Wednesday, February 16, 2005

War News for Wednesday, February 16, 2005 Part Four of Six – Random Bits

Robowar: Sharply increased military demand for robotic aircraft has spurred San Diego's General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to significantly expand its ability to make the Predator unmanned plane.

The company is obligated to build seven Predators this year under its current Pentagon contract, said Thomas Cassidy, Aeronautical Systems' president and chief executive.

But in recent weeks, the Air Force has sought a $161 million supplement for Predators. That would increase production by 15, to a total of 22, Cassidy said.

"If you look at the intelligence demands that are coming out of the Middle East alone, that's reason enough," said Nick Cook, aviation consultant for the British trade journal Jane's Defence Weekly.

Cook also noted that the Iranians have reported unmanned reconnaissance aircraft flying over their nuclear site at Bushehr, although the type of aircraft has not been identified.

"Predators aren't especially stealthy," Cook added, "so they'll get shot down. I expect the demands for intelligence, coupled with attrition is driving the issue."

How many didn’t turn theirs in?: A Marine who brought home souvenirs from Iraq has turned them over to authorities after learning they were looted from an archaeological site.

The Marine paid a vendor a few hundred dollars for eight cylindrical stone seals and when he returned home he had them examined by a university archaeologist, said authorities who did not identify the serviceman.

The seals, about 5,000 years old, had been looted from an archaeological site near Babylon and are valued at $2,000 to $5,000 each. Such seals were used as signature stamps on clay tablets.

Some Predictions – Not That These Have Anything To Do With Iraq, Mind You

A possibly slightly bigger problem: Pakistan will be a “failed” state by 2015 as it would be affected by civil war, complete Talibanisation and struggle for control of its nuclear weapons, premier US intelligence agencies have said in an assessment report. Forecasting a “Yugoslavia-like fate” for Pakistan, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a jointly prepared Global Futures Assessment Report have said “by year 2015 Pakistan would be a failed state, ripe with civil war, bloodshed, inter-provincial rivalries and a struggle for control of its nuclear weapons and complete Talibanisation.”

A possibly slightly really whole lot bigger problem: We won't ever run completely out of oil. Government and industry estimates of oil reserves locate the peak decades into the future. There is lots of time for market mechanisms to stretch efficiency and develop alternative energy sources. There are still ample supplies of non-conventional oil and, of course, ample supplies of coal. But we are running out of cheap, easy to reach oil. And estimates of recoverable reserves would seem to be universally exaggerated. Plus, demand for oil - from developing economies such as China and India with huge expansion potential as well as from existing post-industrial economies - is increasing dramatically. At the same time discovery of new major oil fields has dwindled with the peak of global oil discoveries passed forty years ago. Every year, the world consumes four times as much oil as it discovers. There is huge potential in improving energy efficiency, but we are moving in the opposite direction of increasing expenditure of energy in enduses of only very marginal utility: SUVs and trucks instead of more fuel efficient cars, luxury travel and toys, entertainment industry, sprawling suburbia, etc.. There are limitless sources of non-fossil fuel energy. But after wasted decades of opportunity, development of new, clean, renewable energy technologies still receives only a small fraction of oil industry expenditure, and renewables currently supply less than one percent of global energy production. Informed skeptics insist that it is too late to develop solar, wind, tidal or other alternative forms of energy production to in any way replace oil before we go over the peak oil cliff. In fact, these skeptics rightly insist that it will take increasing energy to make this needed transition, energy from oil that will be in increasingly short supply. .


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