Israel accepts delivery of disputed Kurdish pipeline oil

Reuters reports: A tanker delivered a cargo of disputed crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan’s new pipeline for the first time on Friday in Israel, despite threats by Baghdad to take legal action against any buyer.

The SCF Altai tanker arrived at Israel’s Ashkelon port early on Friday morning, ship tracking and industry sources said. By the evening, the tanker began unloading the Kurdish oil, a source at the port said.

The port authority at Ashkelon declined to comment.

Securing the first sale of oil from its independent pipeline is crucial for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) as it seeks greater financial independence from war-torn Iraq.

But the new export route to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, designed to bypass Baghdad’s federal pipeline system, has created a bitter dispute over oil sale rights between the central government and the Kurds. [Continue reading...]

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How the Kurds may benefit from the ISIS rampage

Foreign Policy reports: Amid the rubble left in Iraq by the rampage of Islamist insurgents, one group seems poised to benefit: the Kurds. Baghdad’s flailing response to the offensive launched by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham opens the door to greater geographical reach for the Kurdish region, greater leverage over the central government, and a stronger possibility of becoming a big energy exporter in its own right.

The Islamist insurgents, known variously as ISIS and ISIL, continued their drive south toward the Iraqi capital on Thursday after having captured key northern cities, including Mosul. No less vigorous has been the Kurdish response: In sharp contrast to the Iraqi military forces, which evaporated despite outnumbering ISIS fighters, Kurdish military forces on Thursday took Kirkuk, an important city straddling the Arab and Kurdish parts of Iraq and the centerpiece of the northern oil industry. The Kurdish occupation, in a matter of hours, of a city that has been a bone of contention between Arabs and Kurds for centuries — and especially during Saddam Hussein’s rule of Iraq — underscores how dramatically the ISIS offensive is redrawing the map of Iraq.

“This may be the end of Iraq as it was. The chances that Iraq can return to the centralized state that [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki was trying to restore are minimal at this point,” said Marina Ottaway, a Middle East specialist at the Wilson Center.

The contrast between robust security in Kurdish-ruled parts of the country and the security vacuum left by fleeing Iraqi troops could ultimately roll back decades of Iraqi history and put Kurdish leaders in Erbil in the catbird seat, especially when it comes to a contentious tug of war over energy resources.

“The strategic failure of Iraqi forces has really shifted the entire balance of power between the Kurdish Regional Government and Baghdad,” said Ayham Kamel, Middle East director at the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy. “It really allows the KRG to negotiate with Baghdad on entirely different terms” when it comes to a fight over the Kurds’ right to export oil directly.

For years, Kurds in northern Iraq sought to benefit more from the region’s abundant oil and gas resources, but energy exports were centralized in Baghdad, with export revenues shared among Iraq’s regions. Kurdish leaders argued that the deal shortchanged them because they never got the 17 percent of revenues they were promised.

As a result, the Kurds decided — in the face of a barrage of threats and intimidation from Baghdad — to build their own energy-export infrastructure, enabling them to transport oil directly to nearby Turkey. That pipeline opened this year and energy firms operating in the region say that it will be fully operational later this year. Getting the export pipeline up to cruising speed is important for the Kurdish government. It needs to export about 450,000 barrels of oil a day to earn what it received from the central government. By the end of next year, the KRG hopes to be exporting as many as 1 million barrels a day. [Continue reading...]

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Israel has Egypt over a barrel

David Hearst writes: It took the CIA 60 years to admit its involvement in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq, Iran’s first democratically elected prime minister. The circumstances around the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, may not take as long to come to light, regardless of whom is behind it.

Mossadeq sealed his fate when he renationalized Iran’s oil production, which had been under the control of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, later to become BP. Morsi’s enemy was gas, and he proved to be a major obstacle to a lucrative deal with Israel – which nobody will be surprised to learn – is about to take place now he has been removed.

Clayton Swisher of Al Jazeera’s investigative unit has spent five months delving into the corrupt sale of Egyptian gas to Israel. His report Egypt’s Lost Power to be broadcast on Monday night reveals that Egypt has lost a staggering amount of money -$11bn , with debts and legal liabilities of another $20bn – selling gas at rock bottom prices to Israel, Spain and Jordan. [Continue reading...]

