Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Mumbai Attacks and this Fossil Fuel Business

This blog does not usually go into international events other than environmental ones, or into issues like terrorism etc. I do write about those issues on other websites though I do not have specific blogs about them. That said, the recent Mumbai attacks have been something that I have had a long discussion with a very good friend in India about. My contention has always been that the huge oil reserves below the Saudi sands give the extreme nut cases who rule that country and their cohorts a large amount of money with which to threaten the rest of the world and to pay for acts of terrorism against anyone who doesn't meet their religious criteria. I have long argued that if these lunatics were to be sidelined, then the use of oil would have to ber educed severaly by the rest of the world in order to deny them the money with which to finance terrorism. There has been positive news from the USA in this sense over the past ten months when oil consumption has been falling on a month by month basis. WHile some recent data suggests that pickup truck and other gass guzzlers have been selling well in recent weeks after oil prices started falling, my personal view is that this is more due to the extreme incentives being offered by car manufacturers keen on liquidating old stocks before the new and significantly mroe fuel efficient vehicles come out in early 2009 and then onwards. We shall see how this goes, but I do not think that I am wrong. When Black Friday sales drop enough to cause a 680 point drop in the Dow, I doubt that sub $ 2 a gallon gasoline is going to make a difference in driving habits other than to get people to drive a heck of a lot less, especially in what promises to be a harsh winter.

But that is besides the point. Manoj's e-mail which he requested that I post in full on this blog entry is below:

Hi Mehul

Before I start off my reply, would like to keep you forewarned that since the latest happenings have hit Indians hard where it hurts the most, India is finally waking up and saying enough is enough, this is a wound that is raw in the hearts and minds of most Indians me included and so my response might sound a little harsh or ballistic. But that is the way most of us currently feel and it should not be held against us.

I agree with you that a lot of funding for global terrorism is from middle eastern oil money. Also fact is that funding is the lifeline of all activity and the best way to stop any activity is to cut off its funding. Point taken fully. But in a scenario like today, cars two wheelers airplanes and any other form of transport is a necessary evil. In this day and age of globalization and rapid change it is foolish to say people should stop travelling or commuting just so that the USA can achieve its aim of bringing the Saudi's to their knees. Alternate fuels are slowly emerging as viable options to oil guzzling means of transport, but they are light years away from fully replacing oil. Let us admit it not matter how much we may dislike doing so, OIL IS AND WILL REMAIN ONE OF THE CORE AND MOST IMPORTANT REQUIREMENTS FOR ANY COUNTRY THAT WANTS TO HAVE ANY KIND OF GROWTH.

The world is aware of the fact that the gulf war was more about oil and not about nuclear weapons or about the now famous "Weapons of Mass Destruction" none of which were even glimpsed in Iraq. Everyone now knows that while Bush and his thugs did not find a single weapon of mass destruction, what they did find and find in large quantities and take full control of was the oil wells which was anyways his main reason to plunge his country and a large part of the world into a mindless war that still seems to have no end whatsoever. Why is America making so much noise about reducing oil consumption now???? when it has been the world's highest consumer of oil all these years. Just because the US has become a developed economy by mindlessly consuming oil, it is now trying to preach reduction in oil consumption to the world???

Let's be honest, the US is reducing oil consumption more because it is unable to afford oil thanks to the recent financial crisis caused by greedy american financial institutions which has left the man on the streets in the midst of one of the worst ever crises seen anywhere in the world. One is also aware of the oil reserves in US and Canada which are being preserved for use when the middle east resources dry up. So one way or the other some one is looking to benefit from oil and its rampant use.

The same frustration and demand for change that is reflected in my email is also what drove the change in the US and brought Barack Obama to power, and there is no need for me to highlight all the factors and the firsts associated with his election.

While reduction in oil consumption and cutting of Saudi money flows are the long term ways to meet some of the global challenges, what my friends are asking for in the email (this was an e-mail asking for more action by the Indian government in response to the Mumbai attacks) are more immediate term solutions. The political scenario in India and the lack of political will to do anything positive for the citizen of the country are the issues that every Indian wants to see addressed immediately. The man speweing verbal garbage and screwing the common Indian on the streets to improve himself and his ilk who claims to be a leader of the masses has to be sent only one message and that is "India has had enough, and Indians are not going to take any more nonsense lying down" This message has to be made loud and clear and whatever change is required to improve the lives of common Indians will have to be brought about. To this extent we will send out as many emails and messages as may be required, and we would appreciate any and every kind of help from any corner, even if it means merely forwarding such emails to as many people as possible.

