Monday, August 18, 2008

Putin Pushes For Arctic Oil

The New York Times reported yesterday that Vlad Putin, the guy into whose soul (assuming either has one) Dubya said he famously looked some time ago (or "got a sense of"; whatever), is in hot pursuit of crude likely to be found in the frozen north…

A growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters even as climate change and high energy prices have triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration in the thawing region.

The National Academy of Sciences, the Coast Guard and others have warned over the past several years that the United States’ two 30-year-old heavy icebreakers, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, and one smaller ice-breaking ship devoted mainly to science, the Healy, are grossly inadequate. Also, the Polar Star is out of service.

And this spring, the leaders of the Pentagon’s Pacific Command, Northern Command and Transportation Command strongly recommended in a letter that the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorse a push by the Coast Guard to increase the country’s ability to gain access to and control its Arctic waters.

In the meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large oceangoing icebreakers to around 14, launching a large conventional icebreaker in May and, last year, the world’s largest icebreaker, named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships.
Funny, but with all of the right-wing yammering at the Dems for not wanting to “drill, drill, drill” at every turn, I don’t hear any of that being thrown back at Dubya for being delinquent on the matter of drilling in the Arctic (and by the way, Pelosi is hedging somewhat on the offshore drilling issue, wrongly I think).

You see, unlike us, Vlad and his pals have foreseen the opportunity presented by the climate crisis and acted with speed to capitalize on it. And part of that is Russian ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), a matter about which I posted here, another moment at which Putin moved to capitalize on our indecisiveness while we, as usual, failed to do anything since we were stuck in yet another exercise of finger-pointing due primarily to right-wing blathering.

And speaking of the price of gas, I should note that, at the Shell station in my neighborhood, the price of regular is about $3.79 a gallon (that tends to be high, and I’m sure I could get it for a few cents cheaper if travel closer to Philadelphia). But even through the price is dipping slightly, you’ll still hear the Repugs blame the Democrats anyway.

And that is for at least two main reasons: 1) The price of gas has very little to do with political considerations either way, but much more to do with the laws of supply and demand, to say nothing of market manipulation by Big Oil – gas always starts to go up in the spring and starts to come down near the end of summer, and 2) The Repugs care much more about playing a game of political one-upsmanship in search of a wedge issue than they ever will about this country’s efforts towards the goal of energy self-sufficiency.

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