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  • Tricks Any Dog Can Do! - Susan Day September 21, 2017
    This great book comes with advice and guidance as to the best way to teach these tricks. It offers more than one method which the reader can choose depending upon their own situation. There is also advice to using treats and shows you how to not end up with a treat junkie! This books is from the desk of Susan Day, a canine behaviourist. Susan teaches obedien […]
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  • La teoría del todo - Stephen W. Hawking September 21, 2017
    Una manera clara y amena de acercarse a los misterios del universo. En esta esclarecedora obra, el gran físico británico Stephen Hawking nos ofrece una historia del universo, del big bang a los agujeros negros. En siete pasos, Hawking logra explicar la historia del universo, desde las primeras teorías del mundo griego y de la época medieval hasta las más com […]
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  • La física del futuro - Michio Kaku September 21, 2017
    Un recorrido asombroso a través de los próximos cien años de revolución científica. El futuro ya se está inventando en los laboratorios de los científicos más punteros de todo el mundo. Con toda probabilidad, en 2100 controlaremos los ordenadores a través de diminutos sensores cerebrales y podremos mover objetos con el poder de nuestras mentes, la inteligenc […]
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  • Física General Esencial - Agustín Vázquez Sánchez September 21, 2017
    La nueva edición del ebook contiene ahora ocho temas completos de física y una sección de prácticas para realizar en casa. Se han corregido errores y agregado más ejemplos y ejercicios además de recursos multimedia en todos los capítulos.  Los ejemplos resueltos se presentan paso a paso a través de una solución algebraica con lo cual se evitan errores n […]
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  • El gran diseño - Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow September 21, 2017
    Aun antes de aparecer, este libro ha venido precedido, en todos los medios de comunicación, de una extraordinaria polémica sobre  sus conclusiones: que tanto nuestro universo como los otros muchos universos posibles surgieron de la nada, porque su creación no requiere de la intervención de ningún Dios o ser sobrenatural, sino que todos los universos pro […]
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  • ¿Cómo pensar como Sherlock Holmes? - Maria Konnikova September 21, 2017
    Ningún personaje de ficción es más conocido por sus poderes de intuición y observación que Sherlock Holmes. Pero, ¿es su inteligencia extraordinaria una invención de la ficción o podemos aprender a desarrollar estas habilidades, para mejorar nuestras vidas en el trabajo y en casa? A través de ¿ Cómo pensar como Sherlock Holmes? , la periodista y psicóloga Ma […]
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  • Ágilmente - Estanislao Bachrach September 21, 2017
    Bachrach es Doctor en biología molecular y explica el funcionamiento del cerebro. A través de ello, da consejos y herramientas para ser más creativos y felices en el trabajo y en la vida. La neurociencia es clara: el cerebro aprende hasta el último día de vida. La creatividad puede expandirse. Tu mente, mediante la aplicación de las técnicas correctas, puede […]
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  • Sobre la teoría de la relatividad especial y general - Albert Einstein September 21, 2017
    Entre el Electromagnetismo y la Mecánica newtoniana existe una fórmula de bisagra: la teoría de la relatividad especial y general. La importancia del nuevo marco planteado por Albert Einstein se entiende por lo siguiente: la percepción del tiempo y el espacio es relativa al observador. ¿Qué significa esto? Si usted viaja a una velocidad mayor que la de la lu […]
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  • Breve historia de mi vida - Stephen Hawking September 21, 2017
    La mente maravillosa de Stephen Hawking ha deslumbrado al mundo entero revelando los misterios del universo. Ahora, por primera vez, el cosmólogo más brillante de nuestra era explora, con una mirada reveladora, su propia vida y evolución intelectual. Breve historia de mi vida cuenta el sorprendente viaje de Stephen Hawking desde su niñez […]
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  • EnCambio - Estanislao Bachrach September 21, 2017
    EnCambio te va a permitir alumbrar los procesos por los cuales te comportás de determinada manera con el fin de dejar atrás aquellos hábitos y conductas que ya no te sirven. El objetivo es que aprendas del potencial que tiene tu cerebro para cambiar y la capacidad que tenés vos para modificarlo. Este año cambio de trabajo, empiezo el gimnasio, bajo esos kili […]
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Saudi King’s Son Plotted Effort to Oust His Rival

And the collection of so much power by one young royal, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has unsettled a royal family long guided by consensus and deference to elders.“You may have now such a concentration of power within one branch and within one individual who is also younger than so many of the cousins and sons of former kings that it may begin to create a situation where the family is out of whack,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, who studies Persian Gulf politics.The insularity of Saudi Arabia’s sprawling and phenomenally wealthy royal family is well known, often leaving diplomats, intelligence agents and members of the family itself struggling to decipher its inner workings.But since The New York Times reported last month that Mohammed bin Nayef had been confined to his palace, United States officials and associates of senior royals have provided similar accounts of how the elder prince was pressured to step aside by his nephew. All spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to endanger their contacts inside the kingdom, or themselves.In response to questions from The Times, a written statement by a senior Saudi official denied that Mohammed bin Nayef had been pressured and