RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Ratigan writes: "While we have the illusion of choice in our politics, the only real consistency in policy-making is Washington's commitment to war and oil, and increasingly often, war for oil. Libya was the oil dealer to Western Europe, but the market for oil is global. And oil is the prize, not democracy. This is why John McCain praised Gadhafi in 2009 for his peacemaking efforts, and applauded his death last week. It's also why our military is increasingly extended across the world in oil-rich regions."

A rebel militiaman guards a Libyan oil refinery in rebel-held territory, 02/27/11. (photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
A rebel militiaman guards a Libyan oil refinery in rebel-held territory, 02/27/11. (photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

How Did Our Oil Get Under Their Sand?

By Dylan Ratigan, Reader Supported News

24 October 11


t's somewhat rare to hear a Senator tell the truth about American foreign policy, but we did get a glimpse of reality last week when Senator Lindsey Graham lustily talked about the death of Gadhafi. He said, "There's a lot of money to be made in the future in Libya. There's a lot of oil to be produced. Let's get on the ground and help the Libya people establish a democracy and a functioning economy based on free market principles."

Though rare, this is not the first time a high profile American politician has accidentally told the truth about our foreign policy. In March, 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate appropriations committee that the war with Iraq would be paid for by Iraqi "frozen assets" and "oil revenues." This was not completely crazy - the first Gulf War had largely been financed by foreign countries who saw value in the oil supply lines we were protecting.

At the same time last week, the American solar industry filed a trade complaint against Chinese solar makers, who produce 55% of the world's solar panels. They allege that China is selling its solar panels below cost, which would be consistent with the Chinese industrial policy of preparing for a post-oil world. According to Stephen Leeb's new book "Red Alert," China spends over $350 billion a year on renewable energy infrastructure, locking up critical supplies of zinc, silver, gold, copper, and rare earth minerals. Meanwhile, America spends its money keeping sea lanes open for dwindling oil supplies.

The Chinese are improving their skill at making solar panels, whereas American policymakers are explicitly avoiding building a post-oil energy infrastructure. Chinese elites want to secure oil and coal, of course, but they are also rapidly preparing for the day when these resources cannot be profitably extracted and used. American elites are engaged in a more short-sighted strategy of destroying any possible bridge to a post-oil energy future to protect their status quo profits. Leeb believes that this is a choice that could mark the end, not just of American dominance, but of American civilization.

It isn't that this possible doomsday scenario is hard to grasp; promises of alternative energy and threats of higher oil prices have been around for decades. So why is it still going on? My suspicion is a mixture of greed and inertia.

We have an industrial policy driven by oil, which has been the case for nearly a century. Initially, when oil was cheap and we produced most of it, this made sense Our advantage in oil helped us win World War II. Our national highway system, our network of airports and gas stations, suburban sprawl and the associated property tax base was all funded by fossil fuels. These huge oil fortunes played a major role in organizing our political system. When America could produce more oil than anyone else, or had the military alliances to do so, this worked in our favor.

Starting in the 1970s, oil became a strategic drawback, which is why President Carter tried a logical plan - an infrastructure bank - to get us off oil. Yet, our politics is so entwined with oil that Carter was crushed, and no one has since been able to break our oil obsession.

Oil still drives our industrial policy, and now petro-politics is so routinely dominant that it's almost pointless to even think about politicians not funded by oil. Lindsay Graham, for instance, has received a little less than a million dollars from the energy sector over the course of his career, so his lust over Libya's energy profits isn't surprising. Republicans are the party of oil - both Bush and Cheney were knee deep in the oil industry before entering the White House. On the other side of the aisle, TransCanada, which is seeking to build an enormous oil pipeline to bring in shale oil from Canada that will pump as much carbon into the atmosphere as all the oil in Saudi Arabia, just bragged about 22 Democrats who signed a letter asking for approval of the pipeline. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama will likely boost the project. These are just the most recent examples of petro-politics; next month there will be different, equally odious examples.

Many Americans believe that oil is bad for us, and do want to invest in a non-oil infrastructure. Though our industrial policy remains consistent regardless of which party is in power. This doesn't make sense to most voters, because it cuts against the way we think about ourselves as a relatively just democratic society. Our politicians should work for us, but they don't. The traditional model for understanding power in American politics is polling and elections - will Democrats or Republicans win the ability to organize our cultural resources? But this has obvious problems, since we've seen through multiple administrations congruity in policy-making.

