Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Refinery

I knew when I started this project -- some days, some weeks would be like this...

every day for a year...

days I don't want the news -- when all I want is poetry, as this, it seems to me, is one of the ancient forms of salvation before us. In China, the Monks are caring for the people -- the victims of the storm... the people who have lost everything are swimming to find the Monks... if the news is our connection to the passing of events and of our lives, there must still be more ancient forms of communication and refining that tell a deeper truth...

The Refinery
by Robert Pinsky

". . . our language, forged in the dark by  centuries of violent

pressure, underground, out of the stuff of dead life."

Thirsty and languorous after their long black sleep

The old gods crooned and shuffled and shook their heads.

Dry, dry. By railroad they set out

Across the desert of stars to drink the world

Our mouths had soaked

In the strange sentences we made

While they were asleep: a pollen-tinted

Slurry of passion and lapsed

Intention, whose imagined

Taste made the savage deities hiss and snort.

In the lightless carriages, a smell of snake

And coarse fur, glands of lymphless breath

And ichor, the avid stenches of

Immortal bodies.

Their long train clicked and sighed

Through the gulfs of night between the planets

And came down through the evening fog

Of redwood canyons. From the train

At sunset, fiery warehouse windows

Along a wharf. Then dusk, a gash of neon:

Bar. Black pinewoods, a junction crossing, glimpses

Of sluggish surf among the rocks, a moan

Of dreamy forgotten divinity calling and fading

Against the windows of a town. Inside

The train, a flash

Of dragonfly wings, an antlered brow.

Black night again, and then

After the bridge, a palace on the water:

The great Refinery--impossible city of lights,

A million bulbs tracing its turreted

Boulevards and mazes. The castle of a person

Pronounced alive, the Corporation: a fictional

Lord real in law.

Barbicans and torches

Along the siding where the engine slows

At the central tanks, a ward

Of steel palisades, valved and chandeliered.

The muttering gods

Greedily penetrate those bright pavilions--

Libation of Benzene, Naphthalene, Asphalt,

Gasoline, Tar: syllables

Fractioned and cracked from unarticulated

Crude, the smeared keep of life that fed

On itself in pitchy darkness when the gods

Were new--inedible, volatile

And sublimated afresh to sting

Our tongues who use it, refined from oil of stone.

The gods batten on the vats, and drink up

Lovecries and memorized Chaucer, lines from movies

And songs hoarded in mortmain: exiles' charms,

The basal or desperate distillates of breath

Steeped, brewed and spent

As though we were their aphids, or their bees,

That monstered up sweetness for them while they dozed.

From The Want Bone, published by The Ecco Press. Copyright © 1990 by Robert Pinsky. And the

Friday, May 30, 2008

One Thing

Some 60% of all federal land as well as most of the East and West coasts are currently subject to drilling bans - many were put in place after a big oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969.

I did not know that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Indonesia Leaves OPEC

Indonesia left OPEC today.

"Actually there is also one rationale -- that we are not happy with the high oil prices. Because we are an oil producer and we are an oil consumer," energy minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said.

Output is down, membership dues are up, and the country buys more oil than it sells, according to the Reuters article in the NY Times yesterday.

"Indonesia raised fuel prices by an average of just under 30 percent on Saturday, as it struggles to plug the fiscal hole left by soaring crude oil prices."

Indonesia has an output of 927,000 per day. They were used to exporting a lot of oil -- their output is on the wane now -- and they can't afford to buy oil at the prices they are forced to sell them at.

"Fuel is still subsidized in the country where millions of people live on less than two dollars a day, with the government expected to spend billions of dollars keeping fuel costs among the lowest in Asia."

Two dollars a day. How does the oil system work there? What do they use oil for? Heat? Cooking?

This from The Energy Wire early this month at The Washington Post on-line:

"Many countries - especially in the developing world -- are actually directly subsidizing fuel prices. In the name of helping their citizens cope, they are subsidizing energy waste, subsidizing an addiction to imports, and subsidizing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, as oil prices rise, so do the costs of these fuel subsidies. Many of these countries are also trying to hold food prices steady as the prices of global food commodities soar."

I imagine our numbers could look a little like that to parts of Europe as the dollar falls and we discuss a gas tax holiday... fuel is still subsidized in the country where millions of Americans can't afford to keep their heat on in the winter.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median full-time working man in this country made about $100 per day last year.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Global Shock

The Environment Ministers meeting of the G8 summit met over the weekend. To quote from their "Chair Summery:"

* Developed countries should take the lead in achieving a significant reduction.
* It is necessary to change the current socio-economic structures and transition toward low-carbon societies.
* To achieve low-carbon societies all countries need innovations in their lifestyle, production and consumption patterns, and social infrastructure in addition to technological innovations.

There was a second article (or set of stories) yesterday about the Rockefeller's attempt to convince Exxon to change their ways. The times article was interesting in its opening and closing --

First Paragraph:
HOUSTON — The Rockefeller family built one of the great American fortunes by supplying the nation with oil. Now history has come full circle: some family members say it is time to start moving beyond the oil age.
Final two Paragraphs:

The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents public safety officers, whose pensions are invested in Exxon, has publicly opposed the shareholder effort to change company policy.

“The Rockefeller resolution threatens to degrade the value of Exxon Mobil,” the organization wrote in a letter to Mr. Tillerson that criticized the splitting of the top executive jobs.

I think it's a really interesting set of bookmarks -- the Rockefellers and the Police Pension fund. What if the Rockefellers decided to fund every police pension fund in the country -- would that help? I would imagine they could do it -- would that lighten some pressure on Exxon? Of course there are plenty of other Rockefelleresque characters who are not striving for change...

Developed countries should take the lead... What constitutes developed? Iceland seems developed to me... I would imagine it's easier on an island...

Truckers are striking in England and Wales.

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned on Wednesday that the world was facing an oil "shock" and would find there was no easy answer to price rises without coordinated global action.

Brown, who saw hundreds of protesting British truck drivers cause road chaos in London on Tuesday, said he understood the impact on families across the country, but only an international strategy would work in bringing oil prices down.

A wave of fuel protests, echoing similar demonstrations in 2000, began in France with fishermen blockading ports to demand cheaper fuel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Tuesday for an EU cap on fuel sales tax.

Senior British ministers offered gentle hints on Tuesday that the government may be preparing to back down on plans to increase road tax on higher-polluting cars. There was also speculation Brown might delay planned fuel tax rises.

"A global shock on this scale requires global solutions," Brown wrote in the Guardian newspaper.

Global shock.

Truckers are having a really hard time here in the States, too -- despite the fact that diesel is nearly half what it is in England. The NY Times reported yesterday:

“Most truckers are one major breakdown — a broken axle or a damaged engine — away from bankruptcy,” said Mr. Hendley, who laid off his last driver this month and turned to independent operators to ship his logs.

