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05 April 2014

Press review 05-04-2014 - Back to Iraq

This week the highlight goes once again to Iraq, I stumbled upon a remarkable article that gave me lot to think. The writing is politically charged, but raises questions I was frankly unaware of. In essence, the exploration of Iraqi petroleum by foreign (European and American) companies is completely outside of any law; the government has repeatedly failed to force privatisation through parliament. Any doubts I had on the Al Maliki government lack of legitimacy were dissipated with this information, not even the Shiia representatives seem to align with this management of vital resources. And naturally, it puts the Sunni uprising of recent months into a completely new perspective.

And the deeper question is why has the western media been silent on this? More important than the propaganda feed us everyday is what is left told, opinion control through censorship. Luckily today there's the internet, that allows for diligent citizens to seek out information and the broader picture.
Global Research
Iraq Nation Destroyed, Oil Riches Confiscated. Surviving Iraqi Population Impoverished
Asad Ismi, 30-03-2014

[...] Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. This highly valuable resource has been handed over mainly to the U.S. companies ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum, to British Petroleum from England, and to Royal Dutch Shell from Holland and England. Iraq’s oil has not yet been formally privatized due to massive public opposition, but a de facto privatization has taken place.

[...] Iraq’s Oil Law, which enforces formal privatization, has not been passed by its Parliament due to massive public opposition, so instead the government has signed contracts with companies that benefit the latter immensely at a huge loss to the country. Explains Juhasz, “The contracts are enacting a form of privatization without public discourse and essentially at the butt of a gun. These contracts have all been awarded during a foreign military occupation, with the largest contracts going to companies from the foreign occupiers’ countries.

“It seems that democracy and equity are the two largest losers in this oil battle… The majority of Iraqis want their oil and its operations to remain in Iraqi hands. It has required a massive foreign military invasion and occupation to give the foreign oil companies the access they have achieved so far.” However, as Greg Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, puts it: “In fact, any oil company victory in Iraq is likely to prove as temporary as George W. Bush’s [military] triumph in 2003.”
What makes the news is rather a 35 year petroleum output record; indeed one must ask where the money is going to. For how long can the Al Maliki government keep the war from affecting the petroleum provinces? With a civil war raging in Al-Anbar, the autonomous Kurdish north acting as if economically independent and Nineveth also seeking independence (or autonomy at least) Iraq looks to be falling to smithereens.
Bloomberg
Lukoil Starting New Iraq Oilfield as Output Reaches 35-Year High
Nayla Razzouk, 28-03-2014

The nation plans to increase output capacity to 4.7 million barrels a day next year, from about 3 million in 2013, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussain al-Shahristani said Jan. 28. Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) Plc and Total SA (FP) are among those helping to rebuild Iraq’s energy industry.

Iraq boosted production to a 35-year high of 3.6 million barrels a day in February, the IEA estimates. Export capacity in the south is rising with offshore facilities to load tankers in the Persian Gulf.

The government is still contending with a dispute over oil revenues in the northern Kurdish region, as well as attacks on a pipeline to Turkey.
The usual piece on Libya this time comes from Energy Matters. Euan Mearns continues a round through several key petroleum exporting countries with plenty of relevant information. His remarks on the geographic antagonism between population centres and fossil fuels resources is right on the spot.
Energy Matters
Libya – energy, population and economy
Euan Mearns,

Europe has only 4 contiguous suppliers of imported gas and oil. Russia to the East is by far the most important and to the South, Algeria, Egypt and Libya. Britain and France bombed Libya into submission in 2011. The outcome to date is likely not what was planned. Oil exports are significantly reduced owing to ongoing civil unrest and gas exports through the Greenstream pipeline to Italy have been disrupted as recently as November 2013.
As I noted last week, Ukraine is being pretty much left on its own after the coupe d'état, pretty much like Egypt, Libya and Syria were. One the one hand, Russia is calling out the gas handouts.
Reuters
Russia raises gas prices for Ukraine by 80 percent
Svetlana Burmistrova and Natalia Zinets, 03-04-2014

Russia raised the gas price for Ukraine on Thursday for the second time this week, almost doubling it in three days and piling pressure on a neighbour on the brink of bankruptcy in the crisis over Crimea.

