Energy Is the Politics of Our Age

While much has been written about the age of secrecy and the war on terror since 2001, it is easy to forget that globally from $5 trillion to $6 trillion is devoted to energy, the largest sector of the world's economy. On Earth, it truly is the biggest thing going on. Of an estimated global GDP of around $70 trillion with a total of $200 trillion in existence, that's a lot of money that can motivate many people to do both right and wrong things.

Energy was a frequent concern of world leaders attempting to calm the Ukraine crisis, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Both Germany and the rest of Europe get a large proportion of their natural gas from Russia. This factored into sanctions calculations and communications between the parties. Additionally, the rise of ISIS boosted American energy stocks as people came to see some American companies as more stable.

While most individuals and families are lucky to plan their finances a few years out, large moneyed interests are much more organized. As Steve Coll writes in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the prelude to 9/11, Ghost Wars, "(E)xecutives at America's largest energy companies began late in 1995 to imagine the future by studying historical maps. Across Afghanistan travelers along the Silk Road had created fortunes for centuries by moving spice, jewels and textiles to new markets. The profitable game now--created by the Soviet Union's collapse--was oil and natural gas. The key trade routes were the same as they had been for centuries. Many led through Afghanistan."

There are increasing allegations about the involvement of some oil-rich Saudi Arabian officials in the funding of the 9/11 hijackers. Since I last wrote on the topic of the 28 pages of classified documents from the congressional inquiry into the attacks, it has been reported that Zacarias Moussaoui contacted both the Secret Service and a lawyer for 9/11 victims' families, saying he would provide information pinning 9/11 financing on Saudi Arabian government officials. (Police arrested Moussaoui in 2001 and charged him with assistance in plotting the 9/11 attacks and he has been in prison on a life sentence ever since.)

In letters to an Oklahoma federal judge, Moussaoui wrote that Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal and Princess Haifa al-Faisal paid him money knowing that he was working with Osama bin Laden. He claimed he was being intimidated in his Colorado prison via Saudi government coercion, perhaps the reason he hasn't come out before.

Additionally, it was reported that the energy-producing giant's Prince Bandar--a longtime George W. Bush associate--was involved in promoting ISIS to combat the Syrian government.

Never has energy mattered so much as it does today with climate change staring us in the face and some entrenched interests hoping to keep people confused about its threat. Their combined lack of reason and hubris on this issue is death-defying. Shortly after the Republicans' victories in the midterms in November 2014, some of their leaders vowed to take a skeptical approach to climate change. It's not that they're seriously examining the evidence; in the 2012 elections, 90 percent of oil and gas money went to some of these Republicans. Even though the facts are with honest legislators in their efforts to regulate carbon emissions, and President Barack Obama's White House made a serious effort to do so, the fate of the planet seems to hang on whether some very dirty energy interests will eventually wake up to reality.

Until then, it is incumbent on citizens to stay informed about the very real potential of alternative energy and not buy every line that the proverbial snake oil salesman offers. In many cases alternative energy only needs proper scale and deployment to provide our energy needs as efficiently and much more morally.

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