The squeeze on truckers’ profits from rising fuel costs is compounded by the slowing economy, which is reducing freight traffic. Truckers say they find it hard to impose fuel surcharges, in part because their industry has suffered for years from over-capacity as deregulation drew thousands of small operators into trucking.

That article goes on to say that truckers are selling their trucks and getting out of the business all together - so much so, in fact, that the used truck market is flooded -- and used trucks are being sold abroad -- "particularly to Russia."

If we can't afford gas and we sell our trucks to countries with lots of oil, is that taking the lead? Should the government have a buy back program and melt down all the trucks along with the gun in some big furnace in DC?

I'm all over this morning, but one other thing comes to mind. I'm a photographer -- I used to photograph weddings. Five year later all of my equipment is obsolete because of digital -- which, at the time, seemed like no big deal. My state of the art cameras which are still pretty amazing are worth a tenth of what they were then -- the guy at the camera store said I might be able to sell them to an art student...

Things do change -- drastically and quickly. It' expensive and uncomfortable -- but it happens and we move on.

I think there is an interesting paradox to the idea that fuel and travel hang in the balance while digitally we can go to the G8 summit and back on a Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Things Will Be Different

It's funny -- when we usually think of the phrase "when I was a kid" it is followed by some account of trials and tribulations since overcome by the modern world. I had to walk five miles up hill in the winter...

When I was a kid I used to fly all the time. To Florida, to Europe, to the Virgin Islands... It was fun to be an unaccompanied minor -- with the wing pin and the playing cards. I used to collect airports. Top of my list, Milwaukee -- they have a great used bookstore and a museum store. Also London, where you can buy a Liberty's of London tie on your way home. Bottom, O'Hare -- with Miami right up there too -- both for the fact that you should not have to take a train between connecting flights.

There is growing speculation that airline travel will soon become a luxury reserved only for the very rich. An industry analyst said on NPR this weekend that airlines were never posed to make money with gas anywhere near it's current rates -- which still seem well below target.

Last week, American Airlines announced significant cuts in service -- including grounding almost 10 percent of it's fleet:

"FORT WORTH , Texas – AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, Inc., today announced significant reductions to its 2008 domestic flight schedule, including a fourth quarter mainline domestic capacity reduction of 11 percent to 12 percent from the previous year. It also outlined plans to retire at least 75 mainline and regional aircraft and unveiled several revenue growth initiatives, as the company responds to record fuel prices, growing concerns about the economy and a difficult competitive environment." Company Press Release.

Airline Business Magazine said in an article two days later:

"On announcing these survival tactics, American chief executive Gerard Arpey neatly summed up the seriousness of the situation in which the industry finds itself: "The airline industry as it is constituted today was not built to withstand oil prices at $125 a barrel, and certainly not when record fuel expenses are coupled with a weak US economy." American's first-quarter fuel bill rose by 45%, with the carrier forking out $665 million more for fuel than it would have done had the price of oil remained the same as it was in the same quarter last year."

I lost the array of sands I used to collect -- Israel, Tortola, PEI, Italy. I've been to some amazing places... You never think you won't go back.
Tortola -- Cane Garden Bay
By Phillip

James Denyer


It's funny -- all the photos I took on all those trips are shoved away sloppily in boxes. I guess it's time to pull them out and make sure they survive... if it's not too late.
It's human nature to be wasteful in times of plenty...
You never think things will be different.

Monday, May 26, 2008


The Department of Defense has identified 4,073 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. NY Times -- from Names of the Dead.

From Last month

"My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East," McCain said.

From the archives -- August 2, 2000

Keynote speeches are usually aimed at firing up the crowd. Mr. McCain's passive approach flattened the already placid mood of the convention. Few delegates were likely to be convinced by his praise of the prospective nominee as ''my friend.'' Moreover, Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, described a convoluted generational and military link to the Texas governor by asserting that his grandfather had been former President George Bush's commander in World War II. Then he conceded that ''it is my turn to serve under the son of my grandfather's brave subordinate.''

I have just spent over 90 minutes sifting through old articles, quotes, speeches and whatnot.

May the soldiers be safe
May the soldiers be happy
May the soldiers be healthy
May the soldiers live in ease...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"No One Cares About The People... Just The Oil."

Yesterday I was intrigued by the way that we talk about the other and lose track of ourselves. We can talk about the Middle East -- the disconnect between the wealthy and the poor -- about money and corruption as if it had no bearing here...

I was looking for something small this morning, actually -- I was hoping to find one tiny thing that Native Americans used to do with oil that I didn't know about -- that's not what happened, though.

The Navajo and Hopi reservations in Utah and Arizona provide two examples. When Congress enlarged the Navajo Reservation with the Aneth extension in southeast Utah in 1933, it reserved 37.5 percent of any future oil or gas royalties for Utah Navajos, to be administered in trust by the state. The remaining 62.5 percent went to the Navajo Nation. Since the 1956 discovery of oil at Aneth and Montezuma Creek, Utah, oil companies have drilled 577 wells and pumped an estimated 370.7 million barrels of oil and another 339,100 cubic feet of natural gas from the area. In the process they contaminated ground water and area springs by injecting carbon dioxide and saltwater into wells to increase production. In 1990, there were ninety-nine spills of oil, saltwater, and chemicals in the Aneth fields, damaging 36,622 acres. Oil companies have been lax in cleaning up their sites or compensating Navajos. "There are no environmental rules or regulations here," complained Navajo councilman Andrew Tso. "No one cares about the people who live here, just the oil."

On the other hand, oil companies have paid at least $180 million in royalties, including $60 million to the Utah Navajo Trust Fund. But little has trickled down to Aneth residents. Seventy-five percent of the 6,500 Utah Navajos in the region have no electricity or running water. Most make a hundred-mile round trip each week to haul in water. Recent audits disclosed that state and tribal mismanagement, poor business decisions, fraud, and bribes have bankrupted the Utah Navajo Trust Fund. In addition, the Navajo Nation has not returned to its Utah chapter houses a fraction of the oil revenues it collects. And now oil production in Aneth is steadily falling. In 1994, the Navajo Nation Council created its own Navajo Oil and Gas Company and imposed a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in Aneth, calling for the enforcement of federal environmental protection laws. The drilling continues.

Author: David Rich Lewis. Adapted from: Lewis, David R. 1995. "Native Americans and the Environment: A survey of twentieth century issues." American Indian Quarterly, 19: 423-450, by permission of the University of Nebraska Press.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Poverty Still Exists Where Royals Monopolize Power

This weekend marked the 75th anniversary of Saudi Arabian oil out-put. The NY Times ran a Reuters article.

There’s a strange sort of lack of perspective in the piece – as, I suppose, there is a strange sort of lack of perspective in the whole view of the Middle East. As if when we are watching another it is impossible to see ourselves…

The end of the article says, “Poverty still exists in a country where the royals, who monopolize power, include some of the richest men in the world.”

