Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Obama's SOTU - So So....
The rhetoric was soaring - often even Reaganesque- especially as it accented the notes of nationalism, and the promise of the nation's future. Of course, this is what any President delivering his SOTU aspires to. Only a guy like the fictional character 'Bulworth' would tell Americans the truth: that their nation is caught in a gulf of inequality from which it will never emerge (given the 'pay to play' system), it's in decline because of corroding infrastructure (needing $1.6 TRILLION to repair - according to the American Society of Civil Engineers) and the energy promise of fracking is about like fool's gold.
Let's take the last first. Recall from last year's State of the Union, Obama sang the praises of natural gas exploration via fracking. He actually expatiated on a "100 year supply of natural gas that's right beneath our feet" and the goal to "develop it safely". This time he even rivaled that, claiming the U.S, is now nearly energy independent and did briefly mention the need to "safely" extract the energy, but of course the evidence is not there. Anyone who saw Erin Brockovitch's map - displayed on Bill Maher's REAL TIME last Friday - of the contaminated water sites from fracking would get that.
The frackers claim, and the corpora-media have attempted to bolster, the notion that "fracking is safe for water". But IF it is, why is fracking exempt from compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act? Surely, NO exemption is needed if it was truly safe! This is like the misbegotten trope that GMO foods don't need to be labeled because they're "proven safe". Well, how about just humoring me. You know, I'd like to KNOW what I'm ingesting!
More importantly fracking does NOT solve the problem of climate change /global warming as Obama claimed last night. Indeed, it makes it worse. People-citizens need to process this, and I suggest they get hold of Richard Heinberg's 'Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise Imperils Our Future'.
As Heinberg observes (p. 110):
Kerogen is not oil. It is better thought of as an oil precursor that was insufficiently cooked by geologic processes. If we want to turn it into oil, we have to finish the process nature started: that involves heating the kerogen to a high temperature for a long time. And that in turn takes energy- lots of it, whether supplied by hydroelectricity, nuclear power plants, natural gas, or the kerogen itself. Therefore the EROEI in processing oil shale is bound to be pitifully low. According to the best study to date, by Cutler Cleveland and Peter O'Connor, the EROEI for oil shale production would be about 2:1. That tells us that oil from kerogen will be far more expensive than regular crude oil.
Recall 'EROEI' denotes energy returned on energy invested.
Heinberg also disposes of the myth of "100 years of natural gas".
He observes, for example(ibid.), that "a study of the EROEI for electrical heating of methane hydrate deposits between 1000 and 1500 meters deep yielded ratios from 2:1 up to 5:1, depending on the source of the electricity"
Also, the methane extracted is a major contributor to accelerated global warming. It is not innocuous as Obama appears to believe. Hence, his clarion call for attention to climate change while approving of natural gas fracking is exponentially cognitively dissonant.
Obama's challenge to the Reepo congress to reinstate unemployment benefits was spot on, but his praising of the "budget deal" in December didn't mesh with that call. The fact is that deal was an abomination and gave away the store to the Repukes by leaving unemployment extension out of the plan.
Now the Dems call for reinstating benefits but that's like shutting the barn door after the cow's vamonosed. The time to have ensured the benefits was when leverage existed - at the time of the budget dealing. Not now when the Reeps will simply ignore all calls .....oh, unless "equal cuts" can be found elsewhere. (How about the military? Like that F35 white elephant?)
The most stirring part of the address was the promise to "take action", presumably by Executive orders - not Executive "actions" - which are far weaker. (Recall JFK's Exec. ORDER 11,110 actually approved the printing of U.S. Notes outside the Federal Reserve system. It translated to $4.2 bllion such notes being generated.)
But as The UK Guardian observed:
the executive orders will have only limited impact in comparison with legislative action, and his speech laid bare how powerless Obama is in the face of intransigence from the Republican-controlled House.
Finally, the one inspiring note I wanted to hear was sounded when Obama proclaimed the need to end the fiasco in Afghanistan, and the necessity to cease "permanent war". However, whether he's true to his word here will depend on whether ALL troops leave at the end of this year, or some new deal is struck that allows 12,000 or so to remain another ten years.
THAT is not halting perma-war!