September 1, 2005
HURRICANE KATRINA: 'HUMAN TRAGEDY' SPIKED WITH 'COLLATERAL DAMAGE'
** Katrina's "deadly legacy" closed refineries, hiked prices and heralds "supply shock."
** Media reflected on nature's "humiliation" of "industrial and technological power."
** "After the storm...it will take [money,] months and years to return to normalcy"
** Critics seized on Katrina's impact to assail the U.S.' environment and climate policy.
'Devastation' in an area producing 'a quarter of U.S. oil intake'-- Media agreed this "huge human tragedy" exacted a "deadly toll" leaving "bodies still to be pulled from the flood." Business and financial analysts penned how oil prices reached "record highs" as Gulf refineries closed, anticipating Katrina's category five assault on Gulf oil rigs. They noted Katrina pushed prices "sky high" with oil futures exceeding $70 a barrel. The Hong Kong Economic Times explained that when "global oil demand exceeds supply" prices rise. Germany's Financial Times Deutschland reminded that a "price shock that is caused by a lack of supply is very dangerous," and added "bottlenecks" and "production interruptions" exacerbate high prices.
Katrina illustrates our inability to fight 'nature’s unleashed ravages'-- Britain's right-of-center tabloid The Sun projected damages of "15 billion pounds" or $20-30 billion resulting from nature's "cruel blow," after earlier saying, "despite all the warnings and preparation, dozens are dead and towns smashed to matchsticks." Austria's Salzburger Nachrichten declared “disasters like Hurricane Katrina show us how helpless we are in the face of natural disasters." Many papers cited the "impotence" of industrial and technological power on a planet holding enough natural energy to "devastate entire regions," and Italy's La Repubblica labeled Katrina in New Orleans a "film of our humiliated modernity."
'Come hell or high water...New Orleans will bounce back'-- France's left-of-center Liberation was among those who believed New Orleans will be a "ghost town for months," but UK papers were more upbeat. The conservative tabloid Daily Mail avowed "this won't be the end of New Orleans. It may cost...but New Orleans will bounce back." Britain's left-of-center Independent stated "extreme situations have a habit of exposing the best and the worst of a country," as the conservative Daily Telegraph saluted the "uniquely vibrant city" with a "mixture of French, Spanish and African culture that has spawned Levantine politics, rampant vice, great music, the Mardi Gras parades, exotic cemeteries and a passionate interest in food."
Katrina may be 'a harbinger of climate change'-- U.S. critics seized on Katrina to say, "this colossus called the U.S." has "feet of clay," after having been out of step with those who support Kyoto on the environment and global warming. Germany's left-of-center Der Spiegel faulted the German Environment Minister's "cool and malicious" statement that the U.S. should "blame itself" for the disaster since he saw a "link between the emission of greenhouse gases and Hurricane Katrina." With scatalogical ire the paper added, "this is bull---t." Norway's independent Dagbladet and newspaper-of-record Aftenposten remained critical but noted, "experts are careful about directly linking this specific hurricane to global warming."
EDITOR: Rupert D. Vaughan
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 50 reports from 15 countries from August 30 - September 1 , 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Katrina's Deadly Toll And Risk Issues For The U.S. Gulf"
An editorial in the independent Financial Times expressed the view (9/1): "Katrina's impact in shutting down Gulf coast refineries also has a severe national knock-on effect in a country that has not built a new refinery for 30 years. The Bush administration has decided to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but this contains crude, not refined products. In addition, moving scarce gasoline around the U.S. is hindered by differing regional fuel standards. Scrutiny of these distortions find the U.S. energy system should form part of the post-Katrina inquest, after whatever can be done to help the hurricane's victims has been done."
"When A First World City Is plunged Into The Third"
Chief leader writer Mary Dejevsky commented in the left-of-center Independent (9/1): "But something else emerged from the news pictures out of New Orleans. Those who had remained in the city were predominantly its black and Hispanic inhabitants--its poor. Extreme situations have a habit of exposing the best and the worst of a country. The aftermath of this hurricane has shown us heroic rescue efforts, a high degree of civic discipline, and the determination of Americans to survive and "start over". But it has also shown--again--the depth of U.S. urban inequality. If the political will likely to be applied to restoring New Orleans were applied to promoting social justice, the new city could be another, and better, place."
"The Big Uneasy"
An editorial in the far-left Guardian stated (9/1): "The poor blacks and poor whites who suffered most this week are likely to have the hardest task rebuilding their lives, not least because they are the most likely to be uninsured. Increasingly too, these regions depend on tourism, but tourists could stay away for many months until the reconstruction - a term with unhappy resonance in those parts - kicks in. This disaster may be only the start of grim times. Corruption is commonplace in the affected states. And, just when the victims most need the support of the federal government, they find themselves dependent on one that is least inclined to accept its responsibilities."
"An Ill Wind Brings Anarchy"
An editorial in the right-of-center tabloid Daily Express (9/1): "The pictures of New Orleans are frightening, not just because of the devastation the hurricane has wreaked but because, within a space of barely 24 hours, the city has been reduced to anarchy. We think we are civilized but the reality lies just beneath the surface. As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes put it: "And the life of man--solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short"."