said that the Allegiance Council, a body of senior princes, had approved the change in “the best interest of the nation.”The statement said Mohammed bin Nayef was the first to pledge allegiance to the new crown prince and had insisted that the moment be filmed and broadcast. The former crown prince receives guests daily in his palace in Jidda and has visited the king and the crown prince more than once, the statement said.The rivalry between the princes began in 2015, when King Salman ascended the throne and bestowed tremendous power on his favorite son.Continue reading the main storyMohammed bin Salman was named deputy crown prince, or second in line to become king, as well as defense minister; put in charge of a powerful economic council; and given oversight of the state oil monopoly, Saudi Aramco.Mohammed bin Salman elevated his profile with visits to China, Russia and the United States, where he met with Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, and dined with President Trump in the White House. He has also guided Vision 2030, an ambitious plan for the future of the kingdom that seeks to transform the Saudi economy and improve life for citizens.Mohammed bin Salman’s supporters praise him as a hard-working visionary who has addressed the kingdom’s challenges with extraordinary directness […]

Saudi Prince’s Elevation Will Have Far-Reaching Consequences in Energy

Supporters say the 31-year-old prince will bring youthful energy and a fresh eye to the kingdom’s most valuable export, using it to help modernize and diversify the economy. Detractors, however, charge that he is inexperienced and prone to meddling, undermining experienced officials and making sudden public pronouncements.Continue reading the main story“The problem is he is unpredictable, and it is not clear who he is relying on for advice,” said Paul Stevens, a Middle East energy analyst at Chatham House, a research organization based in London.Here’s how Prince Mohammed’s rise may affect oil prices, global energy production and the sale of shares in Saudi Aramco:The prospect of falling pricesOil prices are around $45 a barrel, continued their slide after the news of Prince Mohammed’s promotion.That is down 20 percent since mid-April, and well off the levels in 2014 above $100 a barrel.The main reason for the decline in prices, though, is that OPEC’s much-trumpeted production cuts seem to be having little impact on the persistent glut of oil for sale.The higher prices resulting from OPEC cuts have prompted increased production from shale oil producers in the United States and by other rivals, undercutting the cartel’s actions.Oil Prices: What to Make of the VolatilityOver the last two and a half years, the oil industry experienced its deepest downturn since at least the 1990s.Flip-flopping Saudi energy pricesPrince Mohammed appears to have gone back and forth on oil strategy.He initially declared that prices did not matter. But when they fell to uncomfortable levels early last year, he backed production cuts by OPEC and other producers, like Russia, as a way to prop up prices.The Saudis and OPEC may now be headed for another crunch, and there do not seem to be any good options.Newsletter Sign UpContinue reading the main storyThank you for subscribing.An error has occurred. Please try again later.You are already subscribed to this email.View all New York Times newsletters.Analysts say the most likely path is for the Saudis to persist with, or even deepen, production cuts to bolster prices and improve the environment for the Saudi Aramco I.P.O.“We should be prepared for Saudi Arabia to do whatever it takes to keep the prices above” $50 a barrel, FGE, an energy consultancy, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday […]

Saudi Arabia approves plan to diversify economy from oil

Having all your eggs in one basket is never wise, especially if baskets are going out of fashion. […]

Here Are 60 Reasons Why There’s Hope For Oil Investors

Inventories will continue to rise, but the momentum is slowing. The following are some observations as to how we got here and how we’re gonna get out. 9 reasons why oil has taken so long to bottom: 1. OPEC increased production in 2015 to multiyear highs, principally in Saudi Arabia and Iraq where production between the two added 1.5 million barrels per day (mb/d) to inventories after the no cut stance was adopted. 2. Russian production increased in 2015 to post Soviet highs. 3. Long planned Gulf of Mexico production began coming on in late 2015. 4. An overhang of 3,000 or 4,000 shale wells that were drilled but uncompleted (“ducks”) entered a completion cycle in 2015. 5. Service companies and suppliers went to zero margin survival pricing (not to be confused with efficiency). The result has been an artificial boost to completions that cannot be sustained. 6. Resilience among a few operators in the Permian who felt the need to thump their chests, creating the rally that killed the rally last spring (disclosure: I own stock in Pioneer Resources but am going to dump it if they don’t cut it out!). 7. The dollar strengthened. 8. Iranian exports are coming. 9. And, finally, China. 5 Demand-Side Reasons Why We Need to Hang-On: 1. Chinese oil demand is up year-over-year by 8 percent. It is expected to slow in 2016 to as low as 2 percent (maybe) but it is still growth in a tightening market. 2. Watch Chinese car sales. They were sluggish in early 2015 but finished very strong in what could be a 2016 V-shaped recovery. 3. The Indian economy is on a tear. The IMF has it as the world’s fastest growing large economy. GDP growth was 7.3 percent in 2015 and is projected to be 7.5 percent in 2016. That trumps Chinese growth. Although India’s oil demand is only one-third that of China, it is the growth picture that should be better covered by analysts and headlines. India is about to be the world’s most populous nation with a middle class that is likely to double over the next 15 years. 40 cars now service 1,000 people but that is rapidly changing. And this is not something that will occur sometime, someday in the future. 2015 Indian consumption grew by 300,000 barrels per day (bpd). 