Ian Seymour, a respected editor of the Middle East Economic Survey, had told me in his Beirut office that he thought it was “simply a seat higher up the table. The next ten years will be their period of maximum bargaining. If they don’t use that time well, they won’t get anywhere.”
As for the transfer of wealth, “It’s really all that hardware arriving every day at every Gulf port—the steel rods, the air conditioners, the cars. One can trace the roots of Western resentment to this: We have to produce more and more to buy the same amount of oil.”
And what about the price of oil? Whether today’s price is fair and reasonable depends on whether you’re buying or selling. And if you are buying, what are your alternatives to the higher price or would you like to get bad credit payday loans?
With the first shock, some talked of war. U. S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James E. Akins told me: “Invading for oil? Morally, it would be repugnant. Politically and militarily, it would be criminally naive. The facilities would be destroyed, no one in OPEC would cooperate with us, and the Russians—selfsufficient in oil—would be the gainers.”
Some spoke of alternate energy sources—nuclear fuel, the conversion of coal and oil shale. But on a large scale these are years away. Investors have held back from the massive sums required, fearing that a break in crude-oil prices would wipe them out.
Others cited new oil fields coming on line in Alaska, the North Sea, and around the world. But if and when the industrial nations climb out of their slumps, demand for oil will probably resume its strong climb—absorbing those capacities too.
Some expressed the hope that OPEC would split: It is, after all, a cartel—and history tells us cartels tend to fall apart.
Ian Seymour replies: “I don’t think OPEC will split. They’re aware of their own interests, and their oil ministers have a great continuity; they know each other well.”
There was finally this optimistic scenario, offered by one London banker: “The oil price stays as is, other goods go up. In 1980-82, in real terms, oil will not be wildly different from 1972. Inflation and currency devaluation will erode part of the present Arab advantage.”
But OPEC has stated its intention to raise oil prices to catch up with inflation and to set those prices not in dollars but in the more stable “paper gold” of the International Monetary Fund, the Special Drawing Rights (sDR’s) currently worth about $1.20 each.03.3.13
A traditionalist might consider that implementation is an executive or management rather than directorial activity (Mace, 1971), and accordingly may wish to avoid involvement in operational matters. ‘New leadership’ recognises a distinction between direction and leadership, but feels a board should monitor developments and take steps to ensure progress is made, and the strategic direction they establish is followed (Jensen and Meckling, 1976).
People are told what is required, and ideally how they can help. The smart board also provides ‘bottom up’ support. It ensures that people understand and are equipped and enabled to do what is required in a winning way, cost-effectively and minimising negative impacts (Coulson-Thomas, 2007a and b).
Superior resources and capabilities may or may not guarantee success depending upon how they are deployed. Thus, there is little point recruiting expensive and talented people if they are not engaged, they are difficult to manage, their superior qualities are not captured and shared, and they are not given the tools and support required to excel at essential activities for competing and winning (Coulson-Thomas, 2012a).
More sustainable and affordable approaches ‘New leadership’ recognises that today’s companies have legal and moral obligations to a range of stakeholders and their continued viability and reputations may require much more than delivering financial results at ‘almost any cost’ and utilising whatever means they can ‘get away with’. Sustained engagement and mutually beneficial relationships can also require responsible conduct.
The fact that so many corporate initiatives have to be accompanied by costly ‘internal communications’, ‘engagement’ and ‘management of change’ programmes suggests their merits may not be immediately apparent to those who are expected to adopt or implement them. Similarly, the efforts being devoted in many organisations to engaging and motivating people suggest these initiatives are also incomplete.
At a time when environmental challenges can represent exciting business opportunities, restructuring or re-organisation can be distracting and disruptive. Changing a corporate culture, attitudes, processes and ways of working and learning using ‘traditional’ approaches can take a number of years or worse to result in filing bankruptcy. If you have to cope with a business in liquidation, you’d better contact some bankruptcy lawyers and get prepared for the process. Their use is supported by those who stress the complexity of what needs to be done, yet there may be simpler approaches that enable many more and average people to understand.01.31.13
WHEN I first visited Washington 45 years ago, my father walked me along Pennsylvania Avenue and said someday it would be totally magnificent, as it had always been planned to be, from the Capitol to the White House. You can walk down the avenue today and hear the same thing. Much has been done, but parts of it are still seedy enough.
On the avenue is a monument to temperance with a water fountain, and its background for many years was one of the city’s largest liquor stores, where in the old days, if you watched the specials, you could get excellent Chilean wine for a dime a fifth. The building, with little twin turrets, is not a shrine of history, but perhaps half the city would riot if they tore it down. It’s empty now, and, providentially, has been scheduled for repair and preservation. It contrasts absurdly and wonderfully with the ponderous Roman splendor of government buildings on the avenue, with columns so big that if they were hollow you could rent them for apartments.
