Tag Archives: United States

Listening to Saudi Oil Minister Al Naimi at CISIS in Washington: Bad news for Venezuela & Iran?

Al-Naimi at CSIS

Al-Naimi at CSIS

 Last week in Washington, I attended a talk by Saudi Oil Minister and head of Aramco, Ali al-Naimi, at CSIS.  Energy and foreign policy veterans from Daniel Yergin to Brent Scowcroft and Dr. James Schlesinge were on hand to hear al-Naimi’s views. You can read the transcript here, or watch the video embedded below.

Al-Naimi’s contrasted his central theme: “the enduring relevance of oil,” to the predictions made for many years by the adherents of “peak oil”–a theory that he said had itself “peaked in 2009” and has now been shown to be “utterly incorrect.”

Bad News for Venezuela and Iran?

Listening to him describe the global impact that the U.S.A. tight-oil “revolution” will have on the market,  plus with Alberta’s heavy oil and so many other new sources from around the globe all coming to market, brought to my mind images of the 1980′s.  The 1980′s were the “lost decade” in Latin America. It strikes me that, if he’s right about the trajectory of the global oil sector, the consequences for OPEC’s “price hawk” faction would be sobering. Continue reading

“Tough Policy Choices Await Chavez Successor”- My viewpoint in Petroleum Intelligence Weekly

Below is a “Special Reprint of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly for The Global Barrel”–I was quoted in three EIG articles last week.

A special thanks to James Bourne, Energy Intelligence’s Senior Editor for Latin America. James is moving on to new challenges in Singapore   His frequent calls with probing questions and insightful analysis of Venezuela and Latin America will be sorely missed here!!  Una buena despidida – mucho éxito en todo! 

tough_choices_after_chavez_energy_intell_11Mar13

-

Did Iran release Abu Ghaith to show the USA its good faith in February nuclear negotiations?

Abu Graith and Bin Laden after 9-11, video, Oct 7 2001 (Hurriyet, 7feb13)

Abu Ghaith, arrested by the US March 7, after his release by Iran, shown alongside Bin Laden in October 7, 2001 video after 9/11 attacks (credit: Hurriyet)

Is Tehran serious about nuclear negotiations with the P5+1?

If Tehran wants an agreement, how might they demonstrate good faith to Washington? Consider the following:

In the month before the recent round of negotiations held in Almaty, Kazakhstan on February 26 and 27, Iran released into neighboring Turkey Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law, Mr. Suleiman Abu Ghaith.  The Islamic Republic of Iran had been detaining him since his capture some 11 years ago, when he entered Iran along with other top Al Qaeda leaders to escape the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.  His precise date of release into Turkey is not clear, however, according to the English-language Turkish paper, Hürriyet, he was arrested by Turkish authorities in an Ankara “luxury hotel” on a “tip from the CIA.”  Turkey then held him for “33 days” before deporting him to Jordan on March 1, and he was arrested by the U.S. on March 7. Continue reading

Chavez’ Legacy for Venezuela’s poor & institutions: Watch my German TV News Interview

Deutsche Welle, the German international TV service, interviewed me on the
legacy of Hugo Chavez on  their live evening news broadcast Journal  from Berlin.  I tried to relate two, strikingly contradictory aspects of President Chavez legacy:

The outpouring of sincere affection for him from the poor and many others in Caracas, which the world is witnessing, as the embodiment of their liberating political awakening.  And, in contrast, the utter shambles in which Hugo Chavez, as a practical political leader of 14 years, left the Venezuelan state and economic institutions, including PDVSA.  My segment comes at 4:08 minutes into the video stream here:

As Chavez’ oil alliance with China gets serious, Beijing holds PDVSA to its word

Groundbreaking at CNPC refinery for PDVSA heavy oil, set tol be China's largest.

Groundbreaking, PetroChina-CNPC refinery for PDVSA heavy oil. It is to be China’s largest. (April 2012)

Over the past few weeks, I have been looking at the state of the Venezuelan-Chinese oil alliance that Hugo Chavez has so fervently championed.  The picture that emerges is not what one might expect. Here is an overview, in qualitative terms. [Correction: I originally wrote Ramirez reported that PDVSA produced "60,000" new barrels of Faja oil in 2013. He actually said "20,000".]

