Monday, June 30, 2008

Olympic Sailing Gold Goes to Green Algae

A floating harvest of blooming green blobs is requiring battalions of workers to frantically shovel, pump and dump a record bumper crop of algae located in the midst of the 2008 Beijing Olympic sailing venues in Quingdao. None of the 30 Olympic teams, currently in country with all of their expensive equipment, are able to practice or train as officials think it shall take at least two more weeks to get the organic muck all cleaned up and out. At this time, crewing, rowing or sailing ones boat ashore would just make it a magnet for algae collection and not a measure of the speed needed to win a race. Chinese officials are gobsmacked over the raging rise of the algae in the Yellow Sea going so far as to call the algae, sea weeds.

More than 10,000 workers and 1,000 boats are cleaning up the bright green algae that has smothered the city's beaches and extends far into the Yellow Sea, about 550 kilometres (340 miles) southeast of Beijing, Xinhua said.

About 16 square kilometers (10 square miles) -- a third of the protected sea area for the sailing events -- are choked with algae, the report said.

In total, the algae has affected 13,000 square kilometers (8,080 square miles) of sea, the report said.

Workers have so far pulled out 100,000 tonnes of algae, the report said.

What really makes the Chinese officials head explode is that they had packed up and moved the industrial complex, including a boat yard, just for the Olympics, established green expanses and upgraded pollution controls to showcase the city of Qingdao as host for the sailing venues. That part of the project cost billions of yuan or about $850 million US. The city is rated China's 9th most livable city. In its moment of crisis the city elders appealed to ther cities along the coast to assist and hopefully stop the spread of the algae. In another massive construction project, the Yellow River was rerouted to provide Beijing with enough water during the Olympics. Choking from China's air pollution was in Beijing was seen as one of the biggest upcoming issues until the algae outbreak along the coast.

The games are a huge opportunity for Qingdao to build its brand. German colonizers in the early 20th century left the city with its two best-known features: the European-style buildings of its old town and the brewery that makes China's best-known beer, Tsingtao — the
old-style spelling of the city's name.

The Olympic marina sits at Fushan Bay, up the coastline on the East China Sea beside the new, high-gloss, glass-and-marble city center.
Qingdao created 100 acres (40 hectares) of land for dormitories,
offices and boat storage by moving out the enormous Beihai boat yard.

The blue-green algae blossomed around June 1 in waters off Qingdao on the coast of Shandong province, about 400 miles (600 kilometers) southeast of Beijing. Its bright green strands have smothered beaches forcing swimmers to clear a path with their hands up to several hundred feet (meters) from the coast.

Record rains were the least of the problem making this catastrophe. An infrastructure that does not have best in class sewage treatment combined with exploding population increases with farmers using inordinate amounts of fertilizer for the required crop yields streaming into the sea alongside household cleaning detergents for an ironic twist to emit nitrogen, which spurred a massive moat of green crap for all of China's visitors to see. An Olympian seeking a gold sailing medal is currently being defeated by the pervasive blooms that have reached proportions never before seen this year. Some algae has often sprouted on Green Island, a port city with miles of beaches, but nothing that requires a cast of thousands just to remove it. Chinese officials say its excess salt and the water temp. Yeah, right. Who wants to believe they are sailing for their world dream in a sea of untreated turd blossoms let alone recount the story.

What the outbreak portends is a water quality issue. During several outbreaks last year China was forced to reduce or cut off unsafe water supplies. Fresh water is at a premium in China, hence the much bigger penalties that foreshadow bigger crackdowns on those polluters especially contaminating freshwater lakes.

The Olympics begin 08.08.08 in a piece of poetic day symmetry. China reveres history and numbers. The 2008 offering covering the Olympics from all that went before is from David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky, The Complete Book of the Olympics. But another real treat is from the award winning sports enthusiast David Maraniss, simply titled Rome 1960: The Olympics that changed the World. This brand new book is available 1 July, 2008.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Santa's House IS Melting!

Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas with all his aliases, is having a severe climate crisis at his winter house with flooding and potential destruction from titanic-sized moving ice flows. Endangered polar bears, seal colonies and elves are at a loss about what to do as the ice melts beneath their feet, erasing the only way of life they have ever known. The north pole, True North sits (sat) upon thick floating ice as it is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Antarctica is a continent with land (Mars has similar) beneath Earth's South pole.

For the first time in modern history, the North Pole may be iceless this summer. Scientists say it's an even bet that sea ice in the region will completely disappear in the next few months, perhaps as soon as August.

"If the North Pole melts, then you don't have to worry about the Northwest Passage. It will still be significant, but going on top of the globe would be politically easier," Mahoney said.

A UN panel is supposed to decide on control of the Arctic by 2020. Last year, Canada's Conservative government announced plans to acquire up to eight Arctic patrol ships and to build an army base in Resolute Bay and a naval station in Nanisivik.
(Inter)National security is also at stake as nations do legal battle and put ships to sea in the wake of the ice breaking apart to own the future shipping lanes as well as the vast mineral resources located in the northern polar region. Big oil, already making windfall profits, is bound and determined to go to work to mine and drill the region. After the decade old debacle of the Exxon Valdez epic environmental disaster, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in its hat tip to big piggy oil profits, reduced $2,000,000,000 US off the maritime penalty they ignominiously merited in destroying the Alaskan indigenous peoples water in Prince Williams Sound, their homes and live in harmony with nature way of life, it removes any fear big oil has about accountability on future spills. Whoever controls the never before opened Northwest Passage, controls the economic engine. Russia, Canada nor US is ceding anything to each other while the UN dithers on a decision until 2020 . In 2007 from Murmansk, Russia tested its nuclear powered ice breaker, 50 лет Победы, transliterated as 50 Let Pobedy or NS (Nuclear Sub) Fifty Years Since Victory. Ice shelf melting pushes the resource race to a higher level of insecurity. (Trio Photo by Martin Jakobsson Associated Press)

All (sic, nations) are studying the underwater geology to try to increase their claims. Under international law countries have exclusive economic rights to the sea within 200 nautical miles of their coast. If, however, they can prove that the continental shelf extends beyond that limit, the rights can stretch to 350 nautical miles.

Others have a different dream for a warmed-up Arctic – as a new cradle of civilisation. Trausti Valsson, professor of environmental planning at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, believes that as rising temperatures make many lower latitudes uninhabitable, so the lands around the Arctic will evolve into “the new Mediterranean”, with towns and cities springing up in Arctic Canada, Alaska and Siberia.

Such a scenario may seem unlikely now but an ice-free Arctic would have many attractions – not least being the Northwest Passage itself, which would immediately cut 5,000 miles from shipping routes between Europe and Asia via the Suez canal and whose development would prompt pressure for new ports along Canada’s northern coast.

However, most climate researchers view such thinking with despair. “It is a great irony,” said Serreze, “that the melting of the ice cap could give us access to yet more fossil fuels that will accelerate climate change even further.

“I suspect the only thing that is going to stop humanity wrecking the planet is when we get hit by some serious ecological disasters, and by then it may well be too late.”

So, in the weirdest bit of economic irony, the theory of Santa Claus cemented in commercialism and run amok cash capitalism squeezing every dime and bit of blinking plastic goo gaws out of the season of giving, may be helped by global warming by building a tourist laden frozen Disney mecca at the home of Santa Claus, degrading the environment further, while making more global warming bad case scenarios. The Northern Lights are already gorgeous beyond belief, a marketing campaign around them just makes me cringe. Slaps forehead...

To learn about the Northwest passage which lured all manner of ice ships towards it like a beacon, look no further than great nonfiction adventure stories like Martin W. Sandler's Resolute: The Epic search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin and the Queen's Ghost Ship. The serious business of oil exploration and the threats is found in Oil, Globalization, And the War for the Arctic Refuge authored by David M. Standlea.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Future Asparagus Garden on Lopsided Mars?