"Come Hell Or High Water, The Music WILL Go On"
A commentary by leader writer Ray Connolly in the conservative mid-market tabloid Daily Mail (9/1): "It's too early to say whether there will be a Mardi Gras celebration next February, but it seems extremely unlikely. And what is there to celebrate when there are still bodies to be pulled from the floods? But this won't be the end of New Orleans. It may cost £15.00 billion in insurance money, but New Orleans will bounce back. The vast basin she sits in will be drained, the levees along the Mississippi built ever higher, the music will play again and the people will be able to enjoy once more the steamy, fragrant Big Easy, one of the most gracious and friendly cities in the world. Of that, even in this most terrible week, there can be no doubt".
An editorial in the right-of-center popular tabloid The Sun (9/1): "Conservative estimates put the cost of the disaster at £15 billion. But already President Bush is galvanizing his country's considerable resources to tackle this huge natural disaster. America may not have been able to stop Katrina's advance. But no country is better placed to deal with her deadly legacy."
"New Orleans Brought Low"
The conservative Daily Telegraph declared (8/31): "New Orleans' fate is particularly poignant because, rationally, the settlement, on a swampy flood plain vulnerable to hurricanes sweeping through the Gulf of Mexico, should never have been built. Yet on those shaky foundations its inhabitants have created a uniquely vibrant city, a mixture of French, Spanish and African culture that has spawned Levantine politics, rampant vice, great music, the Mardi Gras parades, exotic cemeteries and a passionate interest in food. New Orleans has been battered by the elements many times before and will recover. But for the moment it is sad to see it brought so low."
The right-of-center tabloid The Sun commented (8/31): "Despite all the warnings and preparation, dozens are dead and towns smashed to matchsticks. It must take tremendous determination to gaze at the wreckage of your home, then roll up your sleeves and start all over again. But that's what thousands of gritty Americans will do."
FRANCE: "America Trapped"
Pierre Rousselin opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (9/1): “The damage left by Hurricane Katrina is unprecedented. Surprise and consternation have taken over… First and foremost Katrina is a human tragedy, which illustrates once again our inability to fight against nature’s unleashed ravages. Used to hurricanes, the most powerful nation in the world is suddenly as powerless as Southeast Asia was in the face of the Tsunami. While the Tsunami was exceptional, it may be that in this instance the routine of the hurricane season led officials to underestimate Katrina’s strength… The area hit by the hurricane is a nerve center for America. The tragedy has hit at the worst possible moment, when the barrel of oil has already hit the 70-dollar mark. The U.S. could be facing a gas shortage… The authorities, who want to be reassuring, quickly announced an emergency plan and the availability of strategic oil reserves, in the hopes of making a psychological impact and keeping markets from overreacting… The present catastrophe could have long-lasting consequences on the American economy.... What is most surprising is that in a country as modern as the U.S., the magnitude of the devastation is still largely unknown two days after the tragedy.”
Dominique Quinion remarked in Catholic La Croix (9/1): “In spite of its highly effective organization, its technological and financial means, in spite of its power, the colossus revealed it has feet of clay when it comes to fighting against nature.”
"The Laws Of The Skies And Of The Jungle"
Patrick Sabatier in left-of-center Liberation (9/1): “This major crisis...has led President Bush to shorten his summer vacation and to return to Washington.... New Orleans will remain a ghost town for months.... What is most striking and most revealing is the brutal collapse of a highly sophisticated and developed society. The most powerful nation in the world knocked out by a blow that came from the skies and the ocean. The authorities, both local and federal, at a loss, wade through the rising waters. And violence, which is never very far in a region where poverty is often endemic, is taking over, punctuated by looting. After the laws of the skies, the laws of the jungle are taking over.”
"Katrina And Its Collateral Damage"
Francois-Xavier Petri in financial, centrist La Tribune (8/30): “Today’s oil crisis is a crisis triggered by demand. Strong growth economies are pumping dry the reserves of oil producing countries, which cannot meet the demand. The fact is that in China and in the U.S., growth is such that their economies can absorb the high cost of oil. Europe cannot.... Europe is in fact preparing to suffer the collateral damage of the high-risk game of supply and demand which opposes oil producing countries that can hardly meet the demands of those who consume more and more everyday.”
GERMANY: "A One-Dimensional Explanation For Natural Disasters Is Misleading"
Horst Rademacher opined in a report in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/1): "Fundamental mistakes and shortsightedness in the planning of man's living space cannot be eliminated by America joining the Kyoto Protocol. But as the latest flooding in the Carpathian Mountains and the Alps regions demonstrated, not only in America but also in Europe a rethinking must begin. Man and his elected representatives must learn that elements like hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and the eruption of volcanoes cannot be defeated nor duped. Instead people must accept that when new areas are developed, new houses are built and when drafting disaster plans, this planet is not a quiet and peaceful planet. In its inside and in its atmosphere, there is enough energy to devastate entire regions."