The increase, announced in Moscow by Russian natural gas producer Gazprom, means Ukraine will pay 80 percent more for its gas than before the initial increase on Monday.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said the latest move, two weeks after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea region, was unacceptable and warned that he expected Russia to increase pressure on Kiev by limiting supply to his country.
On the other hand Nato is bringing in the IMF with an impoverishment programme, as if Ukrainians were rich.
Common Dreams
In Kiev, Crushing IMF Austerity Defended as 'Price of Independence'
Jon Queally, 04-04-2014

The new Ukraine government in Kiev, currently led by interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, continues to tell its people that the only path forward for the country is to submit to the demands of the international financial powers—specifically the International Monetary Fund—by meeting their demands to implement draconian cuts to social funding, pensions, and otherwise "liberalizing" the economy in exchange for billions of dollars in bailout loans.

Noting full-well the unpopularity of and crushing impact that ending fuel subsidies and cutting both wages and pensions will have on regular Ukrainians, Yatseniuk told Reuters in an interview published Friday that these measures—which are set conditions for a $14-$18 billion loan package from the IMF—are simply the "price of independence."
Still on the Ukrainian issue, the past weeks where rich in hints of an "attack" on the petrodollar system from Moscow. This is mostly propaganda, but still worthy of note. On its own, Russia will not put an to petrodollar system - which is in fact the monetary system set in place by the Plaza Accord in 1985. But if the rubble can be made into a reserve and international trade currency it will be one more step towards a new international monetary system, necessarily far more plural that the previous one, when NATO nations dominated.
The Voice of Russia
Russia prepares to attack the petrodollar
04-04-2014

The existence of “petrodollars” is one of the pillars of America's economic might because it creates a significant external demand for American currency, allowing the US to accumulate enormous debts without defaulting. If a Japanese buyer want to buy a barrel of Saudi oil, he has to pay in dollars even if no American oil company ever touches the said barrel. Dollar has held a dominant position in global trading for such a long time that even Gazprom's natural gas contracts for Europe are priced and paid for in US dollars. Until recently, a significant part of EU-China trade had been priced in dollars.

Lately, China has led the BRICS efforts to dislodge the dollar from its position as the main global currency, but the “sanctions war” between Washington and Moscow gave an impetus to the long-awaited scheme to launch the petroruble and switch all Russian energy exports away from the US currency .

The main supporters of this plan are Sergey Glaziev, the economic aide of the Russian President and Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, the biggest Russian oil company and a close ally of Vladimir Putin. Both have been very vocal in their quest to replace the dollar with the Russian ruble. Now, several top Russian officials are pushing the plan forward.
An interesting piece from what appears to be a website associated with the Green party. Apart from the politics it includes some relevant information that I haven't read before. Although the heavy petroleums extracted from the Alberta woodlands are often cited as profitable above 100 $/b, its real cost is far from known.
Environment 360
On Ravaged Tar Sands Lands, Big Challenges for Reclamation
Ed Struzik, 27-03-2014

When Alberta’s oil sands industry marked its 40th anniversary in 2007, one statistic stood out among the many that measure economic success and environmental impact: Not a single acre of mined land had been certified as being "reclaimed" to government standards.

Since then, major bitumen-mining companies such as Suncor and Syncrude have spent an enormous amount of time, money, and public relations effort to convince the public that they have returned disturbed lands to a state that is "equal or better than pre-disturbance conditions."

