Climate Change goes Regime Change for Venezuela’s Oil

Written by William Walter Kay BA LL B

Painting a word-portrait of the Venezuelan War lobby elicits empathy with Heracles. This war party resembles the three-hound of Hades, Cerberus, the capture of which comprised Heracles’s twelfth and final labor.

The hellish hound’s most horrifying head is Trump’s foreign affairs camarilla. Deep state mavens John Bolton and Elliot Abrams habitually monger unilateral pre-emptive aggression. Cerberus’s much discussed, but toothless, second head is a US oil industry craving Venezuelan oil.

The beast’s never discussed, but decisive, third head consists of a Democratic Party/EU coalition wedded to the petroleum phase-out initiative (a.k.a. Climate Change). They too covet Venezuelan oilfields; however, they do not want to develop them. They want to keep that oil below the soil.

Contents

Keep it in the Ground

The Steam Injection Oil Extraction Revolution

Steaming the Orinoco

Why the Orinoco remains undeveloped

The EU’s petroleum phase-out passes the point of no return

A Democrat-EU alliance mongers the Venezuela War

Conquering Venezuela isn’t feasible; creating a ‘Somalia on the Caribbean’ is.

Keep it in the Ground

The Climate Change campaign is a smoke-screen for a fossil fuel phase-out initiative that arose in response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo. This perturbance prompted Western governments to commit to replacing petroleum as an energy source. Original propagandists sang “Energy Crisis” and “Peak Oil” refrains. Adherents, fortified by consensus science, claimed oil reserves were exhausted hence fuel taxes had to be imposed and oil substitutes incentivised.

Middle East Timeline | Timetoast timelines

By the early-1980s it became obvious oil reserves remained abundant as oil extraction technologies expanded the volume of recoverable oil. Peak Oil sat upon a dusty shelf of cracked pots. In the mid-1980s petroleum phase-out planners pivoted toward claiming CO2 emissions from oil burning catastrophically overheated the atmosphere.

While not as successful as the coal phase-out, the petroleum phase-out manifests in: carbon taxes; fuel emissions standards; mandatory bio-fuel blending; and vehicle electrification subsidies.

For their part, front-line petroleum phase-out activists protest and litigate against oil extraction and pipeline construction. Prime targets are modern extraction methods like fracking.

Obstruction of oil extraction dates to 1970s efforts to thwart drilling in Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge, and conterminous hindrances of oil leasing in the US West. The pretext was protecting wildlife. Circa 2005 anti-petroleum campaigns ramped up; concentrating on unconventional oil. Blockading the Dakota Access Pipeline to throttle the Bakken Field shale oil bonanza, is one example.

Another example is the Alberta oilsands siege. Through de-marketing, blockades, litigation and lobbying, campaigners stopped three pipelines and delayed two. Campaigners lobbied into place anti-oilsands: carbon levies, conservation requirements, and production caps. While campaigners deploy multiple pretexts, “global warming” is their main line. The Keystone XL oilsands pipeline was temporarily stymied by Obama who deemed its carbon footprint too large.

A 2016 Keep it in the Ground web-proclamation declares that carbon embedded in fossil fuel reserves exceeds the climate’s carrying capacity:

Therefore, we, as over 400 civil society organisations… call on world leaders to put an immediate halt to new fossil fuel development.”

Signatories included Global Catholic Climate Movement, Lutheran World Federation, Food and Water Watch, Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth; and focussed anti-oil extraction NGOs like: 350.org, Greenpeace, Oil Change International, and Fossil Free Europe.

350.org was founded in 2007 by career climate alarmist Bill McKibben. (350 ppm is the atmospheric concentration of CO2 deemed safe by alarmist supremo James Hansen.) 350.org’s debut mobilization, the anti-Keystone XL campaign, drew support from National Resource Defense Council and Sierra Club. 350.org later obstructed the Energy East and Trans Mountain oilsands pipelines.

350.org has 300 partner groups, 200 chapters, and 100 staff missioned to “stop all new coal, oil and gas projects.” On October 24, 2009, 350.org orchestrated 5,000 simultaneous demonstrations. Half 350.org’s $15 million annual budget comes from foundations.

350.org’s Do the Math video claims humanities “carbon budget” (565 GT) is dwarfed by the carbon in fossil fuels reserves (2795 GT). Our only option is: “keep it in the ground.”

In 2015 Nature magazine did the math; concluding that the 2 Celsius goal requires limiting mid-century CO2 emissions to 1,100 GT. As fossil fuel reserves possess thrice this:

“…development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil production are incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 C.

The New York Times, International Energy Agency and Obama endorsed Nature’s math.

Greenpeace International’s mantra is “keep oil in the ground.” Greenpeace USA’s Keep it in the Ground webpage sermonises:

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to keep the world’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground.”