A better way to think about power is to follow the money, because money is how our society allocates resources. The money is in fossil fuels and finance, which opens the door to Congressional offices and sells political power to the highest bidders. The Koch Brothers recently held a retreat in Vail, where they thanked those who had given more than a million dollars to their political causes - the so-called "million dollar" club. Mother Jones magazine was able to get a list of those people. Eight finance tycoons and seven fossil fuel (coal, oil, natural gas) magnates were the majority of the twenty eight families listed (the others were in retail and housing). The Koch Brothers themselves make enormous sums from oil, chemical products, and finance.

While we have the illusion of choice in our politics, the only real consistency in policy-making is Washington's commitment to war and oil, and increasingly often, war for oil. Libya was the oil dealer to Western Europe, but the market for oil is global. And oil is the prize, not democracy. This is why John McCain praised Gadhafi in 2009 for his peacemaking efforts, and applauded his death last week. It's also why our military is increasingly extended across the world in oil-rich regions.

Our oil-drenched, defense-heavy industrial policy is increasingly creaky, but it is protected by the money that flows into the political system to wall off politicians from voters. We know that we must restructure our energy system, but it's not as simple as plugging in a new green battery to replace coal plants and gas stations. Just as we must restructure a financial system to ensure investment and value-creation, we must also restructure our industrial policy to get off oil, and our politics to get off oil money. This will require a new way that citizens relate to each other, more local production of goods and services, stronger community ties, and a politics that isn't dominated by big money, but instead by public spaces and deliberation. If you look at the Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccatti Square and the others across the world, they may not articulate this, but this is what they are asking for.

Without a reformation for new politics, and a different way of relating to one another, we will continue with the status quo. And we will have to keep finding countries and asking the question of how our oil got under their sand. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+24 # Barbara K 2011-10-24 12:47
Well, there you go. As I said before:
Democrats want to save the world, while Republicans want to profit off the destruction. There you have it, just read what Lindsey Graham says in the article.

+33 # noitall 2011-10-24 13:53
Democrats want to save the world?! Where did that come out of this article? Jimmy Carter? He's a good man with a good heart but he isn't the definitive Dem. Once the $ is out of our elections maybe then we'll see a difference between the parties. I agree, "Never vote Republican" but that doesn't give the Dems a free ride In my book. "On the other side of the aisle, TransCanada, which is seeking to build an enormous oil pipeline to bring in shale oil from Canada that will pump as much carbon into the atmosphere as all the oil in Saudi Arabia, just bragged about 22 Democrats who signed a letter asking for approval of the pipeline. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama will likely boost the project." Majority of Americans are against this time bomb as most americans are against the Nuclear time bomb. Until we get Publicly financed elections, WE HAVE NO REPRESENTATIVES ! We must also get an ethical Supreme Court. We must stop this policy of armed robbery of countries that don't subscribe to our new world order of thugs and thieves.
+8 # futhark 2011-10-24 14:55
Never vote for the evil military interventionist s, even those wearing the Democratic sheep's clothing. They are just as vicious as the undisguised wolves and a lot more duplicitous.
+5 # KittatinyHawk 2011-10-24 15:04
I have written letters, petitions done my phone ins If this tar sand was so profitable why isn't Canada doing it?
It is not profitable, it is an albatross in any way you look at it.
Canada is sinking on the Global Scale ot keep Pollution down if they do not get it gone and will pay fine to International Joke. Hillary would sell out America for anything, she is an Atty, had her Medical laughed at, and she was rejected for this doormat. I know that many of the Dems who say they are environmental are now trying to keep up with GOP/TP
+7 # PhilO 2011-10-24 14:04
All you need to know about the US policy on energy and defense (notice I didn't write "policies", because they are one and the same!) can be found in these two sentences:
"China spends over $350 billion a year on renewable energy infrastructure, locking up critical supplies of zinc, silver, gold, copper, and rare earth minerals. Meanwhile, America spends its money keeping sea lanes open for dwindling oil supplies."
+5 # TGMisanthrope 2011-10-25 02:54
portiz: it's even scarier when you consider that, while the U.S. government can scarcely function for a few months combined between election cycles, the Chinese government now controls approximately 97% of the world's rare earth elements market because of a program they launched over 25 years ago. I realize that a totalitarian government is much more streamlined than a democracy (and that's an argument for another day, whether or not the U.S. government still actually qualifies as a democracy), but the Oriental characteristic of considering the present, the near future, AND the distant future when decision making is something sorely lacking in the U.S., and one of the main reasons that the America's stature on the world stage is slowly but surely shrinking.
+21 # Activista 2011-10-24 12:49
"and help the Libya people establish a democracy and a functioning economy based on free market principles"
1% of USA banksters want to control 99% of the WORLD. NEO-CONS rule.
+26 # noitall 2011-10-24 13:56
I only hope that the people of Libya survive the "HELP" better than Afghanistan, Iraq, Viet Nam, Haiti, and other countries that we've "helped". Our Indian Reservations have almost been helped to death! I think what they mean by help is their intention to HELP THEMSELVES! We could use a lot of help with our democracy. We have none.That's what this article is all about.
+21 # Adoregon 2011-10-24 13:08
First the U.S. ripped-off the Native Americans for their land and all its resources while pursuing a policy of genocide and violating virtually all treaties it signed with the Native American peoples.

