Remembering the Hero that is Ninoy

Thursday, August 21, 2008 0 comments

Today is August 21, the death anniversary of Benigno "Ninoy" Servillano Aquino, Jr., the greatest hero of my time. The man that challenged a regime and once again brought freedom to the Filipino people.

I was born at the shadow of his death, and I thank him for the privilege he has given me, the freedom from bondage, from fear, and from biased persecution. Although I grew up not knowing the importance of what he did, what he sacrificed so that I can live my life as it is now, Ninoy became a thing of history, locked inside a textbook in my eyes as a growing child in a post-Marcos era.

As a teenager, I learned of the Marcos regime, the mockery he made of the Filipino people, his selfish pursuit and his ascendancy to tyranny as the "architect of fear" from school, but of Ninoy I learned so little. Yes, I knew of his participation in the EDSA revolution and how he roused the "people power" that overthrew an autocrat, but then the question of "Who was Ninoy?" "How did he grow up to become a hero that he is now?" lingered in me.

I went through college still apathetic to the legacy of Ninoy as I focused on my studies and went through a normal college life. I became a columnist in the campus paper and wrote articles about my opinion of the Arroyo Administration. It was then that I realized my role as a citizen, my right to this country and my responsibility to act for change in this post-Marcos era and then I remembered Ninoy. I was wrong when I believed that Ninoy was only a thing of history, locked inside a textbook, because Ninoy is inside our hearts, there is a Ninoy in each and every Filipino I thought. What he did and what he sacrificed for all the Filipinos to live free as we live now is the greatest gift any mere mortal can give. It is the greatest love he has given us that is so profound that each Filipino must never forget.
In every century an evil rises, a hero comes to leave an imprint to rouse the hearts of the good that is innate in all of us to act and bring the evil its downfall. And now, what has become of Ninoy's aspirations for the Filipino? We have become astray and lost sense of direction. If only Ninoy lives he has done something to bring us back to the path of true independence because what we have now is a false sense of independence. We have become apathetic to what Ninoy has told us that once again brought a silent tyrant to power. Truly, It is not Hate that kills people but indifference. Do we need another Ninoy to sacrifice his life to once again rouse our hearts to act for the greater good? Is it true that each and every one of us has a Ninoy inside? Then we need to act now like Ninoy did when he was still alive but do we need another life to be sacrificed for us to act?
It is enough that we make ourselves informed and aware of what is going on in our country. It is enough to write about Heroes of the past in the hope that it will somehow rouse our spirits once again and bring epiphany that there is nothing greater than love of our country and realize that the Filipino is really worth dying for. Mabuhay ka Ninoy! Ikaw ay habangbuhay nasa puso naming lahat.

The Very Vague Energy Development Plan of the Philippines

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 0 comments

After 3 years of not crafting any plans for the energy sector, the Department of Energy (DoE) disclosed that it will start working on a Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) that stretches from 2010 until 2030.
Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes said they plan to adopt the 2030 time frame being done internationally for the country's energy plan but at this point through , he cannot offer specific direction on what the plan shall focus on. The last time the Energy Plan was modified was in 2005.
The Supplemental Power Development Plant released last year, the DoE indicated that the critical period for the Luzon grid will start by 2010, roughly two years from now. While the Visayas, having saved by the 200 megawatt coal-fired power plant project of the KEPCO-Salcon group will experience it in 2011.
Two years from now, the energy crisis will become more evident as the government particularly the Department of Energy stay dumbfounded and idle. What do they have? A very vague Energy Development Plan that for now, is just an idea not even written in paper. The government must find ways to solve this and with the help of the congress build laws to whip the officials to act faster before its all too late.
Gone are the days where we depend on coal-generated power plants. In a world where people are becoming more conscious of the ramifications of their actions, carbon-emitting coal-powered plants will soon be a thing of the past. The Business Sector should invest in renewable energy as it is more accessible and more profitable as the world's economies shift to "greener" methods.

