Quote of the Week
“We see it (gas) take over from coal in the early 2030s… We think there is a very good case for gas actually overtaking oil post-2040 or just before 2040.2 Dominic Energy, BP’s VP for strategic planning
Graphic of the Week
1. Oil and the Global Economy
After the best January in 12 years, the oil markets declined slightly last week as a stronger dollar and crashing equity markets offset surging US shale oil production, and steadily increasing US rig counts. According to EIA estimates, US crude production broke through 10 million b/d last week and is on its way toward setting an all-time US production record. Major US banks have accepted that the OPEC production cut is working and that the global oil glut is being cleared. Goldman’s is talking about oil prices reaching $80 a barrel in the next six months while others are talking about prices exceeding $100 a barrel again.
The New York Times says that every one of the world’s big economies is now growing again and some are now saying that the demand for oil will increase by as much as 2 million b/d this year. Should this happen, a combination of production problems in Venezuela and Nigeria may be enough of offset increasing US shale oil production and the end of the OPEC/NOPEC production freeze agreement. In short, there may be a path to much higher oil prices in the next couple of years.
While there have been several announcements of new offshore oil finds in the last two weeks, significant production from these projects is still years away. During the last few years over 100 major projects have been put on hold due to higher prices; even decisions on increased investment in the next few months will do little to increase production in the next few years.
The future path of oil prices still has much to do with how well US shale oil production does in the next few years. In the long run – 20 or 30 years – the world is still using more oil than it is finding so that someday shortages will develop along with significantly higher prices.
The OPEC Production Cut: There now is general agreement that the OPEC production cut was a success. Oil prices are moving steadily higher, and excess stocks are being eliminated. Most of the thanks for this success goes to the Saudis who did more than their fair share in cutting production and Venezuela, whose crude production is collapsing of its own accord. Although Moscow made a major contribution to the success of the effort, it waited until its production could be pushed up to a recent high before declaring the base from which its production would be cut. Adherence to the deal rose to 138 percent from 137 percent in December.
When the price of Brent climbed to about $70 a barrel recently, there was talk of ending the production freeze this summer rather than waiting until the end of the year. It did not take long to figure out that any announcement of an early end to the agreement would instantly send oil prices lower, probably hurting OPEC more than US shale oil drillers.
OPEC and Russia reaffirmed last week that they’d continue with oil-production cuts until the end of the year and signaled their readiness to cooperate beyond that. Moscow says it is prepared to continue cooperating with OPEC and its de-facto leader Saudi Arabia even after the cuts expire. The Russians say producers should keep limits on output through 2018 as the market may re-balance at the end of the year or in 2019.
US Shale Oil Production: For the next few years, the future of the US and by implication the global oil industry seems to rest on the what happens to US shale oil production. According to The Wall Street Journal, the US shale industry has spent $265 billion more than it has generated since 2010. While there have been some efficiencies in drilling shale oil wells in recent years, many believe that for the most part, the industry is not profitable. While there have been “efficiencies” in drilling multiple wells off the same pad, eliminating the need to tear down and rig and move it between wells, little else has changed. For several years, the prices oil service companies could charge have been depressed to near or below break-even. While drilling costs may be lower, fracking costs have increased and seem to be on course to climb even further.
Drilling out the limited number of highly productive “sweet spots” may help push prices towards break-even for a few years, but after these are gone, the price of extracting crude seems certain to climb rapidly. The costs of drilling and fracking wells cannot exceed the value of the oil produced indefinitely. A recent MIT study concluded that the EIA is seriously overestimating the amount of shale oil that will be produced in the next few years. As many observers have noted, the EIA confuses temporary low prices and the early drilling of sweet spots with permanent increases in the cost and productivity of shale oil wells.
Meanwhile, the hype about shale oil continues. ExxonMobil announced last week that it plans to triple its shale oil output from the Permian Basin over the next seven years to 600,000 b/d. US shale oil drillers are aware that their financial backers are tiring of steady losses and are vowing they will only undertake profitable drilling projects. This may be a tall order to fulfill. Last week a Saudi company, Al Rajhi Capital, released a study of the US shale oil industry which concluded that “despite rising prices, most firms are still in losses with no signs of improvement.” The average return on asset for U.S. shale companies “is still a measly 0.8 percent.”
All this should become clearer as the year moves along and we should know by the end of the year whether the future of the shale oil industry is as bright as many are saying.
