Friday, April 24, 2009

What's Happening to the Price of Oil?

The Oil Drum has posted and interview with Colin Campbell, founder and honorary chairman of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO). Here's the dialogue about the price swings in the price of oil:

NJ: There is a lot of debate about why oil prices were so high during this summer, why they've dropped so quickly since then. What is the explanation for this? Were high prices due to "speculation" as many have argued or was it supply and demand, or both, or something else?

CC: I think that Regular Conventional oil peaked in 2005 and prices began to rise, although the shortfall was partly made up by costly tarsands and deepwater production. The rising price trend attracted the interest of the traders who started buying futures and so forth. It might also have made sense for the industry to keep the tanks full, watching them appreciate in value.

But eventually the rising price had an adverse impact on the real economy and the shrewd traders started to unload, selling short on the futures market. The industry too might have started draining its tanks.

But perhaps more important was the flood of petrodollars that the high prices delivered to the governments and royal families of the Middle East, where it still costs $10-15 to produce oil. They probably sent the surplus to western banks who promptly loaned it out on ever less sure collateral. The petrodollars were not really money in the sense of representing work or barter, but simply profiteering from shortage.

The whole flimsy financial edifice has now crashed, and some of the sillier governments are now pumping yet more fictional money into the system to encourage new consumption. Such policies may briefly succeed, but will only make the subsequent crash worse.
The most alarming thing Campbell had to say concerns the future of our oil based economy:

But now we face the dawn of the Second Half of the Age of Oil when supply declines from natural depletion, meaning that debt goes bad (as is already happening) and the economy contracts. Today's oil supply support 6.7 billion people, but by 2050 the supply will be enough to support no more than about 2.5 billion in their present way of life. So the challenges of using less and finding other energy sources is great.
If Campbell is correct about the dire future for the petroleum economy, perhaps Petroleum Geologist Bill Cleary is right about the need for us to get serious about boosting nuclear energy. Here's what Cleary says about concerns over nuclear energy:

Unlike coal, oil and gas, nuclear power plants emit essentially no atmospheric contaminants. As for reserves, the United States has uranium reserves to meet our expanded needs for 100 years.

"Nuclear waste" is misnamed. The initial usage cycle depletes only two-thirds of the fuel. The partly used uranium fuel is safely contained on site, in water and eventually in concrete. It can be reprocessed to supply more energy. Our U.S. "power plant nuclear waste" for the next century could be contained in a 300-acre area.

Inhofe Threatens to Filibuster Judicial Nominee

Thanks to Michael Salem for calling my attention to a blog post at the "Overruled" weblog discussing Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe's threat to filibuster the nomination of Judge David Hamilton.

Inhofe objects to a ruling by Hamilton that required the Indiana State legislature to abide by the disestablishment clause of the First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion . . ."
Hamilton's ruling followed Supreme Court decisions authorizing "non-sectarian" prayers but prohibiting "sectarian" prayers at government functions.

In effect, Inhofe is insisting that judges ignore the authority of both the Constitution and the Supreme Court in regard to the disestablishment clause.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Born on a Bard's Birthday (With Picture)

Today is the day that has traditionally been recognized as the birthday of William Shakespeare. Today is the 445th year since his birth.

Step aside Shakespeare, James William Clark has arrived. All seven pounds, eleven ounces and 21 1/4 inches of him.

That makes me officially a grandfather.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brian McLaren on Christian Nationalism

On Faith has posted an outstanding Op-Ed by Brian McLaren about Christian Nationalism. McLaren says "A 'Christian' Nation Wouldn't Act This Way." Here's a quote:

When people tell me that we are or have been a Christian nation, I want to ask, "When?" Was it in the colonial era or during westward expansion, when we began stealing the lands of the Native Americans, making and breaking treaties, killing wantonly, and justifying our actions by the Bible? Was it in the era of slavery or segregation, when again, we used the Bible to justify the unjustifiable? Was it in more recent history, when we dropped the first nuclear bomb and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, when we overthrew democratically elected governments in the Cold War era, when we plundered the environment without concern for the birds of the air or flowers of the field, or when we sanctioned or turned a blind eye to torture earlier this decade? Was it earlier this week, when I turned on the TV or radio and heard people scapegoating immigrants and gay people and Muslims?
Amen, brother McLaren. Preach on!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Parham Exposes Deception in Inhofe's List

On Ethics Daily today Robert Parham examines Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe's list of supposedly "prominent scientists" who oppose the scientific consensus about man made climate change.

