28 feb. 2011

The Global Battle for Crude Oil - Libya in the Great Game

Fleeing Libya are not only families who fear for their lives and poor immigrants from other North African countries. There are tens of thousands of "refugees" who are being repatriated by their governments with ships and aircraft: they are mainly engineers and executives of major oil companies. Not only Eni, which realizes about 15 percent of its sales from Libya, but also other European multinationals -- in particular: BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BASF, Statoil, Rapsol. Hundreds of Gazprom employees were also forced to leave Libya and over 30 thousand Chinese oil company and construction workers. A symbolic image of how the Libyan economy is interconnected with global economy, dominated by multinationals.

Libya's oil industry is in chaos — and there's no telling when that will end. Armed men loot equipment from oil field installations. British and German commandos execute secret raids in the Libyan desert to rescue stranded oil workers as security disintegrates rapidly in remote camps.
Libyan port workers, frightened of being caught up in Moammar Gadhafi's violent crackdown on protesters, fail to show up for work, leaving empty tankers floating around the Mediterranean Sea waiting to load crude.
And the European oil companies extracting Libya's black gold are operating in crisis mode, trying to get stranded expatriate workers out and safe amid conflicting information on how much oil is still being pumped and just where it all is. That was just this week. The situation is not expected to get better in the near future.(Associeted Press)

Thanks to its rich reserves of oil and natural gas, Libya has a positive trade balance of $27 billion a year and a medium-high per capita income of $12,000, six times greater than that of Egypt. Despite strong differences in low and high incomes, the average standard of living of the population of Libya (just 6.5 million inhabitants in comparison to the nearly 85 million in Egypt) is therefore higher than that of Egypt and other North African countries. Witness the fact that nearly one million and a half immigrants, mostly from North Africa, work in Libya. Some 85 percent of Libyan energy exports go to Europe: Italy takes first place with 37 percent, followed by Germany, France and China. Italy is also in first place  in imports to Libya, followed by China, Turkey and Germany.
This framework is now blown into the air as a result of what can be characterized not as a revolt of the impoverished masses, such as the rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia, but as a real civil war, due to a split in the ruling group. Whoever made the first move has exploited the discontent against Gadhafi's clan, especially prevalent among the populations of Cyrenaica and young people in the cities, in a moment when entire North Africa has taken the road of rebellion. Unlike in Egypt and Tunisia, however, the Libyan uprising was preplanned and organized.

The reactions in the international arena are also symbolic. Beijing has said it is extremely concerned about developments in Libya and called for "a quick return to stability and normality." The reason is clear: the Sino-Libyan trade has undergone strong growth (around 30 percent in 2010 alone), but now China can see that the whole structure of economic relations with Libya, from which it imports increasing quantities of oil, has been put in play. Moscow is in a similar position.

Diametrically opposite is the signal from Washington: President Barack Obama, who when confronted with the Egyptian crisis minimized the repression unleashed by Mubarak and called for a “orderly and peaceful transition,” has condemned in no uncertain terms the Libyan government and announced that the U.S. is preparing "the full range of options that we have available to respond to this crisis,
including "actions that we can undertake on our own and those that we can coordinate with our allies through multilateral institutions." The message is clear: there is the possibility of a U.S./NATO military intervention in Libya, formally to stop the bloodshed. The real reasons are also clear: if Gadhafi is overthrown, the U.S. would be able to topple the entire framework of economic relations with Libya, opening the way to U.S.-based multinationals, so far almost entirely excluded from exploitation of energy reserves in Libya. The United States could thus control the tap for energy sources upon which Europe largely depends and which also supplies China.
These are the events in the great game of the division of African resources, for which a growing confrontation, especially between China and the United States, is taking place. The rising Asian power - with a presence in Africa of about 5 million managers, technicians and workers - building industries and infrastructure, in exchange for oil and other raw materials. The United States, which can not compete on this level, can use its leverage over the armed forces of the major African countries, who they train through the Africa Command (AFRICOM), their main instrument for penetration of the continent. NATO is now also entering in the game, as it is about to conclude a partnership military treaty with the African Union, which includes 53 countries.
The headquarters of the African Union-NATO partnership is already under construction in Addis Ababa: a modern structure, funded with 27 million Euros from Germany, baptized, "Building peace and security."

