Eurasia Freezing, Australia Burning

Dual explosions rocked a gas pipeline serving Georgia and Armenia yesterday, cutting off Russian gas supplies to thousands of people during a particularly cold winter. According to Interfax, Russian investigators suspect an "extremist group" operating in the area was behind the sabotage. Mikheil Saakashvili, president of the Republic of Georgia, suspects the Russians of blackmail.

This is not the first time Saakashvili has accused Russia of manipulating energy supplies to bend its neighbours to its political will. The Georgian president wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he noted that Putin's sudden push for "market rates" in Ukraine

is disingenuous at best. There is nothing "free market" or "market rate" behind Russian energy prices. Manipulation of energy prices and supplies is a critical tool of those in Russia who believe that hydrocarbons are the best means of political influence. In Georgia, both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two areas that are outside of our control and whose separatist authorities are directly controlled by Russia, receive natural gas free -- hardly a practice free-marketeers would applaud.

Saakashvili's charge has heft -- Anne Applebaum wrote in early January that Putin was using gas to blackmail Ukraine, and that the use of such tactics combined with Europe's lack of gas delivery options could spell big trouble down the road. The Post's editorial board also sees the possible danger of a rising "Kremlin a la Saud."

Writing in the Guardian on Saturday, one day before the pipeline explosions, Mark Almond argued that Russia lost the Ukraine fight by overestimating Europe's allegiance to its energy supplier. These international relations professors agree that Putin's Ukraine strategy backfired.

Jim Hoagland says Putin is simply acting in his national character. "He was being overbearing and clumsy in dictating to people he still considers Russia's vassals. Like the commissars and czars before him, Putin is more comfortable with force than with persuasion."

Russian Blog's Konstantine, on the other hand, sides with Russia. Nixon Center President Dimitri K. Simes, while calling Moscow "clumsy, aggressive and self-defeating in its handling of the spat with Kiev," concedes that Russia has the facts on its side. Insisting that Ukraine pay market rates for its gas is not unreasonable, he argues in the Los Angeles Times.

One thing that could help Russia defend itself against charges of sabotage this time around is Gazprom's offer to supply gas to Georgia via Azerbaijan. Since Putin made it very clear that he was pulling the strings in the Ukraine gas maneuver, one would have to assume that if this is part of an elaborate blackmail plan, as Saakashvili contends, simply offering the gas to Georgia would be unlikely to prompt concessions. At the very least Gazprom would be charging extra exorbitant prices to deliver the gas or using some other carrot/stick approach. (Perhaps it is; I haven't yet seen details on costs of the rerouting. Anyone else seen solid numbers?)

With overnight temperatures well below freezing throughout the region, one thing is clear: the perpetrators of the pipeline attacks weren't too concerned with the health and safety of the Georgian and Armenian people.

(Meanwhile, in South Australia ...)

Adelaide, a city of a million where all the shops close at 5:30 p.m., has just experienced its hottest 72-hour period in more than 60 years.

We think the heat peaked yesterday -- around 2 p.m., one of those roadside time/temp displays posted a temperature of 43 degrees. Doesn't sound too bad until you do the conversion: F = (9/5 x C) + 32. That's right, 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

By my calculations, it is approximately five degrees cooler in Hell.

Now, Washington heat can be pretty oppressive, and it's true the humidity often causes visitors to wonder where we locals have hidden our gills. But that's nothing compared to the devastating bushfires Australia sees every summer.

During a visit to a nearby beach today, I noticed that a haze seemed to be rolling in, accompanied by the distinctive smell of smoke. The cloud of smoke was thick enough that I figured the fire couldn't be too far away; turned out it was blowing from all the way across the gulf, where a fire still rages on Kangaroo Island, home to much precious wildlife. Other fires continue to threaten animals and homes in other parts of the state.

If anyone out there knows any good rain dances, now's the time to get moving.

By Emily Messner |  January 23, 2006; 4:31 AM ET  | Category:  Misc.
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Emily you usually have some brain teasing and "on the pulse" topics, but this one is off the radar.