Fossil Free Europe consists of several dozen European student activist clubs. Their social media flutters with tales of student climate strikes. They oppose oil extraction.

Oil Change International (OCI, est. 2005) boasts 200,000 supporters and 16 staff. Tides, Rockefeller Brothers and Hewlett provide funding. Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune graces OCI’s board. OCI disseminates anti-oil propaganda while coordinating pipeline resistance. They express particular animosity toward “extreme fossil fuels” i.e. Venezuelan heavy oil.

Innumerable lesser outfits round-out the field. Nigeria-based Oil Watch links to 50 anti-extraction groups from the Global South. Their motto is “keep oil in the soil.” Oil is the “devil’s excrement.”

Leave it in the Ground Organization (LINGO) was launched at COP17 (2011, Durban). LINGO is a hub for scores of “extraction resistance initiatives” many of which engage in direct action.

Better-heeled, but none-the-less committed to arresting oil extraction, are the financial specialists and tweedy profs drawn to Fossil Fuel Climate Conferences (FFCC); the second of which enlivened Oxford in 2018. KR Foundation, Stockholm Environment Institute, and International Institute on Sustainable Development are FFCC partners. Their goal is re-focussing climate policy onto restricting fossil fuel supply.

Hostility to oil extraction is a prime impulse behind the divestment crusade. 1,029 institutional investors (churches, pensions, philanthropies and universities) worth $8.1 trillion, have committed to divesting from oil, coal and/or gas. Most are divesting from all three industries while dozens are divesting only from “tar sands” – betraying specific animosity to heavy oil.

350.org boasts ongoing divestment agitations inside 308 universities and 105 city and state governments across the USA.

In 2015 Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusberger, launched a divestment agitation aimed at Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust. This Keep it in the Ground online community’s 210,000 members organise petitions, public appeals and tweet-storms. Their message to Bill Gates is:

Climate change poses a real threat to all of us, and it is morally and financially misguided to invest in companies dedicated to finding and burning oil, gas and coal.

350.org – Keep It In The Ground

Guardian virtuoso George Monbiot kicked-off this initiative with an article bemoaning how climate campaigners address the problem from the wrong end. Restraining fuel consumption must yield to suppressing fuel extraction. Lowering demand without curbing supply merely lowers prices to the benefit of carbon intensive activity.

The Steam Injection Oil Extraction Revolution

While much is heard of fracking; steam injection is the petroleum industry game-changer. Steam aids in harvesting of oils too viscous to be worked by conventional pumps.

Initially, heavy oil was extracted via open-pit mining with giant shovels heaving mounds of oil-saturated sand onto dump-trucks for transit to separating vats of hot water. This has largely given way to steam injection. Alberta’s oilsands oil is now 80% extracted via steam injection.

The simplest steam injection process uses a single well. A hole is drilled down to a heavy oil deposit; then steam is pumped down the hole, sometimes for months. Eventually oil concentrates near the well’s bottom of sufficient viscosity to enable pumping to the surface.

SAGD (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage) emerged 1978. Here, two lengthy perforated pipes are drilled horizontally through the deposit; one a few metres above the other. Both pipes emit steam until a teardrop shaped oil bubble envelopes the lower pipe. Then the top pipe continues to emit steam while the lower pipe draws oil to the surface. In 2017 Alberta’s oilsands yielded 2.7 million barrels a day; mostly via SAGD.

Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD): Hydrogeological ...

Three innovations are coming.

Solvent-Assisted SAGD adds chemicals to the steam injection process to further loosen-up the oil.

Downhole Steam Generation lowers cylindrical furnaces down the well to improve heat conservation and fuel economy.

Toshiba offers a miniature nuclear reactor specifically for heavy oil extraction. This 5 MW electricity generator simultaneously serves as the furnace for a 900 Celsius boiler. Reactors will render obsolete the expensive natural gas systems now used in steam injection.

Steaming the Orinoco

The Orinoco Plain: Types, Climate, Fauna, Flora and ...

The world’s fourth largest river, the Orinoco (pictured), rises in the Parima Mountains along the Venezuelan-Brazilian border then engraves a 2,000 kilometre north-easterly arc through Colombia before discharging into the Atlantic off Venezuela’s coast. The Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt stretches 600 kilometres along the north bank of the Orinoco’s easterly dash to the sea. The Belt is 70 kilometers wide.

US Geological Service’s Estimate of Recoverable Oil Reserves of the Orinoco Oil Belt (2009) estimates “oil-in-place” to be up to 1.4 trillion barrels. Maximum “technically recoverable” oil is estimated at 652 billion barrels. Elsewhere the report speculates that fully exploiting SAGD might extract 70% of oil-in-place. The report relies on dated studies hence does not contemplate: Solvent-Assisted SAGD; Downhole Steam Generation; let alone nuclear power. Tackling Orinoco with these technologies should yield a trillion barrels.