Once we are able to bring in the necessary change and have the right people at the helm, then all the long term solutions that you are proposing will get noticed and implemented themselves. To that extent running a country is no different from running a business corporation. Get the right people for the right jobs and the company will run smoothly and grow by itself. Its not rocket science and India is now discovering that fact. Let us hope and pray for the sake of this nation and its people that the desired change comes up sooner rather than later.

Once again my apologies if I sound very drastic or ballistic about this issue, but that is exactly how I fell about it. I would be more than happy if you want to post my response in full (preferably) on your blog and I will be interested in the responses that it draws as well.

Warm Regards

Manoj Barai

Well, Manoj has no reason to be apologetic - energetic debate is something that simply needs to come on this blog as it does on some of my articles elsewhere. My response to the above is simple:

1. The economic situation is not as bad as some think, especially across sectors. Some sectors are doing well in business over here despite the mess on Wall Street and in the Housing industry. For example, while the Detroit Three are doing badly, there are 16 other companies manufacturing cars quite profitably.

2. The consumption of oil has fallen not just because some people have been hit hard by the recession but because Americans, in my opinion, are consciously driving less than they used to. This is on environmental grounds, because people are keen on not polluting the air around them and because many Americans have realised the pleasures of being witht heir families again in my opinion. And, if I got a penny for every time someone told me that they did not want their money going to the Saudis, I would make Bill Gates look like a pauper. I guess these views are common in the educational sector where I am involved full-time. But I hear these views increasingly all over the place.

3. India which has always been one of the biggest victims of Saudi sponsored terrorism is, sadly, among the world's biggest oil buyers these days. The stupidity of this approach is something that I cannot understand - in Norway, the Tatas sell electric cars to compete with Thinks. Tata BP Solar, for example, sells solar powered street lighting to countries like Afghanistan and across Africa under UN aid programs. No Indian city bothers to use these for reasons that only they know. And take the warm and sunny Indian weather - if there were a single country that was perfect for harnessing solar power on a mega scale, it is India. Vast government buildings, schools, colleges and universities etc not to mention mega-malls are all places where the newer thin film photovoltaic technology would make a heck of a lot of sense especially these days when power shortages are killing the retail sector. Somehow, Indian businessmen seem content to sit on their haunches and not do squat about something that would make them money. And the politicians and bureaucrats, the worst of the bums that populate the country, have even less of an idea what to do even though the tech is available and blogs like Treehugger, Green Daily, Autoblog Green etc work at a feverish pace highlighting advancements in this sector day by day

4. I still maintain that if the Arab madmen whose only desire is to spread murder and mayhem are to be brought to heel, the only way is to drastically reduce consumption of their oil. I know that several construction projects across the Middle East have been hit hard by the drop in oil prices from $ 140 plus a barrel to around $ 50. If even a further fifth of oil consumption were reduced - a very real possibility if large nations like India decide to do something pro-actively - they would, quite likely, implode. China is working hard to do this. India needs to catch up.

I would appreciate responses from my many friends who read this blog and comment to me privately to please respond either here or in e-mails to me. I hope you give me permission to post your responses here. This is a topic that I hope to popularize and push forward as I think it is important that we have a national debate on energy especially in India like the USA has thanks to the Pickens Plan. Do write in and have a wonderful day!


Manoj said...

Dear Mehul

First of all thanks for posting my email on your blog. Since I am not too well versed with blogging etc, I would appreciate if you could tell me on how I can check responses that my email receives (if it does receive any that is. Once again point taken Saudi oil money needs to dry up for them to stop funding terror. Also we need to popularize alternate energy sources for more reasons than just neutralizing oil money funded terror. Global warming and green cover conservation etc. But todays scenario is one where agencies from within USA are officially declaring that the country is in recession and has been for a few months now. Its not just the D3 that are facing tough times. Some of the biggest names in the country like Lehman / CITI / Merrill / AIG and god knows how many more have collased or are surviving on government hand outs. There have been job losses by the tens of thousands and most of them in Europe and USA. Across the world without exception, owning a home is the ultimate dream for most individuals / families, and people are having their homes taken away from them in the US as a result of the ongoing crisis. If I were to concede for a minute that maybe the Indian media is blowing up the financial mess is the US out of proportion like you say, but now data from within US is establisihing the same. The media and governments and experts around the world are accepting the fact that most countries are going through economic hell. In a situation like this saying that only wall street and a 3 mile radius around it is affected and everything else every where else is hunky dory is nothing but denial of facts. Yes even in India there is a segment of people who have been wise with their money who are not as badly affected by the goings on, but one cannot deny the economic crisis as nothing more than a bunch of companies going through tough times. It is because of this situation that more American and European families are driving less and less and are supposedly discovering the joys of family togetherness..... America as a nation has always been known to love its cars pick ups and Harley Davidsons from times immemorial, and for such auto loving people to suddenly become docile family men and to discover long lost family values and that too for this discovery to coincide with a global financial crisis is something that not just me but a lot of people would find difficult to digest.
Let me fianlly clarify that I am not getting into America bashing here or trying to put down America. I have always looked at that country with a lot of respec and regard. What I dislike is their attitude of doing something and justifying it as something totally different. Also the fact that they have been regarded as a superpower for so long that they are unable to come to terms with the fact that their country could also be mortal and perhaps as vulnerable as any other country in the world. Its like an ostrich with its head in a hole. Hopefully they will now wake up to the fact that other countries are rising to become bigger powers than them. Glimpses of this awakening can be seen from the fact that US secy of state Condy Rice cut short some of her other trips and rushed to India after the terror attacks and both the present and incoming US administration has promised all possible assistance to India.

