This joke is on us, with an unlikely punch line: What do Donald Trump, Russian hacking, Brexit, American Nazis, the Religious Right, the NRA, ISIS, anti-globalism, and global warming all have in common?
While we obsess about Trump’s political circus or British Brexit, the trees, there is this 300m year-old ‘forest’ of economic power that spreads from Russia to the Middle East, to Wichita, Kansas. Like the royal forests and parks of old, fossil fuels are the property of 80 to 100 of the world’s richest people, whose global impact is felt throughout the planet. Want to understand why the politics of your nation seems to be going crazy?
Follow the money.
Over the last 163 years fossil fuels, not gold, have been the greatest source of wealth and power. 1.7T barrels of proven reserves. At today’s price, $47.62, that’s roughly $81 trillion dollars of value. There are 1.1T tons of proven coal reserves in the world with a value of $52.60 per short ton, that’s roughly $57.9 trillion. Natural gas reserves are 195.2 trillion cubic meters at a value of roughly $20T at today’s price.
Fossil fuels proven reserves’ approximate world value, today, are $159 trillion dollars.
Oil and gas drilling, without coal, make up 4.6% to 6.5% of the world economy. As much as $8.24T of the world’s annual gross domestic product. 100 countries pump gas and extract oil, but only 44 produce more than 100K bbl per day. Only 20 produce more than 1m bbl/day.
Two nations, Russia and Saudi Arabia, produce 10M+ barrels a day of oil.
Five nations, Russia, Iran, Qatar, the United States, and Saudi Arabia are the top holders of natural gas reserves.
What nations are alleged to be leading sponsors of political, cyber, and terror events that disrupt and destabilize other nations?
Russia, Iran, Qatar, the United States, and Saudi Arabia.
Oil and gas are 52% of Russian government revenues, and more than 70% of its exports. For Saudi Arabia, oil production is about 92.5% of their budget revenues, 97% of their earnings from exports, and 55% of their gross domestic product (GDP). It’s 70% of Qatar’s total government revenue, more than 60% of gross domestic product, and roughly 85% of export earnings.
How do you take $159 trillion of assets which make the world’s most powerful people powerful, and make them worthless within ten or fewer years?
Governments in the Paris Agreement want to save millions of lives, and protect quadrillions of dollars in property from damage due to flooding, violent storms, dislocating droughts, famines, and more. That requires coordinated action.
The people who control the fossil fuels do not want that coordinated action, because it undercuts their wealth and power. There is huge profit in destabilizing world governments and creating global distractions that keep both citizens and their politicians embroiled in political and sectarian strife, and from taking any major action on global warming.
Now, connect the dots from the forest of all of that wealth and power back to the destabilizing trees and weeds of geopolitical politics:
- Islamic Terrorism - Fossil fuels (Saudi Arabia/Russia/Iran/Qatar): More than 94% of Islamic terrorist-related deaths were carried out by Sunni jidhadists educated, and often funded by money from members of the austere Wahhabist sects of Saudi Arabia, including ISIS and al-Qaeda. According to VICE, Saudi Arabia’s government and charities have spent $4B exporting radical Wahhabism to the rest of the world. The Iranians are singled out by the Trump regime, but account mostly for the support of Shia militants in Iraq, Syria, and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. The Russians support Shia in Iran and the Syria regime, among others.
- Brexit - Fossil fuels (Russia/Saudi Arabia): The Russians are alleged to have had their hands in the Brexit vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Without firing a shot, cyber and the funding of propaganda and extremist groups neutralizes one of the world’s leading social and financial powers, that have thwarted the ambitions of Moscow. Part of the push for British nationalism has been the fear of immigrants and terror. Saudia Arabia is the top sponsor of terror in Great Britain. After the vote, they’ve been courting PM Theresa May to separate the UK from the EU.
- Trump - Fossil fuels (Russia/Saudi Arabia) Russia meddled in the 2016 American presidential election not only through cyber attacks. The Russians appear to have been bankrolling the radicalization of the religious right, the NRA, which in turn dominate Republican politics.
- Nazis & Klan - Fossil fuels (Russia) Russia has ties to the American white nationalist movements. A common belief in white nationalism and power has created common ground. They are useful both as distractions from the Trump-Russia investigation, but also in the organizing of the Trump hijacking of the Republican Party.
- Afghanistan & Syria - Fossil fuels (Saudi Arabia/Qatar) They bankroll the Taliban, while at the same time publicly supporting the U.S. in Afghanistan and Syria. Their backing of ISIS/ISIL was the subject of a John Podesta email leaked by Wikileaks: “[W]e need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”
- Tea Party Extremism - Fossil fuels (United States) - One step to the left of the Trump crowd, Watergate funder Richard Mellon Scaife launched the right-radicalization of America in the late 1970s. The Koch Brothers picked up the standard. Charles and David Koch are worth $82B combined. They have raised billions from the 1% to take control of government. They didn’t just buy politicians and judges. They raised them from radicalized think-tanks, colleges and universities. They built ALEC to funnel legislation that both helps their interests and distracts from what they’re doing to destroy democracy from within.
- Keystone XL Pipeline - Fossil fuels (United States) - The Koch brothers are the biggest holders of toxic tar sands in Canada. Stoking angry, largely white anti-government resentment and tying in gun zealots’ notions of “freedom” have given them the manpower to distract and divide and push more construction of fossil fuel, not wind or solar, projects.
- Obamacare - Fossil Fuels (United States/Russia) The healthcare debate has connections to the continued use of oil. World population growth will hit 9B, unsustainable, by 2050, and most humans will be out of jobs that have been automated. The über-wealthy aren’t stupid. One good long midwestern drought and the US food supply and the world plummets, fast. Attacks on affordable health care are “herd thinning.” Uninsure 32m people, and 8m to 10m die early. Fewer people drawing on resources.
Every country on the globe could sign off on the Paris Agreement, but, without finding a way to either buy off the richest people in the world, or make the value of their fossil fuels worthless, their owners will use ANY means to retain their power.
Fewer than a hundred people have 159 trillion reasons to divide, distract, and disengage citizens of the world to keep the oil flowing, even if 100M people may die by 2030, and 75% of the world’s population may perish from the heat by 2100.