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Bush Administration and Oil Companies Want Arctic Meltdown

Wayne Madsen

[Petroleum elites are benefiting from oil scarcity, because it raises prices. But they also fear oil scarcity, because it raises costs and eventually makes business impossible. And since the oil industry is also impeding the large-scale development of alternatives while continuing to encourage rampant consumption, scarcity of fossil fuels may eventually kill them. They don't seem to mind. Maybe the pursuit of world-destroying policies is some kind of compensation for their own mortality --- you know, if I can't live forever, I think I'll take the rest of you down with me. Such a policy is neither government nor business; it's the melodrama of a big dysfunctional family whose patriarchs are finally going crazy - just when their power is at its height.

Here's another metaphor: the Petro-Administration of Cheney-Rice-Bush is like a psychotic who tries to play chess: indifferent to the rules, he simply steals the opponent's king off the board, claims victory, and burns the whole chess-set in the fireplace.

In the following shocker by Wayne Madsen, we learn that there are people high up in Washington who regard the apocalyptic melting of the polar ice caps as a good thing. Why? It will clear new shipping lanes for the exploitation of Arctic oil and gas.

About six years ago I published an essay in the Massachusetts Review called "Scarcity and Compensation in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick." I learned that the American whaling industry did not end because petroleum replaced whale oil; whaling stopped because the animals had been "harvested" almost to extinction, and the only place left to catch them was in the perilous ice floes of the Arctic Ocean. In 1873 thirty-three out of forty whaling ships cruising in the Arctic were destroyed by ice. 1

Today the American oil industry finds itself back up in the Arctic, chasing petroleum (not whale blubber). But this time, pollutants from its own product have warmed the globe, and instead of destroying our ships, the ice is just melting out of the way! What a wonderful way to settle an old score. - JAH]

November 11, 2004 0900 PDT (FTW) -- Washington, DC. Speaking off the record, scientists studying the current warming of the Arctic region intimated that some officials in the Bush administration saw the loss of Arctic ice and the resultant opening of sea channels such as the Northwest Passage of Canada as a good thing for the exploration and retrieval of oil and natural gas from the endangered region.

Over 300 international scientists have just completed an extensive 1200-page report documenting their exhaustive 4-year Arctic Climate Impact Assessment study on the rapid warming of the Arctic. The study was commissioned by the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee at a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Point Barrow, Alaska in 2000. On November 8, the scientists released a 144-page summary of their findings at a press conference in Washington, DC.

As if out of a scene from the Roland Emmerich's climate disaster movie, "The Day After Tomorrow," the U.S. State Department is criticizing the international panel's call to slow down Arctic warming by curbing greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere. The State Department, according to some scientists, is echoing the positions of oil companies and anti-environmentalist pressure groups like the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, in dismissing the recent report on Arctic warming. In fact, President Bush has repeatedly referred to previous scientific studies pointing to the effects of global warming as "silly science" based on "fuzzy math." The chief State Department focal point on the Arctic warming issue is Paula Dobriansky, the Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, who is seen as a virtual mouthpiece for Vice President Dick Cheney, the oil companies, and the anti-environmental groups. She will be trying to minimize the impact of the Arctic warming report before she attends the November 24 meeting of the Arctic Council in Reykjavik, Iceland where the report will be officially released. Before her current stint at the State Department, Dobriansky was an international affairs adviser with the law firm Hunton & Williams, whose clients include a number of large energy companies, including Exxon Mobil.

The report concludes that Arctic warming has increased dramatically since 1954. Average Arctic winter temperatures have increased as much as 4 to 7 degrees F (3-4 degrees C) during the past 50 years and are projected to increase another 7-13 degrees F (4-7 degrees C) over the next 100 years. Over the past 30 years, the sea-ice extent of the Arctic has decreased 386,100 square miles (or Texas and Arizona combined). Since Arctic sea ice is declining at such a rapid rate, maritime access by oil exploration ships and tankers is viewed by the Bush-Cheney administration and their oil industry backers as an economic windfall because of increased access to Arctic resources. Timber companies are also excited about access to Arctic timber reserves from accessible Arctic seaports. Therefore, the Bush administration and their corporate sponsors want to downplay the environmental catastrophe that will be brought about by an anticipated complete loss of Arctic ice and the creation of an iceless Arctic Ocean by the end of the century. Already, British Petroleum and a Russian partner are using newly-opened shipping channels in the Russian Arctic to begin the off-shore drilling of natural gas.

The possible opening of the Northwest Passage to maritime shipping has already prompted Canadian warnings to the United States not to intrude on its national territory. The United States does not recognize Canadian sovereignty over its Arctic sea passages. This past summer, Canada's largest warship, a fleet of helicopters, and 200 troops engaged in Operation Narwhal, the largest Canadian military exercise ever held in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Narwhal was also noteworthy in that U.S. military participants and observers were not invited.