How to Turn an Idle Farm into a Money-Generating Livelihood

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 0 comments

Dario Otaza, a 43 year old farmer from a remote river barangay of Loreto Town in Agusan del Sur, a province of Mindanao, was able to improve the economy of his area after successfully developed his idle farm into a tree plantation with the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Otaza, started from the bottom, now enjoys the fruits of his labor, and is now being looked up as a model in his community. More than 5,000 households in the area share the fruits of Otaza's hardwork.
Called "model tree farm" by the local officials, it now serves as an example to all other barangays to convert idle land to cultivate agricultural trees for profit.
Otaza started converting his 339 hectares ancestral land into a private tree farm plantation of falcatta and other agricultural crops. He also planted coffee and rubber trees as alternate crops to further improve his income. He then expanded his tree farm by tapping another 60 hectares of an adjoining idle ancestral land and planted it with abaca. Now this does not only benefited Otaza but the households in his community as well as local jobs were generated in his plantation.
Such endeavors can never really exist and prosper without the help of the local government unit and the DENR. This again proves that if we think of solutions for the problems that bug us, and do something about it, add the help of people who share the sentiment, no problem remains unsolved.

Makati Waste Recycling Project: A Model for every Barangay to Adopt

Monday, August 18, 2008 0 comments

Makati City's barangay-based waste recycling project is an achievement of the local government's endeavor to help promote environmental awareness in a city that contributes a lot to the bulk of garbage Metro Manila dumps in their sanitary land fills. The city's Department of Environmental Services (DES) reported that it generated more than 9000 kilograms of recyclables a month after it was launched.
DES chief Danilo Villar reported that the Baratilyo ng Basura ng Barangay (BBB), a repository of segregated garbage, has collected 9,779.96 kg of mixed wastes including paper, plastic, polyethylene (PET) bottles and junk electronic items among other since it started last July 7.
The BBB is one of the new projects of Makati City, aimed at effectively reducing waste volume generated by the city. Under this project, each of the six clusters in which the city's 33 barangays are subdivided has a designated BBB that serves as the official junk shop which buys recyclables from residents of member barangays. Each cluster is allowed to decide when they will sell to selected junk shops all the recyclables that they have bought from their residents. Earnings from the junk collected are then used to buy needed equipment for the barangay and fund other projects for the community as well.
This is an achievement indeed, proving that with cooperation from the people of the community, problems such as waste management can become a thing of the past. I salute the people behind this project for a job well done!

Next Time, Eat That Crab Shell

Sunday, August 17, 2008 0 comments

They say the moment you turn 21, your aging clock starts to tick, though the symptoms start to manifest at age 30. Medical science have proved that at age 30, the body begins to show signs of wear and tear. Levels of glucosamine, a fundamental building block that stimulates the production of connective tissue which is naturally found in cartilages decrease, which makes the bones in between them more prone to friction. As we all know, bones rub against each other when we walk and move, and cartilages between bones help cushion the bones from friction.
According to a recent study cited by Dr. Leo Olarte, an orthosurgeon, 13 million Filipinos are currently suffering from arthritis. Five million of them have osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis as Web MD defines it, is a general term that means inflammation of joints. It is a degenerative joint disease that is associated with the breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body. It begins usually in middle age and progresses through later life. It usually affects the weight bearing joints of the hips, knees and spine but can also affect the fingers, thumb, neck and large toe.
Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in the joints to become stiff and inelastic, making it more susceptible to friction and therefore to injury. Over time the cartilage wears away and deteriorates causing the tendons and ligaments to stretch, causing pain. If it continues to deteriorate the bones then rub each other causing more pain and damage.
Many of the products sold in the market offer glucosamine and chondroitin in one product. Chodroitin is a mineral that can help stop the degradation of osteoarthritis. It is believed that crab shells are an excellent source of chondroitin and cow trachea cartilage a source of glucosamine. These two are proven to slow down, if not prevent the onslaught of osteoarthritis.
So the next time you eat in a chinese restaurant, try to bite your way into the crab's shell. It may later save you from osteoarthritis. (But ofcourse, it is humanely impossible to bite and chew a crab's shell or a shellfish's for that matter so you can buy food supplements instead)

The 1987 Constitution of Doom

Thursday, August 14, 2008 0 comments

The subject of federalism and charter change has once again been brought up by the proponents of the Arroyo Administration. I have tackled the issue of federalism in my past article Federalism: The Good and the Bad, and I pointed out my opinion in the subject matter.

