My live interview (22 July 2021) on the Nord Stream 2 deal between Germany and USA. with CGTN (London office of Chinese state broadcaster. This was not edited, or I would not post it here.)
I explain the bind which Berlin had put the Biden administration in for agreeing to waive sanctions on Nord Stream 2 (NS2) in return for this bad deal. The German side was playing hardball. Berlin had made clear to Washington (well before Biden arrived in office) that the pipeline would be finished regardless of sanctions.
The German (and the Danish) side had already allowed Gazprom-owned North Stream 2 AG to continue construction in their territorial waters even when reputable insurance companies and the reputable construction-commissioning firms had abandoned the project due to the threat of US sanctions; and Berlin had made it clear to the US side that it would be completed regardless of any further sanctions. Sanctions on German firms could be circumvented by Berlin continuing to allow Russian firms to do any work that German firms were prevented from performing. And, sanctioning German firms, or NS2 AG, would cause outrage in every German political party except for the Greens, the only German party clearly opposed to the project. However, the Greens had made clear they did not think US sanctions on German firms was an appropriate measure for an ally to take.
I was very happy to be interviewed for the Latin American “Energy Analytics Institute” (EAI), a Houston-based consultancy and news service. I’ve followed its work for years.
With Biden in and Trump out, everyone is debating how to deal with Maduro and his chavista regime that’s brought such misery and ruin in Venezuela. It’s not only the USA’s new LatAm team of Biden, Blinken and Nichols, but the EU, Norway, the OAS, the Lima Group, who are all looking for a new strategy. And so has the Venezuelan opposition, plus an increasingly important actor: the growing and doggedly persistent civil society organizations. Increasingly suffering forced-isolation from abroad, this array of social, cultural, media, medical, educational, nutrition, economic and political resistance groups do largely self-sufficient work to replace basic necessities and social-services, which the chavista government and ruined private sector can no longer provide.
However, in this brief Q&A what was addressed was not strategy per se; but a key underlying issue to understand in framing a strategy: the interests of both Moscow and Beijing as key obstacles to removal of the chavista regime. Read at EAI site (free) or Read below – Tom O’D.
China, Russia, Venezuela: Q&A With Thomas O’Donnell
(Energy Analytics Institute, 13.Feb.2021) — China and Russia continue to push around their might in Venezuela. Thomas O’Donnell with the Hertie School of Governance & Freie Universität-Berlin weighs in briefly here.
Energy Analytics Institute: What might China and Russia be willing to do this year to assist Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro?
Thomas O’Donnell, PhD: Beijing’s original (and perhaps still) plan for Venezuela was deep vertical integration mirroring PDVSA-Citgo Petroleum: new Faja upgraders, a pipeline to Colombia’s Pacific coast, dedicated ships, dedicated domestic Chinese refineries, etc. All very rational and lucrative for both sides. China became alarmed with Hugo Chavez’ unreliability and incompetence within a few years and with Maduro’s incapacity to reform within a year or so. The entire “oil-for-loans” history was a fallback strategy for Beijing – at least secure an oil stream with minimized risk. I have no doubt the Chinese Communist Party wants a new Caracas regime it can work with.
Why did Moscow declare the “war”? [Note: Putin & Sechin’s initial boasts Russia would hold out for “years”, kill shale & end sanctions all stopped in only a couple days!]
The Saudi response was sharply focused against Russian oil-pipeline markets in W Europe (Druzhba) & Asia. [I believe this focused Mr. Putin’s attention on economic realities as opposed to Mr. Sechin’s anger-driven desire for revenge against US sanctions that had inflated his (self-)image of Rosneft and Russian oil-market prowess when up against a concerted Saudi counter-war, and the prospects of various US responses. Reports are that Putin spend three days on the phone to undo this fiasco and, in the end, had to accept significant cuts to Russian output. See my GlobalBarrel.com post of last week explaining the initial, flawed Russian strategy.]
The options Trump had to choose from undermine his long antipathy to OPEC. (Did he secretly offer Putin any Nord Stream 2, Ukraine or Venezuela sanctions relief? If so, Congress won’t approve.) Also: Big Oil (American Petroleum Institute) and W. Texas/other independent producers are pulling at Trump in two very different policy directions re. OPEC, tariffs, production controls, etc
And more (esp. in the Q&A): probable impact on carbon mitigation policies, the China market for LNG, US shale’s financial and production future, etc.