Now the U.S. is pursuing the same modus operandi vis a vis petroleum and other natural resources on a global scale.

All the above is cloaked in mythtifying mouthing of high sounding ideals like freedom and democracy.

[It's the] same old honkey shuck and jive to obfuscate our global gangsta' tactics.
0 # Obwon 2012-01-02 07:39
Oil is the life blood of our military machine! As it becomes scarce the cost of it rises, putting our currency in jeopardy and the empire comes crashing down. When the time comes that they absolutely must have military action, the oil dependency is the weak link in the chain.

But then, what of the necessary domestic side of the equation? If all the oil goes to the military, we haven't much left of a nation to defend. Without domestic fuel, people are thrown out of work, plants can't manufacture stuff and people can't travel for work, can't ship food etc., so we have created a wasteland, that soldiers will be fighting over there, to come home to squalor. Not a very good picture. Surely someone must have thought of the consequences of this all.
+33 # fredboy 2011-10-24 13:09
Makes sense: Consider the history of China compared to the history of America. The entire spectrum comes down to long-term vs. short-term thinking.

While the three letter word, o-i-l, is temporarily in vogue, wait until the five letter word, w-a-t-e-r, becomes the prize. Then true hell will break loose.
-13 # Martintfre 2011-10-24 13:57
And then there is that 5 letter word O-C-E-A-N
+3 # Billy Bob 2011-10-25 21:50
Here are some other words for you:

Massive government infrastructure projects to pay for the



+5 # KittatinyHawk 2011-10-24 15:07
At one time China could shame us all with their longterm views. They were also not the Polluter they have become sin GW visit.

GW sold them on oil. People riding bikes get cars china says. Sad how one man has sold the Planet to destruction in the Name of His Father, His Sons, Cheney
and Oil. Amen
+6 # Merschrod 2011-10-24 13:25
The oil? the sand? Hey they were just unlucky that our oil ended up under their sand! We also wer eunlucky that we started this whole democracy thing b/c it conflicts with our conflicts!
+28 # Cactusman 2011-10-24 13:29
I'm trying to prep for a post-oil world too. Large rural property, solar and wind system, well with groundwater-rec harge basins that capture desert floods and soak them into the soil bank aquifer, some food production, thermally efficient house of recycled materials (mainly paper/cement called papercrete), and most importantly no debt - it's all part of my effort to reduce my dependency upon the sick carbon-and-debt system we are forced to survive in.

I hope that this will not only help me survive, but help others survive since I am one of those trying to develop a template for future sustainable existence in a world of threatening issues and collapse of the current life-threatenin g systems that the Kochs and other reptiles with too much money and power protect at every cost.

Daily I work for change. There's a future for me, or so I think and hope. I'm not joining the death march into debt and energy poverty.

I am one of the 99%.
+11 # Martintfre 2011-10-24 13:55
Cactusman ::
Good for you
- you are out their trying to live your dream and not do it at others expense!!
+6 # jon 2011-10-24 15:12
"and not do it at others expense"

Unlike the oil companies.
-10 # Martintfre 2011-10-24 19:55
The Oil companies do their business trade for trade. You like you buy - you don't like you don't buy. You can check out like cactusman or the Amish.

Which is totally different then government which pokes a tax collectors gun in your face and says pay or else.
+7 # thirteenthpaladin 2011-10-24 21:59
BP - Gulf of Mexico spill, @the expense of surrounding fishermen, tourism workers, and residents, as well as marine and wildlife, local flora and beyond

Exxon Silvertip spill - Yellowstone River, @ the expense of farmers, ranchers, and residents up to 240 miles away

Shell and other oil companies - Niger Delta spill, @ the expense of .... etc, etc

"trade for trade" ??

really? is that what "trade for trade" looks like in your world?

"tax collectors poking guns" in faces?

seriously? in light of the above examples, which represent so very few of the so many similar cases, the relevance of your imaginary tax collector with his imaginary gun would be - what, exactly?
+2 # thirteenthpaladin 2011-10-24 14:26
cactusman your work sounds well thought out and admirable; have you thought of adding some grazing animals?

check out allan savory's use of grazing animals to reverse desertification /balance a local environment, his method has attained amazing outcomes all over the world

I'm not conversant with how to include links here, but if you do a search on allan savory that should do it

check out the video "Keeping Cattle: Cause or Cure for Climate Crisis," among other sources

all best for your continued learning, doing, and sharing

+4 # karenvista 2011-10-24 19:11
Cactusman, I did the same thing and had been planning to do so since I was a teenager.