The companies have filled in giant mine pits, replanted trees, engineered marshes, and brought in bison to graze on boreal shrublands that have been manufactured from excavated earth and wetland vegetation. Today, however, less than one square mile of the 296 square miles of land that has been disturbed by tar sands development has been certified as being reclaimed by the province of Alberta. Standing in the way of certification are poorly defined government guidelines on wetland reclamation and the absence of clear company plans
Now shifting gears for a bit of good news. The share of renewables in the electricity generated in the Union surpassed 23% in 2012. Austria, Portugal and Sweden get more than half of their electricity from renewables, with Denmark and Latvia not far from that. Adding nuclear to these numbers we must be close to a third of non depletable fuel based electricity (yes Uranium is depletable, but all the actinides put together put it on a very long term horizon).
Clean Techies
European Union Gets 23.4% of Electricity From Renewables
Edouard Stenger, 03-04-2014

According to official statistics from Eurobserv’ER, 23.4 percent of the electricity in the European Union came from renewable energy sources in 2012. The total output for 2012 has been estimated at 763.5 TW. This represents an important increase from 2011, when these energy sources brought “only” 20.4 percent of total electricity.

Regarding gross final energy consumption, renewables brought 14 percent of the total in 2012, up from 12.9 percent in 2011.

Eurobserv’ER also provided employment statistics showing that the renewable energy industry has employed up to 1.22 million people in direct and indirect jobs in 2012 (50,000 less than in 2011).

Jobs were mostly in wind power (300,000 direct and indirect jobs), followed by solid biomass (280,000 jobs), photovoltaic (250,000 jobs) and biofuels (110,000 jobs).
Citigroup, a bank on which I deposit little credit (pun intended), came out with a report all rosy on renewables. Naturally, this financial group is simply seeking to sway the market, but still. The persistent decline in renewable energy costs is certainly changing the investment landscape, this report may just be a symptom of an attitude shift from investors.
REneweconomy
Citigroup says the ‘Age of Renewables’ has begun
Giles Parkinson, 27-03-2014

Investment banking giant Citigroup has hailed the start of the “age of renewables” in the United States, the world’s biggest electricity market, saying that solar and wind energy are getting competitive with natural gas peaking and baseload plants – even in the US where gas prices are said to be low.

In a major new analysis released this week, Citi says the big decision makers within the US power industry are focused on securing low cost power, fuel diversity and stable cash flows, and this is drawing them increasingly to the “economics” of solar and wind, and how they compare with other technologies.

Much of the mainstream media – in the US and abroad – has been swallowing the fossil fuel Kool-Aid and hailing the arrival of cheap gas, through the fracking boom, as a new energy “revolution”, as if this would be a permanent state of affairs. But as we wrote last week, solar costs continue to fall even as gas prices double.

Citi’s report echoes that conclusion. Gas prices, it notes, are rising and becoming more volatile. This has made wind and solar and other renewable energy sources more attractive because they are not sensitive to fuel price volatility.
Here is an example of what is driving investors like Citigroup towards renewables. In essence: the fuel is free, any small improvement in manufacturing or installation costs has an immediate effect; long term costs can only go down.
REneweconomy
Solar costs to halve as gas prices surge
Giles Parkinson, 21-03-2014

Another of the world’s leading solar PV manufacturing giants has underlined the potential for yet more substantial falls in the manufacturing cost of solar modules, even as the cost of fossil fuels – and gas in particular – surges in the opposite direction.

Beyond the near-term revenue forecasts that obsess market analysts, one of the big take-outs of First Solar’s annual market day in New York this week was its predictions about the cost of solar modules over the next five years.

In short, First Solar expects its average manufacturing cost to nearly halve – from an average $US0.63/watt in 2013, to $US0.35/W in 2018. That will bring the total installed cost of a module (including racking and inverters) from around $1.59/W to below $1/W by 2017 – so meeting the US Department of Energy’s ambitious Sunshot Initiative goals at least three years ahead of time.
In case you missed it, there was a post on TheOilDrum mid-week.

Enjoy your weekend. Do not forget that tomorrow is the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.