Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Rick Perry To Resign As Trump's Energy Secretary : NPR

Rick Perry To Resign As Trump's Energy Secretary : NPR: As the country's 14th secretary of energy, Perry leads an agency he once vowed to eliminate. He has emerged as a central figure in the impeachment inquiry of Trump.

Oil, Diamonds And Nuclear Power: Russia Eyes Africa Business

Oil, Diamonds And Nuclear Power: Russia Eyes Africa Business

Nuclear and Crowdfunded: A Startup's Unconventional Route to Building a Reactor | Fortune

Nuclear and Crowdfunded: A Startup's Unconventional Route to Building a Reactor | Fortune: By now most people are accustomed to crowdfunding as a means to finance everything from smart light bulbs to inventive bug zappers. But a next-generation nuclear reactor?

How Nuclear Power Will Impact NJ’s Clean Energy Future | NJ Spotlight

How Nuclear Power Will Impact NJ’s Clean Energy Future | NJ Spotlight: As BPU officials finalize a new energy master plan, stakeholders debate how big of a role nuclear energy will play

Missouri Commission Wants Legislators To Scrap Nuclear Plant-Funding Law | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Commission Wants Legislators To Scrap Nuclear Plant-Funding Law | St. Louis Public Radio: The Missouri Air Conservation Commission is asking state legislators to repeal a decades-old law that controls how companies fund new nuclear power plants.

California Nuclear Power Plant Approved for Demolition

California Nuclear Power Plant Approved for Demolition: Amid a revived legal challenge over the storage of nuclear waste and public doubts over the safety of the decommissioning process of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the California Coastal Commission Thursday unanimously approved demolition of the iconic Southern California nuclear power plant.

Coastal Commission unanimously OKs plan to remove San Onofre nuclear plant domes

Coastal Commission unanimously OKs plan to remove San Onofre nuclear plant domes

ANS Nuclear Policy Wire October 18, 2019 - Energy and water bill could move forward in the Senate next week

ANS Nuclear Policy Wire
October 18, 2019

Energy and water bill could move forward in the Senate next week

Yesterday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture to proceed on the five bill minibus that includes energy and water development appropriations. The motion would require 60 votes in order to pass and it's currently unclear if the bill would pass at this time. However, there is continued momentum in the Senate to complete the appropriations process in a timely manner. 
 
The Senate version of the energy and water development appropriations bill includes $1.52 billion for nuclear energy research and development, $192 million above the FY 2019 amount, and $694 million above the budget request, for nuclear energy research, development, and demonstration activities. This also includes funding for consolidated interim storage of spent nuclear fuel.
 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

DOE: Perry: Small nuclear reactors a ‘true game changer’ -- Thursday, October 17, 2019 -- www.eenews.net E&E News -- Start a free trial

DOE: Perry: Small nuclear reactors a ‘true game changer’ -- Thursday, October 17, 2019 -- www.eenews.net E&E News -- Start a free trial: Energy Secretary Rick Perry will head back to Europe next week as part of an effort to boost the U.S. advanced nuclear industry's ability to export its technologies across the globe.

Will the Saudis Go Nuclear? | The National Interest

Will the Saudis Go Nuclear? | The National Interest: Under what circumstances might Riyadh conclude that the clandestine and rapid acquisition of a nuclear arsenal would help address the challenges the country faces?

How the U.S. power grid is evolving to handle solar and wind | Energy Central

How the U.S. power grid is evolving to handle solar and wind | Energy Central

Interim Update (1): Damage and Hazards Found After Safety Shutoff Confirm That Turning Off Power was the Right Decision | Energy Central

Interim Update (1): Damage and Hazards Found After Safety Shutoff Confirm That Turning Off Power was the Right Decision | Energy Central

Southern California Edison considers power shut-offs ahead of high winds

 

Southern California Edison considers power shut-offs ahead of high winds


https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-10-16/southern-california-edison-mulls-power-shut-offs-ahead-of-high-winds?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202019-10-17%20Utility%20Dive%20Newsletter%20%5Bissue:23607%5D&utm_term=Utility%20Dive

Despite 'political tug-of-war,' the US 'still needs fossil fuels': DOE General Counsel | Utility Dive

Despite 'political tug-of-war,' the US 'still needs fossil fuels': DOE General Counsel | Utility Dive: Utility industry news, voices and jobs for energy industry professionals. Optimized for your mobile phone.

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Nuclear Matters
Michele,
Happy Nuclear Science Week!
This week, the nuclear industry celebrates Nuclear Science Week, spearheaded by the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. Advocates and industry leaders from across the country have come to D.C. for an event-filled week to learn about and discuss the benefits of nuclear science and energy.
In D.C. for the week? Make sure to head to the Millennial Nuclear Caucus to hear from industry leaders, policymakers and thought leaders in nuclear energy on how to bridge the gap between nuclear science and policy. If you can’t make it this time, never fear – join Nuclear Matters Advocacy Council Member Dr. Kerry Emanuel for another Millennial Nuclear Caucus at MIT on November 4, with plenty of networking opportunities and chances to hear from nuclear industry leaders, national labs and government representatives. Learn more here.
Whether you’re on the ground in D.C. or participating in events in your home state, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved. Here’s a start: Share a fact about nuclear science with your friends and family on social media with #NuclearSciWeek. Need some inspiration? Check out our Twitter page and feel free to share your favorite fact on your own Twitter, Facebook page or via email.
While you’re at it, take a look at NAYGN’s new children’s book, “George’s Energy Adventure”! This week is the perfect time to sit down with younger family members to explain the science of nuclear energy.
The news you need to know:
  • North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan. When the draft version of NC’s clean energy plan didn't include nuclear energy, Nuclear Matters advocates in NC quickly mobilized to urge Governor Cooper and the Department of Environmental Quality to revise the plan to include the nation’s largest source of carbon-free energy. And guess what? It worked. Thank you to all of our NC advocates who took the time to submit a comment to Governor Cooper – your advocacy makes all the difference!
  • Health effects of closing nuclear plants. The Respiratory Health Association (RHA) and Clean Air Task Force (CATF) released a report – Potential Human Health Impacts Associated with Retirement of Nuclear Power Plants in Illinois – which details the significant health and economic benefits of four nuclear plants in Illinois not covered by the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA).
  • Vogtle reaches another exciting milestone. The final major module for Vogtle 3 & 4 arrived onsite earlier this month, meaning that all 1,485 major modules required to complete construction have now been manufactured and safely delivered. Vogtle is one step closer to producing more carbon-free energy for communities across Georgia.
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Distribution of highly radioactive microparticles in Fukushima revealed: Distribution and origin of highly radioactive microparticles in Fukushima revealed -- ScienceDaily

