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Quick jump to below stories:
Katrina cuts oil output by a third
Monsoons pushing India death tolls
Oil surges over $70 as Katrina churns through Gulf
Blast hits oil well in Iraq's Kirkuk field
China, Africa Dictators Link Rings Alarms

[This is even before the hurricane has done any significant damage to oil infrastructure. This loss is due only to evacuations. Whatever damage is done by the storm itself may, in some cases, take a year or longer to repair. God knows how many billions that will cost or whether repair crews will even be able to get to key locations. By that time the US economy will have imploded.

I'm going out on a short, sturdy limb here. Oil prices will break the $80 mark within a week. That could turn out to have been an understatement.

Katrina's landfall on August 29, 2005 may well be remembered as the beginning of the collapse of the American Empire. It could also be remembered by future generations as the day that Mother Earth declared full-scale war on the human race. - MCR]

Katrina cuts oil output by a third

As storm gathers strength and heads toward land, there's plenty to fear in the oil patch.

August 28, 2005: 11:22 AM EDT

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

HOUSTON (Reuters) - U.S. energy companies said U.S. Gulf of Mexico crude oil output was cut by more than one-third on Saturday as Hurricane Katrina appeared poised to charge through central production areas toward New Orleans.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to roughly a quarter of U.S. domestic oil and gas output, with a capacity to produce about 1.5 million barrels per day of crude and 12.3 billion cubic feet per day of gas.

As of Saturday, 563,000 barrels daily crude output had been shut in due to the threatening storm.

Shell Oil Co., which was evacuating all 1,019 of its offshore workers in the central and eastern Gulf on Saturday, had the bulk of closed Gulf daily oil production, with 420,000 barrels turned off.

Shell also said 1.345 billion cubic feet per day, or Bfd, of natural gas had been shut by Saturday.

Total daily Gulf natural gas output shut on Saturday was 1.9 billion cubic feet.

Chalmette Refining LLC, which operates a New Orleans-area refinery, was shutting down production in preparation for the approach of the hurricane, which is predicted to produce winds near 131 mph (210 kph) when it charges ashore on Monday.

Chalmette is a joint venture between Exxon Mobil Corp. and Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA and operates a 190,000-bpd refinery 9 miles east of downtown New Orleans.

The shutdown was to be completed by Katrina's predicted landfall on Monday afternoon, said Chalmette spokeswoman Nora Scheller.

Other southeast Louisiana refineries were operating on Saturday but were reducing staff and preparing for possible shutdowns, the companies said.

Ship traffic along the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans was halted on Saturday when ship pilots said conditions were already unsafe to continue moving vessels along the waterway.

The U.S. Coast Guard was warning mariners of possible waterway closures along the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts as early as Sunday afternoon.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port LLC stopped offloading tankers in the Gulf of Mexico at midday on Saturday. The LOOP, which is the only U.S. offshore oil port, takes an average 1 million barrels in foreign crude from tankers in the Gulf.

While offloading is halted, the LOOP is supplying refiners via pipeline with crude stored on shore.

Katrina, which was a major Category 5 hurricane by Sunday morning, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity, meaning it would likely produce catastrophic damage with winds of at least 155 mph (249 kph).

Katrina was originally projected to take a path west across southern Florida, turn north in the eastern Gulf and strike the Florida Panhandle as a minimal hurricane.

As late as Friday afternoon, many producers were taking a wait-and-see approach common with eastern Gulf storms, where oil and gas drilling and production are sparse.

But the storm's long drift westward Friday afternoon and evening meant it was gaining intensity from deep, warm Gulf waters and would not turn north in time to avoid production areas.

Katrina is expected to reach land "sometime between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m." Monday, according to CNN meteorologist Brad Huffines.

Back To Story List

[It’s not just here. – FTW]

Monsoons pushing India death tolls

Encephalitis, building collapses in nation's most populous state

August 27, 2005

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

LUCKNOW, India (AP) -- At least 26 more people have died from house collapses, mosquito-borne encephalitis and other monsoon-related causes in India's most populous state, bringing the death toll to 292 this rainy season, officials said Saturday.

More than 300 villages have been hit by flooding from the Ghaghra River in the eastern part of the state, where at least 14 people have died since Friday, Uttar Pradesh state spokesman Surendra Srivastava said.

