Dr. Thomas O’Donnell is an American energy and geopolitics expert, based for the last decade in Berlin. He has been deeply engaged in analysis and critique of the German-Russian gas partnership and continues to undertake work on geopolitics surrounding global oil markets and OPEC/OPEC+ states.
A nuclear physicist by training, O’Donnell is a proponent of a European nuclear renaissance over the perceived dangerous illusions of “100 percent renewables and no nuclear” policies. He blogs at GlobalBarrel.com and his Twitter handle is @twodtwod.
He spoke to Kyiv Post’s Jason Jay Smart about Russia’s weaponizing of energy supplies, how long that can go on, and the outlook for winters to come in Europe.
What do you make of the bombing of the underwater Nord Stream pipelines?
We must be clear when we talk about the bombing of Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines – Europe is being subjected to an energy war by Russia, which is part of the larger Russian war against Ukraine. We see that the battlefield war isn’t going well for Russia, so Russia is betting on its energy policies being able to cause enough economic pain for Europeans to divide Europe, with hopes that Europe will then abandon its solidarity with Ukraine.
The title above says much more succinctly what I was hoping to get into in this interview. Below are the beginning of an article I was writing for this blog post. However, a USA organization is interested in using it for an Op-Ed. So, only the initial part is below. I hope to post on this fully very soon (i.e., a published article). – Tom O’D.
In my view, the Biden Administration has unwisely gotten into an exaggerated public clash with the Saudis and OPEC/OPEC+ over their 2 mbd quota cut.
The key here is the need for more investment rapidly into both the OPEC states (which have plenty of oil reserves that can be developed) and into USA shale resources (that are also abundant and need to be more rapidly expanded).
The looming global recession discourages investors in both instances, of course. And, the Biden administration has reason to worry, both if a global recession soon begins, slashing oil demand, and especially if it doesn’t (but, it will).
I agree with Ed Morse (video interview on CNN here), veteran oil-market analyst, head of Citibank’s Global Commodities: Regardless of the OPEC quota cut, given the strong trend towards a global recession, which is proceeding relatively slower in the USA than elsewhere, it’s likely oil prices will be “in the $70’s at the end of the year.”
My thanks to Al Jazeera’s Katya Bohdan, producer, and the digital team in Doha (English) for this well done “documentary” featuring my point of view on: “What does Russia’s gaas cur mean for Europe?” I think it is self-explanatory (and its short). Watch it below or directly at the AJ link here. Tom OD.
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.
Bolivarian Venezuela in crisis: An oil-rich nation collapses? – Panel Discussion (bios follow):
Ms. Rita Bitar Deeb PhD student in Political Science at the Otto-Suhr-Institut of Freie Universität Berlin
Dr. Ivo Hernandez Lecturer in International Relations at the Political Science Institute of Universität Münster
Dr. Manuel Silva-Ferrer John Boulton Foundation Fellow and Lecturer at the Latin-American Institute of Freie Universität Berlin
Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell -Moderator Guest Lecturer at Hertie School of Governance and the European Studies Program, FU/BEST at Freie Universität Berlin
WHEN: 10 October, 6-7:30 pm. LOCATION: Hertie School of Governance, Friedrichstrasse 180 – 10117 Berlin, Germany. [To attend, please register online.] – Venezuela is currently unable to adequately feed its people, or to provide basic services such as medical care, education, and electricity. Polls indicate about 90% of the population would vote to remove its Chavista president, Nicolas Maduro, if his government allowed a recall referenda to take place this year, which is widely demanded. What will happen in Venezuela: Collapse? Chaos? Democratic renewal? And, moreover, why is this occurring now?
Since the mid-20th Century, fueled by oil riches, Venezuela has veered from being the leading example of ‘democratic development’ within a continent rife with right-wing dictatorships, to a nation mired in its own economic and political crises. A ‘neo-liberal shock’ in the late-1980’s failed and was roundly rejected by citizens. At the end of the 1990‘s, Hugo Chavez broadly excited the hopes for development of not only Venezuelans but elicited significant sympathy worldwide with Chavismo’s ‘new resource nationalism’ and ’21st Century Bolivarian Socialism’. However, this leftward turn is also demonstrably failing, with the nation again on the brink of disaster. What comes next? Our panel of Venezuelan experts weighs in and will address attendees’ questions.
