oil

With Scotland to vote on its independence from the UK on September 18, the outcome is no longer looking so certain.

  • The pro-independence side is enjoying a late surge in what heralds a long fortnight for the pro-union camp, writes the FT’s John McDermott
  • In an ironic twist to the campaign, ‘No’ activists are using patriotism against the nationalists in a “bloody fight about emotions”
  • The BBC has been accused of timidly letting SNP leader Alec Salmond “off the hook” in the independence debate
  • Who is right about the future oil riches held by the North Sea, a bitter bone of contention in the independence debate?

 

By Amie Tsang and Gavin Jackson

After a decade of negotiations, Russia managed to wrangle out a gas deal with China – and just in the nick of time.

Europe has been looking to extricate itself from its dependence on Russian energy, while Putin wants to show Europe that it has friends – and customers – in the east.

When China’s largest oil company signed up to a 30-year deal to buy from Gazprom up to 38bn cubic metres of gas per year from 2018, it helped the Russian gas company to make its first shift away from the west.

Europe’s demand for energy is critical to the Russian economy: gas and oil exports make up some 52 per cent of Russia’s government budget, which has slipped back into deficit in the last two years. So Russia needs to find another market for its energy exports. 

  • “When a man becomes a high official, even his chickens and dogs go to heaven”, but a Chinese corruption investigation means the route for Zhou Yongkang, his chickens and his dogs might well lead somewhere else.
  • Hollande’s drubbing is not a blank cheque for France’s mainstream right
  • Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former premier and now a presidential candidate, urges the west to bolster the country’s military defences and impose “immensely strong” economic sanctions on Moscow.
  • Meanwhile a visit to Donetsk shows how private donations are helping Ukraine’s underfunded army with everything from food to funds to create a ‘Maginot line’ to halt Russia.
  • The Middle East Institute tracks the history of terrorism in Egypt’s Sinai with an interactive graphic.

 

By Toby Luckhurst

  • The middle class customer base is shrinking in the US, as the top 5 per cent of earners drives consumption.
  • Women have discovered an entrepreneurial streak in Spain in the face of high unemployment and a sluggish economic recovery.
  • Sarah Carr writes on the Egyptian military’s efforts to stifle dissenting voices in the wake of the coup against Mohamed Morsi.
  • US productivity is suffering in the wake of the global recession, to such an extent that Silicon Valley-based Blueseed plans to launch a cruise ship into international waters to allow immigrants to start new businesses without seeking residency.
  • Norwegians praise Iraqi Farouk Al-Kasim for creating their “oil fund”, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, and avoiding the resource curse.
  • Scarlett Johansson’s decision to side with SodaStream in the West Bank controversy foreshadows Israel’s own need to decide on the future of its settlements on the occupied land.

 

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ A European Commission probe into competition and price fixing in the oil market is raising questions about how much power one man’s price reporting window can have on the market, and whether greater EC regulation might worsen the problem by discouraging the availability of oil prices altogether.
♦ The Chinese decision to ban milk imports from New Zealand due to fears that some batches could contain botulism has stoked fears of wider import bans on all foreign milk going into China.
♦ Cash-for-freedom deals in the US were originally designed to funnel in badly needed cash to law enforcement budgets from white collar crimes and drug cartels, but are giving rise to corruption and violations of civil liberties.
♦ Romance is being nationalised in South Korea, where the government is taking the lead in campaigns to introduce young singles at government-sponsored parties. Corporations are also increasingly encouraging relationships in the workplace as fears mount about the shortage of workers in an aging society.
♦ In countries where the government or market fails to meet citizens’ needs, the connectivity of social media and mobile technologies is allowing individuals to build their own representative platforms to meet them.  

Daniel Dombey

Gold bars are seen at the Czech Central Bank on September 05, 2011 in Prague (MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

The golden stuff (AFP/Getty)

It must rank as one of the most thankless jobs in diplomacy. Just how do you draw up incentives for Iran to rein in its nuclear programme?

Talks have lumbered on, in one incarnation or another, for a decade now. Efforts to win over Tehran have been encumbered by mutual suspicion, political sensitivities (there is always the charge of appeasement) and sheer force of law.

Many of the sanctions the Islamic Republic most objects to are already on the statute book, whether as UN Resolutions, EU agreements or US law. No wonder it is difficult to come up with a compelling offer; few countries can change their laws by fiat.

On Monday, Tehran attacked one of the latest ideas seemingly floated by the world’s major powers – the notion the US could roll back recently imposed sanctions on gold sales to Iran.

The idea may have been designed to help Western allies – notably Turkey –as much as to alleviate Iran’s economic isolation. Last year Ankara became the world’s leading gold exporter to Iran, whether directly or through entrepôts such as the UAE. Demand from the Islamic Republic helped Turkey’s overall exports of the metal reach levels of $1.5bn-$2bn some months.

The trade has various explanations – chief of which is that bank transactions with Iran have become ever more problematic, particularly in the wake of measures affecting Swift, a group that facilitates electronic funds transfers. Against this backdrop, Tehran started taking payment for its oil and gas exports to Ankara in Turkish Lira – instead of via bank transfer – and using the money to buy gold it then ships home. 

 

Roula Khalaf

Islamist militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. (AFP/Getty)

A breach of the security at gas and oil installations was the Algerian regime’s nightmare back in the 1990s, when the country was wracked by an Islamist insurgency.

Under intense financial pressure at the time, and desperate to attract foreign investment into its energy sector, installations in the southern part of the country were heavily guarded exclusion zones that seemed a world apart from the heavily populated north.

There are two Algerias, people would say at the time, one soaked in blood, the other peaceful and bursting with oil and gas. 

The world is in the midst of a sustained oil boom. Yet Africa’s leading producer is haemorrhaging the proceeds. The Nigerian treasury, which should be raking in record revenues, has been squeezed at both ends of the oil trade, writes William Wallis.