"People are dying from house collapses, snake bites, and two children were washed away by the swirling water of the river," Srivastava said in Lucknow, the state capital.

An outbreak of encephalitis in the state killed 12 more children, raising the death toll from the disease to 212 in just over two weeks, said D.P. Mishra, a director of the state's health services. About 80 others have died from other monsoon-related causes.

Encephalitis often spreads during the monsoon season because of an increase in the number of mosquitoes, which breed in puddles of water.

The outbreak of encephalitis was initially confined to Gorakhpur, 250 kilometers (165 miles) east of Lucknow, and other eastern areas of the state.

But officials said cases are now being reported in other areas as well. Health Minister Jaiveer Singh said in a statement Saturday that the disease has spread to 22 new districts. Uttar Pradesh has 70 districts with a total population of 180 million.

Mishra said more than 300 patients, mostly children, are currently being treated in hospitals.

Encephalitis causes high fevers and vomiting and ultimately can leave patients comatose. It is preventable by vaccinations, but state health authorities say they don't have enough money for a statewide immunization program.

The army has been called out to help flood rescue efforts in Azamgarh, one of the worst-hit areas 300 kilometers (185 miles) northeast of Lucknow, Srivastava said. More than 300,000 people have been affected.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Oil surges over $70 as Katrina churns through Gulf

By Paul Marriott

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

SYDNEY, Aug 29 (Reuters) - U.S. oil prices surged to a record above $70 a barrel on Monday as one of the country's biggest storms tore through the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, forcing oil producers and refiners to shut down operations.

U.S. crude oil futures soared nearly $5 a barrel in opening trade to touch a fresh peak of $70.80 a barrel, surpassing last week's $68 high to the highest price since the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) began trading contracts in 1983.

It later traded up $3.42 a barrel, 5.2 percent, at $69.55.

Oil product and natural gas prices also shot higher to records, with gasoline <HUc1> soaring 10 percent to $2.13 a gallon and heating oil <HOc1> rocketing past $2 a gallon for the first time. Natural gas <NGc1> prices were up 20 percent.

Prices leapt as Hurricane Katrina, the eleventh named storm of what is expected to be an unusually severe season, threatened to do lasting damage to the vital U.S. oil and refining region, further straining an industry that has struggled to keep up with two years of strongly rising oil demand.

More than 40 percent of all U.S. Gulf of Mexico crude oil production was reported closed down as a result of the hurricane, with the total expected to rise significantly as more operators report affected production to the U.S. government on Monday.

Katrina revved up to a maximum Category 5 hurricane at the weekend, far stronger than last year's Hurricane Ivan, which tore up platforms and pipelines along a very similar path through the Gulf, disrupting oil production for months.

The U.S. Gulf of Mexico normally pumps about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude, a quarter of domestic output and equivalent to nearly 2 percent of global oil production.

"This is certainly reminiscent of Ivan last year," said David Thurtell, commodity strategist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

"We can expect two months of lost production, and coming in the peak demand period this is the worst possible news. The only way we can avoid yet higher prices is if President Bush releases supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve."

The administration has said in the past it would release oil from the 700-million-barrel SPR only during a serious supply disruption, but has never given further details.

In New Orleans, hundreds of thousands of residents were advised to leave as Katrina was expected to make landfall near the low-lying Gulf Coast city around sunrise on Monday.

Apart from the impact on crude production, dealers fear the storm will tighten supplies of consumer fuels. Gasoline stockpiles are already at the low end of their seasonal norm.

Seven southeast Louisiana refineries with a combined daily refining capacity of 1.449 million barrels of crude oil had shut down ahead of Katrina making landfall, an amount equal to 8.5 percent of total U.S. refining capacity.

Two of those refineries near New Orleans -- the 190,000 bpd Chalmette Refining LLC and Murphy Oil Corp's 120,000 bpd Meraux plant -- appeared to be directly in the path of the storm.


Dealers are particularly concerned about damage as the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is already pumping at near its full capacity, leaving it little room to make up for any lasting outages.

OPEC's president said at the weekend that soaring prices were of rising concern to the cartel, which controls half the world's oil exports, but that they should begin to eases as higher costs begin to curb demand.

"OPEC will be exploring various options for the September meeting which will hopefully contribute to moderate prices," said OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah, also Kuwait's oil minister, in an English language statement in Kuwait City.