After a one way ride jetting one hundred seventy million miles, the very expensive pre-garden tester, the Phoenix Lander, scooped up a few tablespoons of frozen earth on Mars, nuked it in TEGA ovens and behold, water sublimation. A few more tests made scientists and researchers reach for their almanacs and see possibilities of virgin Martian soil supporting skinny asparagus stalks, turnips and snapping green beans. There is salt, alkaline on Mars just like the stuff out behind the house. Chemically necessary nutrients and mineral traces are in the soil resembling the dirt found in the Antarctic region. Exorbitant food prices on Earth these days make planting opportunities a futuristic dream state desired now. Martian asparagus can you imagine the sticker in the market? (AP Photo/NASA/JPL/CalTECH/University of Arizona)

The project's lead chemist, Samuel Kounaves, from the University of Arizona says he is flabbergasted by what has come back.

"We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients to support life, whether past present or future," he said.

"The sort of soil you have there is the type of soil you'd probably have in your backyard, you know, alkaline.

"You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well - strawberries probably not really well."

The quest continues to find carbon to make it really in the HZ or Habitable Zone. For this solar system, Mars orbits just outside it by about a half of an AU or astronomical unit. Finding elements of planetary habitability spurs more missions to explore Mars in a multitude of international projects. The Mars Science Laboratory is the granddaughter/son of the rovers with more agility. Russia and China have a joint mission with a return with soil and rocks component in Phobos-Grunt from the Martian moon. in 2013, the European Space Agency will launch sophisticated ExoMars rovers of their own with a bigger drill. With each find of all of the equipment and technology launched to Mars, the space race heats up to get to Mars and stake claims. Interesting Martian land rush for a planet that has taken some megaton blows, has radiation because of a thin atmosphere and needs to drill down to get to the buried treasures that may contain microbes or other life.

Mars suffered a direct T-bone impact of a rock or asteroid the size of the phenomenon formerly known as planet Pluto colliding with Mars at about 21,000 mph. It left Mars lopsided and flat near its north polar region with a scar crater or flat plain of 5300 by 6600 miles or half of Africa if it happened on Earth. Further south, Mars' topography is full of canyons, dead volcanoes and valleys. 365 million years ago when earth had its own cataclysmic event, dinosaurs and the prevailing ecosystems died. Both events happened eons ago near the same time with Mars taking the bigger hit.

Writing in the journal Nature, three groups of scientists describe how four billion years ago, soon after the formation of the solar system, an asteroid between a half and two thirds the size of the moon struck the planet at an angle of 30 to 60 degrees.

The impact unleashed an explosion equivalent to 100bn gigatonnes of TNT and created a scar 10,600km long and 8,500km across, the largest impact crater known anywhere in the solar system. The crater, a giant basin that covers 42% of the planet's surface, is roughly the size of Europe, Asia and Australia combined.

Everyday Mars becomes more interesting. In the last week we have learned of water, that the soil can sustain a hearty green veggie garden, peaks and valleys on one side with flat plains the result of an asteroid face plant at the same time as Earth.

No doubt, there is an anticipatory scientific community of thousands that would do anything to catch the first manned one way rocket to explore Mars. Scientist, William K. Hartmann puts it in perspective in his book, A Traveler's Guide To Mars.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Early VP Shopping with Barack

Capital Hill is worse than a busy urban hospital when it comes to whisper campaigns, gossip and nosily dipping into celebrity records. A trio of VP vetter selectors went down to a duo; Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder, after Jim Johnson's ties to Countrywide and its CEO were foreclosed upon by the McBush campaign. Members of the 110th Congress considered themselves select courtiers with the political heft to weigh in on their Veepster choices when the selection team visited Capital Hill.

An absolute unimpeachable maxim of the Obama team is NO DRAMA. Somebody get that memo over to six(ty) year old Billy Clinton, include the definition of sidelined and a picture of the new head of the party.

