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Washington’s Russia Sanctions

I’ve mentioned Richard Heinberg in this blog before — see “Our Energy Reality,” posted May 17th. He’s one of the best analysts of energy, economic, and ecological issues, including oil depletion, there is (his numerous books include The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003), one of the first full-length analyses on the issue of peak oil; Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (2004); and The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality (2011)). Heinberg writes a monthly blog (see and is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute ( His most important articles are posted on the institute’s site, and I thought this, his latest (7-30-14) was a good one:

“The New York Times reports that the US and Europe have kicked off ‘a joint effort intended to curb Russia’s long-term ability to develop new oil resources.’ The new sanctions would deny Russia access to western technology needed to access polar and deepwater oil, as well as ‘tight’ oil produced by hydrofracturing and horizontal drilling.

It’s good to know that a lot of Russian oil is likely to stay in the ground rather than being burned in Russian, Chinese, and European car and truck engines, adding to global climate change. But that’s not the intent of the sanctions,” which Heinberg and others believe are meant “to punish Vladimir Putin for resisting Western attempts to surround his nation with NATO bases and missiles.” Pushed by neoconservatives who never got over the Cold War, the Obama administration “seems intent on provoking a major confrontation with still nuclear-armed Russia.

As justification, we Americans are told that Russia was behind the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17, despite a remarkable lack of actual evidence to that effect.” Here Heinberg directs us to a July 29th article by veteran journalist Robert Parry in Consortium News. Parry points out that the US surveys Ukraine continuously by satellite, yet has been unable to produce images of the 16-feet-tall Russian-supplied Buk missile battery it claims downed the plane. He adds that the Washington Post has reported that the US commander of NATO forces in Europe said last month that Russian air-defense vehicles hadn’t been seen crossing the border yet. “It’s just as possible,” Parry writes, “that a Ukrainian government missile – either from its own Buk missile batteries fired from the ground or from a warplane in the sky – brought down the Malaysian plane. There were reports from eyewitnesses in the area of the crash that at least one Ukrainian jet fighter closed on the civilian plane shortly before it went down.”

Getting back to the sanctions against Russia and their intent, Heinberg writes that “the foreign policy wonks at the State Department may not understand that Russian oil production has just hit a post-USSR peak and will be declining anyway. The effect of the sanctions will be to speed the Russian decline, forcing up world oil prices as soon as US tight oil maxes out and goes into its inevitable nosedive in the 2017-2020 time frame. Russia, which will still be an oil exporter then, will benefit from higher oil prices, perhaps nearly enough to compensate for the loss of production resulting from the sanctions. But the US, which will still be one of the world’s top oil importers, will face a re-run of the 2008 oil shock that contributed to its financial crash.

No doubt State Department policy experts believe the recent hype about America as a new energy superpower capable of supplying Europe with oil and natural gas to replace Russia’s exports, and maybe the Europeans are foolish enough to have fallen for this delusion as well. But these will prove to be ruinous high-stakes bets. One can only hope that all the players will stir from these hallucinations before the game turns really ugly.”

I thought the comments on Heinberg’s post were interesting. “Guest53” says, “It’s already really ugly,” and “Justin” asks, “What would prevent the Chinese from supplying Russia with needed resource extraction technology in exchange for a discount on a nearby source of much-needed energy?”

“EVHappy” concludes: “The resource wars are coming and most governments and military forces know this, even if they don’t want to panic their ignorant civilians.” “Ed” agrees: “There is a lot of talk in the blogosphere about the role of Ukrainian tight oil and shale gas in the conflict. The US wants to muscle their way in at Russia’s expense. Resource wars are picking up speed.”

Bernie Edwards says, “This is a chess game and Putin is a master, Obama a novice. Annexing Crimea was a masterstroke by Putin. Anyway, all bets were off as soon as it became clear that the US and EU were meddling in Ukraine, creating a puppet government as a move to get hold of real Russian oil and gas to replace their own phantom reserves. That’s the real reason for this outbreak of trouble and I wouldn’t be surprised if the plan for the downing of MH17 couldn’t be found somewhere within that little gang of plotters. It certainly wasn’t attributable, as all the non-evidence shows, to either Russia or the separatist fighters in East Ukraine.”

Edward Kerr writes, “Were we to wake up from this insanity and transition away from fossil fuels, we could have full employment worldwide and could, if we chose to, treat each other as if we were actually human beings. This truly is the age of stupid.” (Kerr’s referring to “The Age of Stupid,” a 2009 film about a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, watching archive footage from the mid-to-late 2000s and asking “Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?”)

P.S. Heinberg’s The End of Growth is really a must-read. As soon as I can, I’ll post my notes on it in the resources section.