Self Driving Cars

How is this for timing?  Just as we Depression babies are realizing that it may be time to let our driver’s licenses expire, along comes a new technology that could save us from losing our mobility and sense of independence!

Some experts are saying that within 13 years, self-driving vehicles will dominate the roads, representing 95 percent of all miles driven. This rapid adaption curve will be driven largely by market forces….not our realization that we are becoming a menace on the highway.  Individual auto ownership may well be on its way out. The model of the future looks like it will be Uber and Lyft…without the drivers, of course. This mode of transportation will relieve us of the responsibilities of getting the car into the shop for maintenance and filling up at the service station.  In fact, most of the cars won’t need anyone to “fill them up.” They will instead need to teach themselves how to get plugged in for the battery charge.  Maybe it’s time to unload that Chevron stock?

Around 2020, the auto industry will be disrupted.  You won’t want to drive a car anymore. You call for a car and it will show up to take you to your destination. You will only pay for the miles driven and you can safely text, talk to friends or read a book while enjoying the ride.

Why is this happening?  There are two reasons: 1) The technology is here and 2) It will save you and me a good deal of money. Compared to owning your car, the savings are projected to amount to $5,600 a year.  If that seems high, think of the cost of that last 30,000 mile tune-up you had and what your car insurance bill was when you last paid it. Self-driving electric vehicles will enjoy a 90 percent decrease in financing costs, 80 percent decrease in maintenance costs, a 90 percent decrease in insurance costs and a 70 percent decrease in fuel costs.

Car subscription services will increase utilization of a vehicle from 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year now to 100,000 miles or more. This will free up parking lots to become parks and help clean up the air, since these new vehicles will certainly be mostly electric.  Another positive outcome is that the cars can be re-charged at night when other demand for electricity is much lower.

Drive Me, the world’s most ambitious and advanced public autonomous driving experiment, starts today

Self-driving cars may well disrupt the labor markets.  There will be lots of people put out of work: taxi drivers, car salesmen, auto mechanics, filling station owners, auto insurance sales people, truck and bus drivers and folks who work in car manufacturing plants. This change will be painful for many, but not something new. One-hundred years ago, 90 percent of us were engaged in agriculture.  Today, that figure is less than 5 percent. Maybe it is time for us to look at a guaranteed national minimum income.  The world of the future clearly won’t need to have every able-bodied person holding a job. Men and women in the future will have to find ways to get their feeling of self-worth, other than through holding a job. Community service, hobbies, sports, life-long learning and family time should be able to fill the gap. It is rumored that engineers for Ford and Volkswagen are in panic mode, while those at Tesla, Google and Apple are enjoying the ride.

Our great grandkids will likely never own a car and never get a driver’s license.

Oh, yes….one other thing. Self-driving cars will save a million lives a year.  We now have one accident every 60,000 miles.  Autonomous driving will cut that to one accident in six million miles.  I’m ready to give up the steering wheel.

This article first appeared in the July 5, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Auther Bob Hanson can be emailed at doctorindoors@comcast. net.

The Future Is Now

How does that old saying go? You’ve come a long way baby! Really amazing the changes we have experienced during our lifetime. I remember when I was growing up on a farm in North Dakota, we were the only family I knew who had electricity. We had it because my folks were daring and bought a wind charger and set of big black batteries. We were unusual… Everyone else lit their kerosene lamps when the sun went down.

In the near future, all new homes will be built with solar panels installed on the roofs and the internal combustion engine will be on the way out. Many of us in Rossmoor are already driving electric cars and never have to visit a gas station.

Already, half a dozen United States cities get all of their electricity from renewable sources. San Diego, eighth largest city in the country, has voted to go 100 percent green energy. Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer says the plan will create new jobs in the renewable energy sector, improve public health and air quality, conserve water and save the government money.

President Trump may have pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, but the green revolution is proceeding without his blessing. This is partly because most people are concerned about global warming, but also because it makes economic sense. Many progressive cities and states are pledging to pick-up the slack created by an administration beholden to the fossil fuel industries.

Experts are saying that each of us will soon become energy producers and managers in addition to consumers. A California company is now selling what it calls a Home Energy Solution, which integrates solar panels, batteries, a smart thermostat and a software platform that enables homeowners to monitor and manage their energy use. Smart phones allow this to be accomplished from a distance if you should be out of town on business or vacation.

