A wide-ranging interview on the “perfect storm” of low prices from low demand plus rising production, the Saudi market strategy and some geopolitical implications.
A wide-ranging interview on the “perfect storm” of low prices from low demand plus rising production, the Saudi market strategy and some geopolitical implications.
Posted in Aramco, Energy and Geopolitics, Energy and Geostrategy, Global Oil Market, Global Oil system, international relations, Iran sanctions, Iraqi oil, Libya, Oil prices, Oil supply, OPEC, Resource conflicts, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabit, shale oil, U.S. oil, Uncategorized
Tagged Ali Al-Naimi, Energy, geopolitics, Iraq, oil sector, OPEC, Saudi Arabia, Saudi market strategy
Last week, I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on why Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) is looking to sell its Citgo refining affiliate in the USA. The key motivation, in my estimation, is to finance projects critical to … Continue reading
Appreciation: I am honored to again be invited by my Iranian colleagues in New York, Professors Reza Ghorashi, Hamidah Zangeneh and Hamid Sedghi, to join this panel and discuss the geopolitics of US-Iranian relations. And, my thanks to Prof. Sedghi for reading my paper as I am teaching in Berlin and cannot be with you today. I only ask that those who dislike my message, kindly refrain from shooting the messenger.
The US-Iran nuclear confrontation finally appears close to resolution. This is because both Presidents Obama and Rouhani desire a diplomatic solution, and both countries need to move on. With such an agreement, it is possible that relations will slowly become normalized.
Of particular note—as a direct consequence—are the recent secret negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia towards a rapprochement. These were initially facilitated by Oman (e.g. see reports here, here, and here). Until very recently the Saudis had remained fiercely opposed to any US deal with Iran. However, the Saudi’s are realists, and know when it is time to adapt. Figure 1. is a photo of kisses exchanged on 22 April between ex-President Rafsanjani of Iran and King Abdullah’s ambassador to Iran, which caused quite a stir in the region. Agreements reached in these recently revealed negotiations have already significantly affected the presidential-succession crisis in Lebanon, sectarian conflicts in Iraq, and the conflict in Yemen. Next the two sides are expected to negotiate regarding their interests in the Syrian conflict.
In addition, the nature of the US-Saudi relationship is changing, transferring much more responsibility on the Kingdom and its Gulf partners for their own defense–albeit strongly supported with US weapons and logistics. This is part of the US disengagement from direct regional interventions, which will be significantly furthered by a successful US-Iran agreement (e.g., see here and here, and this report on Saudi defense buildup from Balfour at Harvard).
How are these new developments to be understood? Continue reading
Posted in Energy and Geopolitics, Energy and Geostrategy, Global Oil Market, Global Oil system, international relations, Iran nuclear, Iran sanctions, Iraq, Iraqi oil, negotiations, Obama, OPEC, P5+1, Persian Gulf, Rouhani, Sanctions, Saudi Arabia, Syria, The USA, U.S. oil, Uncategorized
Tagged Energy, Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Obama, oil sector, OPEC, Persian Gulf, Saudi, Saudi Arabia, Washington
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.
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
Posted in China, Energy and Geopolitics, Energy and Geostrategy, Euroepen Union, Gas globalization, Global Oil Market, Global Oil system, international relations, Latin America, LNG, Oil course, Oil prices, Oil supply, OPEC, Persian Gulf, Resource conflicts, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Seminar, shale gas, shale oil, The USA, Tight oil, Trade and Commerce, U.S. oil, unconventional energy
Tagged Bruce Jones, Business and Economy, China, David Pumphrey., David Steven, Energy, Fereidun Fesharaki, Global Oil System, Iran, Iraq, Latin America, Middle East, oil sector, OPEC, Persian Gulf, Saudi, Saudi Arabia, South China Sea, United States, Washington
Note: I’m teaching a post-graduate course “The Global Oil System & US Policy” at JFK Institute of Freie U. in Berlin. In order to give students a feel for how US energy policy is developed–and to see the views of important US actors–I’m sending them frequent e-mails with supplemental readings and videos from US think tanks, US government offices and from the US media on energy topics.
These are not my own in-depth analysis like I usually post on GlobalBarrel.com. However I think they are worthwhile sharing with especially non-USA followers of my blog. I’ll title these posts “USA OIL” plus a number to label them). I hope these are useful. Here’s today’s ‘optional material’ I sent to my students:
How is US energy policy developed? You might find this video of interest.