Political and government tormoil going on in the US, and now a topic about the environment abroad (the energy crisis is but a sidenote)? Isn't much of a concern at the moment with rising fuel bills (and no immediate solutions to curb it, let alone want to find alternatives); seniors/disabled/poor wondering if they're in the Medicare Part D program to get their meds (and like no one cares since it's not "trendy" special interest news for the Y generation to care about); a money influence problem that is even trashing the WP, staff and these blogs; and an Iranian disaster on the horizon.

Feel good thread for the Left (more doom and gloom ideas that has little facts to back them on <-- just 30 years ago those same scientists were warning of a mini Ice Age), but it's just rehashing a topic that got dull partipation before.

But neithertheless, I hope your vacation is going well and not all work. ;)


Posted by: SandyK | January 23, 2006 05:28 AM

I thank you on two counts. First, I've been to Adelaide, one of my favorite places actually. Nice people. Sorry to hear they are having such a hard time with the heat. Hope the trees make it through all right, beautiful in spring especially. Second, that last thread was really really getting to big.
Hope the smoke clears out before you have to leave.

Posted by: Cayambe | January 23, 2006 07:38 AM

On an entirely different note, I read somewhere that the WP was forced to eliminate the comments section of a blog on the Abramoff scandal because the tone got too personal and way too vicious. I sincerely hope we can avoid that happening here (although I fear the wheels came off the bus on that last thread on OBL). I find the discourse on the topics Emily selects interesting and enlightening (even if i am often in the minority!), one hopes we can all maintain a certain degree of civility in our future debates!

ah well, just my two cents.

Posted by: D. | January 23, 2006 10:56 AM

I've watched a few matches of the Australian Open and the players are dealing with brutal heat. The fires come with it. A few years back, Canberra was threatened. But the ecology of Australia is dependent on fire. Suppress it for too long and you get the wicked soil-sterilizing type of unstoppable wildfires you see in California with 20 years of tinder buildup. Like the NA's, the romanticized Abos regularly burned - as they were in touch and in harmony with their environment (after they killed off much of the megafauna on their respective continents, though). Sorry for the wildlife, but roasted critters are Nature's Due as a price of natural renewal.

On gas and oil. The numbers and the politics.

With other commodities, there is slack production capacity and ability to shift suppliers if Country X screws Country Y over expected soybeans, iron ore, cotton, rice, industrial diamonds contracts, etc. There is an ability to substitute to some extent. Cotton tight? Make rayon instead. There is no slack for gas and oil. No easy short term substitutes. And with every bit made being consumed, exporters have huge political leverage, as we discussed in the Iran thread. Just one major exporter stopping production now would throw the global economy into chaos.

Thank God the Saudis, for all the bashing they get from the economically ignorant, have been tremendously responsible parties in the petroleum economy.

America consumes 107 Quads of energy. 40 of that is oil, 70% of which is imported. 16 of those Oil Quads are used in private transportation. 1/3rd of that usage is SUV. A crash program to get 50% better SUV milage will save us perhaps 3 Quads and take 7-10 years to manifest in the existing vehicle fleet.

But we already consume far less per capita energy than in 1970, when energy use was 35% less than today. Why the huge increase in our dependency from 30% in 1973 to 71% now? In 1970, we had 203 million Americans. Now we have 300 million. In 2030, we are going to explode further to 363 million. (more than lived in China when our Constitution was signed). 80% of ou population growth is by immigrants and their high birth rates.

If we save 3 Oil Quads by eliminating the Great Environmental Bugaboo - the Gashog SUV (the ones that non-evironmentalists drive, some are absolutely necessary for environmentalist activities like driving to Yellowstone with bikes, white water raft, lockers full of organic food to appreciate pristine nature) - If we magically got those 3 Quads in savings, immigration and dropped anchor babies will completely negate that savings by 2015. And add more demand for nat gas imports, since we long passed our ability to meet that demand with domestic production as our population has exploded.

We should absolutely EXPECT Russia, Iran, Venezuela to use their new power. They have the world by the balls since there is no slack capacity for oil.

Nor can anyone who looks at the immigrant numbers expect us to somehow "get back" to 1990 energy usage levels that the no-population growth Euros snivel is our duty.

