A Quaker Statement on Torture

June 6, 2008 at 8:12 am | Posted in Bush Administration, Iraq, Peeves | 2 Comments

I regularly attend the Quaker (Society of Friends) meeting in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Although I’m not a Quaker, I agree with them on most things. Like the Quakers (and most Americans) I’m horrified by the fact that our government uses torture. The following is the text of the statement:

Preamble:

It is the custom of Friends Meetings (Quakers) to write official statements, called Minutes, concerning current moral issues both as an exercise among ourselves to come to clarity and unity about them and as a public witness to our neighbors.

Because of our concern for prisoners, military service members, and civilian workers involved in the United States government’s alleged interrogation practices, the Fayetteville Friends Monthly Meeting has written the following Minute on Torture.

Fayetteville (NC) Friends Meeting’s Minute on Torture

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.”

                            Hebrews 13:3 NRSV

                        (New Revised Standard Version)

Recognizing that of God in every person, we condemn the use of torture for any purpose by any person, group, or government. Torture by any means is immoral. It debases the humanity of the tortured, the torturer, and those who have knowledge of it.

For Fayetteville, NC Monthly Meeting, torture is not a distant issue. We are located near a major hub of a growing international torture complex. Hundreds of torture flights have taken off nearby; training for the brutal techniques takes place in the region at secretive military and other facilities. Our public officials have ignored protests.

The acceptance of torture is making our society an international pariah. We appeal to Friends and others everywhere to take up this concern and follow it through. Let us bear down into the work of bringing this immoral practice into the Light. Let us do all we can to bring about the day when torture is banished from our country and from our planet.

A Comment from The Curmudgeon

I urge you to write your elected representatives to let them know how you feel. (An easy way is to join Congress.org: see the link at the right.) You may also want to visit the National Religious Campaign Against Torture at http://www.nrcat.org/. For additional information on Quakers visit the Friends General Conference at http://www.fgcquaker.org/

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Gas is $4 a gallon: Why?

June 5, 2008 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Energy | 8 Comments

The other day somebody asked me if I could explain the high price of gas. “Isn’t there a lot of price gouging,” she asked? Maybe, but crude oil made up 58% of the price in 2007, when the average price was $2.80 per gallon. At today’s $4.00 price, crude oil is an even bigger piece of the pie. The higher the price of crude the more you pay for gas, and crude oil prices depend on supply and demand.

On the supply side, we get about half of the crude oil we use from foreign countries. OPEC supplies us with more than half of what we import, and despite the pitiful efforts of the Bush administration, OPEC has refused to pump more oil. More than 20% of our oil imports come from Canada, where the costs of finding and pumping it, called “recovery” costs, have limited the amount of oil they can pump.

We produce the other half of what we use, but like Canada, we’re limited by high recovery costs.

As the price of oil increases, it becomes economically feasible to find and recover more oil, so Canadian and domestic production is likely to increase—but will decrease again if the price drops.

On the demand side, the emerging economies of China and India, as well as the Pacific Rim, have been gobbling up more and more oil, and the U.S. and European markets for oil continue to grow as well. Increased demand in Asia and the Middle East amounted to 60% of the increase in petroleum use between 2003 and 2006. Demand in North America and Europe increased too, sucking up an additional 20% of worldwide demand during the period, while increased demand in the rest of the world made up the other 20%.

So we have two forces—supply and demand—working to increase the price of oil and keep it up. That keeps the price of gasoline up.

How about those greedy oil companies? Their profits are the highest in history! Well Congress is going to investigate to see if there’s price gouging, but look at it this way: If I sell you something for a dollar, making a modest 10% profit on the deal, my profit is a dime. If my costs increase and I sell it to you for two dollars, and I still take my modest 10% profit, my profit becomes twenty cents. The higher the price of gas the higher the profits, even if the percentage is the same.

Is it going to get better? No. The demand for gas will continue to rise, at least in the emerging economies like China and India. As time goes by, existing oil wells produce less and less—and the cost of finding new sources and pumping the oil will become higher and higher.

Luckily, there is an answer. There are alternative energy sources available. Solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells and more, are under development or actually in use. More about these in another article; in the meanwhile you need to get on your elected representatives (including the candidates) to provide development support to alternative energy. (There’s a link to Congress.org somewhere on the right of the screen.)

And you could trade in your gas-guzzling SUV or pick-up truck for a hybrid car that gets a lot better gas mileage!

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