A. Structural Changes – Vertical Integration with China

Till now, commentators have looked primarily at the obligations of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (BRV) to send oil to China to repay Beijing’s huge loans.  However, there are major changes afoot in the structure of this relationship, no matter who succeeds Hugo Chavez.  Developments on the ground in both countries show an energy infrastructure buildup will soon bring significant cross-border vertical integration.  Soon, Venezuelan oil will not be shipped to China simply to fulfill financial-and-contractual obligations, but also for locked-in infrastructural reasons. 

All indications are that the Chinese side is actively fulfilling the obligations it entered into ca. five years ago (esp. December 2007) to build oil tankers, pipelines and refineries in China in order to import and process Venezuelan heavy crude.

Continue reading

Oil Prices: Saudi Pumping Surge & US-EU Iran Strategy

What are the factors driving up the price of oil? Some cite fundamentals, others over-active speculation,

Persian Gulf & Middle East (UTex Lib. 2008)

and there are certainly major geopolitical issues in OPEC‘s Mideast and North African (MENA) member states–which is what this post is about.

The Present Saudi Pumping Surge is a Key Element of the US & EU Iran Sanctions Strategy

It is certain that the Iran confrontation will only intensify as the mid-summer sanctions deadline approaches.  By July, Washington and the EU hope to significantly curtail Iran’s ability to export oil.  In this situation, it is perhaps surprising that prices have not gone higher.

This past week, the normally understated Economist, while noting the Saudis’ extraordinary efforts to pump excess capacity, nevertheless warned that the Iran crisis could trigger a worst-ever oil shock:

Continue reading

China’s Iran-Oil Import Angst – Part II: 2012 Following 2010 Script

Misinterpretations of China´s Opposition in 2010 and 2012

(Continued from Monday, 13 Feb 2012) The last time the Obama Administration wanted new sanctions on Iran, in 2010, Beijing started out loudly opposed, threatening to block the sanctions at the U.N., something Beijing had never before seriously threatened.

President Obama thanked Vice Premier Xi for China's support on Iran oil sanctions. NYT photo by Doug Mills, 14Feb12.

Continue reading

With a USA-dependent oil sector, Chavez can’t help Ahmadinejad

(Edited, 20 Jan.) President Ahmadinejad of Iran visited Venezuela on January 9, and then three of President Chavez’ closest Latin American allies, to search for help. His tour was part of a flurry of diplomacy in the New Year leading up to the imposition of severe new U.S. sanctions on Iran’s ability to export oil, beginning in June.

Presidents Ahmadinejad and Chavez in Caracas (Photo: El Universal)

While these two presidents met in Caracas, U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner was visiting South Korea, Japan and China, and other U.S. officials were Continue reading

A Santos-Chavez Pipeline: Where’s the demand for Latin America’s oil boom?

President Santos of Colombia recently went to Caracas where he and PresidentChavez signed a letter of commitment  for the “Binational Project on the Venezuela-Colombia Oil Pipeline” to run 3,000 km. from Venezuela’s Faja heavy-oil region, west across Colombia to the Pacific port of Tumaco.  (El Universal and El Universal).  After many disappointments in recent years in collaborations with PDVSA, Latin American presidents haven’t endorsed many joint projects lately.  Nevertheless, Santos was beside himself with enthusiasm after the five-hour meeting on 28 November, declaring “Wherever we’ve mentioned this, people’s eyes open wide.” (Reuters)

Let’s look at some data to see if Santos and Chavez are really onto somehing here. Continue reading

Chávez loses López human rights case. Part A: Venezuelan democracy & political power

Image of Leopoldo López, venezuelan politician...

Leopoldo López, former Mayor of Chacao, Caracas

(Note: this post was expanded and some corrections made 23 Sept.  Also, Part B will treat the “oil angle” – what are the policies of opposition candidates H. Capriles, P. Pérez and L. López as compared to the Chavista policies on PDVSA and on spending the nations’ oil income?)

This past week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights overturned the administrative disqualification (inhabilitación) of Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo López from running as an electoral candidate. (see: decision of the Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos,  and press release from Lopez’ organization. )

What might be the effect on the October 2012 election?   In polls till now, Lopez has run third behind top-runner Henry Capriles, his former political ally and governor of Miranda State, and behind Pablo Pérez, the governor of Zulia State. The Chávez administration has been actively shaping who may run for the opposition ever since President Chavez’ first electoral loss, in the December 2007 plebiscite.  This decision is clearly a setback for this policy.

Continue reading