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Where is oil in the new world endgame?

Let's start discussing two very commonly held wrong perceptions even by people with seemingly astute knowledge of current affairs and history.

a) "We will soon build a world order that will be free of oil and gas politics." Oil and gas politics and intrigue are here to stay for a long time and has been with us for a while, primarily since World War I. The truth is that current or any administration in USA does not control oil politics contrary to lot of hyped coffee house talk we all hear around. Thirty-forty years from now, maybe we will be a hydrogen economy (the best-case scenario in terms of alternate energy) but most probably that it will be through derivative process of natural gas. Who are the top four countries that have the most reserves in natural gas: a) Russia, b) Iran, c) Qatar, and d) Saudi Arabia? In any case, the stock of OPEC as a whole is on the rise during 21st century. If tar sands become viable commodity anytime soon, then Canada will be in the mix too for oil and gas politics as an added major power broker.

A new player in the game is China in the way they are aggressively leasing exploration and production rights all over the world and buying other companies. On the other hand, India, Pakistan, and Iran are signing on a giant gas pipeline deal. There is talk of another pipeline through Turkmenistan, Pakistan to India for natural gas.

To a great degree, the US hands are tied. They are in the high stakes game and there is no way out, only a smarter way to play the game and perhaps conservation is just one route - one that can be achieved through some self-discipline.

b) "Oil will almost never cost less." History will tell you that oil and gas is the most fickle commodity. The pricing of oil is done through futures market and even the slightest perception that the inventories in USA are glutted and/ or China and India will not sustain the current growth, the price will be tumbling down to rock bottom in six months. In 1998-99, the price of crude had plummeted to ~$10/ barrel and most of the aggressive exploration and production in many parts of the world except Saudi Arabia was deemed unprofitable for nearly three years. In 1998-99, part of East Asian economy had slowed down. The price of oil is neither controlled by Saudi Arabia or USA only - a host of factors play into supply and demand equation, like state of world economy, Russia, Venezuela, Norway, Mexico, emerging technologies, etc.

Rockefeller with Standard Oil tried his best to control the pricing of oil but failed most of the time even though he became very rich in the process. I do not think at present the oil companies wield that kind of power anymore. I would encourage the students of politics and world affairs read "Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power" by Daniel Yergin. Oil industry has made more people from pauper to prince to pauper again than any profession. However, the general consensus by the pundits is that in bigger picture and long run, the oil will cost more in future barring a number of ups and downs (quite ruthless ones) because the cheaper oil is depleting very soon.

End Note: The article was written before much publicized CNOOC's offer for Unocal.


Churning like a meter while your life waits at a crossing


Why I made this weblog?

One of the reason I made this weblog is to keep drawing and writing....to continue experimenting. In 2001, at Indiana University, I took a studio art class. Usually, the homework assignments were quite elaborate and time consuming - average of 10 hours/ week. However, daily we also used to do fast pen sketches on our own to develop an "eye" for detail and uniqueness. I will keep sharing some of the pen sketches - they are easy to scan as opposed to more elaborate larger drawings. Usually, they take 2-3 minutes to draw but one has to make the effort to quickly compose the idea.

I need a catalyst to keep me drawing and writing.


A Girl Reading at the Union, An Old Chevrolet Truck, A Chinese Dancer Mask, and Thrift Shop in Bloomington (Indiana) (From top to bottom)





Graduate School - A Tough Journey

Today at www.thesquare.com, I read the following:

”..i don’t have a complete picture of labor laws, unionization and history, but it seems to me that the function of unions were originally for blue collar workers that were being mistreated. the notion of a labor union for graduate students is asinine.”

My reply to the post on the board was:
I really wish it was that simple. One always has to keep in mind that graduate students are there is earn a degree rather than become cheap labor supporting the University system. On one hand, graduate school can realize your life long dreams, but the vulnerability of graduate students is quite often exploited, more than you want to know - sometimes worse than blue collar workers.

Harvard and Yale or any state school’s backbone are graduate students: be it your freshmen English writing TA, calculus recitation instructor, or research assistant in the billion dollar genome project (or something similar) at your alma mater. In sciences and engineering, most of the graduate students in United States do get full or partial support in return for 20 hours of work as a research or teaching assistant. The same also, happens for quite a few humanities students. Sometimes, 20 hours become 40 hours a week for tasks that does not contribute toward their completion of the degree (like being a teaching assistant), and so forth. It gets terribly more complicated on top of it when international students are involved. I am excluding fellowship and professional degree graduate students in this discussion.

I think there should be something like union or a watch-dog organization that makes sure that they are treated fairly and properly compensated. Moreover, a lot of schools are now giving add-ons like medical insurance just to be competitive to get the best students - not out of altruism. If you want them to spend 80 hours/ week in the lab for 6 years, working toward million dollar grants - at least give them medical insurance.

End Note: One has to go through a graduate school to know that it is not an easy ride.


Discovering Series, Part 2 (Botswana): A Standoff

SCU_02401.jpgDiscovering Botswana: A Standoff

By Kush Tandon

December 28, 2004 , around 8:30-9:30 AM , Okavango Delta , Botswana

"Something, or something awful or something wonderful was certain to happen on every day in this part of Africa . Every morning when you woke it was exciting as though you were going to compete in a downhill ski race or drive a bobsled on a fast run. Something, you knew, would happen and usually before eleven o'clock "

- Ernest Hemingway, True at First Light

Three safari jeeps are parked less than 10 steps away from a wounded leopard, a dying baboon, and about 50-100 baboons on the top of the trees, shaking violently, howling, and ready to jump in. About 7:00 AM , my brother along with the ranger KB had seen a leopard stalking for a kill and then got ambushed by the baboons. Deep in the bushes of Okavango Delta, the morning cool, the dew and the calm is slowly disappearing. The birds have telegraphed the hunt to the jungle.

I am in one of the three jeeps that have joined others a few minutes ago at around 8:30 AM.

Deep in the bushes, I see a baboon on the ground barely breathing and desperately trying to hide behind a giant tree. The leopard quietly limps and is now about 10 steps close to the wounded baboon but also uses the bushes as a cover. Every time he moves, the other baboons from above threaten. They are ready to pounce on him. This strong, young leopard, with an arms-length long deep wound on his thigh, is just staring at the baboons. Very briefly, from time to time he looks at the kill and then licks his wound for a second. I never seen any living creature with such a sheer, raw focus - there is no past, no future, only a very tenuous, fragile present.

"I am bleeding. I can barely move too. The moment, I take my eyes off these baboons, they will lynch me. All this for just for a meal. I haven't eaten in two days. This even happened last year. Do you think I enjoy this? I would rather take a nap."

"Why me? I am dying. Why is my time up?" , the baboon lying on the ground.

"If this leopard moves an inch closer to our brother, we are going to tear him apart. He cannot get away. He has his way all the time. It doesn't' matter that some of us will die if we confront again. This has to stop."

A standoff - that will only be over when one of them dies. In this law of the jungle, for all of them, the best hope is the continuation of status quo. Is there a such a thing?

A beautiful leopard, badly mauled, and very focused. He knows he holds the cards. A brave baboon that refuses to surrender his will to live. The band of brothers who are not ready to give up on him yet - as long as he is alive. Nobody is ready to blink. There is about still 2-3 hours before it is eleven o'clock.

Acknowledgments: Picture of "The Leopard" by Lav Tandon (2004).