Investigative journalist Edwin Black is the bestselling author of the award-winning IBM and the Holocaust, which documented for the first time IBM’s indispensable 12-year relationship with the Hitler regime, and Internal Combustion which chronicled how governments and corrupt corporations needlessly addicted the world to oil. His new book is The Plan--How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops--or the Day Before. He was interviewed by Jamie Glanov, managing editor of Frontpage.com.
Edwin Black, you have previously written about genocide. Now you are writing about our addiction to oil. What inspired the switch?
I have been inspired to write about our addiction to oil based on the same values, fears and concern that I felt while working on my other books. In those books, I spotlighted a terrible past hoping for a precious future. Now I am chronicling a precious past and trying to avoid a terrible future. Oil today is the feedstock of radical Islam’s war against the west. We are financing it and doing so on a per-mile program.
What’s more, Iran is using this money to accelerate its nuclear program which is aimed at destroying Israel. Indeed, Iran wants to achieve in 12 minutes with nuclear missiles what Hitler could not achieve in 12 years with tanks, trucks and gas chambers. If I was concerned about the first Holocaust, why would I not be concerned about a threatened second Holocaust? And remember in Hitler’s war against humanity, the Jews were the first victims but not the last. It will be the same if radical Islam triumphs—Israel will be the first victim but they will try to finish the job in Europe and North America.
So is The Plan is about energy independence?
Not at all. I’ve given up on energy independence as a near-term goal. Disingenuous politicians, rapacious corporations, paralyzed government and a sleepwalking media will keep our world addicted to oil as long as possible, trumpeting the tiny incremental store-front progress that means little in the bigger picture. The Plan is about nothing as distant as energy independence, the ravages of global warming, or doing the right fuzzy wuzzy thing environmentally. The Plan deals with a "clear and present danger" that exists right this very moment… one that could paralyze western society in the coming days, months or years. The Plan is about an oil crisis caused by an interruption of our oil supply. America is not prepared for it. Our allies are. And we are not even discussing it. The Republicans are not. The Democrats are not. The Governors are not. The White House is not.
What could cause such an interruption?
Although many fear a protracted interruption could arise from a hurricane, such as Katrina or Ike, that can be fixed. True, it will cause discomfort for several weeks in certain parts of the country as we saw when Ike severely pinched gasoline deliveries to parts of Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee because the Gulf-based refineries went down. But, as I say, that will be temporary and fixable. Many worry about an isolated RPG or bomb blast at a pipeline in the Sudan, Nigeria or Mexico. That sort of attack would merely represent isolated, pin-prick terrorism. That too can be fixed. The system can absorb the shortage briefly until the repairs are completed.
The real danger is what I call the Apocalyptic Triangle—three locations:
1) the eastern desert oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia, Abqaiq, where most of Saudi Arabia’s oil is processed and desulphurized for transshipment;
2) Ras Tanura, the gigantic oil terminal on the Persian Gulf where most Saudi oil is loaded onto tankers;
3) and most importantly the strategic choke point at the Strait of Hormuz. True the Strait of Hormuz is 20 miles wide in some sections but the critical navigable channels that tankers must traverse are only 2 miles wide in each direction. These twin two-mile wide sea lanes are profoundly vulnerable as they pass beneath the tight canyons and unseen caves, military installations and mountain entrenchments manned by the Iranian military, the Revolutionary Guards, and al-Qaeda. In fact, just days ago, Iran announced that it was opening another naval station at Jask at the mouth of the Strait to create an "impenetrable wall" in the event of a conflict over its nuclear ambitions. Remember, they may not be in mere retaliatory mode, they could pre-emptive close the Strait if they feel threatened and they have promised to do so every day for many months.
How could we defend ourselves against the interruption?
Not going to happen. No allied combined army, naval or air defense force can guard against the French-made Exocets, the Chinese-made Silkworms, crude home-made long-range terrorist rockets, or the hijacked American-made Boeing 747s that could be flown into these positions from anywhere in the region. Most importantly, if hijacked 747s or other jumbos —commercial, chartered or private—were dive-bombed into these facilities, or if an air-sea-land bombardment occurred, there is every reason to believe these forces would do what every military commander has done throughout the world wars of the 20th century, hit them again and again as soon as they are repaired or until surrender.
In the 1980s, Iranians rushed to the front carrying their own coffins during the Iran-Iraq War. Understand that air attacks and naval attacks can be launched from mobile launchers deep in Iran or the Saudi Arabian desert or by using the favorite Iranian tactic of swarming with scores of very small high-speed attack boats. You can stop some, you can stop many. You will never stop them all.
What could we do if such an interruption occurred?
The effects would be immediate both in the spike in oil prices and the sheer availability. Our allies have contingency plans; the United States does not. America would immediately have to deploy a set of restrictive measures to ground automobiles, especially passenger cars scoring 15 mpg or less, until they can be retrofitted to alternative fuels. These would include such vehicles as the GM Escalade and the Honda Pilot. Unlike many in the get-off-of-oil field, I believe in an oil democracy.
