A Giant Lunar Leap For Private Enterprise – WSJ

… moon_shotprivate businesses may have the greatest incentive, and ability, to reach the moon. A company could set up a lunar outpost and pay for it by offering stays to government-funded researchers, commercial-lunar miners and even rich adventure-seekers pursuing the ultimate vacation. Such a firm could also sell rocket fuel to agencies and other entities sending ships or probes into deep space.

It could all be done for a reasonable price. A group of scientists, commercial entrepreneurs and visionaries concluded in the journal New Space that humans could return to the moon by 2022 for only $10 billion. New 3-D printing and waste recycling technology, along with robotics and commercial rockets, such as the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, have lowered the price tag to a fraction of what it took to land men on the moon decades ago.

Plenty of private companies also have leaders with the same drive that inspired the scientists who came before them. J.J. Abrams, the filmmaker best known for his remakes of space adventures like “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” has produced a collection of mini-documentaries called “Moon Shot.” The Web series tells the story of a real-life effort aimed at the moon, the Google Lunar X Prize. Teams are competing to be the first to land a probe on the lunar surface by the end of 2017.

via A Giant Lunar Leap For Private Enterprise – WSJ

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Another Oil Crash Is Coming, and There May Be No Recovery – Bloomberg

That’s the subject of the first installment of Bloomberg’s new animated web series Sooner Than You Think, which examines some of the biggest transformations in human history that haven’t happened quite yet. On Thursday, analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance weighed in with a comprehensive analysis of where the electric car industry is headed.
Even amid low gasoline prices last year, electric car sales jumped 60 percent worldwide. If that level of growth continues, the crash-triggering benchmark of 2 million barrels of reduced demand could come as early as 2023. That’s a crisis. The timing of new technologies is difficult to predict, but it may not be long before it becomes impossible to ignore.

via Another Oil Crash Is Coming, and There May Be No Recovery – Bloomberg

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Donald Trump, American Preacher – The New York Times

When I ask Trump supporters what they love most about his rallies, they’re at a loss; all of it, they say, “just, just” — the way it makes them feel. How much it makes them feel. American politics tends to produce a limited emotional range, mostly positive, peppered with indignation. But Trump scrawls across the spectrum: not just anger but rage; love and, yes, hate; fear, a political commonplace, and also vengeance. It doesn’t feel political. Politicians have long borrowed from religion the passion and the righteousness, but no other major modern figure has channeled the tension that makes Scripture endure, the desire, the wanting that gives rise to the closest analogue to Trumpism: the prosperity gospel, the American religion of winning.

via Donald Trump, American Preacher – The New York Times

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The Earth Has Lungs. Watch Them Breathe. – Phenomena: Curiously Krulwich

treesConsider the fantastic scale of this global dance. It starts, as I said, with 3.1 trillion trees. That’s the latest census, published a few months ago in the science journal Nature (see page 201) by Yale’s Thomas Crowther, a Climate and Energy Institute postdoctoral fellow. If he’s right, there are more trees on Earth than there are stars in the Milky Way.

Now imagine how many leaves might be on all those trees. It’s a very big number. The University of Washington tried to come up with a leaf count for a “mature oak,” but oaks are so variable that they could only give us a range: 200,000 to half a million leaves per tree.

Next, look closely at any oak leaf or any leaf (or, for that matter, the surface of any green plant, even a blade of grass) with a magnifying glass. You’ll find little breathing tubes called stomata. That’s “mouth” in Greek, because, like mouths, they’re openings that allow outside air in.

I think of them more like lungs, often with squeezable openings. That’s where the carbon dioxide gets in and the oxygen slips out. Photographer Robert Dash used a scanning electron microscope to magnify the surface of an actual oak leaf 150 times, and all those little cheerio-like openings you see here? We’re going to point a few out …

via The Earth Has Lungs. Watch Them Breathe. – Phenomena: Curiously Krulwich

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We can handle the truth

Judge Nap: Obama Won't Admit Saudi Arabia Is an Enemy Posing as a Friend | Fox News Insider

He explained that not only is there support from both Democrats and Republicans to declassify 28 pages of the 9/11 report that mention Saudi Arabia, there is also a bilateral push in Congress for a bill that could make the kingdom liable for damages stemming from the 2001 terror attack.

"At the same time that's happening, the president's visiting Saudi Arabia. At the same time that's happening, they're releasing these people and sending them to Saudi Arabia," Judge Napolitano said. "So this is all connected. This is all part of the president's scheme to have his cake and eat it too. He doesn't want to address the fact that Saudi Arabia has been an enemy under the guise of being a friend."