Il Manifesto, by Manlio Dinucci February 25, 2011

Forget Libya, The Smart Money is Eyeing Developments in Saudi Arabia

The smart money has their eyes on Saudi Arabia. Will the protests there turn ugly?
All the drama seen on the streets, from the unnecessary deaths to Muammar Gadhafi’s rhetoric – its only importance is to gauge how the Saudi citizenry react.

Reuters called a Saudi oil disruption “unthinkable,” and the WSJ claimed “Saudi Arabia is well-shielded from a full-blown uprising of the kind seen in Libya.”

 Think again. This is the world’s second largest oil producer and has promised to fill the gap if Libya totally shuts down. It can’t very well keep such promises if Saudis are involved in their own civil revolt. Remember, even if Libya is totally shut down, there is no supply issue.(read more)

'Spike and crash scenario'
Libyan supply could be knocked out for months, according to a report by US investment bank Merrill Lynch.
The Wall Street firm said that as much as 1.2 million barrels-per-day of production may have been shut down already, and that production facilities in the west of the country were prone to attach by government or opposition forces, which would lead to a prolonged output loss.
There remained a substantial risk that oil prices could move sharply higher, undermining the global economic recovery, the research piece warned, and the market only had limited ability to withstand further unrest in the Middle East.

26 feb. 2011

Defiant Gaddafi vows to die as martyr - 1,000 killed in Libya unrest

    (Reuters) - A defiant Muammar Gaddafi said on Tuesday he was ready to die "a martyr" in Libya, vowing to crush a growing revolt which has seen eastern regions break free of his 41-year rule and brought deadly unrest to the capital.
Swathed in brown robes, Gaddafi seethed with anger and banged the podium outside one of his residences that was damaged in a 1986 U.S. bombing raid that attempted to kill him. Next to him stood a monument of a fist crushing a U.S. fighter jet.

24 feb. 2011

The Real Manchurian Candidate: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.
"My job in psy-ops is to play with people's heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," the officer, Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, told Rolling Stone.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation. ( read more on www.rollingstone.com )

23 feb. 2011

Greece strike turning violent in Athens

Young demonstrators hurled rocks and fire bombs at riot police as clashes broke out on Wednesday in Athens during a mass rally against austerity measures, part of a general strike that crippled services and public ransportation around the country. Police fired tear gas and flash grenades at protesters, blanketing parts of the city centre in choking smoke.

19 feb. 2011

The future of the Arab world

  Revolution is in the air and dictators and leaders throughout the Middle East had better be on guard because the people have had enough. They are tired of being repressed. They are tired of the way their country's wealth is siphoned off so that a few at the top are insanely rich and the masses of citizenry suffer in ghettos. They demand freedom of information as it is harder to restrain free speech with the power of the internet and the rise of the social network. The power to keep the people ignorant is diminishing; yet of course don't think that will stop some leaders from trying.

Today when common people are on the streets wanting dictators like Hosni Mubarak to go, these regimes are shaking in their boots. Now Israeli authorities want to prevent democracy in Egypt as democracy, according to them, would mean Brotherhood coming to power. Earlier in Palestine when Hamas came to power through democratic elections, America and Israel refused to recognize elected Hamas Government. So much for democracy Israel and US talk about.(www.twocircles.net)

And whenever there are good prospects for democracy in any Islamic country the US rushes in to support dictatorships from Indonesia to the Arab world and then blames Islam for being anti-democratic. Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship was supported by USA and Israel in their own interest and what is worse Israel’s interest is US interest. Today when Obama realized that Hosni Mubarak has totally lost support he is advising him to go to keep its credibility with the people of Egypt. But it will also see that someone is installed who acts in US-Israel interests.