In a crisis—and we are in one now, even though the knife has not yet penetrated the skin of our throats—we should switch to the best alternatives at hand: methanol, sugar and cellulosic ethanols, North American compressed natural gas (CNG), second-generation biofuels, electric, hydrogen. The downfall for effective fuel switching would be to engage in a silly debate crowning a new fuel king. In some locales such as Utah, Spokane and central Texas, CNG is perfect as it is abundant and instantly available. In other areas, such as the East Coast, methanol and various forms of ethanol, such as Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, are immediately available.
In other areas such as the West Coast, it may be a proliferation of electric. Obviously, our nation must immediately—today—mandate an Open Fuel Standard—wherein vehicles are not dumped onto our streets by Honda, GM and Ford—unless they can accommodate a variety of fuels. That would cost each manufacturer about $100 per vehicle and would immediately roll out millions of alt fuel cars.
Fuel switching is just one part of the rescue plan. We will need to switch to free or profoundly cheap forms of mass transit, point-to-point transit, and alternative transit such as mustering points, in order to survive the crisis. Many of the specifics are outlined in my book, The Plan, all based upon the international protocols, our own history of crisis management for other fuel or water shortages, and common sense.
What type of disruption would society experience and for how long?
People would not be able to get to work. Employers could not function. Supplies would not be delivered. Store shelves would become empty. Food shortages would emerge. Hijackings for gas tanks instead of car stereos would become commonplace. Rooftop ethanol stills would pop up everywhere, with stockaded storage facilities in many neighborhoods and many other aspects of the tawdry "Mad Max" variety. Ultimately, there would another and even more ghastly petrowar to regain oil supplies from the Middle East—that is unthinkable. Another way of saying this is: imagine a Katrina in every city and an entire world ablaze in a global fuel war stretching from Afghanistan to the Suez Canal, from Russia to the Pacific Ocean and throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.
Who are the good guys and the bad guys in this scenario?
Immediately we think of the bad guys as Saudi Arabia, Iran and the other members of OPEC. But, they are just being clever and manipulative, reversing the behavior of Western oil imperialism. The real bad guys are well ensconced in office suites in Detroit and Torrance, California. I’m referring to the carmakers that have consciously created and forced upon the American public gas guzzlers, deliberately subverting and suppressing the alternatives. They have been doing this for a generation—since the Arab Oil Embargo, knowing they were making every American transfer our national treasury and political independence to the Middle East, and finance the terrorist actions against us—this on a mile-per-mile basis. Historically, we got into this mess because of the rapacious, oil-addicting conduct of such bad corporate citizens as General Motors. But right now, with past transgressions well established and documented, we need to focus on the future.
An emerging automotive bad guy today is a company that I personally believe is one of the most enlightened. Unfortunately, it is my favorite, Honda, which is suppressing its CNG automobile, known as the Civic GX along with its home fueling device known as the Phill, and its Honda hydrogen Clarity along with its home refueling unit called the Home Energy Center. This esteemed company—whose cars I have loyally driven for a lifetime—continues to deceive the public with claims that its alt fuel vehicles cannot be produced in numbers greater than a few dozen at a time because there is no community fueling infrastructure—while at the same time refusing to sell the very home and office refueling devices it controls through Fuelmaker that would free the cars from any community-wide infrastructure.
Honda will also claim there is "no demand" for the cars while sending memos out a year in advance to its dealers explaining the shortage the company is consciously creating now to occur in mid 2009. For example, despite scores of calls, letters and e-mails, Honda refuses to sell even one Honda Civic GX vehicle to anyone in Spokane. For a year, Spokane Community College tried to build a fleet of Honda Civic GX vehicles and then train an army of auto mechanics to service it. The goal was to eventually create an oil-free corridor from Seattle to Denver.
Honda will not cooperate, will not sell Spokane even one car, and company officials even mock and trivialize the Spokane market in derisive remarks in automotive chat rooms. Much of this is covered extensively in The Plan with the latest post-publication Honda stonewalling and market refusals covered in www.thecuttingedgenews.com, www.autochannel.com, and www.energypublisher.com. You may ask why would Honda suppress its alt fuel cars? Because it is suffering a multimillion dollar loss as customer flee gas guzzling SUVs and crossovers such as the Honda Pilot and Honda Ridgeline.
Toyota and others are experiencing the same dynamic. If everyone could buy a Prius or a Honda Civic GX, those companies would never sell their gas guzzlers whether they are the Honda Pilot or the Toyota Sequoia—both terrible vehicles for Americans concerned about their national freedom and global warming. It is unconscionable for these companies to flood the market with these vehicles.
