Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Middle East & Militant Islam
2.  Militant Islam
There has always been militant Islam.  Moreover, as long as Islam retains real strength it will contain elements of political militancy.    For proof, one needs only to look at recent history.  After the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the headlines announced a storm brewing in the Arab world.  That storm spread rapidly, penetrated several Moslem countries.  Today, we observe many parts of the Arab world being engulfed by this rising tide of militancy.   We saw in the earlier blog that Islam is a way of life, and must be central to every aspect, including politics.  This allows militancy to penetrate the Muslim population.
In recent years the Islamic storm invaded the weakening structure of  a number of Moslem states, namely, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Pakistan.  Westerners should have recognized what lay ahead when the first an oil embargo was imposed by Moslem countries.  Suddenly, the shortage of oil to the Western consumer gave power to the Arab oil producers.  From that day forward Islamic animosity toward the West has increased, along with a growing hatred of the Israelis.  Since that time in the 1970s there has been a political resurgence of Islam from Morocco to the Philippines.  How can Westerners deal with the Islamists in the future?
Westerners carry images of bearded men in flowing robes and turbans, black- veiled women in long black garbs trudging along in small groups.   They see severed heads displayed, hanging over gates.   They see  bloody stumps of amputated hands and feet, and piles of stones covering the battered bodies of the adulterous.  This is all true, but the West misunderstands that real implications go much further, covering autonomy, constitutions and legal systems.
Misapprehensions between Christians and the Moslems go back 1500 years.   From the West, originally, there was fear, later contempt.  From the East, there was first hatred, then a feeling of inadequacy and envy – coupled with a bit of respectful admiration.  History tells the story of Medieval Europeans viewing Moslems as pagans, fanatics who burned cities and turned churches into mosques.  Later, the Ottomans were the scourge of southeastern Europe for close to two centuries.   There was no common ground.
Today, the West sees a fat oil Sheikh buying up everything in sight; and  at the same time attempting  to bankrupt the West.  Maybe, the mad Mullah brandishes an AK-47 surrounded by masked fanatics carrying bombs and machine guns.  These images have warnings of religious, political and economic interests that will be destroyed by Islamic fanatics.
On the other hand, the Moslems know they have shaken the West’s confidence, self-esteem, and definitely the pocketbook.  At the same time, it is of little comfort to know that militant Islam is part of a much larger problem.  The problem is not just confined to the Moslem world it includes all the Third World.   However, it mainly affects those undeveloped regions in the south part of the planet.  The problem is challenging the Western way of life; one that is rapidly becoming a global way of life.  The aggrieved feelings of the Third World are expressed by the growing animosity of these peoples; backward and deprived they believe they are faced with an economic and military giant without morals or scruples.   The UN mirrors these Third World  attitudes.
Look closely at the terms of reference.  Militant Islam is not a passing fad.  It will remain a permanent factor in the life of the Islamic world.  For years, the dogma of the Moslem Brotherhood stood as a silent warning, i.e., until recently.   Moreover, its dogma is well thought out and menacing, and always with the same steely core.   The organization calls itself a political party, but is much more.  In reality, they are engaged in the high and holy task of infusing principles of a lofty religion into workaday politics, economics and social affairs.   That exalted religion is Islam, which is quite uncompromising in the totality of its claims for authority over all aspects of the life of the individual.  It is the goal of militant Islamists to take control of a state’s national life.  In short, the West is ‘stuck with’ militant Islam and will have to live with it.[1]
The foregoing paragraph, written thirty-three (33) years ago, was prophetic.  Because few paid any attention to what was taking place in the Arab world, we find ourselves suffering the consequences.  The Brotherhood may be gaining control of Egypt; however, there is growing dissent and demonstrations against Morsi's recent proclamations.  If Morsi does gain full control, it may guarantee that Egypt will become an Islamic state.  Moreover, it this happens; it may become a twin for Iran.   What is the basis for this comment?  For some reason, unexplained, Western politicians and diplomats think a Western education converts a Muslim to Western ideals.  Wrong, Morsi holds a Doctorate in Engineering from a prestigious American University.   Further, I personally have known many Arabs who were educated in our universities, and more than half remained Islamic to the core.   
How many Islamic terrorist organizations are actively operating?  Let’s get real and recognize; there are dozens.  Some are well organized with strong leadership.  Some are ancillary to the larger more powerful groups.  The complexity grows,  since many are loosely connected, while still others are cloaked in secrecy.   We are certain the Benghazi terrorist attack was carried out by Islamic extremists - maybe al Qaeda.    We should be aware of the most powerful