Last month a NY Times article said that officials expect over 30,000 people to have their heat shut off in the North West this winter. “After struggling with soaring heating costs through the winter, millions of Americans are behind on electric and gas bills, and a record number of families could face energy shut-offs over the next two months, according to state energy officials and utilities around the country.”

Saudi Arabia Celebrates 75 Years Of Oil

King Abdullah watched dancing children and listened to actors and government executives narrating how oil transformed the desert and predicted it would do so for another 75 years.

Now the world's top oil exporter, the Gulf Arab state provides over a tenth of oil supplies and is raking in windfall revenues as prices reach new highs. U.S. crude hit a fresh record of $130 a barrel on Wednesday.

"Oil made us leap to the 21st century from a way of life reminiscent of the 15th century," one royal told Reuters at the celebrations.

The festivities were held in a purpose-built dome raised around the well that first tapped commercial quantities of Saudi oil, now called the "prosperity well."

On display was the original copy of the first oil concession Riyadh signed with U.S. firm Standard Oil of California in 1933, heralding a search that had prolific results. The kingdom holds a fifth of global oil reserves.

Since then, oil has been at the centre of a web of diplomatic, economic, political and security interests that bind Saudi Arabia to the United States.

The History of Standard Oil

ONE of the busiest corners of the globe at the opening of the year 1872 was a strip of Northwestern Pennsylvania, not over fifty miles long, known the world over as the Oil Regions. Twelve years before this strip of land had been but little better than a wilderness; As chief inhabitants the lumbermen, who every season cut great swaths of primeval Pine and hemlock from its hills, and in the spring floated them down the Allegheny River to Pittsburg. The great tides of Western emigration had shunned the spot for years as too rugged and unfriendly for settlement, and yet in twelve years this region avoided by men had been transformed into a bustling trade centre, where towns elbowed each other for place, into which three great trunk railroads had built branches, and every foot of whose soil was fought for by capitalists. It was the discovery and development of a new raw product, petroleum, which had made this change from wilderness to market-place. This product in twelve years had not only peopled a waste place of the earth, it had revolutionised the world's methods of illumination and added millions upon millions of dollars to the wealth of the United States. Petroleum as a curiosity, and indeed in a small way as an article of commerce, was no new thing when its discovery in quantities called the attention of the world to this corner of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Friday, May 23, 2008

To Plead Or Not To Plead

I read a very small article out of New Zealand this morning which kind of interested me -- the story reported an oil company there pleaded guilty in an oil spill --

NEW PLYMOUTH, NEW ZEALAND: Australian Worldwide Exploration (AWE) Ltd. and Prosafe will plead guilty to spilling 23,000 litres (6,072 gallons) of oil into New Zealand waters off the Taranaki coast last October, according to local media reports.

I was fascinated, I think, by this idea that a company would plead guilty. Of all the articles I've read, that doesn't happen here. There are settlements and there are fights -- but here, there is something refreshing about executives standing up and saying "Guilty."

So I did one of those strange Google searches -- "oil, courts, plead, US."

What I found was a little disquieting too. I found two separate official documents -- one from the justice department and another from the EPA -- two different cases of shipping companies plead guilty for intentionally dumping sludge.

"The National Navigation Company (NNC) pleaded guilty and was sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon for 15 felony charges, the Justice Department announced."

"An American-based ship operator, Pacific-Gulf Marine, Inc. (PGM), has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges that it engaged in deliberate acts of pollution involving a fleet of four ships in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, the Justice Department announced today."

From what I read earlier this month it sounds like that is happening all the time.

But the idea of responsibility...

"The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear Exxon Mobil's plea to reduce the $2.5 billion fine handed out after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The company, who say they shouldn't be held responsible for the drunken driving of ship captain Joseph Hazelwood, calls the punishment unconstitutionally excessive." Wired.

Back to The History of Standard Oil:

While none of the other members of the Standard Oil Company examined in 1879 was quite so sweeping in his denials, all of them evaded direct answers. The reason they gave for this evasion was that the investigations were an interference with their rights as private citizens, and that the government had no business to inquire into their methods. Consequently when asked questions they refused to answer "by advice of counsel." Ultimately the gentlemen did answer a great many questions. But taking the testimony all in all through these years it certainly is a mild characterisation to say that it totally lacks in frankness. The testimony of the Standard officials before the Hepburn Commission was so evasive that the committee in making its report spoke bitterly of the company as "a mysterious organisation whose business and transactions are of such a character that its members decline giving a history or description of it lest this testimony be used to convict them of a crime."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

136 Years Later

Today I'm reading about how the railroad came to be nationalized -- and the control that standard oil had over the rails at that time.

So serious did the Windom Committee consider the situation in 1874., that it made the following radical recommendations :

The only means of securing and maintaining reliable and effective competition between railways Is through national or state ownership, or control of one or more lines which, being unable to enter into combinations, will serve as a regulation of other lines.

One or more double-track freight-railways honestly and thoroughly constructed, owned or controlled by the government, and operated at a low rate of speed, would doubtless be able to carry at a much less cost than can be done under the present system of operating fast and slow trains on the same road; and, being incapable of entering into combinations, would no doubt serve as a very valuable regulator of existing railroads within the range of their influence.

With Congress in such a temper the oil men felt that there might be some hope of securing the regulation of interstate commerce they had asked for in 1872.


Published: May 22, 2008

WASHINGTON — Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee vented their fury over high gasoline prices at executives of the nation’s five largest oil companies on Wednesday, grilling the oilmen over their multimillion-dollar pay packages and warning them that Congress was intent on taking action that could include a new tax on so-called windfall profits.

Such showdowns between lawmakers and oil titans have become a familiar routine on Capitol Hill. But with gas prices nearing $4 a gallon, and lawmakers headed home for a weeklong Memorial Day recess where they expect to get an earful from angry constituents, there is added urgency for Congress to appear active.

But while momentum is building for several measures, including a bill that would allow the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to be sued in American courts under antitrust laws, there is little sign that any of the proposals would do much, if anything, to lower prices quickly.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Revengeful Producers

I'm still totally fascinated by The History of Standard Oil written in 1904. I think I'll probably be reading this for a good week at least -- Get this:

At one mass-meeting the following resolution was actually passed by a body of revengeful producers:

Resolved, that to give a wider market throughout the world to petroleum, to enhance its price and to protect producers from unjust combinations of home refiners, a committee be appointed to ask the representatives of foreign governments at Washington to request their respective governments to put a proper tariff on refined oil and to admit crude oil free into the ports of their respective governments.