The Bush administration and their oil company supporters have also dismissed concerns that oil spills resulting from increased maritime access to Arctic waters cannot be cleaned up because no solutions have been discovered on how to deal with oil contamination in colder waters, such as the Arctic. They point to continued problems arising from the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989.

In addition to the loss of the Arctic icepack, scientists discovered that substantial melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet will continue and its eventual melting will raise global sea levels by about 23 feet (7 meters). That, coupled with glacial melting in the Arctic (in Canada, Alaska, and Russia) and Antarctic melting, will cause the sea to flood most of southern and coastal Florida (including the Keys and the Everglades), the Mississippi Delta (including the city of New Orleans), a number of near-sea level islands in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, and the expansion of tidal-influenced bays and rivers worldwide.

Arctic ice melt will also decrease ocean salinity at key points of marine circulation. Melting masses of polar ice release freshwater, which forms a local cap in the ocean's convection system. That prevents the heavier, saltier waters from sinking, so that the gradients of heat (Greek thermo-) and salt (Greek hal-) which regulate the coastal temperatures of Europe will be interrupted, possibly forever [see Dale Allen Pfeiffer's writings on abrupt climate change and the thermohaline current in FTW, especially: -- ed.]. The effect is that while temperatures increase in North America and Asia, regional cooling will take place in Europe. The imbalance will affect agriculture and the overall eco-system.

The loss of snow cover in the Arctic will mean that less solar energy will be reflected back into space, thus adding to the warming of the Arctic's land and water surfaces. Unprecedented rainfall is already being witnessed on Greenland's Ice Sheet by the local Inuit inhabitants.

According to the Arctic warming report, the loss of Arctic ice and permafrost will also result in the near extinction of a number of species, including the polar bear, a number of seal species, walruses, caribou, reindeer, lemmings, voles, and migratory birds such as snow owls. The Indigenous People of the Arctic will be forced to relocate from floods, loss of permafrost, coastal erosion from killer storms, building collapse from destruction of permafrost, and loss of food supply. In addition, rising Arctic temperatures are permitting the invasion of destructive insects such as the spruce beetle which has already decimated 1.6 million hectares of white spruce and Sitka/Lutz spruce on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. In Sweden, invading moths have destroyed entire forests of birch trees. New species of birds entering the warmer Arctic tundra regions are also bringing with them a new disease - West Nile Virus, which threatens both humans and animals.

The Bush administration, in its unwillingness to appreciate the impact of Arctic warming and its desire for expanded oil sources, has incurred the wrath of the nations and peoples of the Arctic Council. These are Canada, Denmark, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich'in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Conference, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, the Saami Council along with observers France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Queen Elizabeth have both championed the efforts to reverse global warming as have Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman.

See also:
"An Arctic Alert on Global Warming," Peter N. Spotts, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor. November 9th, 2004

"Satellites Record Weakening North Atlantic Current," NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center press release. April 15th, 2004.

1 See Jamey Hecht, "Scarcity and Compensation in Herman Melville's Moby Dick," The Massachusetts Review, Vol. XXXX No. 1. Spring 1999:

From 1805 to 1875, the per capita demand for whale oil was increasing at an average of 15.76% per year [Michael Maran, The Decline of the American Whaling Industry, Doctoral Dissertation in Economic History, University Microfilms, (Ann Arbor, 1974), p.40]. "Whale products were displaced by mineral oils and gas as illuminants between 1850 and 1860," writes Michael Maran, in his econometric analysis of the whaling industry's decline:

However, this did not mean that the total demand for whale products decreased... It was the scarcity of whales that shifted the industry's relatively inelastic supply schedule toward the left... The industry's demand schedule shifted to the right as the market for whale products grew, but not by enough to offset the loss of revenues caused by the shift of the supply schedule to the left. [my emphasis].

The whaling industry was destroyed not by competition from alternative products like petroleum and kerosene (which were developed in quantity only as whale products became increasingly unavailable) but by the inability of the whale populations to recover from relentless hunting. In 1852 (one year after the quite obscure publication of Moby-Dick), Scientific American reported at the conclusion of a market analysis that "the exports of the present year do not come up to half the demand." In 1856 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper warned: "The whale, upon which we depend for oil, is rapidly being driven...into inaccessible seas, and will before many years...entirely disappear." As Maran writes, "Each phase of whaling marked the exhaustion of one stock of whales and the exploitation of a new stock," beginning with the off-shore whaling of the colonial period, which sufficed until the 1760's, when deep sea whaling was begun of necessity


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