Why Germany Resists the Transition to Electric Vehicles

Running on Empty: Will Germany’s Car Industry Survive?

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary focuses on the resistance of Germany’s government and auto industry to the transition to electric vehicles.

Germany car industry, the world’s largest, contributes 2% to global carbon emissions. Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, their government pledged to produce one million electric vehicles by next year. Without a single major electric vehicle manufacturer, clearly they won’t meet this goal.

The filmmakers contrast Germany with Norway, where 77% of new vehicles are electric. And China, which will ban the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles after 2027.

Due its failure to transition to electric vehicles (EVs), industry analysts predict the German car industry has only a 50-50 chance of surviving. Many key auto designers are emigrating to other countries where they can work on developing EVs. Moreover without a domestic EV market, environmentally conscious drivers will buy imported EVs instead of Germany’s old fashioned gas guzzlers.

 

The End of the Oil Age?

Petroleum and Crude Oil – the Future of Oil Production

DW (2019) – only online until April 17th

Film Review

This documentary analyzes the long term economic viability of the petroleum industry, in view of climate change, increasing competition from cheap renewable energy and shifting geopolitical allegiances.

It begins with an examination of the 2014 collapse in oil prices – with the cost of a barrel of oil dropping by over 70% between June 2014 and January 2016. Oil bottomed out at $26 a barrel in February 2016.

The filmmakers explore a number of factors keeping the oil price above $100 a barrel prior to 2014. Speculation in oil futures by big banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley seems to be the main one.

These high oil prices made the fracking boom possible. Fracking technology, whereby trapped oil and gas reserves are released by fracturing bedrock, is an extremely expensive technology. According to industry analysts, fracking is only financially viable with oil prices above $70 a barrel.

The fracking industry was a great boon to the US petroleum industry, enabling it to export oil and liquified natural gas (LNG) for the first time in decades.

The filmmakers point to two main reasons for the 2014 collapse in oil prices. The first was reduced oil demand (due to global economic slowdown) popping the speculative bubble created by the big banks. The second was Saudi Arabia’s attempt to destroy the US fracking industry by flooding the global market with oil.

This scheme seems to have backfired. While numerous small fracking operations went bust, the major oil companies had sufficient financial resources to continue fracking at a loss.

The low oil prices probably hurt Saudi Arabia more than the US, as the Saudis are extremely dependent on oil revenues to finance their national budget.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC* countries reached out to Russia to form OPEC Plus. The latter agreed to limit oil production to stabilize prices. The Saudi oil ministry fully expects Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics will also join OPEC Plus.

Meanwhile oil producing countries (except for the US under Trump) have learned an important lesson from the 2014 price shock. Both Norway (the world’s largest oil/gas producer) and Saudi Arabia are rapidly diversifying their energy industries to protect themselves from future price volatility. Most industry analysts expect other countries to follow suit. At present China, the world’s largest oil importer, is also the largest investor in renewables. This, in turn, signals a significant reduction in their future oil dependency.


*Organization of Oil Exporting Countries – current members include Algeria, Angola, Austria, Cameroon, Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia (the de factor leader), Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

 

The Global Rush to Claim and Exploit Our Oceans

Oceans Monopoly

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This documentary explains the legal process by which coastal countries claim access to valuable seabed resources outside the three-mile statutory limit set by international law.

In 1945 President Truman issued the Proclamation on the Continental Shelf, claiming all seabed resources on the US continental shelf* for the purpose deep sea oil drilling.

In 1982, the United Nations formalized the granting of seabed claims by creating the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). By definition, the EEZ extends 200 miles beyond a nations coastline. This UN mandate was subsequently modified to allow coastal countries with continental shelves extending more than 200 miles to claim the entire area as national territory.

In 1997, the UN General Assembly created the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The latter is a body of 21 geologists who assess geologic data countries submit to document their continental shelf boundaries.

Often the continental shelf of neighboring countries overlaps. For example Canada, Norway and Russia all claim the Arctic Ocean – believed to hold 10% of the world’s remaining oil reserves.