4. U.S. consumption has been increasing with higher employment and lower fuel costs. Truck and full size SUV sales have been extraordinary. 5. Europe, the world’s largest oil market, is in a decade long decline but not as steeply as it was. Asia demand is strong with Vietnam’s GDP growing 7.5 percent in 2015. Middle East countries are seeing increases in consumption. And as a final observation, go back one year when most oil analysts were looking at supply as the means to a correction. Demand was thought to be too inelastic and would thus take too long to play out. But it was demand that responded first. When the story is written, it will be demand that outplayed supply 2 to 1 on our way to parity. Thereafter, if we go into imbalance, it will be the damage done to supply that really moves prices. 16 Supply-Side Reasons Why We Need to Hang On 1. Earlier in 2015 global supply exceeded demand by about 2.2 mb/d according to the EIA. Others had it at 2.5 mb/d. The EIA now has it down to 1.3 mb/d and change. We are still nowhere near an inflection point but we are converging. 2. The rig count in OPEC’s GCC countries has not corrected down with prices. It is mostly maintenance drilling and somewhat additive in Saudi Arabia. The level of production that we have seen lately likely means the GCC is close to or at capacity. 3. There is near universal acknowledgement that there will be another 300,000 to 500,000 bpd decline in U.S. production this year. It could be more given the struggles of the onshore conventional market which alone should give up 150,000 bpd. Shale’s steep decline rates will easily make up the rest even against increasing Gulf of Mexico production. OilPrice.com: How Soon Could A Sustained Oil Price Rally Occur? 4. Global non OPEC, non U.S. production will decline by 300,000 to 400,000 bpd in 2016 according to the IEA. This number could increase as marginal production at current low prices comes off line due to lifting costs. 5. After an upside surprise in 2015 Russian production, there is a building consensus that 2016 results will be off with further declines thereafter. Russian oil giant Lukoil is stacking contractor rigs which will show up fairly soon in the numbers. State backed Rosneft is showing financial strain. 6. Pemex production is down 10 percent. 7. North Sea production, which has increased over the last few years, will slip in 2016. 8. Long-term Canadian oil sands projects will come on in 2016 as will some production in Brazil, but even collectively the amounts are small. It’s probable too that some of the oil miners will put a hold on production due to lower product costs (about $15/bbl less than WTI) and extraordinarily high lifting and processing costs (some of the sands are subjected to subsurface CO2 drives, others are surface mined). 9. Anticipated Iranian exports are here, but the projections are all over the place from the Iranian government’s claim of 1 million b/day in 6 to 12 months to Rystad Energy’s claim of 150,000 b/day. Even the middle ground argument of500,000 b/day assumes Iran can get back to their long term trend line, which had been declining during the 5 years prior to 2011 sanctions. Fields are in poor repair and the gas drives essential to production have been mostly abandoned. All in, it’s most likely that production will stutter step up to the trend line due to delays caused by political process and infrastructure funding. This, like all things, will take longer than expected but watch out for early sales. You will be seeing more inventory than production as Iran unloads the 30 to 45 million barrels of oil in storage. Allow some time to work off stocks to get an idea of the actual production numbers which will likely disappoint. 10. Depending on the source, $140 to $200 billion of expenditures has come off of long term projects in 2015 with calls for another $40 to $150 billion in cancellations and postponements in 2016. This won’t be made up by renewables. The current and projected crude and natural gas prices have dis-incentivized consumers from wind and solar. Governments after the Paris accord may throw money around but consumers will likely not follow until commodity prices make them. 11. All said, these capex cuts will result in a loss of at least 5 mb/d in long-horizon production. These are the goliath type projects that we absolutely need to match to current plus anticipated consumption increases. 12. Existing wells have natural decline curves. Some hold up better than others but all said the global yearly decline rate without additional drilling is right around 4 mb/d. 13. Hedged bets started coming off in late 2015 and will continue in early 2016. Accompanying this could be the capitulation in activity and production that the market has been looking for. 14. Global capex declines have occurred here and there over the past 20 years but always rebound the following year. For the first time in recent history, the global oil complex has charted two consecutive years of declining budgets. 2014 showed a small constriction but 2015’s 20 percent capex decline is unprecedented in terms of size and is the highest by percentage in 20 years. And right now, 2016 doesn’t look like it’s going to have much bounce to it. 15. The world seems to be moving closer to a supply side disruption. Middle Eastwars, skirmishes and terrorist attacks are increasing in size and frequency. Libyan oilfields are a constant target. Nigerian installations are vulnerable. ISIS controls most of Syria’s small oilfields. Yeminis missiles are targeting Saudi oil installations and would have hit their targets in December launches had the Saudi’s not shot most of them down. Iraqi production is somewhat safe, but only somewhat. Venezuela’s PDVSA is teetering in its ability to pay for the imported diluents needed to export its crude. Tankers are stacking up in the Jose Petroterminal demanding payment up front before unloading up to 3 million b/month of naphtha. And then there’s the torched embassies, mass beheadings, a resurgent Shiite state and a hardening Sunni stance amid a claw back of freebies to Saudi Arabia’s citizens. It’s not good. Not at all. Our best hope is that price rebalancing will occur quickly through supply and demand metrics rather than bloody supply-side shocks. OilPrice.com: Oil Crash Only The Tip Of The Iceberg The current market turmoil has created a once in a generation opportunity for savvy energy investors. Whilst the mainstream media prints scare stories of oil prices falling through the floor smart investors are setting up their next winning oil plays. 