The first purposely-drilled oil well in the United States struck oil on 8/27/1859 near Titusville, Pennsylvania, with the goal of distilling the bubbly black goo that emerges from the ground to produce kerosene for lamps and other useful household products.
As I’m sure we’re all aware, this one event, which immediately attracted investors looking to profit from all phases of oil and (related) natural gas production, was the onset of a long tortured saga in which fossil fuel behemoths (there’s nothing human-sized or subtle about these industries) have basically called the shots in the global economy, and in the process have determined a lot about how the nations of the world are governed.
Astrologically, we’re on Neptune-Pluto’s turf here—not a comfortable realm for those who believe the People should wield more power over their own destinies. It’s more like a realm of dis-empowerment for the masses, in fact, because trying to overcome the forces of misinformation and obfuscation (Neptune) when they are arrayed in the service of chthonic ruthlessness (Pluto) can be daunting indeed, as we’re learning in the course of Election 2020. The average citizen has little to no idea what actually transpires in the fossil fuel industries—those who see conspiracies-to-rule-the-world everywhere they look should look there. Unfortunately, under Trump and his regulations-busting regime, fossil fuel behemoths have been recast as job-providing saviors who should be allowed to ravage our environment and poison, drown and/or burn out future generations with impunity. Maximum wealth and clout, minimum accountability.
We have a culturally-engrained model for this challenge in the story of David and Goliath, of course—a familiar “underdog” story that pit a small man with brains, courage and quick wits (David) against a gigantic man armed with vicious brawn (Goliath), but perhaps we forget that their famously uneven stand-off was about proving which of the men was fit to be King over all Israelites. Thankfully, King David won out, but that was then; this is now, when dollars and corporate influence seem to speak louder every day, and we have a leader who’s determined to leverage every bit of it.
Trump came to the presidency near the tail end of Pluto’s rapacious resource extraction “party,” but he’s embraced its objectives from day one by shifting U.S. alliances away from our traditional post-WWII ties, and towards oil-producing nations like Saudi Arabia and Russia. The fact that major oil-producing nations often have authoritarian leaders is far from an issue for Trump: the fewer democratic restraints to deal with, the better.
Which reminds me of a loaded comment I caught this past week: that “Trump is not interested in remaining president; what he’s really interested in is remaining in Power.” The first desire requires him to answer to or take care of the People, at least enough to put on appearances; the second means he’s home free for a long-term, authoritarian engagement, as long as he can continue manipulating the levers of power and surrounding himself with sycophants—a task for which powerful, well-heeled friends in high places (especially oil-rich nations the U.S. has armed to the teeth) come in very handy.
|Why pump it out of the earth if there's no need? |
Writing for Sierra, published by the environment-driven Sierra Club, Antonia Juhasz mapped out in a recent article what she calls “The End of Oil,” observing that, “the global oil industry is in a tailspin. Demand has cratered, prices have collapsed, and profits are shrinking. The oil majors [behemoths] are taking billions of dollars in losses while cutting tens of thousands of jobs…It is clear that the oil industry will not recover from COVID-19 and return to its former self. What form it ultimately takes, or whether it will even survive, is now very much an open question.”
Juhasz justifies this view by pointing to the “tanker invasion” that has “turned the oceans into aquatic parking lots—floating storage facilities holding, at the highest levels in early May, 2020, some 390 million barrels of crude oil and refined products like gasoline.”
In other words, there’s a global oil glut that signals trouble for the industry ahead because it’s only one of several crises Big Oil has been facing. Smaller players are bailing out or shifting gears in new directions; bankruptcies abound; investors have been fleeing. Some of this can be attributed to COVID-19 and the stresses it has placed on economies, but there was a global trend away from dependence upon fossil fuels long before COVID hit, and it’s not likely that this will change post-COVID.
That raises the question about why companies continue pumping millions of gallons of crude oil out of the earth on a daily basis, only to stockpile it on some floating barge. Aside from how this flies in the face of common wisdom that we should take from Nature what we need and no more, what is the point of producing a glut that only drives prices down? For all the damage oil-and-gas drilling produces to people and to the earth, why not just let it stay in the Earth until it is needed? Apparently, there are a number of reasons for this, including a fear that future restraints will be placed on oil production for environmental reasons. So, perhaps what we’re seeing is a literal expression of Pluto in earth-sign Capricorn: Death to Earth? Quick, vampire industries, suck the Earth dry while you can!
|An apocalyptic scene from Oregon this past week.|
Climate change is only real if your house is burning
So California and the Pacific West are burning, with residents fleeing and gasping for breath; multiple potential hurricanes are swirling off our Gulf coast, and rather than have anything constructive to offer on any of it, Trump basically blames the victims and dismisses the role hydrocarbons-driven climate change has visibly played in creating the conditions for these disasters. “It’ll start getting cooler…just watch” was the best he had to offer when local leaders stressed the need for sane forest management strategies that work with the science going forward. Those concerned about forest fires that burn millions of acres should “rake their leaves,” Trump says.