In the South China Sea, eight countries are fighting over $100 billion worth of resources.


*The continental shelf is an underwater landmass which extends from a continent, resulting in an area of relatively shallow water known as a shelf sea.

 

*

The Price of Oslo: How the Oslo Accords Set the Palestinian Cause Back 20 Years

The Price of Oslo

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

The Price of Oslo is a two part documentary about the 1993 Oslo Accords, which according to many analysts, set the Palestinian cause back at least 20 years.

Episode 1 explores the background leading both Palestine and Israel to accept Norway as a “neutral” mediator. Israel welcomed the participation of Norway, as they replaced Iran as Israel’s primary oil supplier after the Shah was overthrown in 1977. In addition Norway’s ruling pro-Zionist Socialist Labor Party had extremely close ties with Israel’s ruling Socialist Labor Party.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) accepted Norway’s mediator role because of close personal ties they developed with Norwegian soldiers deployed as UN peacekeepers after Israel’s 1978 invasion of south Lebanon.*

Many Mideast analysts believe the PLO was on the verge of collapse in the late 1980s,  when Norway offered to set up a secret back channel for Arafat to participate in secret negotiations with the Israeli government.

The Norwegian government subsequently arranged for Palestinian and Israeli delegates to hold secret talks in Oslo and Israel under the auspices of FAFO, a Norwegian trade union think tank allegedly conducting “research” in Israel.


* The PLO was headquartered in Lebanese refugee camps prior to their expulsion from Lebanon in 1982.

Episode 2 describes how the secret FAFO negotiations took place in parallel with “official” Washington DC negotiations overseen by the Clinton administration. It also reveals how the entire Palestinian delegation disagreed with the concessions Arafat demanded they consent to. They most vehemently disagreed with Israel’s “deal breakers” that negotiations not include the status of Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, nor UN involvement in the ultimate peace settlement.

In the final Oslo Accords signed in August 1993, the Palestinians were granted limited autonomy (an elected Palestinian Authority) in areas of the occupied West Bank and Gaza that excluded “military zones” and Israeli settlements. In return, the Palestinians agreed to allow Israel to assume overall responsibility for “security,” to allow continued building of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine and to vigorously police “terrorist” activities carried on by anti-Israeli activists.

The only concession the PLO received was an agreement for the Israeli Defense Force to withdraw from Jericho and Gaza.**

Renowned Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said was deeply shocked by the concessions Arafat agreed to, which he blamed on the “decay” of the PLO leadership. The Oslo Accord, according to Said, transformed the PLO from a “movement of national liberation to a municipality.” Owing to the extreme secrecy under which they occurred, Israel came out the clear winner of the Oslo negotiations. Had the Palestinian people known about the self-defeating concessions Arafat was making, they would never have allowed them to go forward.

With the Palestinian Authority brutally policing their own dissidents and activists to enforce “peace” in Israel/Palestine, the most important outcome for Israel was hundreds of millions in foreign investment.


*It would take the IDF until 2006 to withdraw from Gaza. (see The Back Story on Hamas)

 

Hidden History: Jewish Terrorism and the Creation of the State of Israel

Killing the Count – Part 1 The White Buses

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

Killing the Count is a two-part documentary about the 1949 assassination of UN mediator Foulke Bernodotte. Part 1 covers Swedish baron Bernodotte’s daring rescue of 30,000 concentration camp victims during the final year of World War II. Of the 30,000, 10,000 were Jews and 20,000 were Scandinavian resistance fighters arrested following the Nazi occupation of Norway and Denmark.

On learning of Hitler’s order to exterminate all concentration camp prisoners when it became clear Germany would lose the war, Bernadotte used his friendship with Himler’s personal physician to arrange a meeting with the SS leader responsible for running the camps.

Bernadotte, an exceedingly shrewd negotiator, persuaded Himler to allow the Swedish Red Cross to move Scandinavian prisoners from Germany’s interior to Neuengame, a concentration camp close to the Danish Border.

