The heat is on


The heat in our article is actually the mundane one, required in the temperate zone and ignored as having too much in places like Saipan, at least two months in a year. Ninety-nine candidates vie for positions in tomorrow’s CNMI elections. That’s a heat of a different color! We’ll deal with that tomorrow!

It was the mountain of coal by the heater plant across the Friendship Villa at SAU that I remember as it sent plumes of white steam into the sky. I wondered when my lungs were going to catch the asthma that threatened inhalers of its particulates. My Iranian friend hightailed it to Anshan closer to the gulf of Bohai, though given the severity of the air pollution in the region the air current from the gulf that clears the sky probably does not make that much difference.

The first of November marks the day the switch is turned on at the plant that sends the heated water through our tenement radiators. I understand that the water is tepid by the time it gets to tenement homes. Unlike the regular water supply, this one is not metered, so it is $500 flat for four months, possibly cheap by Poughkeepsie’s rates but hard on this pocket in China’s northeast!

Let me first get to the heat from fossil fuel. Petroleum is as old as bonfire but as an active player in contemporary politics, economics and culture, the industry has its roots only recently in the 20th century, and largely with the invention of the internal combustion engine. One cannot understand the rise of the British Empire without that engine and knowing how its industry proceeded, then handing the baton of empire building to the United States after WWII left the UK emaciated.

Historians will remember that an Anglo-American covert operation went after duly elected PM Mohammed Mosaddegh of Iran after he nationalized the petroleum industry in 1951. We got rid of the popular PM in a coup d’état in 1953, and then returned Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power. 

Western companies gobbled Iran’s oil following Mosaddegh’s nationalization. They were the seven sisters then, now the four supermajors: (U.S.) ExxonMobil that absorbed Esso; Royal Dutch Shell (Neth/UK); Chevron (U.S.) that acquired SoCal and Texaco; and BP (UK) that now owns Gulf but lets it operate in the U.S. on that brand.

Enrico Mattel of the Italian oil company Eni called the consortium in Iran the “seven sisters” that controlled Middle East oil production after WWII, later fingered as a shadowy oil cartel accused of trying to eliminate competition, to control the world’s oil resource. 

That was until the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries became a power bloc. Founded in 1960, it consists of Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Kuwait, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Then the imams of Iran decided to take care of the shah who was awash with cash but drowned Iran in high inflation.

In 2013, the Financial Times identified the new “seven sisters”: Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia), CNPC (China), Gazprom (Russia), National Iranian Oil Co., Petrobras (Brazil), PDVSA (Venezuela), and Petronas (Malaysia). Guess why I think this is significant? Both Venezuela and Malaysia had just been voted to be members of the UN Security Council. 

They who provide the means to the world’s production of fossil fuel set the world on fire! Venezuela might vote with Russia and China in the Security Council but Malay-in-Asia will surely toe the line of its colonial master. Of no consequence, really, since the only heat the UN Security Council seems to generate these days is to aggravate the Israel-Palestinian mutual genocide, stoke fires to distract Ukraine’s cold winter, and bless the new drumbeats from Japan, the Israel of Asia!

Heat in this year’s federal election is lukewarm. Sending back Kilili is a no-brainer, no offense to Andrew. Of the voting members of the U.S. Congress, the Senate might turn GOP if McConnell lassos six more senators. Louisiana’s senator might even lose for suggesting that the South is not receptive to an Afro-Am! Between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, the action in the upper chamber feels like a petty quarrel at an elder’s home anyway!

John Boehner is still trying to impeach Obama. All 435 seats in Congress are up for grabs. The GOP is predicted to maintain its edge. Obama will spend his last two years in office dodging GOP’s slings and arrows. Gridlock will continue. Executive Obama will be vilified as King! There are no surprise miracles in this election.

I welcome the Russia-China agreement on piping gas from the Far East to Manchuria. That will delay Russia’s collapse; might even give it time to modernize its economy and save itself as too dependent on rich resources. That cuts down on coal emissions in China. I support the derricks in China Sea in the meantime but wind and hydro turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles, are China’s future, and the world’s, too. That’s the heat I am on! How ’bout you?

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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