Fuel for a Cold War

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S1: If you follow me on Twitter at PCM, I will not follow the gist at Slate, just we will take it easy on the MEEMS and.

S2: It’s Thursday, September 17th, 2020, from Slate’s The Gist. I’m Mike Pesca. Donald Trump has touted the deal among Israel, the UAE and now Bahrain as an unprecedented reshaping of the Middle East. On the one hand, yes, there are now two more Arab countries that have normal relations with Israel. Egypt and Israel both have embassies in each other’s country.

S3: Diplomatic relations, thanks to the Camp David Accords, orchestrated or at least overseen by Jimmy Carter. And of course, Jordan and Israel signed the peace treaty in 1994 in Washington, D.C.. All the pictures there, you will see Bill Clinton clapping his own hands as King Hussein and Yitzhak Rabin shake each other’s. So these two Democratic presidents presided over treaties that Israel signed with countries with which it shares a border and that combined populations of 111 million people, Bahrain, UAE, those are about twelve hundred miles from Israel and represent populations of 11 million. So that is the part of the show where I issue a snarky rebuke to Donald Trump and his exaggerations. But the truth is the treaties are a big deal and the Trump administration deserves credit. We have to praise them when they do good or else they will only do bad. But more important in driving the deal than America’s own princeling, Jared Kushner was the underlying conditions, the importance of oil can’t be overstated today. I’m joined once more by Daniel Yergin, the expert on oil and geopolitics. But think about oil in terms of this deal, these deals that we’re seeing, falling oil prices weaken Iran, but a weak Iran is a desperate Iran and that scares small Sunni Gulf states like Bahrain and UAE. Then there was the Arab Spring, not directly caused by cheap oil, but the consequence of the Arab Spring plus cheap oil is that these petro kingdoms know they can’t just buy their people off with profits from the ground. They have to actually grow their economies and they have to diversify their economies and they have to trade within the region, especially with one of the wealthiest states in the region, Israel. Also, Israel is a tech powerhouse. So the two countries that just signed an accord with Israel, along with the Saudis who are for geopolitical reasons, are probably hesitant to. But you get along with Israel much better than they ever have. They’re all desperate to diversify their energy portfolios. And they know that working with Israel and the access to Israel’s tech sector is a key to that Suez. With so much else in the Middle East, it is oil that grease the deal or in this case, the shrinking power of oil. And they can competent pressure the oil states now feel on the show today, I spiel about the story about hysterectomies in ice facilities and how much horror at the possibility of them is overwhelming the determination of the actual facts.

S4: But first, as I said, Daniel Yergin, expert on oil and what comes next. Part two of our interview with the author of the new map, Energy, Climate and The Clash of Nations, straight ahead.

S3: Daniel Yergin is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Prize The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power. It’s the most essential work on the history of oil ever written. And now he is out with a re-examination called the New Map Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations. Yesterday, Yergin and I talked about fracking, which has costs but also benefits, benefits that, in your estimation, are worth it? They’ve certainly created the new map and the new map has the US in a more dominant position. And we really should consider that because if you told the American people in 1979, in an age of oil shocks and waiting on gas lines and rationing based on odd or even license plate numbers, when OPEC was ruining the US economy, if you told them that in 40 years, the reality they’d be living in is in fact the reality that exists now, they would take that in an instant. So I asked Yergin, does he share the assessment that I just weighed in with? And does he think there needs to be a better job done selling the American public on the cost benefit analysis?