[1]  This paragraph summarizes page 188, Militant Islam, G.H. Hansen, copyright @1979.  Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., New York.  Library of Congress catalog number – 79-2623.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

 Middle East Oil and Militant Islam
1.      About Islam
I am straying somewhat from the energy aspects of my blog.  However, my followers need  to understand the geopolitical crisis that is becoming more and more serious with each passing day.   I think my four decades of involvement with Arab Moslems gives my remarks a pretty good degree of credence.   The fact that I remain in close contact with other Arab watchers along with citizens of Moslem countries adds still more credence to my statements and conclusions about the likelihood of an “Arab winter”.   I am convinced the “Arab spring” is over!  Yes, but I hope I am wrong.
Within the past month, I have made overseas calls to several of my Turkish and Lebanese friends.  You may think what I am going to summarize about those conversations is hearsay since I will not name the individuals.   Why not name them?   I believe naming them could put them in danger.   One I spoke with is a longtime personal friend who had just returned from the Middle East on Saturday  (Oct. 15th) after a stay of six months.   Another friend who is in the public relations department of ARAMCO Services was contacted about the stability of the Saud regime.   A Turkish friend of almost 50 years gave me some sound  information regarding military situation on the Syrian border.   Just yesterday, I talked to an American drilling contractor who operates in the Middle East.  Each one reported that al-Qaida and other militant Islamic organizations are expanding throughout the Middle East.   Obama’s  “The Al-Qaida is defeated” is false.  Forget about names, just refer to them as Islamic militant organizations.
With the caveats out of the way, let’s get on with the subject.   I have been concerned about the Saud regime in Saudi Arabia for some time, so I spoke with an old friend at ARAMCO Services.   He explained that efforts were underway  by  ARAMCO and the Saud regime in an effort to resolve existing religious/political differences between the Shias in the Eastern province and the Sunnis who make up the larger majority in Saudi Arabia.  This effort also includes Bahrain Island, which is Shia.  He appeared to have guarded optimism about the outcome.
Westerners do not have an appreciation of today’s Middle East problems.  This demands a certain knowledge about the geography and culture that exist in the region.   For better understanding, we must include history, politics and religion, otherwise we cannot contemplate the serious implications of the coming “Arab winter”. 
We must not forget that the Arab culture existed long before Muhammad  arrived on the scene in the 7th century to form the Islamic faith.   By the time Muhammad died on June 8, 632 AD after a short illness, he had achieved a great deal.  This new religion he brought to the world was grounded in monotheism and its ethical doctrines.   Muhammad’s religion rose far above the paganism it replaced.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Following the Prophet’s death there was a great awakening of the Arab people on political, social and moral issues.  However, even during his lifetime there was a series of false prophets whose activities were in part imitation, but in part parallel to Muhammad’s teachings.                               