Distribution of highly radioactive microparticles in Fukushima revealed: Distribution and origin of highly radioactive microparticles in Fukushima revealed -- ScienceDaily: New method allows scientists to create a quantitative map of radioactive cesium-rich microparticle distribution in soils collected around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP). This could help inform clean-up efforts in Fuksuhima region.

U.K. Nuclear Industry Braces for No-Deal Brexit Fuel Disruption - BNN Bloomberg

U.K. Nuclear Industry Braces for No-Deal Brexit Fuel Disruption - BNN Bloomberg: The U.K.’s civil nuclear industry faces disruption if the country crashes out of the European Union without a deal because companies could lack the necessary paperwork to import fuel from the bloc.

Korea seeks to ready a global army of robotics to respond to nuclear disaster - 매일경제 영문뉴스 펄스(Pulse)

Korea seeks to ready a global army of robotics to respond to nuclear disaster - 매일경제 영문뉴스 펄스(Pulse): 매일경제 영문뉴스 Pulse. 한국의 경제·산업·금융·기술 분야에 대한 심층뉴스 제공

3D printing is helping to tackle nuclear waste | TechRadar

3D printing is helping to tackle nuclear waste | TechRadar: We want to avoid storing nuclear waste long-term, and 3D-printed parts can help with that.

Local State Senators File Bill to Strengthen Pilgrim Advisory Panel - CapeCod.com

Local State Senators File Bill to Strengthen Pilgrim Advisory Panel - CapeCod.com: PLYMOUTH – A bill has been filed by local legislators to strengthen the Nuclear Decommissioning Advisory Panel for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. Plymouth and Barnstable State Senator Vin…

Purdue tech startup lands $6.9M grant from Department of Energy - Indianapolis Business Journal

Purdue tech startup lands $6.9M grant from Department of Energy - Indianapolis Business Journal: A Purdue University-affiliated startup recently received a $6.9 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop a system to predict when nuclear reactor components need maintenance or replacement before they fail and cause power outages.

Nevada seeks to restart lawsuit over US plutonium shipment

Nevada seeks to restart lawsuit over US plutonium shipment: RENO, Nev. (AP) — Lawyers for Nevada and the U.S. Energy Department are accusing each other of contradicting their own past arguments as the state seeks to restart a legal challenge to force the...

U.S. energy secretary says cabinet-level group will boost domestic uranium mining - Reuters

U.S. energy secretary says cabinet-level group will boost domestic uranium mining - Reuters: U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Wednesday he believes a cabinet-level working group set up by President Donald Trump will make recommendations that will revive domestic mining of uranium for nuclear power plants.

Assystem, Uzbek energy ministry create JV - World Nuclear News

Assystem, Uzbek energy ministry create JV - World Nuclear News: Assystem and the Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan have formalised the creation of a joint venture to oversee their cooperation in the implementation of the Central Asian country's energy transition. The development, which the French engineering group announced on 11 October, follows an agreement they signed on 16 May.

DOE, NRC collaborate on advanced reactor deployment - World Nuclear News

DOE, NRC collaborate on advanced reactor deployment - World Nuclear News: A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the US Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to share technical expertise and computing resources to accelerate the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies.

UK designates radwaste disposal policy - World Nuclear News

UK designates radwaste disposal policy - World Nuclear News: The UK government has designated its National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure, following its completion of 21 parliamentary sitting days on 2 October, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said today. BEIS has also published the Appraisal of Sustainability Post Adoption Statement and the Final Habitats and Regulation Assessment report.

Construction starts on first Zhangzhou unit - World Nuclear News

Construction starts on first Zhangzhou unit - World Nuclear News: Construction of the first unit at the Zhangzhou nuclear power plant in China's Fujian province has started, one week after the issuance of a construction licence for the Hualong One reactor, China National Nuclear Corporation has announced.

Asian Americans offended by Ohio political ads about nuclear bailout | WKRC

Asian Americans offended by Ohio political ads about nuclear bailout | WKRC: CINCINNATI (WKRC) - You've likely seen the commercial at one point or another over the past month or so: An ominous voice delivering a grim warning about China controlling Ohio's energy. That commercial is not sitting well with everyone, and mailers are also being sent out all over Ohio. It all has to do with the bailout Ohio lawmakers gave nuclear power plants earlier in 2019. The ads specifically disturb Asian Americans. Ohioans For Energy Security is behind them.

DoE awards nearly $7 million to Purdue-based startup to advance nuclear technology using artificial intelligence and machine learning - Purdue University News

DoE awards nearly $7 million to Purdue-based startup to advance nuclear technology using artificial intelligence and machine learning - Purdue University News: One of the hot topics in artificial intelligence and machine learning is predictive analysis – knowing the future by analyzing data from the past.

