Friday, February 27, 2009

February Spites East, Prepares Impassioned Exit

In a move described by weather policy experts as puzzling and exasperating, February has signaled its general dislike for both the people of the East Coast and the month of March in its declaration of a warm weather embargo to conclude its annual rotation in the weather presidency.

"It's a general 'Fuck all of you'", says Robert Straus, an expert in foreign weather policy at the University of Colorado's Center for Atmospheric Research.

Straus is not alone in his assessment of February's brusque behavior. Conditions seemed to be warming between the rogue month and the people of the East Coast for several weeks, bringing higher temperatures and brighter spirits across the land. "Easterners who were led to believe the harsh winter cold was in a welcome recession are now left wondering what happened as they grab for their down jackets, scarves, and little colorfully patterned rubber boots that I guess they buy at Urban Outfitters."

Some speculate that February is again using its position as a bridge month between much-reviled winter and favored spring to gain leverage with the international weather community after a particularly unfruitful meeting of the G12. February is believed to have lured in half the country with a delightful warm spell, only to lash out in a childishly retributive manner to bring much-desired attention on its supposed plight. "February has long wished to use the arctic blast weapon to convince the 12-member governing body that its allocation of 28 or 29 days is unfair and moreover, bizarre" believes James Ogden, the U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN Special Commission for Clouds, Rain, and Grey Skies.

But Straus doesn't think it's that simple. "Why now?" asks Straus. "If this is the feared arctic blast weapon then where's Jake Gyllenhaal and those crazy ice wolves everybody predicted?" Straus favors engagement with February, noting that as the month warmed, the public began to write it off and take its unusually pleasant weather for granted. "I think this really pissed February off. It didn't have to be nice outside on the weekends. It could have been a blustery hell, as February always is, with crazy ice wolves lurking around every corner."

There may be some truth in that. As January's annual reign of terror came to a close, relations between the neighbors were frosty, at best. At a temperature-fixing summit in Kathmandu, Nepal, January delivered a scathing polemic to February for its cozy relationship with March, a month considered to be partly aligned with the centrist Spring bloc. January, long the hard-line member of the G12, was likely lambasting February for its decision not to support January's Joint Resolution To Act In Accordance With The Groundhog Day Proclamation, thus depriving it of the needed supermajority.

"I really don't think the public understood what February had given up to leave January...out in the cold. I'm not particularly surprised this happened, particularly considering the potential for puns" says Frank Case, a former national climate and weather security adviser to President Clinton.

Additionally, while much of the attention has been paid to February's drastic actions and its affect on the East, little mind has been paid to February's other immediate neighbor, March. The enigmatic month has been conspicuous in its denunciations of February's measures. Enraged at its stained reputation as it is forced to swallow a massive cold front and late-winter snow and ice squall pushing eastward across the Midwest just as it begins its term, March has threatened to cut off diplomatic ties with February. "It's just what we need, a more disjointed, confusing transition of power from February---a month with a variable number of days---and March---a month symbolized by two completely opposite animals, the lion and the lamb," says Straus.

February, at least, for its part, is not so pessimistic. While senior officials could not be reached for comment, a high-level source within the month's government tell End The Cola Wars Digest that the reasons for the row came down to the economy. According to the source, February receives covert netback revenues from the natural gas and power industries. Given the presumed state of the month's treasury (it does not release official figures), it comes as little surprise that it has chosen to turn the screws on the public in a bid to shore up domestic reserves. "February has no real economy of its own when it comes down to it," says Case," it's essentially a middleman between the prolific cold exporter January and Ides-heavy March; February's' just a broker."

How the breakdown in relations between February and January and the general public in the future remains to be seen, but cracks have already started appearing in February's grip on state control. "I've about had it with this damn month," proclaims Mary Radabaf, a manager at a Washington area Haagen Dazs. "Every time you think February's had enough, it turns out you were wrong, and it's cold as shit all over again." Sentiments among the public do not stray far from Ms. Radabaf's harsh remarks. A Pew poll on the 25th showed that 95% of people disagreed strongly with February's handling of its rotating presidency; the remaining 5% of people indicated to the pollster that they hadn't left their residences since September ended.

Ogden is more pointed: "We're looking at a possible paradigm shift in the whole world order. Blizzards in July, heat waves in November, fall in April, and frogs in May. The whole system could be on the brink of collapse."

There may still be some hope, believes Case. "With such opposition from all fronts, it might be difficult for February to continue to isolate itself. February's unexpected cold tantrum will really damage its ability to influence the annual two straight weeks of misty drizzle, this year planned for late May."

August could not be reached for comment.

Brice Lord reporting from Los Angeles.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Your Oil, My Oil

As part of my graduatification I'm taking a course that examines the depth of oil's entrenchment as a commodity, as a source of conflict, and as a tool of foreign policy. It's actually pretty interesting.

I recently read "The Oil Crisis: This Time the Wolf is Here," by James Atkins from Foreign Affairs, April 1973, and found a pretty poignant excerpt that I pasted below. The "wolf" here is the oil crisis, and it being here this time refers to other experts having been accused of crying wolf when sounding the alarm of an impending oil crisis (which it turns out they did). Atkins' hypothesis of the coming crisis stems from an inflexibly tight coupling between oil demand and supply, the U.S. and developed world's rapacious consumption and reliance on imports from the Middle East and North Africa, the U.S.' support for Israel in the face of the exporting nations, the lack of a cohesive supply disruption contingency plan among the OECD nations (consumers), and, especially, the newly proven success of OPEC at wrenching control from the oil companies. It turns out Atkins got it right, because 6 months later, in October, OPEC instituted the infamous oil embargo that left Americans waiting in miles-long lines waiting to fill up their 400-cubic inch GTOs. To avoid what Atkins viewed as an impending crisis, he recommended the following:

"In the long run, though, the only satisfactory position for the United States
(and to a lesser extent for its main allies) must be the development of
alternative energy sources. The United States is particularly blessed with large
reserves of coal which can be converted to hydrocarbons, and of shale oil. The
United States shares with all nations the possibility of developing geothermal
energy, solar energy, and energy from nuclear fission and fusion. But the lead
time is long for the development of all of them and some are still purely

Suggestions a few years ago for a vast program of development
of new energy sources received no support in the Congress or from the public.
Yet, had the United States a few years ago been willing to accept the realities
which became evident in 1967 or even in 1970, it might have started sooner on
the development of Western Hemisphere hydrocarbons and domestic energy sources."

That kinda sounds familiar, doesn't it? Maybe we can follow through with it a little better this time.