It is important to realize Muhammad’s teachings were the foundation for the Islam that became a world power.  The empire reached its zenith in the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries.  Moreover, for  a few centuries that followed it was the guiding light of a large part of the world.    Governing this vast empire created many problems that were far greater than those faced during the Prophet’s life.   The Qur’an (Koran) established the word of God which was the authoritative guide to Islamic conduct – they were the practices and utterances of the Prophet.  The record of these are preserved as traditions (Hadith in Arabic) and within a few generations after the Prophet’s death, a huge number of Hadith were collected.   One would think that a careful enumeration of its authorities would be a reliable source.  However, one must remember that the Hadith did not begin until several generations after Muhammad’s death.   Obviously, during this period, there were ample opportunities and motives to falsify the record.   The fallibility of human memory throws doubt on any evidence that was orally transmitted, especially when the period exceed a hundred years.
As the empire expanded a series of new social, political, legal and religious problems, and concepts found their way into Islamic thought.  These problems arose from conquered people, along with fresh ideas and solutions that got projected backwards into the mouth of the Prophet as the Hadith became more and more fabricated.  During  this period violent internal conflict arose between families, factions, and sects within the Islamic fold.   As you can see this has created the divisions and sects within Islam.
So what is Islam?   Western prejudice is only one of the difficulties that must be addressed before the Westerner can understand Islam.  Generally speaking,  the Westerner believes Islam describes a religion of the Koran or the religion of a billion people.   Furthermore, some think of it as an opiate developed by exploiters of the common people to keep them in subjugation.   However, these explanations are  very different from what the devoted Moslem believes. Islam is the true religion with God, and God  is Islam.  To the Arab, the Moslem religion is a way of life.   It is not just a private matter, that only touches the periphery of their lives.  It manifests itself both privately and publicly, and permeates the whole fabric of societal consciousness.   In short, it is an 'all in one' doctrine – theological dogma, political theory, and a code of conduct.   It is all inclusive even to establishing rules for hygiene and etiquette.   In a word – Islam means completely surrendering oneself to God, and man’s whole strength lies in resigned submission to God.
Westerners do not accept that Islam attempts to express a vision of the world which is not very different from that of Christianity and Judaism.  However, there is a real difference, Islam is a religion of a whole community.  Further, it demands that it must be the religion of the community’s political and intellectual leaders.   The ordinary Moslem believes there is no point in trying to argue about these differences with Christians.  On the other hand, educated Moslems are beginning to feel that Islam and Christianity are on the same side in the spiritual struggles that lie before humanity.  Even so, the two religions are very often on opposite sides politically.  
Remember, we have not yet discussed the character and role of Islamic militancy in today’s world.  Militant Moslems have created a great schism within Islam.   Our next blog will try to explain the complexity of Islamic militancy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pennsylvania is just the right size ----
From The Reagan Wit – “The credibility gap is so great in Washington they told us the truth the other day hoping we wouldn’t believe it.”  I still have difficulty in catching Washington telling the truth.  It’s politics, politics, politics – to hell with science and business.  It’s easy to state a problem, but a helluva lot more difficult to solve it.  Unfortunately, they seldom understand the problem, so how can they solve it.