Iran to limit inspectors' access to its nuclear facilities | World news | The Guardian

Iran to limit inspectors' access to its nuclear facilities | World news | The Guardian: Move announced by senior MPs represents another step away from nuclear deal signed in 2015

China starts construction of nuclear power unit with Hualong One reactor design - Xinhua | English.news.cn

China starts construction of nuclear power unit with Hualong One reactor design - Xinhua | English.news.cn

Czechs must build nuclear plants even if in breach of EU law, says PM | Euronews

Czechs must build nuclear plants even if in breach of EU law, says PM | Euronews

Nuclear plant owner warns it may resume closings | Toledo Blade

Nuclear plant owner warns it may resume closings | Toledo Blade

Keep nuclear in the energy mix to tackle climate change: IEA's Birol - Reuters

Keep nuclear in the energy mix to tackle climate change: IEA's Birol - Reuters: The decline of nuclear in the global energy mix poses a threat to economies and efforts to reduce carbon emissions, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol said on Wednesday.

Why France is eyeing nuclear power again - MIT Technology Review

Why France is eyeing nuclear power again - MIT Technology Review: The nation asked its major utility to make plans for six huge reactors.

The great PG&E power shut-off – Lake County Record-Bee

The great PG&E power shut-off – Lake County Record-Bee: For the last four nights I’ve seen lots of stars. Cleo and I were alone on a deserted island a million miles from anyone. At least, that was the way it felt. Like a five-day plague, or a curse on a…

PG&E: More Than 100 Incidents Of Wind Damage Found In Wake Of Power Outage – CBS San Francisco

PG&E: More Than 100 Incidents Of Wind Damage Found In Wake Of Power Outage – CBS San Francisco

After PG&E shutdown, San Jose explores city-owned utilities

After PG&E shutdown, San Jose explores city-owned utilities

Governor blasts PG&E over blackouts, saying it should follow San Diego's lead | abc7news.com

Governor blasts PG&E over blackouts, saying it should follow San Diego's lead | abc7news.com: California Governor Gavin Newsom kept the pressure on PG&E at a climate conference this afternoon in San Francisco, saying the utility might be too big to survive and calling for more competition.

15 Things You Need to Know About PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff | Transmission & Distribution World

15 Things You Need to Know About PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff | Transmission & Distribution World: More than 100 instances of damage were found during inspections, including trees into lines and downed power lines

California power outage: Months of planning by PG&E does little - Los Angeles Times

California power outage: Months of planning by PG&E does little - Los Angeles Times: Several utility executives and political leaders seemed shocked, shocked to find that when electricity is shut off, traffic lights go dark and drivers smash their cars.

Column: The hedge fund battle to control PG&E leaves us no one to root for - Los Angeles Times

Column: The hedge fund battle to control PG&E leaves us no one to root for - Los Angeles Times: A gang of Wall Street hedge funds is jousting to own PG&E, leaving Californians with nothing but bad choices.

Grids and Greed: An Expert Breaks Down Where PG&E Went Wrong and What It—and California—Needs to Do Now – Mother Jones

Grids and Greed: An Expert Breaks Down Where PG&E Went Wrong and What It—and California—Needs to Do Now – Mother Jones: "The problem is much more ingrained in the way this company has developed and continues to operate than it is something as simple as just trying to make more money."

Southern Company Selected as Finalist for Corporate Social Responsibility Award at the 2019 Global Energy Awards

Southern Company Selected as Finalist for Corporate Social Responsibility Award at the 2019 Global Energy Awards: ATLANTA, Oct. 16, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company has been selected as a finalist for the Corporate Social Responsibility Award – Diversified Program at...

2019 Radiation Shielding & Monitoring Report | Worldwide Technologies & Application Markets, 2017-2024 - ResearchAndMarkets.com | Business & Finance | manchestertimes.com

2019 Radiation Shielding & Monitoring Report | Worldwide Technologies & Application Markets, 2017-2024 - ResearchAndMarkets.com | Business & Finance | manchestertimes.com: DUBLIN--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct 16, 2019--

Why Trump's Orders On Agency Guidance Are Significant - Law360

Why Trump's Orders On Agency Guidance Are Significant - Law360: ​Two recent executive orders ​​on the use of guidance documents by federal agencies​ represent a major change for virtually every executive agency ​and a historic assertion of the president’s authority under Article II to oversee the independent regulatory agencies, says Paul Noe, former counselor to the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

FirstEnergy Solutions wins court approval for bankruptcy plan following labor agreement - cleveland.com

FirstEnergy Solutions wins court approval for bankruptcy plan following labor agreement - cleveland.com: A federal judge on Wednesday signed off on a bankruptcy restricting plan for FirstEnergy Solutions after the power-plant owner reached a deal with employee unions not to cut pensions or benefits.

Oklo Fabricates Fuel Prototypes at Idaho National Laboratory

Oklo Fabricates Fuel Prototypes at Idaho National Laboratory: The developer of a miniature nuclear reactor said it has successfully demonstrated prototypes of its metallic fuel — a key development for the company and for the U.S. advanced nuclear reactor community, whose years-long timelines to deployment often beget sporadic messaging wins.

