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Politics & economics - Mar 3

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Venezuela Cautions U.S. It May Curtail Oil Exports

Juan Forero, NY Times
BOGOTÁ, Colombia, Feb. 26 — Venezuela's oil minister, in blunt comments published in a Caracas newspaper on Sunday, warned the United States that it could steer oil exports away from the United States and toward other markets.

The minister, Rafael Ramírez, said Venezuela, which is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and supplies more than 10 percent of American oil imports, could act in the face of what he described as aggression by the Bush administration.

Although such warnings have become part of President Hugo Chávez's verbal arsenal against the Bush administration, the comments by Mr. Ramírez, coupled with the increasing sale of oil to China, are seen by oil experts and political analysts as a signal that Venezuela is serious about finding new buyers.

"Physically it's very feasible, and politically it's very feasible," said Lawrence Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, a New York policy analysis group financed by the industry. "It comes with an economic penalty, but apparently Chávez is willing to pay that price."
(27 February 2006)


Americans are cautiously open to gas tax rise, poll shows

Louis Uchitelle and Megan Thee, NY Times
Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to a higher federal gasoline tax, but a significant number would go along with an increase if it reduced global warming or made the United States less dependent on foreign oil, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
(28 February 2006)
Commentary by D. Roberts at Gristmill.


Abqaiq’s warning: attack on Saudi Arabia's largest oil facility is ominous

Paul Rogers, OpenDemocracy
... Abqaiq's significance is underlined by what is happening just across the border in Iraq. While media attention focuses on the insurgency and sectarian violence in Iraq, the sustained paramilitary offensive against economic targets – itself partly responsible for the uncertain state of the oil-futures markets – is relatively neglected. This remarkably effective campaign has crippled the prospects for reconstruction and done much to make the insurgency more effective.

...Perhaps the key lesson here is that determined and dedicated insurgents have a capacity to damage the economy of a country that far outweighs their numbers, even in the absence of much outside help. If that is the case, then the Abqaiq attack is a sharp reminder of what the al-Qaida movement could do if it chose to take this route. While most of the Iraqi insurgency is homegrown, it is also serving as a training-ground for jihadists from abroad, not least Saudi Arabia, and that training will almost certainly include a proficiency in economic targeting.

Furthermore, even if al-Qaida and its associates are put to one side, there remains the much greater potential that an Iran bombed by Israel or the United States could engage in precisely this kind of asymmetric warfare. The failed Abqaiq attack is, in its own way, an indication of that potential and constitutes yet one more reason for taking every care to avoid a military confrontation with Iran.
(2 March 2006)


There are good reasons Venezuelans like Chavez

Gary Olson, Ph.D., Morning Call (Pennsylvania)
"Something must be working, because his approval rating stands at 77 percent, the highest in the Americas..."

...Venezuelan oil has made [many social reforms] possible, but only Chavez acted on the clearly subversive and radical notion that the country's resources should be used to benefit the country's people and even those beyond its borders. Oil was nationalized in 1976, but the oil bureaucracy operated as a "state within a state." The system remains imperfect, but Chavez finally took control in 2001 and the petrodollars are now staying home in the form of social spending, faithfully reflecting social ownership of this natural resource. Something must be working, because his approval rating stands at 77 percent, the highest in the Americas, according to Datanalisis, the country's major polling firm.

And, of course, this begins to explain why Chavez is viewed as a threat. An alternative development model where the citizens, not private U.S. foreign investors, are the primary beneficiaries of government policy is feared by U.S. elites. As Latin American expert Prof. Rosa Maria Pegueros observes, from Washington's perspective the real threat is that if Chavez succeeds, he may "create an eqalitarian society that has the power to resist United States hegemony."
(28 February 2006)

Gary Olson, Ph.D., is chair of the Political Science Department at Moravian College in Bethlehem.


Putin: the big three for the G8

Vladimir Putin, Globe & Mail
At the beginning of 2006, Russia assumed the presidency of the Group of Eight. This summer, we are playing host to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, and we are suggesting to our partners that we focus on three pressing issues: global energy security, infectious diseases, and education. These three priorities are oriented toward achieving an objective we hope is clear to our partners -- namely, improving the quality of life and living standards of the present and future generations.

... It is Russia's Belief that energy redistribution guided wholly by the priorities of a small group of developed nations does not serve global development goals.

...Today ..the gap between supply and demand continues to widen. The apparent increase in consumption in Asian Countries

...It [energy security strategy] should be based on a long term reliable and environmentally sustainable energy supply at prices affordable to both exporting and consumers

.. almost 2 billion people do not currently enjoy modern day energy services.."

... unsustainable use [of energy]may result in an ecological disaster in an ecological disaster on a global scale"
(1 March 2006)
Original article is behind a subscriber-only wall. Comment by submitter DMCM:

Russia appears to be using its membership in the G8 and its energy supplies as a way to increase its influence internationally. The Russian approach will mean less energy being available to be imported into the G8 countries.

Canada is also a member of the G8, but as yet does not have an energy use policy. One reason for this is that in Canada natural resources and energy are a Provincial rather than a Federal responsibility, although the Canadian Federal Government has the right to ration energy in case of shortage of supply.

Currently Canada is a net exporter of energy (natural gas, oil, electricity) to the USA, however there are forecasted energy shortfalls ( natural gas, electricity) in Canada which will occur over the next 10-20 years. The current plans to use coal-tar sands (Alberta) and nclear (Ontario) and Wind energy (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta) to make up these energy shortfalls. No large conservation measures are planned.



Nigerian 0il crisis spreads from Shell to Chevron
("Niger Delta oil crisis not abating")

AFP via Mail& Guardian (Zambia)
Lagos, Nigeria - The United States oil giant Chevron has been forced to cut production in Nigeria by 13 000 barrels per day after a pipeline in an area patrolled by armed militants sprang a leak, a company spokesperson said.

The cause of the damage to the pipeline has not been determined, Michael Barrett said, but it came at a time when separatist guerrilla fighters were sabotaging nearby facilities operated by the Anglo-Dutch major Shell.
(1 Mar 2006)

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