However, so far Obama and his advisors have been strong on FANTASY and weak on REALITY.    Maybe it is because less than 10% of his advisors have ever been in business or held a job in the private sector.   From the pronouncements issuing out of the White House, I’d bet that 9 out of 10 only have rudimentary knowledge about energy matters.   After all, they do not want to corrupt their politically motivated decision-making with science or engineering “know how”.
Obama revealed his lack of expertise when he outlined his so-called energy plan.  Simply said, he emphasized that algae would be utilized to produce 17% of America’s transportation fuel requirements.  The fossil fuel consumption in November 2011 totaled 13.9 million barrels per day, or 5.073 billion barrels per year.   The factors and items involved in the calculating the total area needed for the cultivation sites is set forth in the table below:

Per day (MM)
Per year (MM)
Biofuel Products


      17% to biofuels       





 Step 1.    5,073,500,000/28.51 =  177,955,183 acres (278,125 square miles)
 Step 2.    278,125 x ,17 = 47,269 square miles (30 million acres)

The above calculations establish that 30 million acres will be needed to fulfill Obama’s plan to produce 17% of our fossil fuel transportation consumption.  The total area required for cultivation sites is slightly larger than Pennsylvania (46,056 square miles.    Let’s use sites that are 1,000 acres in area.  WOW!  We’ll only need 30 thousand of them.  Are you developing the feeling that this plan is IMPRACTICAL?
Just in case the President was only talking about diesel fuel, let’s analyze it.   November 2011 diesel consumption was 4 million barrels/day, or 1.460 billion barrels/year.   Dividing 1,460,000,000 by 28.51 barrels/ac/yr, we have 49 million acres.  Now we apply the 17%, and the result is 8.3 million acres (13,000 square miles).  The square mileage required amounts to about the size of Maryland.
Unfortunately, the best species of algae are those that thrive in water.   In fact, the oceans are a perfect place for Obama’s algae gardens  -  using  1 square mile sites gives us 45,000 sites.   Moreover, the length of the coastline of the lower 48 contiguous states is only 6,053 miles.   Sound practical to you?
Barack, please don’t make a stab at trying to replace 100% of our fossil fuels.  If you do, the total area would increase to a size about equal to Texas.   Mr. President, what steps would you take to use the roughly 100 million acres (156,000 square miles) of fresh water and wetlands contained in the lower 48 states.   Would you propose to utilize the Great Lakes for algae farm sites?  Seriously, I think we could have a few sites near population centers on the Great lakes, but navigation might be restricted unduly.   What do you think the Canadians might say?
I doubt if anyone with commonsense would support using even 5 or 10% of our fresh water and wetlands for algae farms.   Mr. President, I hope you don’t forget about your environmental activist supporters?   However, I’d be willing to bet that  more thoughtful Americans would be up in arms and might very well outnumber the activist protestors.  

Don’t any of you jerks in Washington get it?   I know you don’t want to be confused by FACTS, because your minds are already made up.   In hopes that one or two of you will gain some understanding of the problems, let’s apply some commonsense and some simple mathematics using some facts – scientific research facts:

1    Algae is as much as 10 times more productive than corn or sorghum.  On the average
      one acre of algae will produce 4,000 gallons of lipids (oil) annually.

2    Unfortunately only about 25-30% of the lipids can be utilized for biofuels.

3    4,000 x .3 = 1,200 gallons (30 barrels)/acre/year will be available for processing into

4    Cultivation problems that must be overcome include temperature control, probable
       invasion by native microalgae species, evaporation of water, and lower lipid
       content of algae grown in ponds.  Importantly, the design and shape of bio-reactor,
       along with the best type of plastic to use is a major concern.

5     Once the algae is mature and ready for processing into biofuel a series of time
       consuming and complex steps begin.  They are - harvesting, dewatering, drying
       lipid extraction, and conversion to various biofuels – diesel, gasoline, kerosene (jet).
       By the way, today's overall energy conversion costs are roughly $30. per gallon, or
       about $1,200 per barrel.

6     Transportation, distribution, and marketing costs must be taken into account once
        the project becomes commercially viable.

7     What about the raw material remaining after extraction of the fuels?  Out of this 70%
        nutrients, pharmaceuticals and animal feed can be manufactured.  However,
        these costs are above those for biofuel processing.

8     The cost of algae runs from $2.25 to $4.50 per pound dry weight, and the price and
       supply will be stable.  This situation is unlike corn, soybean, palm, sugar cane and
       sorghum whose prices and supply are not stable.

9     Algal biofuels have a molecular structure not unlike petroleum, yet they have
       insignificant C0² emissions.

Commonsense tells us that the quantities of algal biofuels promised by the President are a fantasy of overwhelming proportions.  You say, give him a break.  Ok, let’s double the lipid recovery – instead of 4,000 gallons/ac/yr, we’ll use 8,000 gallons/acre/year.  Need I go further – this is “pie in the sky”!

Now, let’s be realistic.  Even our academic Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, believes that any success of biofuels will depend on next generation of biofuels, and maybe the third and fourth generation.  However, he dreams of keeping the price of gasoline high to lower consumption.  I think it is an excuse to raise the price so that green energy can be made more attractive.  I do believe that eventually algal biofuels offer the best potential as a supplemental fuel for transportation.  Can it equate to 17% of our fossil fuel needs?  You can answer this question – a dream.

 Shell Oil, BP Oil, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips are among a number of oil companies that agree with the conclusion that algae will be used as a supplement to fossil fuel.  These companies are spending millions of dollars on algal fuel research.  They are spending shareholder dollars, not taxpayer dollars on their research projects.

