Activists Confront Keystone XL Threat

May17AuburnWA03I recently joined hundreds of other activists on a video chat hosted by 350.org to discuss recent developments in the saga of the hotly debated and much delayed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. As you probably know by now, TransCanada wants to build the KXL pipeline to transport diluted bitumen (dilbit) from the tar sands of northern Alberta across the US Midwest heartland to the Gulf Coast for sale on the global oil market. TransCanada needs approval from the US State Department and President Obama to construct a pipeline across the US/Canada border. The approval process has been stalled for years due to persistent grassroots opposition and in recent months held up due to a lawsuit brought by landowners in Nebraska who successfully argued in lower courts that the planned route of the pipeline was illegally drawn and granted the builders improper use of eminent domain. While waiting for the Nebraska Supreme Court to decide whether to uphold the lower court’s decision, the permit for the pipeline’s path through South Dakota expired leaving the oil giant facing the dilemma of having no legal route for the pipeline while oil prices on the global market are plummeting cutting into their profit margin for a product that is the most expensive (and filthiest) fossil fuel to extract, transport and refine.

The most recent bit of political drama in this ongoing saga was played out in the lame duck Congress when Mary Landrieu, the embattled Democratic Senator from Louisiana, bet the catfish farm on a Hail Mary attempt to pass a bill that would have approved construction of the Keystone pipeline. The bill was defeated by a razor-thin margin of one vote, and Landrieu lost her seat in a December run-off to Republican challenger Bill Cassidy. 350.org credits this victory to citizen activists who made phone calls to fence-sitting senators as well as Occupy-style sit-ins at the offices of Senators Tom Carper of Delaware and Michael Bennet of Colorado at which 350 DC activists were arrested.

KleebOrganizer for 350.org Duncan Meisel introduced Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska. Kleeb informed listeners that the Nebraska Supreme Court decision could come soon, and expressed the belief that whatever the Court decides, the outcome will be bad for TransCanada. If the lower court decision is upheld, there is no legal route for the pipeline through Nebraska, but even if they strike down the lower court, the lawsuit has shone a light on risks to the environment that reveal shortcomings and omissions in the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement which could solidify grassroots opposition and give Obama some political cover for a decision to reject the pipeline. One other possibility is that the Supreme Court could decide that the landowners do not have standing as plaintiffs and that could cause more delays and uncertainly in a legal process that has already held up the pipeline for several months. Kleeb is encouraged that President Obama has recently stated that building the pipeline poses catastrophic environmental risks while offering few jobs or other economic benefit and takes these statements as an indication that the President is poised to reject the pipeline outright if it lands on his desk, as seems likely to happen in the near future.

GoodtoothNext to speak was Dallas Goldtooth, Keystone XL Campaigner at the Indigenous Environmental Network. He described the situation in South Dakota where indigenous Lakota, Dakota and Sioux have strong legal and moral standing in opposing the re-permitting of the pipeline route through their lands. A hearing on January 6, 2015 could see TransCanada’s appeal to extend the permit dismissed on the grounds that the tribes were not properly consulted in the permitting process, a right that is established in federal law and the importance of which was recently cited in a speech by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. If the permit is not extended, a lengthy new feasibility study would be required, giving both native and non-native landowners the opportunity to make their voices and opposition to the tar sands projects heard. Goldtooth and Meisel stressed that tar sands extraction is a vicious process that lays waste to pristine boreal wilderness, endangers wildlife, and is also destructive to human health and society as well. The increase in violence against women near the “man camps” similar projects have already created is a serious problem that bears consideration in the approval process.

Sara Shor, 350.org Keystone XL Campaign Manager, pointed out that Mitch McConnell, who will be Senate Majority Leader in 2015, has pledged to bring up another vote to approve the Keystone XL. We can expect such a bill to be tied to must-pass legislation in the manner seen with partisan give-away riders that were attached to the so-called CRomnibus bill in early December. Any such action, in addition to events unfolding in Nebraska and South Dakota, could trigger calls for activists to participate in anti-KXL actions all across the country and at very short notice. The NoKXL Pledge of Resistance, for instance, is prepared to engage in broadly distributed acts of civil disobedience as soon as the decision lands on the President’s desk. Asked what would happen if, despite all the efforts to oppose the Keystone XL, President Obama does approve the pipeline, Shor replied, “All hell will break loose. This pipeline is not getting built.”