"Bashing Instead Of Donations"
Claus Christian Malzahn commented in left-of-center Der Spiegel online of Hamburg (9/1): "German donations to U.S. relief organizations would certainly be welcome. But obviously no one in Germany thinks that the Americans have any use of our money. It is strange: the same people who like to complain about the new poverty, the ghettos, and the slums in the United States when describing the United States as a merciless monster capitalist state are now very quiet when assistance is really necessary.... At a moment, when the United States has not even counted all the dead bodies, the German environment minister has nothing else to say but to authenticate to the U.S. president in a essay in Frankfurter Rundschau that the United States, in the end, is to blame itself for the disaster.... With this cool and malicious basic attitude, Environment Minister Trittin is not alone. The reporting of the majority of German media aims at the same direction. If George W. Bush had listened to Jürgen Trittin and signed the Kyoto Protocol, then this would not have happened. But this is bullshit. Trittin's essay is a slap into the face of all victims. Let us assume that he environment minister is right, and there were an alleged link between the emission of greenhouse gases and Hurricane Katrina, then this would not be the hour to conduct a bashing of the United States in the German election campaign and to point one's finger to Washington.... The German environment minister is using the opportunity of a natural disaster to spread a more subtle anti-Americanism among Germans.... There are noted scientists and Nobel laureates who have a totally different view of global warming than Jürgen Trittin. Many consider the fight against AIDS, hunger, malaria to be more important on the global list of priorities than the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and these scientists, who signed a declaration called 'Copenhagen Consensus' last year, are not on the pay roll of Texas oil industry. But this is not the issue right now. The issue now is to show sympathy for the people in the U.S. south. The hurricane of the century is not their fault. But WWII was Germany's fault, and, nevertheless, it rained care packages from the United States. Trittin's know-it-better attitude is not only tasteless, but it is also shows a lack of understanding of history."
"An Ordeal Caused By Nature"
Washington correspondent Christoph von Marschall filed the following editorial for centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (9/1): "In America, hardly anyone seems to believe that such ordeals could be avoided as soon as people treat nature correctly and take the right precautions. We hardly hear any criticism of President Bush's climate policy. People only point to the sins of the careless use of land that was reserved for the protection from floods. When describing the damage, the media, without showing any awe, make comparisons that would make quite some Europeans swallow: like after the tsunami, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear bombs, or like in civil war areas. Is that appropriate?… People were able to prepare for 'Katrina,' and people were able to flee and save their lives. But the degree of the devastation reminds us of the pictures from Asia. For the Americans such comparisons mean that nature is even more powerful than man and the natural disaster caused by him. We have not chance but to accept the ordeal and to start untiringly rebuilding the houses. As paradoxical as this may sound, but this nation derives its belief that it is a true global power from this humility."
"Storm Of Feelings"
Gero von Randow opined in a front-page editorial in center-left, weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (9/1): "In order to help climate policy slow down global warming, expenses must be increased much more than today, even if the United States…joined the Kyoto Protocol. Environment Minister Trittin is right: We highly industrialized countries offer growth countries like China and India a bad example by moving around cars for ways which we could also cover on foot or by bicycle. Even in Germany, the idiotic fashion from the United States has found supporters to cruise the cities with tank-like four-wheel drives. At the same time, we afford to phase out a profitable, climate-neutral energy technology, namely nuclear power. It is difficult to implement a policy that avoids the emission of greenhouse gases. But the most efficient strategy in view of climate dangers is assistance for developing nations. Why must, for instance, Haiti be more afraid of hurricanes than Florida? It is the poverty, stupid? To fight it is the best preparation for climate change. If, for instance, the economy in Bangladesh gets the necessary assistance, its residents could settle and build more safely."
"Hanging In The Balance"
Andreas Oldag editorialized in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (9/1): "Hurricane 'Katrina' destroyed more that even pessimists feared. The consequences for the U.S. and the global economy are not yet foreseeable.... Now even an oil price of 100 dollars has become thinkable. If the price for a barrel of oil headed for this direction, this would create a shock for the global economy. The western industrialized countries are not ready for this.... As far as national economies are concerned, the hurricane could have much more drastic effects than the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 'Katrina' paralyzed the infrastructure of an entire state. It is true that the United States has had enough experience with coming to terms with natural disasters...but compared to past disasters, the inflation is on the rise; because of the Iraq war, the budget is out of control; the indebtedness of private households is breaking all records. The government in Washington will have to give the state of Louisiana considerable financial assistance to repair the damage caused by the hurricane. This will add a new burden to the budget. The economy of the largest national economy in the world is hanging in the balance."
Bernd Neubacher judged in an editorial in business-daily Börsenzeitung of Frankfurt judged (9/1): "The United States is experiencing a disaster…and in view of the extent of the disaster, people in the United States are afraid of a looming recession. And indeed, the situation is precarious.... But even if investors expect a reduced economic growth...a recession is not likely to happen.... According to estimates, the most devastating hurricane caused damage amounting to 40 billion dollars. But these are also 40 billion dollars that need to be invested in the coming months and could help stimulate the U.S. economy.... Only a while ago, economists developed a scenario based on inflation, bankruptcies, and a recession in case the oil price crosses the 50-dollar barrier. At the New York futures market, the price for a barrel of oil...crossed the 70-dollar level on Tuesday, while, at the same time, the economy is booming. Thanks to low interest rates and an unexpectedly strong labor market, it increased by 3.3 percent in the 2nd quarter. A recession looks different."