(Interactive: Egypt’s Lost Power)

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Russia joins global dash for shale oil in policy volte-face

The Telegraph reports: Russia is launching a strategic drive to unlock its shale oil wealth as crude output stagnates and reserves run low in the West Siberian fields, aiming to replicate America’s technology leap in a near total reversal of policy.

The Kremlin has launched an “action plan” to master fracking methods and lure investors into the Bazhenov prospective, a shale basin the size of France to the east of the Urals. Officials are no longer dismissing shale’s promise as a mirage. “We are clearing away the administrative barriers to exploration. This is the urgent challenge we are now facing,” said Kirill Molodtsov, the deputy energy minister.

The US Energy Department estimates that Russia has 75bn barrels of recoverable shale oil resources, the world’s largest deposits. The Bazhenov field is 80 times bigger than the US Bakken field in North Dakota, which alone produces 1m barrels a day.

BP joined the scramble on Saturday by signing a deal to explore for shale in Volga Urals with Rosneft, even though Rosneft’s chairman Igor Sechin is on the US sanctions list. [Continue reading...]

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Michael Klare: What’s Big Energy smoking?

“The industry’s position was that there was no ‘proof’ that tobacco was bad, and they fostered that position by manufacturing a ‘debate,’ convincing the mass media that responsible journalists had an obligation to present ‘both sides’ of it.”  Using a handful of scientists as their expert witnesses, the major tobacco companies also denied the science linking cigarette smoking and cancer and claimed that anti-tobacco findings were driven by a political agenda.  Using publicity outfits, think tanks, and those “objective” scientists in their pay or thrall, they put their money where their mouths were and financed a massive campaign of what, in retrospect, can only be called disinformation on the effects of tobacco smoking on human health.  In this way, they created the doubt and debate they wanted, successfully postponing a reckoning for their industry for years.

Sound familiar today?  It should.  As Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway documented in their classic book Merchants of Doubt, the seeding of doubt into the cigarette controversy proved a brilliant move.  The two authors call it “the tobacco strategy.”  It was so successful for the cigarette companies that it would be imitated and replicated in similar encounters over acid rain, the ozone hole, and finally global warming, a “debate” still ongoing and, as Oreskes and Conway make clear, with the same tiny cast of doubting scientists, who have moved conveniently from one issue to the next (without themselves doing original work), ending up in league with the fossil fuel industry.  It’s quite a tale of men representing whole industries who have ended up repeatedly on the wrong side of science.  On the effects of tobacco, acid rain, and the chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer, they were notoriously wrong and yet, for the industries that supported them, notoriously right.  It’s clear enough how the fourth of these “debates” on climate change will be decided.  The question is only when — and on that question hangs human health on a global scale.

In the meantime, Big Energy has never stopped learning from Big Tobacco’s successes.  As TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, the author of The Race for What’s Left, reveals today, they are once again adapting and exploiting the latest tobacco strategy in a new and devastating way.  It couldn’t be a more shameful tale and no one has told it — until now. Tom Engelhardt

Let them eat carbon
Like Big Tobacco, Big Energy targets the developing world for future profits
By Michael T. Klare

In the 1980s, encountering regulatory restrictions and public resistance to smoking in the United States, the giant tobacco companies came up with a particularly effective strategy for sustaining their profit levels: sell more cigarettes in the developing world, where demand was strong and anti-tobacco regulation weak or nonexistent.  Now, the giant energy companies are taking a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook.  As concern over climate change begins to lower the demand for fossil fuels in the United States and Europe, they are accelerating their sales to developing nations, where demand is strong and climate-control measures weak or nonexistent.  That this will produce a colossal increase in climate-altering carbon emissions troubles them no more than the global spurt in smoking-related illnesses troubled the tobacco companies.

The tobacco industry’s shift from rich, developed nations to low- and middle-income countries has been well documented.  “With tobacco use declining in wealthier countries, tobacco companies are spending tens of billions of dollars a year on advertising, marketing, and sponsorship, much of it to increase sales in… developing countries,” the New York Times noted in a 2008 editorial.  To boost their sales, outfits like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco also brought their legal and financial clout to bear to block the implementation of anti-smoking regulations in such places.  “They’re using litigation to threaten low- and middle-income countries,” Dr. Douglas Bettcher, head of the Tobacco Free Initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO), told the Times.

[Read more...]

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Why do rail tank cars carrying crude oil keep blowing up?

