Mar 302009
 
Authors: Ian Bezek

I’ve received several comments about my article from last week saying that while global warming may not be a threat, it is still useful as a tool for promoting conservation of resources and our break from foreign oil.

However, we don’t need to use the illusion of global warming to promote greener behaviors. Conservation is an ethic on its own, but there are abundant social and economic reasons why we need to conserve our energy resources while promoting alternatives to petroleum-based fossil fuels.

For instance, oil expert John Ghazvinian’s book “Untapped” shows in graphic detail the damage caused by our addiction to oil.

Oil is, along with diamonds, the lifeblood of conflict throughout Africa. Wherever you find a conflict, you find oil wells nearby.

Almost all the biggest African wars of the past few decades such as Angola, Congo and now Sudan have centered on control of oil resources.

Ghazvinian explains how oil money funnels into warfare. Multinational oil companies pay a large portion of royalties from oil produced in a nation to its government.

The African government, receiving the funds, then uses the majority of the revenue to buy weapons to preserve its tenuous grasp on power.

Why are these weapons needed? These governments, in particular Sudan and Angola, spend so little on social services that only direct tyrannical oppression of the population can keep its subjects in line.

For instance, during the 1980s, the government of Chad – which was receiving foreign aid and diplomatic support from the U.S. – requested a “truth serum” and a “generator for interrogations” from the Americans.

Ghazvinian writes that in Chad, “Electric shocks, beatings, whippings and extraction of fingernails were all routine, but victims could also expect hot pepper gas to be blown through pipes pressed against their temples.”

Ghazvinian continues, saying, “One of the most extreme forms of torture included forcing the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle into the mouth of a victim. Simply accelerating the motor would cause severe burns.”

The U.S. didn’t just look the other way; we trained their soldiers and sold them military equipment.

Why do we help depraved dictatorships? We simply need the oil, and we’ve run out of easy-to-access crude in nicer parts of the globe.

This, by the way, is another reason not to be concerned about global warming. It brings cold comfort knowing that we’ll run out of fossil fuels – our oil supply has already peaked – before global warming could really hurt us.

There won’t be sustained global warming because we won’t even have the oil or natural gas to keep the lights on.

I’m sure the U.S. doesn’t want to get involved in hellholes like Chad, but we have no choice; there is nowhere else left to turn for new oil reserves.

Our purchase of African oil fueled a 30-year civil war in Angola and funded the unspeakable atrocities of the past few decades in the Congo, and it continues to destabilize Nigeria and actively promotes the hostilities in Darfur.

Oil also destabilizes economies. The mere prospect of getting rich quickly distracts African economies from such necessities as agriculture.

While Nigeria is a leader in its exports of both oil and mail fraud, it can no longer feed its own people – its workers are busy either trying to steal oil or are fighting in militias.

The oil companies are also to blame.

In Chad, for instance, Exxon’s power plant produces six times as much electricity for its walled-in compound as the entire nation of Chad generates.

On one side of the wall, foreign workers play tennis and swim while earning six-figure incomes while on the other side a 10,000-person shantytown doesn’t even have a water well.

I’m all for conservation, our usage of fossil fuels causes unbelievable human tragedy throughout Africa.

We don’t need to deceive people with global warming to have cause for conservation.

Ian Bezek is a junior economics major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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