"Drastic Damage From Katrina"
Centrist Südwest Presse of Ulm said (9/1): "The dramatic damage which hurricane 'Katrina' caused at the oil-producing facilities in the Gulf of Mexico are the last thing the extremely tense gasoline market needs right now. Because of the constantly rising crude oil market, primarily in china, the massive deficits of refinery capacities in the United States and the looming increase in demand because of the coming winter nad because of massive price speculation at the international raw material markets, the price have kown only one direction for months: up. Now it is coming back to bitterly haunt us that only e few environmentalists have called for a massive support of alternative and regenerative energy sources in the transportation sector. The new government, irrespective of which leaning it will have, must pursue a consistent 'away-from-gas' policy and change course."
"Before The Storm"
Stefan Kornelius judged in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (8/31): "For a nation that invents the weather channel on TV, nature is a spectacle, and in a more fortunate case, it is entertainment.... But still, in this colossus called the United States, people perceive nature as so overpowering that they do not see a connection between intervention of man and the elements.... But it would be wrong to disqualify America as a country of environment policy ignorance. George W. Bush's climate policy is also controversial in the United States. 131 mayors have joined forces to implement the Kyoto Protocol in the cities.... Environment policy in the United States has not yet developed to a prestige issue for the political elite of the country. Not yet.... Political mega trends need an awakening. As 9/11 made clear to the United States its vulnerability, a few hurricanes of 'Katrina's' size will be necessary to turn the disastrous trend in the [U.S.] environment and climate policy.... Environment and climate policy in the United States must be energy policy in the future. The best means to regulate it is the price for a gallon of gas, the second best means global competition on the market for raw material. Washington reacted with a shock to the first Chinese attempts to get access to the U.S. energy market. But Congress once more satisfied the lobby and avoided drastic cuts in energy laws. All these are contractions of an energy policy dinosaur. And there is only a slowly growing awareness in the United States that this monster will face extinction if it does not adjust its oil consumption to the new circumstances."
Joachim Wille opined in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (8/31): "Until recently, the U.S. government tried to play down the possible consequences of climate change for the United States. It did not even shy away from cooking scientific reports to reduce pressure from public opinion. It no longer takes the problem of climate change so easily as President Bush and his advisors from the fossil energy lobby. Bush argued that the United States would not sign the Kyoto Protocol because it would be detrimental to the U.S. economy. And because the American 'Way of Life' is not negotiatable. But a few states…have set goals to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases…and important parts of industry changed to a pro-Kyoto course long ago. If 'Katrina' gives these informed forces a new impetus, then this would be the only positive consequence of the disaster."
Georg Watzlawek opined in an editorial in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (8/31): "This is how the media society works: the dreadful expectations of devastations were grotesquely exaggerated. But since they did not come true, people heaved a sigh of relief. More than 50 people killed, a damage of 30 billion dollars, so what? The stock markets quickly ticked off the new disaster like they forgot about the tsunami, public interest is dwindling and politics is turning to a new issue. But as a matter of fact, worse scenarios did not (yet) happen and this is why 'Katrina' should be considered a warning. Climate change has begun long ago. The reasons are not yet clear but it is clear that man is an accomplice. Those who want to slow down global warming must take action now. The United States and may other industrialized countries must reduce their dependency of fossil fuels. But the real danger is looming in China and other threshold countries. Their hunger for energy is gigantic. If it is saturated primarily with oil and gas, not only the southern United States will be flooded but also wide parts of Europe."
"Is 'Katrina' Only the Beginning?"
Rainer Kurlemann had this to say in an editorial in right-of-center Rheinische Post of Düsseldorf (8/31): "There has been a fierce controversy of whether 'Katrina' is a harbinger of climate change.... But the exact evidence that 'Katrina's' destructive force is a consequence of greenhouse gases caused by man, cannot be presented since a hurricane is too complex. But it is not necessary. Globally, scientists have presented evidence for the warming of the atmosphere.... President Bush must accept the question of how long the United States wants to maintain its energy-consuming life style, which does not offer any stimulus to save energy. He rejects the Kyoto Protocol, because he wants to protect U.S. companies. One American produces twice as much greenhouse gases as one European. This hurricane gives opponents to his policy a strong backing."
"Economy And Oil Prices"
Center-right Westfälische Rundschau of Dortmund noted (8/31): "The insurance sector is one of the most committed admonishers calling for consistent climate protection. Hurricanes and floods inflict not only fear and horror on the people but also cause considerable economic damages. In America, they obviously reach new record highs. Will at least economic aspects prompt George W. Bush to rethink, even though he rejects a common responsibility for the global climate? Rather not, for the shortsightedness of his argument that he would not sign anything that could be detrimental to the U.S. economy, has been obvious for a long time. Arrogance and ignorance are pairing in Washington in a dangerous way: the consequences of the climate disaster do not spare the northern hemisphere, but they hit the South the hardest, a region that does contribute only little to its development."