Mother Jones reports: Early on the morning of July 6, 2013, a runaway freight train derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, setting off a series of massive explosions and inundating the town in flaming oil. The inferno destroyed the downtown area; 47 people died.

The 72-car train had been carrying nearly 2 million gallons of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields. While the recent surge in domestic oil production has raised concerns about fracking, less attention has been paid to the billions of gallons of petroleum crisscrossing the country in "virtual pipelines" running through neighbor­hoods and alongside waterways. Most of this oil is being shipped in what’s been called "the Ford Pinto of rail cars"—a tank car whose safety flaws have been known for more than two decades. [Continue reading...]

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China, Russia on verge of gas deal

The Associated Press reports: China plans to sign a multibillion-dollar deal to buy Russian gas during a visit by President Vladimir Putin next week despite U.S. pressure to avoid undermining sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

Washington has appealed to Beijing to avoid making business deals with Russia, though American officials acknowledge the pressing energy needs of China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Negotiations that began more than a decade ago had stalled over price. But analysts say Moscow, isolated over its role in Ukraine, faces pressure to make concessions in exchange for an economic and political boost.

“We are still exchanging views with Moscow and we will try our best to ensure that this contract can be signed and witnessed by the two presidents during President Putin’s visit to China,” a deputy Chinese foreign minister, Cheng Guoping, told reporters on Thursday. [Continue reading...]

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Eighth major oil train accident in less than a year

The Guardian reports: A train carrying crude oil partly derailed and then caught fire on Wednesday along the James river in Lynchburg, Virginia, with three leaking tankers ending up in the water. It is latest in a series of fiery accidents involving oil transported on North America’s rail network.

Nearby buildings were temporarily evacuated but officials said there were no injuries. The city of Lynchburg said firefighters on the scene made the decision to let the fire burn out. Three or four of the tankers were breached on the 15-car train that train company CSX said had been on its way from Chicago to unspecified destination.

Photos and videos posted online showed large flames and thick black smoke immediately after the crash. Later photos showed the fire mostly out.

In July 2013 a runaway oil train derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in Canada near the Maine border. Forty-seven people died and 30 buildings were incinerated. Canadian investigators said the combustibility of the 1.3m gallons of light sweet crude released in Lac-Megantic was comparable to gasoline.

In all there have been eight significant oil train accidents in the US and Canada in the past year involving trains hauling crude oil, including several that resulted in large fires, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

“This is another national wake-up call,” said Jim Hall, a former NTSB chairman said of the Lynchburg crash. “We have these oil trains moving all across the United States through communities and the growth and distribution of this has all occurred, unfortunately, while the federal regulators have been asleep.

“This is just an area in which the federal rulemaking process is too slow to protect the American people.” [Continue reading...]

Is the rulemaking simply too slow or are there more nefarious forces at play? Every time there’s another rail accident, I have little doubt the XL Keystone lobbyists jump at the opportunity to underline how oil transportation through pipelines is so much “safer.”

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Averting planetary disaster will mean forcing Big Oil to give up at least $10 trillion in wealth

Chris Hayes writes: In 2012, the writer and activist Bill McKibben published a heart-stopping essay in Rolling Stone titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” I’ve read hundreds of thousands of words about climate change over the last decade, but that essay haunts me the most.

The piece walks through a fairly straightforward bit of arithmetic that goes as follows. The scientific consensus is that human civilization cannot survive in any recognizable form a temperature increase this century more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Given that we’ve already warmed the earth about 0.8 degrees Celsius, that means we have 1.2 degrees left — and some of that warming is already in motion. Given the relationship between carbon emissions and global average temperatures, that means we can release about 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by mid-century. Total. That’s all we get to emit if we hope to keep inhabiting the planet in a manner that resembles current conditions.

Now here’s the terrifying part. The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a consortium of financial analysts and environmentalists, set out to tally the amount of carbon contained in the proven fossil fuel reserves of the world’s energy companies and major fossil fuel–producing countries. That is, the total amount of carbon we know is in the ground that we can, with present technology, extract, burn and put into the atmosphere. The number that the Carbon Tracker Initiative came up with is… 2,795 gigatons. Which means the total amount of known, proven extractable fossil fuel in the ground at this very moment is almost five times the amount we can safely burn.