Obama was not a happy man when pols and a pundit riven national press corps immediately started trying to clamor for names and short lists. An ADD media needed a new story with a side benefit for them to be able to shape their coverage by getting dirty dancing details out faster than his vetting team's trial balloons. Hence, Barack's choice of the most closemouthed Kennedy with a penchant for privacy rights to be on the VP search team. Senator Obama made it crystal clear he would not be leaking nibbles and bits to a celebrity-obsessed starved for substance media. Barack made it plain he would not speak at all on the topic of names for a VP until the Announcement of his choice. That breaking news announcement will not occur until sometime in August, probably after his 47th birthday. The Democratic convention begins on Monday, August 25th and ends on a day of destiny, August 28th as he formally accepts the nomination. Forty years earlier from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial came the rhetorical arguments for equality for All in America based on the content of one's character in MLK's iconic I have A Dream Speech.

Polling is ongoing looking at the fluidity of the race and where Barack ranks, it would be premature to base a VP choice on bringing a state if Barack is already in a position to do that by himself. Higher level reasoning needs to inform his choice.
Imagine the surprise when Barack spoke on Wednesday about the type of person that would be his VP. His campaign manager, David Plouffe, was clear that selection for electoral purposes of picking up parts of Appalachia or elsewhere would not be a singular stand alone factor or even paramount in choosing. Another media canard flushed. But there are clues from the presumptive nominee:
"I want somebody who can be a good president if anything happened to me. And I want somebody who can be a good adviser and counsel to me," the White House hopeful told a news conference.

"And tell me where he or she thinks I'm wrong -- not just on national security policy, but on domestic policy as well. Beyond that, I will give you more details when I announce my VP candidate," said Obama, 46.

Lists include all manner of pols. A Shermanesque will not run nor serve statement has only come from Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. Some have floated Al Gore's name while others want to shore up a perceived weakness in Obama's portfolio on national security. One or two real maverick republicans keep sprouting on Dem wish lists Hagel & Powell even after weedkiller is applied. The long list covers a full spectrum of the Democratic Party including; hardliner hawk Sam Nunn of the really geeky glasses but nuclear weapons expert, the Show Me state's senator bubbly Claire McCaskill who came aboard the O train early, the daughter of a former Ohio governor and now Jayhawk Governor, silver haired Kathleen Sebelius, a couple of shiny four star NATO commanders bedecked with medals & ribbons, a Hoosier former Governor now Senator pol that makes beige exciting to She who must not be named, currently on a debt reduction tour in Unity, New Hampshire with Barack. The chattering press chipmunks will be all agog as to whether they have personal chemistry when she raises his hand to endorse him on Friday. Maybe they can do a fist bump instead...

Barack Obama dealt with the onslaught of schemes in various colors of Grey to anoint Hillary his VP by petitions from buffoon Lanny Davis and the I-am-rich-black-hear-me-roar Bob "BET" Johnson, their petty threats and outright demands came to naught. They should have gotten inside info. Look no further for Obama's strength of resistance than the fact that there are are no, zip, O pooches on a leash until he says both daughters are responsible and ready by March or May of 2009 after they figure out where they get mail. At least the Pennsylvania Avenue house will seem somewhat familiar to a dog as it has big white pillars on the North Portico and there are some in front of the Obama Chicago residence. Barack Obama has withstood pressure from two adorable seven and nine year old girls with cute whimpers and begging pleases who still do not have a badly wanted dog. The girls are vetting potential pets on the internet. Recently, Michelle Obama jumped in during an interview on Good Morning America as Barack outlined his pet terms and conditions, to state don't worry girls, you will get your dog, just not yet. Note to VP wannabes, Malia & Sasha have campaigned for almost two years on their pet platform and they live with the guy. Future president Obama please note: Caroline Kennedy rode her own horse, Macaroni, on the White House lawn. Once Caroline finishes vetting Veepers, maybe she can head up the girls dog search and get that one presented to Dad Obama too.

Barack will have a VP before those girls have a dog.

