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Politics & economics - Nov 19

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage



US senators demand oil execs re-testify, under oath

Agence France Presse via Common Dreams
Senate Democrats demanded that oil company executives who testified last week about skyrocketing energy prices reappear before lawmakers and testify under oath, after news reports raised questions about the truthfulness of their testimony.

Leading oil company executives long have denied taking part in a secretive energy task force run in 2001 by Vice President Dick Cheney, but White House records obtained by The Washington Post refuted that, according to the daily's editions on Wednesday.
(17 November 2005)


Toiling in a Dickensian hell – the miners who fuel China

Jane Macartney, London Times
Pingdingshan -- HAPPILY slurping his steaming noodles in the afternoon sun, Zang Dashan certainly does not look like a man who could be eating his last meal.

He spits a piece of gristle at a dog curled at his feet, washes his bowl under a grimy tap and heads off to work in the most dangerous profession in China. Mr Zang is a coalminer.

He works in a private mine just outside the central city of Pingdingshan, one of the country’s three main coal towns. The mines here, and elsewhere, are working flat out, racing to provide the fuel for China’s economic boom.

But in the rush for profit, safety concerns get short shrift and the death toll from accidents grows steadily worse.

Barely a day goes by without a report of deaths from an explosion, flood, fire or collapse in a mine somewhere in China. In the first nine months of this year more than 4,000 miners were killed — an average of 17 a day and double the number a year earlier — despite a government campaign to close down unsafe mines.

But if Mr Zang is worried, he does not show it. “Am I afraid? What’s the point? If I die, I die,” he says
(18 November 2005)
Monkeygrinder at Peak Energy has a blistering commentary: doing it our way.


The state of the American republic

Monkey Grinder, Peak Energy (Seattle)
...The voting machines running today are a such joke that "hacking" them is not necessarily a matter of technical expertise, but rather a weakest link game wherein one individual might social engineer one password to magically subvert democracy and 100,000 votes, just like the good old days.

Software is a perilious excercise when engineers have the best of intentions. With intentional sloppiness and lopped corners, everyone in America became disenfranchised. Even if Bush versus Kerry, Bud versus Bud light, presented a puzzling choice.

This is relevant to Peak Energy.

Undoing the actions of hidden actors needs to be priority one. No useful political change can occur in the American democracy while such wholesale shenanigans are tolerated. It is too early to play outside the game; we need the system back to where it was in 1976, at a minimum. Our energy problems are immense, if we get the system back, a Jimmy Carter is probably too much to hope for.

Progress is the painful process of re-attaining what has been lost.
(17 November 2005)


Supply fears amid gas price surge in UK

BBC
Prices of wholesale gas have almost doubled during the past week, prompting fears about winter supplies to the UK.

Prices hit an eight month high of 80p a therm, sharply higher than last week's price of 43p, before dipping slightly.

Experts said fears the UK is about to face its coldest winter in 10 years and tight supplies had triggered the rise.

UK supplies are low as a pipeline from Europe is running at half capacity and shiploads of gas are being diverted to Spain and the US where prices are high.

Wood Mackenzie gas analyst Frank Harris told the Financial Times that operators could have made up to $14m more per cargo by selling to the US rather than the UK.

The UK is also facing the prospect of becoming a net importer of gas as supplies from the North Sea dwindle.
(18 November 2005)
Jeremy Warner has commentary in The Independent: A wholly predictable energy crisis looms - but at least it might make the case for nuclear.


Are we there yet? Prospect of $100 oil
Longer-term bets based on high risk, depleting sources

Myra P. Saefong, MarketWatch
Earlier this year, speculation over a spike past $100 a barrel was fed by terrorist activities, severe weather and political and economic uncertainties. In April, Goldman Sachs even warned of a "super-spike" period that could push oil to $105 per barrel.

But by late August, around the time when crude-futures prices reached a record level near $71 a barrel, MarketWatch's editor-in-chief questioned whether Hurricane Katrina had helped mark the peak for oil.

..."What ever happened to $100 crude? It just got postponed," said Agbeli Ameko, a managing partner at First Enercast Financial. "That is, at least until the next hurricane season or some geopolitical bombshell."