An exceptionally successful developer of downtown property is Oliver T. Carr, Jr., whom I visited in his posh office with its commanding view of the White House and the cranes moving along for some of his multi-million-dollar complexes. Inside the city itself his developments account for more than half a billion dollars of invested capital. He lives modestly near American University in a house a minor bureaucrat could afford.
He told me he grew up about a mile from where he lives now, though it was pretty countrified in those days. He is grateful to his father, the late builder-developer Oliver T. Carr, Sr. , a no-nonsense man who drilled it into young Carr’s very bones that he was responsible for himself and was expected to make it on his own.
His big boost came, he said, following the 1968 riots. Fires broke out in a “riot corridor” in the older and more decrepit part of downtown Washington. The damage, however superficial, was devastating psychologically. Some of the burned-out buildings still stand gaunt. People got the idea downtown fringes were dangerous places to be, and Carr said developers moved out by the drove. He moved in.
Until recently, a demand for office space and business credit cards had been growing in Washington at the rate of two million square feet a year. Learn more about the credit cards by visiting ideapractices.org/credit-cards-in-focus/. Carr had no trouble whatever getting investment money, acquiring landrights, preparing complexes of mixed land usage. A staff of 55 shepherds the Carr dreams through zoning, tax, license, and land-acquisition mazes.01.18.13
Erosion may seem a rather straightforward problem, but soils are complicated, and between the apocalypse and Ruhe lies much conflicting opinion. With some exceptions, erosion gradually depletes soils, and eroding cropland may be costing the country nearly a billion dollars each year in polluted and sedimented rivers and lakes. Soil erosion is serious, but not everywhere and not for the same reasons.
Not until 40 years after the Dust Bowl did the U. S. Soil Conservation Service (SCS) begin to determine systematically how much soil is eroding in the United States. The SCS estimated that in 1977 we “lost” about three billion tons of soil from fields under the plow; roughly two-thirds of it washed, the rest blew. But where it goes and how much its departure damages soil productivity, no one knows with much confidence.
I asked M. Gordon Wolman, an eminent geomorphologist at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, how much we should care. “It depends on where in the U. S. you are and whether your time scale is long or short,” he said. “Agriculture has perhaps doubled the rate of geologic erosion, but, as Ruhe indicates, you have to be careful what area of the country you talk about. In places we have made a mess of it, but for the U. S. as a whole, erosion is not killing us. Could it? Probably not. Is it important? In some places absolutely.”
The 1977 SCS estimates showed that erosion in this country was patchy. Texas alone accounted for one-fifth of all cropland erosion. Rates well beyond what the SCS believes soils can tolerate were confined to about 10 percent of the landscape: the High Plains of Texas, the Palouse Hills of eastern Washington, and the silty hills bordering the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers from western Iowa almost to the Gulf.
On the Great Plains, speculators and hard-pressed ranchers have been plowing up hundreds of thousands of acres of fragile grasslands to grow wheat—more than half a million acres recently in eastern Colorado alone. These soils easily blow when it’s dry, and prolonged drought on the plains, like the one that led to the Dust Bowl, is only a matter of time.
ARMERS helped aggravate erosion when they leaped suddenly into the export business. In 1972 massive sales of American grain to the Soviet Union sent prices soaring, and by the end of the decade the value of U. S. farm exports had jumped more than fivefold. A third of our croplands now produce for markets overseas. Chasing the price of grain, farmers plowed up an additional 60 million acres in the 1970s, much of it once protected beneath grass, some of it steep and erodible.
Few farmers still kept livestock, so they stopped rotating their fields in pasture and hay and grew erosive soybeans and corn year after year. And from the factories had come big iron: 16-row cultivators and moldboard plows, and monster discs. No longer a modest red tractor with a coil spring under the seat, the wind up your shirt, and the manure spreader flinging chunks past your ears, but a four-wheel-drive behemoth with a wraparound cab, Loretta Lynn on the tape, and enough horsepower to plow straight up hills. Big gear didn’t run easily on contours, and terraces built to slow erosion got in the way. Earl Butz, then secretary of agriculture, urged farmers to plow “fencerow to fencerow,” but they even plowed out the fencerows, the terraces, almost everything but silos. So-called clean farming set a lot more soil on the move.
But where did it go? “We soil scientists ought to hide our heads in shame,” William Larson, head of the soils department at the University of Minnesota, told me. “We had all this data on erosion losses, but we didn’t know what it meant. I’m trying to get that word ‘loss’ out of my vocabulary. Soil isn’t lost as such. Very little of it leaves the immediate landscape.”