He reveals that one name on the list, Chris Allen, is a Southern Baptist "creation scientist" who works as a TV weatherman and has no college degree.

Here's a quote from Parham:

Not only is the Oklahoma senator being deceptive; he is spreading misinformation in the public square. Again and again, the increasingly unhinged deniers of global warming point to Inhofe’s report to validate their theocratic worldview or selfish economic interests at the expense of the global good. It only takes a village of global warming deniers to slow down the needed initiatives to address climate change.

Podcast: Wade Burleson Interview

Podcast (7MB Mp3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 4-19-09 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Rev. Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma and author of "Hardball Religion: Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism."

We talk about Burleson's transition from being a trusted foot soldier in the post-1979 Southern Baptist Convention to being a dissident blogger against SBC fundamentalism. His blogging proved so controversial that he became the only Southern Baptist trustee to ever be "recommended for removal or officially censured." Despite that, Burleson and other dissident SBC bloggers were instrumental in electing Frank Page as President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006 and 2007.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Moyers Interviews David Simon

Bill Moyers Journal tonight was an interview with David Simon, the producer of the HBO television series "The Wire."

It is satisfying to know that Moyers and others appreciate that series as much as I do. Here's how Moyers introduced Simon:

Remember, you heard it here — what Edward Gibbon was to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, or Charles Dickens to the smoky mean streets of Victorian London, David Simon is to America today.
Moyers is not exaggerating. Simon's work is brilliant and this interview is the best possible introduction to a five season series available on DVD.

Pete Singer and Al Mohler Together

Al Mohler begins his blog today with apology for finding himself in agreement with Pete Singer regarding his opposition to the UN resolution that would make defaming Islam a crime.

I have as much difficulty finding myself in agreement with Mohler as I do when I find myself in agreement with Singer, but in this instance I agree with both of them.

Defaming Islam is rude and insensitive and is a faux paux for which many Southern Baptists are guilty, but it certainly should not be criminalized.

At their best, both Christianity and Islam recognize that open inquiry permitting honest critique is central to the search for truth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama's South Central High Speed Rail Plan

Obama has unveiled a proposed high speed rail plan. Ten corridors are planned around the country. Here are the cities that will be linked in the South Central region:

South Central Corridor: (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Little Rock)
All Aboard?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Baptist Covenant Regional Website Preview

I've been working on the website for the New Baptist Covenant Regional Meeting in Norman for the past few days.

Our website is not quite ready for prime time, but you can find links to pre-register, to make hotel reservations and to learn about the study course being offered to students.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Red Cross Report About the CIA and Torture

Here's a link to the 2007 report from the International Red Cross about "The Treatment of Fourteen "High Value Detainees" in CIA Custody."

We need to pray that our neighbors realize that any lip service America gives to the Golden Rule is not to be taken seriously.

Otherwise, they would have reason to believe that we expect to be treated as we have treated others.

Mitch Randall on the End of Christian America

Mitch Randall, pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman and a member of the board for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, wrote an insightful blog in response to Jon Meacham's recent article on "The End of Christian America" in Newseek. Here's a quote:

First, the blame for the decline of self-identified Christians rests uncomfortably at the doors of the church. For decades now, the church has spent much of its focus on changing culture through the political process. In many cases, the church attempted to lay traditional Christian orthodoxy on the entirety of the American culture. Bogged down in political elections and denominational strife, the church lost its mission into the world. Somewhere along the way, the leaders of the church took us for a ride we were not meant to take. It is time to return to the way of Jesus and the first century church. It is time to love those around us (and yes, even our enemies) and recapture the missional fervor of the Apostle Paul.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Overcoming Fear of Islam

I saw my Muslim friend Imad Enchassi yesterday and learned that he and another good Muslim friend, Saad Mohammad, were featured in an award winning short film (1 minute) entitled "Let the Conversation Begin."

I think it deserves a wide viewing.

Moyers on Blame for the Meltdown

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have a valuable essay on Common Dreams about the need to change the rules of the blame game for the current world economic crisis. Here's their conclusion:

In the preface to his 1939 memoir, Wall Street Under Oath, Ferdinand Pecora told the story of his investigation and described an attitude amongst the Rich Uncle Pennybags of the financial world that will sound familiar to Bill Black and those who seek out the guilty today.

"That its leaders are eminently fitted to guide our nation, and that they would make a much better job of it than any other body of men, Wall Street does not for a moment doubt," Pecora wrote. "Indeed, if you now hearken to the Oracles of The Street, you will hear now and then that the money-changers have been much maligned. You will be told that a whole group of high-minded men, innocent of social or economic wrongdoing, were expelled from the temple because of the excesses of a few. You will be assured that they had nothing to do with the misfortunes that overtook the country in 1929-1933; that they were simply scapegoats, sacrificed on the altar of unreasoning public opinion to satisfy the wrath of a howling mob..."

According to, at his March 27 White House meeting with the nation's top bankers, President Obama heard similar arguments and interrupted, saying, "Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn't buying that... My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."

Stand aside, Mr. President, and let us prod with our pitchforks to get at the facts.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Campolo Diminishes Himself in Oklahoma

I went to Oklahoma City yesterday to hear Tony Campolo speak on "Volunteerism" in an event sponsored by the Oklahoma Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and its parent organization the Oklahoma Department of Human Services along with the United Way and the University of Oklahoma.

I used to be a big fan of Tony Campolo. Until yesterday, I thought his form of faith and mine were nearly identical. In times past, I've heard him speak as an advocate for separation of church and state. Yesterday, however, his actions did not match his previous rhetoric on that subject.

The sermon that was delivered yesterday was vintage Campolo. It was a great sermon. It was an explictly Christian sermon. It was engaging and entertaining. I personally agreed with everything he said.

I even laughed heartily when he said, "You know the difference between a Baptist and a terrorist? -- you can negotiate with a terrorist," while suspecting that some of the event's organizers would think that the Baptist he was referring to was an ardent church-state separationist like myself.

I readily admit that I am reticent to negotiate about the dissolution of the disestablishment clause of the First Amendment. Campolo's sermon was the first sermon I've ever heard from a moderate or progressive Baptist that was solicited, endorsed and introduced by an agent of the state acting in an official capacity and supported by funding from U.S. and/or State of Oklahoma tax dollars.

I remain as strenuously opposed to the state using its power to endorse and support the faith of moderate and progressive religion as I am to the state using its power to endorse and support fundamentalist religion. The state must maintain a benevolent neutrality in regard to religion.

Religion is always diminished when it permits itself to be coopted and utilized by the state.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Video Cast: "Verb Play" by Nathan Brown

Brief video (90 seconds -- wmv) of Poet Nathan Brown reciting his poem "Verb Play."

The recital was part of the "Poetry and Praise" event at NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma on March 29, 2009.

Harvard Whistleblower Fired for Questioning Derivatives Trading

Talking Points Memo has posted a story about Iris Mack, a former quantitative analyst at Harvard Management Company, who was fired by then Harvard University President Larry Summers for questioning whether the people trading derivatives for the University knew what they were doing.

Summers in currently the Director of President Obama's National Economic Council. Not exactly, a comforting bit of information.

Why Do Fundamentalists Oppose Climate Science?

Robert Parham, in an essay that focuses on fundamentalist opposition to climate science, asks, "Why are American Christian fundamentalists waging a war on science?" I'll give a hearty amen to Parham's conclusion:

Whatever the reason, American Christian conservatives are waging a war on the science of global warming. Their war marginalizes the Christian faith among educated, intelligent people. Moreover, it creates collateral damage in faith communities that hold both a deep respect for the Bible and a high view of science. Fundamental extremism smears the pro-science commitments of other Christians.

And worse than that, the conservative Christian war against the science of climate change is morally unfaithful to God’s call to care of the environment. The Bible is a profoundly green book that repeatedly prioritizes earth stewardship. And Christians may be running out of time to hear the will of God and to do it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Climate Change Made Simple

Joseph F.C. DiMento and Pamela Doughman, editors of Climate Change: What it Means for Us, Our Children, and Our Grandchildren, have produced a book that makes the science of climate change easy to understand. The chart above is reproduced from the second essay in the book, "A Primer on Global Climate Change and Its Likely Impacts." Here's a quote from the fourth essay, "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change: How Do We Know That We're Not Wrong:"

"As early as 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had concluded there was strong scientific evidence that human activities were affecting global climate. By 2007, the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report noted it is "extremely unlikely that the global climate changes of the past fifty years can be explained without invoking human activities" (Alley et al. 2007) Prominent scientists and major scientific organizations have all ratified the IPCC conclusion. Today, all but a handful of climate scientists are convinced that earth's climate is heating up and that human activities are a significant cause."