America's Most Embarrassing Allies 

SAUDI ARABIA - Leader: King Abdullah
The king has ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005. As ruler of a country with no elections, parliament, or political parties, Abdullah and his family exercise unchecked power within the kingdom, and -- thanks to their control of one-fifth of the world's oil reserves and Islam's two holiest sites -- quite a bit of influence beyond their borders as well. Abdullah surprised many by undertaking some minor reforms of the country's clerical establishment in 2009, though this may have had more to do with a desire to consolidate his power than any enlightened pluralistic impulses.

YEMEN - Leader: Ali Abdullah Saleh
Saleh first took power in Northern Yemen in a military coup in 1978 and has ruled the entire country since unification in 1991. Opposition parties are marginalized, parliamentary elections have been indefinitely postponed, and civilians are frequently caught up in military strikes in the country's lawless south.

JORDAN - Leader: King Abdullah II
When the Western-educated Abdullah took the throne in 1999, hopes were high that political reforms would follow. The government lifted 20 years of martial law in 1989, restoring the country's parliament. But open democracy did not follow: The country's election system remains deeply flawed, gerrymandered to support tribal candidates and government loyalists.

ETHIOPIA - Leader: Meles Zenawi
The 2010 election, in which Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's party won a remarkable 99.6 percent of the vote, was the culmination of what Human Rights Watch called "the government's five-year strategy of systematically closing down space for political dissent and independent criticism." This included attacks and arrests of prominent opposition figures, the shutting down of newspapers and assaults on journalists critical of the government, and doling out international food aid as an incentive to get poor Ethiopians to join the ruling party.

UGANDA - Leader: Yoweri Museveni
Record: Museveni talks a big game on democracy, economic development, and anti-corruption efforts, and to be fair he did institute a number of promising reforms early in his presidency, encouraging the development of free press and elections following decades of strongman rule. But the president has lately started to resemble his predecessors, abolishing term limits after nearly three decades in office, launching legal attacks on independent journalists, harassing opposition parties and flying a $50 million private jet while more than a third of his people live on less than $1 a day, having previously criticized other African leaders for indulging in similar perks. NGOs have also documented numerous cases of unlawful detention and torture by the country's Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force.

UZBEKISTAN - Leader: Islam Karimov
Karimov, Uzbekistan's first and only post-independence president, has routinely stifled political dissent in Uzbekistan, banning opposition groups -- particularly Islamic ones -- stifling the press and jailing thousands. His country is routinely cited as one of the world's worst torturers, with punishments including beatings, rape, and even boiling meted out in its overcrowded jails. Uzbekistan faced international condemnation in 2005 after hundreds of unarmed protesters demonstrating in support of a group of arrested local businessmen were shot by security forces in the city of Andijan. Karimov has repeatedly extended his own tenure beyond the constitutionally mandated two-term limit and international observers have dismissed the country's elections as shams.

KAZAKHSTAN - Leader: Nursultan Nazarbayev
Nazarbayev, former leader of the Kazakh Communist Party, has ruled the country without any serious political challenge since independence in 1991. Restrictive election laws make it nearly impossible to opposition parties to run, anti-government newspapers are routinely harassed and shut down, and corruption -- particularly related to the country's energy sector -- is reportedly pervasive throughout the state.

VIETNAM - Leader: Nguyen Tan Dung
The Communist Party of Vietnam is the only party allowed by law and appoints the country's leaders from within its own ranks -- Nguyen Tan Dung was reappointed for a second term in Jan. 26. According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam has intensified its repression of human rights over the past year, imprisoning human rights defenders, bloggers, and anti-corruption campaigners. Religious groups, both Christian and Buddhist, have faced repeated harassment. Police brutality and deaths under police custody are commonplace.