Ironically, the worst auto company in American history is leading the way to a rescue. GM is producing the Volt as an extended range plug-in electric—mass producing not micro-producing. Moreover, the company is rolling out a hydrogen car. The company has provided me with a test version of its hydrogen Equinox which I will be driving throughout the Los Angeles area during my book tour.
What’s more, the company—if they can be believed—will be electrifying and flex-fueling its entire fleet. That puts the white companies like Honda to shame and makes us rethink our whole idea of good guys and bad guys. Henceforth, every car buyer should assign a mental if not actual national security rating to the car. Does a vehicle help or hurt the transfer of American wealth and independence to the Middle East, help or hurt those who finance terrorism?
Is there a political dimension, Democrats, Republicans?
The stupidity, corruption and inaction crosses all party lines in all dimensions, in 3-D. Democrats do not have a plan, including Obama. The Republicans do not have a plan, including McCain. The government does not have a plan, including Bush. The governors do not have a plan, from Governor Schwarzenegger to Governor Crist. All their ideas are just misinformed lip service. Nothing will happen until the knife pierces the skin.
You make videos for all of your books now—you call them "trailers." What is that about?
I’m trying to slowly pull myself into the 21st century. I love movie making and I’ve been blessed with the volunteer assistance of several very talented filmmakers who can meld the dramatic events and implications written on my pages with the visual and cinematic imperatives of a movie trailer. I write and produce the videos. In fact, I invented this technique with Internal Combustion, which has a three-minute video at www.internalcombustionbook.com. Nova University printed and distributed the video by the thousands. I repeated it with The Plan at www.planforoilcrisis.com, but with more audio and effects, making a four-minute-plus video. Count on me to produce a video for all of my forthcoming books. The reason you don’t see more these is because the production requirements and economic dynamics are so daunting.
Do you think you will have an impact? Will anyone listen?
I will fail. Mainly I will fail because the media, on many levels, is now a national disaster. Even CNN has added a Comedy Channel-style show to mock its own so-called news. Virtually nothing in the mainstream media is preparing America correctly for this crisis nor are they covering it with the same zeal and journalistic skill as they do the trivialities of vice presidential wardrobes, oval office sex, Paris Hilton inanities, and plumber celebrities. Everything the mainstream media has failed to do preparing our country for an economic disaster, it is likewise failing to do to prepare our country for a fuel interruption disaster.
Surely you do not count the Jewish media in that group. You have long been active in the Jewish media.
I want to make a point here. Among the most culpable are the publications of the Jewish media. That is, the local-national newspapers published for the Jewish community. Same goes for many leading national Jewish organizations. They are all so concerned about the publication of Holocaust denial and the preparation for Iran’s assault against Israel, but give no thought to how these significant matters are being financed. How are they being financed? Well, I am personally financing it every time I drive my car. You are too. We are all personally financing it every time we turn on the ignition switch.
Hitler waged a war against all humanity and the Jews were merely his first victims. Now, fanatical Islam, created, enabled and empowered by petrodollars, is seeking to wage its own war against Western civilization. Once again, the Jews, especially Israel, will be the first victims but not the last victims. Yet the Jewish media is asleep at the switch and will not cover this issue.
They will not cover it unless we can find a rabbi or a Jewish auto dealer or a Jewish ethanol farmer, or some other completely superficial Jewish angle as a peg. In speaking to my editors, I call it the JPEG. These editors are not looking at the big picture. The Jewish media is doing this despite the minute-to-minute involvement of their own readers, the Jewish community at large, leading Jewish benefactors, Jewish grass-roots organizations, synagogues, and federations from San Francisco to New Jersey.
Even national Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, which have task forces in dozens of cities working on this energetically are way ahead of the Jewish media. The sad part of this story is that the Jewish media has so profoundly missed the boat on this issue and they are so deficient in journalistic background in the oil crisis, they couldn’t even ask the right questions if they started tomorrow. So, if you do see a headline in your local Jewish publication, it will probably be this one: "Strait of Hormuz Blocked—Local Bar Mitzvahs Cancelled."
What is your next project?
My next book, which I will start writing as soon as I finish this interview, is Nazi Nexus, which assembles all the American corporate villains involved in the Holocaust in one volume: IBM, Carnegie Institution, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, The Rockefeller Foundation. The one after that is my next mega-book, one I’ve put off for too long while I have diverted to the oil threat. It will take all the technologic and scientific genocidal and eugenic programs revealed in IBM and the Holocaust and War Against the Weak and roll them into one all-encompassing global threat— a distant, but fast-approaching, tsunami but one which will endanger the freedoms of virtually everyone in the world. The book is code-named "Project R." Call me at the end of 2010 and I will tell you about it.
Edwin Black, thank you for joining us.
Thank you for having me again and for getting the plea to get off of oil a front page issue.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor and author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002). A version of this interview appeared originally at the Frontpage Magazine, www.frontpagemag.com.