2. The Middle East & North Africa
Iran: Tehran is usually blanketed with a yellow smog during the winter, but last week an unusual snowfall covered the city. The city is faced with a serious water crisis and there are concerns about civil unrest if the situation does not clear up soon. Tehran is one of the largest cities in the Middle East and is heavily dependent on the autumn rains which did not come this year. There is already talk of water rationing.
OPEC says that Iranian oil production was around 3.83 million b/d in December, about the average for the last quarter. Last week Iranian Oil Minister Zanganeh said that production capacity could increase by at least 1.7 million b/d if terms can be reached with as yet unspecified foreign partners. Reuters says that Iranian exports to the far east were down by 16 percent in December. Some believe that this decline is due to threats by the Trump administration to renew sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. The latest data show that China’s December oil purchases from Iran declined by 17.2 percent to around 571,000 b/d, while Indian import volumes also declined by 6.2 percent.
Iraq: Iraq will comply with the OPEC cut even though it is trying to increase its oil export capacity from the north and south of the country. Oil minister al-Luaibi told a conference in London that Iraq’s export capacity was nearing 5 million b/d, including 4.6 million b/d from the south.
Iraq will begin exporting next week 60,000 b/d from the fields around Kirkuk to an Iranian refinery across the border via tanker trucks, in exchange for refined oil for southern Iraq. Until recently, oil from these fields was shipped to the Turkish port of Ceyhan via a pipeline owned and operated by the Kurdistan Regional Government.
The Basra Oil Company is preparing to develop the Majnoon field after Royal Dutch Shell pulls out in June, with plans to double production. Multiple companies – including Total, Chevron, BP, PetroChina, and Eni – have expressed interest in replacing Shell, which announced in September 2017 that it was giving up its stake in the Majnoon contract that it won in a 2009 bidding round.
Iraq plans to build an oil refinery on the Gulf with two Chinese companies and is seeking investors to build three more, the oil ministry said last week. The new refinery will have a 300,000 barrel-per-day capacity and include a petrochemical plant, it said. Two other refineries, each with a 150,000-bpd capacity, are planned in Nasiriya, southern Iraq, and in the western Anbar province. A third, with a 100,000-bpd capacity, is planned in Qayara, near Mosul, the northern Iraqi city which was taken back from Islamic State militants last year.
The government is stepping up pressure on members of the country’s elite still resisting its demands for billions of dollars in payment by moving them from a luxury hotel to prison. The kingdom has wrested about $100 billion from most of the 350 Saudi royals and prominent business people arrested in the “corruption purge.” The public prosecutor’s office said last week that officials were moving ahead with plans for trials of 95 holdouts.
So far there has been little progress on the plan for an IPO of 5 percent of Aramco’s shares. External advisors have privately warned that Prince Mohammed’s preferred venue, the New York Stock Exchange, could expose the kingdom to lawsuits from shareholders and 9/11 victims. The company and the kingdom are debating listing Aramco solely on the Saudi stock market, but advisers are concerned the exchange won’t be able to accommodate the surge in trading that such an enormous company would bring.
The Saudis are building an oil-refining empire, as they try to shore up their balance sheet ahead of the world’s biggest-ever IPO and make up for income lost to OPEC production cuts. Over the past five years, Aramco has boosted its global refining capacity by more than a third to 5.4 million b/d a day,. New facilities along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea and Persian Gulf coasts are part of the increase, and the kingdom has commissioned an additional refinery in its southwest region that is set to come online in 2019.
Aramco also wants to expand in the United States where President Trump’s tax cuts and support for the oil industry are making business increasingly attractive. Aramco already controls a large refinery in Texas. “We are looking at new business opportunities in the US and with the tax cuts, it will make it much more profitable … It is part of our strategy to grow our business in the US,” Amin Nasser said in an interview.
After decades of ignoring environmental concerns in its quest for record rates of economic growth, China now is facing serious problems in keeping its economy going and its people warm in the winter. Two years ago, the air pollution in many Chinese cities became so bad that the government decided it had to do something or face catastrophic death rates from air pollution, mostly caused by burning coal.
Many coal-burning factories were closed during the winter months, many buildings were converted to natural gas heat, and many smaller coal mines were closed so that mining would take place in remote areas away from the cities. Under Beijing’s winter production restrictions, steel mills in the northeast were ordered to cut output by up to 50 percent from mid-November to mid-March, as part of the country’s efforts to combat air pollution.