It seems that the present administration is keen on pursuing to change the system of government into parliamentary and adopting federalism. I, like before, think that federalism can be good provided that it satisfies the prerequisites for it to work properly, but with the parliamentary system, I have my doubts and for now would like to vehemently disagree with the idea of adopting it. The parliamentary system of government, if the Philippines would adopt it, would give corruption a boost, much like a vulcanized tire. The powerful will become more powerful, and with this kind of power comes greed. Looking at the present situation, the allies of this administration would fill the vacancies of what will be the supposed checks in this kind of government. The voice of the people will become mute and a silent ascent of a tyrant into power comes into play.

I think that in this kind of government public trust is tantamount and this country and its present government obviously lacks in it and it will stay this way until a change is made, but what kind of change am I talking about here?

While deliberating my thoughts about charter change and federalism, I remembered reading the article of Alex Magno entitled Democracy 102 in his column First Person in the Philippine Star. Alex Magno is a renowned political scientist and academician in the Philippines and he is an Editorial Columnist in such national dailies as the Manila Standard, Abante, and The Philippine Star. In it he somewhat divined what would happen in the future. Here is an excerpt of his article.

"In 2010, we will likely witness a peaceful, legal and uneventful transfer of power...two years from now, given the present trajectory of things, we will have an embattled candidate emerging from a bitter, unprincipled and costly multiparty race. That victor will be a minority president whose narrow margin of victory will be questioned by all the losers. There will be no clear mandate to do anything in particular - except survive in office under constant enemy fire. The winner of that dirty contest, conducted under the most primitive electoral process known to mankind, will have to wheel and deal with the various political blocs and business interests. Some sort of shaky "rainbow coalition" will have to be reassembled - a euphemism for a leader without much political capital and indebted to the amorphous assembly of interests that invested in his or her victory for entirely self-serving reasons. The new leader will be confronted by a hostile media that sees its role principally as a consensus-wrecker. He or she will be collared by the religious blocs with their doctrinal and commercial issues to nurse. Every opinion poll taken will register a progressive decline in trust and approval ratings, diminishing the new leader's political capital. Like a sequel to the movie Groundhog Day, we will see a replay of the political conditions of the past few years and as we repeat the same wild charges, the scandal-mongering, the same fat lawyers with ugly wigs hysterically crying "wolf!" at every turn, the nation just slides slowly, deeper into its role as a non-performer in a world of nimble economies and far sighted leaders."

Notice the almost strikingly perfect resemblance of Alex Magno's allegory and prediction to the present situation we are all in. The costly multiparty race, the questioning of the narrow victory of the somewhat minority president, the constant enemy fire and the will survive in office, the dealing with political blocs namely those of the opposition and business interests like some business club, the rise of a shaky "rainbow coalition" made up of people in the opposition, student activists, party list representatives and religious people and the appointment of a leader without much political background, one we will call "Pang-masa", the somewhat puppeteering role of religious blocs to solve doctrinal, commercial and even political issues and the decline in trust and approval ratings of the new president. These have all happened in the past, these are what we are all experiencing today, and these will likely happen again in the near future. A vicious cycle that oppresses the poor and empowers the rich. A problem that the Filipino people have been tackling ever since. So what then is the answer to this seemingly elusive question?

Alex Magno presented this idea and he said. "The constitutional structure within which we operate is designed to doom the presidency. The single term provision makes the incumbent a lame duck at day one. The multiparty electoral system condemns every winning candidate to the top post to the status of minority president, vulnerable to being held hostage by every political bloc that could muster votes in the congress for an impeachment or mount sustained campaign to diminish the president's popularity and political capital. Governing under these circumstances is like being forced to walk in a minefield blindfolded. One small lapse could call up the ghosts of people power and bring to center stage the tired old personalities who treat people power as private property. This is not a constitutional formula that enhances the possibility of decisive leadership to transform the nation. Nor, arguably, is it a formula that improves our chances for the sort of governance that will enable our country to be competitive in a globalized world. Interpreting the principle of checks and balances in a rigid way as an extreme reaction to the experience with dictatorship, the 1987 Constitution provides a formula for political paralysis. This is why nearly every political question eventually ends up as a constitutional issue to be settled by the High Court. This is not a constitutional structure that that enables the exercise of leadership, build national consensus to pull us out of path dependence, nor muster the political force that could break the inertia of a low-growth, oligarchy-infested and constantly squabbling country. With a party system that is incapable of developing the leadership cadre the country needs, an electoral system that is driven by patronage rather than visions and flawed institutions that are vulnerable to partisan politicking, we seem doomed to mediocre governance. Under such conditions, no one is allowed to be inspiring. Every achiever will be cut down by the constant drone of political sniping. We have a flawed constitutional design that will not allow a Lee Kuan Yew to emerge or even an Obama to challenge the political aristocracy. It is a constitutional design that does not allow us to go very far from where we now stand."