The numbers say that we have to use conservation, an immigration halt, and massive new energy production plans to get ourselves out of this mess. Fail to implement any of the 3 steps, and Russia, Iran, or Venezuela or whoever will continue to misbehave and get away with it. (And we can't just dump our military into a recalcitrant oil exporter and think invasion will allow us to safeguard all the production, pipelines, and refineries from Iraqi-style sabotage.)

If we are at all serious about Kyoto, we need nuclear power (wind and solar are tiny little sources at 0.15 and 0.063 Quads of the 120-140 we will need by 2030). We need coal too, and to realize that natural gas is too clean and too scarce and too versatile a fuel to divert production into electric generation- which should be hydro, coal, and nuclear only (yes, yes, add your little windmills and "GEOTHERMAL IS THE ANSWER!! (at 0.5 Quad) to the mix.

The logic of saying we "can't drill our way to being completely independent so therefore don't do it" makes perfect logical sense to Lefties and environmentalists - but bottom line it makes as much sense as telling China to stop growing rice because they can't be independent. To everyone else, that is idiotic. Any source that lessens foreign dependency and stops our wealth from disappearing overseas so Chavez can buy submarines or Iran can buy NORK missiles makes sense to do - even if it means peeved "sensitive caribou" or peeved fatcats muttering at windmills or oil rigs 5-10 miles oddshore from their swank 2 million dollar beachfront property...

Nuclear? Makes radioactive waste..Yeah, I know. So does burning coal. If we ever solve fusion as a commercially viable energy source, that makes long-lived radioactive waste too, especially if we build a fission-fusion cycle where neutrons from fusion make new fissile fuel to lower cost and add to net energy gain. And the waste, while intensely radioactive, is small in volume. The city of Akron, Ohio will fill the equivalent of 6 football stadiums with home and commercial waste. If the whole country ran on nuclear power, we would not even fill the playing field of one stadium with the spent fuel waste. If we reprocess, we would only fill one end zone out to the 20 yard line perhaps 6 feet high. (All the players and fans there would be dead of course, but that's another of shielding...and the long term effects of Chernobyl are showing that rads are less deadly than once thought with regards to long term cancers)

Posted by: Chris Ford | January 23, 2006 01:44 PM

Kudos to Emily for using both Kangaroo Island and Kremlin a la Saud in the same post. Much more cleverer than that wacky Achenblog. : )

Posted by: ErrinF | January 23, 2006 08:32 PM

I'm an American who moved to Australia in December to escape from the deteriorating political-economic situation in the U.S. I went to Melbourne, because it has the reputation of being the coolest big city on the Aussie mainland. It was over 40 degrees on New Year's Eve, three days of 40+ around the weekend, and supposed to hit 40 again Thursday. Local folks say this is unprecedented. Fires are indeed part of the environment, but these temps are extreme. Global warming is here. And I predict this summer it will be in the U.S. Midwest. Drought, anyone?

Posted by: Rick Buck | January 23, 2006 08:53 PM

Vladimir Putin is more of mafia don than a President. Thankfully, Bush has looked into his soul so everything about Russia must be OK.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | January 23, 2006 09:11 PM

Rick Buck:

"Global warming is here. And I predict this summer it will be in the U.S. Midwest."

Please send some of your global warming to Russia and the rest of Central Asia ASAP.

As for drought, tornado, etc. predictions...if you have confidence in your perspacity, time to play the cattle futures and other commodities...if you have confidence..

Posted by: Chris Ford | January 24, 2006 12:21 AM

What's crazy is that some politicians (such as George Bush) refuse to say global warming anymore and instead say 'climate change'. They found out through research that it lessenned the significance of global warming as a political issue by instead framing it as 'climate change'. Now they dogmatically stick to 'climate change' being part of their speech when broaching the subject, and avoid the term 'global warming' all together. How nice of these politicians to spend so much time, money, and effort to figure out ways to manipulate us through propogandist word selection.

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 05:18 AM

Actually the temperature in Adelaide was worse than you imagine. It wasn't just the fact that it reached 43 (109.4F), it was the fact that it never went below 33.1 (91.6F) during the final 24 hour period (ie, it was very hot in the middle of the night)

I live on the East Coast of Australia, so I wasn't affected.