S5: Well, I think there’s yeah, it would help. I mean, what I as I was writing this book, I was looking at what’s the impact on jobs? What’s the impact on the fact that sixty five percent of investment in the United States in business is going into this and seeing there are a lot of other benefits and the geopolitical consequences. If we went back 10 years, it would be just saying, you know what, we’re going to end up importing all of our oil. And as you know, the book is about geopolitics. So it’s about this is part of the new map. But it’s also if you look at one of the other major themes is this kind of growing Cold War between the United States and China. And our energy position is very important in that. And one of the major reasons for the kind of tension with China over this area called the South China Sea, which happens to be the most important trade route in the world, is because the Chinese imports 75 percent of their oil and they’re worried that the U.S. Navy at some point would shut off their access to oil if there was a crisis. So this reverberates in so many different ways. Can you believe China imports oil from the United States right now? And let me just give you another example. A few years ago, I was at a conference in St. Petersburg and I had the first opportunity to ask Vladimir Putin a question. So I asked him a question that went back to where you started. Mike, what are you going to do to diversify your economy, Mr. Putin? So you’re not so dependent upon oil prices? I happen to mention shale in it. And he started shouting at me in front of 3000 people about what a stupid thing I just said. You don’t like being shot at by Vladimir Putin, particularly in front of three thousand people. And the reason he doesn’t like shale is because of the political significance it has globally. So I think it changes the global geopolitics, which is part of the themes of, you know, of the new map. Obviously talk about other things, the future of transportation, autos and things. But but this you know, you’ve honed in on the kind of that the geopolitical side of this. And that’s why I say the new map is really about the new map of energy and geopolitics and how they come together.

S3: Yeah, well, first of all, if I was railed at by Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, I would not go out to sushi restaurants for a week afterwards.

S5: That would be my yes, I did. I did. I did keep my head down as I left on my watch.

S1: And so I’m glad we watch for Bulgarians passing year with umbrellas on the bridge. But think about as you have. But again, this is addressed to my listeners. Think about China and what shale and fracking is for all the good and bad. It’s our ammunition. And the war, whatever it will be, hasn’t happened yet. But if we don’t have ammunition, if the United States doesn’t have a way to counter China, then China will become this dominant player. And remember, China is a country, as you say, they not only import the United States oil, they use coal. They’re so dependent on coal. They have no qualms about firing up so many coal plants, which are so much worse for the environment than fracking is. You could look at it that way, that what fracking is is a hedge against a coal fueled Hedgeman. I guess I just created a pun there, but that’s one way to look at it.

S5: Well, I think, you know, it is I mean, China is deploying a lot of wind and solar, but they’re also building three new coal fired plants a month. So they’re doing both. And, you know, I have a great graphic in the book that shows regional who puts out the most CO2 in the atmosphere. And China puts out about twice as much as the United States. So if you’re thinking in climate terms, the reason U.S. emissions are now down, CO2 down to the level of the early 1990s when our economies doubled, is because mainly natural gas has replaced coal and. Our electric generation and of course, wind and solar are coming along because their costs are coming down and so they’re being added to the mix, but it’s mainly natural gas that has done this so far. You know, I think Michael in my first book was on the origins of the Cold War, and I never thought I’d be writing about a new Cold War. But about two years ago, as I was writing this, it started to seem to me the US and China are heading there in the last few months. It’s really accelerated. And so their energy dimension is an important part of this new emerging reality, which is really quite, you know, should be alarming to people.

S3: So are the different policy positions of individual American presidents. How important are they? Because you also have to take into account public opinion and you also have to take into account maybe the industry itself will be just continuing along a pace no matter who is in charge.

S5: Yeah, I think there’s a real a break that’s occurred in the new map. I use this term WTO consensus, referring to the World Trade Organization, the Clinton administration, and then began the process to bring China into the WTO. And there was this general belief there would be not a convergence, but China would become part of this sort of global system and would not be a disruptive factor. You know, and China is the world’s largest market for automobiles. General Motors sells more cars in China, in the United States. It’s a very important market for the iPhone, for Apple and so forth. And we wanted to be part of that market. But around and I think it really started before Trump became president around twenty, fourteen or twenty fifteen. They started to be this shift, in my opinion, in the United States that China was not playing by the rules about it was stealing intellectual property. But it was also claiming the South China Sea launched its belt and road initiative. And then more recently, we’ve seen it taken control of Hong Kong and so forth. And so I’m struck that today in US politics, Democrats, Republicans, nobody is saying that we need to have a positive relationship with China. And I think in this coming presidential election that’s here now, we’re already seeing it. Each side is going to blame the other for being too close to China. And the Chinese are responding, saying that the US is trying to contain them, that the US is is encircling them and denying them their rightful place in the world. And there’s this kind of polarisation going on. And I think a lot of landmines are being placed now by the Trump administration, which, if there is a Biden administration, will have a tough time traversing to see. Can we get some balance or is this relationship just going to get worse? And our two militaries increasingly focused on each other. And, you know, we had a Cold War with the Soviet Union, but the Soviet Union was not a big player in the world economy. China’s a really big player in the world economy. So this is a complicated situation.