When I finally got everything set, including my pond to provide fish, I became symptomatic with Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis, s rare genetic disorder that cause complete paralysis which, in my case, lasts for several hours at a time for days on end.

I had to sell my cabin and now have to live in a city near a hospital.

I am also one of the 99%.
0 # Martintfre 2011-10-24 19:58
Well, karenvista - I empathize with you, sadly it is not always fair.
I hope that who ever bought the place appreciates what you started and keeps it rolling.
+2 # thirteenthpaladin 2011-10-25 17:01

your comment has been greatly on my mind since it appeared, and your recounted circumstances have prompted much reflection

you clearly have very, very much to offer our society and culture, and to your fellow citizens; I sincerely hope, and am determined that, we restructure and rebuild such that people like yourself might have ample opportunity and support to contribute/shar e/collaborate/l ead/inspire/ben efit as much as you desire, in your local community, regionally, nationally, and beyond

what one cannot do alone, surely we can all do together

thanks very much for posting your comment, and all very best wishes for ever improving health and optimal treatment and support for your condition
-32 # Martintfre 2011-10-24 13:35
//How Did Our Oil Get Under Their Sand?//

easy - because we are not allowed to drill for their oil here.
+5 # thirteenthpaladin 2011-10-24 14:32
BP/Gulf of Mexico

you mean that kind of "not allowed" ... ?
+6 # futhark 2011-10-24 14:59
The United States depleted its own precious and irreplaceable petroleum reserve by foolishly squandering it driving around big, fuel-inefficien t cars and subsidizing trucking over railroads. Now too many Americans think that automotive transport is some kind of God-given right and feel justified in invading other nations who are not wasting their petroleum in order to steal what they have.
+7 # CTPatriot 2011-10-24 15:42
Congrats on posting the stupidest, most ignorant comment I've read today.
+3 # Dick Huopana 2011-10-24 14:07
This excellent reality article by Dylan Ratigan should be required reading for all overly complacent Americans - and especially the money-bought incompetents we consistently elect and send to Washington.
+3 # Magars 2011-10-24 14:20
We have to understand for once that all politicians are playing us.. McCain played games, Condy shaked hands with Gadhafi, Gadhafi support Obama's presidential platform of change, Obama shaked hand with Gadhafi, CIA got help from Gadhafi in torturing people. You don't see it.?! We are living in the more immoral time of our life: everybody is in the game for world control and profit.
+3 # stonecutter 2011-10-24 14:42
The Late, Great George Carlin says it bluntly and so well in the following clip, an echo of which is this analysis by Dylan Ratigan. They're both telling the hard truth about this country's power structure and global realpolitik. I give it 25-30 years, and China will be running the show, our on link or copy into URL...
+5 # KittatinyHawk 2011-10-24 15:19
By the way, I see no mention again, Pipes we have cannot take this product. Pipes we are going to use will not be able to carry this substance without repercussions, wear down, therefore leaks. It is Public Information, I no longer have the link but an advisory group in Washington has issued a good reason not to do it. If any of you were actually involved with Union of Concerned Scientists, Biodiversity Groups, other Organizations you would find this article same old song/dance with none of Federal/State Information.
One State went, started destroying the Plains to allow for the Pipeline, it has not gotten to any Permit Process, which means that perhaps OB is not going to go thru Proper, Legal Channels like EPA, State Review Process, cannot blame GOP and Congress on this, since it was not even put up to them.
In doing the Prairies under, State has moved some rare plants which is moronic since it was rare because it was there, duh??? They are moving the animals that are in need of those plants...again moronic since the animal needs that location, duh.
Does this article address all these areas of biodiversity that will be affected for Pollution. Does it reflect the natural Water disasters to come from this? No Why, it has no facts on the Physical incompatibility of the pipes themselves There is more at Stake here than $
+5 # papabob 2011-10-24 15:30
"[W]all off politicians from voters" is a great way to describe what's really going on. Just think how many barriers there are that minimize the vote of the people. Not only are we being told how bad the other side is, but we are being stymied by the electoral College (which "represents" you), along with rigged voting machines, and voter districting, to name a few. And THEN, you have to contend with the politicians who've already been bought by big money and big oil.

It's pretty clear a wall has been erected that separates between the guy on the street from his vote. It came by just a little piece of legislation here, another small piece there. But in the end, there was a wall.