Toward the end of October Captain Hasson presented the scheme which he and the committee had prepared. It proposed that there should be established what was called a Petroleum Producers' Agency.* This agency was really an incorporated company with a capital of one million dollars, the stock of which was to be subscribed to only by the producers or their friends. This agency was to purchase all the oil of the members of the association at at least five dollars a barrel. If stocks could be kept down so that the market took all of the oil at once, the full price was to be paid at once in cash; if not, the agency was to store the oil in tanks it was to build, and a portion of the price was to be paid in tank certificates. By thus controlling all the oil, the agency expected to protect the weakest as well as the strongest producer, to equalise the interest of different localities, to prevent refiners and exporters from accumulating stocks, and to prevent gambling in oil.

I even love the way some of the spelling is different... so long ago. Not the politics! Not the path.

Here it is, the opening of the borders and the beginning of the global market.

Just last week, the US stopped their policy of purchasing oil reserves in order to allow for more oil on the general market -- also Saudi Arabia agreed to boost production.

The difference now is that -- well, we are not in the same time at all -- if we ever needed an illustration of peak oil, it's just looking at the past and the way we used to think about it all.

Despite all of Bush's efforts oil prices continue to rise this week...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Trust

The following is the preface of a book published in 1904.
The History of the Standard Oil Company

By a woman journalist, I would like to add --
by Ida M. Tarbell

A stamp just came out commemorating her.
(I didn't know, by the way, that The Atlantic was 120 years old! This was published in it's early rival McClure's).

Cover of January, 1901 issue

I am going to work on reading different parts of it this week and excerpt, I think. I'm fascinated -- by the history, by the writing by the glimpse into current thought in 1904... and today.

This work is the outgrowth of an effort on the part of the editors of McClure's Magazine to deal concretely in their pages with the trust question. In order that their readers might have a clear and succinct notion of the processes by which a particular industry passes from the control of the many to that of the few, they decided a few years ago to publish a detailed narrative of the history of the growth of a particular trust. The Standard Oil Trust was chosen for obvious reasons. It was the first in the field, and it has furnished the methods, the charter, and the traditions for its followers. It is the most perfectly developed trust in existence; that is, it satisfies most nearly the trust ideal of entire control of the commodity in which it deals. Its vast profits have led its officers into various allied interests, such as railroads, shipping, gas, copper, iron, steel, as well as into banks and trust companies, and to the acquiring and solidifying of these interests it has applied the methods used in building up the Oil Trust. It has led in the struggle against legislation directed against combinations. Its power in state and Federal government, in the press, in the college, in the pulpit, is generally recognised. The perfection of the organisation of the Standard, the ability and daring with which it has carried out its projects, make it the pre-eminent trust of the world-the one whose story is best fitted to illuminate the subject of combinations of capital.

Let's remember, now, Standard Oil later became Exxon-Mobil. Read it again:

Exxon-Mobil was chosen for obvious reasons. It was the first in the field, and it has furnished the methods, the charter, and the traditions for its followers. It is the most perfectly developed trust in existence; that is, it satisfies most nearly the trust ideal of entire control of the commodity in which it deals. Its vast profits have led its officers into various allied interests, such as railroads, shipping, gas, copper, iron, steel, as well as into banks and trust companies, and to the acquiring and solidifying of these interests it has applied the methods used in building up the Oil Trust. It has led in the struggle against legislation directed against combinations. Its power in state and Federal government, in the press, in the college, in the pulpit, is generally recognised. The perfection of the organisation of Exxon, the ability and daring with which it has carried out its projects, make it the pre-eminent trust of the world-the one whose story is best fitted to illuminate the subject of combinations of capital.

Monday, May 19, 2008

We Understand

A few months ago in Nova Scotia a small community center was robbed.

It was robbed for its heating oil. The theft caused an oil spill. Somehow a flash crosses my mind -- a new mad max style world...

The community rallied -- as communities can -- came up with almost all of the $5000 clean up price tag -- the center will have to raise the rest. The problem would have been a lot worse if the oil had reached the nearby water well. Phew.

There was a clause in community center's insurance policy that exempted the company from responsibility for oil spills! I wonder if I have one of those. I don't understand insurance companies.

The Community Center bought a new indoor oil tank to replace the old out door one.

"More people may feel like they need to steal oil," Ms. Pittman said. "With the price of oil going up and up, and so many people on fixed income, where are they going to get the money?"

"The cost doesn’t justify the theft," Ms. Beck said. "But we understand why people are doing it."

The Nova Scotia Chronicle.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

One Thing

Windfall profits are unexpected earnings on oil sold for more than the price fixed in a company's contract.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Something Different

Sometimes, lately, I miss really big news -- which is pretty strange, since I look at the Times and other papers for nearly 2 hours most mornings. I'm so focused on the project, though, that I barely skim the front page.

So this morning, when I read the headline that the death toll Myanmar had climbed to 78,000 -- I figured I should put the project down and find out what on earth is going on in the world. To be honest, I didn't even know Burma changed its name.

Boat carrying aid for Myanmar cyclone victims sinks
uncredited photo -- probably AP

Many of these huge natural disasters are being linked to global warming. I didn't read anything about that in this article, but I imagine it will be said later. In the meantime, everything is compounded by multiples because the government there won't let in any foreign aid. They are turning away huge ships of food and medical supplies -- "a junta that human rights advocates say is putting its own survival before that of a storm-ravaged population."

I thought I was reading aside. What scares me now, though, is how often oil is linked in to almost anything you look into. That's why I picked this project, of course -- it was no accident, I may have said before. I wrote my undergraduate thesis 16 years ago on the first gulf war -- went on to write about the second gulf war -- a friend said yesterday that gifts of circumstance come by accident. I disagree. We are always preparing to be in the right place at the right time -- with discipline and patience and practice.

Here's the 18th paragraph of the NY Time article today about the disaster:

There has been some discussion, a second senior administration official said, of whether the United States and France should take measures against Chevron and the French oil and gas company Total for their work on a natural gas pipeline in southern Myanmar, from which the military junta derives much of its wealth. American sanctions against Myanmar ban most companies from working there, but Chevron owns a 28 percent stake in the pipeline, which is operated by Total.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that so far, talk of suspending Chevron’s payments to Myanmar, formerly Burma, had not gone very far.

Friday, May 16, 2008


There was a pipeline explosion in Nigeria today.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine what you are learning new, reading the paper. What I learned today was something about repetition. The following is excerpted/interspersed from two NY Times articles.

May 15, 2008
LAGOS, Nigeria — More than 100 people were feared dead on Thursday after a construction vehicle struck an oil pipeline on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, setting off an oil-fed inferno that spread to surrounding homes and a school.

May 13, 2006
ABUJA, Nigeria, May 12 — As many as 200 people were burned to death and dozens of others injured Friday morning when a gasoline pipeline exploded in a Nigerian seaside village some 30 miles east of the country's commercial capital, Lagos.

