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By Nadia Elkaddi
Nadia is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Nadia below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Dick York: Betty, the next time you remove the pages from my calendar, don’t throw them away.

Betty: What should I do with them?

Dick York: Use them. [showing a calendar page]. See makes perfectly good scratch paper. [Laughter]

Betty: No! I won’t cry. He’ll say I’m wasting water!

For those who were never informed by their baby-boomer parents, Dick York was stars of the hit show Bewitched. This particular episode, filmed in 1967, shows the crazy antics of Dick York who was bewitched to be cheap. Now, 43 years later, his words would not be laughed at and his actions would not be considered “cheap.” Oh how the tides have changed! We should thank our parents for that! 

But, on second thought, what have we, as their offspring’s, done?  Yes, perhaps some of us, who could afford them, are buying those Priuses instead of the Hummers- probably because these are bankrupting us at the gas stations. We’ve also started those chapters of SEA, but the question remains: are we really making progress?  I still know people who take their car all of three blocks to go food shopping, and others who walk out of the room without turning the lights off.  We have been advised it’s better to obey the energy saving tips of our elders, but we’re still uncreative in our attempts to come up with innovative ideas of our own. Maybe it is because we are still unaware of how destructive our current ways to the environment. Coal, the fuel for most power plants, is burning at an alarming rate, generating the second largest stream of industrial waste, and churning out heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and mercury. Freon, the cooling liquid found in refrigerators and car air conditioning units releases chemicals into the air that have found to be an agent in the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere. Dwindling fossil fuels, notwithstanding, where are then the protests? Where is the uproar needed to prod the creative minds to come up with a renewable and safer energy? Are you there Rachel Carson? It’s us, the new generation still dozing.

My name is Nadia Elkaddi. I am a pre-medical student currently attending Temple University, pursuing a degree in bioengineering, a biology minor and a certificate of specialization in Arabic. I became interested in climate change and alternative energies because of it’s basis in science, and truly believe in the power of the people. In 1968,  the students at the University of Paris launched a series of protests that launched a series of protests across the country; if they can do it, so can we!

This post continues the conversation in response to my post “Offshore Oil Drilling, Energy Independence, and America’s Security” from April 7th, 2010.

Now let’s set the record straight. While it may be true that Canada and Mexico are the top exporters of oil to the US (when it is broken down by nation), these nations are insignificant when it comes to regions and the greater oil market. Canada and Mexico together are insignificant to the oil market because they do not affect the price of the oil market. This market is what affects our own economy and threatens the security of our nation, creating unwanted entanglements that flow deeper than most realize.

The reality is that the oil market is like any other market in an economy – it fluctuates. But this market is controlled by an exclusive group of nations mainly in the Middle East – the ones who have the most oil – known as OPEC. Neither Canada nor Mexico are card-carrying members, by the way.

Now here is the important thing: in 1945 FDR makes an agreement with Saudi Arabia to secure energy reserves for future interests. From that point on, America has had a vested interest in the Middle East.

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This post is in response to fellow Regional Coordinator Erick Ford, who posted on this subject recently. Reference here.

Let’s be clear: we are not dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Say What?!?! Ok, name the three countries that export the most oil to the U.S. (hint: they’re not in the Middle East). They are, in this order, Canada, Mexico and Nigeria. In fact, in the top 10 there are only two countries in the Middle East (Iraq and Saudia Arabia). Thus, we get the clear majority of our oil from outside the Middle East.

I do, however, agree with Erick that America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy puts our national (energy) security at risk. But do we honestly believe that spending hundreds of millions on exploration and infrastructure to harness more oil are positive, forward-looking investments?

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Since the presidency of FDR, our nation has made agreements with foreign nations to secure vital interest for oil, mainly in the Middle East. Over the decades, it has become apparent that America is dependent on foreign oil and our economic life depends on it now; with that, our security both domestically and internationally is at risk.

