Backtalk October 25, 2006

Oil, Nuclear Power, and Iran: A Lesson in Opportunity Cost

Good article. When you consider peak oil it is even stronger because Iran’s supply of oil is past peak. As oil production declines Iran will want to sell more – at higher prices as it becomes scarcer on the world market – and use less domestically. Eventually it will stop exporting because its domestic needs will come first. So nuclear power is a good long-term idea to prolong revenue from exporting oil.

~ Dan Bednarz

David Henderson replies:

Dear Dr. Bednarz,

Thank you for your compliment.

It is true that any given oil field will reach its peak and it does appear to be true that Iran’s overall supply, from all oil fields combined, peaked some time ago.

But we need to distinguish between peak production in Iran and peak production for the whole world. The latter is what affects the price of oil because oil is sold in a world market. Oil production worldwide shows no sign of having reached a peak. In an Aug. 9, 2006 editorial in the Wall Street Journal, “Crisis in the Pipeline,” energy analyst Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, reports his group’s prediction that oil production capacity worldwide will rise from its current 89 million barrels per day to 110 million barrels per day by 2015. Is his estimate likely to be wrong? Of course, estimates of behavior nine years hence are virtually always wrong. But the estimate is not necessarily an overstatement. It could be an understatement. Of course, this does not consider demand, which, we can be confident, will increase too. With demand and supply increasing, the price could go up or down, depending on whether demand increases more or less than supply. The market’s best estimate, from, is that in December 2012, the price of crude will be $63.45. Although this is an increase, inflation-adjusted it will be lower than today’s price. Again, there’s no good reason to believe that this price will come about – it could be wildly off – but it is the settling price based on the best estimates of people who are putting millions of dollars of their own money on the line.

The Edge of Madness

Great article by Mr. Malic, as usual. Although his little anti-Russian rant is a bit disturbing.

Maybe it’s me, but I remain blissfully unaware of Russia having “sold Serbs down the river plenty of times in centuries past.” I hope the author elaborates more at some point. What, however, is indisputable, is the fact that czarist Russia entered World War l woefully unprepared, just to protect the very Serbs that it presumably sold out earlier (numerous times, too!). Serbian gratitude? Apparently none, if one is not counting Yugoslavia’s consistent refusal to ally itself with the USSR during the Cold War. But then again, that looks more like a typical Balkan betrayal, than gratitude. Doesn’t it?

Let’s hope that Nebojsa Malic never again does what he describes so well in the last part of his piece – namely constructs “entire realities out of conflicting fabrications.”

As for Russia, maybe it’s a good time to sell Serbs a few times, because even a penny received would be a penny more than Serbs’ gratitude in case it doesn’t.

~ Oleg Beliakovich

I was in Russia a few years ago with a Orthodox priest on a pilgrimage.

I went with my husband and a Russian guide on a boat ride around Moscow. We spent the day with this guide, and at the end of the day when we parted I paid him for his services. He did not want to take the money, but I knew he needed it and insisted. He said that he did not want to take it from me because of my being Serbian. He felt that their government had betrayed the Serbs and that the Russian people felt very sad about it. He told me how the Serbs had been so good to the Russian refugees when no one would take them in at the time of the Revolution. He said the Serbs took them in and did everything for them.

It is nice to know that there are some who do not forget a good deed.

Russia is not any different than any other country. Each does what they think is best for them.

Did the West have anything against Serbs? No. They did what they thought was best for their own countries. You are only a friend until you are not needed.

~ Helen Robinson

The Frame-Up of Vladimir Putin

Has it occurred to Justin Raimondo that there may be more than one warfare state in the world? That perhaps Putin’s Russia is a corrupt and murderous regime like Bush’s? Is he aware of what has been going on in Chechnya? Has he forgotten the name of his own Web site? Does he know Putin and his cronies have almost completely destroyed the free press in Russia? That they now control virtually all media outlets? That there is hardly an independent judiciary left? How can he ask for “proof” that Putin is behind Politkovskaya’s murder? Who is there to prove it? How is proof possible in a country where there is no rule of law and no free press? And what on earth does an approval rating of 70 percent signify?