He did not elaborate on the nature of these options. OPEC meets on Sept. 19 to chart output policy.

Production elsewhere in the world was also under strain, with Iran's 90,000 barrel-per-day Nowruz oilfield, being developed by Royal Dutch/Shell, shut down owing to technical problems, a senior Iranian oil official was quoted as saying on Saturday.

And in Ecuador, where output has only just returned to normal after being hobbled by a week-long protest, activists vowed on Sunday to resume protests within the next 48 hours if energy firms to not agree to increase local investment.

Back To Story List

Blast hits oil well in Iraq's Kirkuk field

26 Aug 2005 08:03:34 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Michael Georgy

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

BAGHDAD, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Insurgents sabotaged an exporting oil well in Iraq on Friday, stepping up pressure on the U.S.-backed government struggling to steer Iraq through a political crisis over a draft constitution.

In an all too familiar scene in a country with the world's third largest oil reserves, flames threatened to halt output from the well, which pumps 7,000 to 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) and feeds a pipeline to Turkey.

An Iraqi oil official said firefighters were battling the blaze in the northern Kirkuk oilfields, which have been spared the relentless attacks on domestic and export oil pipelines in the region.

Hours after the parliament speaker announced politicians needed more time to finalise the constitution after relentless wrangling, insurgents reminded them of economic turmoil with the well blast.

Whether or not guerrillas intended it that way, the attack was a potent reminder that multi-ethnic Kirkuk is one of the most emotionally-charged issues in Iraqi politics.

The Kurds, who are demanding more autonomy for their de facto state in the north in the constitution, say Kirkuk should rightfully be part of their region while Arab Sunnis and Turkmen lay claim to the oil centre too.

Frequent sabotage of oil pipelines has deprived state coffers of badly needed oil revenue and the attack on the Kirkuk oilfields raises new questions about repeated government vows to protect the country's strategic natural resource.

"This is a very big problem. The well head was damaged and the fire is spreading. They are trying to stop it," the oil official told Reuters.

Guerrilla sabotage has deprived Iraq of billions of dollars in crude oil sales that the U.S. and Iraqi officials had hoped would fund rebuilding after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Iraq has been sending intermittent crude supplies to a storage facility at the border and then on to Turkey's Ceyhan terminal for export.

But those efforts are still vulnerable to sabotage which can put the whole process on hold again for repairs.

The official said three million barrels had recently been shipped to Ceyhan. That oil will be sold to British, French and Spanish companies -- the winners in a rare oil sale tender.

The relentless guerrilla campaign, which also includes suicide bombings and the killing of officials and civilians, has forced Iraq to rely almost entirely on its southern oilfields for exports.

But they too are vulnerable. Saboteurs targeted a power station outside Baghdad on Monday, leaving the southern port city of Basra and the capital in the dark for 12 hours and halting export flows from the country's Gulf terminal.

Iraq is exporting about 1.5 million bpd, below its pre-war capacity of 2.2 million bpd.

Back To Story List

[We've been waiting for Africa to start heating up. It's inevitable. Remember that China gets about 15% of its oil imports from the Sudan and is heavily invested there. When things start heating up along these lines in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, it's time to start paying close attention.

Looks like Peak is here folks as the chatter about pending attacks, invasions, conflicts and exercises is becoming almost unmanageable. No reason to panic. But definitely reason to ask, "Wassup?" Keep your eye on the ball. – MCR]

China , Africa Dictators Link Rings Alarms

Monday, August 15, 2005
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos,2933,165695,00.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

WASHINGTON — Not only has China (search) become an exporting giant, dumping cheap goods and creating enormous trade deficits all over the globe, but it continues to reach out to historically oppressive regimes for trade, economic partnerships and greater influence on the world political stage, policy watchers say.

A number of lawmakers, former ambassadors and foreign policy experts who testified in a Washington hearing late last month asserted that the United States needs to wise up to the fact that China plans to become a superpower militarily, economically and politically — by any means necessary.

" China kind of burst on the scene with a presence that has been frightening to many people who hadn't realized how wide this reach ... is," Rep. Randy Forbes (search), R-Va., chairman of the new House China Caucus (search), told

Forbes and others recently testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission about the objectives China is pursuing in the international community.