S3: So what is your assessment of how long humanity will be dependent on any kind of fossil fuel at all?

S5: That’s a very good question. I think there’s an energy transition, as I say, in the new map and energy transition. But it’s going to take it’s going to unfold over a longer period of time than people think. I mean, just to take one statistic, the average US car stays on the road for 12 years. That time is getting longer and longer. So I think that oil and gas will still be considerably used by the year 2050, maybe 20, 70, 20, 80. It will will will start to shift. But it’s also used for things that people don’t think about, you know. Mike, have you ever taken Tylenol?

S6: I have.

S5: It’s an oil product. People don’t know that. It’s you know, it’s it’s so much of of the world. But I think technologies will be the answers and the ultimate shift. We’re not going to just do it with wind and solar. I did a study with Ernie Moniz, a former Obama energy secretary for Bill Gates and the Breakthrough Energy Foundation, looking at the question of do we have the technologies to really do what kind of people have these goals for 20, 50? And the answer that takes us back to energy R&D. We really don’t. And there are a number of technologies I cite in the new map that we need. And but new technologies don’t happen overnight. Energy transitions don’t happen overnight.

S6: So Ernie Moniz, because of a lot of things, his credentials, his cool hair, his great standing within the environmental community, do you and he, though, pretty much agree on your I’m not going to say negative, but less utopian assessment of, you know, how soon we will. Going to entirely renewables or net carbon neutrality, are you in agreement?

S5: Yes, I think so, Ernie. I just did a session with Ernie a couple of weeks ago with some heads of some environmental organizations. And Ernie said, you know, if you have more wind and solar, you actually need natural gas as a partner to balance out the system. Given the technologies we have today and some people don’t want to hear that. But when you look at the rolling brownouts in California, I mean, California has done a great job in pushing solar and wind, but the sun doesn’t shine all the time. And as people point out, the wind doesn’t blow all the time. So you need you need a kind of partnership to maintain the kind of increasingly electrified society. So I think Ernie and I are pretty much up there and we both think carbon capture technologies will be very important. And we both think and of course, Ernie was a leader in this even when he was a professor at MIT. The importance to really the real answer come down to technology. We can have a lot of words and a lot of rhetoric and a lot of objectives, but we need the technology to get to where people want to get because wind and solar is supplying, what, about seven percent of the United States energy needs? Yes, I think I believe that’s right.

S6: Yeah. And I think maybe people who are green New Deal activists feel like it’s 40 to 60 or that it should be. There is there’s a lot of optimism there and a lot of just discounting the fact that this technology that might not be perfect in their view is the word you used is necessary. There’s no way to actually have a functioning society without this technology, even if there are a swarm of earthquakes in Oklahoma or were a decade ago.

S5: Right. And you think about how covid has changed our energy system and, of course, changed our lives. And one of the things that’s done is and I was able in the book, I only finished it in July to talk about how coronaviruses and covid has changed things. And it’s one thing you can see is that six years of advance and digitalization has occurred in six months. And as a result, we’re even more dependent upon electricity than in the past. It was interesting gasoline demand went way down, particularly in April. In the US, it went down by half. Electricity demand only went down by 10 percent. Because, you know, even if you’re not in your office and you’re working at home, you’re using electricity. And so I think that dependence upon steady, secure electricity, secure in many dimensions, including from in terms of cybersecurity, is a foundation of of our way of life.

S6: So Shell was this technology that people thought was impossible. Then it happened and it changed the world, maybe in ways that we’re not even truly grappling with. But you are what has your study, your decades long study of energy and technology taught you about the nature of change, where change is going to come from and the possibility of really fundamental change to what we assume will be just the way things are?