It soon became clear, however, that there was not a sufficient supply of natural gas to replace all the coal being burned for heating and industrial production. Last week a blizzard created chaos on the Chinese railroads slowing coal shipments from remote mines to the eastern cities. Power shortages are reported to be imminent. China’s No. 2 coal-producing province has asked coal miners to shorten or cancel staff holidays during upcoming Spring Festival celebrations, as authorities rush to avoid a potential power crisis. The province of Hebei stopped a program that converted coal-fired boilers to gas; the program has been shelved until 2020 when additional natural gas from Russia will be available.
Last year Beijing imported 8.4-million b/d, 10.1% more than in 2016. The extra 800,000 b/d imported in 2017 was about half of the total global demand growth. However, there are increasing signs that China’s crude oil imports are moving toward becoming a zero-sum game, as much of the rise in imports is being exported as refined fuels. While China isn’t exporting every extra barrel of crude it imports as refined products, it is increasing it’s overseas fuel sales.
Beijing is expected to import 9-million b/d of crude in 2018, a gain of 7.7 percent from 2017, the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) said in its annual outlook released earlier in January. That would be an increase of about 600,000 b/d in imports from 2017. However, CNPC also forecast that China’s refined product shipments would increase in 2018, with net diesel exports expected to jump 47% to 509,000 b/d.
Despite the recent surge in oil prices, growth in Russia’s gross domestic product won’t reach 2 percent in the near term. Russia’s Central Bank said Friday that year-over-year growth during the first half of the year wouldn’t accelerate much, even after its economic development minister said in January that GDP growth could hit 3 percent with the right policies in place.
Russia’s oil production in January was flat compared to December 2017. According to data by Russia’s Energy Ministry, Russian oil production in January was 10.95 million b/d, just slightly less than in December 2017. The January crude oil production is in line with Russia’s pledge in the OPEC/NOPEC deal is to shave off 300,000 b/d from its October 2016 level 11.247 million b/d, which was the country’s highest monthly production in almost 30 years.
Oil production from Russia’s Arctic region increased in 2017 as the only offshore producing platform ramped up production. But challenges in Russia’s Arctic remain. Last year, production from onshore fields in Yamal-Nenets autonomous region in northern Russia contributed the most to the rise in oil production in the Arctic. Russia has ambitions to continue to develop its Arctic oil resources. These ambitions, however, are not without challenges. US sanctions prohibit the exports of goods, services, or technology that Russia needs to support exploration or production in Russia’s deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects — all of which have the potential to produce oil.
The year 2017 will go down as one of Gazprom’s most successful. For the first time in history, Gazprom’s share in Europe’s gas consumption reached 40 percent. Despite seemingly crippling US sanctions specifically targeting Gazprom’s European endeavors and the EU’s hastily engineered gas rules, the construction of Nord Stream 2 has been going forward as planned. Moreover, the project’s European partners (Shell, Engie, OMV, Uniper, Wintershall) wholly fulfilled their financial obligations. Gazprom increased gas sales to almost all its buyers in Europe.
With the recent arrival of the $3.3 billion Egina Floating Production Storage Offloading unit from South Korea, Nigeria is set to add 200,000 barrels of crude oil to her daily output from the Egina offshore oilfield. However, little else is going well for the Nigerian oil industry.
The Kaduna Refining Company shut down operations on January 15 due to the non-availability of crude oil. The refinery, whose fuel plant was inaugurated in 1980, was functioning at 60 percent capacity “but shut down on January 15 due to unavailability of crude oil.”
A Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators listed several oil fields and installations as targets for resumed attacks if Federal Government failed to address specific grievances agitating the region. Following three weeks of consultations and meetings across the Niger Delta region, the group, in resolutions adopted in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday, also gave Fulani herdsmen one month to the vacate the region or face dire consequences.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum convened an emergency meeting to address the rising tension in the region, particularly the threat by the Niger Delta Avengers to commence “operation zero economy” and to halt oil-related activities in Delta State. The meeting pleaded with the Niger Delta Avengers not to carry out their threat but to give the leaders time to persuade the Federal Government to act on the 16 demands it submitted to the presidency in November 2016.