Proceeding from this fact, McKibben leads us inexorably to the staggering conclusion that the work of the climate movement is to find a way to force the powers that be, from the government of Saudi Arabia to the board and shareholders of ExxonMobil, to leave 80 percent of the carbon they have claims on in the ground. That stuff you own, that property you’re counting on and pricing into your stocks? You can’t have it.

Given the fluctuations of fuel prices, it’s a bit tricky to put an exact price tag on how much money all that unexcavated carbon would be worth, but one financial analyst puts the price at somewhere in the ballpark of $20 trillion. So in order to preserve a roughly habitable planet, we somehow need to convince or coerce the world’s most profitable corporations and the nations that partner with them to walk away from $20 trillion of wealth. Since all of these numbers are fairly complex estimates, let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that we’ve overestimated the total amount of carbon and attendant cost by a factor of 2. Let’s say that it’s just $10 trillion.

The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865 — and then only after four years and more than 600,000 lives lost in the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought.

It is almost always foolish to compare a modern political issue to slavery, because there’s nothing in American history that is slavery’s proper analogue. So before anyone misunderstands my point, let me be clear and state the obvious: there is absolutely no conceivable moral comparison between the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans and the burning of carbon to power our devices. Humans are humans; molecules are molecules. The comparison I’m making is a comparison between the political economy of slavery and the political economy of fossil fuel.

More acutely, when you consider the math that McKibben, the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) all lay out, you must confront the fact that the climate justice movement is demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth. It is impossible to point to any precedent other than abolition. [Continue reading...]

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The bear and the dragon: Russia pivots to China in the face of western sanctions

The Globe and Mail reports: On March 20, the U.S. authorized sanctions against billionaire Gennady Timchenko amid the escalating crisis between Russia and Ukraine. Three weeks later, the Russian tycoon, who amassed a fortune trading oil and selling natural gas, appeared on Russian television. He was not in Russia at the time. He was in China. The West, he said, was “pushing us away.” China was not. In fact, Chinese companies were talking with Mr. Timchenko about buying more of Russia’s abundant energy.

“There is a market with a lot of potential developing in the Asia-Pacific region,” said the billionaire, who boasts close ties to Vladimir Putin and has been called one of Russia’s most powerful men.

This week, the country’s Prime Minister was even more explicit: “We are interested in diversifying today more so than ever before. Therefore we are implementing solutions for the export of gas and oil to Asian and Pacific countries, first and foremost China,” Dmitry Medvedev said on Russian television.

As the global fissures radiating from Russia’s moves against Ukraine call into question the future of its ties with Western powers, Russia is increasingly casting its gaze east, to a distant border long neglected. In May, Mr. Putin is expected to come to Beijing to sign a major contract that will see Russia pipe vast quantities of natural gas to China. It will mark the sixth meeting between Mr. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping since the beginning of 2013, as Russia pushes for a “pivot east” that has taken on sudden new urgency in the wake of the country’s moves in Ukraine, which have earned it global criticism, and an increasing likelihood of punitive sanctions.

The change stands to have wide-reaching ramifications, redrawing geopolitical alignments and altering global energy flows, a matter of concern to Canada, among others.

For Russia’s economy, Ukraine stands to create “a major crisis,” said Vassily Kasin, a China expert with the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defence studies organization. “And China will become the major economic partner.” The two countries “will in fact move very close to an alliance, I think,” he said. “This is a major change.” [Continue reading...]

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The Kashagan oil field: The world’s most toxic money pit

Alex Pasternack reports: The Kashagan oil field, located fifty miles offshore in western Kazakhstan’s Caspian Sea, takes its name from a 19th century poet and from the Kazakh word meaning “skittish” and “elusive.”

That’s one understated way to describe the oil that some of the world’s biggest companies are hoping to suck out of the Earth. In thirteen years, they’ve spent $50 billion, building islands and pipelines and digging deep, some two and a half miles below the surface, to reach a so-called supergiant oil field where sour crude is mixed with toxic gas at ungodly pressures. In industry circles, Kashagan has become a watchword for massive complexity and near impossibility, and adopted an unofficial motto: “cash all gone.”

Since geologists discovered the field in 2000, north of the also-massive Tengiz oil field, Kashagan remains the largest new oil deposit since the Prudhoe Bay field was found off Alaska in 1968. Estimates say that there are between 30 and 50 billion barrels (4.8 and 7.9 billion cubic meters) buried in a reservoir so complicated to plumb that only between four and 13 billion barrels are thought to be recoverable.