“The fire was very high,” said Johnson Fabunmi, a doctor who lives in the area. “Everyone was running for their life.”

Witnesses said the site was strewn with charred bodies and burned cans and buckets that the victims had been using to scoop up the gasoline, according to television reports and local journalists.

At least 45 people were killed in Lagos last December when the fuel they were siphoning from a buried pipeline caught fire. In December 2006, another pipeline ruptured by thieves caught fire, killing about 260. In May of that year, 150 died in pipeline explosion east of Lagos, and another such fire in 1998 killed 1,500 in southern Nigeria.

Oil pipeline explosions are not new to Nigeria. At least 1,000 people died in a similar explosion in the town of Jesse in the country's southeast in 1998.

The vast majority of Nigeria’s 130 million people live on less than $2 a day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


REARDAN, Wash. - Mom-and-pop service stations are running into a problem as gasoline marches toward $4 a gallon: Thousands of old-fashioned pumps can't register more than $3.99 on their spinning mechanical dials.

That's from a Tuesday AP story.

How perfect is that -- we can't imagine where we will go to.
We can't foresee at all the heights to which we will climb...

These guys can't afford the $10,000 for new automated pumps. They can't even fill up SUVs because the pump numbers don't go over $100 for a single sale.

Of course, we don't want to see the future.
Of course, things always keep moving.

In the future, soon, there will be other forms of fuel.
In the future they will laugh at our inability to predict...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Last week, eight of the major oil companies settled in a law suit regarding the cleaning up of M.T.B.E. -- a chemical that used to be added to gasoline to make it burn cleaner.

The NY Times reported on the 8th:

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, which include 153 public water systems in New York, California and 15 other states, claimed that the additive, a chemical called methyl tertiary butyl ether, or M.T.B.E., was a defective product that led to widespread contamination of groundwater. The suit contended that the chemical was used by oil companies, even though they knew of the environmental and health risks that it posed.

Trying to retell a big story is nerve wracking, and this one, has a lot of holes. I can't find, for example, what the health risk are -- or what it means when water becomes undrinkable. I can't find what's been done or what is planned.

There was an attempt by congress in 2003 to shield oil companies from all culpability. It didn't pass the senate.

A series of sentences and paragraphs from EPA papers and the NY Times:

Methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) has been used as a gasoline additive to serve two major purposes. First, MTBE was used as an octane-enhancer to replace organic lead, beginning in about 1979. Beginning in about 1992, MTBE was also used as a fuel oxygenate additive to meet requirements of the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) of 1990.


MTBE and other petroleum hydrocarbons can "dive" into aquifers because of infiltration of surface water, stratigraphy, and pumping wells.


Releases of MTBE to ground and surface water can occur through leaking underground storage tanks and pipelines, spills, emissions from marine engines into lakes and reservoirs, and to some extent from air deposition.


This was from an article by the Environmental Working Group -- it seems to be undated, but from the time the detections were beginning.


Also rising rapidly are lawsuits against the oil companies by communities whose water is contaminated with MTBE. Since September 2003, at least 141 water systems in 16 states have filed suits arguing that MTBE is a defective product, and that refiners knew that it would contaminate groundwater before they began adding it to gasoline but failed to warn consumers. In 2002 that argument, outlined in devastating detail in industry documents, convinced a jury to find Shell, Texaco and four other companies liable for contaminating drinking water supplies in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., forcing a $60 million settlement for cleanup. In 2003, Shell, Exxon, ChevronTexaco and 15 other companies settled a contamination lawsuit brought by Santa Monica, Calif., by agreeing to spend an estimated $200 million on a filtration system to remove MTBE from the city's water supplies.


MTBE contamination as low as two parts per billion — two drops in an Olympic-sized swimming pool — can produce a harsh chemical odor and taste that can cause tap water to be undrinkable


The American Water Works Association, representing 4,700 U.S. water systems, estimates nationwide MTBE cleanup and water replacement costs at $29 billion — and rising with each new detection..


The 2000 Times article said,
In 1985, state officials found the additive near the home of a neighborhood woman at the extraordinary level of 100,000 parts per billion, they said. The woman, Mary Curcio, has moved, and could not be reached for comment.

The whole thing, it seems, lead to the use of ethanol.
The whole thing, it seems to me, is largely secret.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Not Petroleum

Okay -- this is really cheating -- but I think it's fascinating and am in dire need of a better story and a little more sleep.

This is a non-bi-lined story in the British Mirror. I don't know anything about the media outlet at all. Though it sounds vaguely familiar it could be Mad Magazine for all I know...

The world's oldest oil paintings have been discovered in caves blown up by Taliban fanatics.

Scientists found the 1,350-year-old images behind the site of two Buddha statues destroyed at Bamiyan, in northern Afghanistan, in 2001.

They show robed Buddhas and may have been painted with walnut and poppy seed drying oils in the 7th century.

Researcher Yoko Taniguchi said: "This is the earliest clear example of such paintings."

Oil painting was thought to date from the 15th century.

Monday, May 12, 2008

$700 A Year

I've been thinking and talking quite a lot about giving up my car lately. I'm not going to get rid of it -- I love it -- and I own it. It does need to be cleaned.

An interesting article caught my eye this morning -- via the oil drum. Seems someone in Ottowa's done a bit of the math involved in trading cars around...

"The CAA [Canadian Automobile Association] measured the total annual ownership costs of a $20,000 Chev Cobalt and a $26,000 Chrysler minivan, both driven 18,000 kilometres a year. As you might expect, the minivan costs more to drive, but it's not because of fuel consumption. The Cobalt costs $8,944.50 a year in total. The minivan is about $2,800 more but almost all of that is increased depreciation and financing costs on the more expensive vehicle.

There is a $531 differential in annual fuel costs between the two vehicles. If gasoline went up 10 cents a litre, it would cost the person with the minivan about $50 more a year than the same increase would cost the thrifty Cobalt driver."

[Note -- the Canadian dollar at today's exchange rate is almost exactly equal. I looked it up. THAT's a little alarming!]

Okay -- so the article goes on to talk about luxury. That a manicure probably costs more than a fill up.

[As an aside, I find this a sort of interesting thought. I had a conversation with a manicurist about how that is not necessarily a luxury, but part of the uniform for the modern business woman. Interesting to think what extra are required of women -- where men just sort of show up, don't they; so that if belt tightening is in order, women have more to lose more quickly perhaps... but I digress!]

The author also says that the user of the smaller car saves only about $700 a year. Not enough for me -- good to know in the justifying department.

I do think it's important to note that that is a lot of money for a lot of people. That while I ruminate on my $40,000 car and my day at the spa, $700 is heat, medication or food for a lot of people not very far from me. Don't get me wrong -- the spa is a wonderful thing. Health inducing, calm, good for you. Still, I've been intrigued by the tone of privilege in so many of the stories I've been reading lately. As if WE are talking to US. As if the concepts that we are all in this together is lost...

