Archive for November, 2006

A divine gift

Monday, November 13th, 2006
Will we heed what Dr. Tawfik Hamid is risking his life to tell us? Read on:
[Dr. Tawfik Hamid] once was a member of Egypt's Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Arabic for "the Islamic Group"), a banned terrorist organization. He was trained under Ayman al-Zawahiri, the bearded jihadi who appears in Bin Laden's videos, telling the world that Islamic violence will stop only once we all become Muslims. He's a disarmingly gentle and courteous man. But he's determined to tell a complacent North America what he knows about fundamentalist Muslim imperialism. "Yes, 'imperialism,' " he tells me. "The deliberate and determined expansion of militant Islam and its attempt to triumph not only in the Islamic world but in Europe and North America. Pure ideology. Muslim terrorists kill and slaughter not because of what they experience but because of what they believe." Hamid drank in the message of Jihadism while at medical school in Cairo, and devoted himself to the cause. His group began meeting in a small room. Then a larger one. Then a Mosque reserved for followers of al-Zawahiri. By the time Hamid left the movement, its members were intimidating other students who were unsympathetic. He is now 45 years old, and has had many years to reflect on why he was willing to die and kill for his religion. "The first thing you have to understand is that it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with poverty or lack of education," he says. "I was from a middle-class family and my parents were not religious. Hardly anyone in the movement at university came from a background that was different from mine. "I've heard this poverty nonsense time and time again from Western apologists for Islam, most of them not Muslim by the way. There are millions of passive supporters of terror who may be poor and needy but most of those who do the killing are wealthy, privileged, educated and free. If it were about poverty, ask yourself why it is middle-class Muslims -- and never poor Christians -- who become suicide bombers in Palestine." His analysis is fascinating. Muslim fundamentalists believe, he insists, that Saudi Arabia's petroleum-based wealth is a divine gift, and that Saudi influence is sanctioned by Allah. Thus the extreme brand of Sunni Islam that spread from the Kingdom to the rest of the Islamic world is regarded not merely as one interpretation of the religion but the only genuine interpretation. The expansion of violent and regressive Islam, he continues, began in the late 1970s, and can be traced precisely to the growing financial clout of Saudi Arabia. "We're not talking about a fringe cult here," he tells me. "Salafist [fundamentalist] Islam is the dominant version of the religion and is taught in almost every Islamic university in the world. It is puritanical, extreme and does, yes, mean that women can be beaten, apostates killed and Jews called pigs and monkeys." [...] "Islam condemns extra-marital sex as well as masturbation, which is also taught in the Christian tradition. But Islam also tells of unlimited sexual ecstasy in paradise with beautiful virgins for the martyr who gives his life for the faith. Don't for a moment underestimate this blinding passion or its influence on those who accept fundamentalism." A pause. "I know. I was one who accepted it." [...] "The sexual aspect is, of course, just one part of this. But I can tell you what it is not about. Not about Israel, not about Iraq, not about Afghanistan. They are mere excuses. Algerian Muslim fundamentalists murdered 150,000 other Algerian Muslims, sometimes slitting the throats of children in front of their parents. Are you seriously telling me that this was because of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians or American foreign policy?" He's exasperated now, visibly angry at what he sees as a willful Western foolishness. "Stop asking what you have done wrong. Stop it! They're slaughtering you like sheep and you still look within. You criticize your history, your institutions, your churches. Why can't you realize that it has nothing to do with what you have done but with what they want." (emphasis added)
Read the whole thing. (Hat tip: The Corner)

Ingenuity and lemonade

Monday, November 13th, 2006
Josh Meyer writes in The Evening Bulletin: "The U.S. needs to deal with terrorism in a way that won't bankrupt us and will lead to a brighter future. [former CIA director James] Woolsey gave a short history on ingenuity in America. It's what we as a nation are good at. American ingenuity has brought about things like Coca-Cola and the Internet. Woolsey is a founding member of the Set America Free Coalition. In this age of such strong partisanship, the Coalition has successfully brought together an unlikely group of Hawks and Enviros, staunch conservatives and liberals. [...]This is one issue that can bring a divided nation back together. The War on Terror doesn't have to be so grim. We just have to hit the terrorists' Achilles' heel. We have lemons (oil-funded terrorists) ... let's make lemonade (an energy-independent nation)!"

