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?
Donald Trump, the buddy of Putin, Erdogan, Sisi and Duterte, now calls Venezuela a "dictatorship" and slaps sanctions on President Nicolás Maduro. All this proves is that Maduro is more useful to Trump as an external demon. Can we oppose Maduro's power-grab without legitimizing Trump's hypocrisy?
There is an unseemly tone of gloating to conservative commentary on the crisis in Venezuela, with pundits pointing to the current chaos as evidence that "socialism" doesn't work. But a case can be made that, contrary to conservative and mainstream assumptions, the problem is precisely that the Bolivarian Revolution has been insufficiently revolutionary and socialist.
Venezuela's marginal but growing independent left has staked out a position rejecting Maduro's constitutional reform but also rejecting the right-wing leadership of the opposition. The Chavismo Crítico current held a press conference before the vote, pledging to struggle "for the re-establishment of the validity" of the 1999 constitution, the "rescue of the best of our revolution," and "overcoming the grave errors and deviations of those who pretend to serve as its political leadership."