In art school we were shown a film by my favorite photographer, Robert Frank. Frank and the beat poet Charles Orlovsky filmed themselves talking to Orlovsky's brother -- who was autistic. It's a horrible film, I complained after our viewing. Throughout the course of it, the two men resort to screaming and throwing things at the autistic man, who withdraws further and further into himself. The comment on the film is 'it doesn't matter what we do.' But it does matter -- you can see it over the course of the hour. Furthermore, how do we hurt ourselves by participating in the infliction...

Isn't that the trick -- to do what little thing we can do...

On our nice little Discovery Kids cartoon this weekend, the girl from the future asks the girl from our time, 'where people in your time really always so careless about their energy use.' 'Pretty much,' she says.

Which brings me to the other thought. Isn't that $700 in fuel efficiency important in another way? I have been looking around my house, lately -- thinking of what I can change -- even in the littlest ways. The lights on the machines that stay on when they aren't in use. The radio, the printer, the computer, the cable...

"Remember when gas went over a buck and we all thought it was an outrage? Now, if we see it for $1.16, we grab the bargain. People's sense of what something is worth is often based on historical perception, not intrinsic value, but we adapt fairly quickly."

Well, I think this is a mistake. If we are looking at $7 a gallon, few people fold that kind of hike into their daily budget easily -- few governments...

But still,

is there any way to remember that this is not a conversation about money?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

What I really wanted to write about today was the mothers in Nigeria and Ecuador. I found a story about a mother who died in childbirth because there was no blood in the hospital. But other than that I had a lot of trouble -- it's just a longer search, I think. Or I am impatient to get to cleaning for my mother and x-mother-in-law who are coming over soon. In any event -- here's an article that caught my eye. Not the best ever -- but Happy Mother's Day.

Who most deserves a pay raise?

Reed Markham | Special To The Orlando Sentinel
May 11, 2008

Are you smarter than a fifth-grader? What is your answer to the following multiple-choice question: Who is most deserving of a pay raise in 2008?

A. Oil-company executives

B. The president of the United States

C. Florida mothers

I am sure that oil-company executives, relaxing in their yacht today, voted for A.

They receive huge salaries and perks. The Associated Press reported last month that "Exxon Mobil Corp., whose $40 billion profit last year again broke the record for a U.S. company, gave chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson an 18 percent raise to $21.7 million." Oh, by the way, he also received $429,792 in other compensation, including $229,331 for personal security, $41,122 for personal use of company aircraft, and $9,150 for financial planning.

I am sure that President Bush would vote for B.

When he was elected in 2000, the president's pay was only $200,000 a year. In 2001, his annual salary was increased to $400,000 per year, including a $50,000 expense allowance.

So I believe that the correct answer is C. Florida mothers deserve a huge salary increase. developed a valuation of a "mom job" and determined the time that mothers spend for performing 10 typical job functions. According to, the average mother works 92 hours a week. The study concluded, "The job titles that best matched a mom's definition of her work are (in order of hours spent per week): housekeeper, day-care-center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry-machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO, and psychologist." According to the Web site, the average salary of a stay-at-home mother should be $138,095.

Florida mothers, with great courage and perseverance, go about the business of raising our future Floridians: scientists, teachers, writers, doctors, nurses, political leaders. These great mothers are courageous in the face of tough economic times, figuring out a way to make ends meet while gasoline and food prices skyrocket.

Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents, said this about mothers: "All that I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother."

Thomas Edison observed, "My mother was the making of me. She was so true and so sure of me. I felt that I had someone to live for -- someone I must not disappoint. The memory of my mother will always be a blessing to me."

The author Sterling W. Sill wrote: "We admire the artist who presents man upon the canvas. We applaud the sculptor who carves that same image in the enduring marble, but oh how insignificant are these achievements, though the highest and fairest in all the realms of art, as compared to the great vocation of the human mother. She works not upon canvas that will fade or upon marble that will crumble into dust, but upon mind and spirit that will endure forever and bear throughout eternity the noble impress of a mother's hand."

Florida is fortunate to have so many great mothers. They are the most deserving of a pay raise.

Reed Markham of DeLand is a former speechwriter for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Shipping Vessel

The titles with 'My' in them started at the very beginning of the project -- it was a conversation about responsibility and ownership. If I say "mine" am I then more connected -- more inclined -- more in control and more responsible...

Today I am focusing on an article from last week by Bruce Stanley in the Wall Street Journal:
"Single-Hull Oil Tankers Persist as Global Risk."

"A key factor in the accident was almost certainly the tanker's design. The Hebei Spirit was a single-hull ship, just like the Exxon Valdez, which spilled 11 million gallons of oil when it ran aground off the Alaskan coast in 1989.

Eight of the 12 worst oil spills to occur world-wide since the beginning of 2001 have involved single-hull vessels -- an older ship design that uses a single layer of steel plates instead of the more-protective double layer that has become the new industry standard. As single-hull tankers haul only 18% of the world's crude, the tankers' role in these disasters is even more disproportionate.

Shipping-industry executives and environmentalists say the Hebei Spirit would have leaked less oil, or none at all, had it been double-hull. Now, in the wake of the accident, South Korea's government is speeding up plans to bar single-hull tankers from its waters."

The single hulled boats were banned from coming to port in the US after the Valdez crash. Still, about 6%, the article says, are single hulled. That seems like a lot -- and also like security isn't really doing the right kinds of checking. Those are big oil boats, aren't they signing some log somewhere?

In Asia, the number is four out of five. Four out of five!

It seems to make sense -- the combination of the continent's growth and desire and the wealth and willingness to put others at risks from the point of view of those who have the power -- the oil in their boats. It's hard to eliminate race from the issue -- though race and money are inextricable in any event.

"Perhaps surprisingly, given its experience with the Exxon Valdez, the oil titan that employs more single-hull tankers than any other is Exxon Mobil. Of the 170 VLCCs that Exxon Mobil sent to Asia last year, one-third were single-hull ships, the company says. About 10% of the VLCCs that the company deployed to North America and Europe in 2007 were single hulls."

I'm remembering, too, what Ben Stein said recently in the NY Times. "Exxon is us."

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Father's Subway Stop

There was an amazing piece of art in the Greenpoint subway yesterday morning. My father's stop on the G line...

I love this. I'm not quite convinced of the paper towel imagery -- but I really like the concept and the execution.

The thing about public conversation, though, is that... well... the public gets involved.

Here's a comment from AnnonEMouse

"Why are there such pointless idiots living in Brooklyn? Why? All that's gonna happen is those papertowels are gonna litter the entire platform --or worse be used to clean noses & butts-- and then disposed of on the tracks to create fires just in time for rush hour..."

