Another Nutjob in the Pipeline

Whenever the US gets involved in a conflict somewhere in the world there is always, always somebody on the American Right who will come out with some bizarre conspiracy theory involving a pipeline.  It’s always a pipeline.

Before 9/11 when the Taliban were running Afghanistan and blowing up statues of Buddha, the lunatics on the extremes of both Left and Right were saying that the US was supporting the Taliban because they wanted to build a pipeline through the country between Pakistan and, erm, somewhere.  They cited a report showing that Unocal, an American oil company now owned by Chevron, did once consider building a pipeline through Afghanistan but the project got nowhere near even the engineering phase.  They accepted without question, as these people often do, that US foreign policy is determined in part by medium-sized oil companies best known for gasoline retail.  Or at least it is when the Jews go for their lunch break.

Immediately following the American assault on the Taliban which removed them from power, the conspiracy theorists simply switched to claiming the reason for the attack was in order to build – you guessed it – this Unocal pipeline.  Oliver Kamm wrote a decent post covering this switch and the absurdity of it on his blog at the time, and it is worth reading.

I was reminded of this today when I was directed via another blog to this Twitter post:

It’s always about pipelines with these people.  They have this daft idea that pipelines are so valuable it is worth going to war just to build one.  How the US government is supposed to benefit from a pipeline, presumably carrying gas, from Qatar to Bulgaria(!) I don’t know.  Obviously whoever dreamed up this particular theory hasn’t heard much about LNG and the growing spot market, nor US shale gas.

You don’t need to be a fan of Obama or Clinton to find this level of political analysis from the American Right to be as stupid as anything the American Left can come up with.

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26 thoughts on “Another Nutjob in the Pipeline

  1. You mention Oliver Kamm – I knew him in my very early blogging days, before he turned anti-blogger.

  2. Indeed, I followed Oliver Kamm right from the beginning. He was an excellent blogger and writer because he was astonishingly well read, particularly on political history, and could write extremely well-researched posts demolishing much of the idiocy masquerading as political commentary at the time.

    But then he joined The Times and became a bit of a pompous arse, a true-blue Establishment figure. I lost a lot of respect for him when he defended his paper’s outing of the police blogger Night Jack, saying that a blogger had no right to privacy whereas an anonymous source for a newspaper had, just because. And his Twitter feed is all about how the policies of New Labour ought to still be applied, Brexit is a disaster, the EU is good, etc. Which I suppose is all true if you’re an upper-class Establishment journalist who went to Oxford.

  3. Did you ever watch Seinfeld?

    You have to visualize George Costanza bursting into to room and saying “Jerry, I’ve got it! We have to build a pipeline! TO BULGARIA!”

  4. Why pipelines? It’s probably because the conspiracy nuts have to explain why the United States would need to control all the territories in which it currently has a military presence. They also have to do this without giving credence to any of the mainstream interpretations of US foreign policy, and that’s not easy. The simplest solution is to draw a line through the contested area and say “aha, if they wanted to put a pipeline here it would explain everything!”. It also lets them pretend that they are being sophisticated rather than credulous because they are talking about economic objectives – even totally useless and impractical ones – instead of chemtrails and the New World Order.

  5. @ Wilbur,

    Did you ever watch Seinfeld?

    Hell yes. Every episode at least twice.

    You have to visualize George Costanza bursting into to room and saying “Jerry, I’ve got it! We have to build a pipeline! TO BULGARIA!”

    Bwahahahaha!

  6. @ AndrewZ,

    Good points, all.

    It also lets them pretend that they are being sophisticated rather than credulous because they are talking about economic objectives – even totally useless and impractical ones – instead of chemtrails and the New World Order.

    Oh Gawd, not chemtrails. People have actually written to airlines demanding explanations.

  7. “People have actually written to airlines demanding explanations”

    The airlines should have written back with the offer of an upgrade to Business Class chemtrails over the correspondent’s property, for a modest monthly fee. I’m sure some people would have signed-up to that on the spot. Regular subscribers could then have been offered an upgrade to First Class, for a less modest fee, where the effect of the government mind gas is so limited that you might imagine that it doesn’t actually exist at all. As long as you don’t feel any effect whatsoever you know that you’ve got your money’s worth.

  8. AndrewZ,

    I think the airline responded with a short letter saying “We’re afraid we haven’t the slightest idea what you’re on about.”

    No doubt the recipient took that as further proof of the conspiracy.

  9. Turkey wants as many pipelines as possible to pass through the country – preferably from the East to the West – but it has other reasons for interfering in Syria besides its wish to become the great transit hub controlling energy supply to southern Europe.

