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Politics & economics - Feb 15

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The Corporate Plunder Of Iraq

Dave Whyte, Socialistworker via Counter Currents
Saddam’s regime was undoubtedly corrupt, in the sense that he established a system of patronage and rewards for the elite that remained closest to him. But the scale and intensity of the corruption and fraud perpetrated by the occupation is unprecedented in modern history.

The largest part of the money spent by the US-British occupation was not US or international donor funds, but oil revenue that belongs to the Iraqi people. During the period of direct rule the US spent, or committed to spend, around £11.3 billion, most of which was disbursed to US corporations.

Of this expenditure, £5 billion is unaccounted for. From the available evidence we know that much of it has vanished into the hands of corporations, corrupt public officials and elite Iraqi deal fixers.
(9 Feb 2006)
Dave Whyte is a lecturer in criminology at the University of Stirling. To read Cash from Chaos, Dave Whyte’s reports on corporate crime in Iraq, go to www.dass.stir.ac.uk/staff/d-whyte/davewhyte.php


G-8 Ministers Warn of Wider Risks From Tight Oil Supply

Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times
Finance ministers from the world's richest countries and Russia said Saturday that "high and volatile" energy prices posed a risk to global economic growth that otherwise appeared solid.

With booming growth in China and India absorbing oil, attention has been focused on the effect of rising demand in pushing up oil prices. The Group of 8, a club of the world's richest capitalist democracies and Russia, meeting Saturday in an icy, mist-covered Moscow, focused instead on the extremely tight supply around the world.

"We're all concerned about the risk of rising energy prices and what they do to global growth," John W. Snow, the United States treasury secretary, said after the meeting at a hotel. ... The ministers called for greater accuracy on the part of oil exporting nations in reporting reserves and production figures, according to a statement by the ministers.
(12 Feb 2006)


Ethanol's a big scam, and Bush has fallen for it

Kevin Hassett, Bloomberg
In his State of the Union address, George W. Bush called for an intense effort to develop more efficient alternative fuel sources.

``We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass,'' the president said. ``Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.''

Bush should have known better. In a capital city that is full of shameless political scams, ethanol is perhaps the most egregious. There has probably never been a specific topic around which so much disinformation is spread. Ethanol lowers our reliance on fossil fuels! Ethanol helps clean the environment! Ethanol will save the family farm!

Such sound bites work wonders when it comes to raising money. And the amount involved is mind-boggling. The federal government subsidizes ethanol producers with a tax credit of 51 cents per gallon of fuel ethanol; those subsidies will total about $1.4 billion this year.

The Energy Department and the Agriculture Department spend tens of millions of dollars every year on biomass-based energy research and development. This is in addition to the billions of dollars -- more than $4 billion in 2004 -- the U.S. provides in subsidies for the production of corn, from which most domestically produced ethanol is derived.

If you look at the facts, the spending makes no sense whatsoever...
Kevin Hassett is director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He was chief economic adviser to Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona during the 2000 primaries. The opinions expressed are his own.
(13 February 2006)
Related: Ethanol's empty promises (Ventura County Start)

Second Article in recent days against ethanol from Bloomberg. See John M. Berry's article www.energybulletin.net/12797.html. At least some of the corporate media is not fully aligned behind the idea of subsidies to farmers as an energy policy - IG [submitter]

Hassett quotes Pimentel and Patzek, cites the concept of embodied energy, and decries the influence of corn money on Congress. Surprising article to come from a conservative writing in a business publication. We need a similar article for the giveaway to oil companies, described in the next article. -BA


U.S. royalty plan to give windfall to oil companies

Edmund L. Andrews, Washington Post
The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years.

New projections, buried in the Interior Department's just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government.

Based on the administration figures, the government will give up more than $7 billion in payments between now and 2011. The companies are expected to get the largess, known as royalty relief, even though the administration assumes that oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period.
(13 February 2006)
Also posted at Common Dreams.


UAE keen to buy more natural gas from Qatar

Bloomberg via Gulf Times
DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates plans to buy additional gas from Qatar, owner of the world’s largest gas field, to fill the Gulf’s first cross-border gas pipeline project as competition with Asia and the EU for the fuel intensifies, an official said.

Dolphin Energy Ltd, 51% owned by Abu Dhabi’s government, will next year seek to purchase an additional 1.2bn cubic feet a day of Qatari gas, worth about $3.3bn a year at current US market prices, Dolphin chief executive officer Ahmed Ali al-Sayegh said.

“I could make three phone calls and sell the extra gas locally in an hour so I’m hoping we’ll soon begin discussions with Qatar,” al-Sayegh said .

Qatar said in November that it could not commit to any more gas sales agreements until 2007 at the earliest because existing reservoirs were operating at near capacity.

Abu Dhabi’s plan to construct a natural gas pipeline grid connecting the Gulf states may keep more of the region’s gas supplies locally and curtail future sales to Europe, whose governments are seeking to diversify their energy purchases amid concern about security of supply from Russia.
(14 February 2006)


Threat of Scarcity Draws Oil Companies to Cuba

Patricia Grogg, Inter Press Service
HAVANA - The need to find new oilfields to satisfy world demand, which could soon outstrip production, has prompted foreign oil companies to take an interest in offshore prospecting and drilling around Cuba, to explore the country's unconfirmed potential.

According to predictions, global crude oil production is going to fall in terms of both quantity and quality, and by around 2015 demand will have grown by about 60 million barrels a day above 2004 consumption levels, that stood at 75 million barrels a day..

The Spanish-Argentine firm Repsol YPF was the first to take up the challenge issued by the Cuban government in mid-1999, when it put out for tender 59 blocks for oil exploration in an area of 112,000 square kilometres within its exclusive economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
(14 February 2006)

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