China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom

Astounding headline and story.  

 Since the American-led invasion of 2003, Iraq has become one of the world’s top oil producers, and China is now its biggest customer.

China already buys nearly half the oil that Iraq produces, nearly 1.5 million barrels a day, and is angling for an even bigger share, bidding for a stake now owned by Exxon Mobil in one of Iraq’s largest oil fields.

“The Chinese are the biggest beneficiary of this post-Saddam oil boom in Iraq,” said Denise Natali, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University in Washington. “They need energy, and they want to get into the mark

… “We lost out,” said Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration who worked on Iraq oil policy. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply.”

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and Power by Steve Coll

Most of my book and film reviews are at  All In One Boat, companion blog of this one.   When the subject of the work is of contemporary politics, of power and its dominions, I also post them here.  This is clearly the case with  Steve Coll’s new, indispensable volume, Private Empire: ExxonMobile and Power, reviewed in The London Review of Books, Nov 8, 2012.  Coll will be familiar to many readers from his articles and books on US national security matters, particularly the CIA, Osama Bin Laden and oil.  He is also the managing editor of the Washington Post.  His knowledge of the interconnecting worlds of oil, nationalism and power is deep and wide; his discipline to put that knowledge at the service of others is formidable.

From Luke Mitchell’s review:

The pivotal event in the history of ExxonMobil, as Coll sees it, wasn’t the wreck of theExxon Valdez, important though that was, but the fall of the Berlin Wall. ‘The Cold War’s end,’ he writes, ‘signalled a coming era when non-governmental actors – corporations, philanthropies, terrorist cells and media networks – all gained relative power.’ The title of Daniel Yergin’s history of the oil industry, The Prize (1991), came from a similar argument made by Winston Churchill in 1911, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. The best way to prepare for war with Germany, Churchill believed, would be to upgrade the Royal Navy so that it used oil as fuel rather than coal. It would be risky, in large part because ‘the oil supplies of the world were in the hands of vast oil trusts under foreign control.’ But if ‘we overcame the difficulties and surmounted the risks, we should be able to raise the whole power and efficiency of the navy to a definitely higher level; better ships, better crews, higher economies, more intense forms of war power – in a word, mastery itself was the prize of the venture’. As Yergin noted, winning such a prize ‘inevitably meant a collision between the objectives of oil companies and the interests of nation-states.’ This clash is the real subject of Coll’s book. A single nation, the United States, once had the power to break apart the mighty Standard Oil Company. But in the post-Soviet era, ExxonMobil prevailed.

. Much of Private Empirefocuses on war and specific incidents of manmade disaster: the Exxon Valdez, various pipeline spills, Deepwater Horizon, dirty wars in Africa and Indonesia, the wars in Iraq. The largest oil-company related disaster, though, is climate change, which will destroy not just life in the Gulf of Mexico, but life in all of the oceans and on much of the land as well. The smaller disasters happened when the oilmen failed, but climate change is happening because they are successful.

Full review, here…probably behind a pay-wall.

Looks like a fine book.  Send excerpts to your congress critters….


News from Turkey

One of the most revealing things about traveling is to read the local news and begin to understand how world issues shift and local issues grow large in “foreign” eyes.  In Istanbul the Hurriyet Daily News is a good source.  Although they also have an on-line  presence, having the actual large format paper edition in my hands brings the perspective I am used to:  Large Top headline, photo beneath and several smaller but still significant headlines across the rest of the front page.

This morning the top headline was Avoid Confrontation, US tells Cyprus Parties

What concerns the US and Turkish and Greek officials is the recent announcement that Greek Cypriots are planning to drill for oil and gas on the northern part of the island.

Possible provocations include issuing more oil exploration and drilling licenses on Greek Cyprus’ part, which would deepen the country’s ties with Israel, and statements about the possible annexation of Turkish Cyprus by Turkey or a push for Turkish Cypriot independence on Turkey’s part.

There is of course a long, and unhappy history behind this, some of which is explored in the article.

A second front page piece has to do with Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds exploring common interests against the current Shia dominated Iraq government.

The leader of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq Masoud Barzani is set to visit Turkey this week on the heels of a U.S. trip for critical discussions on terrorism and ongoing tension with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, according to a Turkish official.

About which more is revealed inside on page 4 (so far no ads to clutter up the news.)

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman begins a three-day visit to Greek Cyprus to discuss energy issues with senior officials, his office said on April 15.

He will meet Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis today, Anatolia news agency reported. Among the issues on the table will be “promoting a plan to form a regional emergency aid force,” it said, Agence France-Presse reported.

And, in more local matters, a life sentence is handed down for an “honor killing,” by a young presumably Christian Armenian-Turk of his sister and her Muslim husband.


All news that would barely budge the notice-bell in the US.