16. At $25 oil, the Bakken is at $13 to $15 after transportation which puts operators up there underwater after lifting costs, taxes and carrying royalty owner costs. Sub $30 oil will not only kill development drilling, but it will be where production stops. In cases where operators are committed to selling natural gas produced alongside oil there may be a reason to continue due to supply obligations, but otherwise what’s the point? If you want to lose money buy a boat. It’s more fun. 6 Things to Ignore 1. This is not the 1980’s with 14+ mb/d spare capacity. In 2016, we are oversupplied by about 1.5 percent and it will be at zero by early to mid-2017. The last time we were at zero was late 2013/early 2014 when WTI was at $100 and Brent up around $105+. 2. Lower for longer is true but $29 oil is not. This is a classic over-sold scenario and likely somewhere in the realm of capitulation. Operators and service companies can find a footing at $50 oil. We won’t prosper but we’ll survive. $100 may be a long way off and that’s because ridiculously high, sustained oil prices only leads to ridiculously low sustained oil prices. But who wants $100? It will only get us back to $30. The industry makes no sense at the top or the bottom. The high middle is best. 3. Demand is dropping. Not true. Demand growth may be slowing but not by much. Consumption is up and it is increasing. 4. Chinese demand is down. The rate of growth may slow in 2016 but it will still be up year-over-year. A 6.8 percent Chinese economy is consuming more oil now than a 10 percent economy was 5 years ago. A lot more. 5. We’re going to float the lids right off our oil tanks. Don’t worry. You can sleep tight. We’re not. 6. Efficiency gains are offsetting the declining rig count. This one is always amusing. Give me the rig count and higher density fracking and you take all the recent efficiency gains and let’s see who gets invited to the bank’s Christmas party. 6 Things You Shouldn’t Ignore 1. Q1 oil prices are going to be ugly. Try and ignore them if you can. The market will remain uncertain over Iran as it determines and adjusts to how much oil is coming on. 2. Hedges coming off will not bode well for producers and the service companies looking to them for a lifeline. 3. Spring debt redeterminations may knock the wind out of the E&Ps. If capitulation hasn’t already occurred, it will then. 4. China. The sinking Shanghai Composite Index is oil’s anchor. 5. Pioneer and other chest thumpers getting too aggressive. Any recovery will be short lived if they jump the rig count as they did in the short-lived Spring 2015 rally. Traders are fixated on even meaningless moves in the rig count. Best to play it cool. We all want to work but operators need to practice some restraint. 6. Lack of capitulation. There will be no recovery until there is general agreement that the shorts cannot drag the market any lower. The Saudi’s, with Russia following, can always point to a large U.S. failure as proof that they did not blink first. 14 Things We Owe Ourselves: 1. The water wars of 3 or so years ago are mostly solved. Recycling frac water is now a ‘’gimme’’. Marcellus operators like Shell and Cabot are able to boast of 99 percent recycle rates. We still have hurdles with deep well brine injection but the issues are getting defined and will be addressed. 2. Progress is being made on recognizing and reducing methane emissions from well sites. Ultimately, this could slow drilling in places like the Bakken until infrastructure is in place, but it will also move operators to effectively use lease gas to power operations. 3. No government agency provided directives for Halliburton and Pattison to build dual fuel frac fleets that run on clean burning lease gas. They just did it in cooperation with their customers. OilPrice.com: Saudi Aramco Chairman Talks Oil Down 4. We’ve proven than natural gas is beyond abundant. 5. There have been fewer bankruptcies than anticipated. 6. No one has been arrested yet for fracking. 7. Harold Hamm was still able to write a billion dollar personal check. 8. Aubrey McClendon was still able to raise fresh money. 9. T. Boone Pickens overshot the mark with an $80 call but his optimism helped us – a lot. 10. Even President Obama jumped in and did us a favor with the elimination of the 40 year old export ban. It might have been done grudgingly but we got it. 11. LNG exports will set sail by March 2016. 12. Coal miners displaced by the current administration’s EPA in Kentucky and West Virginia have been finding work in oil and gas fields. Hopefully they’ll find more soon enough. 13. We can celebrate the abrupt end of the glossy multicolored booklets from fawning jewelers and art auctioneers arriving in the mail. 14. David Einhorn’s crass and predictable “mother fracker” short on Pioneer Resources was a yawn. The stock even climbed after the news. If this was a political statement, which was my read of the subtext, then short the stock now big guy. The inevitable will occur. Supply and demand will cross. The question is will Wall Street notice? Some of the analysts caught the cross in early 2014 but most didn’t. For full disclosure, I missed it too. The question this time around is will we see it coming and if so will it be an orderly reaction? Or will the market miss the coming wake-up call and instead deliver a severe supply disruption with skyrocketing prices and a political response along the lines of windfall profits taxes? My worry is that everything takes longer than you think, from recognizing coming imbalances in the global crude complex to painting the house. In the meantime, just hang on and keep your equipment running. You’re going to need it. Until then, all the best of luck. This article originally appeared on OilPrice.com […]

The Geopolitics of Cheap Oil