Save fuel, get exercise, and stop annoying your neighbors with that noise…

Monday, November 6th, 2006
by trading in your leafblower for a rake.  More great tips on landscaping for energy efficiency here.

Must see film: Obsession

Friday, November 3rd, 2006
This weekend FOX is broadcasting a must see documentary titled Obsession about the threat radical Islam poses to the world.  The special will air Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET, and will be repeated Sunday at 1 a.m. ET, 5 a.m. ET, 4 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET.  We strongly encourage you to watch. The trailer can be viewed here. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that enough good men do nothing.” UPDATE: In case you missed it, you can watch it on YouTube in eight segments (hattip The Jawa Report) Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 That is radical Islam. And this is who pays for it.

Businesses need to prepare for much higher energy costs

Friday, November 3rd, 2006
Dr. Fariborz Ghadar explains why he thinks oil prices are headed higher, and details the consequences to various business sectors in MarketWatch:
American Airlines reports that a 1 cent increase in the price of a gallon of jet fuel, for example, translates into an additional $33 million in annual costs. Once oil prices go over [$100/barrel], we can expect that to cause a ripple effect: lower profits, fewer flights, higher ticket prices, layoffs of personnel, and cutbacks in new aircraft or part orders. Some airlines will simply collapse.
Higher oil prices reduce consumer spending power as more income is used to fill gas tanks, making less money available for clothing, household items, electronics, vacations, and entertainment. Automobile manufacturers can expect to see drops in sales of SUVs, light trucks and vans. Although some consumers are likely to switch to smaller cars, we can expect to see production cutbacks and layoffs across the automobile sector.
Cruise lines and other tourism industries will feel the pinch when higher oil costs translates into cancelled vacations. Hotels, restaurants and other tourism industries will experience a sharp reduction in revenue.
Chemical companies will need to locate in low cost energy locations simply to remain competitive, transportation companies will cancel services or raise prices to keep delivery schedules.
Strategists in corporate boardrooms need to re-examine their assumptions on how increases will impact business and company profits. It is not a matter of will oil reach $100 a barrel, but when.

And again: oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006
AFP reports that an American and a Briton working for Norwegian oil services firm Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS) were kidnapped by a group of armed men in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region. Nigeria is one of the most important suppliers of oil to the U.S. and the largest producer in Africa.

Punishing rape victims for leaving meat on the street

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006
As if to emphasize Saudi solidarity with Australia’s most senior Islamic cleric, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilaly, who said that a woman who was raped should be jailed for life because it was her fault for leaving uncovered meat on the street, the German Press Agency DPA reports a Saudi court has "sentenced a gang rape victim to 90 lashes of the whip because she was alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married." Words fail. "The court heard that the victim and her friend were followed by the assailants to their car, kidnapped and taken to a remote farm, where the raping occurred. " (hat tip LGF) We should point out that it is likely the only reason the assailants in this case were punished, is that the friend of the victim who witnessed the crime was male.  You see, a woman's testimony is not highly valued in Islamic court. This is not an unusual occurence - In Iran a teenage girl was sentenced to 100 lashes for allowing herself to be raped, and was lucky not to have been sentenced to death. As a postscript, it is very curious indeed, and shameful to boot, that a Google News search turned up only two newspapers that bothered to print the Saudi story. UPDATE:  Thank you to Andrew Sullivan for the reminder that today is the second year anniversary of the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamist terrorist named Mohammad Bouyeri.  After shooting Van Gogh eight times, stabbing him five times, and slitting his throat, the murderer used one of the two knives he left in his body to pin a note to his chest which read in part:
I know for sure that you, Oh America will go under; I know for sure that you, Oh Europe will go under; I know for sure that you, Oh Holland, will go under; I know for sure that you, Oh Hirsi Ali, will go under; I know for sure that you, Oh unbelieving fundamentalist, will go under.
Hirsi Ali is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the brave Somali woman who wrote the film Submission which Van Gogh directed and for which he was murdered and she forced into hiding to protect her life. This film:

Is ethanol efficient?