Fuel shortages are still widespread. Last week, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation warned against panic buying of petroleum products, especially in Abuja and environs, while it allayed fear of an impending strike action by petroleum tanker drivers. The NNPC also warned oil marketers against hoarding of the commodity, stating that stringent sanctions would be meted to any individual found sabotaging its efforts to ensure a steady supply of petrol.
The situation continues to deteriorate. The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela’s oil output in December fell by 11 percent, to 1.62 million b/d. This represents a decline of 53 percent since Hugo Chávez was first elected president in 1998. Most observers are expecting production to decline still further this year.
Schlumberger announced that it wrote down an additional $938 million of its holdings in Venezuela. It already took a $460 million loss last year because of unpaid bills from the Venezuelan government and its state-run oil company. The company says it will stay in Venezuela and try to get its money back. However, the country owes almost $60 billion to contractors and suppliers like Schlumberger, according to an analysis published by Harvard Law School.
Venezuela’s presidential election race has begun with incumbent Nicolas Maduro conducting a nationalist, “anti-Trump” campaign while his foes scramble to find a candidate. France’s President Macron has called for tougher sanctions against Venezuela, accusing it of violating democracy and human rights. His comments came after the Supreme Court in Caracas imposed restrictions on the main opposition coalition for presidential elections due in April. On Monday, the European Union froze the assets and imposed a travel ban on seven senior Venezuelan officials. Secretary of State Tillerson last week raised the prospect that the Venezuelan military could decide to oust President Nicolas Maduro but said he did not know whether that would happen.
With only five percent of needed medicines available, Venezuela launched a health plan that relies on herbs and natural remedies. The “100 percent Natural Health Plan” seeks the “rescue of historic and patrimonial health, knowledge of the old ladies,” President Nicolas Maduro said at the presidential palace.
7. The Briefs (selections from the press – date of article in Peak Oil News is in parentheses – see more here: news.peak-oil.org)
Offshore UK: With the announcement of two new discoveries in the North Sea, British energy company BP said Wednesday it could double its production there by 2020. The company announced discoveries at its Capercaillie site in the central waters of the North Sea and at Achmelvich, west of the Shetland Islands. Both wells were drilled last summer. (2/1)
Dutch gas dreams have ended with a bang after Dutch independent regulator SodM presented its recommendation to the Dutch government to cut existing natural gas production at the Groningen field from 21.6 billion cm to a historically low level of 12 billion cm. The problem? Earthquakes. A popular uprising in the Groningen Province, combined with an offensive of green movements, has built up a momentum strong enough to end the Netherlands’ pivotal role in global gas. The government budget, dependent on natural gas revenues, will be hit hard. At the same time, the cost of energy for Dutch companies and households will increase substantially. (2/3)
The Southern Gas Corridor, connecting Azerbaijan to Europe, is one of the most important infrastructure pipeline projects worldwide, bringing Caspian gas into Europe. Europe wants to become less dependent on Russian gas, and Europe’s gas use during 2016’s grew by 7 percent. The Southern Gas Corridor is around 80 percent finalized, with the first gas flow for Europe expected around 2020. (1/25)
The Lebanese oil ministry will move forward with its much-anticipated oil and gas tender, despite the inclusion of disputed territories in some of the allotted blocks, a new report says. Current explorations taking place in an offshore gas field are “by all accounts” part of Israel, according to the Israeli defense minister. Lebanese minister Cesar Abi Khalil, on the other hand, considers the statement to be an aggression against Beirut since Lebanon has demarcated its maritime borders and reported them to the United Nations previously. (2/2)
In Saudi Arabia, Al Rajhi Capital dug into the financials of a long list of US shale companies, and found that “despite rising prices, most firms under our study are still in losses with no signs of improvement.” The report needs to be offered as a retort against aggressive forecasts for shale production growth. Drilling is clearly on the rise and US oil production is expected to increase for the foreseeable future. But the lack of profitability remains a significant problem for the shale industry.(1/3)
As Qatar gears up for an expansion of its massive liquefied natural gas export industry, an evaluation of the nation’s recent delivery rate in the face of Gulf sanctions demonstrates the resilience of Doha’s business strategy…Estimates by Sanford C. Bernstein show that securing 23 million more tons of LNG production will come at a cost of $27.6 billion. That’s dirt cheap compared to the $88 billion project that Chevron is pursuing down in Australia. (1/30)