The market was supposed to save the planet. That, at least, was the argument of many economists grappling with the problem of climate change. As fossil fuels became scarcer, they pointed out, the price of oil and natural gas would go up. And then other options, like solar and wind, would become cheaper, particularly as investment flowed into that sector and drove down the cost of new technologies. And voila: The invisible hand would gradually turn down the global thermostat. It’s a ridiculous argument. For one, there’s no guarantee that the market would respond in a timely manner (i.e., before we’re under water). For another, oil and gas prices are as volatile and unpredictable as a Q-and-A session with Donald Trump. In 2008, for instance, oil hit a high of $145 a barrel. But that didn’t last long. And in 2015, despite all sorts of turmoil in the Middle East and in other oil-producing countries like Nigeria, the price of crude fell between 30 and 40 percent to its lowest levels in 11 years. That’s a bigger drop than the commodity price declines for metals, grains, and soybeans. Gas stations around the United States didn’t fully reflect this drop, but petrol prices still fell to an average of $2.40 a gallon, saving each driver more than $500 last year. There are a number of reasons for the price drop, but it boils down to supply (more of it) and demand (less of it). The United States boosted oil production by 66 percent over the last five years, making it the largest oil and natural gas producer in the world in 2015. Other producers, like Saudi Arabia, also didn’t scale back, in part to stick it to a sanctions-hobbled Iran and snatch up its clients. Meanwhile, greater fuel efficiency and slower economic growth around the world (particularly in China) have reduced demand. The nosedive in oil prices has been good news for a lot of people and a lot of countries. But it’s not good news for the planet. First the Good News Consumers love lower energy prices. It’s not only cheaper to fill up the tank and heat the house. Your shopping bill is also smaller because of lower manufacturing and transportation costs. Airlines cut fares (or at least they should). And it’s a big boost for the global economy. AsThe Economist notes, “a price fall normally boosts GDP by shifting resources from producers to consumers, who are more likely to spend their gains than wealthy sheikhdoms.” The other good news is that lower oil prices haven’t undercut the market for sustainable energy. In the past, cheaper fossil fuels have meant that governments and industry put off the hard decision to shift to renewable energy sources. But several factors have changed this calculus. The international community has made a commitment, most recently in Paris, to invest in wind turbines and solar panels. Because of technological advances and government incentives, meanwhile, the cost of renewables has fallen. The price of solar panels in the United States, for instance, has dropped 70 percent since 2009, and industry observers expect even sharper cuts in the years ahead. To keep up the momentum, the Obama administration pushed through an extension until 2019 of its tax credits encouraging renewable energy. And the investment banks, usually risk averse on this issue, are finally betting big on the sector: Goldman Sachs, for instance, announced in November that it will increase investments in renewable energy by fourfold. Another environmental benefit to lower energy prices is the cancellation of pricier fossil fuel projects. President Obama finally deep-sixed the Keystone pipeline last November. The target of heated activist protest, the pipeline had become a considerably less attractive project when oil prices fell below $60 a barrel. The State Department is also thrilled with lower oil prices. U.S. allies in Europe and Asia are able to reduce their energy purchases (and free up resources to buy U.S. goods, including military hardware). And key U.S. oil-producing adversaries are feeling the pinch. Iran, already under sanctions on its oil production, became more amenable last year to negotiations on its nuclear program. Russia, also under sanctions, hasn’t pushed as hard in Ukraine. Lower oil prices has put pressure on Venezuela and also reduced the flow of income to the Islamic State. Decreasing U.S. dependency on foreign oil through a boost in domestic production is not only a good media sound bite and a hit with the voters. It also turns out to be a potent weapon for U.S. foreign policy, which is good news for battling the Islamic State but bad news for restraining arms sales. And Now the Bad News Much was made in December of news of a potential global “peak” in carbon emissions. Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project released a report that greenhouse gas emissions dropped in 2015 by 0.6 percent. That might not seem like much. But it represented the first such reduction in decades. Carbon emissions have been going down in the EU. They dropped a bit in the United States in 2015. But the real reason for the global dip is China. Because of its recent economic slowdown, the country used a lot less coal last year. So, this should be good news. But it isn’t. First of all, aside from China, the United States, and the EU, carbon emissions in the rest of the world continued their upward climb. Second, it’s more than likely that the drop was an anomaly — just as earlier predictions of “peak oil” proved premature. And third, for any campaign to achieve zero emissions, cheap fossil fuels are the worst kind of disincentive. The price point is simply too irresistible — for car owners who want to go on vacation, companies that want to increase their profits, and governments that want to spur economic growth. Geopolitical Ramifications Saudi Arabia has recently been acting quite over the top. It intervened militarily in neighboring Yemen to put down an insurgency it blamed on Iran (with no evidence). It’s funneled money to its own preferred insurgents (namely, Sunni extremists) to topple Bashar al-Assad in Syria. And on New Year’s Day, it executed a number of “terrorists,” including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a leading Shiite cleric. Saudi Arabia, of course, is not known for its moderation. But the