CNN SPECIAL “WE WERE WARNED” FALLS WAY SHORT, EVEN AS A LIMITED HANGOUT
Timing Suggests Serious Problems Ahead This Year
Michael C. Ruppert
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March 21, 2006 0900 PST (FTW) - ASHLAND - Assessing the importance, accuracy and usefulness of CNN’s big special, We Were Warned: The Coming Oil Crisis, is a multidimensional task that doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. Still, from every relevant angle this program—for all of its advance hype—was both a failure and an insult, resembling more fiction than fact.
Leaving that aside for a moment, and before I critique the program, let me note that it was a major breakthrough in that this was the first time that one of the five most influential electronic media outlets in the country has released a major project on Peak Oil, and they did it without mentioning Peak Oil once. The program, hosted by Frank Sesno, aired a total of six times last Saturday and Sunday. CNN wouldn’t have devoted all the resources to its production and promotion unless Peak Oil was (as FTW already believes) upon us, unless the crises we expect are imminent, and unless TPTB (the powers that be) had decided that it was time to start prepping John Q. Public for the first really serious pains of collapse.
It was how CNN prepped John Q. Public and with what that leaves the network wide open to well-deserved criticism.
The opening scenario was surprisingly like ones we saw enacted around the country in 2005 where dignitaries and pols such as former Director of Central intelligence James Woolsey, former California Governor Pete Wilson, and Congresswoman Jane Harmon (D, Torrance), played the roles of cabinet members in a simulated oil crisis caused by terrorism or bad weather.
This show started with the same two fictional events both set in the fall of 2009: a major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and major al Q’aeda attacks on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil facilities. In case you haven’t noticed, global warming is in a runaway condition now and we are only about three months from the next hurricane season. Why wouldn’t they pick 2006? No, that’s way too scary. It might upset the markets. Same thing with a terror attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq refinery and terminal. We just had one of those a month ago.
That’s where CNN started We Were Warned and it never went much further—at least not insofar as discussing what the fundamental issue was.
The show’s first interview was with the now ubiquitous James Woolsey who is becoming the wolf in sheep’s clothing poster boy for conservation. I’m amazed at the skilled coordination with which his image is co-opting progressive and conservation movements and I couldn’t help but notice the cheap shot that Woolsey appeared with a cardigan tied around his neck a la Jimmy Carter in 1979. A big point was made of the fact that Woolsey owns a Prius as if somehow that would make a former CIA director acceptable to the left.
It was terrifying however, that Woolsey pushed only ethanol and hybrids as solutions, both of which have been thoroughly discredited as remedies to Peak oil on this and many other good sites. Woolsey was and remains a front-man for corporate rather than public interests no matter how many lefties gigglingly start to embrace him.
The second interview was with energy investment banker Matthew Simmons. I felt a bit more hopeful. Simmons is always candid and straightforward about Peak Oil. He elicited a belly laugh from me when Sesno asked him if he heard a ticking clock on oil supplies.
“I hear a gong!” replied Simmons.
But if Matt said “Peak Oil,” it was neatly chopped out so that what it appeared that Simmons was afraid of gonging on us was a hurricane and a terrorist attack.
CNN’s analysis of Canadian tar sands and Chinese growth and consumption was decent. The “magic-bullet” limits of tar sands and the threats posed by Chinese growth were adequately covered. Sesno’s description of economic dominoes possibly starting a chain reaction was adequate. But none of that was discussed in terms of the inevitable context of Peak Oil, only in the temporary terms of a hurricane and terrorism.
Where CNN blew it completely—as their fictional chain of events unfolded—was when they started focusing on Brazil’s massive shift to ethanol production and making the clear—if unverbalized—statement that America might solve its energy problems by growing plants for conversion to fuel. There was no mention of sustainability or the need to replenish nutrients by returning plant waste to the soil. No mention of climate issues in the US, or the fact that no one in official capacity is remotely suggesting that ethanol is a replacement for oil. Recently FTW cited a new UC study showing that if all the land used for corn cultivation were used to grow corn for ethanol it would replace only 4% of the nation’s daily gasoline consumption. Cellulosic ethanol-using crops other than corn are also no solution to the problem for the US or anyone. The only thing that will help to avoid serious crises is for mankind to reduce consumption and nowhere—except for a brief instant—did CNN even mention that as a real strategy.
Instead, John Q. Public was left with the impression that any serious problems are at least three years away and that America’s “non-negotiable” way of life would be safely protected if we started growing a few more plants for biofuels and started driving hybrids. As we have shown clearly these solutions only make the problem of Peak Oil worse.
So if the American public was not served by this program, who was? My short list is: Time Warner, Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto, Toyota, Ford and GM (if it survives), as well as every other corporation and bank whose continued existence in a fragile economy depends upon the average American doing anything but changing his or her spending patterns.
But now, and this is why the program was significant, CNN has the benefit of a modified limited hangout so that when the first big bites come (likely this summer) it can say, “Well we covered that and we did our job.”
Shame on you CNN.
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