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Past is prologue? Saudi Arabia’s clumsy oil diplomacy | Brookings Institution

Much like the recent developments, the oil crisis in the mid-1980s had its roots in Saudi strategic interests toward the region as well as toward oil markets. As OPEC’s swing producer, Riyadh had absorbed massive production cuts in the early 1980s in order to maintain prices in a period of falling demand and expanding non-OPEC supply. Saudi exports sank to 2.15mbpd in 1985, approximately half of its formal OPEC quota and a mere 25 percent of its 1980 exports, even as its OPEC partners routinely disregarded their quotas. After a futile effort to persuade non-OPEC producers to cut back, the Saudis began ramping up production, and over a nine-month period beginning in August 1985, OPEC production ballooned by 4mpbd, with the kingdom responsible for approximately half that increase.

Then, as now, the Saudis struggled to deal with the ripple effects of a production surge that they helped initiate.

The decision coincided with the spillover of the Iran-Iraq war into the Gulf, via Iraqi attacks on Iran’s oil infrastructure and Iranian counter-attacks on Gulf oil exports and other shipments transiting the strategic waterway. 

The combination was catastrophic for Iran, whose oil revenues plummeted from $21.2 billion in 1983 to $13.7 billion in 1984 and $6.3 billion in 1986. Meanwhile, Iran’s economy began to grind to a halt—the GDP crashed, and key sectors such as manufacturing and construction were disproportionately hit. Iranian officials saw Saudi production increases as a deliberate effort, with Washington’s active collusion, to cripple Iran’s economy and its military capability. Then-President Ali Khamenei, who is now Iran’s supreme leader, warned Riyadh that “the price war is no less important to us than the military war at the front.” Tehran tried to push back within OPEC but made little headway. 

As is the case today, the Saudi strategy in the mid-1980s was neither irrational nor purely punitive toward Tehran. In fact, Riyadh’s 1985 production increases reflected an attempt to address two profound concerns: the kingdom’s massive fiscal requirements for domestic development and its international initiatives. In addition, the Saudis feared a long-term erosion in market share, weakened geostrategic preeminence, and mounting Iranian regional ambitions. They even sent quiet overtures to Tehran about the possibility of a ceasefire and sought to break the Iranian alliance with Syria.

In the 1980s, the oil strategy proved a partial success, and an incredibly costly one, for Riyadh. While the kingdom managed to claw back market share, the crisis did not generate sustained OPEC unity, nor did it produce near-term progress on subduing Tehran. The price crash hurt Riyadh’s diplomatic sway regionally and internationally, generated terrible blowback for the Saudi leadership, and caused its oil income to plummet to a mere $18 billion in 1986—a $100 billion drop from five years earlier. As one Saudi government oil economist remarked: “Everyone suffered, Saudi Arabia most of all. It was a very bad time.” 

Eventually, the 1985-86 oil war subsided, as both Tehran and Riyadh came to appreciate that their interests were better served by mutual compromise. The Saudis sought an exit strategy to stem the price erosion as well as the ongoing damage to their relations with smaller producers, including the United States. Facing an inflection point in its war with Iraq, Tehran also yielded, even conceding a temporary boost for Baghdad’s production. Hubris on both sides was eventually run aground by economic realities. Mohammed bin Salman may soon learn a similar lesson.

via Past is prologue? Saudi Arabia’s clumsy oil diplomacy | Brookings Institution

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The Arab Lobby – by Lee Smith

Lee Smith on Mitchell Bard’s The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East

Today the unspoken issue is Saudi support for terror. Were U.S. officials to complain about how the kingdom funds jihad against the United States and its allies, “there’s a fear,” says Bard, “that the Saudis may punish us by withdrawing some of their billions of dollars in investments, cut U.S. companies out of deals to explore for gas or oil, or take other measures to damage our interests.”

Nor are the Saudis shy about promising to unleash jihad against those who cross their path, as when they threatened the British government when it was investigating the unsavory details of a Saudi arms purchase from a British weapons maker.

Given the nature of the Saudi regime, it is little wonder that the oil lobby prefers to work in the shadows. As one publicist explained in laying out his PR strategy for Riyadh: “Saudi Arabia has a need to influence the few that influence the many, rather than the need to influence the many to whom the few must respond.”

via The Arab Lobby – by Lee Smith

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