Three Westinghouse nuclear fuel facility workers sent to hospital this week | News | aikenstandard.com

Three Westinghouse nuclear fuel facility workers sent to hospital this week | News | aikenstandard.com

Why Japan’s Radioactive Water May End Up In the Ocean - The Washington Post

Why Japan’s Radioactive Water May End Up In the Ocean - The Washington Post: Tepco is considering a plan to dump roughly 1 million cubic meters of treated radioactive water -- enough to fill 400 Olympic-size swimming pools -- from the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, part of its nearly $200 billion effort to clean up the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl. Storage tanks at the site are forecast to be full by mid-2022, and space for building more is scarce. Scary as it sounds, discharges are common practice in the industry and woul

U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Collaborate on Advanced Nuclear Technologies - EIN News

U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Collaborate on Advanced Nuclear Technologies - EIN News: WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to share

Nuclear Regulatory Commission announce merger of Nuclear Reactor Offices


Nuclear Regulatory Commission announce merger of Nuclear Reactor Offices



https://dailyenergyinsider.com/news/22312-nuclear-regulatory-commission-announce-merger-of-nuclear-reactor-offices/

Power Shutoffs: Playing with Fire | The Energy Collective Daily


Power Shutoffs: Playing with Fire | The Energy Collective Daily

Link to The Energy Collective Network

Arabia, the Persian Gulf, and Great Power Competition Remarks to the Gulf International Forum



Arabia, the Persian Gulf, and Great Power Competition
Remarks to the Gulf International Forum

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Washington, DC, 17 October 2019