government in Riyadh has been acting even more erratically and paranoid than usual. Or perhaps Saudi Arabia has good reason to be paranoid. Falling oil prices mean economic trouble for a country that depends on sales of crude for 85-90 percent of its revenues. The country is already running a huge deficit — some 15 percent of GDP. In their most recent budget, the Saudis indicated that some belt-tightening is in the offing, which will translate into curtailing key subsidies like gas and water. Reduce subsidies and prices go up. If prices go up, people get upset. In other countries in the Middle East, price hikes have resulted in protest spikes. It’s no surprise, then, that Riyadh is doing what it can to eliminate potential sources of opposition at home and abroad. Volatility in the energy market has helped to destabilize governments in the past: the Soviet Union under Gorbachev, the Suharto regime in Indonesia, or Venezuela just prior to the ascent of Hugo Chavez. So, it’s not far-fetched to imagine the winds of change blowing through Saudi Arabia — or Russia, where the economic situation is edging toward desperate, or Iran, which is anxious to see the lifting of economic sanctions as a result of the nuclear deal. But as F. Gregory Gause points out in a Brookings report from April 2015, oil prices are just one factor affecting government stability, and most oil producers have enough reserves to weather the volatility. Indeed, Gause imagined that falling oil prices might even promote greater stability in the Middle East as Iran and Saudi Arabia worked more closely to coordinate production cuts. In fact, with Saudi Arabia severing ties with Iran this week, it looks more likely that both will continue to pump oil aggressively, driving prices down even further. It perhaps flirts with conspiracy to imagine that the United States has boosted energy production to keep prices low in order to promote unrest in Russia, or that Saudi Arabia has done the same to foster discontent in Iran. Both countries have plenty of other reasons to push the pedal to the metal, energy-wise. But policymakers in Riyadh and Washington would certainly not be upset if their strategy produced such side benefits. The problem is that instability in Russia and Iran isn’t in the best interests of either the United States or Saudi Arabia. Washington needs the help of Moscow and Tehran to negotiate a solution in Syria. And the Rouhani administration, compared to a more hardline clerical government that could easily emerge in Iran, is a much better potential negotiating partner for Saudi Arabia (assuming, of course, that it even wants a negotiating partner). A Golden Opportunity Low energy prices have come along at a particularly opportune time. Governments can’t sit back and expect the market to allocate resources wisely, especially when it comes to the environment. That investments are flowing into the renewable sector despite the dip in oil and natural gas prices is about all the luck we can count on. It’s not clear how long prices will remain low. During this period, governments must use the savings wisely. Priority number one should be the removal of energy subsidies. Writes Moises Naim in The Atlantic: Energy subsidies, which amount to more than $540 billion per year worldwide, are as common as they are damaging to economies, the poor, and the environment, since they stimulate consumption and undermine efforts to save energy and use it more efficiently. According to the World Bank, these subsidies are highly regressive: As much as 60 or even 80 percent of what governments in the Middle East and North Africa spend to subsidize energy benefits the richest 20 percent of the population, with the poor receiving less than 10 percent of these public funds. With prices so low, governments can more easily phase out these energy subsidies without causing as much disruption for consumers (while providing cash transfers to help the most disadvantaged). The second priority is for governments to use the windfall from cheaper energy imports to provide a different kind of subsidy: for renewables. This is the moment when the world must take a sharp turn. Governments should focus on the public sector: reducing the carbon footprint of government buildings, schools, hospitals, and so on. But they must also make it economically irresistible for households to go solar, for utilities to build wind farms, and for businesses to make manufacturing more efficient. The third priority is counter-intuitive. Energy producers must come together to reduce production. This will ultimately lead to higher oil and gas prices. But that is as it should be. If we are to achieve carbon neutrality, we have to make fossil fuels as expensive as possible. The former Venezuelan oil minister Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, a driving force behind the creation of the Organization of the Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC), wasn’t interested in raising gas prices in order to collect windfall profits. An environmentalist of sorts, he considered petroleum “the devil’s excrement.” He saw OPEC — and its ability to cut production and boost prices — as a tool for conservation. That’s the precisely the kind of wisdom we desperately need right now — when the devil’s excrement has become cheaper by the gallon than skim milk. Crossposted with Foreign Policy In Focus — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Obama, Jerry Brown and Climate Change: From the Arctic to the Arabs and the Oil Empire at Home