I think I have said enough for now and will end here. However as a parting shot I would like to remind everyone that while the US is busy claiming that it is fighting Saudi terror and oil money with all possible resouces, one cant but notice the irony in the fact that THE BIGGEST INDIVIDUAL INVESTOR IN AMERICAS BIGGEST FINANCIAL INSTITUTION CITIBANK IS NONE OTHER THAN ONE OF THE SAUDI CROWN PRINCES. I am sure he has used nothing but oil money to buy that stake. (it was too tempting to resisit saying this specially since both of us had a hearty laugh about it)

Manoj Barai

Mohanakrishnan B said...

Cars, two wheelers, airplanes and other forms of transport are not evil. It is their unwarranted usage that is evil. Using public transportation unless it is an emergency makes good sense. So does using a bicycle and walking. I have a rule of thumb. If it is a distance between 3-4 km and I am not in a hurry, I walk. You would be surprised to know that during peak hours on many occassions I have reached my destination before the guy in the Honda Civic who is stuck in his car and probably cursing. Why should someone who goes to his office in the morning, returns home in the evening and maybe spends a night out on the town with his family/friends during weekends buy a gas guzzling car? Why not just rent a car as and when he needs it? You save on maintainance, fuel, parking space, salary for the driver and other expenses. You dont have to worry about theft or damage either. Now some people will say that car sales will go down. It wont because more agencies that rent out cars will spring up. More people will be employed as drivers in these agencies. If it is a privately owned vehicle, mostly it will be self driven. Why cant Tata have a tie up with a company like Hertz or Chennai Limouzines to do something like this?
Major auto makers themselves will not agree with you about reducing oil consumption or looking at other forms of energy because all existing vehicles run on fossil fuel. All they are interested in is making money. They are not interested in R&D to develop an eco friendly vehicle that runs on solar energy that may become reality in 25 years. They forget that if our forefathers had the same ethics as them, we would not have discovered so many things beneficial to mankind in medicine,tools,communication etc. You cant improve on something unless you invent it first and to invent it you have to invest in it. Invest time and money, not knowing whether you will be successful or not. Just trying and trying different methods until you succeed. If Edison and Marconi had been obsessed with greed we would never have had the light bulb or telephony. Ultimately this is all about greed, short sighted instant gratification. Who do you think runs the country? Any country? The politicians? The Military? The Beauracracy? Wrong. The big business houses do. They fund the politicians during election time and use financial muscle to get the policies they want. While they are philanthropic and donate wheelchairs, books and computers, clothes and firecrackers to orphans during Diwali with much fanfare, they are yet to make their office spaces disabled friendly for customers or employees. To the big corporate czar customers are a nuisance, tolerated only because they spend. The ideal customer should take what he is given and be satisfied. Employees are to be treated like serfs unless they are middle or top management. Try getting a refund on your product. Try getting to the management to express your unhappiness about products or services and you will understand what I am talking about. Books can be written about all this. But it is not going to change anything. Greed drives the world. Greed and fear. No getting around that.

aminor0amajor said...

Dear Mehul
How are you?

Mumbai has nothing to do with terrorism but India. India doesn't need to worry about global terrorism but fixing its own internal policy and producing ideology how to unite its people suffering social and racial tension for thousands years.

But as you can see, some politicians just use these problems as their policy.

You may say there are terrorist elements from Pakistan. But it's no use to blame Pakistan so fast as it's fighting against Alkaida itself and Bhuto was assassinated recently. It might be true that its army etc might be involved but the central government is in crises.

If India wishes to destroy Pakistan, it had never a better time than now. By making Pakistan another Afghanistan or Iraq, however, won't make India safer.

Indian people have to see and find a solution that has been among themselves.


Renewable energy is future solution. India has some research facility so it should make it in good use. Future wealth is depending on this. India cannot just follow. And India cannot stay behind by relying on fossil fuel that would become more inaccessible to the majority. India cannot wait and see just to import technologies that might one day become as important as computer tech.

Happy New Year to you