Sunday, January 29th | 7 Shevat 5783

September 16, 2014 6:53 am

New Documentary Shows How America’s Oil Addiction Fuels Middle East Threats

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avatar by Edwin Black


An Israeli oil platform. Photo: Avishai Teicher.

ISIS has bolstered its forces within recent months, and it has financed this expansion with $10 to $20 million per week in illicit oil sales from as many as 70 captured oil wells.

Iran has now multiplied its centrifuges to almost 20,000, enabling it to convert its 5 percent and 20 percent enriched uranium to 90 percent weapons grade HEU within a 7-week breakout period. With sanctions lifted, Tehran’s monthly oil revenues have soared to almost 3 million barrels per day, generating billions of dollars per month.

Tiny Qatar, with only about 280,000 citizens, provides Hamas with some $400 million annually. Qatar exports more than 600,000 barrels of oil per day, helping to establish an estimated $200 billion petrodollar reserve.

Oil is driving it all – and more.

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American petroleum use accounts for about one-quarter of global consumption, depending upon whose numbers you’re using. Kicking our oil addiction is an old mantra that is preached daily from the sidelines by an army of expert energy analysts and security insiders. A slick, kinetic new Hollywood movie, PUMP, is breaking out of the wooden oil documentary mold to help motivate a concerted national effort to get off of oil.

PUMP’s point is easily distilled: if Americans had other fuel options, it would quickly dilute the power of petroleum and those who sell it. PUMP combines flashy cinematography and rock music with irrefutable testimony by the likes of former Shell president John Hofmeister, Tesla founder Elon Musk, analyst Annie Korin, and Auto Channel editor Marc Rauch. I also appear in the film and provide the inside historical story of corporate crimes committed by General Motors and Standard Oil to cripple the electric mass transit system and replace it with oil consuming buses – in other words, how we got here.

As I wrote in my book Internal Combustion and subsequent works, we never needed to be addicted to oil. Never. The electric car was invented in about 1835. Until the run-up to WW I, most of the motor vehicles in America were electric-powered, until Edison’s plans were subverted by the car industry and the manufacturers switched to gas-burning internal combustion vehicles.

The much-vaunted hydrogen fuel cell that uses water as a feedstock is based on technology developed back in 1838. Some years ago, I drove an ordinary showroom Hydrogen-powered Chevrolet Equinox all over Southern California on a single tank of hydrogen. That hydrogen fuel was zapped from simple water, filled at a public Shell station on Santa Monica Boulevard that maintained a hydrogen pump on the side. Hydrogen supplies are abundant in the U.S. – it’s the ingredient needed for unleaded gas.

More than 17 million compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles operate worldwide. A petroleum car can be converted to natural gas in a day. But in America, less than 120,000 operate – in large measure because Honda, America’s major NGV car manufacturer, stubbornly refuses to mass market its own vehicle beyond a few thousand per year.

Methanol and ethanol can power an automobile with virtually equal ability. This is the so-called “Open Fuel Standard” that goes hand-in-hand with the flex-fuel designed vehicles that more than 17 million Americans drive – yet many don’t know it. A minor adjustment in the software and the fuel system would allow fuel democracy: any alt fuel from anyone willing to provide it.

That is the message in PUMP: Fuel democracy to protect American democracy. Unlock the car engines the way we want to unlock our cell phones.

Until we have a moment of truth with ourselves, America is destined to not only be addicted to oil, but addicted to all the terrible trappings that come with oil.

PUMP opens on September 19 at many theater screens across America, including the AMC 25 in Times Square. You can locate a PUMP “Žscreening anywhere in America. Prepare to get angry. Getting off of oil is easier than we think – if we mobilize national will. There has never been a better or more critical time to energize this than now.

Edwin Black is the award-winning author of the international bestseller IBM and the Holocaust and the award-winning Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives.

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