jobs and industries in a switch to a non-carbon economy, and protection of the planet, with more than enough left over to finance free universal healthcare and hire those 2 million extra teachers.
- Ban campaign contributions completely. Candidates should be given a modest and equal operating budget, and ensure independents get to take part in the TV debates.
- Keep the 80% of that $22 trillion fossil fuel pie that needs to stay buried, buried.
- Lead by example … reach out to peoples of the world instead of burying them with ‘smart’ bombs or terrorizing them with drone wars.
- Get over the destructive idea that national rivalries matter. Embrace the idea of we the people means we the people of the planet.