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine noted (8/31): "'Katrina' resulted in an increase in the oil price to more than 70 dollars. But this is probably not all, since the interruptions in the U.S. oil production are coming at a time when there are no reserves either in the production or in the refining process of oil. In the lingo of economists, 'Katrina' caused a supply shock, whose implications are not yet foreseeable. Thus far, the increase in oil prices has been based on demand. These record prices have been a consequence of a prospering economy. Higher energy costs were overcompensated by other factors like cheap money from the central banks. But from an economic point of view, a supply shock has a more critical meaning. In the past, an artificial shortage of oil was often the starting point for an oil crisis and a subsequent recession. It would be premature and exaggerated to attribute such a development to 'Katrina.' Nevertheless, the production interruptions in America spotlight the extreme tense situation in the oil market. It is possible that an oil price of 70 dollars is only a waystation for a further rise. The real season for hurricanes is September."
"The 70-Dollar Hurricane"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg argued (8/30): "For the tense energy markets and for the global economy, Katrina is an minor nightmare. Because of the high global demand, the oil-producers and processors are working at full capacity. If oil platforms and refineries in the Gulf of Mexico must close down, bottlenecks cannot quickly be filled. For quite sometime, experts have warned that in a market without reserves, minor disruptions of the supply of oil can lead to sharp increase in prices. And this scenario is now looming on the horizon, and can possibly be intensified through speculation of a continuation of the bull market for oil.... But a price shock that is caused by a lack of supply is very dangerous, as could be observed during previous oil shocks. Even if the hurricane causes less damage than feared, it has disclosed the vulnerability of the global economy that is so dependent on oil."
Dieter Kuckelkorn argued in business daily Börsenzeitung of Frankfurt (8/30): "The reason for the latest distortions on the oil markets is hurricane 'Katrina'.... It hits an oil market, which, according to the IAEA, is unable to sufficiently cushion off external shocks. Stagnating…production is faced with an extremely robust demand in the United States, China, and India and with a newly awakened interest of speculators in the futures markets for oil. In addition, we have geopolitical risks, ranging from international terrorism via the nuclear controversy between the United States and Iran and increasing lack of U.S. control over the oil-producing Iraq up to the political tensions in Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. This constellation represents an explosive mixture. If these countries stopped the export of oil, then this would be the worst-case scenario for the oil markets. But even without such event, the situation is not very pleasant. It will take a few months to put the refineries and oil platforms back into operation. This will impede the building up of reserves for the winter. That is why the effects of Katrina will be perceptible on a global scale. According to experts, the oil prices in the wake of the hurricane can reach up to 80 dollar and more per barrel."
"Oil Price At Record Level"
Bernd Hops noted in an editorial in centrist der tagesspiegel of Berlin (8/30): "At fist inspection, the uncertainty at the stock markets is understandable. The pictures from the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. southern coast are frightening us…and analysts are beginning to develop their horror scenarios.... But at a closer look, the situation for the oil industry looks better. There will be some damage, but experience from the past decades shows that the damage is limited.... But even it the horror scenarios come true, the United States and other industrialized countries have stored so much oil that they could do without supplies for months. Why then are oil prices reaching one record after the other? The truth is: At the moment, the markets are trying to get as much for oil as the world is willing to pay. And it is willing to pay a lot, since the global economy is continuing to grow with surprising pace. But speculators are playing a risky game. Their greed has developed such momentum that increasing pessimism can barely be broken. Let's hope that the price bubble will burst before the boom of the global economy will."
"Not Just 'Katrina'"
Centrist Südwest Presse of Ulm had this to say (8/30): "The hurricane off the Louisiana coast came at the right moment for speculators at the oil markets. One more reason to push up prices. But the capacities, which were put out of operation for the time being, are by far too small to justify an increase of three dollars per barrel. But even if this record level cannot be kept, trade and industry and consumers should adjust to this price level, for betterment is not insight. The fundamental reasons have not changed: On the one hand, it is growing consumption in the United States, and primarily consumption in the emerging economic nations of China and India; they 'empty' the markets. And it is, on the other hand, the lack of willingness among the oil-processing companies to invest in the modernization of their antiquated facilities.... But even if they invested a lot of money now, it will have a positive effect on the global markets only in a few years to come."
ITALY: "The Giant On Its Knees"
Lucia Annunziata wrote in centrist, influential La Stampa (9/1): “An incredible event is taking place in these hours: one of the big cities of the most powerful nation in the world is being erased from the face of the earth, where no one can stop the tragedy...unveiling a reality that we would have never attributed to the United States: the difficulty in rescue, the impotence of the engineers, the fires, the violence of the pillagers who raid stores.... In this failure is an incalculable American psychological quality that we Europeans always find very irritating: the combination of confidence and superficiality. It is the typical attitude of those who have too much, know too much, demand too much--and that more than once has led this country to face situations that it is not prepared to handle.”
"Precipitated Into Third World"
Vittorio Zucconi on the front page of left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (9/1): “The drowned city that emerges like a clandestine who has fallen into the water is a film of our humiliated modernity. If the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004 was the horrible parable of the fragility of the poor world, the tragedy of the Gulf is the representation of the contrary. The humiliation of the industrial and technological power before a so-called natural disaster becomes a disaster only because it hit an unnatural world that is unable to handle it.... A conditioned community that is a prisoner of its own development is suddenly forced to live like refugees in Darfur, but without having the long and tragic daily training in survival and adaption.”