The report does not explore production costs. Canadian oilsands companies kept producing in 2018 after transportation bottlenecks tanked prices to $20 barrel. The business press guesstimates the breakeven price for Alberta oilsands to be around $30 a barrel.

The Orinoco Belt has advantages over Alberta’s oilsands: a) its oil is lighter; b) its climate is hotter; and c) its closer to a coast. The Orinoco Belt sits at 9 degrees latitude. Its entire span is a few hundred kilometres from Atlantic shores. Orinoco production costs will be lower than Alberta’s oilsands.

Global oil consumption is 35 billion barrels a year. The Orinoco alone could satisfy 100% of global demand for 30 years!

Known global heavy oil reserves exceed 8 trillion barrels. The Orinoco will be another heavy oil recovery laboratory. As with Alberta, breakthroughs in the Orinoco will travel the world.

Why the Orinoco remains undeveloped

The Orinoco remains undeveloped because Venezuela, the quintessential OPEC nation, possesses sufficient conventional (non-Orinoco) oil to meet its OPEC quota.

OPEC (est. 1960) is Venezuela’s baby. Venezuela was one of five founding members. Venezuelans drafted OPEC’s charter. Venezuela drifted from the cartel in the 1980s but OPEC hawk President Chavez (r. 1999-2013) slashed production and adhered to quota. Between 2004 and 2015 production flat-lined at 2.4 million barrels a day (mbd) while Chavez circled Earth imploring OPEC comrades to maintain solidarity.

Orinoco drilling began in the late-1990s. Circa 2010 Venezuelans contradicted their OPEC stance by luring investors with talk of raising Orinoco output to 4 mbd. Two dozen companies cumulatively pledged $200 billion. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) committed $16 billion to three Orinoco ventures. Sinopec inked a $14 billion contract. A Russian consortium made huge commitments. Chevron, Matsui, Eni, Equinor, Petronas plus firms from Brazil, Argentina and South Africa signed Orinoco deals; …almost entirely for naught.

Venezuelan’s state-owned oil monopoly (a partner in all ventures) systematically missed production targets. Pipelines and upgraders, needed to precede drilling, went unbuilt. Venezuela rarely provided its share of investment. Many firms pulled out complaining of: delays; inscrutable decision-making; and arbitrary ownership changes.

Venezuela’s Plan A was: preserve OPEC. If OPEC failed Plan B sought to maintain revenues from the Orinoco. For Plan B to work shovel-ready projects had to be in place. Companies had to be strung along pending resolution of Plan A; even at risk of souring relations.

Despite the current crisis (caused by low prices and economic warfare) the Orinoco is developing. CNPC’s Orinoco operation produces 130,000 b/d. A Chevron-led operation pumps 150,000 b/d of Orinoco crude. When this crisis passes an Orinoco volcano erupts.

The EU’s petroleum phase-out passes the point of no return

“Climate Change” means “European energy independence.” Europe imports $500 billion in fossil fuels annually.

Electric vehicles (EVs, fully electric and hybrid) are Europe’s salvation. EVs are a pillar of the Climate Industrial Complex. The global EV industry earns $100 billion annually. This white elephant becomes farcically un-economical in the face of the coming tsunami of cheap oil.

Electric car - Wikipedia

To aid the EV industry European governments are phasing out gasoline and diesel power vehicles. Germany will begin banning internal combustion engines in 2030. Scotland will ban new gasoline and diesel vehicle sales starting 2032. French and British bans begin in 2040. Austria, Denmark, Portugal and Spain have similar plans.

An estimated 50 million EVs will cruise the world’s roads by 2030; many of those in Europe. Half of Norway’s new car sales are EVs. Volvo’s 2019 line-up is all EV. BMW is following suit.

EVs are impractical without elaborate re-charging networks. Across Europe tens of thousands of charging points are constructed annually at enormous public expense. This transformative infrastructure mega-project requires separate grids and massive increases in electricity supply. The decision to go down the EV path will not be easily reversed.

To accentuate his petroleum phase-out resolve Macron decreed an end to oil extraction across France and French overseas territories. This symbolic decree (France imports 99% of its oil) treats oil extraction like a scourge. Macron anticipates such declarations spreading EU-wide.

A Democrat-EU alliance mongers the Venezuela War

In 2014 a Democrat-led Senate passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act. This legislation, sponsored by Robert Menendez (Democrat-NJ), sanctioned Venezuela government officials and supported Venezuelan oppositionists. The Act sought to meet “the information needs of the Venezuelan people” through publications and broadcasts and through the “distribution of circumvention technology.” Obama signed immediately.