Some background: The CSIS (Center for Study of International Security) is a non-partisan (i.e., not Democratic or Republican) think tank in Washington, DC. It performs an important role in US foreign policy. Continue reading
Posted in Energiewende, Energy and Environment, Energy and Geopolitics, Energy and Geostrategy, Euroepen Union, European Union, Germany, Global Oil Market, Global Oil system, international relations, Iran nuclear, Oil course, Persian Gulf, Putin, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabit, The USA, Trade and Commerce, Trade policy, U.S. oil, Ukraine, Uncategorized, unconventional energy
Tagged Beijing, Berlin, China, CSIS, Energy, energy issues, foreign policy, Germany, Iran, JFK Institute of Freie U., Middle East, Obama, oil sector, OPEC, Petróleos de Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, United States, US energy policy, Washington, Zbigniew Brzezinski
[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 Petroguía por 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.
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
Posted in Chavez, Chavez lagacy, China, heavy oil, international relations, Latin America and Caribbean, Oil supply, OPEC, PDVSA, shale oil, The USA, Tight oil, Trade and Commerce, U.S. oil, Venezuela oil
Tagged Beijing, Business and Economy, Chavez, China, Energy, Heavy crude oil, Hugo Chávez, Latin America, oil sector, OPEC, PDVSA, United States, Venezuela
Throughout 2012, and especially after President Hugo Chávez’ death in early March 2013, Venezuela’s national oil firm, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), has taken measures beyond anything done in the past decade to raise its lagging production. While the likely impact merits cautious analysis, the drivers of the Bolivarian Republic’s scramble for increased oil revenues are clear. … Continue reading
Posted in Chavez, Chavez lagacy, Chavez legacy, China, Faja of the Orinoco, Gaddafi, heavy oil, Latin America and Caribbean, Libya, Maracaibo, Oil prices, OPEC, PDVSA, PDVSA weakness, The USA, U.S. oil, Venezuela oil, Zulia
Tagged Beijing, Carabobo, Caracas, China, Heavy crude oil, Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, OPEC, PDVSA, Petróleos de Venezuela, president hugo chavez, Rafael Ramírez, South America, United States, Venezuela, Venezuelan
You’re invited to my lecture at The JFK Institute of North American Studies at Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday 6 PM. Here is the flyer, then the Abstract. Tschüß!
“The Global Barrel”
Today’s globalized market-centered energy system defines Washington’s relations with the EU, Japan and OPEC states Continue reading
Posted in Alternative energy, China, Economic Crisis, Energy and Environment, Euroepen Union, Faja of the Orinoco, Germany, heavy oil, international relations, Iran nuclear, Iran sanctions, Iraq, Iraqi oil, Oil prices, Oil supply, OPEC, Persian Gulf, Resource conflicts, Sanctions, Saudi Arabia, The USA, Tight oil, Transportation, U.S. oil
Tagged alternative fuels for transportation, Berlin, China, Energy, freie universität berlin, Japan, jfk institute, Middle East, OPEC, opec cartel, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, United States, US oil, Washington
[Updated/edited 5 June] The New York Times had an interesting article: “China is reaping biggest benefits of Iraqi oil boom” on June 2, 2013. The question that comes to mind is …
Why is Chinese production in Iraq booming, and in Venezuela lagging?
As late as 2007 and 2008, China clearly intended its investments in Venezuela to be its largest anywhere, to ramp up development of Venezuela’s huge Faja Orinoco extra-heavy oil reserves. In those years, Iraq was still mired in sectarian war. Yet, here we are in 2013, with Chinese production in Iraq surging and its companies’ production in Venezuela lagging. Why? Let’s first look at the Chinese relationship and logic in Iraq, then in Venezuela.
Geostrategic interests behind profit issue
The NYT article says that Chinese success in Iraq is largely because their oil companies aren’t especially interested in profits because they don’t have to answer to investors demanding higher returns; they just want to secure oil to bring home.
Yes, but one should see that this is also strongly a geostrategic imperative for Beijing. It is true Chinese firms can get along with lower profits, and they also have much more cash than others, which also helps them get in now at small profits for the long run. However, unlike other firms, they are under specific instructions by Beijing to persist at getting into countries with huge reserves like Iraq and Venezuela because it is in the geostrategic energy interests of Beijing to do so.