China exported no oil products to North Korea in December except for a tiny cargo of jet fuel, data showed on Thursday, the latest sign that Beijing has kept up pressure on its isolated neighbor amid tensions over its nuclear and missile program. (1/25)
Decommissioning Asia Pacific’s offshore assets, comprising nearly 2,600 platforms and 35,000 wells, could cost over $100 billion, according to Wood Mackenzie’s latest analysis. Woodmac said the task appeared to be a ‘mammoth’ one for which various stakeholders are ‘largely unprepared’. (2/2)
In Japan, blobs of oil-like liquid have been detected on several beaches, government officials report, cited by AFP, worried that it could be contamination from the Sanchi tanker that sank in the Eastern China Sea more than two weeks ago. The government is currently analyzing the substance and has sent the coast guard to start cleaning up the beaches. (2/3)
Mexico will likely have trouble finding international oil firms willing to partner with state-owned Pemex due to hefty fees, low oil prices and uncertainty ahead of a presidential election in July, a blow to efforts to reform the energy sector and boost government revenue. (1/30)
In Mexico, refineries are bleeding as drug cartels have been racketeering refinery workers to help them tap storage facilities, trucks, and pipelines in a lucrative side business for the local narcos — fuel theft. Fuel theft deprives Mexico of more than $1 billion in state revenues every year. (1/29)
The US oil rig count grew by 12 the week to January 26th, the biggest weekly increase since March 2017, as crude prices hovered near their highest levels since 2014. The gas rig count declined by 1 to 188. (1/27)
The US oil rig count grew by 6 to 765 the week to February 1st, while the number of active natural gas rigs decreased by 7 to 181. This brings the total number of oil and gas rigs to 946, which is an addition of 217 rigs year over year. (2/3)
Alaska Governor Bill Walker said on Tuesday he has asked US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to pare back a Trump administration plan for oil and gas leasing off the state’s coast. While Walker supports offshore oil development, he said the Interior Department should focus on the most prospective areas off Alaska – the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in the Arctic and Cook Inlet in southern Alaska – and drop all others from the leasing plan. (1/31)
In Washington state, a proposed oil-by-rail terminal along the Columbia river was denied a permit by Governor Jay Inslee. A state energy panel had voted to deny Vancouver Energy’s application back in November. Inslee concurred with the results of the vote. (1/30)
Balking at biofuels: More than two dozen small US refineries are seeking waivers from the nation’s biofuels law, an unusually high number that reflects growing oil industry resistance to the program. Prices of the most popular renewable fuel credits dropped to 61 cents in early trading on Thursday following the Reuters report. (1/26)
In the GOM, Chevron announced Wednesday that a ‘major’ oil discovery has been made at the Ballymore prospect, located deep offshore in the US Gulf of Mexico. The Ballymore well reached a total measured depth of 29,194 feet and encountered more than 670 feet of net oil pay with ‘excellent’ reservoir and fluid characteristics. Chevron owns 60% while France’s Total is the other major partner in the discovery with a 40% interest. (2/1)
Total SA said it was setting a deeper footprint in the US waters of the Gulf of Mexico by taking a minority stake in a Chevron-controlled field. Paris-based Total said it bought the 12.5 percent interest in the four blocks covering the Anchor discovery from Samson Offshore Anchor. (1/25)
In the GOM, Royal Dutch Shell said its US unit had made one of its biggest oil discoveries in the past decade in the Whale deepwater well in the US Gulf of Mexico. (2/1)
Royal Dutch Shell could usurp its largest rival Exxon Mobil as the energy sector’s biggest cash generator after higher oil and gas prices combined with an improved performance lifted its 2017 revenue. CEO Ben van Beurden has made no secret of his desire to challenge the dominance of the world’s largest listed oil company after its $54 billion purchase of BG Group in 2016 catapulted Shell into second place in terms of production. The Anglo-Dutch company on Thursday reported a more than doubling of profit in 2017 to $16 billion. (2/1)
At ExxonMobil and Chevron, weak performances in refining operations led the two largest US oil groups to report disappointing fourth-quarter earnings, despite multibillion-dollar accounting gains from the recent US corporate tax cuts. (2/3)
Exxon reported its oil-equivalent production during the fourth quarter was on average 4 million barrels per day, a decline of about 130,000 barrels per day, or 3 percent lower than fourth quarter 2016. The company attributed some of the issues to field decline and lower entitlements. (2/3)