"In this 'peak-oil' and 'terror-premium' environment, the market will remain in reach of the $100 barrier," he said.
(18 November 2005)


Syriana

Chris Schults, Gristmill
Damn, this looks like a good movie. From IMDB:

From writer/director Stephen Gaghan, winner of the Best Screenplay Academy Award for Traffic, comes Syriana, a political thriller that unfolds against the intrigue of the global oil industry. From the players brokering back-room deals in Washington to the men toiling in the oil fields of the Persian Gulf, the film's multiple storylines weave together to illuminate the human consequences of the fierce pursuit of wealth and power.

(18 November 2005)
See original for embedded links.


Shell’s strategy to fuel the future
(PDF)
Jeroen van der Veer (Chief Executive Royal Dutch Shell plc), Shell
The international energy business has never been other than very demanding. But it’s getting even tougher. Energy needs are expanding and changing rapidly. Markets are more volatile. Developing new supplies presents increasing challenges. And we must find ways of dealing with carbon dioxide emissions.

...Global energy markets are being transformed, with demand growing rapidly, particularly in major emerging economies.

China’s energy consumption grew by more than 15% last year, and India’s by 7% But there was growth elsewhere as well – US oil demand grew by nearly 3% and EU gas demand by 3.5%. Overall world demand grew by over 4%, exceeding 10 billion tonnes oil equivalent for the first time. That’s twice what it was when I started my career in the early 1970s.

According to International Energy Agency projections, world energy consumption could increase by more than half over the next quarter century. Most of this growth will be in developing and transition economies.

The energy mix is also changing. But the world will still depend on fossil fuels for most of its energy, with gas gaining an increasing share, mainly at the expense of coal.

High energy prices reflect tight supply, with little cushion for interruptions, such as the recent hurricane damage in the US. This tightness is no longer from OPEC constraints, but from unprecedented demand growth.

Flows of speculative funds make prices more volatile. Some $28 billion has entered the forward market for West Texas Intermediate crude this year. Of course, this money can go as quickly. Concern about the impact of high prices on demand may already be altering bullish perceptions.

The global economy has weathered the impact of high energy prices reasonably well so far. Will this continue? I don’t know. But the risks are clearly increasing.

...Energy supplies are not tight because of a lack of resources. There’s still plenty to bring into production. But they are increasingly difficult to develop. What matters is being able to apply new technology and undertake more demanding projects, as well as having the commercial conditions to justify large and longterm investments.
(11 November 2005)
The original speech has more on Shell's specific strategy.


Understanding the oil patch

Bubba, The Oil Drum
...Many people who are interested in Peak Oil or oil and gas production in general tend to be woefully ignorant about the companies that produce much of the oil in the world and sell it back to the public as gasoline or other products. Many, if not most, people who are not involved in the industry, at least in a peripheral way, tend to ascribe all kinds of devious, conspiratorial, and unethical if not evil intentions to these companies. They treat the multi-national companies as if they were some sort of conspiracy against the earth. This may sound self-serving, but I am going to tell you the way it really is, or at least the way that I have seen it to be observing it from the inside for the past 20 years.
(18 November 2005)


Syria and the oil shortage

StrategyPage
Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War

As if Syrian President Bashir Asad hasn’t got enough problems... he now faces a serious economic problem – Syria is running out of oil.

While never one of the mega-petroleum producers, for most of the past 30 years Syria’s daily output averaged about 600 thousand barrels. This was more than sufficient to provide for the country’s internal petroleum consumption, for most of the period under 200,000 barrels a day, and brought in a substantial amount in foreign exchange, particularly since the local product is a relatively high quality light crude. This effectively subsidized the Syrian economy, while providing the Baathist regime with lots of extra cash. But for the last few years production has been declining...
(15 November 2005)
From the StrategyPage homepage:

StrategyPage gives you rapid access to military news. We report these events as history, not headlines, and provide concise, comprehensive and easy-to-understand descriptions of the troops, their equipment and why wars the world over are being fought.

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