Rita Bitar Deeb is a PhD student in Political Science at the Otto-Suhr-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. She received her Master in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh and Graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies. Her research interests are democratization process, social development and gender policy. She has worked for the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and several local NGOs as project coordinator in Venezuela (Atenea, Súmate, Red de Apoyo-HHRR). Bitar has taught at the University of Kassel in Germany, and at the Catholic University in Caracas.
Ivo Hernandez is lecturer in International Relations at the Political Science Institute of Universität Münster. He studied at Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas, the London School of Economics (LSE), the University of Heidelbergand University of Tübingenin Germany and The National Defense University in Washington D.C. His research interests include oil politics, national oil companies, the logics of terrorism, and Latin American politics and political economy.
Manuel Silva-Ferrer is John Boulton Foundation Fellow – exploring oil, society and culture in 20th-Century Latin America – as well as Lecturer at the Latin-American Institute of Freie Universität Berlin. Born in Caracas, he is a graduate of the Institute of Communication Studies at Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) and earned his PhD from Freie Universität Berlin. He was Director of the state film foundation Cinemateca Nacional de Venezuela and Head of Cinema and Media at the Ministry of Culture where his work included developing the National Academy of Film and Audiovisual. Silva-Ferrer led ExtraCámara, a magazine for Latin-American photography, and was co-responsible for the creation of the Centro Nacional de la Fotografía, a public foundation for the promotion of photographic art. During his studies, Silva-Ferrer was Fellow of the Fundación Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho, and awarded a PhD full scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
Moderation & comments:
Thomas W. O’Donnell is Guest Lecturer at Hertie School of Governance and the European Studies Program (FU/BEST) at Freie Universität Berlin. An academic, analyst and consultant in the global energy system and international relations, his work has encompassed especially the role of oil and gas in the EU, Russia, Latin America, Middle East, China and the USA. His PhD is from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in experimental nuclear physics, and he previously studied Political Science and China Studies at the State University of New York and Canisius College. In 2008-09, he was US Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at the Center for the Study of Development (CENDES)at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and in 2015 AICGS (American Institute of Contemporary German Studies)& DAAD Fellow in Washington D.C. O’Donnell has taught post-graduate seminars on energy in international relations and development at The University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, The New School University’s JJ Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs (NYC),andFreie Universität, JFK Institute (Berlin). He is Senior Analyst at Wikistrat and consults with other geopolitical and business-intelligence firms. Before his PhD, O’Donnell gained broad tech experience in U.S. automobile-manufacturing, railway-operations and power-generation industries. He is author of some 40 peer-reviewed scientific physics papers.
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 →
What a strange rebellion against the international financial order. On Sunday 5 July, Greece voted “No!” by a resounding 61% to the bailout conditions insisted upon by Berlin, Brussels and “the creditors.” But, what is truly unique here is the alignment of international forces for renegotiation of Greek debt.
Throughout the post-War era, whenever it came down to imposing “discipline” on other small, debt-defaulting states, the most intrepid champions of the norms of the international financial order have consistently been Washington and the IMF (just ask Argentina’s Mrs. Kirchner, she’ll tell you).
Yet, look who agrees with the Greeks that their debts–in their present magnitude and structure–are impossible and potentially disastrous for the country: Continue reading →
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.
An article I wrote for the IP Journal of theGerman Council on Foreign Relations is online today. It examines data on China, the EU and Germany’s trade with Latin America and the Caribbean, including in energy. Here’s a quote from near the end:
… China’s exports to Latin America in the low-, medium-, and high-tech categories were below those of Germany and the EU in 2003; but in 2012 [China’s exports] exceeded the combined totals of the EU15 in the medium-tech and even in the high-tech categories. The only place the EU15 surpasses China is, rather oddly, in the low-tech manufactured goods …
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 →
Presidents Chavez and Ahmadinejad met in Caracas in January (here) and June 2012
I was cited a number of times yesterday in a Bloomberg News article by Nathan Crooks in Caracas and Paul Burkhardt in NYC. I reprint it below because the authors’ research further illustrates an issue I’ve often stressed here.
That is: in spite of President Chavez’ rhetoric promising to stand by Presidents Ahmadinejad of Iran (and Assad of Syria, and previously Qaddafi of Libya), he is actually in no position to withstand the U.S. sanctions that could be imposed on Venezuela for aiding Iran. Continue reading →
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:
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 →