Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Energy Crunch Is Here

Last week, April 1, I paid $2.459 for gas at the no-name gas station on the corner of my block here in LA. The following Tuesday, it had jumped to $2.549, and today (Saturday) it stands at $2.579. What will it be Monday next, I ask myself? $2.75? Higher? One thing is a lead-pipe cinch; it won’t be lower.

Now, I drive a truck to earn my daily bread, a diesel-powered truck. Once upon a time, diesel fuel cost less than gasoline, in fact, substantially less. This made sense since diesel is one of the first by-products of the cracking process, right after kerosene. That cost was one of the factors in the sudden popularity of diesel-powered cars back in the 70s when we were hit by the OPEC hijacking of the American economy, and the long gas lines and the short tempers, remember? Well, today diesel is around $2.65.

Diesel power brings you your vegetables, Wal Mart goodies and your beef. Notice how the price of a steak is about $15 when it used to be $8. High fuels costs. But how in hell are these higher diesel fuel prices so much higher than gasoline, when we know that diesel production is so simple? Your guess is as good as mine, but read on.

Demand and greed

You live in New York and demand vegetables and fruit from Florida. There’s your demand. The producers of the diesel used to transport your veggies see your demand, jack up the price to reflect the demand, then jack it up more because 1) they’re greedy, and 2) they own the production, i.e., they can get away with it.

They can get away with it, because the big oil companies have turned anti-trust legislation around through political corruption. There used to be dozens of oil companies after Teddy Rooseveldt busted Standard Oil using the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (it took 11 years and went all the way to the Supreme Court), but deregulation, starting with Ronnie Regan and the defanging of the Clayton Act of 1914, gave the owners back the privelege to consolidate companies and re-monopolize the industry. Chevron-Texaco, Exxon-Mobil, etc. Enron is only the most recent and blatent example of oil, greed and political manipulation. George Bush’s primary and most generous benefactor in the presidential campaign was Enron, but Republicans (and Democrats) have been receiving oil money since John D. Rockeffeller.

Additionally, there has been a systematic letting go of crude refineries, a deliberate lack of investment in new infrastructure, defended by the industry as cost-prohibitive and blamed on the EPA’s emmission requirements, further exascerbating the production problems. The recent refinery explosion in Port Texas is an example of cost-cutting. That facility won’t be up and running anytime soon.

More goons in the picture are the OPEC countries. They’re jacking up crude prices on the expectation that the US dollar is going to tank soon and just when China pegs its currency in a currency other than dollars, and then dumps it’s US T-bills. Look for that (coming soon) to cause the next Great Depression, as China holds a sstaggering amount of our public debt. But, ultimately, crude petroleum by the barrel is being priced sky-high by the futures market. Assholes in Wall Street, Zurich, Tokyo & beyond, are betting on falling production (many inside analysts say this year – 2005 – is the peak of all time production, although others place it at 2014; but it is coming soon), increased demand, infrastructure failure and war.

What we can do about it

Generally speaking, we can’t resort to shooting Wall Street assholes, even if it is a good idea. At the moment, we can’t reign in the corporations as we can’t control our elected representatives, unless and until we take Congress back.

We do need to take Congress back, but we do need to take our Congress back and a sensible energy policy must be put in place, anti-trust laws need to be updated and/re-instated, and Wall Street needs to be (gasp!) regulated like hell. And when this President nominates a federal judge, check your wallet.

The following was originally posted on Daily Kos, Thu Apr 14th, 2005

Executive Order 13303

One more time: the Bush administration is a criminal organization guilty of grand theft, hiding behind the mask of legality.

Usually the items that I write up for this blog are things that jump out at me on the TV news or in the LA Times, as I do a double take over the latest Repug chicanery and get steamed up. Yesterday, however, I was listening to Randi Rhodes on Air America (1150 AM in Los Angeles, a Clear Channel [!] station). Randi was talking about Executive Order 13303, which I had never heard of. This got me to wonder just what an Executive Order really is and what color is it and does it have feathers.

I had thought that these directives were just that, either proclamations ("I declare this day Pet Goat Day!") or executive orders straightening out some befuddled agency ("No more assassinations!"), as defined here. Sadly, I was mistaken.

Executive Orders Defined:

An Executive Order (EO) is a directive issued to executive-level agencies, department heads, or other employees from the President under the President's statutory, or constitutional powers. In many ways, the EO is similar to written orders, or instructions the president of a corporation might send to department heads or directors. Thirty days after it is officially published in the Federal Register, an EO becomes law. While the EO does bypass the U.S. Congress and the standard legislative law making process, no part of an EO may be illegal or unconstitutional. The first EO was issued in 1789 by none other than George Washington. Not until 1907 were EOs given official numbers.
(italics mine)

Executive Orders are in actuality (note the use of the capitals) royal decrees disguised as helpful hints, except when they aren't hints, and then they're declared Top Secret and locked in a vault.Executive Orders have a long history, starting way back there with George Washington. Initially they were issued to the various Cabinet agencies, as necessary, to clear up muddled legislative (or lack of) action. Occasionally they were used to make an end run around Congress, as when Presidents have declared various chunks of the landscape to be National Parks. In this century, however, the President has used his proclamation powers to declare laws. This is outside his constitutional authority. The source of his authority is derived from from Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, and also Section 3 of Article II further directs the President to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." A pretty clear explanation of Executive Orders can be found here.

Take EO 13303, for example. In it, carefully buried in legal mumbo-jumbo, is the directive that Iraqi oil belongs to us, and nobody else, not even Iraq, and we can confiscate this oil because we are in a "national emergency."

Executive Order 13303 decrees that "any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void," with respect to the Development Fund for Iraq and "all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein."

In English:

In other words, if Exxon-Mobil or Chevron-Texaco touch Iraqi oil, it will be immune from legal proceedings in the United States. Anything that could go, and elsewhere has gone, awry with U.S. corporate oil operations will be immune to judgment: a massive tanker accident; an explosion at an oil refinery; the employment of slave labor to build a pipeline; murder of locals by corporate security; the release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The president, with a stroke of the pen, signed away the rights of Saddam's victims, creditors and of the next true Iraqi government to be compensated through legal action. Bush's order unilaterally declares Iraqi oil to be the unassailable province of U.S. corporations.-from Tom Paine

Whoa, wait a minute. I assume that the "emergency" is related to 9/11, so how do we make the jump to invading Iraq and confiscating their oil? And how do we make the jump from proclaiming an emergency and immunizing Exxon-Mobil and Chevron-Texaco from legal proceedings against them as they suck the petro out of the desert sands?

This is bullshit, and takes us right back to the real reason for the invasion of Iraq. EO 13303 is dated May 22, 2003. We had already invaded the fucking place and "victory" had not been declared yet. Yes, I know, the Shrub was nullifying one EO with another and modifying still others, but the whole thing was just a 3 card Monty trick no matter how you slice it. And when you get right down to it, that part about EOs becoming law is a whole bag of shit all by itself. Even the Cato Institute thinks thinks so.

In the case of EO 13303, we have the executive issue an order that simultaneously confiscates another, sovereign nation's assets and also immunizes ab initio the oil companies from prosecution as they steal the oil and jack up all costs associated with said theft.

As I write this, regular gas at the no-name gas station on my block here in So Cal is $2.549. Cui bono?

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