Please go on harassing Mr. Bush, but don’t start defending the other tyrants in the world. They are not interested in peace.

~ Karel Beckman, Amsterdam


I am a loyal reader of and consider it a vital resource. I have more often than not agreed with the editorial and opinion pieces you and other gifted contributors write. However, I have to tell you that your continuous misreading of Vladimir Putin and the direction of Russia today is very troubling to me.

I am a Russian-born American, who came to this country in 1977 at the age of 13. I am a liberal and a libertarian. I was and am an anti-communist. I loathe the current American administration. I am very much against American hegemony in the world. I am a fluent Russian speaker and reader; I read the Russian Internet press every day (several times a day, actually) and am in weekly contact with Russian friends via video-conferencing.

I well understand and often catch myself being pleased with any country that takes an anti-American hegemony stand in its foreign policy. However, one must separate this from the actual policies some of these governments pursue internally and what their likely motivation is. While Mr. Putin may look like a brave resistor to a U.S. policy of relentless aggression (and in some ways he is), his policies at home should give you and any libertarian pause. No one at should line up too closely behind the new Russian leader, as many, many of his actions are entirely anti-liberal, anti-market, and anti-freedom (in the original, not currently politicized meanings of those words).

Russia today, under Putin, is at its core a lawless, corrupt, xenophobic society, where the press situation is dire and getting worse, the new government-insider oligarchs simply replaced the old oligarchs by looting the looted, and the population is driven by government-owned (not just controlled, owned) media to hatred of all “black asses,” a nice Russian euphemism for people with darker skin. The current spasm of xenophobic expulsions of Georgian nationals, replete with refusal to teach the children of Georgian parents in Russian schools … demonstrate this clearly and should really give a liberal-minded commentator some serious food for thought.

To claim that Russia is moving toward market capitalism, as you do today in your comment is, frankly, ludicrous. There is no such thing in Russia today, only a wholesale effort to transfer the shadow ownership of moneymaking businesses into the hands of the current nomenklatura (not even the state, mind you; it’s just about personal enrichment).

To rail against older oligarchs, as you often do, and simply close your eyes to the plain and criminal change in ownership to the new ruling elite under Putin is strangely sycophantic.

Finally, to ignore the continuous death threats Politkovskaya received from the Russian-aligned criminal thug regime in Chechnya and to instead focus on Berezovsky is disheartening. To demand “proof” from those who attack Putin and then to blithely smear another, not to your liking, with no proof of any kind is unworthy of I wish that you could understand Russian and hear the slurred, gloating, criminal gang-language-infused “statement” from the current Russian-installed ruler of Chechnya (Kadyrov, the younger), or understand the meaning of a three-day silence by Putin after Politkovskaya’s death as it was understood in Russia (his comments when they finally came were abroad to foreign journalists).

Anyway, I am beginning to despair that I can find anyone, and I mean anyone, who doesn’t have a blindspot in their mind created by their politics of expediency. In your case, I find your Putin blindspot both off-putting and completely out of character for you (trust me, he isn’t your kind of guy). You can easily find much to criticize in the Western treatment of Putin and continuous attempts by neocon-aligned media to demonize the man. But your writing slides from there to myopic support of Putin and his policies (I have a hard time reading your recent columns on the subject in any other way), a position often factually incorrect and wrong for a libertarian to take.

~ Dimitry Zarkh

Justin’s otherwise excellent précis of institutional Russophobia fails to note that the slippery Boris Berezovsky is or was Neil Bush’s business partner in an enterprise called Ignite Learning.

Dontcha just love seeing the New World Order putting us all to rights?

~ Martin Kelly (sometime contributor), Glasgow, Scotland

Sue B.’s Backtalk

Sue B., mother of two Marines in Iraq, asks, “If you have any ideas of what I can do as an ordinary citizen to help end this nightmare, please e-mail me.” Here it is: tell your two sons in Iraq to put their weapons down and refuse to fight. Yes, it will take a lot of courage for them to do that, more than to continue killing people that have done nothing to us. The war will be over when people refuse to fight it.

~ Ana Sanchez

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