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As some things change, most things stay the same.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 7, 2001


It is no secret that I believe American involvement in Middle Eastern politics, including our current war on terrorism, is directly related to oil and the survival of the oil industry. And I doubt this will change in the foreseeable future. With planes dropping like bombs on New York, and planes dropping bombs on Kabul, it safe to say we are fighting the same tired battle, pitting humans against humans, and humans against the environment. Sadly, change has never been more needed.

Watching the carpet bombings of Afghanistan it's hard to believe we pretend to be an enlightened society. The news media talks insistently about everything except America's role in the chaos. A classic case of "wagging the dog," it's obvious that there is more to the picture than violent Islamic fundamentalists. Bombing the heaven out of Afghanistan has nothing to do with getting bin Laden, and everything to do with opening up the oil fields of Kazakhstan to the world market.

Saudi Arabia, currently the world's largest oil producer, has 30 billions barrels to sale before they bleed their resources dry. Geologists estimate 50 billion barrels of oil sit beneath the steppes of Kazakhstan, offering the largest untapped reserve of oil in the world. Unical, the multi national oil conglomerate is planning to build a pipe line extending from Turkmenistan to the Kazakhstan oil fields, and then to the Pakistani port of Karachi on the Arabian Sea. There is only one small hitch, for the project to be profitable for American interests, it must pass through Afghanistan. Oops!

In 1994 the United States and Pakistan decided to install a stable regime that would end the Afghani civil war and ensure the safety of the Unocal pipeline project. Impressed by the ruthlessness and willingness of the Taliban to cut a pipeline deal, the U.S. State Department and Pakistan's ISI intelligence service agreed to funnel arms and funding to the Taliban. Where have we seen this before? Saddam Hussein is just one example of the wicker men our government constructs only to burn down, with ample fanfare and just the right amount of righteous indignation. Osama bin Laden is the latest propaganda puppet used to fuel public opinion.

If I seem obsessed with the role big oil plays in undermining human rights and planetary health, it is only because I am. Nothing irritates me more than being lied to, and lies of omission are lies just the same. Doing one thing while pretending another has always been a major part of American policy. The reason America is considered to be the "Great Satan" is not because we possess mountains of planet killing wealth, but because we refuse to recognize the corporate corruption masquerading as diplomacy.

If we are to be free of the toxic entanglements that accompany our unrelenting appetite for oil, American industry and consumers must radically alter their world view to allow ecological wisdom to drive both domestic and foreign policy. By seeking alternative ways to power industry and industriousness, travel and transportation, consumers can do their part bringing about an end to the violence associated with maintaining access to Arabian oil.

But fear not, a reason for hope has just surfaced in Detroit. Last week the Ford Motor Company forcibly retired their capitalist in chief, replacing Jacques Nasser with the environmentally motivated William Clay Ford Jr. Seen by many in the environmental movement as a corporate leader with the potential to shepherd Ford and other multinational corporations into a future of ecological sustainability, the great grandson of Henry Ford could easily change the world.

My new found optimism lies in the fact that William Clay Ford Jr. has predicted the days of the internal combustion engine are coming to a close, and that fuel cells could be the predominant power source in 25 years. Not only is this good for the planetary health, it is also good for North County as Ford engineers are in Carlsbad, working on the task of bringing fuel cell technologies to the commuting consumer. Not that it matters where the work is done as long as it is done before the war over oil consumes us all.

The main reason I am so buoyed by Ford's shift in leadership, is because the new CEO is a proven advocate of wetland restoration, whose commitment was evidenced last year by gifting the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy with funds to acquire rare and endangered coastal habitat. Things may be changing at a snails pace, but at least they're changing. And we will be the better for it.

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