There is a rhythm in the affairs of men, a pattern shaped by enduring interests.  It echoes through the ages.  So, it is no surprise that empires and external great powers have regularly found themselves drawn to the Red Sea, Arabian Peninsula, and Persian Gulf region.  Afro-Asia is where Africa, Asia, and Europe come together.  It is where modern man first exited Africa to populate the world.  It is the mother of all strategic choke points.  From time to time, the region has dominated markets for specific commodities in great demand, like perfumes, pearls, and petroleum.  And, for fifteen centuries, its holy cities have been destinations for pilgrimage by the world’s Muslims. 
Rome looked to the region for frankincense and myrrh, which were essential to its funeral practices.  Early in the 7th century Afro-Asia was united under Islam.  Zealous Muslim warriors then exploded outward, creating an Arabic-speaking empire that stretched from Central Asia across North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula.  This Arabian awakening led to the creation of a vastly more populous Islamic domain, which in 637 embraced Iran and, in time, much of sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia.  
Those Arabs who emigrated with the conquest prospered.  Those who remained in the Afro-Asian region did not.  It is true that, for a millennium, the silk and spice trade between Europe and Asia was monopolized by Arabs and Persians, acting independently or, for a century or so, under the Mongols.  Nevertheless, the great centers of Arab and Islamic civilization were not in its Afro-Asian epicenter. 
In 1414, China reached out directly to the region, as the first of three great Chinese fleets arrived to buy pearls, fine horses, and precious gems in Hormuz.  In 1507, seeking to flank the Ottoman Empire and monopolize the Indian Ocean spice trade, the Portuguese took Hormuz and Muscat.  Soon thereafter, they garrisoned Bahrain and other trading centers in the Gulf.  In response, the Ottomans pushed south into Al Hasa, now Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.  A decade of fierce skirmishing between Turks and Portuguese followed.
Regional powers reacted to the increasing foreign presence in their midst.  Safavid Iran took Bahrain from Portugal in 1602.  As the 17th century proceeded, Oman expelled the Portuguese from its territory and built an empire spanning the Indian Ocean.  But the power of Iran continued to grow, as did that of the first Saudi state, established near Riyadh in 1744.  As the Saudis expanded from the Arabian interior, the Persians captured Muscat, throwing the Omani Empire into disarray.  By the early 19th century, Britain had recognized Iran as the sovereign authority in the Persian Gulf and the Ottomans had invaded Arabia from Egypt to overthrow the Saudis and contain Wahhabi fanaticism. 
As this happened, the British were swallowing up India.  British shipping in the Indian Ocean expanded apace.  The raids of the so-called “pirate kingdoms” on the southern coast of the Gulf – present-day Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates – threatened British India’s strategic lines of communication.  Efforts to suppress this piracy came to naught. 
In 1819, a massive British-commanded Indian force crushed the formidable Qasimi Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah with help from its Qatari and Omani rivals.  The “Raj” had effectively dominated the Gulf.  The British rulers of India were able to compel all the Gulf Arab statelets to renounce slavery and to fly “white pierced red flags,” signifying their abandonment of piracy. But these statelets continued to fight with each other, disrupting the pearl trade and again appearing to menace freedom of navigation in their region.  In 1835, Britain intervened to broker an uneasy truce between the ten warring emirates of the Gulf, which were thereafter known as the “Trucial States.”  The Indian rupee became the regional currency.
Britain found oil in Persia in 1908, then more in Iraq (1927) and Bahrain (1932).  The discovery of these geological riches set off a race between British and American companies to secure oil concessions.  Britain used its imperial privileges to keep the Americans out of Iran, Iraq, and the “Trucial States.”  But, in 1938, in Saudi Arabia, an American consortium found and began to develop what turned out to be the world’s largest oil field.  In that same year, the British discovered huge deposits of oil in Kuwait.  In the 1950s and ‘60s, oil began to be exported from Qatar, the UAE, and Oman.  After World War II, the countries of Afro-Asia began an abrupt transformation from poverty to wealth and technological modernity. 
In 1947, India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain.  This greatly reduced London’s  interest in securing passage through Afro-Asia to points East and South.  The British remained intensely interested in the region’s oil – as their CIA-assisted overthrow of Iranian democracy in 1953 demonstrated – but they divested themselves of the burden of protecting access to the Gulf’s energy supplies.  This task was taken up by the United States as part of its Cold War assumption of responsibility for the security and prosperity of the so-called “free world” beyond the Soviet sphere.  The United States itself was not then dependent on energy from the Gulf, but its commitment to protect access to the region’s oil and gas reserves symbolized its assertion of global primacy.
In 1961, Britain granted Kuwait independence and withdrew its protection of it.  In 1968, the British announced their intention to do the same for the rest of the Gulf.  Oman declared its independence in 1970.  Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates followed in 1971.  In 1979, Persia threw off Western tutelage, conducted a referendum, and asserted a revolutionary Shi`ite identity as the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Two years later, the Gulf Arab states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – responded by forming the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
This brief history serves to underscore the importance of both the strategic position and natural resources of the independent kingdoms, emirates, and republics of the Afro-Asian region.  Both the powers on their periphery and those farther away are interested in their affairs.  The Gulf Arab states, once poor and backward, are now wealthy and able to use their wealth to entice external partners to back them in their quarrels with each other and with Iran. 
In many respects, today’s contentions among the states of the Afro-Asian region and their foreign protectors echo those of the past.  To get from Asia to Europe without circumnavigating Africa, one must pass through Afro-Asia.  One-fifth of the world’s trade traverses the region.  It produces about half of the world’s oil and gas and contains about two-thirds of its reserves of hydrocarbons.  The members of the GCC have become significant capital exporters.  As tensions among them have risen, they have come to account for two-fifths of global arms purchases.  One fourth of the world’s people revere the Saudi cities of Makkah and Medina as the birthplace of their faith. 