Even if the cost is five times that of a conventional oil development in Saudi Arabia, Kashagan alone could someday deliver as much as 1.2 million barrels per day; the US currently uses about 19 million barrels per day.

But thirteen years and $50 billion later, the global consortium operating Kashagan has produced almost no oil. [Continue reading...]

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Jimmy Carter urges Keystone XL rejection

The Associated Press reports: For the first time, a former U.S. president has come out against the Keystone XL pipeline.

The ex-president in question is Jimmy Carter.

The 39th president joined a group of Nobel laureates to sign a letter urging the current commander-in-chief to reject the pipeline from Canada.

The letter tells Barack Obama that he stands on the brink of making a choice that will define his legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced — climate change.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice…. We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline,” the letter reads.

It says his decision will either signal a “dangerous commitment” to the status quo, or “bold leadership” that will inspire millions counting on him to do the right thing for the climate. [Continue reading...]

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Michael Klare: Shooting up on Big Energy

Pssst, buddy, you want a report?  

Hey, I’ve got three for you, all in the news last week! There was a rare intervention by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which issued a report warning that “the rate of climate change now may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years, and it is projected to accelerate in the coming decades.” There was a risk, it added, “of abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes in the earth’s climate system with massively disruptive impacts,” including the possible “large scale collapse of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, collapse of part of the Gulf Stream, loss of the Amazon rain forest, die-off of coral reefs, and mass extinctions.” Then there was the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest grim assessment, whose key message is: “It’s not just about melting ice, threatened animals, and plants. It’s about the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees, and war becoming worse,” or as one of the scientists writing the report put it, “The polar bear is us.” And, of course, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization released its annual report last week, pointing out that, though we are only 14 years into a new century, 13 of them fall into the category of warmest ever recorded.

Not enough bad news for you?  Rest assured that there will be prodigious new reports on climate change in the coming years, all from teams of sober, respectable scientists assuring us (yet again) that the next set of findings indicate the planet is going to get hotter (much hotter!), that extreme weather conditions are going to worsen, that drought is going to be endemic, that food production is going to suffer disastrously, that sea levels are going to rise, that chaos is going to ensue, etc., etc. 

By now, this is painfully predictable stuff rather than breakthrough science.  It’s middle of the road, ho-hum, world’s-going-down-the-drain material, and not even the worst version of what might happen either.  By now, this has essentially passed out of the realm of pioneering science and, for those across the planet who are experiencing heat records in Australia, drought in the Western U.S., or horrific superstorms from New York City to the Philippines, onrushing daily life on planet Earth.

The message couldn’t be clearer.  Individual scientists and groups of them continue to weigh in repeatedly.  Climate scientist Michael Mann, for instance, recently suggested that “if the world keeps burning fossil fuels at the current rate, it will cross a threshold into environmental ruin by 2036.”  Sadly, if we had 100 new reports this month, offering versions of the usual findings, it largely wouldn’t matter because we seem intent on doing the one thing that all the scientists say will make this so much worse.  We’re burning fossil fuels as if — excuse the phrase — there were no tomorrow, while the Big Energy companies are finding new ways to release ever more of the ever-tougher variety of fossil fuels from their underground reserves.  They’re building pipelines in profusion to ensure, for instance, that particularly carbon-dirty Canadian tar sands will sooner or later flood the market.  They’re drilling with increased intensity in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Arctic, in ever-deeper ocean waters.  Sarah Palin may be in retirement, but it’s her world and welcome to it.  We’re now on a drill, baby, drill and frack, baby, frack planet, where the prevailing state of mind is what TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author most recently of The Race for What’s Left, calls “carbon delirium.”  It’s a far better term for the mentality that simply refuses to absorb all those reports than the more rational-sounding “climate denialism.” Tom Engelhardt

Carbon delirium
The last stage of fossil-fuel addiction and its hazardous impact on American Foreign policy
By Michael Klare

Of all the preposterous, irresponsible headlines that have appeared on the front page of the New York Times in recent years, few have exceeded the inanity of this one from early March: “U.S. Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin.”  The article by normally reliable reporters Coral Davenport and Steven Erlanger suggested that, by sending our surplus natural gas to Europe and Ukraine in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the United States could help reduce the region’s heavy reliance on Russian gas and thereby stiffen its resistance to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive behavior. 

