No Easy Answers

March 24, 2014 - 9:00 AM

While waiting for some actual news about that missing airliner, my attention moved back to Ukraine generally, and to the whole sanction thing in particular.

In the modern era when one country - say the United States - decides to use sanctions to bring to bear a change in behavior of another country - say Iran - the sanctions often include freezing any accounts with any connection to the sanctioned nation.

That includes what are known as "sovereign accounts," funds that belong to the nation, and not to any individual, group, or commercial enterprise.

With me so far?

As far as I can tell, the sanctions that have been imposed upon the Russians for wresting Crimea from Ukraine mostly include freezing the assets of about 20 of Putin's closest buddies, and putting them on a sort of "no fly list" as pertains to the EU and the US by warning them no visa would be granted.

In short, they can't be a chaperone for their kids' Easter vacation trip to Washington or Paris and if they did get there their ATM cards wouldn't work.

Vladimir Putin, by the way, is not one of the names listed as being included.

In return, Putin put a travel ban on nine U.S. government offiicals including three U.S. Senators: Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill), John McCain (R-Ariz) and Dan Coats (R-Ind).

Here's what bugs me about that:

I'm not on the list.

I have ridiculed and said bad things about the Russians since they were the Soviets.

Here are some excellent examples:

-- You Stupid Russians. You don't have the brains of one of your caviar plants.

-- I hope you all get drunk, fall down your Steppes, and break your collective crowns.

-- Your mother wears Cossack boots.

-- We should rename Russian roulette "Freedom" roulette; and the Russian Tea Room in New York City the Freedom Tea room.

-- We are revising the words of the Sainted Ronald Reagan to: Trust but vilify.

-- Sarah Palin is planning a TV special during which she spits on you from her front porch.

I want to be on the list! I wonder how they will add people to it. Maybe they'll post the latest list on the front door of the Russian embassy on Nebraska Avenue in a Martin Luther-esque sort of way.

I'll run up there later to see if I've made it.

Conflict Advisory

I have been the chief writer for T. Boone Pickens' Pickens Plan since 2008.

End Conflict Advisory

Continuing on with the Russian business, there are now more experts on the natural gas issue than there are Boeing 777 cockpit qualified commentators on CNN - and that's a lot. A very lot.

Russia is among the big three in natural gas on the planet Earth, along with Qatar and the US of A.

Russia sends a great deal of natural gas to Europe. According to CNN, Russia is "heavily reliant on exports of oil and natural gas, with energy accounting for roughly 70% of annual exports."

In times past, 80 percent of the natural gas that Russia piped to Europe went through Ukraine. Twice before (the latest time in 2009) Russia has used natural gas as a weapon so there are now to additional pipelines to the west and the amount of gas that goes through Ukraine is down to about 50 percent.

Not only that, but Europeans have begun building a system of bypass pipelines so that if there is a natural gas shortage in one country, supplies can be diverted from countries with adequate or surplus supplies without involving Russia at all.

Shipping natural gas from the U.S. in the form of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) may be a great idea to put to good use some of our enormous supplies, but we don't have the infrastructure to do it.

It wasn't until the summer of 2009 that our reserves of natural gas were properly accounted for with the rise of hydro-fracturing and horizontal drilling. No one was rushing to build LNG export facilities because no one thought there was enough LNG to export.

The U.S. might be a big player in worldwide LNG trade, but it won't happen this year or next.

You know what the Europeans could use right now? And would be easy to export? And would decrease their dependence on Russian natural gas?

Coal.

We have a lot of it. We have the facilities to ship it. And the Europeans have the power plants to burn it. But, as you know, coal is not the favored fossil fuel right now.

There are no easy answers; there are only easy questions.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the sanction situation, to a definition of "Steppes," and to a look at the natural gas issue in Europe. Also a really good Mullfoto showing that Spring is here - snow or not.