The world’s great powers remain vitally interested in assured passage through the Afro-Asian region as well as in access to its oil, gas, and capital.  They also seek to moderate its export of religious fervor and funds that sanctify and support violence against other peoples, faiths, and cultures. The evolving United States relationship with the region reflects shifting balances between these interests.
At the outset, in the eyes of the Gulf Arabs, Americans’ main virtues were that we weren’t the British, didn’t have an empire, and didn’t want anything except easy access to their oil and gas.  The apparent disinterest of the United States in changing the region’s political and social systems resembled that of China today and facilitated U.S. replacement of Britain as the dominant power in the region.  Initially, the United States left the control of strategic lines of communication to Britain.  Americans knew and cared little about Islam or its local manifestations.  But, as Britain retreated, the United States stepped in to replace it as the guarantor and regulator of the region’s stability. 
In the late 1940s, the United States began to acquire a global sphere of military influence that included the Gulf.  In 1980, Washington declared that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”  The American focus on outside threats to the Gulf was almost immediately displaced by concerns about the region’s internal dynamics.  The United States feared that the Iran-Iraq War might enable whoever won to dominate the region and use its monopoly to dictate global energy prices. 
As the Cold War ended and the 1990s began, Iraq’s attempt to annex Kuwait led to the formation of a UN-authorized, US-led, ad hoc military coalition of NATO and Islamic countries that was able to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.  But neither the United States nor its coalition members had a war-termination strategy.  They failed to follow up diplomatically either to reconcile Iraq to its defeat or to build a viable post-war Gulf security architecture.  So, despite the successful liberation of Kuwait, the first Gulf war did not end.  Instead, it sputtered on.  The United States kept its armed forces in the Gulf.
In 1993, America abruptly abandoned its longstanding policy of offshore balancing in the Gulf.  This approach had relied on Iraq and the Gulf Arab states to join in balancing and containing Iran, while Iran balanced Iraq.  Offshore balancing had avoided any requirement for the United States to maintain a military presence ashore in the Gulf.  In its place, Washington embarked on a policy of so-called “dual containment” aimed at unilaterally containing both Iran and Iraq. 
“Dual containment” significantly raised the cost to the United States of assuring stability in the Gulf.  It required American troops to be stationed there, to the extent possible at the expense of the countries that hosted them.  The Gulf Arab countries accepted “dual containment” without enthusiasm.  Iran saw it as a threat.  But Israel welcomed it.  After all, as its authors intended, it established a permanent US-manned defense perimeter and tripwire between Israel and its two most capable regional opponents – Iran and Iraq.
The substantial ongoing U.S. military presence in the Gulf irritated ordinary people in the region, especially in Saudi Arabia, where it was resented by both religious zealots and the welfare recipients whose benefits were reduced to pay for it.  This irritation, joined with Arab backlash against U.S. support for Israel’s ongoing oppression and dispossession of Palestinian Arabs, helped stimulate the traumatic terrorist attacks on the United States of “9/11.”  Increasingly thereafter, force protection requirements drove U.S. policies and relationships in the Gulf. 
After 9/11, Islamophobia quickly became as American as the Ku Klux Klan.  No longer facing a great power rival for influence in Afro-Asia, the United States began to pursue an expanding list of exclusively American agendas there, including ill-considered calls for democratization and other efforts to impose contemporary Western values on Gulf Arab societies.  In 2001 and 2003, the Gulf became the staging area for poorly planned American invasions, occupations, and pacification efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The main beneficiary of these regime change operations was Iran.  The main losers from them, other than Afghans and Iraqis, were Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E.
America’s regime-change wars eliminated vital checks on Iran’s influence in the region.  This  facilitated the Islamic Republic’s consolidation of a sphere of influence in the Fertile Crescent and the Levant.  In time, Iranian client states and non-state actors came to encircle both Israel and the Arab Gulf states.  Meanwhile, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen remained mired in seemingly endless civil strife abetted by American intervention.
As long as Iraq remains aligned with Iran and thus unavailable as a security partner, the Gulf Arabs  have no choice but to seek the backing of a powerful external power to balance Iran.  The only country now capable of projecting enough force to the Gulf to deter and defeat Iran is the United States.  But the Gulf countries have come to see Americans as demanding but unreliable patrons.  Like others in West Asia, North Africa, and elsewhere, they are hedging against over-reliance on Washington.
Since the U.S. launch of its “Global War on Terror” in 2001, the institutionalization of Islamophobia in America, and repeated demonstrations of American fickleness as successive governments in Egypt were overthrown, the United States has carried a lot of awkward political baggage in the Middle East.  The Trump administration’s Muslim visa bans and something-for-nothing appeasement of Israel have added to this awkwardness.  America’s erratic treatment of Iraq’s and Syria’s Kurds has reinforced the judgment of Arab rulers that it is unwise to rely on the United States.
Meanwhile, the importance of transit through Afro-Asia to the global economy and its great powers, including the United States, has, if anything, increased.  The recent expansion of the Suez Canal and its inclusion as an East-West waypoint in China’s Belt and Road Initiative are leading to large increases in goods traffic through the region.  The Persian Gulf has become a major air travel corridor.  Dubai International Airport is now the world’s busiest.  The Bāb al-Mandab Strait is the fourth busiest waterway in the world.  Despite China’s sponsorship of land routes connecting Europe and Asia and the opening of the Arctic to shipping, this trend seems certain to continue.