NASA scientists are also involved in extensive algal research.  They have developed a plan to grow and harvest algae in an ocean environment.  Hopefully, their project will produce large quantities of biofuels sometime in the future.  The project will use semi-permeable plastic filled with sewage that will be towed offshore.  As the algae grows, it will clean up the sewage, and allow the fresh water from the process to flow into the sea, keeping the algae and the nutrients in the enclosure.  The plastic membrane will keep the sea water from entering the enclosure.  Remember this is a research project, and is far from ready to be commercialized.

Algae is not close to being the answer to replacing or supplementing large volumes of fossil fuel.  It is out in the future, just one of many things we must do to supplement fossil fuels.  Furthermore, all of these will require continuous research and development.   Face reality for a change, Mr. President.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Quick Science Lesson for Pseudo-scientists

An open letter to:  Al Gore, Global Warming BS artist

We’ve all heard that ignorance is bliss.  However, education will never be as expensive as ignorance.  Zip-up your mouth, and take the earplugs out, Al.  At least quit advertising your ignorance.   I know this will be news to you, but scientific conclusions are not determined by a vote of the majority – consensus opinion is misleading.  Experimental procedures carried out to prove a theory (scientific conclusion) must be carefully replicated over and over with the same results before the theory can be accepted as scientific fact.   The agreement of a vast majority means NOTHING until a theory becomes a proven scientific fact.

It is obvious that in spite of the scientific evidence, to the contrary, you believe sunspots have no effect on climate.   Do you also believe man can control the number of sunspots emitted on the Sun?  Should he take control of the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates, and thereby stop earthquakes?   I suppose you can also explain how you propose to halt violent volcanic eruptions.

Have you ever considered what relationship exists between belief and science?   There is really a big difference – belief is an emotional reaction, while science is always reality.   You continually downgrade any scientist who does not believe in global warming.  I believe in global warming, and I also believe in global cooling; and so do many of my colleagues.  We, as scientists, develop theories and hypotheses.  Afterwards, we set out to prove them.  On the other hand, you determine what answer best suits your belief system and peddle it as the truth.  To make my point, I’ll paraphrase an old timer’s observation back in the early 1800s – truth trumps fiction, but fiction well-served can trump truth.

Al, you obviously do not comprehend the complexities associated with the study of global climate.   You, the self-appointed inventor of the Internet, fail to accept that the acronym – GINGO.   While I accept climate modeling as a very valuable tool, I also realize its limitations.  Whether you accept it or not, climatology is not an exact science, and modeling techniques are very much in their infancy.  Climate and weather modeling makes use of the “chaos theory” wherein the number of variables can be extraordinary.  Importantly, scientists must improve data collection methods, and set stringent controls on the data before the modeling results can be trusted, until then - GINGO.

Sunspot activity does affect the Earth’s climate – the how, what, when and why are being actively researched by REAL scientists.  Whether you believe it or not, a large volcanic eruption throws sulfur dioxide ash high into the stratosphere where it combines with water vapor to form aerosols.  These aerosols alter interactions between the atmosphere and the sun.  Voila, the Earth’s climate patterns are affected, in spite of what you peddle.
REAL scientists study major volcanic eruptions to gain CLUES on what climate shifts and changes can be expected in the aftermath of the eruptions.  Following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo on the east coast of Luzon in 1991, aerosols were created that blocked heat from the sun in the lower atmosphere.  This action lowered temperatures in the subtropics.  At the same time, temperatures were generally warmer over the Northern Hemisphere.  The Mt. Katmai eruption in Alaska also had a role in climate change- summers had strong cooling over the Northern Hemisphere landmasses, which brought on a decrease in the Asian monsoon circulation.   There is not enough space to continue listing the many instances where volcanoes contributed significantly to climate change.   There is overwhelming evidence that the location and intensity of volcanic eruptions largely determine overall climatic responses.   Historical evidence about violent volcanoes of the past adds to our REAL knowledge about major climate change in ancient time, and what changes might be expected today. 

Pronouncements gushing out of your five million-member “Climate reality Project” organization are suspect at best.   I’ll stick to the REAL sciences, such as geology, geophysics, oceanography, meteorology, archaeology, and anthropology.  Furthermore, don’t forget the physical sciences - chemistry, physics, mathematics, and astronomy.   Stop the hogwash, Al.  Bye, for now!