All kinds of reading material on vice presidents have great stories about the second in command. The current most awful one will have reams of history ripping him as he rides into eternal damnation. To see what not to do and what needs to be undone in an Obama Administration read Lou Dubose & jake Bernstein's most excellent book, Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency. Obama's caution is wise.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Monet's Water Lily Art Worth Millions at Auction

(Photo EPA)
Painting a water lily is the province of one man. Beautiful lily renditions are in top galleries and fine museums all over the globe. He painted but four for this series. Now, for the second time in less than two months, at double the first piece's price, a rich telephone bidder takes home an original rarely seen impressionist painting, "Le Bassin aux Nymphéas" (1919), by impresario Claude Monet. How much time does one have to sit and gaze in front of the painting then when one divides that into the sale price of £41 million or in US dollars 80.5 million? What is the equivalent of spending thousands every time the owner just glances over the gorgeous work of art. It sort of stings that the 1873 artwork sold for only £2omillion or $41.4 million at Christie's in London. London auctioneers are ecstatic as art pieces worth over a billion dollars goes on sale over the next fortnight. The Monet sale bodes well and the decline of the dollar just makes it even more expensive for American buyers.

Before the auction, Olivier Camu, Christie's director and head of Impressionist and Modern Art, described it as "the greatest of Claude Monet's water-lily pictures to be offered at auction in Europe".

It was the star lot of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale that also featured works by Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Renoir, Degas and Henry Moore.

The sale was initially expected to fetch £90 million but - as has become familiar in auction rooms this summer - that was set to be easily exceeded.

Art has the bulging purses of the super rich wide open. Many pieces, including a Henry Moore sculpture sold in London, are fetching prices belying the world's current economic strife. The water lily painting sold has the platinum attributes of having been one of four signed and dated by the artist in 1919. Monet painted up to his death in 1926. A beautiful pastel work , Danseuese a la Barre from the mighty Edgar Degas was not a shabby purchase at 13.5 million pounds or $28 million US.

Helena Newman, the vice-chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art department, said yesterday: “People’s choices are now being driven by image rather than the artist’s name. We’ve never seen a period where the bidding showed such a range of tastes.

“They want to look at their pieces, enjoy them and show them off. Colour and strong bold compositions are grabbing them and these are the sort of collectors for whom the estimate price is just a starting point.”

Bold, early 20th-century paintings with “wallpower” have been smashing records in New York and London. They include Weidende Pferde III by Marc, which sold for £12.3 million in London, £4 million above the estimate; Munch’s Girl on a Bridge, which sold for $30.8 million (£15.6 million); and Lyonel Feininger’s Jesuits III, which raised $23.2 million. There have also been new records for Monet and Rodin in the same period.
(Art: Raoul Dufy, Le Havre)

Little did Claude Monet envision these sums of lucre for the work he painted while at home in the French countryside of Giverny. In 1966, his heirs made the French Academy of Fine Arts the recipients of Monet's home where the famed water lily pond took French impressionism soaring. It is now part of the renowned Institut de France. Since 1980 it has been open to the public and is well worth the visit. Monet, friend of Renoir and Manet, has Japanese woodcuts on display that demonstrate a versatility and his dismissal or disdain of conventional wisdom of art at the time. (Photo Monet from 1899)

Derek Fell brings another delightful and detailed view of what inspired Monet. His book, The Magic of Monet's Garden: His Planting and Color Harmonies demonstrate how the abundant water lily pond and other areas of his home and its landscape were such inspirations.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Whales Under Attack

Whales are having trouble finding mates due to overfishing, collisions and being mercilessly hunted. There are not enough (healthy) fish for whales to eat to sustain their numbers. Lonely whales are choosing to die rather than live without mates. So What says Japan, Norway & Iceland as they petition the sixty year old International Whaling Commission (IWC) to hunt down haunted undernourished whales to increase the coffers of their own economic engines. It is 77 nations against 3 clueless countries that stubbornly refuse to accept that hunting whales for commercial profit was pretty much over in the twentieth century. Japan, deservedly, has been under international fire and surveillance for its constant flouting of the treaty with whiny exhortations that they have people for centuries who lived off of whale hunting and that should not change. Talk about out of touch with the times and the very real threat of extinction of certain whale species.

The psychological impact of over-hunting on the highly intelligent and sociable animals has been identified as the latest threat to the survival of the species.