Scientists know we need a national plan to act urgently and with great, focused commitment, as if our lives depend upon it, because they do. Yet, Trump’s response was to say, “I don’t think scientists know…”
No surprises here, of course—willful ignorance-cum-denialism is a frequently-used weapon in Trump’s arsenal: he’s used it in a very parallel fashion with the pandemic and with any other issue he simply doesn’t want to tackle. Besides, he’s made it clear that shoring up certain players in the fossil fuel industries is key to his political worldview and his plans for remaining globally influential through his “deal”-making. Is it any coincidence that his efforts in the Middle East have centered on pushing Arab nations to make nice with Israel (and his family friend, Netanyahu) and to thus form a coalition that’s united in the region against oil-producing country Iran? To fortify potentially fruitful relationships, there must be a common enemy.
So why would Trump want to focus on climate change mitigation?—It’s not useful to him, so how can it matter? He didn’t take the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords for no reason; he actively opposes its objectives! Denying a problem like climate change exists does not make it so, however—it simply reveals the intentions of the deniers.
Clearly, these “end times” (or not) of Big Oil will have existential implications for American democracy—not to mention the planet—if we don’t begin handling our current Neptune-Pluto dilemma better than we have been. Neptune is currently opposing our Sibly Neptune (Virgo) and squaring Sibly Mars, while Pluto is inching up on Sibly Pluto (Capricorn) for that return. Not only are the nation’s power dynamics shifting, they are shifting in potentially volatile ways.
|Life on earth depends upon the sustainable use of the Commons.|
Pluto’s tour of Capricorn has undoubtedly favored corporate resource extraction interests—especially given its impending return to the U.S. Sibly Pluto position in late Capricorn; over a course of this transit, the drive to privatize the Earth and all its resources has been given free rein, at the expense of Humanity’s claim on the Commons—“the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons can also be understood as natural resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit.”
Fact is, however, times are changing, and the world is going to move on from its fossil fuel addictions (Neptune)—not surprisingly, however, the U.S. will probably encounter more difficulties with this shift than many others will because too much of its geopolitical influence is entangled with Big Oil. My hunch is that we’ll see much more development towards a clean energy world as Pluto finishes out its final few degrees in Capricorn (it enters Aquarius in March, 2023), but progress will be an uphill battle (especially in the U.S.) until Pluto enters Aquarius, when Science- and Technology-based solutions and perspectives might start prevailing over the sheer greed of resource extraction.
It’s anyone’s guess what will be left of the Earth’s critical ecosystems by then, but we know what needs to be done, and we know the task is urgent beyond belief. We also know that (especially if Trump has anything to do with it) the oil-producing nations will fight tooth and nail to keep their markets intact.
Even so, there may be a light at the end of this very long Capricorn tunnel, and we may have the pandemic (Neptune!) to partially thank for it. Juhasz cites more than a decade of serious volatility in the global oil markets that to my astrological viewpoint says a major transition is underway. From Juhasz:
“After reaching a record high of $148 a barrel in 2008, which helped spark the Great Recession, the price of a barrel of oil in November 2019 was just $60. The growth in demand for oil worldwide in 2015 was more than two and a half times greater than in 2019; it plunged precipitously between 2017 and 2019. Despite the contraction in demand, companies kept pumping larger amounts of oil. By 2018, the global oil supply had outstripped demand, causing a glut. The situation was dire enough that the research consulting firm McKinsey & Company warned oil-producing nations in 2019 to begin ‘sufficiently diversifying their economies for a post-[oil] peak demand world.’…Between 2012 and 2017, the oil majors’ profits collapsed. BPs…by 68 percent, Chevron’s by 65 percent, ExxonMobil’s by 56 percent, and Shell’s by 50 percent. In December 2019, Chevron was forced to write off $10 billion in losses.”