"The Fault Of Global Warming"
Riccardo Del Palo in Rome opined in center-left daily Il Messaggero (8/31): “The rain and the wind have still not ceased, but the East (sic) Coast disaster already has a defendant: the greenhouse effect. About this phenomenon, caused by industrial pollution--that the Bush Administration, refusing to sign the Kyoto treaty, did not want to prevent--everything and the contrary of everything has been said. That it would have submerged world coastlines because of the melting of the polar ice-caps. That it would have caused ‘extreme’ climate conditions. And that it would provoke the global warming of the planet.”
RUSSIA: "Katrina Rocks The White House"
Artur Blinov wrote in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (9/1): “This is a crucial moment for George Bush. Anything he says and does now can determine the final judgment of his performance as president. Katrina is a chance for the President to show his managerial talents. Or, it could add another blot to his ‘service record,’ poor as it is. The Iraq war weighs down upon it most heavily, keeping down his popularity ratings. As his problems grow, the President may become a lame duck...making it harder for the Republicans to find his successor among themselves
"Katrina And OPEC"
Aleksandr Shumilin of the Center for Middle Eastern Conflict Analysis said in business-oriented Vedomosti (8/31): “Having pushed oil prices sky-high, Katrina may in the longer term have a somewhat unexpected effect on the world market. It may reconcile the United States, a victim of the natural calamity and the world’s biggest consumer of oil, with OPEC, the world’s biggest supplier of oil. It looks like OPEC grandees, seeing how hard the United State has been hit, have decided to play up to the Bush Administration. It is anybody’s guess what drives them more, political or economic interests. It must be both, even though most analysts in Washington believe there is more politics than pure economics in OPEC’s actions. Saudi Arabia’s and OPEC’s readiness to help America in the lurch are not only good will gestures. This is also a signal for anti-OPEC lobbyists to ease up. Who knows? Rough Katrina may end up averting a cold war between America and OPEC.”
AUSTRIA: "Fatal Mistakes In The Big Easy"
Managing editor Eric Frey commented in liberal Der Standard (9/1): “City and environmental policies are partially to blame for the disaster in New Orleans.... Poverty and corruption have made New Orleans one of the worst governed cities in the U.S.... Relief efforts have been heroic, but given the circumstances, the most powerful developed nation in the world should not have abandoned hundreds of thousands of poor people.... New Orleans has talked for years about the eventuality of the catastrophe that has now occurred, but hardly any preparative measures have been taken.... New Orleans has lost its natural protection from hurricanes--the wetlands of the Mississippi Delta--as massive pieces of land are disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico every year. Building projects on the western shore of the Mississippi have reduced the amount of gravel deposited in the delta, because the resulting higher stream velocity caries the gravel out to sea. Local building efforts, too, particularly for the oil industry, have filled the swamps up with concrete and are destroying the buffer zone that protected New Orleans from storms for centuries.... In dealing with future disasters, a little less fatalism and more expert planning would be desirable.”
AUSTRIA: "Power And Powerlessness Of A High-Tech World"
Foreign affairs writer Gerhard Schwischei commented in independent provincial daily Salzburger Nachrichten (8/31): “Disasters like Hurricane Katrina show us how helpless we are in the face of natural disasters.... No doubt, to a certain degree humanity has an impact on weather patterns through global warming as a result of our massive output of greenhouse gases. Today, this is beyond doubt, even for the current U.S. administration, which opposes international efforts at climate protection. However, the complex interactions of individual weather phenomena and the rising average temperatures on Earth are much less clear.... This makes a joint position on climate protection even more difficult. As a result, we are merely meddling with the various symptoms,...when instead our motto should be: With nature and not against it.... But we must not delude ourselves: Humanity has always had to cope with natural disasters, and we won’t be spared in the future.”
BELGIUM: "Descent Into Hell"
Chief commentator Luc Van der Kelen stated in conservative Het Laatste Nieuws (9/1): “I am so sad when I see those moving images from the American South. That is not what one expects from the most powerful industrial state in the world with the most powerful army and wealthiest--white--population. The images from New Orleans do not at all remind us of a highly developed and technologically superior society. On the contrary, those are images we usually see in third-world countries when they are hit by disasters--somewhere in Africa, the Middle East or in the poorest areas of Asia, like the tsunami in Indonesia. The U.S. authorities do no seem to be armed against a catastrophe of this size. The images only show chaos.... In Mississippi the lady governor was crying on TV--with compassion and powerlessness. New Orleans is the other side of the American society that wants to make as much money as possible under minimal government that costs as little as possible.... The people in the South--especially the poorest--suffer the most. They can use our help, just like the people in Asia after the tsunami. Hurricane Katrina is their tsunami and the authorities were not able to protect them. If President Putin offers help, should our government then remain idle? Can we remain idle?”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "How Katrina Attacks You And Your Family"
Milan Vodicka writes in the leading, centrist daily MF Dnes (8/30): "If you think that Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans are far away…you are dead wrong.... Katrina has interrupted the extraction and processing of crude oil in the Mexican Gulf sending oil prices soaring to record highs.... As if that was not enough; New Orleans, the fifth biggest harbor in the world, handles forty percent of all U.S. exports and sixty percent of all American export of wheat and corn. It would be a miracle if the prices of these two commodities didn't go up as well.... Naturally, these effects are nothing compared to the tragedy in the American South, but it is also interesting to notice how in our interconnected world a storm that is half a globe away can affect our daily lives."