    Qatar is a different matter, since Qatar has nothing but gas and influence. For the conspiratorial strategist, the Qatar-Bulgaria pipeline would be a clear attempt to wean southern and central Europe off piped Russian gas. Note that the entry point of Gazprom’s South Stream and of the EU’s Nabucco was to be in Bulgaria. Think of South Stream or Nabucco revived with Qatari gas as the source. Alternatively, think of the North Field connected to TANAP.

    Surely the Persian Gulf is closer to the Balkans than Yamal so Qatar’s netbacks would be higher than Gazprom’s, other things equal. Qatari LNG can’t compete with Norwegian and Russian pipeline gas yet but, assuming Qatar could ramp out gas output by 50-60 bcmpa (a huge assumption of course), the pipeline would make sense, at least in theory.

    Which should answer the question, “What’s in it for Qatar?” Whether the US would go to war to cut down on Gazprom’s market share is a different one.

  10. What’s the point of going to war that costs trillions of dollars just to make a few billion dollars,the only pipe lines i am interested in is Canada/US Keystone XL and Canadian Northern Gateway hopefully the Saudis won’t tell the Clinton Government to attack Canada to stop them being bulit i need one more big job before i retire.

  11. ” Canada/US Keystone XL ”

    Isn’t US resistance to this pipeline a good justification for the US to invade the US?

  12. @ Alex

    Interesting post and summary. The EU is certainly a growing client base for external hydrocarbon suppliers and no doubt there are very aggressive and quite normal commercial maneuvers at play to deliver accordingly.

    We have been chasing specialist work on a number of sections of the TANAP pipeline, we were preferred tenderer in Azerbaijan and Georgia and got pipped by a local, were asked to discount too much for a Lot in Turkey and recently lost out in Albania Greece for what we suspected were local shenanigans in play again. I think that is out of the running for that one.

    As for the Syrian pipeline conspiracy theory and why the US has openly backed regime change there I dont think its about the Qatari pipeline but more about US regional military supremacy and the US/Qatari/Saudi/Turkey Sunni block. Qatar is boxing way above its weight in the region but it can because that is where the US Central Command forward headquarters are located. Yes there was a proposal for Iranian gas to be transported through Syria but I dont believe it ever got legs and there is no hard evidence that Assad rejected the proposed Qatari originated pipeline either and even if he did that would have been a good few years before the US started to directly support regime change in Syria.

    The cooling and recent warming of relations between Turkey and Russia and them entering into agreements for the new gas line is yet another twist to this unfolding story which at the end of the day is all about suppliers of gas getting into a position to supply gas to the gas hungry EU.

  13. Looking at that map wouldn’t it be easier to lay the pipe from Qatar across Saudi to the Med. undersea line to Greece then onto Bulgaria,how much gas does Bulgaria need anyway?

  14. “wouldn’t it be easier to lay the pipe from Qatar across Saudi”

    Not really as the problem is that the Saudis and not Assad wont let Qatar build a pipeline through their territory.

    “Why would Qatar want to become involved in Syria where they have little invested? A map reveals that the kingdom is a geographic prisoner in a small enclave on the Persian Gulf coast.

    It relies upon the export of LNG, because it is restricted by Saudi Arabia from building pipelines to distant markets. In 2009, the proposal of a pipeline to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the Nabucco pipeline was considered, but Saudi Arabia that is angered by its smaller and much louder brother has blocked any overland expansion.”

    http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Qatar-Rich-and-Dangerous.html

  15. I recall having conversations with Socialist Workers Party types in November 2001 in Australia, in which they earnestly explained that the then new American intervention into Afghanistan was about a pipeline.

    “Er, no. It’s about a smoking crater in downtown Manhattan”.
    “That’s just an excuse”.
    “Well, it’s a pretty good one”.

  16. marc,

    Looking at that map wouldn’t it be easier to lay the pipe from Qatar across Saudi to the Med. undersea line to Greece then onto Bulgaria

    You wouldn’t even bother with that, you’d just use LNG carriers. Sure, it’s more expensive than Russian piped gas but Europeans will pay the extra to diversify the supply away from Russia, and Qatar isn’t stuck with a single destination for its gas. As the spot market grows and LNG shipments get traded more like oil cargoes, piping gas from Qatar will make even less sense than it does now.

  17. Alex,

    Turkey wants as many pipelines as possible to pass through the country – preferably from the East to the West – but it has other reasons for interfering in Syria besides its wish to become the great transit hub controlling energy supply to southern Europe.