Emboldened by the success of efforts to defeat Mary Landrieu’s last minute legislative maneuvers, opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline such as 350.org and their allies are confident that they have the know-how to handle whatever is thrown at them in the next 2 to 3 months, and they are calling on like-minded folks to join them and build their capacity for effective grassroots action. Visit any of the following websites for more information and to offer your support.

350.org – Stop Keystone XL Team: http://350.org/kxlteam

 

Bold Nebraska: http://boldnebraska.org

 

Indigenous Environmental Network: http://nokxldakota.org

 

NoKXL Pledge of Resistance: http://nokxl.org

Al Gore Praises Inslee's Climate Plan

At the Seattle Westin today, Al Gore spoke to a full banquet room at a fundraiser for Jay Inslee. Gore offered praise for the Washington Governor’s much vaunted plan to combat global warming. Inslee has proposed putting a price on carbon, improving public transportation, encouraging energy efficiency, and increasing use of solar power and electric cars. It remains to be seen how much of this agenda can come to fruition with Republicans still in control of the State Senate.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that taking a strong stand on addressing the climate crisis has now become an effective campaign fundraising technique. Not so long ago, such a topic would have earned barely a mention from an elected official with such a high profile as Inslee. Gore, author of An Inconvenient Truth, Earth in the Balance, and other books calling for action to address climate change as well as founder of The Climate Reality Project, called Washington’s Governor the best of all U.S. governors on this critically important issue.

While giving a nod to the importance of fully funding education as mandated by the McCleary decision, Inslee spoke at length about his plans to find “market-driven” solutions to the problem of reducing carbon emissions, telling the crowd of likely Democratic donors the importance of seeing the current crisis as not just a danger to be averted but as an opportunity for Washington State to lead the nation and the world in 21st Century green energy technologies, drawing on our State’s history as a leader in the aerospace and software industries. Gore recited a familiar litany of dire predictions of climate chaos, but he also pivoted to a more hopeful message: the cost of clean energy technologies is dropping at rates much faster than predicted just five years ago. When the former Vice President spoke of the lower cost and higher efficiency of solar panels, a couple at my table who had recently installed solar panels on their home gave each other a quiet high-five. (They also told me that homeowners buying solar panels from a Washington State based company can look to having the cost recouped in the form of lower power bills in no more than five years.)

p4pBut while Gore and Inslee were inspirational, the star of the day was 9 year-old Abby Snodgrass, a member of Plant for the Planet, who has taken it upon herself to help in the effort to plant “a thousand billion trees”. She believes children planting one million trees in every country on earth could offset CO2 emissions all on their own, while adults are still talking about doing it. Each tree binds a CO2 intake of 10 kg per year. Abby called on all the adults to follow her example and choose not to be a bystander just because the climate problem seems too big to solve. Abby is right. The message of the day is that we will never solve the problem of global warming by doing nothing. The scope of the problem requires all of us to work together. The plan put forward by Governor Inslee won’t solve the problem by itself, but like Abby planting dozens of trees, it’s a meaningful step in the right direction.

We're All Responsible for Climate Change

Every one of us in the Western world has contributed to climate change. – Bill McKibben, American environmentalist, author, and journalist

Recently, I organized a couple of events with the goal of showing people how their choices and actions can make a real difference in the effort to end our dependence on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. I hosted a movie about the Koch brothers at the Auburn library. Less than a week later, I went to Les Gove Park with a petition to the CEO of our regional power company urging them to stop using coal and to move us decisively in the direction of clean energy.

Charles and David Koch are heavily invested in fossil fuels. They own 1.1 million acres of land in Alberta, land that could be exploited for the extraction of tar sands bitumen, the dirtiest fossil fuel known. The Koch brothers would profit enormously from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and through such front groups as Americans for Prosperity, they spread lies and propaganda across the American heartland, promising lower gasoline prices and more jobs from this environmentally destructive project. The truth is, of course, that the jobs created would be few and temporary and the pipeline would pump more foreign oil onto the world market with the possibility of an upward effect on Midwestern gasoline prices where there is already a glut of domestic Bakken crude.

I am involved with the NoKXL Pledge of Resistance, a group dedicated to opposing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The pipeline has been delayed again and again over the last 5 years by the concerted efforts of groups like ours employing tactics ranging from email petitions to civil disobedience. Today the KXL pipeline has no legal route through either Nebraska (where the route has been challenged in a lawsuit) or South Dakota (where the permit has expired due to delays). These successful efforts show how regular people working together can oppose and win against extremes of wealth and entrenched political power.