With most new energy in this area being produced by solar panels, battery technology takes on a new urgency. Tesla sees a huge market here and is putting as much emphasis on home storage batteries as it is on electric cars. It is investing about $2 billion in its new battery factory near Reno.

Anyone who thinks about it must realize that it will only be a matter of time until fossil fuels will be gone anyway and will have to be replaced by renewable energy. It’s either sooner or later. I suggest that sooner is much to be preferred, giving us cleaner air and a chance to slow climate change to the point where future generations can avoid the worst results of global warming. Let’s error on the side of caution and leave most of the remaining coal and petroleum in the ground where it belongs. We need a high carbon tax now to speed up the switch to renewable energy.

This article was first published in the June 14, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News, author Bob Hanson.

Focus on California

Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times, states he is depending on California to help control Donald Trump’s reactionary ideas regarding the environment and health care. He has a point: The California market size, ability to legislate and environmental goals make it the most powerful opposition to Trump’s roll-back of federal programs in America today.

Size counts: If it were a country, the California economy would be the eighth largest among nations. With a population of 38.8-million people and a domestic product of $61,924 per capita, it actually props up most of the other states in the U.S. through federal taxes. California leads the nation in job-growth rate. California agriculture is the largest in the nation. It produces over a third of the U.S. vegetables and two-thirds of fruits and nuts. Farms and ranches over California brought in $47 billion in 2015. California Certification of Organic Farmers (CCOF) sets the strict regulation of “organic farming” under Chapter 403 of AB1826 and the USDA-accreditation. In its larger matter, AB1826 also sets the standard for “organic products” and “organic recycling.”

In terms of the Affordable Care Act and potential Trump-care acts, the California Department of Managed Health Care (created in 1999), the country’s first government agency solely dedicated to assisting consumers to resolve disputes with health plans, and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 strongly work to support Obamacare for California residents.

California clean-air standards, stronger than the federal government standards, have impacted the national standards since more than 33 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States are subject to the rules California sets. Here is an example, reported in the New York Times of May 7: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) demanded that Volkswagen provide the software code that governed the emissions control system in the 2016 models. Failure to comply would mean the 2016 models would not be approved for sale in California. The power of this request came from the fact that New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and many New England states follow California’s clean-air standards. Sales in this block of states are great enough that no vehicle can be a success in America if it is banned there. Providing the code revealed that Volkswagen was cheating on emissions tests and led to VW’s huge penalties and loss of sales.

In terms of the wider view, California has mandated 50 percent of all electricity to come from wind, solar and other renewables by 2030.

Since another 15 percent already comes from existing nuclear and hydroelectric power, the grid is set to be 65 percent “decarbonized” in 13 years. By way of example, Apple is now powering 96 percent of its operations around the world with renewable energy and has reached 100 percent in 24 countries, including the United States and China. As a result, there are more clean-energy jobs in California than there are coal jobs in all of America.

As has been shown recently, progressive decisions by the California legislature and our governor have directly countered decisions and “rollbacks” by the Trump Administration. Influencing decisions by the anti-environment right wing in Congress and the administration is difficult, compared to influencing progressives here in California. Fight Trump in California first and victories in the other states will follow.

This article first appeared in the May 24, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Wayne Lanier

Contra Costa’s Landfill Tour – Thur Nov 2

Thur Nov 2, 2017
Landfill Tour
9:45 am depart Gateway lot
Reservation required.

Contra Costa’s Landfill Tour

All are welcome to join a private tour of Contra Costa’s landfill site in Keller Canyon in Pittsburg on Thursday, November 2nd. Carpools will depart the Farmers Market corner of the Gateway lot at 9:45 am. We will return at noon or shortly after.  The tour is handicap accessible and will be conducted indoors and in a vehicle; dress appropriate for the weather. Get an up close look at both the landfill operation and the associated Ameresco Power Plant (see photo) which captures the methane gas coming from our garbage and converts some of it into 3.8 megawatts of electricity.

The Keller Canyon Landfill, which is owned and operated by Republic Services subsidiary, Allied Waste, opened in 1992 and is the main recipient of refuse from residents and businesses in the Contra Costa. The company owns approximately 2600 acres, but the permitted disposal area is only about 260, of which less than 150 have been used so far. By comparison, Rossmoor takes up 1,800 acres. The site also supports 7.21 acres of wetlands. The objective of the wetlands project is to increase the total amount of available habitat on the property by constructing new wetlands and enhancing existing wetland and riparian habitat.