The oil crisis in the 1970’s made it obvious that we are subject to the will of others. In the mid 2000’s, again our nation was hit with another oil crisis, followed by a recession that we are in today, which has put us deeper in debt with foreign nations. Brazil, on the other hand, began its trek toward energy independence in the 1970’s and now is energy independent.

Recently, President Obama announced that he would allow off shore drilling exploration, ending the ban that has existed for 20 years.  President Obama has said

“We need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place. Because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again.”

The President’s statement shows his understanding that in order for our nation to be free as it once was we must shake ourselves free of the foreign entanglements that endanger the security of our nation.

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Monday, March 22 was World Water Day and this whole week has been designated as World Water Week.  Each year the week focuses on a different aspect of freshwater.  This year the focus is on the quality of freshwater around the world, but particularly in developing countries.  This week is not only on raising awareness about the scarcity of clean water in some nations, but also on raising awareness about how something small, such as drinking tap water rather than bottled water, can have a huge impact on both water resources and climate change!

UNICEF’s Tap Project has been held this week at campuses across the country.  The campaign asks participating restaurants to ask for $1 from patrons for the tap water (that is normally free).  This $1 is donated to UNICEF for use in efforts to bring clean water and sanitation to people all over the world.

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Last night I had the opportunity to see the film ‘Sweet Crude’ with a panel discussion afterward.  The film is about the struggle of the people of the Niger Delta to get their government to listen to them about the damage the oil companies in the region are doing to their communities.

A little background before I continue: Oil companies moved into the Niger Delta shortly after Nigeria gained independence in 1960 from the British. Since then, the environmental damage to the area has been extensive — fish are no longer in the rivers, acid rain falls regularly as a result of the gas flares. Since the oil companies’ arrival, the people of the Niger Delta have protested in non-violent ways modeled after the work of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.  The Nigerian government responded with force, killing non-violent leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and many others in the process.  As a result some of the young men from the region have formed MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) which has resorted to using force.

Members of MEND say they only use force to attract attention to their group — that the government has responded to their peaceful protests with force so they are responding in kind.

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Hilary Clinton’s trip to Latin America this week has ended in disappointment after Brazil’s president, Lula da Silva, rejected U.S. pleas to support tougher sanctions on Iran. This firm stance in the face of Western pressure is not simply meant to be a slap in the face to U.S. diplomacy. Rather, it symbolizes a geopolitical power shift where an increasingly important Brazil seeks a central space for itself on the world stage – as a superpower with an equal status to other global giants.

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America has a long history of involving itself militarily around the world. Our primary justification for military action is always the protection of the citizens of the United States from harm from external forces. We also justify wars by claiming to protect the rights and wellbeing of citizens of other nations who cannot successfully fight for themselves.

By providing ethical motives for our military presence abroad, our government rationalizes most everything we do. Daniel Volman, director of the African Security Research Project, recently spoke at John Hopkins University here in D.C. and argued quite effectively that we may need to question these motives.

Mr. Volman studies the evolution and activities of AFRICOM, the U.S. military command in Africa. He believes that a significant amount of why we are militarily present in Africa has to do with our reliance on African oil supplies. He notes the correlation between our increased military action in Africa in the last decade and our increased need for African oil. (The U.S. intelligence community predicts that the U.S. will be receiving 20% of its foreign oil supplies from Africa by 2015.)

Until about 10 years ago, Africa was quite marginal from the point of view of the Pentagon. As it became clear that we would come to rely on resources from the continent much more heavily than we had in the past, the need to protect those resources, and our access to them, became increasingly vital.

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Anyone with a business mindset can appreciate how a turbulous market can give rise to niche venture. Last June crude oil hit an all time high at $126.33 per barrel. For the same month in 2007, a barrel sold for $59.25. With the worst energy crisis in 30 years, Americans were forced to rethink their lifestyles, and with that a new niche was created. As American auto companies struggle to stay afloat, foreign automakers are importing their progressively efficient vehicles into the U.S. Starting as early as next year, three import vehicles will make their American debut.

