viernes, octubre 31, 2008

The Future of Petroleum

The Future of Petroleum
With an unpredictable Middle East, Venezuela becomes a wise alternative

Alfredo Ascanio (askain)
Published 2008-11-01 14:47 (KST)

Edited by Carlos Arturo Serrano

The first oil concessionaries in the Middle East were not British, American, French or Dutch, but Armenian and Tartar. A hundred years ago, they drilled the great fields beneath the western shores of the Caspian Sea, and in bringing it to the surface turned the scrublands of Azerbaijan into a black desert, polluted the rivers and the sea, exploited and degraded their workers, and sowed the seeds of the Russian Revolution, according to British journalist Leonard Mosley.

Then in the 1870s the first steam drills were brought into the Caucasus, the same kind as those which were transforming the American oil industry and making John D. Rockefeller a multimillionaire. The Baku area turned into a place of tragic deaths and extravagant millionaires, like the tycoon Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian.
  • CG
  • He became powerful in the oil business, and one of the richest men in the world. It was an era of monopoly and exploitation by a few ambitious men.

    According to Dr. S. E. Subroto, the reserves of OPEC member countries are the largest in the world, nearly 84 percent of the total proved reserves of approximately 910 billion barrels. On the other hand, the World Energy Council has predicted that the world oil demand shall double before the year 2020.

    Today there are evidently two major geographical areas with enough reserves to cover the demand of a world increasingly thirsty for energy, as long as proper investments are made to develop their productive potential. These two areas are the Persian Gulf and Venezuela.

    In the Persian Gulf, Islamic fundamentalism has had profound consequences. Its religious leaders consider that Islam faces the serious threat of contamination by Western ideas. Sunnite and Shiite scholars, historic enemies, now agree that pro-Western rulers have taken the Muslim world to a state of apostasy and barbarism (jahiliyyah). Thus religion, nationalism, politics and petroleum constitute the most explosive mix in the world. To create a conflict of terrifying proportions, suffice it to combine these ingredients and shake slightly.
  • JAH

  • During the past half century we have witnessed seven major crisis: World War II, the Suez Canal crisis, the Libyan crisis, the Arab oil embargo, the fall of the Iranian Shah, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In view of the chaotic mosaic of uncertainties surrounding the Persian Gulf, Venezuela stands out as the most evident alternative capable of contributing to meet the growing energy demands of the US at least for the next 75 years, during which oil reserves can be replaced by other energy sources, such as solar and wind.

    Let us review the possibilities open to Venezuela, as long as the country adopts coherent policies to take the fullest advantage of its oil reserves. Venezuela has conservatively estimated the amount of its "proved" reserves in around 65 billion barrels. These would theoretically last about 75 years, but efforts are primarily focused on the large petroleum fields known as the Orinoco Belt, estimated to contain over 1.3 trillion barrels of oil "in situ," and if this extra-heavy crude oil becomes economically exploitable, the proved reserves in these petroleum fields exceed 270 billion barrels.

    In sum, the Venezuelan energy potential consists of the following: 65 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, 50 billion barrels of probable and possible reserves of light oil, 20 billion equivalent barrels of oil in proved natural gas reserves, and 270 billion barrels of proved extra-heavy oil in the Orinoco Belt.

    So diplomatic negotiation between the US and Venezuela on the subject of petroleum is clearly a fundamental matter of policy. In this regard, the following is the testimony by General R. Knowles: the US international trade deficit attributable to imported petroleum was in excess of $35 billion in 1988, and estimates for the year 2000 surpass the $200 billion figure. According to him, "if we must increase our oil imports, it would seem prudent, insofar as possible, to do so from our neighbors of the Western hemisphere (Canada, Mexico and Venezuela)".

    Alfredo Ascanio is a professor of economics at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela.

    Un Diario para personas que no ven bien

    El Diario La Nación de Buenos Aires cuenta con un sitio especialmente desarrollado y diseñado para personas con dificultades visuales. Es primer periódico que brinda este servicio. La tipografía es 40% más grande ( o sea que se puede leer en tamaño mediano o grande; y además usted puede usara los lectores de pantalla o sea con sonido de voz (usando Home Page Reader de IBM).