The Strait of Hormuz now ranks as the world’s most important energy chokepoint.  About 80 percent of Saudi and all of Bahraini, Iraqi, and Qatari oil exports pass through the Strait.  So do Qatar’s exports of natural gas – about 30 percent of global supplies.  Iran’s oil ports and terminals are all within the Gulf.  Its oil and gas exports transit the Strait, as do about 70 percent of the UAE’s.  In 2018, the daily oil flow through the Strait of Hormuz averaged 21 million barrels per day, or the equivalent of about 21 percent of global consumption. 
Of course, the United States is once again a net exporter of hydrocarbons and no longer itself dependent on imports from the Gulf.  But the world market relies on Gulf energy exports to avoid or mitigate volatility in global energy supplies and prices.  Were these exports throttled, energy prices could surge to levels that would cripple global prosperity, including that of the United States. 
While protecting the free flow of oil and gas from the Gulf and Red Sea may no longer be a direct interest of the United States, it remains an important indirect U.S. interest and an essential element in America’s claim to be “the indispensable nation.”  If the U.S. armed forces ceased to protect the global economy from interruptions of access to Afro-Asian energy supplies, the world would no longer defer to Washington as the manager of the global or regional political-economic orders.
Frankly, this outcome would suit many Americans just fine.  War weariness and a sense that foreigners are free riding on American willingness to take sole responsibility for sustaining global stability – if you will, “empire fatigue” – contributed significantly to the election of President Trump.  Many in the United States would welcome a debate about whether our country should continue to bear the burdens of global leadership.  Some, like Mr. Trump, would answer no, it should not.
Any doubt about the reality of empire fatigue should have been erased by Washington’s limp-wristed response to this June’s apparent Iranian attacks on ships from Norway and Japan, both U.S. allies.  In the 1980s, when tankers in the Gulf were threatened, the U.S. Navy unilaterally intervened to protect the world’s oil supply from disruption.  But the response of the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the June 2019 attacks was to point out that “the circumstances are very different now than they were in the 1980s. . . . Ensuring freedom of navigation and the movement of oil in and out of the Gulf . . . [is no longer] a U.S.-only responsibility,” he said, and called on other “nations that benefit from that movement of oil through the Persian Gulf” to share the burden of protecting shipping from Iranian attack.[1]  
A subsequent failed effort by Secretary of State Pompeo to organize a US-led naval coalition for this purpose exposed how disinclined America’s allies and security partners are to support the current U.S. confrontation with Iran.   It also underscored the diminished ability of the United States to convene global backing for its politico-military initiatives.  One of the few great powers to suggest it might participate in protecting tanker traffic in the Gulf was China.  Given Washington’s present animus against that country, there was no audible response from it to this offer, if indeed it was an offer.
American geopolitical priorities are visibly changing.  The end point of their evolution remains unclear, but it is obvious that the stability of the Persian Gulf is no longer at the center of U.S. foreign policy concerns.  There are 45,000 American troops and legions of DOD contractors deployed in and around the Persian Gulf.  But their declared mission is no longer primarily to ensure oil security or the protection of friendly Arab states.  Increasingly, their presence is justified as menacing putative Iranian nuclear programs, defending Israel against Iran, combatting Islamist terrorism, or denying influence to China and Russia (with which all the states of the region, whether Arab or Persian-aligned, nevertheless have burgeoning relationships).
Thanks largely to coordinated Israeli, Saudi, and Emirati pressure on the United States to aggressively oppose Iran and its proxies, America’s confrontation with Iran has escalated.  Its policies of “maximum pressure” on Iran now resemble those that panicked Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor in 1941.  The United States has no dialogue with Iran that might influence its decisions.  And America’s muddled response to the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry was followed by its abrupt abandonment of Syria’s Kurds. 
Not surprisingly, the Gulf Arabs states are stepping up their efforts to reduce reliance on American diplomacy and military power projection to defend them, increasing purchases of weaponry, diversifying their international economic and arms procurement relationships, building their own military industries, and exploring rapprochement with Iraq.  They have largely ceased to defer to the United States in formulating their policies and managing their relations with other great powers like China, India, and Russia.  They see themselves as increasingly on their own.
The recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais illustrate the vulnerability of Gulf Arab societies to foreign or terrorist attack. Their prosperity depends on the production and export of oil and gas.  Their viability as societies depends on their ability to desalinate water.  Imagine the consequences if the attacks had focused on desal rather than oil facilities!  
Security anxieties in the Arab Gulf countries have been aggravated by divisions over Iran and future models of governance of Sunni Muslim societies.  These have split the GCC and suspended most politico-military and economic policy coordination among its members.  The UAE and Saudi Arabia do not accept that Qatar’s geographical situation dictates that it maintain a stable relationship with Iran.  Abu Dhabi and Riyadh consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist movement.  Doha is aligned with Ankara in support of the Brotherhood and other democratic Islamist movements, like Hamas.  To Iran’s delight, the Emiratis and Saudis remain engaged in a largely ineffectual blockade of Qatar. 
Meanwhile, the United States is making no apparent effort to help the GCC reunite, though it has continued inanely to call for what some sort of  “Arab NATO” built on it.  Meanwhile, Iran has proposed a regionwide pact to combat terrorism, advance cybersecurity, protect energy production and exports, and assure freedom of navigation.  Neither of these proposals has any real prospect of success. But risk reduction is now an imperative.
The best that might be hoped for is that all sides might agree to a temporary stand-down from violent confrontation, as was the case with the British-brokered truce of 1835.  This would leave the issues driving their rivalries to be worked out later and give diplomacy a chance to enable an acceptable non-violent status quo to emerge in the Persian Gulf as it did in the mid-19th century.  Something like this seems to be the core of the Iranian proposal.  It different from but is compatible with the Gulf security architecture advocated by China and Russia.  Despite its suspect origins, it deserves exploration.  It would buy time for a reduction in tensions of benefit to all in the region, while reducing risks to the global economy. 
But GCC disunity, the U.S. inability to communicate convincingly with Iran, and American diplomacy-free foreign policy together ensure that any such détente in the Gulf will be made in Moscow or Beijing, with possible assistance from Islamabad or a European capital or two, rather than crafted locally or by the United States.  The GCC was once described by an American diplomat as “a large shell inhabited by a small and indecisive snail.”  It is now vivisected and on life support. If the Gulf Arabs wish to control their own destiny, they would do well to restore the GCC to health.  This is the prerequisite for collective defense, diplomacy supporting common interests with the world’s established and emerging great powers, intelligent management of relations with Iran, and influence in the broader Arab and Islamic worlds.  All these things, I submit, are very much in the interest of the United States as well as the Gulf Arabs.
If the GCC can get its act together, there is a fair chance that it can continue to enlist American support.  It if cannot, the Gulf Arabs must reconcile themselves to the new reality of Iranian primacy in their region.  America is now a war-weary and reluctant global hegemon, riven by constitutional crises, and intent on reducing its overseas commitments.  Without unity, the ability of the Gulf Arabs to court support for their security from outside their region is gravely impaired.  In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, the Gulf Arabs “will all hang together or hang separately.”
On that cheery note, I wish this conference every success!