S5: Well, I think that the latter and the conclusion I just sort of started to sit down and make a list of all the surprises that have happened good and bad, since two thousand one that people didn’t see coming. And they came and I put shale in that list. But we could also put the financial crisis in that list. There are many, many things that that that have happened. I mean, pandemic’s one of the questions I ask in the in the new map is why were we surprised by the pandemic? So things come as a surprise as things come from left field. Things come from people being very having a lot of perseverance. Shale was twenty five years in development. But I think another thing that’s been a surprise and it is is is call it the solar revolution. How much solar costs have come down and and wind and solar are basically modern. Wind and solar are industries that are about a half century old. But it’s only in the last 10 years that they really start to be really competitive at scale. And then the other thing I look at, I mean, things take time. They don’t happen overnight. That’s why I think when we talk about energy transition, it’s going to take longer. And one point Ernie’s made and that we made in the study that we did for Bill Gates was that, you know, to go from discovery and research to commercialization to scale to acceptance in the marketplace, those things take time. So there may be things happening now that maybe just at the fringes that we’re not seeing that will 10 years from now be we’ll see you come remarkable and then become commonplace. But I think the history of the industrial revolution since this began is history of innovation. And often it’s. Sometimes it comes from existing organizations, sometimes it just comes from people on the outside, on the fringe who just don’t accept the conventional wisdom.

S4: The name of the book is The New Map Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations. Its author is Daniel Yergin. Thanks so much for your time. Thank you. Great to be with you.

S3: And now the spiel, there’s a horrific story out of Georgia where a nurse who worked in a federal ice facility has turned whistleblower to report poor working conditions, poor medical conditions, indifference to covid and retaliation for raising valid complaints down further in this whistleblower filing by the nurse, Don Wooten is her name. Was this allegation, as presented by the immigration advocacy organization Project? S quote, Detained immigrants and nurses report high rates of hysterectomies done to immigrant women. Several immigrant women have reported to Project South their concerns about how many women have received a hysterectomy while detained at the name the facility. One woman told Project South in 2019 that Erwin’s sends many women to a particular gynecologist outside the facility, but that some women do not trust him. She also stated that, quote, A lot of women here go through a hysterectomy. The first outlet to publicize this was an odd one, it was the website Law and Crime Dotcom, owned by Dan Abrams, the impresario behind Live PD, the A&E Police Ride Along Voyeurism Program. There was that headline, like an experimental concentration camp. Whistleblower complaint alleges mass hysterectomy at AI’s detention center, the phrase like an experimental concentration camp that actually was from the original complaint. And a quote from Don Wooten. When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies. But there were and are questions. How many was all these women when I met all these women or in that original complaint, a lot of women here go through a hysterectomy or several immigrant women have reported hysterectomies. And over what period of time are their names? Is there documentation? Congressional Democrats want to know the answers to all these questions. Rightly so. The media, led by MSNBC, which is reporting out this story aggressively, also wants to know. So we should note that celebrities have gotten in on the question. Chrissy Teigen weighed in to her 13 million followers writing forced sterilization is genocide. The future will label it as genocide. So let’s call it this now. Representative Ayanna Pressley tweeted, Forced sterilization is a cruel tool of white supremacy with a long, abominable history in this country. We need a congressional investigation into these heinous human rights abuses immediately. But first, we need to engage, in fact, finding to that end. Actually, I don’t know if that’s first, but we do need to engage. In fact, finding to that end, Chris Hayes added additional details in his reporting.

S4: That lawyer tells us that as many as 15 immigrant women were given full or partial hysterectomy or other procedures for which no medical indication existed.

S3: But a lawyer alleging a hysterectomy or similar procedures that offers a lot of room for interpretation. A similar procedure could be a number of things. One of them is possibly the removal of a fallopian tube, which is what one ICE detainee says happened to her. This is also reported by Chris Hayes.

S4: A doctor recommended a procedure known as a DNC to treat menstrual irregularities. And when Behnam woke up from that procedure, says a doctor told her he’d also removed one of her fallopian tubes.