“The trouble with this country is that you can’t win an election without the oil bloc, and you can’t govern with it.” Franklin D. Roosevelt President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown have both been pushing the envelope of efforts to bring climate change under control and running up against major ingrown opposition to their efforts. Obama spent most of last week up near and in the Arctic Circle, shining his presidential spotlight on massive climate change there caused by our emission of greenhouse gases. But he ended the week making nice back in Washington with the new king of Saudi Arabia, which is doing its level best to keep us addicted to the oil which fuels its incredible wealth. For his part, Brown is pushing both existing policies and his own new policies in California, presenting America’s megastate on the Pacific as the exemplar among advanced industrial societies in transitioning away from the greenhouse era to a greener future. But the old oil empire at home has struck back, imperiling passage of key legislation in the state Assembly with a multi-million dollar campaign of public fear mongering and strategic influence peddling with moderate Democrats. President Barack Obama shined his spotlight on climate change at the top of the world, during a three-day trip to Alaska and the Arctic Circle. The rate of temperature increase in the region over the past half-century has been twice as great as that in the lower 48 states, a ratio that is expected to increase. Brown outlined three major climate moves in his fourth Inaugural Address this past January: Increasing California’s renewable share of electric power to 50 percent, doubling California’s energy efficiency, and cutting California’s petroleum usage in vehicles by half. He can enact these measures by executive order, but he’s also making sure with legislation which cannot be overturned by a future governor. Each piece of the new Brown plan has gotten opposition, but it is only the latter, cutting petroleum usage in transportation by half, that appears to be under any serious threat, thanks to a massive campaign by the oil industry of lobbying and advertising. The bill, pushed by state Senate leader Kevin de Leon, easily passed the Senate but is now before the state Assembly, which has been beset by a struggle over the speakership and in which corporate lobbyists have greater sway with more moderate Democrats. Brown and his allies have enlisted some high-profile lobbying of their own. Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry and a host of Catholic bishops have weighed in in the State Capitol. And enviro billionaire Tom Steyer — who first got involved in politics in 2010 when he joined forces with then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to beat back an oil industry-funded initiative to overturn the state’s climate change program — is countering Big Oil’s multi-million dollar ad campaign. Governor Jerry Brown, introduced by the premier of Ontario as a major world leader in the fight against climate change, addressed July’s Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto, Canada. While Brown has been very open to further development of existing California oil resources so long as oil is a major factor, which only makes sense from a state revenue and GDP standpoint, clearly his move to dramatically slash petroleum use long term is a threat to the ancien regime and its old ways of providing energy. As a result, the oil industry launched a massive advertising and lobbying campaign employing wild scare tactics to try to derail Brown’s program. Big Oil claims that the state Air Resources Board will resort to gas rationing to meet the new standard. Most state legislators in the term limits era have little experience in high-level politics. The reality is that, well-intentioned as they may be, they are prone to falling prey to big money campaigns. Liberal Democrats tend to get big money from labor unions. Moderate Democrats get more from corporations. And the oil industry is calling on its longtime allies in the corporate community to try to hang on to their long-term massive perquisites and profit. Of course petroleum use in vehicles can be cut in half by 2030. The reality is that we are are already well on the way to achieving that. First, we will get halfway there simply by following advancing federal fuel efficiency standards. When Obama came into office, motivated in part as he said as a candidate on Earth Day in Iowa in 2007 by California’s example, he established regulations to double gas mileage standards for new vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. We get the rest of the way there by doing the sorts of things we are already doing. Most of the reduction, says the Air Resources Board, will be accomplished by accelerating programs already underway. Increasing the numbers of zero-emission and low emission vehicles as well as the efficiency of more conventional vehicles will do much, as will further reducing carbon in transportation fuels, something already underway as a result of action by Schwarzenegger. Then there are increases in public transit and better urban planning. So this controversy isn’t really about the public good. It’s about the old fossil fuel regime refusing to let go of its hold on our oil addiction. The oil industry has launched a multi-million dollar scare campaign to derail California’s efforts to fight climate change, including this ad falsely claiming that gas will be rationed in California as part of a plot to make life harder for average Californians. Slowly at first, then with gathering momentum after its 19th century in Pennsylvania, oil changed the world. Very cheap, readily available oil transformed America, turning it into a land of cars and sprawl. Then, after World War II, in which it was simply the essential strategic resource, oil transformed Europe and most of the rest of the world. Along the way, things were abandoned. Things like LA’s public rail system, bought up and shuttered by oil and auto companies. “The center of gravity of the world of oil production is shifting from the Gulf-Caribbean areas to the Middle East, to the Persian Gulf area, and is likely to continue to shift until it is firmly established in that area.” 1943 assessment by oil geologist Everett de Golyer, special consultant to President Roosevelt, after a wartime Middle East mission. Some suspected that America would not always produce all the oil it would need. So President Franklin D. Roosevelt, looking forward to the shape of the future post-war world while in the midst of the war, dispatched eminent oil geologist Everett de Golyer on a mission to the Middle East to gauge the region’s potential. De Golyer reported back to FDR and his advisors that the Persian Gulf would become the pivot point of world energy. Roosevelt saw that Arab leaders