Disappearing glaciers: Before and after views of Mont Blanc - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Disappearing glaciers: Before and after views of Mont Blanc - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: A century ago, pioneering Swiss pilot Walter Mittelholzer took aerial photos of Europe's highest mountain and its glaciers in his biplane. Two scientists retraced his steps today, shooting from the same positions. The side-by-side comparisons of ice loss? Stunning.

Guest Post by Matt Stoller: When Democrats Used to Indict Plutocrats and Monopolists

Hi,
Welcome to BIG, a newsletter about the politics of monopoly. If you’d like to sign up, you can do so here. Or just read on…
For those of you near D.C., I will be at Politics and Prose today at 7pm to do a book talk on Goliath: The Hundred Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy. More information is here.
Today’s issue will be about the Democratic debate, in which antitrust played a prominent role. Part of the story is that the Democrats are strengthening their own views on monopoly, and I trace the parallel to how Democrats operated in the late 19th and early 20th century, when they effectively demanded that the DOJ send John D. Rockefeller to jail, and did actually indict his brother William.
In the meantime, I had my own debate over monopoly versus automation on MSNBC yesterday with MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle and political pundit Jason Johnson. Sparks fly!

The Crisis of Capitalism
It’s fairly obvious something is deeply wrong with our economy, a crisis of capitalism. There are many theories, but my basic view is that the problem is that monopolists have taken over everywhere. There’s concentration in big markets, everything from search and social networking to airlines and cable. There’s concentration in smaller markets, like peanut butter, syringes, bank software, and comic book distribution. Monopolization increases inequality and wage stagnation, reduces entrepreneurship, causes regional inequality, and corrupts our politics and corporations.
The Democratic Party is responding by getting more aggressive against monopoly power. In the Democratic debate in June, Democrats spent a few minutes on big tech and monopoly. This time, they did it again, with a twist. The moderators started by asking about Andrew Yang’s argument that automation, not monopoly power, is what matters. Pete Buttigieg has made this case as well, saying that automation, not offshoring via trading structures, led to job losses in the 2000s.
The counter-narrative is that problems in our economy are due not to trends that have existed since the 1700s, but to the central question of power. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker all took this side, arguing that monopolization in the business world is the key issue at hand. All of the major figures in the party, with the exception of Joe Biden, increasingly see our central economic challenge this way. Robert Bork came up twice in the debate, and Bork, while featuring prominently as a Supreme Court nominee, was an antitrust lawyer first and foremost.
Even Biden is sympathetic to antitrust. Biden himself is more driven by the environment around him, not any hard and fast principles, and he would like to rhetorically go after big tech and concentrations of corporate power if only because it sounds good. It doesn’t hurt that some of his main backers are from Comcast, and they hate Google. He’s reluctant, though, because one of his main advisors on antitrust, Terrell McSweeney, was on the Obama Federal Trade Commission, and she bears some responsibility for the lax antitrust record of the Democrats in that era. For example, while at the FTC, she supported a regulatory attack on the city of Seattle for trying to increase wages for Uber drivers. As it turns out, McSweeney’s view is causing tension on the Biden team. Nancy Scola of Politico writes as much, in a coded way, saying the topic is a “live issue” inside the campaign. But it’s what I’ve heard as well from multiple people close to Biden.
If you look at how Uber responded to California’s law probably mandating that it treat its drivers as employees, you’ll see why anti-monopolists are gaining strength. Uber general counsel Tony West basically responded to the California government with, ‘nahh, we’re not going to comply.’ And then threatened to spend $60 million on a popular referendum to overturn the law if California tries to enforce it. I wrote about this dynamic for Wired yesterday in a piece called Corporate America's Second War With the Rule of Law. As usual, we’ve been here before, this was the situation in the roaring 1920s.
There were bitter battles in the 1930s, because the rule of law is a political value that must be won. And in fact, going back through history, I found that the Democratic Party, for a hundred years until the Clinton administration, tried to do just that, particularly focused on the problem of monopolies. The party consistently got stronger on the problem of monopoly over time. From 1880-1988, there was something on antitrust or monopolies in the Democratic Platform. Here’s the Democratic platform in 1880.
“Free ships and a living chance for American commerce on the seas, and on the land no discrimination in favor of transportation lines, corporations, or monopolies.”
The language got more aggressive as farmers, merchants, and workers organized against railroads on the one hand, and as corporations became more powerful on the other. In 1900, in the midst of the first great merger wave that created modern corporate America, the platform said “private monopolies are indefensible and intolerable” and were “robbing” the people and small businessmen. As problems in the corporate world got worse, Democrats became even more assertive. Think Democratic attacks on the FTC for its weak $5 billion settlement for Facebook was aggressive? When the antitrust division under Taft broke up Standard Oil and American Tobacco, Democrats in 1912 said this was a pittance, demanding that enforcers effectively send John D. Rockefeller to jail.
We condemn the action of the Republican administration in compromising with the Standard Oil Company and the tobacco trust and its failure to invoke the criminal provisions of the anti-trust law against the officers of those corporations after the court had declared that from the undisputed facts in the record they had violated the criminal provisions of the law.
When Democrats took power later that year, they acted. In 1912-1913, Congressman Arsène Pujo led the first great Congressional investigation into corporate power, the ‘money trust’ hearings. When Woodrow Wilson became President, the DOJ started indictments. In the case of the J.P. Morgan dominated transportation conglomerate The New Haven Railroad, which was sort of the Uber of its day, the antitrust division indicted the *entire board of directors,* which included such luminaries as William Rockefeller and Theodore Vail, the President of AT&T.
Wilson also broke up AT&T for the first time, established the Federal Trade Commission to stop anti-competitive practices, and appointed Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court in 1916. Democrats were on the cusp of a New Deal, a genuine attack on monopolists. Unfortunately, World War One interrupted, delaying the restructuring of the American political order for another twenty years.
Today we’re in a similar situation as we were in the early 1900s, on the cusp of a major policy revolution. The wind is blowing strongly. From 1992-2012, antitrust didn’t warrant a mention in the Democratic platform (thank you Bill Clinton!) And then, in 2016, because of the new anti-monopoly movement, Democrats finally put something into their platform again. I was actually part of the group who worked to insert a provision; we tried to get something about big tech and data in there, but the Clinton campaign, which did inch towards antitrust, wouldn’t go that far. They wanted to focus on airlines and cable, the rumor was Sheryl Sandberg would be in Clinton’s cabinet.
By the 2020 debates, it is now axiomatic that we have to address the crisis of big tech. And the leading Democrat, Elizabeth Warren, wants to do that with a series of break-ups. In fact, she put that idea out there in March, and it has since become a normalized idea across the enforcement community. The right question isn’t whether what Warren suggested is too aggressive. The right question is when break-ups will become the moderate option. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear calls for jail time for some of the richest men in the country. The Sherman Act, after all, is a criminal statute.
Thanks for reading. And if you liked this essay, you can sign up here for more issues of BIG, a newsletter on how to restore fair commerce, innovation and democracy. If you want to really understand the secret history of monopoly power, buy my book, Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.
cheers,
Matt Stoller
P.S. Here's a snippet about sloth and waste from one corner of the world, the electric utility industry.
As tech companies march towards monopoly, one could think of utilities as "postcards from the future." One of the common threads between utilities and large corporations in "competitive" markets is that management becomes more concerned with the avoidance of bad press than with delivering high-quality products. This principle is showcased perfectly in information technology (IT) contracting. Some major utilities (whose names I will withhold to avoid retaliation) spent north of $100M on a shitty database and web portal for one state's electric market. Utility managers hired IBM for this piece of work -- not because IBM's IT consulting is worth a damn, but because "no one ever got fired for hiring IBM." Later, to my horror, I got this utility to admit in sworn testimony that they hired IBM without a defined scope of work....Naturally, costs skyrocketed -- but who cares? The utility's laziness led to windfalls for IBM and some random management consultant. The project was a disaster, but a few years later, IBM's contract was renewed without any competitive bidding. This taught me that monopolies trade price and quality for decreased liability.

https://mattstoller.substack.com/p/when-democrats-used-to-indict-plutocrats?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjozMjc2MzIwLCJwb3N0X2lkIjoxNDc3OTksIl8iOiJ3U2tVciIsImlhdCI6MTU3MTMzOTE1MywiZXhwIjoxNTcxMzQyNzUzLCJpc3MiOiJwdWItMTE1MjQiLCJzdWIiOiJwb3N0LXJlYWN0aW9uIn0.ECxCEjfuGvFWLRqyjG6Y2U0CJkdUOZV5Mmwt6nFTOVM