Here in the Northwest, we face increasing train traffic as fossil fuel companies try to get land-locked deposits of coal and oil to markets in Asia. Burning coal anywhere in the world releases carbon into the atmosphere, carbon that was captured and placed into long-term storage millennia ago by natural processes. Rapidly undoing the work that took nature millions of years in just a few decades has resulted in a completely unprecedented and unnatural spike in global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. NOAA_DataCO2 is a greenhouse gas that traps the energy of the sun, warming the oceans, and changing the pattern of our climate so that now sudden and violent storms are becoming the norm. Storms and floods in one part of the world translate to intense heat and drought in others. Both extremes threaten agriculture, putting the global food supply at risk, at the same time human population is growing at an unsustainable rate.

Some of the damage and suffering caused by anthropogenic climate change cannot be prevented. But we can make changes in our daily lives that will make a difference and turn us as a society onto more sustainable paths. It’s that sense of urgency that got me out of my house to host these gatherings. I must have spoken to a couple of hundred people in just the past couple of weeks. Many are not ready for the change, but others are, and I take hope from that willingness to see that up to now, we in the Northwest have been lucky to escape the worst depredations of the climate crisis, but that does not lessen our responsibility to be a part of the solution, and to begin making our voices heard in the global effort to bring about an end to the era of unlimited burning of fossil fuels.

So what can we do? First, stop buying products made by Koch Industries. Vote with your dollars and your feet. If your bank funds mountain-top removal coal mining, take your money to a local credit union. If your investment company sells funds including stocks from companies like Exxon and Monsanto, find another broker who sells a greener, socially responsible fund. If your university or church has investments, urge them to divest from fossil fuels. Buy a more fuel efficient car, insulate and weatherize your home, plant a tree (plant ten trees!) and above all, when you have the opportunity to make a public comment on civic projects to build infrastructure for fossil fuel exports, make your voice heard loud and clear: No Coal Trains and No Exploding Oil Trains should be allowed passage through the Great Northwest.

While at the park on the 4th of July, gathering signatures for the Sierra Club petition, I saw older, uninterested passersby, parents with teens or young adult kids, move past our booth as quickly as possible. But it was the young people with them who hung back, saying, “Sure, I’ll sign” or “Tell me more.” That young people get this, more than anything else, gives me hope for the future. Sometimes the older folks would look at me askance and say, “I don’t buy all this liberal crap. I’m a conservative.” Well, I’d say, “SO AM I. I think we have a really great planet here, and since there aren’t any other nice planets in this general vicinity, I’d really like to keep THIS ONE in good operating order, thank you very much. Now that’s what I call conserving your resources!”

I did meet a smart young man who took issue with our petition to get Puget Sound Energy to stop buying power from coal-fired plants in Montana. He denied that climate change was even happening, much less that it is caused by humans. He claimed that solar and wind are not able to supply our power needs, and that we have to keep using fossil fuels because the industry employs so many people. We showed him evidence that investing money in building solar arrays or wind farms creates more jobs than investing similar amounts of money into extracting fossil fuels. We talked about the fact that companies externalize the costs of cleaning up pollution and treating human illnesses directly caused by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. I explained to him that the US has a policy of underselling coal leases on public lands, creating a hidden subsidy to coal companies, paid for by the American taxpayer, without their knowledge or consent, and that when the cost of coal includes fair prices for leasing public lands AND the cost to repair damage to the environment and public health, coal won’t be economically competitive with renewable forms of energy. On top of that, wind and solar ARE ready and able to supply the planet’s needs. Germany has seen days where as much as 75% of its power comes from solar generation. We can, too.

I don’t think I convinced the young man; but maybe I opened a crack of light into the dark bubble he’s living in. For the sake of his kids, I hope so.

 

–Originally published in the Auburn Reporter, July 25, 2014

Paul Cienfuegos on Community Rights Ordinances

Five minutes and 20 seconds. Grab a cup of coffee and give Paul a listen.

Paul and I agree on a lot of things, but we both start from the point that single issue activism is not going to get the work done.

Paul is a Evergreen State College (TESC) alum, here is Paul’s website. He has done trainings in Olympia and Shelton on community rights and helped Salish Sea activists shut down the biomass projects a couple of years ago.

We're Not in Kansas Anymore.

Hey, Toto.

2 big blizzards in a couple of weeks. One of the complications of global warming is that the warmed atmosphere holds more water vapor and guess what? More water vapor means heavier snowfalls. Thanks to KansasCity.com

I scanned this piece quickly and did not see any mention of global warming or climate change.