Pointless idiots. One could say this of all artists, really -- couldn't one? Just littering the streets... filling the world with more pages and pages of waste.
The word idiot is a little contagious...

"What kind of idiot knowingly moves into an area on top of a oil spill?
This wasn't a big secret, tards. We've known about it for years. Thats what happens in a district that used to contain oil refineries." jaja007

I suppose I'm a little defensive. And a little annoyed. Defensive because not everyone chose to live there, of course. In this sentence seems such the clear disposal of the people who lived there before the gentrification -- and still live there. I was amazed at how much polish there was there still -- people still speaking it in the streets and in the stores -- young people, children. Furthermore, the only reason anyone cares at all now is because of the desirable land -- the view of Manhattan -- the proximity to the city.

I was at a poetry reading last night, and out to dinner after I was talking with my friend about one of the poems in the program -- wasn't it tongue in cheek, he said... the poem talked about the misfortunes of a family in poverty in Gloucester Massachusetts. The poem laughed at pregnancy and alcohol and drugs and poverty. I know, I sound like such a stick in the mud. "maybe he lived there," said my friend. Maybe -- but he didn't live there -- live there as in understand and reside.

The obvious exclusion in both of these conversations is the fact of lack of choice and alternative for so many people. And not just the lack of choice -- the way that the people without choice simply disappear in the sentence
as if they didn't exist.

Who moves there? Idiots. Who lives there...

This is what Nassau Avenue (or near) looked like when my father was little.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Oil, Oil Everywhere

Sometimes I just like to put things into Google to see what come out. Today I put in "oil, water, everywhere." The top three hits were old articles, spanning the last several years, from Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. "Oil, Oil Everywhere..."

I've quoted The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner here before, interestingly enough. Months ago I learned that the albatross has got caught up in oil itself, with many species on the verge of extinction...

It seemed like a good time to revisit the stanza in question:

And the Albatross begins to be avenged.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot : O Christ !
That ever this should be !
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night ;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

No Gas Tax Holiday, PLEASE

I was so busy complaining about Thomas Friedman's endless sabbatical that I didn't even notice it ended! And his first column, last week, says exactly what I've been mulling about for weeks. In fact, it's the one thing that actually is beginning to change my mind in the election, despite every attempt to stay uninformed and neutral until the general election.

Here's what he has to say. The rest of the article is great too -- he goes on to talk about how upside down our energy policy is -- that we encourage negative behavior and discourage change and alternatives. It's called Dumb As We Want To Be. Link

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.

When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.

No, no, no, we’ll just get the money by taxing Big Oil, says Mrs. Clinton. Even if you could do that, what a terrible way to spend precious tax dollars — burning it up on the way to the beach rather than on innovation?

The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

Good for Barack Obama for resisting this shameful pandering.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ships of the Desert

It seems that the price of oil is driving up the price of the camel in some parts of the world. Quadrupled in the last three years.

Paul Krugman said it on Saturday in his blog at the Times, quoting an article in the Financial Times from the day before.

There was a pice on Talk of the Nation on NPR a little while ago that spoke with businesses that were doing well because of the changes in the economy. Pawn shops -- hookers ... and camel sellers!

I've been thinking about alternative modes of transportation lately. I can't help but wonder what I will do if it really costs $100 a week to fill up my tank with gas.

photo link

I learned today that camels live to be about 60-80 years-old. That's a long time to serve.
I'm glad to learn that camels will eat their owner's tent if they get hungry enough.

"“It’s very good news,” says Mr Singh, whose organisation aims to dispel the image of backwardness associated with camel ownership and tries to promote higher economic returns for breeders. “We had started to see camels, even female ones, being slaughtered for their meat. Now they are replacing the tractor again.”

It is too soon to say that the future for camels is bright. Shrinking grazing areas and a lack of investment in fodder trees may thwart a sustainable revival. Inadequate nutrition undermines the resilience of camel herds, making them vulnerable to disease and lowering birth rates."

You can try to go back to where you came from, of course. Of course you are always going there with your new self.

"Camel 2005"
photo by Chuck Henderson

The question is how do we sustain ourselves ...
what kind of world do we want for the future and the future or our children.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Fatal In High Concentrations

This morning, in the World section of the Times, is a story about 200 people who protested the building on a petrochemical plant in Pengzhou. "The protest lasted two hours and was peaceful."

"The protesters oppose plans to build an 800,000-ton-a-year ethylene plant and oil refinery because they believe it will seriously pollute Chengdu's air and water, it said. The refinery would process 10 million tons of crude a year, the newspaper said ... Ethylene is a common industrial chemical that can be fatal in high concentrations."

I'm glad it was a peaceful protest. Of course the only source of the article was the government news paper. Still -- a relief.

I have a new fact for my wish list: number of new plants/refineries/explorations being built today around the world.

I spend a lot of time thinking about spills -- about all that is happening because of the state that we are in. But maybe it is even more alarming and telling to focus on how we continue to build our future.

The Times ran a whole series about China -- Choking on Growth, I think it was called. It talked a lot about the pollution and effects of the mass industrialization taking place there.

Another line from todays article struck me.

"Environmental protests have grown in China, especially among members of the growing middle class concerned about the effect of pollution on their quality of life."

This idea that concern for the environment and health -- the idea that it is a luxury...
of course we know that to be true. People in Nigeria, in Ecuador, are drinking water with oil in it because it is the only water they have.

Still, if the lower class is unconcerned because they want to loose what they have , and the upper class is unconcerned because they don't want to loose what they have and the middle class is shrinking in most of the world...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The First Family of Oil

Okay, I admit it. Until I learned it today, I did not know that John D. Rockefeller was the founder of Standard Oil.

The Rockefeller name is synonymous with wealth and power and America. Of course it's oil.

Standard Oil Trust Certificate 1896

On NPR this week, Rockefeller great-grand daughter, Neva Rockefeller Goodwin talked about how many members of the family are wanting to push the company -- now Exxon -- to "go green." Goodwin is an economist and professor at Tufts -- she's pushing for changes in the board and in practice.

"There are some pretty scary things happening in the world," she said. "We worry about corporations who don't seem to get it -- we have a particular interest in this corporation because we are so closely allied with it ... it is a major contributor to the income of our family."

"To some extent we feel responsible ... we feel close to it; we care about it."

Well ... yeah. On the other hand, we are all really close to it. Every one of us.

In Washington, John D. Rockefeller IV, Jay, is also pushing for change...
This from a Thursday press release on his website:

Rockefeller’s legislation to provide temporary, immediate relief is modeled after the successful Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which has helped working families and seniors cope with home heating costs. Rockefeller’s bill would give grants to states to provide checks to people who drive 30 miles a day (or an average of 150 miles a week) for work, education, or scheduled routine health care. Eligible families who meet income guidelines similar to those in LIHEAP (in West Virginia, it’s up to 130% of poverty or $26,845 annual income for a family of four) would receive monthly checks of $100 to $165 to help cover gas costs.