    En TIME : la historia de la mamá de OBAMA

    En la revista TIME aparece la historia completa de la mamá de Obama.

    miércoles, octubre 29, 2008

    Obama: The New Apollo project

    Obama: The New Apollo Project
    An energy initiative that Albert Einstein would have approved
    Alfredo Ascanio (askain)
    Published 2008-10-29 15:28 (KST)

    About 50 years ago Fairfield Osborn wrote a book called "Our Plundered Planet" and Albert Einstein said about this book: "Reading it one feels very keenly how futile most of our political quarrels are compared with the base realities of life."

    Osborn noted with emphasis that: "The tide of the earth's population is rising; the reservoir of the earth's living resources is falling. There is only one solution: Man must recognize the necessity of cooperation with nature."

    Today, during the presidential campaign, the project, which some have dubbed "Apollo," is set to cooperate with nature and promote renewable energy alternatives.

    First off, decreasing the reliance on oil -- both foreign and domestic -- could start to redirect some of the money than the US spends every year.

    With the election a week away, and most critical state polls heavily favoring the democratic candidate, let's use Barack Obama's alternative energy plan as a springboard.

    Obama's plan is indeed an Apollo project for alternative energy. A sound project that would be enthusiastically approved of by Albert Einstein if he were alive.

    Here's what Time Magazine (Election '08) had to say about his plan in relation to the current economic problems:
    "He wants to launch an 'Apollo project' to build a new alternative-energy economy. His rationale for doing so includes some hard truths about the current economic mess: 'The engine of economic growth for the past 20 years is not going to be there for the next 20. That was consumer spending. Basically, we turbocharged this economy based on cheap credit.' But the days of easy credit are over, Obama said, 'because there is too much deleveraging taking place, too much debt.' A new economic turbocharger is going to have to be found, and "there is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy ... That's going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office."

    So what exactly would an Apollo Project for energy look like?

    According to the Apollo Alliance, which Obama supports, a rigorous program channeling $500 billion over 10 years to alternative energy projects is needed. That is about one-third of current spending in Iraq, and roughly half of what was just lent by the federal government to insurance giant AIG. That money would be dedicated to:

    Generate clean power (25 percent from renewable sources by 2025)
    Improve energy conservation and efficiency
    Cut energy bills
    Improve US technological and industrial capabilities
    Create 5 million green jobs

    Alfredo Ascanio is a professor of economics at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela
  • martes, octubre 28, 2008

    Economic Crisis, Poverty and New Capitalism

    Economic Crisis, Poverty and New Capitalism
    [Analysis] A major challenge for a new president
    Alfredo Ascanio (askain)
    Published 2008-10-28 10:16 (KST)

    Edited by John Boland
    Editor's Note

    The stereotyped images of poor people are frequently inconsistent with the facts. A concentration on the characteristics of the poor can, however, leave the inaccurate impression that these characteristics are the cause of poverty.

    Most of the causes of poverty lie in the social and economic system as a whole - and not in the characteristics of the poor. Furthermore, an economy or a society with a dominant majority of non-poor persons and a minority of poor people has special characteristics - which are not perceived when one focuses only on the poor. Such economies in general, and the US economy in particular, exhibits a fundamental duality (dual labor market, dual welfare system, dual housing system, and others).

    Such economies adjust to the needs and behavior of the non-poor majority - with subtle but harmful consequences for the poor.

    It is common to define poverty as an insufficiency of means relative to needs, or as a condition of "moneylessness" and also powerlessness (in the sense of freedom and the ability to make choices). In short, "moneylessness" and economic vulnerability are forms of powerlessness.

    Government data gives some idea of whom the poor are in the US and the average poverty lines. Records in 1972 indicate that only 9 percent of the white population was classed as poor, whereas almost 32 percent of the non-white population was.

    Let us turn now to the dual economy. The US possesses not an underdeveloped economy but rather a dual economy.

    The most salient characteristic of the dual economy is that it adjusts to and accommodates the state of development of the larger, dominant, non-poor element, to the absolute as well as the relative disadvantage of the poor. The abolition of poverty would require, in effect, removing the bottom "tail" of the income distribution.