Obviously, Trump and the other would-be oil potentates he’s mobilizing in the Middle East would rather find a short term cure for this situation than to overhaul it fundamentally—environmental impact is likely the least of their concerns, only relevant if they are forced to deal with regulatory agencies. Big Oil is like the Emerald City, and Trump and company are like the Great and Powerful Oz and his minions, pulling strings from behind a screen to maintain a glorious fantasy world in which Reality—i.e., the need for green energy—is unwelcome and threatening.
|What was that glowing orb? |
So it would be hard to believe that oil and the power it confers wasn’t a major attraction when Trump made Saudi Arabia the first nation he visited upon taking office in 2017 (remember the “glowing orb?”)—oil looms in the background with everything Saudi-related, so it probably also factored into why Trump has basically ignored Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the brutal killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Besides,Trump has pursued multi-billion dollar arms deals with the Saudis in the midst of all this—one that’s still under investigation by the House Foreign Affairs Committee for its potentially shady origins. From The Washington Post:
“The U.S. State Department inspector general was investigating the Trump administration’s use of an emergency declaration to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia when he was fired, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Monday.
President Donald Trump announced late Friday that he was firing Steve Linick, the inspector general since 2013, which sparked a backlash from Democrats, who suggested Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was responsible for what ‘may be an illegal act of retaliation.’”
The U.S. has always exported arms to allies, of course, sometimes as military aid and sometimes to achieve some strategic goal, such as locating a military base somewhere within that ally’s borders. However, there’s a deeper connection between Oil and Arms than we might expect. The Conversation explores this connection in greater detail than most journalism does, however, and the results are worth consideration:
“To test the idea that energy dependence leads to a higher volume of arms transfers between countries, we assembled a large dataset with information on oil wealth (such as production, reserves and recent discoveries) and oil trade data, to measure energy interdependence and the potential damage of regional instabilities to oil supplies.
We found the existence of a “local oil dependence”, which indicates that the amount of arms imported has a direct relationship with the amount of oil exported to the arms supplier. Speculatively, arms export to a specific country is affected by the degree of dependence on its supply of oil. The larger the amount of oil that country A imports from country B, the larger will be the volume of arms that country A will transfer to country B.
But we did not only find the existence of a direct oil-for-weapons relationship. Our results also reveal the presence of a “global oil dependence”. The more a country depends on oil imports, the higher the incentives are to export weapons to oil-rich economies, even in the absence of a direct bilateral oil-for-weapons exchange. The idea is that by providing weapons, the oil-dependent country seeks to contain the risk of instabilities in an oil-rich country.”
This exploration also focuses on ways in which the ups and downs of the global oil trade directly impacts governments and strategic alliances around the globe—no doubt, a serious drop in oil prices (cited earlier by Juhasz) can be very destabilizing to volatile regions of the world. According to David Ignatius with the Washington Post, it has certainly done as much to Saudi Arabia’s influence in the Middle East, which has basically thrown the power relations of that entire region into the air, with a new crop of “winners” ascending and some surprising “losers” (including Saudi Arabia) falling with a thud. Trump’s attempts at coalition building there are designed, in fact, to pick “winners” and to then strengthen them through trade alliances, etc., against the “losers.” Syria is still a roiling mess; Yemen is still suffering catastrophically; the Palestinians now have even less hope that Israel will deal fairly with them.
Bottom line, helping the people of the region was far from the point of Trump’s “Abraham Accords:” my guess is that Trump views what those accords accomplished as geopolitically beneficial to him. Full stop.
Meanwhile, all of these Neptune-Pluto-fueled entanglements and maneuverings make the shift from oil-dependence to a clean energy economy incredibly complicated—but all the more urgent. The oil industry traces its origins back to the so-called “Pennsylvania Oil Rush,” which started with Edwin L. Drake’s discovery of “rock oil” at a drilling site in Titusville, Pennsylvania in August, 1859.
Let’s see if the “birth” chart for this industry (Outer wheel, Biwheel #1 below) set against a noon chart for its progenitor (Inner wheel, Biwheel #1) can tell us anything.
Industry Neptune (Rx, Pisces) conjoined Drake Saturn-Chiron-Pluto (Pisces) and squared Drake Neptune-Uranus (conjunct in Sagittarius). It’s difficult to imagine a more fated outer-planetary event, especially one involving crude oil—ruled by both Neptune and Pluto. With his natal Pluto in Neptune’s home sign of Pisces and nearly all the outer planets in his chart being transited by a late Pisces Neptune Rx, we might say that Drake was motivated by forces much larger than himself. By the time Drake employed his innovative and ultimately successful techniques for drilling through bedrock to reach and release crude oil, the presence of the substance in Pennsylvania had already been established—it just hadn’t been exploited in any marketable way.