This is a strong idea presented by Alex Magno, stating that the sluggish and backward pace of our economy and our government are all brought about by our flawed constitution. The very same constitution that supposedly would protect us from a second Ferdinand Marcos to rise. Could this be true? Perhaps yes, and I believe in him.

I used to believe in the past that charter change is a bad idea, until I stumbled upon the premise that he presented. There is somehow truth in his words. I also used to believe that politics is dirty and I would much like to distance myself to topics concerning it, but now I thought if I will stay apathetic to issues that concern our country, I remain impassive even though hungry for change, a struggling visionary paralyzed and left to emaciate and die. Certainly I would not let that happen. I am no lawyer and I don't have any political background, but i can inform myself about it, and voice out my right to an informed choice because after all, I have a say in this government, like all of us have. We as a country are lagging behind as we have always done in the past. Though most of us view this as unacceptable. We want the president to solve poverty, bring down inflation and bring economic growth overnight, without allowing the political tools to make it even possible. What is wrong in our scenario then?

At the end of his article, Magno concluded that the constitutional order that we have incapacitates us all. It is only convenient for the oligarchy, the self appointed guardians of elite democracy and conservative clergymen. It is self-serving and has to be challenged from outside its operative rules. If this is the case then, somehow the constitution should have a general overhaul, not just slightly amended but entirely revised not only by those constitutional experts, but also by the people, because this concerns everyone, and by pundits outside our country. Those that can competently give us help on how to safely procure changes like adopting federalism, etc, and give a step-by-step "how-to-change-the-constitution" guideline. Those that are neither biased to any political or religious faction in the country and is adamant to the lure of power and sway of greed.

Indeed, we are all hungry for change, but we must also know that change is only possible if we challenge the political norm in this country. We must know that if a fruit's peel is rotting the inside might be rotting as well. The core of our government which is our constitution is our bane, our doom, a prison cell we made for ourselves. This constitution does not anymore represent the collective ideals of the people of this country where it should supersede. This same constitution appeals only to evil and its perpetuation and certainly has to be changed.

Is It The Cold War The Second Time Around?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 0 comments

According to a Newsweek article, Russia and Georgia are at war in all but name. After a dramatic day that saw Georgian government forces overrunning much of the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia, Russia sent in 150 tanks and an unknown number of troops to support Russian peacekeepers in the province—as well as to give vital military aid to the Ossetian rebels. By nightfall, Ossetian sources claimed that rebel troops and Russian forces had won back control of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali.
Both sides have blamed the other for the sudden escalation of hostilities. Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday that "Russia has been trying to destabilize Georgia for years," and added that the latest hostilities were an attempt to oust Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili, "the Western-educated, pro-Western head of the most democratic country in the former Soviet Union … he is a thorn in Russia's side." However, it was the Georgian side that launched a full-scale military assault on Tskhinvali on Thursday night after days of escalating skirmishes.
The irony of this vicious little battle is that Saakashvili and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev could be close allies. They certainly have a lot in common—both are young, dynamic leaders who trained as lawyers before going into politics. They are far more westward-looking than their predecessors, and both of them are passionate about rooting out corruption and introducing the rule of law to their reluctant countrymen.

But instead of cooperating, the two men are on a collision course, locked in a confrontation that only one of them can win. In a sense, both leaders have been hijacked by history. South Ossetia was a festering conflict left over from the chaotic days of the Soviet Union's breakup. For nearly two decades, the Kremlin has supported Ossetia and Abkhazia, another tiny rebel enclave, with money and military supplies as part of an old-fashioned divide-and-rule policy designed to keep Georgia weak. Medvedev inherited that policy from Vladimir Putin—and now has little choice but to follow it through. Medvedev has been fighting the "wimp factor" ever since he took over as president in May; he cannot afford to look weaker than his tough-talking mentor.