    Ah yes, controlling pipelines. That would explain why Ukraine is such a regional superpower.

  18. David Moore – “Isn’t US resistance to [the Keystone XL] pipeline a good justification for the US to invade the US?”

    Lol

    Bravo

  19. @Bardon: Thanks. You wrote, “I dont think its about the Qatari pipeline but more about US regional military supremacy and the US/Qatari/Saudi/Turkey Sunni block,” and I’m not arguing with this, just saying that Morenco’s theory is not as nutty as it sounds, although it’s still wrong, in all likelihood.

  20. @Tim: “Sure, it’s more expensive than Russian piped gas but Europeans will pay the extra to diversify the supply away from Russia, and Qatar isn’t stuck with a single destination for its gas.”

    Some will, some won’t. The EU is not in a rush to diversify: Gazprom’s market share in the EU has not gone down since Russia took Crimea. As for Qatar, it wouldn’t be stuck with a single destination because most of its gas would still be sold as LNG. In terms of risk management, it might be a good idea not to stake everything on LNG produced by tightly clustered plants and carried by tankers through the very busy Hormuz Strait. Not that Qatar would fight for the right of way through Syria, but if Syria had been peaceful, it would have at least considered this route.

    “Ah yes, controlling pipelines. That would explain why Ukraine is such a regional superpower.”

    Not all countries are equally good at blowing their chances. Last year, Stratfor wrote:

    Turkey will continue to pursue other pipeline projects as part of its longer-term strategy to position itself as a regional energy transit hub to gain influence with its neighbors.

    It could turn out a losing strategy but Turkey still seems keen on it.

  21. Some will, some won’t. The EU is not in a rush to diversify: Gazprom’s market share in the EU has not gone down since Russia took Crimea.

    I think that’s for three reasons:

    1) EU countries are happy to buy Russian gas if and when it’s flowing because it is the most sensible supply. They probably think – correctly – that any Russian threats to turn off the gas aren’t real.
    2) There are LNG terminals in Europe and most governments will have contingency plans to buy gas on the spot market to make up any shortfall. You don’t need to actually buy the gas to diversify, you just need the ability to import it.
    3) If push comes to shove and Russia proves itself unreliable in the long term, they can switch to domestic shale gas production. This alone is probably motivating Russia to be a reliable supplier.

    Not that Qatar would fight for the right of way through Syria, but if Syria had been peaceful, it would have at least considered this route.

    I don’t think so: building pipelines across several countries is a pain in the arse, especially very long ones (I have a pretty good idea what’s involved with building one, plus the inter-governmental agreements required). I certainly never heard any plans for this when I was kicking around the Middle East. They had enough of a headache with Dolphin.

    It could turn out a losing strategy but Turkey still seems keen on it.

    Nah, there is no strategy in pipelines. It sounds good, but other than collecting transit fees and issuing pathetic, empty threats about disrupting supplies they hold little national advantage to the country they run through (some local advantages, though). Pipelines by definition run through places that aren’t worth much and in which nobody wants to live – ask the guys who build them! I can easily believe the current Turkish government thinks they can achieve a strategic advantage via pipelines running through their territory, but they appear to be rather backward-looking in general.

  22. “just saying that Morenco’s theory is not as nutty as it sounds, although it’s still wrong, in all likelihood.”

    I think he bases his pipeline war argument on the widely distributed and accepted article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published in Politico on his claim that the US strategy in the Mid-East and specifically Syria is focused on controlling the supply of hydrocarbons. Morenco’s theory is consistent with this article and is definitely not nutty . Although my view is that there is little truth in it and it is an intentional distraction from the main agenda of US military supremacy in the region. This agenda is why the US did not take any action or put pressure or be seen to be criticising the Qatari funding of extremist Sunni mercenaries in Syria, the Pentagon would have none of it as Qatar is a major military base and strategic outpost for them. They actually extended their military cooperation agreement for another ten years about the same time. The tiny Qatari nation and their radical monarchy also see this US base and relationship as a perfect defensive strategy against its larger peers and Shiite enemies.

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/02/rfk-jr-why-arabs-dont-trust-america-213601?o=3

  23. “US strategy in the Mid-East ”

    The US doesn’t have a strategy in the middle east. It’s a blindfolded gorilla swinging at Pandoras pinata, being egged on by dozens of conflicting voices.

  24. The US doesn’t have a strategy in the middle east. It’s a blindfolded gorilla swinging at Pandoras pinata, being egged on by dozens of conflicting voices.

    As apt a description as I have seen.

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