In 2015 Obama declared: “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States presented by the situation in Venezuela.

Days before Trump’s inauguration Obama renewed this declaration.

Report: Trump Told Obama 'Hands Off' on Major Foreign ...

At this time the US deep state played conductor to an orchestra of American and European agencies and foundations then disbursing $50 million yearly to Venezuelan politicians, activists and journalists. Key agencies were: USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, and (Democratic Party-affiliated) National Democratic Institute. Key foundations were: (Jimmy) Carter Centre, Soros’s Open Society and several government-linked German and Spanish concerns.

The Democrat’s war drive survived Obama’s departure.

On January 4, 2019 a Democrat-led House of Representatives swore in. On January 10 House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Eliot Engel (D-NY) said he would waste no time holding “Mr. Maduro” accountable. Simultaneously, former DNC Chair and Hillary Clinton “fixer”, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) unveiled her Venezuelan-Russian Threat Mitigation Act. Debbie was flanked by former Clinton cabinet member and Clinton Foundation President, Donna Shalala (D-FL) who announced her Venezuelan Arms Restriction Act to prevent weapons sales, including non-lethal police gear, to Venezuela. Next up was Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), sponsor of the Venezuelan Humanitarian Assistance Act aimed at allowing US operatives to bypass Venezuelan authorities and distribute “aid” directly to Venezuelans.

EU powers ratcheted up sanctions against Venezuela in 2017. They pooh-poohed Venezuela’s 2018 elections and warned Maduro against inauguration. They unanimously boycotted his inauguration and quickly endorsed his auto-proclaimed rival Juan Guaido. As with Liberal Party-led Canada, EU countries were not being dragged into this by Trump. They moved swiftly and autonomously; sometimes ahead of Trump’s administration.

Conquering Venezuela isn’t feasible; creating a ‘Somalia on the Caribbean’ is.

Venezuela’s ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) regularly garners several million votes in national elections. A million PSUVers participate in candidate selection and platform drafting. PSUV’s 50,000 neighborhood councils hold meetings, elect representatives and lobby governments. PSUV auxiliaries, the “collectivos,” boasts thousands of paramilitaries. Relatively, PSUV is a larger more consolidated socio-political bloc than either the US Republicans or UK Conservatives.

The PSUV’s Great Housing Mission constructed 2.5 million apartments therewith endowing a quarter of Venezuelans with dignified, affordable housing. Rural land reform and related programs earned PSUV support from small farmers and agricultural labourers.

Venezuela’s armed forces have 350,000 personnel including 150,000 ground troops; but they are not who American war planners fear.

To deter coups and invasions, PSUV launched the Milicia Nacional Bolivariana (MNB) in 2009. 400,000 civilians routinely engage in MNB training. President Maduro recently announced plans to increase MNB to 1.6 million; “armed to the teeth.”

Maduro diz que milícia civil da Venezuela chega a 1,6 ...

Anticipating US invasion Bolivarian doctrine emphasises asymmetrical warfare centered on heavy infantry. MNB will bring to battle thousands of mortars and recoilless rifles – each towable behind cars. Maduro loyalists possess a myriad of infantry portable anti-armour weapons; and 5,000 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles of a design that downed a score of US helicopters in Iraq. These weapons compliment 300,000 assault rifles; mostly AK103s. (Venezuela’s AK103 factory should be operational soon.) Venezuelan arsenals contain 45,000 sniper rifles.

If bombed out of the cities the Bolivarians will retreat into a galaxy of rural cooperatives populated by compatriots skilled in that crucial guerrilla warfare technique: farming.

US forces may make short work of Venezuela’s air force, navy and armour; but they will not quickly vanquish its infantry. They may make inroads on the ground but the likelihood of them creating conditions needed for exploiting the Orinoco seems remote.

Conversely, through naval blockades, and close air support of mercenary brigades, Western powers may do unto Venezuela what they did to Syria, Afghanistan and Libya i.e. demolish vital infrastructure leaving a no-man’s land in their wake. A ‘Somalia on the Caribbean’ jibes with the petroleum phase-out agenda. Orinoco’s treasure will stay buried.

Conclusion

Two tethered masses move in opposing directions. At one end several of the world’s most powerful political parties seek to banish petroleum with EVs, biofuels and electric rail. At the other end a petroleum extraction industry hones fracking, steam injection and off-shore drilling technology to conjure a cornucopia of cheap oil. While Venezuelans and their allies rejoice in the Orinoco’s bounty; petroleum phase-out policymakers, and their climate alarmist cheerleaders, gaze with dread upon maps of the Orinoco muttering: “keep it in the ground.”

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