Read full article on www.foreignpolicy.com

15 feb. 2011


Harta lumii se redesenează, în ultima perioadă, ţări precum China, Coreea de Sud, Japonia, Arabia Saudită sau Kuwait sunt tot mai interesate să cumpere sau să arendeze pe termen lung întinderi importante de teren agricol în încercarea de a satisface cererea internă tot mai mare pentru produse alimentare, scrie presa internaţională. 

Banca Mondială (BM) a susţinut până acum arendarea terenurilor agricole către investitori, însă recent a încurajat ţările-gazdă să impună reglementări mai stricte pentru a nu îşi pune în pericol producţia agricolă şi securitatea alimentară.

Investiţiile la scară largă duc la degradarea terenurilor agricole

Impactul ecologic al acestor investiţii este de asemenea semnificativ datorită faptului că investitorii cer productivităţi sporite, acestea putând fi obţinute doar prin tranziţia către agro-producţia la scară industrială, ce necesită monoculturi, suprautilizarea de pesticide, fertilizatori, irigaţii intense, proces care duce în final la degradarea calităţii terenurilor.

"Daca ar fi facute corect, investiţiile de mari dimensiuni în agricultură ar putea genera oportunităţi pentru economiile sărace ce au mult teren şi sectoare agricole importante, dar acest lucru nu se intampla. Totuşi, magnitudinea şi natura speculativă a celor mai multe dintre aceste tranzacţii i-a luat prin surprindere pe unii dintre actorii de pe scena internaţională", se arată într-un raport al BM. CONTINUARE ARTICOL  (www.zf.ro)

9 feb. 2011

WikiLeaks: Saudi Oil May Have Peaked Already

The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.

Jeremy Leggett, convenor of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, said: "We are asleep at the wheel here: choosing to ignore a threat to the global economy that is quite as bad as the credit crunch, quite possibly worse."

The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels – nearly 40%.

The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and tensions in the Middle East. Many analysts expect that the Saudis and their Opec cartel partners would pump more oil if rising prices threatened to choke off demand.

However, Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, met the US consul general in Riyadh in November 2007 and told the US diplomat that Aramco's 12.5m barrel-a-day capacity needed to keep a lid on prices could not be reached.

According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then – possibly as early as 2012 – global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as "peak oil".

Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap.

One cable said: "According to al-Husseini, the crux of the issue is twofold. First, it is possible that Saudi reserves are not as bountiful as sometimes described, and the timeline for their production not as unrestrained as Aramco and energy optimists would like to portray."

It went on: "In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.

"Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco's reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached … a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output."

The US consul then told Washington: "While al-Husseini fundamentally contradicts the Aramco company line, he is no doomsday theorist. His pedigree, experience and outlook demand that his predictions be thoughtfully considered."

Seven months later, the US embassy in Riyadh went further in two more cables. "Our mission now questions how much the Saudis can now substantively influence the crude markets over the long term. Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period."

A fourth cable, in October 2009, claimed that escalating electricity demand by Saudi Arabia may further constrain Saudi oil exports. "Demand [for electricity] is expected to grow 10% a year over the next decade as a result of population and economic growth. As a result it will need to double its generation capacity to 68,000MW in 2018," it said.

It also reported major project delays and accidents as "evidence that the Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place – to replace the decline in existing production." While fears of premature "peak oil" and Saudi production problems had been expressed before, no US official has come close to saying this in public.

In the last two years, other senior energy analysts have backed Husseini. Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian last year that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was "not good news" for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum.(guardian.co.uk)

1 feb. 2011

Uprising in Egypt: Al-Jazeera's Live Coverage from the Egyptian Streets


The US And The UK Lie About Inflation

"Most governments acknowledge it - India, China, Norway, Australian, Taiwan - it is only the UK and the US who say there is no inflation, but they lie about it." Jim Rogers - in CNBC