Iraqi Oil Fields: Let Me Tell You a Story…

One of the major items that came out of last night’s Commander In Chief Town Hall on NBC/MSNBC was Donald Trump’s repeating his oft stated position that the US should have taken Iraq’s oil. I will leave the lively discussion of the logistics of this to others, and just briefly acknowledge that this would have been a war crime even for an officially UN recognized occupying power. What I really want to talk about about in regard to Iraqi oil is where Iraq’s oil is. Almost every map that I saw linked to, tweeted, posted, and/or referred to last night looked something like this:


(Map 1: Iraq Oil Map)

There is only one problem with this map, and the similar ones that were shared/referred to last night: they’re incomplete! This is the accurate map of where Iraq’s oil actually is:


(Map 2: Iraq Oil Field Map with Exploration Blocks)

Interestingly enough Judicial Watch FOIAed Vice President Cheney’s Energy Working Group back in 2002 and before Vice President Cheney shut the release of records off this was one of the items released. I first heard about this map in 2003 or 2004 when Greg Palast was interviewed by Keith Olbermann.  Palast is a forensic accountant and had, himself, been looking into VP Cheney’s Energy Working Group. He came across the map as a result and eventually wrote the whole thing up as a chapter in his book Armed Madhouse.

But what’s really important about this map is its history. So let me tell you a story… In the early part of the 20th Century, around 1912 or so, a young Armenian citizen of the soon to be defunct Ottoman Empire was becoming a major player in the early petroleum industry. His name was Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, but he is better know as Mr. Five Percent. Gulbenkian basically established what would become the Iraqi petroleum sector – his fee/reward for doing so was a 5% stake, hence his nickname. The map above is a representation of the estimates of where Iraq’s oil was, updated to include where exploration has happened. But compare it to Map 1 – you’ll notice the exploratory blocks are missing. There’s a reason for that. And that, my friends, is where the story really gets interesting.

Gulbenkian got 5% and the Seven Sisters Oil Company and their early controlling interests, which would eventually evolve into OPEC, got 95% of the rights to exploration. This was all part of something called the Red Line Agreement and Map divvying up the Middle East’s oil. Part of the little known history is that a decision was made, based on the exploratory blocks in Map 2, to keep Iraq’s oil in the ground. Palast details this history in his book, but the decision was made to treat Iraq like a strategic oil reserve.

When my teammates and I were getting ready to deploy to Iraq, but before we left training and attached to our Brigade Combat Team (BCT), we went through three different initial cultural preps of the operating environment. This was because they kept moving where they were sending the BCT (third time was the charm!). Initially we were going to Salah al Din Province, near some of the denoted oil fields in Map 1. And this is where I started paying attention to Map 2 as something other than a curiosity. One of my research managers had found an expatriate Iraqi, now a US citizen, with PhDs in agricultural and civil engineering who had worked for Saddam Hussein as the lead on various projects, including some dealing with the petroleum sector. He ran afoul of Saddam, was imprisoned, then Saddam – being capricious – changed his mind and rehabilitated him. Our source, smartly, made plans to flee as soon as he could. And he did so successfully. He graciously agreed to meet with the team so we could pick his brain. One of the questions we were able to ask was about Map 2. Was it legit? Was the bulk of Iraq’s oil really along the western border with Saudi Arabia? Was the history of Mr. Five Percent accurate? Things like that. Our source informed us the map was accurate, that the Iraqi Oil Ministry had always known that the bulk of their reserves were along the western border, and that was not where any of the actual exploitation of the resources were being done. He also confirmed that the decision to use Iraq’s oil as a strategic reserve from before it was an independent state (and before there was an OPEC) was also correct and that OPEC did, indeed, limit Iraq and Iran to not producing more oil than the other in any given year. This last requirement was supposed to tamp down the historic rivalry, but seems to have made it worse.

Why is any of this important? Quite simply its because the actual bulk of Iraq’s oil is in the western areas of Iraq. Specifically in Anbar Province. The Sunni tribes, who first fought us, then allied with us after the Sawha/Awakenings, control Anbar. The other western provinces of Iraq – Najaf and Muthanna are primarily Shi’a – including the holy sites and religious academy in Najaf. The people of these three provinces are sitting on a (black) gold mine. Given that there is virtually no active exploitation in the exploratory blocks along Iraq’s western border, taking Iraq’s oil isn’t just a matter of putting the entire operational US Army on the ground to protect the petroleum workers that are going to pump it out and then the oil’s transport out of Iraq. It would require building an entire new set of extraction infrastructure in a hostile environment – both physically and societally hostile to such efforts. And that is provided Map 2, after 100 years, is still accurately indicating where Iraq’s oil is. An additional concern is that a lot of Iraqi oil is not suitable for gasoline production as it is not light sweet crude. Rather it has large amounts of sulfur and other compounds in it that make it expensive to convert to anything but heating/fuel oil. This is largely what the refinery at Baiji is producing when its running.