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006
"I heard that the energy it takes to grow and produce ethanol (gasoline for tractors, process to make ethanol, etc) makes the whole thing a farce" "What is the net energy balance for ethanol?" "I read that the energy return on energy invested is negative for ethanol, is that true?" We get this question fairly often. First off, the energy balance question is nonsensical - it always takes more primary energy to produce a unit of usable energy - that's just a basic law of nature - whether the primary energy is a lump of coal, crude oil, or corn and the usable energy is electricity, gasoline, or ethanol respectively. The right question to ask is always, "do the economics make sense". Below is Peter Huber's excellent discussion of this topic. When looking at ethanol specifically the more relevant question from an oil dependence perspective is "how much petroleum goes into making a gallon of ethanol".  If one is looking at it from an environmental perspective, the question would be "how much coal, natural gas, and oil goes into making a gallon of ethanol."  The total energy input is not a concern since a large part of the energy that goes in to making a gallon of ethanol is the solar energy that goes into growing the crops. Here is a presentation of a comprehensive Argonne National Lab study that shows these numbers for corn ethanol - note especially slide #12. Most U.S. studies, by the way, completely ignore the sugar cane equation. The numbers for sugar cane are 5 times better than for corn: Brazilian ethanol production uses practically no external energy input beyond that of the crop itself - even the electricity used the dehydrate the ethanol is generated from bagasse (the sugar cane waste.) The biggest beater on the ethanol energy balance drum is David Pimentel of Cornell, who is addressed in a brief DOE summary of studies on this issue. Excerpt from "Thermodynamics and Money" by Peter Huber, Forbes 10.31.05:
Energy Return on Energy Invested [Eroei] calculations now litter the energy policy debate. Time and again they're wheeled out to explain why one form of energy just can't win--tar sands, shale, corn, wood, wind, you name it. Even quite serious journals--Science, for example--have published pieces along these lines. Energy-based books of account have just got to show a profit. In the real world, however, investors don't care a fig whether they earn positive Eroei. What they care about is dollar return on dollar invested. And the two aren't the same--nowhere close--because different forms of energy command wildly different prices. Invest ten units of 10-cent energy to capture one unit of $10 energy and you lose energy but gain dollars, and Wall Street will fund you from here to Alberta. As it happens, the people extracting oil out of tar sands today use gas from the fields themselves to power their refineries. There's gas, too, under what has been called Alberta's "trillion- barrel tar pit," but it's cheap because there's no pipeline to deliver it to where it would be worth more. As an alternative to gas, Total S.A., the French oil giant, is thinking about building a nuclear power plant to supply heat to melt and crack the tar. But nuclear reactors extract only a minuscule fraction of the energy locked up in the nuclei of uranium atoms; all the rest gets discarded as "waste." On Eroei logic, uranium would never be used to generate either electricity or heat. But per unit of raw stored energy, uranium is a thousand times cheaper than oil. Greens touting the virtues of biomass as a source of energy rarely note that almost all of it is used by lumber mills burning branches and sawdust on site. No one cares how much energy the sun "invested" to grow all that waste wood. And every electric power plant, whatever it's fueled with, runs a huge Eroei deficit, transforming five units of cheap, raw heat into two units of electrical energy. But it all works out because the market values the energy in electricity at about 30 times the energy in coal. The economic value of energy just doesn't depend very strongly on raw energy content as conventionally measured in British thermal units. Instead it's determined mainly by the distance between the BTUs and where you need them, and how densely the BTUs are packed into pounds of stuff you've got to move, and by the quality of the technology at hand to move, concentrate, refine and burn those BTUs, and by how your neighbors feel about carbon, uranium and windmills. In this entropic universe we occupy, the production of one unit of high-grade energy always requires more than one unit of low-grade energy at the outset. There are no exceptions. Put another way, Eroei--a sophomoric form of thermodynamic accounting--is always negative and always irrelevant. "Matter-energy" constraints count for nothing. The "monetary culture" still rules.