would likely become very important. After he and Churchill and Stalin discussed the shape of the post-war world at their 1945 summit in Yalta, FDR paid a special visit to Saudi King Ibn Saud. Learning that the Saudis and their Gulf Arab allies were unhappy about plans to turn over Palestine for a Jewish state, Roosevelt agreed to consult with the Arabs before changing American policy to promote what would become Israel, issuing a presidential letter to that effect. But two months later, Roosevelt was dead and his unprepared successor Harry Truman, failing to understand the future importance of Arab oil, unilaterally changed the policy, infuriating the Arab world and setting up what would prove to be two antithetical US policies in the Middle East: Support for Israel and dependence on the Arabs. Fast forward a bit to April 1973. Cheap and easily available oil was the order of the day. State Department oil expert James Akins published a controversial bombshell essay in Foreign Affairs, linked here. The essay said we hadn’t seen anything yet. From 1973 to 1985, Akins forecast, total world oil consumption would be greater than that in all history up to 1973. Oil prices would go up dramatically. And an Arab oil embargo could be a major political and economic weapon, given the West’s fateful oil addiction and consequent vulnerability. Despite many denials, all that proved to be true. The Arab oil embargo after American intervention to save a losing Israel in the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 prompted much talk of alternative energy, conservation, and energy independence. Emerging leaders like Jerry Brown, who would become governor of California a year later at age 36, began their crusades. But once the shortage was over, consumption shot back up, even though the price of oil was much higher. Richard Nixon rolled back environmental standards in the quest for new fossil fuel energy. His successor, career auto industry advocate Gerald Ford of Michigan, slashed legislation for public transit. And money, power, and geopolitical focus shifted around the globe. After spending three days inspecting and discussing dramatic climate change in the vicinity of the North Pole, Obama returned to Washington to meet with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the longtime world oil superpower. In the late 1970s, Fred Dutton, the chief US lawyer for Saudi Arabia — whom I came to know because he was on the University of California Board of Regents, which I was helping push to disinvest from apartheid South Africa — told me that the transfer of wealth from the West to his clients and the other Persian Gulf states was the greatest sudden transfer of wealth in world history. Even greater, said the former Pat Brown executive secretary and Bobby Kennedy campaign manager, than that of the Spanish conquistadors and their fabled treasure ships, or of Britain after winning the Napoleonic Wars. Today, with the Saudis in the lead, the price of oil is down a stunning 60 percent since June 2014. Which very much benefits Saudi Arabia, given its production costs, vast reserves, and competitive positioning in oil markets. This has caused a boost for the anemic US economy, while capping the potential of the revived yet higher-cost US oil industry. (It’s largely squelched the potential of California fracking.) It has also led to a significant downdraft for historic Saudi bete noire Iran, and recession for petro-powerhouse Russia. Obama has to like three of those four results. But it has also produced the exact wrong price signal with regard to greenhouse gas emissions. Self-interest has always been paramount in the oil business. Partly in response to its new predicament, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has moved aggressively to assert its interests in the Arctic, claiming another half-million square miles of territory in recent months. As the Arctic melts, a petroleum bonanza awaits beneath the formerly ice-locked surface. If global negotiations on climate change continue to falter, the planet will likely be cooked even faster. Even Obama is getting in on the Arctic act. In addition to his protestations of concern during his big Alaska trip, he’s recently approved a Royal Dutch Shell project in the Arctic. The Saudis aren’t happy with Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. But they’ve decided to live with the deal. Their position in the world is still quite positive, notwithstanding their protestations. And they can always buy a Bomb project if they need to. Meanwhile, they’ve got the Obama administration training rebel forces in the Syrian civil war. And the administration is keeping quiet about civilian deaths in the Saudis’ little war in Yemen. The past doesn’t just end automatically, you know. Facebook comments are closed on this article. William Bradley Archive — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Saudi Clerics Condemn Gym Classes for Girls

A move to introduce physical education for girls to Saudi Arabian public schools has been condemned by conservative clerics, reports the Wall Street Journal, who say allowing girls to take gym classes will only end in adultery and prostitution. Currently only private schools in Saudi Arabia allow girls to do P.E. The Shoura Council, a body in Saudi Arabia appointed by King Abdullah, voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday in favor of encouraging the kingdom’s education minister to look at introducing physical education for girls. After the news broke of the vote, several conservative clerics condemned it on social media. “We are giving the Shoura Council a green light to continue the steps of Westernization and these steps will end in infidelity and prostitution,” tweeted Abdullah Al Dawood. Others called for the mass resignation of Saudi Arabia’s most senior council of clerics, a body normally responsible for declaring fatwas. King Abdullah has loosened various restrictions on women in recent years, including laws allowing women to vote in municipal elections and also to work in retail. He has upheld, however, conservative objections to women driving cars and traveling without a male guardian. [Wall Street Journal] […]