The Keystone Pipeline Is Dead. Thanks, President Obama!

Seriously, credit where due, per Mother Jones:

On Friday, President Obama announced his administration’s decision to reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, after seven years of intense deliberation over the pipeline’s potential environmental risks. The announcement is widely viewed as a major victory for environmentalists and is sure to further burnish the president’s legacy in combating climate change…

Slate-pitch, yet true — “Obama Didn’t Kill Keystone XL, Innovation Did“:

… In reality, Obama and Kerry simply delivered the coup de grace to a long-wounded project. Yes, politics was part of it. But the effort to bring more oil from the Alberta tar sands wasn’t spiked because the method used to extract produces a lot of negative environmental effects—or, I should say, only because of that. Rather, the end of this effort to benefit from newish innovations in external fuel production (extracting liquid oil from gooey tar sands through the application of steams) comes as a result of some very different innovations in fuel production and consumption…
Read more

Keystone: Credit Where Due

President Obama does the right thing, per Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama issued his third veto Tuesday to reject legislation that would allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, escalating a battle over the project with Republicans in Congress.

Notice of the long-expected veto was released without fanfare via a message to the Senate just hours after the bill formally arrived at the White House. The Senate has agreed to hold a vote on overriding the veto no later than March 3.

Obama has repeatedly said a State Department review of the TransCanada Corp. project — which would carry crude oil produced in Alberta, Canada, south through the U.S. — should proceed before a decision is made on whether to allow construction of the $8 billion pipeline…

Mr. Charles P. Pierce, who has been on this story, remains cynical:

… This is what happens when you have a Congress in which a rodeo clown like Jim Inhofe has power. This is said to have opened a new “era” in the current presidency. One hopes so. But, seriously, this doesn’t come anywhere close to killing the death-funnel. It just makes clear that the ongoing approval process will keep on keepin’ on, both at the State Department and in the state courts of Nebraska. It also reminds the Republicans in Congress that neither the world nor our form of government changed in November of 2014. Now we will also get to see how many, if any, Democratic congresscritters go over the side. Gut check time, boys and girls…

Speaking of Keystone

The second oil spill on the Yellowstone River in four years has poisoned the Glendive, Montana water supply:

The 12-inch-diameter Poplar Pipeline spilled on Saturday morning. By Monday night, Glendive residents cleaned local grocery store shelves of bottled water as news spread that health officials had found benzene levels in the municipal water treatment plant at two to three times what the Center for Disease Control says is safe for long-term exposure.

Some elderly residents reported not having anything to drink to take medication. People who had drunk from their taps complained of stomachaches. Hospital and schools struggled to keep their charges hydrated and safe. Some businesses were forced to cut back services or close. People fled town to do laundry or take showers.

Not until Tuesday morning did the first pallets of clean, bottled water from Bridger Pipeline, owner of the Poplar Pipeline, arrive in Glendive. They were dispensed first to hospital, schools, nursing homes and the prison. Then they to went to other residents.

Bill Salvin, a spokesman hired by Bridger Pipeline who also fielded calls on Tuesday for the county government’s emergency services command center, said the delay was due to “a matter of logistics.”

I have family in Glendive, so I’ve visited there many times. The Yellowstone is the centerpiece of that town. It has no dams and is (was?) considered a “blue ribbon” trout stream.  I wonder how many jobs will be lost when fisherman don’t come back this year.

They Are Who We Thought They Were (Republicans And Their War On Our Kids)

Republican priorities are — not “becoming,” because they always were — clear. Facing the one unequivocal existential threat to the American way of life (for starters) over the next century, here’s the GOP response to the oncoming rush of human-caused global warming:

The new Republican Congress is headed for a clash with the White House over two ambitious Environmental Protection Agencyregulations that are the heart of President Obama’s climate change agenda.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, has already vowed to fight the rules, which could curb planet-warming carbon pollution but ultimately shut down coal-fired power plants in his native Kentucky. Mr. McConnell and other Republicans are, in the meantime, stepping up their demands that the president approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

At this point, Republicans do not have the votes to repeal the E.P.A. regulations, which will have far more impact on curbing carbon emissions than stopping the pipeline, but they say they will use their new powers to delay, defund and otherwise undermine them. Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a prominent skeptic of climate change and the presumed new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is expected to open investigations into the E.P.A., call for cuts in its funding and delay the regulations as long as possible.