To join the tour and a carpool, please contact Carol Weed, carol4ofa@gmail.com, or 510-409-4055.

Recycling Center Tour – Wed Oct 18

Wed Oct 18, 2017
Recycling Center Tour
9:45 Depart from Gateway lot
Reservation required.

Join Rossmoor’s Trash Talkers and other members of Sustainable Rossmoor for a private tour of our recycling processing plant in Pittsburg on the morning of Wednesday, October 18. We’ll visit the Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery Center, whose commitment is to recover natural resources, save energy, and preserve the environment. It’s the nation’s top-ranked recycling plant for resource recovery. The tour is about 45 minutes and begins with photos and a talk about the history and workings of the plant while sitting down. Then there’s a walk through the facility. It is handicap accessible; plan to wear closed-toed shoes. Hard hats will be provided.

This plant processes recyclables from almost all of Contra Costa, receiving over 100 tons daily. The contents of our blue recycling bins get sorted by hand and by machine and made ready to send to buyers who will make them into something new again. See trucks as big as some houses dump their contents; then watch cardboard, plastic bottles, and tin cans respond to giant magnets, blowers, tumblers, and travel down conveyor belts. It makes it easy to see why we are being asked not to bag our recyclables anymore; the whole process is smoother when our items are loose.

For a preview, of what to expect, here’s a 3 minute video: https://youtu.be/h3LfXJh7Lko

We will depart the Farmers Market corner of Gateway parking lot at 9:45 AM and return about noon. For more information, or to join a carpool, contact: Carol Weed at carol4ofa@gmail.com or 510-409-4055.

World Population and Me

Ever drive down the 24 freeway and get the feeling that there are just too many people around? I remember learning in high school that there were about 2 billion people in the world. That seemed a lot at the time. Now I hear we are sharing the planet with around 7.5 billion others. Experts say that number could be up to 24 billion by 2050.

Each night there are over 240,000 more mouths to feed than there were the night before. Should we be concerned? You’re darn right! Those of us in the upper one percent of the world’s population, income-wise (meaning you have a household income of $34,000 or more) probably will always be able to have food on our tables and water in our taps. How about the 99 percent? Right now we are hearing of wide-spread famine in many parts of Africa and some parts of Asia.

This will only get worse as the numbers grow. This earth we live on is a terrific place, but never designed to be home for unlimited numbers of humans with modern day consumption habits.

Climate change is global and even if we in affluent Walnut Creek aren’t likely to be directly affected by it (Tice Creek isn’t likely to get up to Rossmoor Parkway), boy, are those of us who will be around for a while going to feel effects of it indirectly. Our president thinks immigration is a problem now … just wait a few years. Pacific Islanders are already looking for new homes and half of Bangladesh will likely be under the sea.

A few years ago, I happened to get into a discussion with a couple of young Mormon missionaries. I shared my concerns with them regarding families in their church having large numbers of children. They assured me that there is no cause for concern … that everyone on the earth could easily fit into the state of Texas. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Most developed nations have lowered their birthrates to the replacement level. Today, 80 nations are at or below replacement level fertility. Birth control has made that possible. However, the remaining 140 or so countries are lagging behind. For the most part, these nations are part of the Third World and lack the financial means to provide their citizens with family planning services. It is estimated that for a ridiculously low $4 billion a year we could provide contraception for the 222 million women with a current unmet need. I think that is less than half the cost of one new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier or about what will be spent on the new football stadium in Las Vegas that will house the Raiders.

The current U.S. Congress can be counted on to cut funding for international population control efforts … not expand it. So, if our government isn’t about to try and save the world from the ravages of over-population, what can we do? One option would be to just lament, complain and hope that the next Congress and administration will take the problem seriously.

A better solution, I think, is for those of us who appreciate the severity of the situation to dig into our deep pockets and send a check to one of the several organizations working to provide reproductive services to the women of the Third World. Four fine groups are valiantly working on the issue. The first one is the United Nations Population Fund (www. UNFPA.org). The second is the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF.org). Number three is the Population Connection (www.popconnect.org). Last, but not least, is Engender Health (www.engenderhealth.org). I invite all of you to check out their programs on the Internet and if you are impressed, hit the donation button. They are all doing terrific work and all need our giving dollars.