The whale population has already fallen dramatically over the past few centuries because to culling by Japan, Norway and Iceland, and the poisoning of oceans which kills off their food.

But now a French scientist has said the majestic mammals - which can reach 80ft in length and weigh the same as a passenger jet - could also suffer from heartbreak.

Paris naturalist Yves Paccalet said: 'It may be that these intelligent animals are so exhausted from their combat with humankind that they have simply have given up the fight.

An International Whale soap opera continues for the next week in Santiago, Chile as the debate rages led by three outlaws to have the twelve year old ban lifted or relaxed. Greenpeace's ship, Esperanza, already tailed Japan's pseudo research fleet as they chased whales for a biological study project in the South Seas of Antarctica earlier this year. Japan, now, wants to "shop" for whale meat closer to home. After a ten year absence from the IWC, returning in 2002, Iceland just plain ignores the commission's treaty using scientific study because Icelandic fisherman claim whales eat too much fish. Competition.

The Japanese delegate to the IWC, Joji Morishita, did not confirm his country's agenda at the meeting but he reaffirmed support for commercial whaling, according to an interview given to Chile's El Mercurio newspaper.

Morishita said his country's consumption of whale meat went back hundreds of years and should be respected by the rest of the world.

"This is a case of accepting the coexistence of different cultures," he said.

Japan kills some 1,000 whales a year using a loophole in the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling that allows "lethal research" on the ocean giants. Norway and Iceland defy the moratorium altogether.

The IWC seeks an Ocean whale preserve on the same scale as the UNESCO World Heritage site, Mount Kenya National Park, on land for conservation and encouraging observation in their natural habitats. Australian Environmental Minister, Peter Garrett, seeks an overhaul of the whaling forum's charter as the debate needs to encompass conservation and environmental concerns. Australia has been a loud and vociferous critic of Japan's whaling practices as well as sending Oceanic Viking in pursuit of Japan's whalers. Iceland hunts Fin or baleen whales which are an endangered species.

A démarché, diplomatic warning notice, was delivered to an unconcerned government in Reykjavik. The irony is that the excess whale meat Iceland killed was for export to Japan which claims no way no how would they be purchasers. It takes 75% of the IWC membership to make a change and no consensus is yet happening. Japan threatens to leave the IWC in dramatic fashion if their proposal is rejected. Major negotiators that settle wars are trying to close the commercial whaling loophole while others are stalwarts of the status quo. The sea saga drama drags on.

Peter Heller depicts the dangers of the deep for the world's whales in The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet's Largest Mammals. Heller went aboard Watson's Sea Shepard for a whale saving mission/adventure of a lifetime and captures what drives people to go to sea in a massive effort at whale conservation from the hunters.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gas Prices Break Hearts Around the World

A heart clutching story I heard recently exemplifies the world of hurt and economic devastation wrought by the price of a gallon or liter of gas. A lady went in to a local mini-mart. She stood in line and bought just one gallon of gas. It was all she could afford. One single gallon. Dire as her situation is, she is definitely not alone anywhere in the world.

In Gansu Province, Zhang Li, a tour guide, waited in line for more than an hour, hoping to fill up the tank on his Land Rover Freelander before the higher prices went into effect.

"I made it just in time," he said. "They stopped serving gas at the old prices just 20 minutes after I left."

The complaints from Chinese about high gasoline prices might not elicit sympathy from American or European consumers: hovering at $3 a gallon, or 79 U.S. cents a liter, with the new increase, gasoline in China costs 25 percent less at the pump than it does in the United States.

As a matter of policy, the Chinese government sets gasoline and diesel prices well below international market prices to encourage economic growth. In 2007, China's subsidy of gasoline alone was $22 billion, close to 1 percent of its gross national product.