A Sinopec station in China. Sinopec and other big NOC’s are slashing prices to take business from Chna’s small private “Tea Pot” refiners.
Last week, I was quoted on my assessment of how China’s “Tea Pot” refineries (small, private outfits) will fare in the face of China’s big National Oil Companies (NOCs) cutting prices to grab the Tea Pots’ business. My main point to Newsbase reporter Saw Wright was that China is far from a completely “free market” and the state can be expected to weigh in on one side or another, complicating any outcome predictions based on market and/or tech strengths and weaknesses. I’m quoted a couple times near the article’s end, here: Continue reading →
Posted on14.May.2022|Comments Off on Latin American Oil: Beijing Still Lending, But for How Long? – I’m quoted by Energy Compass
Last week, Energy Intelligence (EI) quoted me on China’s continued appetite for oil and gas investments in Latin America even with its own economic slowdown and LatAm’s many political upheavals. (Sincere thanks to EI for a PDF of their proprietary Energy Compass to share on my blog. You can access it below here.)
Some thoughts on China’s strategy: In the case of Venezuela, as the price of oil fell, Beijing quickly eased up on PDVSA’s repayment terms for its huge outstanding loans which are repayable in oil. This shows some willingness to help Venezuela cope with the falling market value of oil. Why? Because, mainly, it is the oil that China has always been laser-focused on – not making interest on these loans.
Generally, it is clear that new Chinese investments or loans are still possible in Latin America. In Venezuela however, Continue reading →
Russian Production & Stakes in Venezuelan Oil Projects (40% stake is limit)
Last October & November I succeeded in interviewing several people in the Venezuelan private sector directly knowledgeable of Russian oil projects with PDVSA. Many Venezuelans wonder what all the Russians-known for their secrecy-are up to there. Some of my key findings are in Americas Quarterly‘s Winter 2016 edition. Read on …
The profits, politics and luck behind Russia’s growing footprint.
Russian companies produce more oil in joint projects with PDVSA than their Chinese counterparts This article is adapted from our 1st print issue of 2016.
The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, had long envisioned China becoming Venezuela’s biggest oil-sector production partner. So when Rafael Ramírez, then president of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), announced in January 2013 that Russia would produce enough oil with PDVSA by 2021 to become “the biggest petroleum partner of our country,” very few people believed him. It sounded like empty hype.
Yet it turns out that Ramírez was serious. Three years later, Russian companies are already producing more oil in joint projects with PDVSA than their Chinese counterparts. Official figures are either unreliable or unavailable, but according to field data provided by Global Business Consultants (GBC), a Caracas-based energy consulting firm, Russia-Venezuela production as of late 2015 was 209,000 barrels per day (bpd), compared to China-Venezuela’s at a bit over 171,000 bpd.
COP21 begins soon in Paris. A very interesting discussion of the issues, with diplomats from EU states and China, takes place tomorrow, Friday evening, at Hertie School of Governance in Berlin to open the Hertie Energy & Environmental Network’s (HEEN) conference. I’ll be moderating the session. The session is open to those interested. Read on:
Opening remarks by German Undersecretary of State, ret. Rolf-Dieter Schnelle, fellows & friends of the Hertie Foundation
• Philippe Etienne, Ambassador of France to Germany
• Friis Arne Petersen, Ambassador of Denmark to Germany
• Wang Tianling, Counsellor, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Berlin
• Iwona Jakuszko-Dudka, First Secretary to the Embassy of Poland to Germany
• Dr. Jan Minx, Professor for Science Policy and Sustainable Development, Hertie School of Governance, Head of Working Group on Applied Sustainability Science, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change
• Moderation by Dr. Thomas O’Donnell, Hertie School of Governance
In December 2015, the COP 21 climate conference in Paris will bring together world leaders, scientists, pressure groups and United Nations agencies, with the task to craft an agreement at the highest political level to tackle global warming. The representatives from 196 countries must reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol. The COP 15 summit in Copenhagen (2009) is remembered more for the difficulty of reaching a global consensus than for tangible progress.
What will the legacy of COP 21 in Paris be?
Is putting a price on carbon worldwide politically feasible?