Just to update your scorecard, here’s what the latest IPCC report confirms is at stake:

i) Risk of death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states and other small islands, due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea level rise.37 [RFC 1-5]

ii) Risk of severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods for large urban populations due to inland flooding in some regions.38 [RFC 2 and 3]

iii) Systemic risks due to extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services.39 [RFC 2-4]

iv) Risk of mortality and morbidity during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations and those working outdoors in urban or rural areas.40 [RFC 2 and 3]

v) Risk of food insecurity and the breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes, particularly for poorer populations in urban and rural settings.41 [RFC 2-4]

vi) Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.42 [RFC 2 and 3]

vii) Risk of loss of marine and coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for coastal livelihoods, especially for fishing communities in the tropics and the Arctic.43 [RFC 1, 2, and 4]

viii) Risk of loss of terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for livelihoods.44 [RFC 1, 3, and 4]

Many key risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope.


In case those near-term consequences aren’t motivation enough, consider the IPCC’s view of the longer term:


Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts. Some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2°C above preindustrial levels (as shown in Assessment Box SPM.1). Global climate change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more above preindustrial levels in all reasons for concern (Assessment Box SPM.1), and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year (high confidence). The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger tipping points (thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change) remain uncertain, but the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping points in the earth system or in interlinked human and natural systems increases with rising temperature (medium confidence).

There is hope, or would be, given smart climate policy — really, almost any climate policy

The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change. Risks are reduced substantially under the assessed scenario with the lowest temperature projections (RCP2.6 – low emissions) compared to the highest temperature projections (RCP8.5 – high emissions), particularly in the second half of the 21st century (very high confidence). Reducing climate change can also reduce the scale of adaptation that might be required…

But, of course, such an approach — reducing the impact of climate change by controlling carbon emissions, while planning for a higher-carbon future —  is precisely what the Republican party has vowed to block.

My son was born in 2000.  in 2050, at the threshold of that second half of his century, he’ll face the world we make for him now.  The Republican party is conspiring with their paymasters in ways that will make his world significantly worse than the one our parents’ generation left for us.  Potentially — see Oreskes and Conway on this — it could be horrifically degraded, my son and his generation and their kids confronting catastrophic failures in the systems that make modern life go.

Obviously, this means that despite the wretched feelings that remain from last Tuesday’s debacle, we gotta keep fighting.  We need the Presidency in 2016, and as much of the Senate as we can claw back — and, perhaps more important, all those local and regional governments in which it is possible to attempt global-warming policy jurisdiction by jurisdiction.  A hard slog.  But necessary.

At the same time, I do have one question:  Why do Republicans hate their children so?

Image:  Hieronymous Bosch, Hell (the world before the flood) — panel from the Fall of thRebel Angels triptych,

Why I live at the P.O. and Other Random Crap

Some of y’all give me crap about living in a backward hellhole like Florida. Well, were you able to pluck a Cherokee Purple tomato off your vine last night and have it for dinner with a little salt, pepper and mayo on multigrain bread?


I thought not. Read more

Monday Morning Open Thread: The People’s Climate March

(via NYMag)

From commentor Skerry, participant:

The People’s Climate March was an astounding success! Estimated 400,000 in NYC marched. So many that they had to start diverting people off the route before the end because the permit was going to expire. We had planned for 200,000. Tremendous!

Also, marches around the globe in Melbourne (30,000), Nepal, Papau New Guinea, Barcelona (2000), Rome, London (40,000), Paris (1,000), Berlin (4000), Rio (5000), Stockholm, Amsterdam, Toronto. A total of 168 “sister” marches. I don’t know the numbers for all the cities. Information is still coming in.

Headlines on some of the major media. Top of the homepage for NYTimes. No mention on Sunday talk shows, Fox, CNN (shocking). Lots of foreign press coverage.

The plan [for Monday] is to “flood” Wall Street. I have no idea how many will participate. This action is a off-shoot from Occupy. I won’t be there, but will be watching closely.

The UN meets Tuesday to discuss and plan for the next big summit in Paris in 2015.

Pictures can be found at and on Flickr.

Oh, and my daughter got a selfie with Al Gore. She was delighted. She marched with the student/youth section. They estimated over 50,000 students covering 10 blocks. We had anticipated 4 blocks. Just a delightful day.

Gillis describes himself as “Reporter for The New York Times, covering the science of climate change and the policy implications of that science”

The AP figures this must be serious — the Rockefellers have announced they’re getting out of the oil business.
Apart from trying to save the planet, what’s on the agenda for the start of another week?