The Yellow Vest movement in France scored a victory, as President Emmanuel Macron agreed to suspend a controversial fuel tax after weeks of increasingly violent protests. This may be concretely a win for the working class, but the fact that Macron imposed the tax in the name of reducing carbon emissions has provided fodder for anti-environmental content to the movement. Exploiting this moment, Donald Trump blamed the uprising on the Paris climate accord, tweeting: "The Paris Agreement isn't working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting 'We Want Trump!' Love France." (Photo via CrimethInc)
Faced with declining production and economic chaos, Venezuela is again opening its oil-fields to private companies—reversing much of the progress in asserting state control of the hydrocarbons industry that was made under Hugo Chávez. Just after a series of new contracts with private firms was announced, President Nicolás Maduro flew to Beijing for a meeting with Xi Jinping. The two leaders announced further deals to open Venezuela's Orinoco Belt to Chinese companies. This comes a decade after Exxon withdrew from the Orinoco Belt, unable to come to terms with the Chávez government. (Photo via OilPrice.com)
President Trump announced that the US and Mexico have reached an agreement on a new trade deal called the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement, which will ultimately terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump called Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto from the White House to announce the new deal. Among a number of changes to NAFTA, both parties agreed to a provision that would require a significant portion of vehicles to be made in high-wage factories, a measure aimed to discourage factory jobs from leaving the US. Trump said he is in communication with Canada about a new trade deal, but is unsure if it will be part of the US-Mexico Trade Agreement. The Trump administration expects the new pact to be signed by the end of November. (Map: CIA)
Bashar Assad arrived in Russia to publicly thank Vladimir Putin for his military support in the ongoing re-conquest of Syria—prominently including the deployment of new missile systems. Undoubtedly discussed behind closed doors was the new "energy cooperation framework agreement" between Moscow and Damascus, under which Russia is to have exclusive rights to exploit oil and gas in Syria. (Photo of Vityaz missile launcher via Wikipedia)
After all the talk we've heard in recent years about how depressed oil prices are now permanent, in the wake of Trump's announced withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal Bank of America is predicting that the price of Brent crude could go as high as the once-dreaded $100 per barrel in 2019. The report also cited collapsing production in Venezuela due to the crisis there. Brent prices have risen above $77 per barrel since Trump's announcement. Prices have jumped more than 8% over the past month and 15% since the beginning of the year. According to the analysis, investors fear that renewed sanctions on Iran could lead to supply disruptions. Although the report failed to mention it, the Israeli air-strikes on Iranian targets in Syria have doubtless contributed to the jitters. (Photo: Shana)
Seemingly irregular oil contracts have emerged as a factor in the ongoing political scandal that last week brought down Peru's president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Following accusations from left-opposition congressmembers, state agency PeruPetro admitted that hours before leaving office, Kuczynski had issued a Supreme Decree initiating the process of approving five offshore oil concessions with a private company—but without the involvement of PeruPetro in vetting the contracts, as required by law. Calling the deals "lobista," Dammert is demanding that new President Martín Vizcarra declare the contracts void. (Photo: Gestión)
As a part of the Republican tax overhaul bill, Congress voted to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, after more than four decades of contestation on the matter. Drilling is still years away at best, due to depressed oil prices, a lengthy review process, and likely legal challenges. But oil companies are already arguing over who will have rights to the reserve—while Native Alaskan communities that depend on its critical caribou habitat see impending cultural extermination. (Photo: FWS)
We've been told for the past several years now that the depressed oil prices were permanent, thanks to fracking and the surge in US domestic production. Now prices are rising again, due to a convergence of crises in major producers: escalating tensions among the Gulf states, labor unrest in Nigeria, deepening instability in Venezuela. The US was able to contain the price spike after the ISIS irruption in 2014 by boosting its own production. This trick isn't going to work forever.
The summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) opened in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz—central hub of the country's hydrocarbon-rich eastern lowlands. President Evo Morales took the opportunity to boast of his "nationalization" of Bolivia's hydrocarbon resources. But in addition to pressure from his populist base for greater state control over the hydrocarbons, Morales faces ecologist and indigenist dissidents who reject continued reliance on an extractivist model altogether.
San Francisco filed a lawsuit against five fossil fuel companies due to expected expenses the city will incur from global warming. The companies named in the suit are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell—chosen because they are "the largest investor-owned fossil fuel corporations in the world as measured by their historic production of fossil fuels."
Venezuela, under growing pressure from US sanctions, has told oil traders that it is dropping petro-dollars for petro-euros and petro-yuans. Despite the instinct to cheer the decline of US world domination, will this make any real difference—either to Venezuela, still dependent on oil exports in a world of depressed prices, or to Planet Earth, facing biosphere collapse as a result of burning hydrocarbons?