    The vicious circles of poverty are a special case of cycles of cumulative causation. Unemployment, health and nutrition problems, family disorganization, promiscuity, crime, violence. The causal chain is complex and has important implications for anti-poverty policy (preventative and curative policies). The term welfare system implies not merely programs to transfer money to the poor or to other groups within society. It includes all social devices for income protection and maintenance.

    Poor people must live with a consumption technology, an educational system, and a price structure designed to serve the non-poor.

    There is a dual labor market, dual welfare system, dual housing system, and dual health care system. This dual approach is harmful because the separate program for the poor has helped to foster a mutual hostility between the poor and non-poor. It is hard to believe that much progress can be made against poverty in America while this separation and hostility persist, according to A Dale Tussing - Professor of Economics at Syracuse University.

    These days of housing crisis and financial crisis has provoked some into giving thought to the idea of looking for another type of capitalism. Perhaps a more humane capitalism requires changing the dual economy. However it will prove a major challenge to change an economic system rooted in the American psyche for many years - even since the arrival of English colonists. However, this problem will be significant for the new US President.

    Anything that obscures the fundamental moral nature of the social problems is harmful. Any doctrine that eliminates or even obscures the function of choice of values and enlistment of desires and emotions in behalf of those chosen weakens personal responsibility for judgment and for action, according to John Dewey.

    It is not the first time to confront a crisis is considering solutions. In the closing years of the 1960's, the Report of the Commission International Development presents a comprehensive analysis to achieve a full-scale treatment of that development in coming decades: The problems, the policies, the potential and impact. Partners in Development, stands as a turning point in the relations between rich and poor nations.

    When Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States, he said: "I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I'm obliged to do all that I can.

    I run to seek new policies - policies to end the bloodshed in Vietnam and in our cities, policies to close the gaps that now exist between black and white, between rich and poor, between young and old, in this country and around the rest of the world."

    Robert F. Kennedy was brave enough to introduce his electorate to new issues: youth people, the slums and the community, the alliance for progress, Peace Corps volunteers, nuclear control, policy toward China, and the issue of Vietnam.

    Although today the context is different some of these issues can be studied again, and perhaps adapted to new circumstances as elements of the issues raised by Kennedy still linger today. Today we can add the financial crisis and housing crisis in the US.

    One solution to the problems of poverty, economic insecurity, poor distribution of welfare, hierarchical controls, must take into account the primary purpose of human beings. We desire and should display dignity, respect, love, affection, friendship and solidarity because if people lack these then the people cannot be free - according to Robert Dahl and Charles Lindblom of Yale University.

    In America, well-planned and well-coordinated egalitarian reforms at the same time, from a national point of view, are the most profitable investment that can be made, even though their gestation period might be considerable.

    Any attempt to create an integrated nation with extensive participation by the people assumes the need for more widespread educational reform. The more recent contribution by some economists, who has raised education as an important issue in development, was to give priority to investment in ourselves i.e. man itself.

    There is a distinction between growth and development. It is maintained that GNP measures only growth of production, while development represents another and wider category. It is true that development must be conceived of as more than the increase in production because this concept has to do also with standard of living, institutions, attitudes, and policies.

    The fact is that the GNP concept does not take into account distribution and the inter-relationship between production and distribution. Social reforms can have the character of "investments", leading not only to greater justice, but also to higher production. Such investments often require considerable time before maturing in the shape of returns. The reforms are absolutely necessary if the US is not going to face a grave threat to its stability as an orderly and progressive democracy.

    The cost of these social reforms represent a "debt to the poor" in the United States, which must be amortized and, in the end, fully paid.

    Finally, price formation in markets is biased and does not give the "right" signals to business concerns or to individual consumers. Consumption, production, technology, and resource allocation expand in directions and with a speed that result in depletion and pollution; thus looking for new sources of renewable energy (sun, wind) will be an additional consideration for a new US President looking to achieve a cleaner environment and combat global warming.

    Alfredo Ascanio is a professor of economics at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela.

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