As Rockefeller noted, “These companies are making huge, unconscionable profits off the hard-working people in my state, and it must be stopped.”

Saturday, May 3, 2008

No Comment

''My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East,'' McCain said.

The expected GOP nominee sought to clarify his comments later, after his campaign plane landed in Phoenix. He said he didn't mean the U.S. went to war in Iraq five years ago over oil.

''No, no, I was talking about that we had fought the Gulf War for several reasons,'' McCain told reporters.

One reason was Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, he said. ''But also we didn't want him to have control over the oil, and that part of the world is critical to us because of our dependency on foreign oil, and it's more important than any other part of the world,'' he said.

''If the word `again' was misconstrued, I want us to remove our dependency on foreign oil for national security reasons, and that's all I mean,'' McCain said.

''The Congressional Record is very clear: I said we went to war in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction,'' he said.

AP story in the NY Times

Friday, May 2, 2008


"With an Xbox controller in his hand, Jones hops in a helicopter and heads to Times Square, where he steals a cab — the terrified passenger jumps out — and cruises down to SoHo before getting back in the helicopter and taking a tour of the oil refineries over in Jersey."

"Grand Theft Auto Steals the Show."
Story yesterday on Talk of the Nation.

I'm intrigued by this minor inclusion in mass popular culture. I was reading on another track entirely earlier this morning -- and article in the London Free Press about how the first commercial oil well is having its 150th birthday. They still use old pump equipment. The noise is referred to as a low breathing -- rhythmic, soothing.


OIL SPRINGS -- The oil fields serenade Charlie Fairbank.

From his home, or from anywhere he walks near town, a network of chains rattles, wooden jerker arms groan on their metal hangers, and the pump-jacks squeak as they extract oil from the swampy ground.

They pump at 11 strokes a minute, about the same rate as relaxed breathing.

"They sing," Fairbank says of the endless rhythm. "It's like living by the sea."

From the company website:

The Oil Springs Circle Driving Tour
Oil is an enormous industry spanning the globe. Virtually all trade, travel, agriculture, manufacturing and economies depend on it. The modern oil industry began with a spark in the 1850s and it took off like a brush fire. This fire ignited right here in Oil Springs, Ontario. This incredible tale is told in a whole new way in the Oil Springs Circle Tour. Here you not only see living history, you breathe it too.

It feels to me like oil is the breath in the background for the world right now -- I don't hear it as rhythmic and soothing though -- I hear it wheezing and coughing and with the itch in the chest that comes after an hour without nicotine -- craving more -- wanting more -- romancing the dark world of video violence and consumption...

"Parental Advisory: Your Kids Will Play This Game

Of course, the Grand Theft Auto series is known for letting you beat up cops and have sex with prostitutes than for any kind of emotional maturity.

Then again, it was never intended for children. Many gamers are in their 30s, and every game in the series has come stamped with a "Mature" rating.

Still, GTA IV will find itself in the hands of teens and preteens.

"Pretty much every kid who goes to my school will play Grand Theft Auto, I'm fairly sure," says James Lantz.

Lantz, a senior at Hudson School in Hoboken, N.J., has been playing GTA since he was 11 — and he's psyched for the new one.

Which might alarm some parents. Grand Theft Auto is so associated with the perceived evils of video games that mental-health experts Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson named a book after it: Grand Theft Childhood."

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Another, if less integrated, series of thoughts today. A friend of mine teaches juxtaposition in poetry -- how just by placement we can make more powerful connections than we could linearly or narratively.

First, my daughter's first grade class is raising chicks -- from eggs. I was worried this would mean eggs would come under fire as dinner food (my fall-back when all hell breaks loose) -- luckily not. Yesterday she told us that you have to wash your hands with soap for a really long time before you turn the eggs. The oil on your hands seals the breathing holes in the eggs and the chickens will die. In the darkroom, you can use grease from your nose to seal a small scratch in a negative. Now these two facts have nothing to do with petroleum, but they do speak to the nature of oil...

I came across a t-shirt in Whole Foods yesterday -- it said, "Insatiable is not Sustainable."

Then two articles in the times today. I'm just going to quote them.

OTTAWA — Canadian federal and provincial government officials were conducting an investigation Wednesday into Syncrude Canada, a large oil-sands project operator, after hundreds of migrating ducks that landed in a company tailings pond died.

Water used to separate and process the oil-bearing tar in oil-sands deposits ends up in large ponds and becomes a toxic sludge. Alberta officials said Tuesday that Syncrude had failed to operate noisemakers to frighten away birds. The company also appears not to have notified the province’s government about the birds’ arrival on Monday.

An anonymous tip eventually alerted officials that about 500 birds were in the pond.

by Jim Robbins
“There’s something soothing about hearing a horse whinny and swish her tail,” she said. “You leave on a ride with all the noise in your head and at the end things have quieted down and I have the best way and the most poetic way to write the passage.”

But there is a nearby world that obsesses her, a world she finds unsettling. She and her husband, Charlie Ross, a real-estate broker, recently built a one-room log cabin in Sublette County, more rural and far less rarefied. It offers an expansive, soul-stirring view of the extraordinary Wind River Range and the high plains — but at the same time a window into what she considers Wyoming’s destruction by the development of gas and oil fields.

“I fell in love with Wyoming because it reminded me of Africa,” she said. “It’s beautiful, but a harsh environment and it’s tough to make a living.”
Ms. Fuller has what she calls the good life, Rocky Mountain style.


“It’s all been leased,” she said. “It’s all slated for oil and gas development.”

Later we drove past the tiny town of Pinedale, and across public land, where towering steel oil derricks flying American flags slice into the blue sky and a natural landscape once full of antelope, jackrabbits and sagebrush is now a vast industrial landscape. White pickup trucks raise clouds of dust and fierce winds blow tumbleweeds across prairie scraped to bare dirt by bulldozers.

Biologists say that this development could destroy the antelope migration from outside Pinedale to Yellowstone National Park, hundreds of miles north, now the longest overland mammal migration in the Lower 48.


She was born into white Rhodesia and came of age during the war for independence by the black majority, who renamed it Zimbabwe. By the age of 6, she said, she had learned how to use an Uzi submachine gun and knew the basics of first aid. She suffered the ordeal of her baby sister drowning, an older brother who died of meningitis and another who died in infancy; she says the cause of death was being born in Africa.

Now she considers herself a messenger who must bear witness to what she sees as the war on the land, with its natural and human casualties.

“I travel between these worlds. I couldn’t leave the oil field behind when I came home to Teton County,” she said. It has been hard, Ms. Fuller allows, to tell her friends about the other Wyoming. “I can’t talk about my childhood, I can’t talk about the war, and its hard to talk about what’s going on in the oil field. That’s why I wrote the book.”