Is the gap between the cost of energy produced from fossil fuels and energy produced from renewable energy sources narrowing as much as to be a game-changer?
How would policy proposals that raise the cost of energy go down with national leaders from the developing world, under pressure to deliver standard-of-living improvements?
How will Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) impact the negotiations?
How will China’s early pledge to peak emissions ahead of 2030, and the USA’s commitment to deep reductions by 2025 shape what is globally possible?
Will the European Commission get a critical mass of support for the Paris Protocol?
Will all parties arrive at an robust enough agreement?
What is the future of the Green Climate Fund?
How will the financing volume necessary to keep global warming below 2 degrees be secured?
Speakers will provide their take on the above, and engage in a lively and dynamic discussion with the audience about the major challenges which will be tackled at the COP 21 in Paris in December 2015.
The Hertie Energy and Environment Network (HEEN) is an established platform bringing together fellows of the Gemeinnützige Hertie-Stiftung with professional experience in the field of Energy and Environment (E&E) in the public, private, academic or civil society sector. HEEN’s purpose is to facilitate dialogue, knowledge-sharing and learning, to provide a trust-based environment for career path reflection, and to facilitate the development of lasting professional connections among outstanding individuals of diverse backgrounds who share a common interest and motivation for further professional development in the E&E field.
Presidents Rouhani of Iran and Putin of Russia holding discussions
(AICGS Analysis, by Tom O’Donnell) Since Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, decided to annex Crimea and back east Ukrainian separatists with troops, many have worried he might use his “energy weapon” to counter U.S.-EU sanctions, as Russia supplies around a third of the EU’s natural gas imports. But what about Russian retaliation in the oil sector?
That’s hard to imagine. While gas is marketed in bi-lateral, pipeline-mediated relationships, oil is not. It’s liquid, fungible, and marketed in a unified open market—“the global barrel” [and name of this blog, T.O’D.]—which means there are no bi-lateral oil dependencies.
So, when EU leaders were cajoled by Germany’s Angela Merkel into joining the United States in applying sanctions, Russia could do little to retaliate from within the oil sector. In reality, it is the EU and the U.S., not Russia, that have an “oil weapon” in hand. And, the flurry of Russian oil diplomacy with OPEC, Iran and China over the past couple of weeks has a distinct whiff of desperation to it. Continue reading →
Here’s my piece [in Spanish] in Petroguía 2015, the oil-&-gas sector catalog for Latin America Note: Hemispheric integration (e.g., energy infrastructure) was endlessly promoted by Hugo Chavez. In the end, he built none. The region’s resources continue going mainly to develop other regions, such as China. Continue reading →
EU and Iranian foreign ministers in Vienna (Austrian Foreign Ministry)
My latest at the IP Journal of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP): US-EU Cooperate on Iranian Nonproliferation: Agreement positions Tehran as regional leader — IP Journal 14/08/2014
Although negotiators failed to reach agreement on Iran’s nuclear program by the late-July deadline set last November, as Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif put it: “We have made enough headway to be able to tell our political bosses that this is a process worth continuing. … I am sure Secretary Kerry will make the same recommendation.” Indeed, Washington, Brussels, and Tehran readily agreed on a four-month extension.
This represents a sea change in tone from the period prior to November 2013, Continue reading →
Note: These “USA Oil Seminar” posts are extra readings for my students to better understand how US energy policy is developed and to hear the views of US experts. The seminar is: “The Global Oil System & US Policy” at JFK Institute of FU-Berlin.
This Friday, watch live (or the recording later on): Is the U.S. a Rising Energy Superpower? Implications for Global Markets and Asia, the Middle East, Russia, and Europe. CSIS upcoming talk by Fereidun Fesharaki. FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2014 | 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM . Moderated by David Pumphrey.
BACKGROUND: This week, the class reading assignments are a couple conference papers I wrote a few years ago on the history and structure of today’s global oil system, and how it grew to replace the neo-colonial oil system. Continue reading →
The anti-government protest in eastern Caracas 13 March ended in clashes with Venezuelan police. Three more died in widespread protests. BBC
As protests continue against Venezuela’s faltering “oil revolution,” the political strategy of the chavista administration is striking for its intransigence. President Maduro has refused to recognize any grievances by students or other protesters. He calls protesters “fascists” and blames them for all the ills of the economy. Protests are attacked by the national guard and often by state-organized paramilitary gangs on motorcycles who are praised by the president.