Posted by: One Salient Oversight | January 24, 2006 05:42 AM

You're right down the road from Woomera - how about a visit and a real story about the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers instead of some fluff job about weather?

Posted by: garylig | January 24, 2006 10:24 AM

To ErrinF re: "They found out through research that it lessenned the significance of global warming as a political issue by instead framing it as 'climate change'."

Actually, "climate change" is the preferred term because the long-term direction of the temperature change is up in the air. It could continue to warm, or the warming could set off a freeze. Until the experts sort that out, which might not be until it actually happens, the broader term is safer. It's not just a stunt. Folks other than politicians are using it.

Posted by: Karen | January 24, 2006 12:21 PM

I'm sorry, but you are mistaken, Karen. Here is a link to an online Frontline documentary about persuasion and marketing in American culture:

If you watch section 5 of the online video, you will see deliberate manipulation by politicians of the term 'climate change' to lessen the political relevence of global warming.
The broad scientific consensus is that we are dealing with global warming, not 'climate change'. Politicians and politicos are just trying to obfuscate the issue with choice words. Your nuance about the term within the global warming debate is legitimate, but what is illegitimate is manipulation of the topic by the political antics exposed in the documentary I provide a link to.

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 04:35 PM

Because the climate changes vastly, naturally, the data is iffy on if the changes are man made or not. Have a book that was published in the 70's that went into the doom and gloom of the pending Ice Age. That taught me long before this current belly ho over "global warming", that the climatologists are as much in the dark over the matter as anyone else.

And the Antarctic ice cores also don't explain the cause of the global cooling and heating throughout time, either. It just documents the changes.

Since we only have had a little over 100 years of climatic data (and even then it was more psuedo-science than today, with instruments that could be quite inaccurate) to go by, it's outright fraud to conclude climatic changes are man made -- need a heck a lot more data to conclude that hypothesis (which it is).

One thing is for sure, few folks are paying attention to the Sun's effects on climate as well. And we've been having some major solar storms (and some of the largest X-Class flares with mega radiation hitting Earth) in the last 20 years too.


Posted by: SandyK | January 24, 2006 04:43 PM

Enough with the false dichotomies. The climate change going on right now is global warming. This climate change versus global warming debate is thoroughly bogus. Climate change and global warming are one and the same thing, and any attempt to seperate the two is a false dichotomy. I've even provided a link to a video that shows political consultants being paid to apply their sophistry to the issue, which is all I need to back my assertions that there is something fraudulent about how 'climate change' is being used to lessen the relevence of global warming.

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 04:54 PM

Global warming is just a bunch of hooey

Posted by: | January 24, 2006 05:01 PM

Take a look at the Sol's greatest X class flares and their dates...

Ol' Sun's been quite active, and spewing record amounts of radiation Earth side (which in itself could explain those ozone "holes" as that's where the radiation from the Sun really affects).

But when science becomes political, expect a hypothesis to be fact, and a fact a hypothesis.


Posted by: SandyK | January 24, 2006 05:26 PM

Global warming is just a bunch of hooey
Posted by: | Jan 24, 2006 5:01:31 PM

There are economic interests at stake, so of course there will be manipulation of the matter. Some would like to cast it aside as hooey, and not have an open discussion about the topic, but there is enough consensus within the scientific community that global warming is indeed a relevant theory. It is the unscientific that would anonymously label it as 'hooey' without any facts to back up their assertion. Like I said, there's a lot of manipulation around the topic to prevent any real discussion of the matter.

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 05:32 PM

It's amazing how a partisan hack doesn't understand Science even if it bit her on the butt. She confuses hypothesis as fact, and goes around spreading psuedo-science as Science (and committing fraud in the process).

Nevermind she'll take the Establishment's word for things, and too stupid to know the politics in Science to begin with, and why there's crappy science with little HARD data being promoted as facts, because the closest she got to Science was watching a PBS special.