I know it is always a tough decision who to support and who to say “no” to. For me, the top two priorities of giving are organizations dealing with population issues and anti-nuclear weapons groups. The success of both groups is essential if our great grandchildren are going to inherit a livable world.

This article first appeared in the May 10, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Bob Hanson can be emailed at doctoroutdoors@ comcast.net.

A Life-Changing Story in Haiti

If you Google “renewable energy in the third world,” you will see pictures of a mud hut with a PV solar panel standing next to it, or attached to its straw roof. It seems hilarious, like a sketch taken out of “Saturday Night Live.” But it’s real. The solar panel provides electricity for the family living in the hut, which was never before available to people in rural regions in the world’s poorest countries.

A friend from my old neighborhood emailed me a video showing a group of young Haitian kids reading books and doing homework under a solar-powered street lamp. My friend and her husband’s charity foundation, the Wilcox Family Foundation, is a major benefactor to Habitat for Humanity’s recent solar lighting project in Canaan, Haiti. With funding provided by her family foundation and USAID, Habitat for Humanity recently installed 70 solar streetlights in this settlement community a few miles outside of Haiti’s capitol, Port-au-Prince. Those streetlights have drastically improved the lives of Canaan residents.

Canaan, named after the biblical “Promised Land,” is a large settlement developed after the devastating earthquake in January 2010. Today, it has grown into the fourth largest city in Haiti, with an estimated population of over 200,000. After billions of dollars donated worldwide to help rebuild Haiti since the earthquake, many residents in Canaan still live in the dark after nightfall, with no running water and no sanitation services.

The street lighting project my friend helped to fund is part of Habitat for Humanity’s Quick Impact Projects. The goal is to provide quick answers to some of the community’s immediate needs. Before the lights were installed, people were afraid to go out at night. Women and girls were raped after dark and merchants were robbed on their way to work at dawn. Thanks to the solar street lamps, there is now nightlife in Canaan. The video I mentioned earlier shows people gathering around a night market; there was music playing, people making food and crafts and children reading and studying; all occurred in the light under a single street lamp. The community is now safer and children have a better chance to succeed in school.

The Canaan story is only a tiny part of the large picture of how renewable energy has changed life in Haiti, including that of people living in the remote, poorest regions.

Before the earthquake, only 12.5 percent of Haiti’s population was connected to the electricity grid. People who had money used small diesel fuel generators for electricity. Recovery efforts immediately after the earthquake focused on projects with instant impacts, such as street lighting, to provide safety in settlement camps, especially for women and children.

Later, small-scale solar products such as personal, portable solar LED lamps were donated and distributed to numerous communities. But in addition to the lighting, people need access to reliable electricity services for other basic life-sustaining activities, like cooking.

Kerosene fuel is not only a health hazard for its harmful fumes, but also a fire hazard in crowded tent camps. Upgrading and expanding the country’s antiquated, damaged and unreliable energy infrastructure wasn’t a viable option. Clean energy became the solution.

Although Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries, one thing it has in abundance is the sun. Small, independent power grids powered by solar panels were developed to provide clean, reliable solar energy to homes and businesses. These micro-grids have been established to power hospitals, schools and towns. They have helped farmers and agricultural businesses increase production, and provided power to process local crops that would otherwise perish before arriving at markets.

Along with other renewable energy resources – hydropower, wind, biomass and geothermal that are being developed or planned in Haiti, it is estimated that by 2030 Haiti can decrease energy prices for residential consumers to at least a third of current levels, while incurring savings in fossil fuel import cost.

Similar sustainable energy strategies are being developed in other Caribbean, Central and South American and African countries. Clean energy technology has improved quality of life for so many and reduced the carbon footprint from that part of the world.

Yet here we are, in the backyard of the world’s center of high tech and innovation, forced to fight for access to rooftop solar. Is something wrong with this picture?

This article first appeared in the April 19, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Jennifer Mu can be emailed at barnhartmu8833@gmail.

Climate Change and the Pentagon

For those of you who don’t believe that climate change and global warming are real…or don’t believe they are caused by human activity…I suggest you save your time and ignore this column and go back to the sports page. For those of you who believe the 98 percent of climate scientists, who say that climate change is real and caused by human activity…. read on.

