Friday, March 03, 2006

Bush, India and Iran

I'm all for better relations with India; I'm just not sure a deal that may let India develop more nuclear weapons is the best way to develop better relations if that is indeed the consequences of Bush's diplomatic efforts. Certainly we're entering a new era on many different levels and the president, for once, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News (Knight Ridder) may be right: "Bush said Americans would benefit because increased use of nuclear power in India would reduce global demand for oil."

The jury is still out on nuclear energy; some improvements have been made since Chernobyl and Three Mile Island but, more important, promises in new technology have been made for years but not fully brought to fruition. But nuclear energy may be making a comeback for the simple reason that the worldwide supply of oil is getting tighter and oil production may well be plateauing sometime between now and the next twenty years, and eventually falling off after that; and although Bush would probably be the last politician to admit it, nuclear energy, despite its problems, is clearly an effective way to lower CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

As the oil age begins to wind down in the next few decades, that means new energy sources will be needed and sustainable, alternative energy sources may not be enough, particularly in the beginning, since a lot of infrastructure for alternative energy needs to be put in place. Alternative energy (solar, wind, bio, etc.) should be the goal, not nuclear energy, but nuclear energy, simply as an important stopgap, may be making a comeback (and I can see major political battles making sure that nuclear energy is a stopgap unless various issues are fully addressed).

So Bush may be right that nuclear energy in India may reduce global demand for oil. However, this logic in recent weeks has not been applied to Iran. One of the Republican talking points is the question of Iran's nuclear program; the Bush Administration and other Republicans are asking why Iran needs a nuclear program if it already has all that oil? Now clearly there is genuine concern that Iran may be on the way to developing nuclear weapons sometime in the next ten years and the United States is not the only country concerned. But as we have seen in the past, the Bush Administration is not above making a false argument to build their case on an issue.

So the question is this: if there was a way to monitor Iran's nuclear program so that we can be assured that they are not developing nuclear weapons, can a legitimate case be made for nuclear facilities? If we apply the logic that Bush used with India, the same logic applies to Iran. More nuclear power plants in Iran means a drop in oil demand.

Now what do we know of Iran's oil production? The Oil Drum has posted several articles on Iran in recent months. Here's an item relevant to what we're discussing about Iran: "According to the EIA, Iran ... with a population of 68,017,860 exports 63% of its oil production, using the rest for internal consumption."

Iran is using more than a third of its own oil production for dometic use. Iran's population is continuing to grow. And oil production in coming years is expected to begin dropping because that is what happens to all oil fields. A legitimate case could be made that Iran needs to think about the future; building new nuclear power plants would be a way of maintaining Iran's energy supplies. And it would make more oil available for export to the world's hungry energy markets.

So we need to watch Bush as he uses one argument in a place like India and uses nearly the opposite argument in a place like Iran. Our current president invites this observation: the Bush circle seems to have a habit of having one set of rules for one group of people and another set of rules for other groups of people. Americans deserve some explanation.


Anonymous Joyful Alternative said...

We've been supposed to be putting in place the alternative energy infrastructure for, what, 30 years now?

4:42 AM  
Blogger Gert said...

Personally, I've no problem with Iran having access to nuclear energy.

But the green house gases argument doesn't fly in this case. Iran's official reason (well, one of them) for seeking the nuclear option is to reduce its depence on its own fossil fuels... because these are worth more on the open market! Iran has already implemented measures to reduce its fossil fuel consumption by 20 % but this scenario doesn't affect global emissions of green house gases: less in Iran but more elsewhere...

9:31 AM  

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