[Now back to my optical engineering forlays]


Posted by: SandyK | January 24, 2006 06:00 PM

Sandy, your attack on Karen was uncalled for. She merely felt climate change was a legitimate nuance within the global warming debate, and is hardly a partisan attack. Try toning the belligerence down a peg, huh?

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 06:25 PM

Christ, Errin is even accusing Karen of lying now.

Yep, Errin's off her meds!!


Posted by: SandyK | January 24, 2006 06:42 PM

Ya right, Sandy. You attacked Karen saying she did this and she did that, and that she was stupid, blah blah blah. In no way did I accuse KAREN of anything, let alone lying. I took YOU to task for attacking her unfairly with that post of yours.

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 06:53 PM

Yep, Errin even confirms she's off her meds (or maybe it's oxygen!).



Posted by: SandyK | January 24, 2006 07:06 PM

Sandy, you clearly attacked Karen in your post. There's only a few of us here. Being that I'm male, a post by you about 'she did this' or 'she did that' or 'she is stupid' would only be about you, Karen, or possibly Emily. Since Emily hasn't weighed in on the climate change vs. global warming debate and Karen has, I'd have to assume you were attacking her and not yourself.
Now, you and I have debated plenty (if you can call it that), so you have got to know that I'm a dude by now. That post of yours didn't specifically name who it was attacking, and was all full of attacks on 'she': The logical conclusion to me is that you owe Karen an apology for your unfair attack on her.

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 07:23 PM

Now Errin is claiming to be a she-male??



Posted by: SandyK | January 24, 2006 07:55 PM

Just pointing out that you know I'm a male, Sandy. Your childish antics don't address the fact that you attacked the female debater Karen and I called you on it.
I should have known you don't have the common decency to address the situation properly, which I feel you should still do for Karen's sake, irregardless of me.
Forget I asked. I should have known better than to try to think you would ever take accountability for your belligerent recklessness, Sandy. A confused individual with reading comprehension problems like you is impossible to get through to logically and maturely.

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 08:51 PM

Is she beating her small chest again?



Posted by: SandyK | January 24, 2006 09:18 PM

Thanks for your illumination on the subject, Sandy.
Like I said, nevermind. I'm beginning to think that, in your usual confused state, you most likely thought one of my posts was one of Karen's, so you went on the attack against her. It wouldn't be the first mistake you've made lately when it comes to these reading comprehension difficulties of yours.
As to Karen, my apologies to her for including her in this. I actually did think Sandy had gone after her deliberately, but now I'm beginning to think Sandy has no clue who she's arguing against these days.
Anyway, I've said my piece now, so this will all be done with as soon as Sandy responds with some nonsensical one liner that appeals to her own ego but doesn't explain her wrong actions.

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 09:39 PM

Still bleeping for the 100x? Jeeze, Errin said she had enough centuries ago! lol


Posted by: SandyK | January 24, 2006 10:12 PM

: )

Posted by: ErrinF | January 24, 2006 10:51 PM

Bump on the whole climatic change thingee...

You betcha the Sun influences the environment!

Worse, the article has one of those scientists that proclaims, "Of course it's global warming" yet goes around claiming they can't explain the reasons why the sun light is decreasing or how the cloud changes affect the environment. :rolleyes:

Politics should really stay out of Science. It's about facts and figures, which politics gum up.


Posted by: SandyK | January 25, 2006 11:23 AM

SandyK I can see you love fighting for fights sake and have very little interest in a real discussion. You really lost it with the roach rant, my sympathy.
If someone has an opinion you have to immediatly put it down. I would love to see you ask yourself the question,"How athentic are my posts and am I really interested in discussion" or even "Am I a real poster here or am I here to subvert discussion Rove style?"

Posted by: SpeakoutforDemocracy | January 26, 2006 10:19 AM

Putting aside the hub bub of inuendo and the denials of proof for GW...
Is there anyone out there who doesn't know whether pollutive green house gasses are doing us good or ill?
Anyone in doubt must be totally oblivious AND "olfactory challenged". Those in persistant denial should be banished to live in some smog filled valley. I love my USA, but it is surely not because of the government's position on Kyoto.

Posted by: common pundit | January 30, 2006 01:50 PM

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