FINLAND: "Human Tragedy"
Right-of-Center regional Aamulehti editorialized (9/1): "New Orleans is--or was--one of the most charming American cities. Katrina turned it and the surrounding areas into a graveyard of people and houses. It is a huge human tragedy. Feeling sympathy toward those whose families and/or homes have vanished is easy. Hopefully, sympathy will translate into concrete help. The hurricane is also causing some vile reactions. Footage of people looting shops shows how sickening human nature can be even at the time of distress. Another loathsome reaction is to blame the U.S. for having caused the hurricane itself by not joining the Kyoto Protocol. Without compelling proof, such accusations are mere politicking at the expense of other peoples’ misery."
"Hurricane From A Warming Ocean"
Regional daily, centrist Turun Sanoma wrote (8/31): "President George W. Bush has argued against any restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions saying that they would be an excessive burden on the country’s economy. The explanation sounds quite illogical in the light of the damage caused by Katrina. The hurricane, deriving its force from the warming of the ocean, was in raging in the most important oil-producing area of the United States in the Gulf of Mexico causing enormous damage to the U.S. economy. As a result, the United States and the rest of the world will suffer from higher oil prices. One might wonder how long American companies will tolerate Bush’s climate policy."
"Katrina And Climate Change"
Regional daily, centrist Kaleva penned (8/31): "At least initially, Katrina was regarded as a separate natural catastrophe in an area where the risk of hurricanes is always present. And it was a separate phenomenon. At the same time, it is common knowledge that climate change increases everywhere the possibility of extreme weather conditions. The logical conclusion would be that destruction of this caliber at home would increase the contributions and interest of the U.S. government in fighting the climate change. Yet, it is possible that not even the almost entirely destroyed New Orleans is enough to bring about such a change."
"Katrina's Economic Aspects"
Social Democratic Demari editorialized (8/31): “Anguished and with sympathy, the world has been following U.S. efforts to manage this exceptionally violent natural catastrophe. After the worst is over, the economic aspects of the destruction will be looked into. One estimate is that insurance companies will receive a bill amounting to USD 25 billion. This is in the same class with the annual budget of Finland. The Gulf of Mexico and its coastal areas are important for oil production and processing. The present serious damage will affect oil output and prices all over the world."
Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet editorialized (8/31): “Hurricane Katrina...is a tragedy, most certainly. But it also illustrates how catastrophes are assessed in terms of lives on one hand, and in terms of money on the other. The Swiss insurance company, Swiss Re, publishes revealing statistics on world catastrophes, including lists of the biggest disasters, both in terms of lives lost and in terms of losses for insurance companies. The two lists are almost entirely different. The list of the most expensive catastrophes is dominated by North American storms, which very seldom claim more than a few dozen victims. Floods, earthquakes and volcano eruptions in developing countries that claimed tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of lives have not disturbed the calm of insurance companies. No wonder the shares of insurance companies went down with Katrina approaching the U.S coast. But had it been the Bangladesh coast--where 300,000 people lost their lives in 1970 in a hurricane and the following flood--markets would hardly have had the jitters.
NORWAY: "A Planet In Disorder"
Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten commented (8/31): “Tropical hurricane Katrina continues its destructive journey across the U.S., somewhat lesser in strength, but strong enough to create great detruction wherever it strikes.... Climate experts have their own explanations for why and how these violent storms originate. The purely scientific conditions are not that difficult to agree on. But there is much more controversy regarding whether or not the increase in destructive hurricanes is due to global warming resulting from human activity.... Most scientists think that what the U.S. is now experiencing is part of a natural pattern. But there are also voices of warning.... The atmosphere has heated up, and this influences both the strength and number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic and Pacific. [The result of] research that has been going on for a long time is that most of the scientific and political community have come to agree that global warming is partially due to human activity, and that there is therefore a need for active international efforts to prevent the world’s climate from getting completely out of order. The Kyoto Agreement is an attempt to minimize emissions of greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, important countries, with the U.S. in the lead, will not accept the initiatives in the agreement. And now the U.S. has tried to have the paragraph on active environmental initiatives in the UN’s new reform program removed. Katrina is a powerful reminder that possible climate changes concern the entire planet. The catastrophe in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee should make Washington reconsider.”