The Swedish Red Cross had a detailed list of all the Scandinavian prisoners detained in German camps. In part owing to Sweden’s strong Nazi leanings,* their Red Cross had been  to deliver food parcels provided they were personally addressed to individual prisoners.

By the time Bernadotte successfully organized a convoy of buses to transport 10,000 Scandinavian prisoners to Neungame, Allied troops had crossed the German border and most SS members had deserted. Because there were no Nazis to stop him, Bernadotte now used his buses to evacuate the Scandinavian prisoners and as many Jewish prisoners as he could rescue from Neungame and the women’s and children’s concentration camp Ravensbrook. He was subsequently honored by a number of Jewish organizations for his effort.

In 1948 the UN Security Council would him to negotiate a settlement in the Jewish-Palestinian war in Palestine.


*Although technically a “neutral” country, the Swedish monarch provided the Third Reich with iron exports critical for their armaments industry, as well as allowing Hitler’s Navy to cross their territorial waters and his bombers to cross their air space.

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2014/06/killing-count-20146282143931887.html

 

 

 

Russian Sami Organize to Fight Mining Operations

Russia’s Tundra Tale

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

Free link: Russia’s Tundra Tale

This documentary concerns the battle of the indigenous Sami people of Russia’s Kola Peninsula to protect their Arctic homeland against encroachment by mining companies. The mining operations (fossil fuels, platinum, gold and aluminum) are destroying the pasture of the reindeer herds the Sami depend on for their livelihood. Unable to support their families, many have abandoned the tundra for Russian cities. Those who stayed are  organizing to preserve their collectively owned land.

Most of the political organizing is done by Sami women. To counter the Russian government, which tends to support the mining interests, the Sami have set up their own parliament in Murmansk. Sami women are also working to strengthen community solidarity in their villages.

One parliament member, a Sami woman named Sascha, is shown meeting with a potential reindeer farm more financially viable. Filmmakers also follow her to Norway, where she meets with Sami activists who employ direct action (eg a hunger strike in front of the Norwegian parliament) to force concessions from Norway’s mining industry. Linking up with Sami activists in Norway, Finland and Sweden has greatly enhanced the strengthen of Russia’s Sami movement.

The Movement to Abolish Prisons

Moana Jackson: Why Did Maori Never Have Prisons?

(2017)

At present, New Zealand has the second highest rate of mass incarceration in the world (after the US) – with the majority of inmates identifying as Maori. In the following presentation, Maori constitutional lawyer Moana Jackson makes the case for abolishing prisons. He cites the example of Norway, Finland and other Scandinavian countries, which decided decades ago that prisons were unsustainable and ineffective in reducing crime. In Norway, prisons are being replaced by open “habilitation” centers. In Finland, the number of prisons has been reduced from 100 to 20. The latter have mainly been replaced by mental health treatment centers.

Jackson’s main argument is that prisons are a direct result of colonization – that Maori had no prisons before European settlers arrived.* Prior to colonization, the primary Maori concern when people infringed on each other was the disruption in the net of social relationships. Different tribes set aside special facilities where victims and offenders could stay with their families to repair fractured relationships. In modern terminology, the process is referred to as “restorative justice.”** In New Zealand, we have no juvenile lock-up facilities. Instead offenders and their families meet with victims to make reparations.

Jackson also challenges the racist depiction of Maori as violent, naturally aggressive warriors. This stems from a European need to depict indigenous peoples as racially inferior to justify dispossessing. Stripping Maori of their true identity has traumatized generations of  young Maori men by providing them with a distorted image of who they really are. Peeling away this lie will be essential to abolishing prisons in New Zealand.

I was intrigued to learned that both Norway and Finland consulted with indigenous Sami (who also had no prisons prior to colonization) in devising alternatives to prison.


*Europeans also had no need for prisons prior to the Enclosure Acts that drove our ancestors off the commons. Deprived of access to land, they had no means of supporting themselves and the majority ended up in prisons and workhouses or “transported” by the courts to the US or Australia. See https://stuartjeannebramhall.com/2015/08/04/forgotten-history-the-theft-of-the-commons/

**South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is another famous example of restorative justice.