The US is an obvious supporter of Georgia, and this spouted an awkward situation between the US and Russia. Recently, Putin and Bush exchanged harsh words, and one can't help but think, can this be the Cold War the second time around? I hope not, this is something the UN security council will see through, or a Nuclear Meltdown of the two superpowers is imperative. It is Five Minutes Till Midnight, but this new threat to world security will surely move the dial to four if this political unrest is not resolved soon.

Federalism: The Good and the Bad

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 0 comments

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said last monday that the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was rather “peaceful" despite clashes between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters in the provinces of North Cotabato and Basilan. In a press conference in its main office in Manila, the Comelec noted a 60 to 65-percent turnout for Tawi-Tawi and 60 percent for Lanao del Sur, Shariff Kabunsuan and Maguindanao. Henrietta T. de Villa, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting head, said her group had noted a 60 to 70-percent voter turnout, contrary to fears that people might be discouraged to vote for security reasons, but 60 to 70 percent is still not 100.
The clash between the military and the MILF had cost lives ever since this erupted. Clearly this war is not what we, catholics or not want, and I think the Muslims agree. Then, what is the use of this non-sense, seemingly endless war mongering? How many more shall die before peace is achieved in Mindanao? Could Federalism be the answer to this endless strife?
The term federalism is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided.between a central governing authority and constituent political units (like states or provinces). Federalism is the system in which the power to govern is shared between the national and state governments, creating what is often called a federation. In BPS Politics' blog , he said that Jose Abueva, former president of University of the Philippines and a professor of public and administration we should take federal kind of government. He said that the Philippines would take a period of no less than 10 years to make a successful transition to federalism, involving a period of consolidation of several regions and intensive socioeconomic development in each of consolidated regions. Advantages of federal government are the following: (1) It ensures that government remains close to the people because the state government argue that they are more in tune with the daily needs and aspirations of people especially relevant to small and isolated places. (2) It encourages development of the nation in a decentralized and regional manner and allows for unique and innovative methods for attacking social, economic and political problems. (3) It provides a barrier to the dominance of the majority, while the disadvantages are the following: (1) It can lead to duplication of government and inefficient, over-lapping or contradictory policies in different parts of the country. (2) It can lead to inequality between the states and lead to unhealthy competition and rivalry between them. (3) It cal lead to over-government that will result to corruption. I have cited both faces of federal government in order to inform all of you that federal government is a good system of government and a good example of successful federal kind of government is the United States of America. But the question lies still, is federalism the answer to the endless strife in Mindanao?
I think it is possible to adopt a federalist system of government. While the advantages seem to be promising, the disadvantages should be weighed down carefully as adopting this kind of system would need a constitutional change. Responsibility is the main ingredient for this kind of system to run smoothly, and I think that the Philippines are not yet ready for this kind of government, as corruption poisons the country. With corrupted officials, the federalist system would bring terrible consequences for the constituents of the state.
But I should also point out that to say that federalism is not an answer would be fallacious and therefore illogical. This Catholic versus Muslim war are perpetrated by selfish people with the power to corrupt minds. They are selfish because their only pursuit is of personal gain and not of national or the general welfare of the people. They do not see the effects of war, the deaths it cause, the diseases it bring, and the costs it entails. They are the ones that seed this country with corruption, they are the ones that taint the image of this republic as a nation divided. But corruption can be corrected like the other problems that plague the country, all we need is to build this country once again as a nation that can stand through any challenge brought about by development. We need to change our system, a system that will cleanse our government of corruption and we can start now by having a mindset to battle the evil that beleaguers this country.

"Iskulelat": An Eye-Opener

Thursday, August 7, 2008 0 comments

Last monday, August 4, 2008, I was able to watch the episode "Iskulelat" a GMA News and Public Affairs documentary. It told the story of a far-flung elementary school in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao, Ariman Guro and the struggle of the teachers and students to teach and learn from what ample is given to them.