"Even More Extreme Weather"
The independent newspaper Dagbladet (8/31) commented: “The [hurricane] catastrophe has been given extensive coverage in our mass media because it affects the U.S. Greater natural disasters in other parts of the world, with many more victims, are given much less attention.... Katrina’s ravages illustrate what happens when weather becomes extreme. Experts are careful about directly linking this specific hurricane to global warming.… Still, it is only the oil industry’s various spokespersons among politicians and scientists who question the idea that greenhouse gas emissions heat the planet and cause climate changes and extreme weather.… It has, of course, long been time to stop lending an ear to the oil industry’s pawns, whether they are politicians or scientists, who challenge the now well-documented connections between emissions and extreme weather in the future. The aims in the Kyoto Agreement are far from sufficient to stop the increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Extreme weather is a reminder of what awaits if we do not do much, much more. Now."
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Oil Reserve Is Important"
The independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal noted in an editorial (9/1): "According to the International Energy Agency's (IEA) information, the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve maintains a reserve of up to 90 days of net oil imports. Thus, it can cope with the havoc of Hurricane Katrina. In addition, the IEA also has an oil reserve of up to 4 billion barrels, which can handle any emergency needs. In other words, the hurricane in the U.S. will not lead to oil shortages in the international market. The sudden upsurge of oil prices is, in fact, sparked by psychological factors rather than actual needs.... For China, an oil reserve has two important functions. First of all, an oil reserve can help to maintain normal economic operations during war or disasters. Secondly, when oil prices sky rocket due to oil supply shortages, the oil reserve can stabilize oil prices, as well as a society. After experiencing a series of incidents, including the failure of acquiring Unocal due to the opposition from the U.S. and the recent eruption of an oil crisis in China, China should step up establishing its oil reserve."
"Oil Prices Hit The Market"
The independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times commented in an editorial (8/30): "Hurricanes hit the U.S. every year. And in the past two to three years, hurricanes did result in the upsurge of oil prices. This time, Hurricane Katrina has not yet caused any destruction, but the oil price has already shot up. It reflects that global oil demand exceeds supply. If the oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is disrupted, global oil-producing countries cannot make up for the loss. Hence, it is inevitable that oil prices will soar.... The U.S. economy can resist the hit of high oil prices because of the rising property market in the U.S. allows the American people to continue their consumption. This is, in fact, a confidence game. American people do not have much savings and they are heavily in debt, plus the bubble of the property market, if they lose their confidence in the U.S. economy or the property market, consumption will shrink. By that time, the U.S., as well as global financial and stock markets will suffer.... Both the oil market and the global economy seem to have lost their balance. Will high oil prices hit the U.S. and global economy? It will depend on whether or not the American people's confidence will take a turn for the worse."
JAPAN: "Katrina Batters U.S. Economy"
New York correspondents Kajiwara and Fujita observed in business daily Nihon Keizai (8/31): "Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana Monday, killing more than 60 people and striking the heartland of the U.S. oil industry. As the extent of the hurricane-related damage became known, the vulnerability of the U.S. economy also came to light. On Tuesday, crude-oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose to an all-time of 70.85 USD a barrel. The hurricane also dealt a blow to other industries, and damages paid by insurance companies will likely total 26 billion USD, an all-time record.... Crude-oil futures have substantially exceeded those at the time of the Gulf crisis, raising concerns over the negative impact of rising crude prices on U.S. business activity.... There are already signs that low-income workers are reducing their consumption."
INDONESIA: "Katrina Hurricane And Oil Price"
Leading independent daily Kompas commented (9/1): “A hurricane is not unusual in America. But this time, much more attention is paid to this natural disaster because it concerns oil production. As soon as news about Katrina menace was spread, many oil production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico—which are responsible for producing a quarter of U.S. oil intake—were closed.... As a result, oil price in New York increased to $70.80 per barrel… In the U.S., hope for a declining oil price is based on speculations that the government would relinquish oil reserve. However, the Bush administration seems hesitant to do this.... Of course, we can see the difference between what the U.S. is facing and what we are facing here concerning indications for escalating fuel price. There, different policy alternatives are still available although consumers still have to pay more. In Indonesia, on the contrary, options to settle the rising oil price are narrowing down. This is especially true considering that we still find it dif
ficult to reduce fuel consumption, while the state’s financial condition is deteriorating, especially with the weakening of rupiah.”
THAILAND: "Finding Unity In Tragedy"
The lead editorial in the independent, English language The Nation stated (9/1): “Hurricane Katrina has left in its wake untold destruction along the Gulf of Mexico coast in the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, as well as in parts of Florida. The human toll and property damage is difficult to gauge at this time due to the widespread and devastating nature of the destruction, and the breakdown of communications and transport systems. The hurricane hit the coast on Monday packing maximum sustained winds of more than 230 kilometers per hour and destroyed everything in its path, including a number of oil rigs in the gulf.... But as previous hurricanes have shown, only after the storm dies down can the real, hard work of search and rescue operations begin. The long-term rebuilding of communities and individuals’ lives will take longer still. This is hardly the first time that the United States has been hit by a big hurricane. In recent memory, there were Hugo and Camille, among others.... Sadly, the outpouring of compassion and courageous rescue operations so far witnessed have been marred by widespread looting and some violence reported in New Orleans, which was particularly affected by the storm, and in other places. It will take months and years to return to normalcy in the hardest-hit areas."
|Office of Research||Issue Focus||Foreign Media Reaction|