And, lest we forget the raw material power endowed on those with control over oil supplies, Industry Pluto (Rx, Taurus) squared Drake’s Jupiter (Aquarius). Drake mustered the technology innovations needed for the job—technology that’s still in basic use today—and he applied it in ways that extracted great wealth from the earth (Pluto in Taurus). Unfortunately, however, the wealth didn’t end up in his pockets. According to Wikipedia:
“Drake set up a stock company to extract and market the oil. But, while his pioneering work led to the growth of an oil industry that made many people fabulously rich, for Drake riches proved elusive. Drake did not possess good business acumen. He failed to patent his drilling invention, and proceeded to lose all of his savings in oil speculation in 1863. He was to end up as an impoverished old man, and in 1872 Pennsylvania voted an annuity of $1,500 to the ‘crazy man’ whose determination founded the oil industry.”
This unfortunate, but not unusual situation of well-heeled, ruthless individuals capitalizing on the innovative efforts of the worker bees among us (with little consideration for who should get credit), seems reflected here in Industry Chiron-No. Node (Rx, Aquarius) conjoined Drake Venus (Aquarius)—all of this compounded by Drake Pluto-conjunct Chiron (Pisces).
Interestingly, 1859 was the year the term “robber baron” was coined in a New York Times article:
“…to characterize the business practices of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Historian T.J. Stiles says the metaphor "conjures up visions of titanic monopolists who crushed competitors, rigged markets, and the corrupted government. In their greed and power, legend has it, they held sway over a helpless democracy."
J.D. Rockefeller, the founder of the oil refining and distributing giant Standard Oil Company (deemed an illegal monopoly by the Supreme Court and broken apart in 1911) was, of course, one such robber baron—he’s still considered the wealthiest man ever. Many of those who rose to such levels during Pluto’s tour of Taurus were known to be ruthless—overall, their heyday brought us the post-Civil War “Gilded Age” in which staggering levels of wealth inequality ruled the day. They also inspired decades of labor unrest—a story for another day.
It’s worth quick consideration that the oil industry, with all its ramifications for geopolitical power over the years, was “born” during the lead-up to the U.S. Civil War, with Neptune (Rx, Pisces) transiting opposite Sibly Neptune (Virgo, chart not shown)—as it is now—and with Uranus (Gemini) returning to Sibly Uranus (Gemini). And not to be left out, Industry Pluto (Rx, Taurus) echos Uranus’s current position in Taurus. It’s no wonder the industry is dealing with a difficult transition these days. These correlations also point to how deeply enmeshed the fossil fuel industries have become in American power relations both domestically and abroad. These power relations have become only more deeply enmeshed with every war we’ve fought since Drake’s discovery.
Which leads us back to a final key dimension of the oil industry that we forget at our peril.
The arms trade is routinely used to insure access to oil.
Oil and Arms
We noted earlier that Trump has pushed through more than one big arms deal with the Saudis (one still being investigated); it makes sense that by doing so he is basically guaranteeing that any volatility in the Middle East (which is probably inevitable as oil prices continue to be unstable) will be handled with force, or at least the threat of force—and that he might have some say in the matter. It’s hard to know what the Saudis want $8 billion dollars worth of arms for, but the lack of transparency surrounding these arms sales is troubling, especially since the current Saudi leader (Mohammed bin Salman) is a known ruthless leader whose actions have been alternatively progressive (some loosening of rules regarding women) and genocidal. From Wikipedia:
“Despite praise for his strides towards the social and economic liberalisation of Saudi Arabia, international commentators and human rights groups have been openly critical of bin Salman's leadership and the shortfalls of his reform program, citing a rising number of detentions and alleged torture of human rights activists, his bombing of Yemen in which war-induced famine could cause 13 million civilians to starve, the escalation of the Qatar diplomatic crisis, the start of the Lebanon–Saudi Arabia dispute, the start of a diplomatic spat with Canada, the arrest of members of the Saudi royal family in November 2017, a crackdown on feminists, and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. He has been described by observers as an autocratic leader, with no tolerance for dissent against him or the Saudi royal family. “
Bottom line, bin Salman may not be the guy we’d like to empower any further, but he’s good buddies with Trump and so, such sales have happened because Trump has gone around Congress (which should have a say here) to make them happen. So, in a world in which we need all nations to employ sane, measured policy approaches as they shift away from oil to clean energy alternatives, we have a build-up of force in the hands of questionable leaders in strategic places that may only prolong the problem Big Oil represents to global stability. Trump doesn’t stick his neck out to build alliances without some self-serving reason: do we need to wonder what a bin Salman could do with those arms if Trump called in a favor?
Ice-free shipping in the Arctic is a goal for Putin.