The biggest user of fossil fuels in the world by far is the U.S. military. Oil is the lifeblood of our Army, Navy and Air Force. Much of our reason for trying to control the Middle East is our historic quest to assure the oil we need. I have a large sign on my bicycle that attracts a good deal of attention. It says “BICYLING…a silent statement against oil wars.” Almost everyone now realizes that our attack of Iraq had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or terrorists. We simply wanted to control its oil. (Another sign of the times reads “What is our oil doing beneath their sand?”)

I have read that we have spent $8 trillion keeping the oil routes in the Persian Gulf area open since World War II. This seems a bit high, but no one would argue that it hasn’t been a lot.

In 1940, the military consumed about 1 percent of the nation’s oil supply. By the end of World War II, that percentage had gone up to 29 percent. At the onset of the Iraq war in 2003, the army estimated that it would need more than 40 million gallons of gasoline for three weeks of combat it would take to finish that war, exceeding the total quantity used by all of the Allied Forces in the four years of World War II. The Iraq War actually used more petrol each year of the war than 139 of the world’s countries use yearly.

As an example of why the military uses so much fuel, the F-4 fighter jet consumes more than 1,600 gallons per hour and peaks at 14,400 gallons per hour at supersonic speeds. Keep in mind that jet fuel produces up to three times as much carbon dioxide per gallon as gasoline. Furthermore, jet exhaust is loaded with soot, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and water vapor, all of which contribute to global warming. Some scientists are convinced that soot is perhaps more to blame for melting glaciers than global warming. Those trillions of little black specks attract and hold the heat from the sun’s rays, instead of reflecting it as clean ice does.

The Army, of course, is much more fuel efficient. An Abrams tank is rated at .2 miles to the gallon of diesel…that is five gallons to the mile. You think your SUV is a gas hog!

So, what can we do about this? Our president, Donald Trump, wants to increase the military budget by $54 billion. How many more war planes, tanks and battleships will that buy? And once we have them, will they just sit there in a parking spot? Maybe someone should let him know that we already spend as much on our military as the next seven nations combined.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not planning on sitting quietly by while Trump cuts the EPA by 31 percent, the State Department by 29 percent, arts and humanities by 100 percent, along with huge cuts to food stamps, Meals on Wheels, public television and national parks, while saying we need to spend more on warfare. Join me in making your voice heard.

This article first appeared in the April 5, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Bob Hanson can be emailed at Doctoroutdoors@ comcast.net

Solar Makes Sense

People often ask why I want solar and I always respond, “Why not? The sun is free.” Think of that earth-scorching summer heat. Why not turn it into something that can benefit me economically and simultaneously help save this planet for our grandchildren?

Today, because of global warming, dry days are drier, wet days are wetter, hot days are hotter and cold days are colder. Our air conditioners, furnaces and heat pumps are working longer each day and more days each year. Rossmoor News recently reported the “bill shock” experienced by many Rossmoor residents due to PG&E’s recent rate increase. No matter how consciously you try to conserve, you still end up paying more every year. The impact of utility rate increases would be minimal if we all had solar panels on our roofs.

Cost of rooftop solar

Another frequent comment I heard about rooftop solar is “it’s expensive.” People may like the idea of harvesting free solar energy and they may also care about the environment, but are discouraged by the upfront purchase and installation costs. However, with the advancement of technology and the state and federal policies that promote renewable energy, prices of residential solar energy systems are no longer unreachable for many of us.

When California established the Million Solar Roofs Initiative in 2006, the ultimate goal envisioned by state policy makers was to make solar energy readily available and cost-competitive to the state’s residents and businesses. It was the most ambitious solar energy policy ever introduced in the United States. The initiative provided $3.3 billion in funding to support the installation of one million solar energy systems on homes and businesses over a 10-year period. That would generate an estimated 3,000 megawatts of new solar energy, equivalent to about 40 peaking power plants.

The idea behind the initiative was to use financial incentives to stimulate growth and demand in the solar energy market. Over time, as experience, innovation and competition grew, prices would drop. As prices dropped to a level where they could compete with investor-owned utilities, the solar industry would become self-sustainable and the incentives would discontinue. According to a 2015 report published by the Environment California Research and Policy Center titled “California’s Solar Success Story,” the average cost of a residential solar system was $9.68 per watt in May 2007 when the incentive program began. By June 2014, the average price had dropped to $5.32/watt. The price of a non-residential system was $8.86/watt in 2007, and by 2014, the price declined 50 percent to $4.32/watt.