Exxon Mobil Corp plans to invest billions of dollars in the United States due in part to recently approved corporate tax rate cuts, the company’s chief executive said on Monday. Darren Woods, head of the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, said in a blog post on the company’s website that Exxon expects to spend $50 billion in US projects over the next five years. (1/30)
France will shut down its few coal-fired power stations by 2021, President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech to participants at Davos. President Macron said he wanted to make France a model in the fight against climate change, as one of five pillars in his plans to reform the economy. (1/26)
In China, a study conducted before and after the 2004 closure of a coal-burning power plant in Tongliang found that children born before the closure had shorter telomeres than those conceived and born after the plant stopped polluting the air. Telomeres are specialized sections of DNA that allow chromosomes to be copied faithfully during cell division. (1/25)
In Ukraine, Westinghouse Electric signed an agreement to deliver nuclear fuel to seven of Ukraine’s fifteen nuclear power reactors between 2021-2025 and will source some fuel components locally. Westinghouse said the deal would help Ukraine diversify its energy supplies. Kiev’s pro-Western government wants to wean Ukraine off a traditional dependence on Russia for energy supplies, including gas imports and nuclear fuel. (1/29)
Fusion R&D: In Germany, at the Max Planck Institute, 400 scientists from around the world have invested over one million manpower hours to build the Wendelstein 7-X, a prototype nuclear fusion reactor. For the moment, this is just a test, since it consumes far more energy than it creates. (1/29)
Whirl wind: Developers in the US installed 7,017 MW of new wind capacity in 2017, bringing the country’s total to 89,077 MW, the American Wind Energy Association reported Tuesday. AWEA reported a 66% reduction in wind costs since 2009, with further innovation and savings expected. (1/31)
Wind to beat hydro: As one of the first technologies used to generate electricity, hydroelectric power has historically provided the largest share of renewable electricity generation in the US However, this year EIA expects wind power to surpass hydroelectricity. (1/25)
Stifling RE: The Trump administration may be preparing a very bad surprise for the renewable energy industry and environmentalists with a proposal to cut funding for clean energy and energy efficiency research by as much as 72 percent in fiscal 2019. That’s according to draft budget documents seen by the Washington Post, which notes that most of these cuts—if they ever reach Congress—will be restored by legislators. (2/2)
Solar to H2: A group of Dutch researchers from the University of Twente is working on a solar-to-fuel device that produces hydrogen. The system consists of silicon microwires less than one-tenth of a millimeter long, the tops of which are coated with a catalyst. The photons (light particles) are collected between the microwires. The chemical reaction in which hydrogen is formed takes place on the catalyst at the tips of the microwires. (1/25)
Plug-in electric vehicles aren’t yet putting a strain on the national grid, but may require upgrades to infrastructure as demand increases, a US report found. (1/25)
EV aircraft: Vahana, the all-electric, self-piloted, VTOL aircraft from A³ by Airbus, successfully completed its first full-scale flight test, reaching a height of 5 meters (16 feet) before descending safely. The test was completed on 31 January 2018 at the Pendleton Range in Oregon. (2/2)
CA vs. GHG: California’s state legislature passed assembly bill (AB) 398 last July to reauthorize and extend until 2030 the state’s economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction program. The bill sets a new GHG target of at least 40% below the 1990 level of emissions by 2030. An executive order from California’s governor targets an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. From 1990 to 2015, California’s GHG emissions from the electric power sector were reduced by 24%. (2/3)
The Eurozone economy outpaced its US counterpart for the second straight year in 2017 as it recorded its strongest growth in a decade, aided by a revival in investment spending by French businesses. Gross domestic product for the Eurozone’s 19 member countries was 2.5% higher in 2017 than in 2016. That was further evidence of a synchronized pickup around the world, with the US and China have already reported accelerations in 2017, to 2.3% and 6.9% respectively. (1/30)
Cape Town drying up: “Day Zero” is coming to Cape Town this April. The government cautions that the Day Zero threat will surpass anything a major city has faced since World War II or the Sept. 11 attacks. Talks are underway with South Africa’s police because “normal policing will be entirely inadequate.” Residents, their nerves increasingly frayed, speak in whispers of impending chaos. The reason for the alarm is simple: The city’s water supply is dangerously close to running dry. Three years of extreme drought have hammered the city’s water supplies. (1/31)