Blood for Oil

Posted by By at 29 March, at 14 : 42 PM Print

There are moments when I understand why the middle of America – the growing pool of self identified independents who truly decide general elections these days – hates the party posturing. This past week was one of those moments.

In a matter of a few days, you had two stories that, had the actors in the main role been swapped out for the previous administration, would have garnered decidedly different reactions from both sides.

Let’s start with the most comical. A few days ago, at a fundraiser in Florida, Vice President Biden had a reporter “sequestered”, in a walk-in closet, to prevent him from interacting with the guests (he was allowed out to cover Biden’s speech, making me question whether his press people understand that Biden is truly the greater embarrassment risk). This is not uncommon – fundraisers are private affairs, and one has to believe that the only reason the press was allowed to cover Biden’s speech was to all the Administration to claim that it was a public event as VP and, therefore, public money covered the cost of the trip.

But as I read the muted accounts, it occurred to me (and probably every other conservative) that this event would have been front page above the fold on the NYT had it occurred when Darth Cheney was VP. The headline would have read “VP imprisons the Free Press to hide Iraq Lies” or some other liberal fever dream nonsense. Not we should have done that to Biden, mind you, but the fact is the left reacted in a very different way because it was “their” guy – think NOW excusing Bill Clinton’s lechery because he was pro-choice.

Both sides do it – as the uproar on the far right over Libya proves. I am a fiscally conservative hawk, and I support the President in Libya — for reasons I will explain in a minute. I also am of the opinion that the War Powers granted the president under the Constitution, and subsequent congressional action, at a minimum, allow him to engage in an action for 60 days on notice alone. I am sure that there are legions of scholars on both sides of my take, but they are not the people screaming – it’s those people trying to score political points on Obama’s inconsistencies.

Which makes me ask the same question I asked about the Biden incident: what would the right be saying if Bush was President – because I am of the firm belief he would have engaged in a very similar manner (probably more decisively, I grant). I am also of the belief that, if Bush had delivered the same speech last night, the far right would be supporting the “freedom agenda” and the left decrying “blood for oil.”

Which is why the middle hates and distrusts the political class. It’s also why, almost unfathomably, I am once again defending the President – even as I acknowledge that the “how” he got to his decision was God-awful.

But its the “why” that matters, as in why I support our action in Libya: it’s because I accept the idea that we have – and will – spill blood for oil. I also believe that we do so for very, very good reasons.

Let’s start with the ridiculous assumption in the left’s phrase “no blood for oil” – that is, the US engaged in war to protect the profits of oil companies. That is patently absurd and beneath this discussion.

But let us also acknowledge the truth: the United States, under orders from a Nobel Laurrete, is spilling blood to protect Libyan oil. As well we should – after all, oil is the second most important commodity on earth these days, and disruptions in oil have an exponential impact on global life.

Just look at food prices; in the past month prices rose 3.9%, pushed higher by increasing fuel costs. If we allow oil to continue to climb, and we have seen nothing yet if something were to happen in say Saudi Arabia – we increase the cost of food. The impact will be felt most harshly by the poorest among us the world over – a fact that will add to unrest and lead to higher oil prices, which will then raise food costs, which will add to misery and unrest – you see where I am going?

The fact is when we say “blood for oil” we should also say “blood for affordable food.” Or, “blood for medicine.” You see, petro chemicals – the cornucopia of “stuff” we pull out of oil – are critical to a number of medical applications, from their inclusion in everyday remedies such as cough medicine and rubbing alcohol to complex compounds used in cancer treatments.

The disruption of oil to these vital uses means people die the world over. So in essence, not spilling blood for oil means spilling blood on a greater scale – and eventually, once again, spilling blood for oil.

We spill blood for oil because, well, oil is literally in our blood – of the 212 environmental chemicals and metals found by the CDC in human blood, 180 of them are petrochemicals. Why?

According to Cal Berkley researcher Michael Wilson, “It’s the material basis of our society essentially. This is the Petrochemical Age.”

Almost everything we touch, eat, watch and interact with is based on a petrochemical derivative. The keyboard I am using needed oil to manufacture and get it to me. The wires carrying this column to the internet is coated in plastic. And the aspirin you are popping because of my prose are based on oil as well.

The world has been spilling blood for oil as long as oil has been a commodity. World War II was in part about oil – Japan attacked Pearl Harbor to keep our navy from stopping their seizure of Dutch East Indies’ Indonesian oil fields. They needed that oil because Japan has almost no oil reserves of its own – and a modern economy simply must have oil.

Which is why March 11, 2011 made the Libyan intervention almost a certainty. Japan is the world’s third largest importer of oil (behind the US and China). Because of the enhanced production values, Japan sought out the “light sweet crude” oil that Libya produces – a source of oil that is most easily converted to the low sulfur diesel fuel Europe and Japan prefer. A disruption would have a ripple effect on Japan, something that – if preventable – had to be acknowledged as a factor.

But even without increased Japanese energy demand, the fact is we have and will spill blood for oil. We do it because oil is so much a part of our society that the disruption will cause pain and misery to the entire globe – especially the poorest among us.

If you need a justification for Libya, Mr. President, the honest one is probably the best one.

We are spilling blood for oil – because it is how we best protect the world’s most vulnerable people from the cataclysm of out of control rising energy and food costs.

And there is nothing wrong with admitting that fact. Except, as I noted above, but for the politics.


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This post was written by:
- who has written 77 posts for Rock The Capital
Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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