324 Months of Temperature Exceeding Long Term Average

I finally watched a documentary in the tape-now-watch-later section of the TV.  The History Channel’s  “Crude” [not to be confused with several others of the same or similar names] is a decent elementary explanation, with beguiling animations of Jurassic era creatures and representations of Carbon and Oxygen bound together as CO2 rising into the atmosphere and falling into the oceans.  It describes how oil came to be, the first discoveries and subsequent envelopment of the world by drilling sites.  Then, somewhat surprisingly, but hearteningly, the experts who have been explaining this go on to describe what the return of so much CO2 to the atmosphere and oceans, by burning all the oil,  means.  In rational, straightforward speech they describe what a warming world once meant, and what they know about our proximity to a tipping point.  Chilling — and on popular TV!

Having dreamt on that over night I woke to a significant front page article in the NY Times in need of a sharper headline:

Weather Runs Hot and Cold, So Scientists Look to the Ice

“United States government scientists recently reported, for instance, that February was the 324th consecutive month in which global temperatures exceeded their long-term average for a given month; the last month with below-average temperatures was February 1985.”

Almost every paragraph of Justin Gillis and Joanna Foster’s report rings bells of alarm, not only that above.

How about this:

…the sea ice cap has shrunk about 40 percent since the early 1980s. That means an area of the Arctic Ocean the size of Europe has become dark, open water in the summer instead of reflective ice, absorbing extra heat and then releasing it to the atmosphere in the fall and early winter.

The animations of the anoxic oceans in Crude, following the great volcanic upheavals as the continents pulled apart, will pop up in my brain now, every time I read another climate warning, filled with new confirmatory data.



North Sea Gas Leak

From The Oil Drum:

A crisis situation has developed at a gas and condensate production platform in the Elgin field in the North Sea. Gas is leaking out of a well near a offshore platform at a rate of approximately 2 kilograms per second (12 MMCF/day if gas), and a large sheen (assumed to be condensate) has been observed on the water. All workers on Total’s Elgin PUQ (production-utilities-quarters) Platform plus those on the Rowan Viking drilling rig, which had been working next to it, have been evacuated.

And more recently:

…one energy industry consultant said Elgin could become “an explosion waiting to happen” if the oil major did not rapidly stop the leak which is above the water at the wellhead. However, some analysts said the leak did not appear to be as serious as the oil leak that caused BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, the world’s worst marine oil spill

Oil: Grow Some?

You may or may not know this, but oil does not come from long decayed dinosaurs — though it once did come from almost every last whale on earth. It came, mostly, from algae — billions of tons of the stuff, brewed up in shallow, tropical, heat warmed seas and sunk, and compressed and decayed and stored away with its load of CO2 forever, until Manling waved his magic wand and started sucking it out of the great beds and burning it, releasing the CO2 back into the atmosphere.

So what about using algae again, only not waiting for the million year compression cycle? Grow it, refine it, burn it, grow it, refine it…. How does this help? Algae, grown today, will suck CO2 out of the air; burned tomorrow it will release it back; grow some more, get some more, etc. How it helps is that it lessens, or stops, release of CO2 that’s been in the vaults for all these eons, only releasing what was captured yesterday. Like catch and release fishing.

Not a few start-up companies are beginning to bet significant dollars that there is something in this dream.

Raw algae can be processed to make biocrude, the renewable equivalent of petroleum, and refined to make gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and chemical feedstocks for plastics and drugs. Indeed, it can be processed at existing oil refineries to make just about anything that can be made from crude oil.

Algae Crude

Even from MIT this article seems a little bouyant, frothy as it were. The first obvious question is what forseeable events might be generated by man-made algae fields the size of Florida? What does genetic engineering do to algae in the wild — destructive to fish and other water creatures in certain doses? What if, what if? Of course we may have to do a deal with the devil sooner rather than later, just to keep the unimaginable that way. But if so, let’s get our eyes and brains as wide open as possible beforehand.

Oil: The Great Satan

I mentioned last week that friends and I had gone to see Dan Hoyle’s astounding one-man show at the Marsh Theatre in San Francico: Tings Dey Happen. (It’s been extended. Catch yourself an eye opener.)

Hoyle was in Nigeria for 10 months on a Fullbright and brought back what he saw and heard. Others have been there, too.

Oil fouls everything in southern Nigeria. It spills from the pipelines, poisoning soil and water. It stains the hands of politicians and generals, who siphon off its profits. It taints the ambitions of the young, who will try anything to scoop up a share of the liquid riches—fire a gun, sabotage a pipeline, kidnap a foreigner.

Nigeria had all the makings of an uplifting tale: poor African nation blessed with enormous sudden wealth. Visions of prosperity rose with the same force as the oil that first gushed from the Niger Delta’s marshy ground in 1956. The world market craved delta crude, a “sweet,” low-sulfur liquid called Bonny Light, easily refined into gasoline and diesel. By the mid-1970s, Nigeria had joined OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), and the government’s budget bulged with petrodollars.

Everything looked possible—but everything went wrong.

National Geographic: Nigeria

[thx Harry H.]