The administration’s strategy so far appears to be that protests will burn themselves out if they can be delegitimized and contained within middle-class areas. Accordingly, the president’s rhetoric aims at inciting poorer citizens against protesters. All in all, this is a risky strategy. Protests have constantly intensified, with perhaps 25 persons dead now.
After a month of protests, the administration has taken urgent economic measures it hopes will undermine the protests and prevent their spread to poor and working-class barrios.
1. Ramirez announces Chinese and Russian loans and the launch of a very liberal Sicad 2
In Germany, the impact of the country’s renewable energy transition on the economy is a very hot topic. Tuesday, Mrs. Merkel’s new Minister of Economy & Environment (and chair of the Social Democratic Party), Mr. Sigmar Gabriel, declared: “We need to keep in mind that the whole economic future of our country is riding on this,” (NYT, 21Jan14).
Here’ is my article in the DGAP’s (German Council on Foreign Affairs’) IP Journal of 30Dec13 (submitted 24Nov13):
Germany’s Energiewende(renewable-energy transition) is under intense pressure both from consumers facing soaring electric bills and from German manufacturers fretting about their falling energy competitiveness vís-a-vís the US, where manufacturers are benefiting from the boom in cheap natural gas production. What should be done to address these concerns has become a major topic of the CDU-SPD negotiations forming Chancellor Merkel’s new coalition government.
From the viewpoint of German manufacturers, there are two ways the US shale gas revolution implies a worrisome competitive challenge. First, cheaper natural gas in the US is lowering electricity and other energy costs for American manufacturers, while Germany’s continue to rise. This is especially of concern to energy-intensive industries, where the EU now has 36 percent of world capacity and the US only 10 percent. Secondly, as the US begins to build facilities for export of liquefied gas (LNG), this capacity could have a significant effect on the price of electricity and gas in Asia. … Continue reading at DGAP’s (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V.) IP Journal.
Inversiones energéticos de China en Latino américa. Nota que Venezuela está en cuatro lugar, en contra de las intenciones iniciales de Beijíng en 2007-08. HAZ CLICK para magnificar. (Grafico por T.O’D.)
[English readers: This post is an analysis I did in Spanish for Petroguía 2014 – the annual hard-copy guide for the LatAm petroleum sector – of China’s oil and gas investments in LatAm and the Carribean. For Beijing’s other investments, or a presentation, etc. drop me a line. ]
NOTA: La siguiente es mi análisis publicado en Petroguía 2014, la guía anual para el sector petrolífero latinoamericano. Soy agradecido a los directores del Petroguíapor haberme permitido publicar el artículo aquí. El artículo es una resumen de una investigación que hizo sobre todas las inversiones de China en Latino américa. Si tienen interés en una reportaje o presentación detallada, por favor contactarme.
China y América Latina: ¿Quién gana y quién pierde?
Sumario. El mercado de hidrocarburos ya no está en el norte de América sino hacia el este, y la mejor estrategia de intercambio con esa plaza la lleva Brasil, mientras que Venezuela y Argentina están a la zaga.
Por Thomas W. O’Donnell
El petróleo y el gas que exportará América Latina en las décadas venideras irán mayormente a China y otras partes de Asia. Y eso es por el efecto combinado de menores necesidades de energía importada en Estados Unidos, gracias a la utilización de los nuevos métodos de fractura hidráulica (fracking) que produce cada vez más petróleo liviano, y por el tope que ha alcanzado su demanda doméstica. Continue reading →
Back in April, Brazil’s Folha de SaoPaulo ran an article entitled: “The Future of Venezuela Depends on China“ and highlighted this quote: Translation:“If Maduzo wins, he’ll have to regain the confidence of the Chinese.” TOM O’DONNELL, petroleum consultant
Indeed, it is now clear that the short-term strategy of the post-Chavez Maduro-Cabello administration was to escape the country’s severe dollar crisis: convincing Beijing to extend it a $5 billion cash loan alleviating food-import shortages before 8 December elections. In particular, the cash was to fund a new dollar exchange system (see El Nacional,25 Sept 2013). Continue reading →