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Politics & economics - May 26

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Putin faces energy shootout

Simon Tisdall, The Guardian
Worried that the lights could go out, EU chiefs will press President Vladimir Putin today to agree new rules on future Russian oil and gas supplies, pricing and investment. But Moscow is in no mood to haggle. It has already rejected a proposed international energy charter. And European governments lack a united front. As a result, the meeting, in Sochi on the Black Sea, is unlikely to bring relief to benighted European consumers and businesses.

Energy-fuelled tensions between Russia and the west may instead come to a head at the G8 summit in St Petersburg on July 15. Traditionally a staid event, this is shaping up as the diplomatic equivalent of the shootout at the OK Corral - or a wildcatter's oil well brawl. After the US vice-president Dick Cheney's recent anti-Moscow broadside, there is loose talk of a new cold war.

President George Bush has rejected pressure at home to boycott the summit altogether. But he is expected to voice displeasure at Russia's perceived lurch towards authoritarianism and its intimidation of smaller neighbours. For his part, an increasingly bullish Mr Putin may point to Washington's need for Russia's help with Iran and other international issues and reject "Comrade Wolf's" interference.

The Kremlin's overflowing energy coffers are the key to this increased assertiveness.
(25 May 2006)

OPEC invites Sudan to join oil cartel
Reuters, Globe and Mail
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries yesterday invited Sudan to become a full member of the oil cartel, Sudan's official news agency reported. Sudan is a small oil producer, with output currently around 500,000 barrels a day, but it has attended meetings of the 11-member cartel for more than five years as an observer. The invitation was made in a letter from Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who holds the rotating presidency of OPEC, to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. OPEC is due to hold its next ministerial conference to discuss output policy on June 1 in Caracas.
(25 Mar 2006)

Kazakh Oil Begins Flowing Into China
Associated Press, Houston Chronicle
Crude oil from Kazakhstan began flowing into China on Thursday through a newly completed pipeline, a significant step in Beijing's efforts to reduce its reliance on Middle East supplies amid soaring demand.

Kazakh oil arrived at a Chinese station near the Alataw Pass in the far western Xinjiang region about 30 hours after pumping began, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.

The 597-mile pipeline originating in Atasu in Kazakhstan was completed late last year at cost of $700 million, Xinhua said. The two countries split the construction costs.

The pipeline is designed to carry 20 million tons of oil each year, Xinhua said, equivalent to 140 million barrels.
Beijing also is negotiating with Russia over a proposed pipeline to deliver Siberian oil. That line, which could be finished by 2008, would carry about 380,000 barrels per day.

China's current oil imports are estimated at between 2.5 million to 3 million barrels per day, most of it from the Middle East. Foreign analysts expect that figure to rise to 5 to 10 million barrels by 2010.
(24 Mar 2006)

Fears for demand as China lifts gasoline, diesel prices
The Standard
China will raise retail gasoline and diesel prices by a larger-than-expected 10-11 percent from today - the second increase this year - in a move that could help boost refining margins but dampen domestic demand.
(24 Mar 2006)

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