Forget that the United States currently lacks a capacity to export LNG to Europe, and will not be able to do so on a significant scale until the 2020s.  Forget that Ukraine lacks any LNG receiving facilities and is unlikely to acquire any, as its only coastline is on the Black Sea, in areas dominated by Russian speakers with loyalties to Moscow.  Forget as well that any future U.S. exports will be funneled into the international marketplace, and so will favor sales to Asia where gas prices are 50% higher than in Europe.  Just focus on the article’s central reportorial flaw: it fails to identify a single reason why future American LNG exports (which could wind up anywhere) would have any influence whatsoever on the Russian president’s behavior.

The only way to understand the strangeness of this is to assume that the editors of the Times, like senior politicians in both parties, have become so intoxicated by the idea of an American surge in oil and gas production that they have lost their senses.

[Read more...]

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The ties that bind the U.S. and Russian oil and gas industries together

a13-iconSteve Horn reports: In a long-awaited moment in a hotly contested zone currently occupied by the Russian military, Ukraine’s citizens living in the peninsula of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to become part of Russia.

Responding to the referendum, President Barack Obama and numerous U.S. officials rejected the results out of hand and the Obama Administration has confirmed he will authorize economic sanctions against high-ranking Russian officials.

“As I told President Putin yesterday, the referendum in Crimea was a clear violation of Ukrainian constitutions and international law and it will not be recognized by the international community,” Obama said in a press briefing. “Today I am announcing a series of measures that will continue to increase the cost on Russia and those responsible for what is happening in Ukraine.”

But even before the vote and issuing of sanctions, numerous key U.S. officials hyped the need to expedite U.S. oil and gas exports to fend off Europe’s reliance on importing Russia’s gas bounty. In short, gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is increasingly seen as a “geopolitical tool” for U.S. power-brokers, as The New York Times explained.

Perhaps responding to the repeated calls to use gas as a “diplomatic tool,” the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced it will sell 5 million barrels of oil from the seldom-tapped Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Both the White House and DOE deny the decision had anything to do with the situation in Ukraine.

Yet even as some say we are witnessing the beginning of a “new cold war,” few have discussed the ties binding major U.S. oil and gas companies with Russian state oil and gas companies.

The ties that bind, as well as other real logistical and economic issues complicate the narrative of exports as an “energy weapon.”

The situation in Ukraine is a simple one at face value, at least from an energy perspective.

“Control of resources and dependence on other countries is a central theme connecting the longstanding tension between Russia and Ukraine and potential actions taken by the rest of the world as the crisis escalates,” ThinkProgress explained in a recent article. “Ukraine is overwhelmingly dependent on Russia for natural gas, relying on its neighbor for 60 to 70 percent of its natural gas needs.”

At the same time, Europe also largely depends on Ukraine as a key thoroughfare for imports of Russian gas via pipelines.

“The country is crossed by a network of Soviet-era pipelines that carry Russian natural gas to many European Union member states and beyond; more than a quarter of the EU’s total gas needs were met by Russian gas, and some 80% of it came via Ukrainian pipelines,” explained The Guardian.

Given the circumstances, weaning EU countries off Russian gas seems a no-brainer at face value. Which is why it’s important to use the brain and look beneath the surface.

The U.S. and Russian oil and gas industries can best be described as “frenemies.” Case in point: the tight-knit relationship between U.S. multinational petrochemical giant ExxonMobil and Russian state-owned multinational petrochemical giant Rosneft. [Continue reading...]

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Ukraine crisis: Why it matters to the world economy

a13-iconCNN reports: While the world watches the escalating crisis in Ukraine, investors and world leaders are considering how the instability could roil the global economy.

The political turmoil is rooted in the country’s strategic economic position. It is an important conduit between Russia and major European markets, as well as a significant exporter of grain.

But in the post-Soviet era, it’s a weakened economy. Now, the government is in need of an economic rescue — and torn between whether Russia or the Western economies (including the European Union) is the savior it needs.

Here are five reasons the world’s largest economies are watching what happens in Ukraine. [Continue reading...]

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Exxon Mobil CEO sues to keep fracking away from his backyard

Chris Hayes looks at Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s lawsuit tied to fracking. (I removed the 3min 44sec embedded video because it loads slowly, but it can be viewed at MSNBC.)

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