The scary gas story is playing out around the world in Chinese villages and cities as prices went up 16 %, along the Kinshasha highway in Africa, at diesel pumps in England, the fenced in folks in Gaza to the daunting amounts of the flammable liquid needed for fleets of trucks to transport goods across continental Europe. In the Philippines, fuel prices (P57.96 per liter including VAT) rose for the 15th time since January. Last year in Burma, the junta raised fuel prices 500% in one night to spark the long running Marching Monk rebellion as the poor bear the brunt of the increases. India is seeking to regulate oil prices within a range. Energy producers/speculators/big oil companies are gilding their own wallets while taking matches to pounds, dollars, pesos, rubles of the planets lesser beings who were already living paycheck to paycheck and getting angrier by the nanosecond.

President Bush a la Oliver Twist appealed to King Abdullah in May to sing for his supper for a bigger soup ladle of oil into his
energy crisis made-in-America mess bowl. The Kings' ministers politely told him to pound sand. As the price of a single barrel of oil becomes the equivalent of a gold ingot, the Kingdom relented. Today, as co-dependents, the oil-mega rich Saudis held an OPEC meeting at a Red Sea resort to announce an increase of daily production by at least 200,000 to try to tamp down speculators in the market while supplying a potential panacea of relief for millions around the world at the pump and most notably Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown with three dozen energy ministers from around the world. There is no guarantee that an increase in production will reduce prices or the rampant speculation as their are countries that want their oil purchased too: Nigeria, Venezuela, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Russia just to name a few. China, India and Japan are not shy about bidding against the USA for it either with the exceptions of Venezuela and Iran.

For Saudi Arabia, the meeting was a rare foray into the spotlight, and an opportunity to underscore that the oil-rich kingdom was aware of growing anger and frustration caused by surging prices in oil-importing countries.

A seven-fold increase in the cost of oil since 2002 is causing growing economic and political pain in both industrialized countries and the developing world.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who called for this meeting just two weeks ago, addressed the oil and energy ministers of 35 nations in a vast ballroom, saying he understood the pain that $140 oil was causing across the globe. He confirmed an expected increase in Saudi production by 200,000 barrels a day. News of that was leaked earlier this week, and was already factored into the still-surging market.

200,000 (more per day) x $140 a barrel = $28,000,000 (more per day) give or take a price reduction. Will China buy it all up or shall some enterprising speculator say this is temporary. To combat that, the second part of the royal Saudi announcement was to continue to up production to levels never seen before for a longer duration lasting at least a year. But that poses some downstream capacity issues that the Saudis and other OPEC participants say will be offset as they build refineries and other assets to handle the demand. Things that makes me go hmmmm, because that means a further dependence on Saudi oil as the economy becomes even more tied to Saudi oil, protection of the region's oil and does little to wean the world away from fossil fuel addictions, as the more oil and gas consumption rises, the worse greenhouse gases heat the planet. What a lovely feedback loop the world finds itself in as the Saudis strengthen their hand in ways to affect national security and global foreign policy decisions.

Then there is the drilling issue. For ten years, an oil preserve race between Canada, USA, Russia and evenCuba is saying they have rights to drill and that's just a hop skip and an innertube ride away from Florida's gold coast of beaches. One spill would lose billions of dollars in tourism, depress coastal real estate prices and no recovery for already fragile and hurricane battered ecosystems.

John McCain burbled about his reversal no drilling of America's coastal waters while speaking to
Bush/Cheney crony Texas Oilmen. Drill in pristine areas that would never again host the ecological diversity needed to ward off the storms and wild weather sparked from oil in the first place.

Drilling yields not one drop in production before an end of President Obama's second term. McCain's pander designed to offset the political pain in the US to the the single gallon of gas that now costs more than a Happy Meal. In the US, there are billions of acres of leases already going unused without the need to give the greedy oil companies earning the biggest profits in the history of capitalism more while simultaneously ruining the only planet we have to live upon.

None of this immediately alleviates the price for a gallon or liter of gas around the world. Food prices are wedded to oil prices. And there are no guarantees that even with OPEC stepping in today that tomorrow sees a long term decline in prices. What is at stake is finding a way to dramatically increase the use of alternative energy for those in dire straits while preserving the environment. The only people who can afford the rise in oil prices are the oil speculators and energy producers.

From the esteemed Richard Heinberg, The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies.