Saturday, April 29, 2006

dark energy (or: a vista of primate living)

The state of nature has hardly ended. We primates, once standing to look across a savannah, have now sometimes become "petroauthoritarian" regimes (Tom Friedman's coinage for Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and others) looking around the planet for primative (sic) petrocorporate clients (e.g., Chad to the U.S., Sudan to China), as the global species sucks the fermented legacy of planetary eons until it learns to fuel its technoeconomies otherwise via, e.g., limitless hydrogen (breeder reactors, fuel cells) and solar power.

Such comment may seem specious, but we're really a young species, epistemically speaking: attaining oil-and-gas technoeconomies only within the last 12-or-so decades. Anthropologically childish conflict and avarice remain common, while scientific and policy communities can realistically project our evolvability far beyond the readiness of most everyone. (Governing evolution—via education, public health, bioscience, etc.—is inevitable for the self-designing species that does what it can imagine.) Any doctor of medicine appreciates how primative we are. Any psychotherapist can complement that appreciation. We are still relatively avaricious—and, demographically speaking (the bell curve), still largely dumb.

Meanwhile, in the scarce realm of the bell curve's high end, the need for a "paradigm shift" is a wandering conversation. "Together, the EU and the United States must send a clear signal on the need for a paradigm shift on energy," said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Friday (Reuters, 4/29).

[R} [He] told a transatlantic conference that the 25-nation EU and Washington should press Moscow to create free market conditions and legal certainty to guarantee predictable energy supplies.

Republican Senator John McCain, a possible presidential contender, said Washington should be tougher on what he called President Vladimir Putin's autocratic rule and "some perverted vision of a restoration of the Soviet empire."

It was up to Russians[, said Barroso,] to decide whether they wanted "a real democracy or a half-democracy." The quality of Europe's relations with Moscow would depend on that choice. Barroso highlighted European concern at perceived efforts by Putin to use energy as an instrument of power politics with its neighbors and partners.

G: Iran becomes Russia's proxy in this paradigm? Russia certainly benefits from the high oil prices that the risk-haunted speculative market is sustaining. Mikhail Gorbachev warned last month of Cold War echoes in recent tensions between Russia and the West. Russia is having trouble getting into the WTO, and its power mongering isn't sitting well with the other G8 members who will be hosted by Russia in July.||

"We are seeing more frequently the use of energy resources as an instrument of political coercion," the Commission chief said, without explicitly naming Moscow.

The EU, depending on Russia for a quarter of its gas, is concerned that Moscow is keeping its pipeline network closed to competition, extending its network control westwards through Ukraine and Belarus, and trying to monopolize pipeline access to Central Asian gas supplies, notably in Turkmenistan.

The Kremlin is also resisting moves by Brussels to apply its strict competition policy to long-term Russian gas supply contracts to EU countries.

G: Perhaps the Kremlin's alliance with Iran is an effort to extend this paradigm to nuclear energy in the region. Relations between Iraq and Iran may become a post-Cold War proxy in geoeconomics (if not Gorbachev's feared return to a Cold War ethos).