Federal tax credit

In 2015, Congress extended the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit for residential homes for five more years. Taxpayers can receive tax credits equal to 30 percent of the cost invested in solar energy system if construction begins before the end of 2019. For example, if your total cost to have solar panels installed on your roof is $20,000 and the work begins between now and Dec. 31, 2019, you can get $6,000 deducted from the income tax you pay for the year in which the work started. So you basically get a 30 percent discount on the purchase price. The tax credit steps down to 25 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021.

Cost vs. benefit

The financial benefits of going solar are now well documented. Many homeowners, including myself, see solar panels as an “investment” with strong rates of return. Utility rates will continue to rise and homeowners generating solar electricity can diminish ever-increasing electricity bills.

How soon a homeowner can break even on their solar investment depends on the capacity of their PV system and usage prior to the installation. Nationwide, the average time of return is five to 10 years. The system we had installed on the roof of our Danville home in 2010 would have paid for itself by next year had we not sold it and moved to Rossmoor.

Installing solar panels can also increase a home’s property value. Since a solar system reduces a home’s electricity costs, they make a home more attractive to buyers – similar to homes in good school districts and those with good home energy ratings. New York Times reported in February 2015 that a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that buyers were willing to pay a premium of $15,000 for a home with the average-size solar PV system.

Rooftop solar in condo communities

As Rossmoor residents may have learned, there are many obstacles in the path to acquiring residential solar power in condo communities. Efforts are underway to address some of those obstacles. Condo owners in larger buildings can also pool their resources and share the benefits, as is being done in Mutual 48. Due to limited space, these will have to be addressed in another column.

This article first appeared in the March 22, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News, author, Jennifer Mu.

SYRIANA – a geopolitical thriller about Big Oil

Sustainable Rossmoor will present the movie SYRIANA on Wednesday, October 11 at 7 pm in Peacock Hall.  The movie focuses on petroleum politics and the global influence of the oil industry. Big Oil’s political, economic, legal, and social effects are felt worldwide from the players brokering back-room deals in Washington to the men toiling in the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. This thriller weaves together multiple storylines that show the human consequences of the fierce pursuit of wealth and power.

A career CIA operative (George Clooney) uncovers the disturbing truth about the work to which he’s devoted his life. An up-and-coming oil broker (Matt Damon) faces an unimaginable family tragedy and finds redemption in his partnership with an idealistic Gulf prince. A corporate lawyer faces a moral dilemma as he finesses the questionable merger of two powerful U.S. oil companies, while across the globe, a disenfranchised Pakistani teenager falls prey to the recruiting efforts of a charismatic cleric. Each plays their small part in the vast and complex system that powers the industry, unaware of the explosive impact their lives will have upon the world.

Credit: Photo by REX/Snap Stills 5

Clooney won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role, and Stephen Gaghan’s script was nominated by the Academy for Best Original Screenplay. The film is R rated for violence and language. Subtitles in English. An optional discussion follows.

SYRIANA: Behind the Film.

Stephen Gaghan, Academy Award-winning screenwriter & director of Syriana, talks to Charlie Rose about learning from the real-life CIA protagonist how Washington D.C. orchestrates coupes, etc. (4 min video).

“The Oil business and the Arms business are the same business” Gaghan heard this repeatedly (1.5 min video).

Audiotape, 9 min with Gaghan about why he wanted the first half of this post 9/11 film to be confusing, why he doesn’t consider the film depressing, and where the “voices” in the film come from.

Credit: Photo by REX/Snap Stills 5

Why does the US need Middle Eastern oil? Still? We have oil wells. We’re energy independent now, . . . aren’t we?

Our “energy independence” refers to electricity generation only. In 2016, U.S. net imports (imports minus exports) of petroleum from foreign countries were equal to about 25% of U.S. petroleum consumption. The world’s top three oil producers are Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the US – in that order.

Petroleum includes crude oil, natural gas plant liquids, liquefied refinery gases, refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and biofuels including ethanol and biodiesel. About 78% of gross petroleum imports were crude oil in 2016. The majority of that is refined in the US, and then exported. That is to say, US refineries “need” Middle Eastern oil much more than US consumers. The price US citizens pay in pollution, corruption, wars, the international arms industry, . . . is all for the benefit of Big Oil. All this continues despite the drop in oil prices and production which began in 2013.

Upcoming Films: TBA