Every year, the Department of Education holds the National Elementary Achievement Test for all schools and every year, schools in Mindanao end up in the bottom ten. This year, Ariman Guro Elementary School in Lanao del Sur got an average score of 21.7%, the lowest grade among all elementary schools in the Philippines.

Sandra Aguinaldo, an award-winning journalist takes a good look at the dire situation the people of Ariman Guro face and her exposé expertise is given justice in this eye-opener documentary as she discovers Ariman Guro has only six teachers for all grade levels, with no subject specializations. The school sorely lacks chairs and tables and the only textbooks sent to them by government is for the Makabayan subject, they don't have textbooks for english, math and science, forcing the teachers to buy textbooks using money from their own pockets. The students at Ariman Guro often miss class because of the prevalence of "rido" or clan wars in the area. Many of the students here belong to warring families. She tells the story of 11-year old Fahad Cosain, who recently lost his uncle to Rido. For that and his own safety, he stays at home now instead of going to school. His young cousins now carry guns to protect themselves from attack. The school's candidate for valedictorian, Rahimah Nasroden, was also affected by her family's clan war. Rahimah was not allowed to go to school during the height of the conflict, for fear of abduction and possibly even assassination. Rahimah is back to school now and determined to finish her education, believing this is her only way out of poverty.

I can't help but to feel saddened by the fact that there are people who still suffer from this and also to feel thankful that I have been blessed to finish education when others struggle to even finish elementary and I thank God and my parents for that.
Sandra Aguinaldo also found out from the teachers there that they received funds from the regional education department fit only for buying chalk. The question then is what happened to the fund that is supposed to be theirs? This is evident that corruption bugs the town and its people. Do their government officials know the predicament of their actions? Do they know of the difficult situation the students and even the teachers of Ariman Guro face? How could they take the future of the children and their dreams. The evil that rido brings is a mere thing compared to the malice of corruption. This is the bringer of woes. The plague that has since bugged the Filipino people. When will this end? Nobody knows for sure, but until we stay apathetic from this kind of issues, nothing will change. I just hope that the questions that boggle the students and teachers of Ariman Guro are answered soon and the emancipation from the bondage of corruption and violence that they are hungry for be given to them.

A New Design for my Blog

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 0 comments

I decided to abandon once again (for the third time now) my old blogger template for this one. I like the green concept of this design, thanks to blogger templates for the code, though I would like to personalize it with widgets, I am afraid I might overdo it. I hope this will work out.

Cheap Oil: Soon to be Extinct?


I stumbled upon this article in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists website and this confirms the possibilities I presented in my past article "The Root of All Our Woes". The Author Alfred Cavallo is an energy consultant based in New Jersey, Cavallo has worked at Princeton University's Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, where he studied indoor air quality, renewable energy, and transforming intermittent wind energy into a reliable power source. His article "OPEC, Peak Oil, and the end of Cheap Gas" is an eye-opener, highlighting the role of OPEC in the mockery of world economies and their contribution to the inflating price tags of oil and thus of petroleum products as well. Here is an excerpt of the Alfred Cavallo's article.

Since the beginning of the modern oil age in 1859, pessimists have warned that the oil wells would soon dry up or that oil production would peak and not be able to keep up with ever-increasing demand. Again and again, the pessimists have been proven wrong, often embarrassingly so, as science and technology have allowed more oil to be extracted from existing fields and from deposits in more challenging locations such as the Arctic and the deepest waters of the continental shelf. Indeed, oil production rates have increased, on average, by about 1.1 million barrels per day per year over the past 10 years.
But in many oil-producing nations, oil-field production really has peaked due to depletion of resources. This includes large producers such as the United States, Britain, Norway, Mexico, and Russia, and small producers such as Indonesia, Argentina, and Australia. Moreover, new oil field discoveries are generally getting smaller and more inaccessible.