Same thing last week in the mainstream coverage of the snowstorm. Is it irresponsible not to give readers the background information?

Last week was Storm Q (I like the Blizzard of Oz name better). This week is Storm R.

I did spot some coverage that referenced the fact that the last 100 year snowstorm was two years ago when I was scanning the news for mainstream connections to the largest global story – global warming, but I think that coverage did not mention global warming either.

Here is what Yahoo News is running on the second storm in two weeks:

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Blizzard conditions slammed parts of the central Plains Monday, forcing the closure of highways in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and sending public works crews scrambling for salt and sand anew just days after a massive storm blanketed the region with snow.

National Weather Service officials in Kansas and Oklahoma issued blizzard warnings and watches through late Monday as the storm packing snow and high winds tracked eastward across West Texas toward Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. Forecasters also warned of possible tornadoes further southeast.

Snow covered Amarillo, Texas, where forecasters said up to 18 inches could fall, accompanied by wind gusts up to 65 mph. Paul Braun, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transport, said whiteout conditions and drifting snow had made all roads in the Texas Panhandle impassable. Interstate 40 was closed from Amarillo to the Oklahoma state line.

Want to read the whole story? Go ahead. Please let me know if they mention global warming.

Extreme Weather Events! Get used to them.

Lots of news coverage of Frankenstorm, but not much mention of the role that our carbon economy plays in the production of this storm.

Hey, mainstream media, can you say Global Warming?

Here is what Joe Romm has to say about Hurricane Sandy:

Why Hurricane Sandy Has Morphed into a ‘Frankenstorm’ — And Why We Should Get Used to Catastrophic Weather

Here’s how manmade carbon pollution is making many of the most destructive kinds of extreme weather events — Frankenstorms — more frequent and more intense.

October 28, 2012 |

 

 

 

This GOES-13 satellite image provided by the US Naval Research Laboratory shows the eye of Hurricane Sandy it churns just off the eastern coast of the US.
Photo Credit: AFP

 

 

 

 

What would you call an “ unprecedented and bizarre “ storm that is:

  • The “largest hurricane in Atlantic history measured by diameter of gale force winds (1,040mi)” [ Capital Weather Gang ]
  • “A Storm Like No Other” [National Weather Service via AP]. NWS: “I cannot recall ever seeing model forecasts of such an expansive areal wind field with values so high for so long a time. We are breaking new ground here.”
  • “Transitioning from a warm-core (ocean-powered) hurricane into an extra-tropical low pressure system, a classic Nor’easter, fed by powerful temperature extremes and swirling jet stream winds aloft to amplify and focus the storm’s fury” [meteorologist Paul Douglas ]
  • Being fueled in part by “ocean temperatures along the Northeast U.S. coast [] about 5°F above average,” so “there will be an unusually large amount of water vapor available to make heavy rain” [former Hurricane Hunter Jeff Masters ]
  • Also being driven by a high pressure blocking pattern near Greenland “forecast to be three standard deviations from the average” [ Climate Central and CWG]
  • “Stitched together from some spooky combination of the natural and the unnatural.” [ Bill McKibben ]

Read the whole thing? Good idea. Alternet is carrying the story, but Joe Romm sets up shop at Climate Progress.

Global Warming – are we going to wake up and smell the carbon dioxide?

Big deal. Slow moving disaster. We can see it coming, like a slow moving avalanche, but we don’t appear to have the capacity to respond to slow moving disaster.

McKibben has some thoughts on the situation:

Ocean Report

A couple of items on things oceanic came to my attention this week.

NYT had a story on collapse of the cod fishery:

The Shocking News About Cod

The ideal fish for human consumption would mature quickly and reproduce in staggering numbers.

Courtesy Wiki Commons NOAA

This does not describe the Atlantic cod. Cod mature late — at 4 to 6 years old — and they can live as long as 25 years. Female cod do, in fact, produce astonishing numbers of eggs. But older cod lay two or three times as many eggs as younger cod. This means that a healthy cod population must include relatively large numbers of older fish.

A recent survey of cod catches in Northern Europe shows exactly the opposite. Extrapolating from survey numbers, scientists at a British government fisheries agency estimate that there are nearly 200 million 1-year-old cod in the North Sea but only 18 million 3-year-olds. As for older cod, the numbers are shocking. The survey team estimates that in 2011 there were only 600 12- to 13-year-old cod, a third of which were caught, and not a single fish older than 13 has been caught in the past year.