S3: The removal of a fallopian tube is known as a souping ectomy. And one study that examined ongoing pregnancy rates in South Bend ectomy is found it to be fifty six point two percent. And this is because the removal of a fallopian tube leaves an existing fallopian tube, making pregnancy possible. It might be a horrific betrayal of patients rights. It might be troubling, quite troubling. But if the aim is a program of forced sterilization, it seems an inexact way to reach that goal. Representative Barbara Lee described the ICE detainee who had her fallopian tube removed this way, someone who was seemingly involved in what appears to be widespread hysterectomy out of a particular center. Well, that’s what I would like to find out and investigate if this was going on, if the federal government is doing what it’s done under this administration, not helping, getting in the way. The detainee who alleges her fallopian tube was removed without her consent was on a plane for deportation Tuesday. One day after the complaint surfaced. Then Representative Lee raised a ruckus and she was pulled off the plane. This is a story where the charges are shocking, but that is perhaps overwhelm the fundamental question of getting to the bottom of the charges. Are they true? Every bit of U.S. media I’ve consumed frames the story like those tweets I read. The coverage might not leap to outright. Credulity, but outlets are quick to put the stories in the context of past U.S. government medical atrocities. Let’s contrast a couple of different ways. Interviews around this story were conducted. Here is an interview on the BBC with Azita Shishani, a human rights attorney at Project S.

S7: Do you have a number for how many unnecessary hysterectomy were performed and over what period?

S8: So we don’t have an exact number is just really hard to tell because this is a transient facility. This is an immigration detention center. The latest number that we do have, though, Representative Jiah Paul, who is a US Congress person, released a statement yesterday saying that these 17 women had had hysterectomies or other procedures that were deemed unnecessary.

S7: I mean, one estimate I saw suggested that it was 20 or just over 20 women in the past six years, which doesn’t sound like a huge number. I mean, could it be that that is a sort of normal rate for those kinds of operations, given how many people are moving through the detention center every year?

S8: We’re not talking about procedures that were done with full consent and information of the women. We’re talking about hysterectomy that were performed or other procedures that were performed without the full knowledge or consent of the women.

S7: But what consent is different from whether they were medically necessary? You also talking about ones that weren’t necessary. What’s the evidence?

S8: First of all? I mean, they went there for a different issue.

S3: What’s the evidence? What’s the proof? What do we actually know? These are the right questions. Contrast that with reporter Julia Ainslee on MSNBC.

S9: It seems like they were getting way too much care from a gynecologist and perhaps doing very unnecessary procedures and not enough of what you would need in a short term detention situation. We know that they aren’t supposed to stay longer than six months. Why were they getting so much care on this one area? And I will also point out that this doctor was part of a civil settlement with the Justice Department in twenty fifteen where he and other doctors had to pay over five hundred thousand dollars and a fine for fraudulent claims to Medicaid. So that means that we’re already looking at a doctor who has at least been alleged to have tried to inflate his claims in order to get more money. And that, I think, is the allegation here. Why was he doing so much work if, as it seems, a lot of these procedures were not necessary?

S3: Again, I’m not interested in what it seems it seems is only useful insofar as it prompts a proper investigation into what actually happened. As much as I am critical of the media who seems to be prioritizing belief in the claims over demanding proof of the claims. I do understand this administration will obfuscate. Perhaps an investigation would never have happened without pressure and maybe even the exaggerated charge of genocide to describe 20 alleged unneeded medical procedures is, if not warranted than necessary, to help that investigation along. I don’t know, in twenty twenty in America, it seems that most of our media is very much incentivized to commit to a truth of a story, maybe even a little bit before the story is confirmed. And if they don’t commit it in actual words or statements, they certainly seem to commit to it in tone of coverage, amount of coverage. And as we hear the assumptions in the coverage. I still think we shouldn’t get ahead of a story, of course, in this landscape where all is filtered through partisanship, your audience is probably already ahead of it begging for you to catch up.

S2: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly produces the gist she regularly deals with U.A.E, undeniably engaging audio. Daniel Shrader, just producer, has seen the pandemic turn him into a YUEYA unbelievably eager O’Gara file. Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcasts. After he signs the treaty, she’s looking forward to Bahrain losing its nefarious reputation, which stems from the fact that people often incorrectly pronounce it more aurin the gist.

S10: It’s also a good day for one notable Muppet, which believe the capital of Bahrain is Manama now and Adepero Dupere. And thanks from us.