Yet amid all the discussion about peak oil, one voice has been conspicuously absent, that of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC's position on the petroleum-resource question should be the decisive factor in this ongoing and seemingly inconclusive debate. The organization now supplies about 42 percent of the world's petroleum and, unlike all other producers, OPEC members have quotas that are adjusted to insure that supply and demand are in equilibrium: If non-OPEC production were to either reach a plateau or begin to decline, OPEC producers would need to increase production substantially to meet ever-increasing world demand.
Oddly then, OPEC has been virtually silent on this issue. Their quiet refusal to comment cannot be due to lack of interest or expertise: OPEC now has its own research group that produces an annual
World Oil Outlook and a Monthly Market Report PDF that rival the work of any other energy forecasting group. Similarly, OPEC is certainly aware of the U.S. Geological Survey's World Petroleum Assessment Project, which for the first time brought industry and government experts together to evaluate world oil and gas resources. And OPEC is surely cognizant of ExxonMobil's projection PDF of a non-OPEC production peak by 2010 and the extensive discussion of petroleum resources in trade journals and the popular press.

Thus, OPEC's reasons for not publicly engaging in the peak oil debate must reside outside the rational business of drilling wells, building pipelines and refineries, and making market forecasts. Dissimulation or silence on the part of OPEC on these issues is a matter of prudence and subtle calculation.

Indeed, OPEC has a history of manipulating the oil market in response to political events. For instance, in 1973, OPEC raised oil prices by about a factor of four and embargoed oil exports to the United States in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. From 1985 to 1986, when Iran seemed about to win the war that followed Iraq's invasion in September 1980, OPEC increased oil production to drive down the price of oil in order to pressure Tehran to end the war. Following 9/11, OPEC decreased production by up to 5 million barrels per day to stabilize falling prices. In 2003, OPEC increased production by several million barrels per day to compensate for lost Iraqi supplies following the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
This history--by no means thorough or complete--demonstrates that OPEC is fully capable of taking decisive action to increase or decrease the price of oil by adjusting its production levels to protect its interests.

Since 2002, OPEC has increased its annual average basket price from about $24 per barrel to more than $125 per barrel--more than a factor of five. It has accomplished this increase with minor disruption in the world economy and without provoking significant retaliation from consumers. It's a stunning achievement.

Considering all of these factors, it's safe to conclude that the era of cheap oil is over, and that petroleum extraction rates won't increase substantially above current values. The transportation sector, which overwhelmingly relies on liquid fuels, will need to move toward much higher efficiency vehicles and electrification. Heating oil will become unaffordable, and heating and cooling using heat pumps powered with renewable electricity will have to become the new convention. Modern industrial economies will adapt to this new regime--if managed correctly, a benefit to everyone in the long run.
Furthermore, high oil prices mean that natural gas prices will also increase dramatically. In many markets, natural gas prices (including liquefied natural gas) are contractually tied to those of crude oil, while in the United States the link is informal. Since it costs as much to discover and drill for gas as it does for oil, producers in the past have obtained approximately equal prices (per unit of energy) for both.

"The Age of Expensive Oil" has finally arrived without large disruptions in the world economy, which is contrary to what many doomsayers predicted. They couldn't imagine that a modern economy could adapt to peak oil and foresaw the end of the modern industrial state, the end of large cities, and a return to a simple agrarian lifestyle coupled with a massive decrease in world population. Instead, peak oil has arrived gradually, without fanfare, and without major financial upheaval. The fundamental cause isn't primarily a limit on petroleum resources, but OPEC's long-term strategic considerations.
This development is as unexpected as it is welcome. For while it's appealing to believe that our addiction to oil will be cured by a sort of worldwide religious revival and the voluntary acceptance of limits on consumption, in practice, this is extremely unlikely. Far more certain is a market-based approach of gradually increasing prices to ration a scarce commodity and force consumers to take on efficiency, conservation, and new technologies as matters of extreme urgency.

Indeed, the truth is dire for economies that rely on oil for development and it is sad that the architects of fear themselves are those who produce and control oil and countries who don't belong in their circle are left to squander in the dark begging for their mercy. What will the future become for countries like the Philippines then? Surging oil prices is only a tiny speck in a big mosaic of problems this country faces and yet we cannot even address one so small for us to address the bigger problems that lie ahead of us.

*More of articles about oil can be found here.

Link List for Bloggers

Sunday, August 3, 2008 0 comments

Trestin recently commented on my article Brad Blogging: A Wonder of the Blogoshpere, and he proposed this idea, a list for blogger users only. I give it a try and here it goes.





4. Sound Libraries by Discovery Sound

5. World Ethnic Sample CDs



8. Super Space Cowboy


10. Jill's Grumles

11. Trestin Sports

Join us and spread the word!

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