Read the whole article? Important stuff.

Paul Pickett in Oly shared this new NOAA app that shows sea level rise and coastal impacts. We have been talking in Oly about actions by the Washington State Department of Ecology. DOE has blocked a shoreline plan in Jefferson County that prohibited pen fish farming. This is the industrial practice of raising fish such as Atlantic salmon in pens. We won’t have healthy fisheries if we raise fish to eat in pens. Ecology is also stepping in on the the Olympia shoreline plan in ways that may help the Port of Olympia and thwart environmental action that has wide public support. We are talking in Olympia about how regulatory agencies can be captured by the industries they regulate and what we can do about it.

I think we have to ask the right question and that question is “why would regulatory agencies thwart reasonable environmental actions?” The answer is profit, capitalism; economic interests are in control and dictate to us all. Disaster capitalism. Disaster, capitalism. Disaster. Capitalism.

Here is the sea level rise app. NOAA is not a regulatory agency per ser, more of a pure science agency. It’s harder to capture science agencies than it is to capture regulatory agencies who are able to weigh science against economic interests.

It’s kind of tragic and ironic that we are both depleting the ocean and increasing the ocean’s coverage of the planet at the same time. The Greenland ice cap is melting. Start looking hard at the sea level rise application and plan accordingly. There are going to be some opportunities for profit in the coming troubles.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer

NOAA Coastal Services Center

 Features

  • Displays potential future sea levels
  • Provides simulations of sea level rise at local landmarks
  • Communicates the spatial uncertainty of mapped sea levels
  • Models potential marsh migration due to sea level rise
  • Overlays social and economic data onto potential sea level rise
  • Examines how tidal flooding will become more frequent with sea level rise

Overview

View the current status of the tool.

Being able to visualize potential impacts from sea level rise is a powerful teaching and planning tool, and the Sea Level Rise Viewer brings this capability to coastal communities. A slider bar is used to show how various levels of sea level rise will impact coastal communities. Completed areas include Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, with additional coastal counties to be added in the near future. Visuals and the accompanying data and information cover sea level rise inundation, uncertainty, flood frequency, marsh impacts, and socioeconomics.

Launch Now

Acknowledgements

The NOAA Coastal Services Center would like to acknowledge those organizations that provided direct content used in this tool or feedback, ideas, and reviews over the course of the tool’s development. Specifically the Center would like to acknowledge the following groups.

 

Political Fables for a Political Year

The WA Post has back to back stories in my digest this morning that I found interesting.

In the first story, the Government Accountability Office found that the Republican’s budget showdown over the debt limit coast the county 1.3 billion dollars last year. That is money that we could have used somewhere else in my opinion. But it shows the hypocrisy and stupidity of the current republican congressional legislators. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the democrats are just chomping at the bit to pass the kind of legislation that the country needs, look at their record in 2009-10 when they controlled Senate, House and White House and we could get banker bailouts, but not the public option for health care. Single payer was not even on the table. The dems are clearly beholden to their corporate funding sources, but they don’t engage in wasteful theatrics like the debt ceiling fight or endless votes to repeal legislation that clearly go nowhere. There are significant differences between the parties, but both parties understand that they cannot legislate against the interest of the wealthy interests that now decide our elections (thanks to Citizens United and Scotus Inc.)

GAO: Debt fight cost at least $1.3 billion

Last summer’s fierce political debate over raising the federal debt limit cost taxpayers more than $1 billion in extra borrowing costs, including hundreds of hours in overtime for federal employees responsible for avoiding default, according to a new government report.

Delays in raising the debt limit forced the Treasury Department to pay an extra $1.3 billion in borrowing costs — and the final sum is expected to climb higher as multi-year obligations and other outstanding costs are added later, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Monday.


In the second story, the League of Conservation Voters is reported to planning to launch a global warming campaign to unseat 5 flat-earth Republicans who have been a little too vocal about their ignorance.

I think it has become more and more difficult for the red-staters to deny global warming. What’s wrong with Kansas is starting to shift from the question about how they can vote against their own best interest over and over to just how bad is the drought going to be? As folks see the crops dry up and experience the consequences of supporting electoral candidates and parties who guarantee that we do nothing about global warming, they may have an epiphany. A lot of folks are going to become believers in global warming through the rough lessons of direct experience.