In fact, the Middle East may be on the wane when it comes to the world’s oil supplies, but that certainly isn’t stopping those who want to pump every last drop out of the earth. Both Putin and Trump think the Arctic is the next big “coup” in terms of new reserves, and more geopolitical power. Foreign Policy summarizes Putin’s arctic ambitions well:
“Rapid climate change and the fallout from Moscow’s annexation of Crimea have made the Russian Arctic’s vast oil, gas, and mineral deposits an increasingly attractive development play for Moscow. President Vladimir Putin’s government is also looking to transform the country’s Arctic coastal waters into a serious commercial shipping lane—one capable of handling not only more domestic traffic but cargo vessels transiting from Asia to Europe as well. With its economy in shambles and international reputation in doubt, Russia today sees the Arctic’s potential as a rare glimmer of hope.
Russia’s evolving relationship with the High North is exemplified by two ambitious projects—the construction of the Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility and the propagation of large-scale shipping along the Northern Sea Route. If successful, these initiatives will bring in badly needed revenue and cement Moscow’s reputation as the preeminent Arctic power. Most important, they will also serve to connect Russia’s economy more closely to the Asia-Pacific region, emphasizing Putin’s much-vaunted Asian pivot.”
It’s possible that Trump sees an opportunity to jump on Putin’s Arctic bandwagon for a cut in that “deal,” as well. After years of fierce resistance from environmental groups (there is a lot at stake in keeping the Arctic off limits), Trump has just released a plan for opening the the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling—so is it any wonder neither he nor Putin are willing to admit the human causes of climate change? A warming planet (the higher the better) is helpful to their arctic plans, especially to Putin’s dream of an ice-free shipping route through the Arctic to points in Asia.
So, before they collude to bring on the end of the natural world as we know it…
Finally, since we’ve focused intently on the Neptune-Pluto challenges of our world's addiction to oil, we might as well shift gears for one moment to consider the Neptune-Pluto dimension of the other very present threat to life on this planet, the COVID pandemic. As shocking and amoral as it sounds, Trump has tried to shift the national COVID conversation to a new goal of “herd immunity.” I can’t think of a colder, more impersonal, collective Neptune-Pluto perspective on what is of course, extremely personal for those who are closely impacted by COVID. Only those who believe they are above the fray and “untouchable” would promote such a perspective—yes, Trump speaks at mass gatherings these days, but he’s risking everyone else’s lives with his narcissistic need for an audience and for reassurance of his own “greatness”—he’s not risking his own life.
Speaking in terms of “herd immunity” is to adopt the perspective of Actuarial Science, a branch of Statistics that reduces human beings and demographic differences to mere numbers on a page, assigns "insurance values" to their lives in times of disaster, etc. It’s a perspective that comes natural to those who can escape to their ivory towers and hold everyone else responsible for their needs and their safety.
It’s the perspective, finally, of those for whom empathy (Neptune’s higher angel) is a meaningless concept. In a recent PBS New Hour interview, journalist Bob Woodward cited a discussion he had with Trump regarding the need to “walk in the shoes of others,” (especially of Black Americans who are suffering multiple challenges at the moment).
True to form, Trump answered, “I’d rather walk in my own shoes.”
So if that's how it is, may he walk those shoes right out of the White House so we can get back to the true business of a nation—taking care of each other.
Be well, be safe!
Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years; see the Publications tab on the home page for her two most recent publications, now available as e-books on Amazon.
For information about individual chart readings, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Raye Robertson 2020. All rights reserved.
on the order of a major war plan.
We all know that
“The President has fixed priorities: For instance, promoting big oil companies. Accepting that climate change is real would require him to take some steps to address it. Since he is loath to do so, the President finds that ignoring the problem -- and using his propagandistic Twitter feed, which is a gusher of misinformation and falsehoods -- suits him better….Rejecting the advice of highly educated scientists and expert government bureaucrats also sits well with the President's political image as an outsider and scourge of elite political, academic and scientific establishments. It helps to solidify his bond with supporters, who prize that image and may themselves share Trump's reluctance to accept changes to traditional lifestyles -- which a national effort to combat global warming, for instance, might entail….Now, Trump's indoor campaign events, like a crammed rally in Nevada on Sunday, are a huge act of defiance against the scientific community and the counsel of experts -- another political play….Caputo, who confirmed to CNN the statements made during a live video hosted on his personal Facebook page, accused career government scientists of "sedition" in their response to the coronavirus. He also claimed without evidence in the video that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts had become "political animals" and given up science. A federal health official told CNN on Saturday that Caputo's communications team pushed to change the language of weekly science reports released by the CDC in a story first reported by Politico…Trump’s twisted definition of the American Dream is White flight from urban poverty and decay.”
First purposely drilled oil well
“When we write off corporations as inherently corrupt, we accept the cost, too.”
Solnit, Rebecca. Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) (p. 52). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.