Remember when the Berlin wall came down? And how things got better? Maybe the Occupiers have started something; I only hope they keep on doing what they're doing. The watchword might be "This is as far as we go. Let's tear the wall down".
+4 # ABen 2011-10-24 15:57
Watch the old but prescient movie "three Day of the Condor" for an interesting comment on how our addiction to oil influences our politics. I put a 5Kw solar array (American made)on my house while two neighbors bought gas-guzzling SUVs. Our addiction to oil-based energy is the problem and we can solve that problem by committing to renewable forms of energy. Buy American. Buy Green. Vote Democratic!
+3 # futhark 2011-10-24 21:24
I'm buying Green and voting Green, unless a major political party can come up with a candidate and a platform that is truly committed to peace, justice, equity, and a sustainable economy.
+2 # usedtobesupermom 2011-10-24 17:04
for anyone who wants to decrease their use of gasoline, diesel & propane for their vehicles see this:

There is something called HHO or oxyhydrogen This technology has been around for more than 50 years. Our Congress KNOWS about this-

check it out & let me know what you think
+4 # Magars 2011-10-24 18:20
I want you to read what former Secretary of State Collin Powell said on May 8 2001 during an interview by CBS News...."Terror ism is a part of the dark side of globalization. It is a part of doing business in the world,business we as Americans are not going to stop doing"
He said that when he was part of Bush administration, in 2008 he became an open supporter of Obama administration. Do the math!
-6 # Martintfre 2011-10-24 20:03
Just guessing here but I suspect Powell was played by Bush and Co to get us into war and soon recognized it and left. But as a good soldier he keeps his thoughts to him self and moves on to the next campaign.
+4 # thirteenthpaladin 2011-10-24 22:08
“It is a lack of character and insight, when a soldier in high command sees his duty and mission ... without realizing that the highest responsibility is to the people of his country ... then he shows a lack of greatness, a lack of comprehension of responsibility.

... at stake are final decisions regarding the fate of the nation. History will burden those leaders with blood guilt if they do not act according to their professional and statesmanly principles and knowledge. Their soldierly loyalty must end at the boundary [of] their knowledge, conscience, and sense of responsibility ... In case their advice and warnings fall on deaf ears in such circumstances, then they have the right and the duty, before the people and history, to resign their offices."

~ Generaloberst Ludwig Beck
+3 # Aunt Tom 2011-10-24 18:33
such a good article!!
+5 # reiverpacific 2011-10-24 22:17
Y'know, I've just heard the first openly-raised questions on KBOO Portland prompted by the alleged US "withdrawal" from Iraq (still well under the Owner-Media scopes) as to why they built and now have to maintain the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad, so huge it can be seen from space, which I've been questioning for years.
I fear that Libya, like Iran when led by Mossadeq, will be manipulated into either a passive satellite or reactionary hostile state if they try to make their oil resource work for their people.
Tied deeply to this, Mr Carter, while I admire his post-presidenti al work for peace and justice around the world, and Rosalind's worthy causes, were bosom buddies with the dreadful Shah, whose very presence in Iran was engineered by Kermit Roosevelt, under pressure from Anthony Eden and BP in ousting Mossadeq just for trying to nationalize his country's oil for the communal good (Socialism).
So think about it -and follow the money which =oil and extraction facilitation.
Biggest US embassy=Middle east domination= Libya under the thumb or occupied=oil and more pollution and feeding the military machine for Imperial ends, doomed by historical precedence to fail.
Such a waste of resources better used for peace and conciliation -and advance of sustainable energy.
+3 # Barbara N Shabo RN 2011-10-25 03:19
Mr. Ratigan has told it like it is again. Now if all the people occupying Wall Street could unify behind Mr. Ratigan's online petition to "get money out." we could accomplish some reform. We might even recover some of our national integrity.
+3 # overanddone 2011-10-25 03:58
fight the war on several fronts
+4 # Don Thomann 2011-10-25 12:39
The U.S. is not interested in HELPING other nations.
It is only interested in helping itself TO other nations.
If they don't want to let us do it - why - we'll just bomb the *#^* out of them!
+2 # Ryguy913 2011-10-26 14:23
I'm sorry, but all these cries of "Never vote Republican!" are simply inane.

I'd vote for Dick Lugar over Joe Leiberman or Ben Nelson any day. And I'd vote for Susan Collins or Olympia Snow over Max Baucus or Kent Conrad any day.

Especially at a time when Republicans like Dylan Ratigan are leading the charge for campaign finance reform, I say it's time to throw away that pary-allegiance nonsense and just get to work.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.