China is beefing up its military arsenal to the tune of $90 billion, according to the U.S. Defense Department. The Pentagon last month reported that sum as the amount China is putting annually into its military budget to expand its influence. While that number is just a fraction of what the U.S. spends on its armed services, officials in Beijing dispute the Pentagon's claims.

Economically, China's state-run newspaper reports that the country's economy held a 9.5 percent growth in the second quarter and is poised to continue strong throughout 2005. In July, Beijing decided to peg the yuan to a basket of currencies rather than the dollar, which had kept its currency artificially low and allowed it to compete unfairly in the world goods market, U.S. analysts say. The U.S.-based China Currency Coalition said based on data from the first six months of 2005, the U.S. trade deficit with China is on track to hit $210 billion this year — a whopping 30 percent increase over 2004.

While the Bush administration engages China on these matters, the U.S.-China Commission has turned its focus in part to the political alliances China has been forming with governments that have been targeted by international critics for continued human rights violations, rampant corruption and state-sponsored terrorism.

Alongside new commercial enterprises on the continent of Africa, China has been solidifying its strongest and longest partnerships with two African dictatorships: Zimbabwe and Sudan. Both nations are known for their oppressive regimes.

In June, Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe ordered the bulldozing of 700,000 people's homes that he declared illegal. The government of Sudan has been blamed for the murder of more than 180,000 civilians in Darfur and the displacement of nearly 3 million people who now live in refugee camps. Both government actions have been called crimes against humanity.

"What I think is disconcerting is the willingness of China to not only help but to defend rogue regimes," said Princeton Lyman, who served as ambassador to both Nigeria and South Africa in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations.

" China has in effect inhibited the U.N. from imposing sanctions on Sudan, and in Zimbabwe is helping to bail out a regime that is repressive and is destroying the country," Lyman said.

Lyman testified on Chinese-African ties before the commission last month.

Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not return calls for comment.

"It is clear that [the Chinese] see Africa as a fertile facilitating ground to help them secure their own economic gains, and in doing so, attain a new level of global power," Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., testified.

"In Sudan, Chinese oil investments have helped to prop up a regime in [the capital of] Khartoum that our president and this Congress have accused of involvement in genocide," Feingold said.

According to David Shinn, former ambassador to Ethiopia under the Clinton administration and deputy chief of mission to the U.S. embassy in Sudan for the Reagan administration, China's relationship with Africa is not new, just more intense.

Chinese loans, weapons sales, funding for big projects like roads and soccer stadiums, agricultural training, student exchanges and health care assistance have been commonplace for decades in Africa. More recently, the Communist country is blanketing the continent with its own state-linked enterprises, often undercutting bids from domestic companies and investing heavily in natural resources like oil, gas, minerals, fish and timber, which the Chinese are hungry for back home, Shinn said. With oil prices on the rise, the impact could give China an artificial advantage by allowing it to go around the global market.

"Certainly they have been expanding their activities on the continent in the last 10 years," Shinn said. "It seems to be increasing exponentially."

China has been a supplier of arms to past Sudanese governments and is now a huge investor in Sudanese oil, Shinn charges. In fact, Sudan is one of three African countries that have a trade surplus with China, rather than a growing deficit. In return, Sudan supports China in its policy to prevent autonomy for Taiwan and its much-maligned human rights record.

According to Joshua Eisenman, whose upcoming book, " China and the Developing World: Beijing's Strategy for the 21st Century," China and Zimbabwe's long-term relationship has been characterized by weapons sales and financial and technical aid to the struggling African country. China continues to assist Zimbabwe as it spirals into serious economic deterioration, starvation and political chaos. Meanwhile, China benefits from Zimbabwe's natural resources and other commodities, Eisenman claims.

But experts caution against an overreaction to these relationships and to China's global policy in general.

Shinn said the relationships are not all negetive. He suggested that a significant part of the dialogue should be collaboration between the U.S. and China in areas of improving economic development, education and fighting terrorism in Africa today.

Randall Schriver, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs under the Bush administration, said the key is to formulate a strong U.S. policy that takes China's new direction into account, while not alienating or trying to "contain" China.

"Welcoming a China that is more influential and powerful and welcoming China's active participation in regional and global matters in word and deed is critical for making the right kind of impact on Chinese leaders," he said in testimony before the U.S.-China Commission. "This should not take away from the message that we will seek to shape the environment as well as be prepared to deal with China if it chooses an adversarial role."

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