Chinese geostrategic motivations to stick in Iraq (and Venezuela)
Before examining the better situation, on the ground, for Chinese firms dealing with Baghdad as verses Caracas, it is important to recognize Beijing won’t ever give up on either state. Beijing is the one power having serious reservations about too much reliance on the US/Saudi-dominated “global barrel” market-and-security system. It is the only major power (aside from Russia) with aspirations to project power against the USA and its naval carrier fleets, at least in its near-home waters. For any such confrontation of any duration, it needs to have a certain significant percentage of oil brought directly home independent of the USA and the global market the USA dominates. So, China’s energy firms tend to blend their deepening integration into global oil-market processes with old-fashioned bi-lateral mercantilist relationships with producing states like Iraq and Venezuela. (See also the Addenda below.)
Different contractual and working relationships in Iraq and Venezuela
Chinese firms are clearly more willing to work with the difficult resource-nationalistic conditions imposed by the Iraqi and Venezuelan states. However, in many ways Iraq’s are more difficult, yet Chinese–and many others–do better getting production going in Iraqi than Venezuela. Why? Continue reading
Posted in Chavez, Chavez lagacy, China, Faja of the Orinoco, heavy oil, Henry Capriles, international relations, Iraq, Iraqi oil, Oil supply, OPEC, PDVSA, Persian Gulf, The USA, U.S. oil, Uncategorized, Venezuela oil, Venezuelan Nationalism
Tagged China, Iraq, Middle East, New York Times, Oil reserves in Iraq, PDVSA, United States, Venezuela
For Spanish speakers: below is an article from Tal Cual daily in Venezuela summarizing my blog on Saudi oil minister al-Naimi’s opinons on the “North American tight-oil revolution” and their implications for Venezuela and Iran. The article is by Jose Suarez Nunez.
Para hispano parlantes: Aquí abajo está un artículo en Español publicado en Tal Cual de Caracas, un resumen de mi blog de la última semana que trató en las opiniones del ministro de energía saudita Sr. al-Naimi, y en las implicaciones para Venezuela e Irán. Continue reading
Posted in Aramco, Chavez lagacy, Faja of the Orinoco, heavy oil, Hugo Chávez, international relations, Iran nuclear, Iran sanctions, Oil prices, Oil supply, PDVSA, Peak Oil, Persian Gulf, Resource conflicts, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabit, shale oil, Tight oil, U.S. oil
Tagged Caracas, Iran, Latin America, Naimi, Saudi Arabia, saudi oil, South America, Tight oil, u s energy, Venezuela
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 Schlesinger 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
Posted in Aramco, China, Economic Crisis, Energy and Environment, Faja of the Orinoco, heavy oil, international relations, Iran sanctions, Oil prices, Oil supply, OPEC, PDVSA, PDVSA weakness, Peak Oil, Persian Gulf, Resource conflicts, Sanctions, Saudi Arabit, shale oil, The USA, Tight oil, U.S. oil, Venezuelan weak institutions
Tagged Al-Naimi, Ali Al-Naimi, Brent Scowcroft, Daniel Yergin, Saudi, Saudi Arabia, United States, Washington
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.
Recently, I sent off a proposal for a new course, “Problems of the Global Oil System.” The introduction asks rhetorically: “Why Teach About Oil?”
Debates in the U.S. over oil and energy policy often resemble election campaigns, fought out with factoids and unconstrained partisanship. Of course, deciding technical-scientific policy is inherently political. But there are politics and there are politics. In the proposal, I argue that “Oil’s persistent domestic & global centrality” will extend at least another 25-to-30 years, so teaching about oil is necessary to empower students to participate in forming energy policy democratically.
But, do the facts actually support the conclusion that petroleum’s central role in society–in both domestic and international affairs–will persist for at least 25-30 years hence? Here is the brief argument in the introduction (and the conceptual outline of the course) for your consideration: Continue reading
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
Posted in Chavez, Economic Crisis, Energy and Environment, Faja of the Orinoco, Gaddafi, heavy oil, Hugo Chávez, international relations, Iran sanctions, OPEC, PDVSA, Persian Gulf, Sanctions, The USA, U.S. oil, Uncategorized, Venezuela diplomacy
Tagged Chavez, Hugo Chávez, OPEC, Petróleos de Venezuela, Venezuela