Torrential rains, floods, derecho windstorms, super tornados, droughts, may provide a wake-up call to folks in the heartland that was never going to be delivered by the threat to polar bears and penguins or rising sea levels that are threatening the coastal states that can’t afford to harbor politically-rooted doubts about climate change.

Here is a bit of the second story and link to the whole thing:

Environmentalists target 5 Republicans who question humans’ impact on climate

The League of Conservation Voters will launch a $1.5 million campaign Tuesday targeting five House Republicans who question the connection between human activity and climate change, in an effort to test whether the issue can sway voters.

Prominent conservative Republicans have challenged the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources are transforming the Earth’s climate. But it has not emerged as a central issue in a national political campaign, and President Obama, who pushed unsuccessfully for national limits on greenhouse gas emissions at the start of his term, has played down the issue over the past two years.

 

Juan Cole on Oil and Iraq

James Stafford with Oilprice.com suggested that their interview with Juan Cole would be of interest. With gas prices surging over $4 per gallon, oil news is probably of interest. Eternal Fire of Baba Gurgur courtesy Chad.r.hill

I agree, therefore:

Oil & Politics – The Real Situation in Iraq

A delegation from the International Energy Agency spent two days in Baghdad speaking with high-ranking officials in preparation for an end-of-year report on the country’s oil sector. By some estimates, Iraq could hold some of the largest oil reserves in the world and an international auction for oil and natural gas blocks is planned for May. Without a hydrocarbon law, and considering the fractured political system, the IEA’s report may be more about political obstacles than oil potential, however.

Baghdad announced triumphantly this week that oil production increased to more than 3 million barrels per day for the first time in more than 30 years. Exports, the government said, should increase substantially once a new floating oil terminal starts operations later this week. The IEA in December said crude oil production in Iraq could reach an average of 4.36 million bpd by 2016, about half of what Riyadh produces. The agency warned, however, that Iraq’s fractured political system might be as much of an obstacle as anything.

Iraq’s post-invasion political system has never been stable. Tensions in Baghdad flared up when Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused his Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi of terrorism almost as soon as the last American troop left the country in December. Juan Cole, the man behind the influential blog Informed Comment, said the action by Maliki “was part of an effort to marginalize and humiliate his Sunni enemies, and a sign of unwillingness to seek a grand national bargain.”

Iraq may be a democratic country in theory but it certainly isn’t quick on the political front, especially when it comes to passing a long-delayed hydrocarbon law. Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, described Iraqi politics as anything but stable.

“I wouldn’t hold my breath on getting anything accomplished on the oil law,” he said.

Maliki may be able to use his hard-ball tactics in an effort to get his way on things like the federal budget, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to widespread political influence across the rest of the country, said Cole.

Kurdish leaders objected profusely when it looked like Exxon Mobil would be left out of Iraq’s upcoming fourth international auction because of its contracts with the semiautonomous Kurdish government. Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nuri Shaways, a lawmaker from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, complained, in a statement, that Baghdad was somehow opposed to “economic openness” and the “promotion of trade.” Baghdad protests that any unilateral deals with the Kurdish government are illegal, though Cole said there isn’t much that the central government can do about it.

“The Iraqi government faces two big problems on petroleum development. It is still too weak to provide security reliably for the Western corporations and their employees,” he said. “And, it is still economically depressed enough to be afraid of being taken advantage of by a bidding process that favors the corporations — causing it to drive so hard a bargain that it has spooked potential investors.”

Iraq could be able to take advantage of its strategic position in the Middle East. Its Turkish neighbors to the north are keen to become an influential energy hub by playing host to some of the most ambitious oil and natural gas pipelines in the world. To Iraq’s south, the Strait of Hormuz transports about 20 percent of the oil traded globally.

“Politically, however, Iraq is landlocked,” said Cole.

Getting a federal budget passed this year might’ve been a temporary political victory for Maliki. Long term, however, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to make any claims to a political mandate in a country that relies so heavily on oil for its federal revenue. Baghdad has tilted at times toward Iran and higher oil prices may embolden the Shiite prime minister’s position. But Iraq might find itself in a geopolitical tug-of-war given Washington’s regional interests.

“Iraq is extremely vulnerable right now,” Cole warned.

The IEA is expected to release its report on Iraq in October as a prelude to its full energy outlook for 2012. While expressing optimism about the prospects for the oil sector in post-war Iraq, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said politics are getting in the way of broader developments. When asked what he would title the October report from the IEA, Cole just chuckled and said “slow progress.”

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Iraq-Oil-Outlook-Overly-Ambitious.html

By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com