The Piaggio Group, manufacture of the Italian Vespa, will release its plugin hybrid scooter next winter. With a fuel economy of 140 mpg, this scooter relies on its rechargeable battery and limited gas reserves to operate. The new import is expected to cost roughly the same as an all electric scooter, about $8,000 to $9,000. However, the older scooters can only drive about 50 miles until it has to recharge. These new Vespas will bring a touch of Roma into our towns and neighboorhoods months before an American company can compete.

If a two seated scooter is not big enough for your needs, then you might want to check out the new Honda Insight. Debuting on Earth Day, 2009, it is the most cost efficent hybrid on the market. At $20,000 the Honda Insight gets 60 mpg and is $2,000 less than the Toyota Prius, prompting Toyota to redesign its hybrid. Much more conventional looking than its predessor, the Insight appeals to the environmentally concious American family.

Unlike the Insight and the Vespa, the Norweigan manufactured Th!nk, will take more than a year to hit the highways of the U.S. Previously owned by the Ford Company, Th!nk is an all electric vehicle that follows a plan of sustainability by releasing zero emissions. Plans to release a fleet of vehicles will begin this year in The Netherlands. However, in the US they are waiting on funding from the Department of Energy, to begin plant construction. Talks are underway with eight states to determine where the estimated 16,000 cars will be manufactured each year by nearly 900 employees. If approved by the DOE, Th!nk will mass produced electric vehicles, making them more affordable and transforming the American auto industry.

During times of uncertainity, it has always been American innovation that has lead the world to prosperity and stability. However, as we increasing become gloablized, it is the innovation of other countries that has begun to transform America. Unless American auto companies can revolutionize their products, foreign automaker will maximize in our market.

San Francisco Green Festival, November 9-11, 2007

Introducing Amy Goodman, Jason McKain, of Free Speech TV told audiences of the need for “connecting to movements for empowering local citizens to revitalize democracy,” and the need for media to “represent community interests, not corporate interests.”

Who is Amy Goodman? A tireless advocate for free speech, free press and democracy now, an investigative journalist, author and occasionally, an inspirational speaker.

“Every time we run Democracy Now something happens… It’s as if we’ve entered into a democratic dream-state,” McKain said, “we see the resilience and power of people fighting back.”

Short in stature, but enormous in presence, Amy Goodman began by using the date to commemorate Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death. A Nigerian author and environmentalist, Saro-Wiwa spoke out against Shell in Nigeria, and lead nonviolent protests before his trial, allegedly under the watchful eye of Shell oil, and subsequent execution November 10, 1995.

Goodman then went on to discuss Burma. While Condoleeza Rice has castigated China for supporting the regime, Chevron continues fueling the military junta for supporting the regime. Despite US government sanctions on Burma, as a company, Chevron is not being held accountable. Despite Rice’s rhetoric, she has served on the Board of Directors for Chevron (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2001/05/05/MN223743.DTL&type=printable) yet has not taken action to hold the corporation accountable.

The oil theme persisted, and Goodman went on to discuss British Petroleum (BP) and it’s impending $500 million dollar partnership with the University of California school system over the next ten years, as well as Exxonmobil’s $100 million dollar project at Stanford University. Conflict of interest? Perhaps. Especially when considering Exxonmobil allegedly spent millions to deny global warming was fueled by people.

The most recent San Francisco oil spill highlights the importance for developing, creating and sustaining alternatives to oil.

The end of her speech shifted focus from oil to instances of successful movements and protests from the Port of Olympia, Washington to Jena, Louisiana. She mentioned her newest book Static, and implored the audience to support free media, “We need a media that is the fourth estate, not one that covers for the estate.”

Goodman’s short speech exposed issues and corporate ties unexposed by other media sources. If Americans for Informed Democracy is to persist as a useful and active organization which brings issues to light, the issues discussed by Goodman and Democracy Now must be brought to light.

http://www.greenfestivals.org/content/view/626/281/
http://www.democracynow.org/

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