Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Following the Money

Despite numerous cogent analyses, and even frank admissions by former and current Imperial officials, indicating that their interventions around the world - and specifically in the Balkans - have been motivated by considerations of power, there are still some who maintain that the wars were all about the money.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the force driving politicians. Most of us normal folk want money because with enough of it (and how much is ever enough?) we think we can afford all the comforts of life we desire. But once you reach a certain level of power, money ceases to be an object. You don't have to worry about purchasing things; you can simply take them.

The other day an Imperial propaganda outfit revealed that Wesley Clark, the "General who led NATO’s campaign against Serbia in 1999" (that's one way of putting it) has asked Kosovo's government (sic) "for a licence to transform the country’s untapped coal reserves into fuel". Sure enough, a chorus arose: See, Kosovo was all about the ore, the oil, the mineral wealth!

No. Kosovo was about breaking Serbia, so as to conquer the Balkans and establish an axis with Turkey and the Middle East, while erecting a barrier around Russia. All ancient geopolitics, really. Any potential profit for Empire's camp-followers was merely icing on the cake. But the cake itself is hegemony in Eurasia.

The following is adapted from two emails sent to me by an astute reader, familiar with Balkans business deals. I won't reveal his name; suffice to say I have full confidence he knows what he's talking about.

The phrasing "License for Oil" is a bit deceiving. If you look at this API article (which can be read in full for free) then it seems that his company is seeking a license to 1) explore for coal, and, if found, 2) convert coal into gas and 3) convert gas into synthetic fuel ("oil").  If you look at the website of his company, Envidity Inc., you will see that they are already developing a coal-to-synfuel project in Mongolia, where they have obtained an exclusive license for coal extraction in an area of 774 sq. km.

On their page "About Us" you will see that they do not hide their association with Wesley Clark, and they are not entirely ignorant of his glorious military past: "...In his last assignment as Supreme Allied Commander Europe he led NATO forces to victory in Operation Allied Force, saving 1.5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing." [!!!]

Looking over their website from a business point of view, it is clear that they are a bunch of experts with an idea, but no money or financial backing so far. They are betting everything on the theory of "peak oil"...  In addition, Kosovo's energy and transportation infrastructure is atrocious (probably not much better than Mongolia's), so unless the energy to run the conversion process will come from the coal itself then their facility would be a net consumer of electricity from the Kosovo power grid, and Kosovo is already a net importer of electricity, I believe.

Anyway, the thing seems to me like a pipe dream. Even their Mongolian project so far is merely at the stage of obtaining rights for the coal, and these people do not look to me like people who know about financing, building, and operating large chemical plants. (And they seem to be saying that this project would provide royalties to the Kosovo regime of €300 million/year, which implies sales of billions of euros per year, which would need a very large plant.) So unless we see them first succeed in finding someone with the pockets deep enough to backstop a construction project of a billion or two euros in Mongolia, we should conclude that they are just dreamers.

Sure, coal is known to exist in Kosovo, and in fact it is the only source that they have so far for producing electricity. And sure, there exist technologies to convert coal into gas and then into liquid. But these technologies are so expensive that I am not aware of any such plants operating at the present time. Here is an article posted yesterday about such a plant that is going to be constructed in West Virginia: this plant, which will produce 18,000 barrels of synfuel a day, is expected to cost $4 billion, so you can imagine how much Wesley Clark's plant would cost that "could eventually produce up to 15.9 million litres (100,000 barrels) a day". And no matter how many NATO troops may be available for free to guard their facilities, if they employ any of the local people then they will face horrendous problems with theft, corruption, careless maintenance, and so on.

The important thing is that due to this depression almost no projects of over €250 million are moving forward anywhere in SE Europe, and this would be a project of over €1,000 million. And it is entirely a gamble on "peak oil". In addition, the project would be in Kosovo, and I have the impression that no significant infrastructure, industrial, or energy project has moved forward in Kosovo since "independence", not even wind parks or hydro plants of €5-50 million, much less something of €1,000 million.

A few months ago I did some research, trying to find any register of "environmental impact assessments" (EIAs) in Kosovo. I found that the Priština regime did indeed publish a very rudimentary EIA law back in about 2004, requiring significant projects to file EIA studies and obtain EIA decisions. But I found no evidence at all - even in the Kosovo Official Register - that any such filings or decisions had ever been made.  I think to date it is all merely hypothetical.

More attractive than the coal would be the minerals, since the mountains of the Balkans are rich in all kinds of minerals, and the highest mountains - around KosMet - have some of the most exotic minerals. But if the Trepča mine complex is almost completely idle because no foreign investors have been willing to step forward, you can imagine that for an economically questionable project like coal liquefaction it will be harder still to obtain money from abroad.

So you see, Clark's project is a pie in the sky. It is much more likely, in my estimation, to be a front for some serious money-laundering than ever to actually produce any fuel. I suppose Clark figured he'd never be chairman of the Joint Chiefs, so he's settling for the next best thing, trying to cash in his "popularity" to profit from a snake-oil scheme. It's a long way from a self-styled noble knight saving the Albanians-in-distress to a vulture picking at their refuse - but I can't say I'm particularly surprised.


Srbo said...

Clark sits on governing boards of several other energy and finance corporations. He sells the credibility of his name and the access to hubs of decision-making and information, that's all. Why would anyone be surprised by the mercenary nature of a US general? That's what they are trained for.

Energy speculators like Envidity are dime a dozen, but Clark's connections in the political, business and criminal world obviously make him too pricey a partner for a start-up enterprise with uncertain chances.

I do agree that the overall goal of the Kosovo occupation were not its energy resources, but on some level, some forces that backed the invasion had these resources in mind.

bearspaw said...

Birds of a feather...

jack said...

Exactly what I have been saying that Yugoslavia and Serbia was destroyed as part of the post Soviet agenda to transit Caspian oil and gas through Turkey and the new Balkan states creating a new Ottoman alliance and making Turkey the next super power.

As for the whole war on terror thing and Islamic terrorism most of these groups are aligned with Turkic oriented people in Central Asia, the Caucasus and China.

The exact same people involved in supporting the break up of Yugoslavia are also involved in Chechnya, Caspian energy and promoting Turkey in the US that has the second most powerful lobby after AIPAC and the Gulen movement in Eurasia who want to create a alliance of independent Turkic states to control the Caspian and Central Asia oil and gas reserves.

It is classic British pan-Turanianism

Sibel Edmonds is the only one other than myself that seems to get it.

Frankly if you don’t see the obvious then either you are incredibly naïve or stupid.

All the other excuses manly that Yugoslavia provided an alternative economic system to that of the US is crap.