Planet Watch
Alaska

Trump admin opens bids for ANWR drilling

The Trump administration announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Officeissued a call for “nominations” on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Lease sales could begin by January—but will likely face legal challenge, or reversal by the incoming Biden administration. President-elect Joe Biden’s differing approach to public land management includes “permanently protecting” ANWR and “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” (Photo: USGS via Flickr)

Iraq
ezidikhan

Yazidis betrayed in Kurdish-Baghdad deal

The leadership of Ezidikhan, the Yazidi autonomous territory, are protesting a deal reached between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on the political future of northern Iraq, saying they were not consulted. Ezidikhan Prime Minister Barjis Soso Khalaf said in a statement: “Without the consent of the Yezidi people of Ezidikhan, the Baghdad-Erbil deal is illegitimate and illegal. It tramples upon the right of Yezidis to govern themselves as they see fit.” The pact between Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al–Kadhimi and the KRG administration at Erbil calls for joint exploitation of the region’s oil resources, ending years of conflict over the question. But Ezidikhan authorities see their exclusion from the talks as a threat to their hard-won autonomy. “Yezidis were not even invited to the table to discuss the future of their own homeland!” said the statement. It also criticized the US for acquiescing in the deal: “The United States shares complicity in this colonial-style act that wantonly tramples upon Iraqi Yezidis’ right to self-determination and self-government, once again sacrificing its vaunted democratic principles on the altar of realpolitik.” (Map: Ezidikhan.net)

Greater Middle East
Levant Basin

Hydrocarbons at issue in Israel-Lebanon dispute

US-mediated talks opened between Israel and Lebanon, aimed at resolving the long-standing maritime border dispute between the two countries. At issue in the talks, held in Lebanon’s coastal border town of Naqoura, is an 860-square-kilometer patch of the Mediterranean where each side lays territorial claim. The conflict stems from differing demarcation methods: Israel marks the border as being at a 90-degree angle to the land border, while Lebanon marks it as a continuation of the land borderline. The issue grew more pressing with the discovery of abundant hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean’s Levant Basin. Lebanon, which sought to pursue gas drilling off its coast, submitted its demarcation of the maritime borders to the UN a decade ago, claiming this area as within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Israel called this an infringement of its rights, and submitted its own version of the border demarcation to the UN. (Photo: US Energy Information Administration)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

North Africa
Libya Refinery

Russian mercenaries occupy Libyan oil terminals

Libya’s eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, his long siege of Tripoli broken by the city’s defenders in June, continues to hold the country’s principal oil terminals, and has established effective control over the Petroleum Facilities Guard. The UN this week brokered a ceasefire between Haftar and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, seeking to re-open exports from the terminals. Haftar agreed to the ceasefire after the US threatened sanctions against him. Russia, in turn, is apparently backing Haftar, sending arms and mercenaries to help his forces secure the terminals. Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group is especially said to be present at Es-Sider terminal, outside the port city of Ras Lanuf. (Photo via Libyan Express)

Syria
Syria oil map

Rojava Kurds cut deal with US oil company

In the imperial carve-up of northern Syria, US troops have since late last year been controlling the oil-fields of Deir ez-Zor province, in collaboration with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Now reports are emerging that the Kurdish autonomous administration in the region has signed a 25-year contract with a little-known US company for exploitation of the oil. The company, Delta Crescent Energy, received a waiver from US sanctions on Syria from the Treasury Department. The deal was confirmed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Planet Watch
iraq.pipeline

Yes, ‘peak oil’—but demand, not supply

After oil prices went negative for the first time ever last month, they are now starting to rise again as lockdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic are gradually lifted. US crude is now back to nearly $30 a barrel. But this is less than half what the price was a year ago, and a third what it was a dozen years ago. Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, is at the forefront of the cartel’s effort to squeeze supply to consumer nations, as part of its recent deal to curb output. Baghdad just announced a 30% cut of exports to Asia. But it remains to be seen if such measures will jack up prices and ease the economic pain that has led to a remobilization of anti-regime protests, despite pandemic fears. (Photo via Iraqi News Agency)

Planet Watch
Oilsands

Negative oil prices slow tar sands production

Despite a new agreement by Saudi Arabia and Russia to end their price war, the oil market remains in free-fall amid the virtual shut-down of the world economy by the COVID-19 pandemic. The price of the main US and Canadian oil benchmarks have now fallen below zero—the first time oil prices have ever turned negative. Canada, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, has already started slashing oil sands output. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $2.5 billion in aid to the industry, and Trump is now also pledging a bail-out. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Caribbean
Havana farm

Cuba improvises under oil sanctions

On Cuba’s farms, oxen are again tilling the soil as tractors are paralyzed by oil shortages. President Miguel DĂ­az-Canel has imposed fuel rationing, among other emergency energy-saving measures and price controls on food. As in the “special period” a generation ago, Cubans must line up for gasoline and public transport. The island has been running on just 30% of petroleum deliveries as the US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on more maritime firms and vessels shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba. In February, the Cuban government resorted to purchasing a ship carrying fuel after its owner refused to put into port on the island for fear of incurring US sanctions. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Planet Watch
refinery

Will COVID-19 mean oil industry bailout?

Already depressed oil prices are now plummeting in response to COVID-19 pandemic. Global oil consumption is said to be in “free-fall,” now predicted to lead to the largest “annual contraction in history.” Canada’s federal government is preparing a bailout package for the oil and gas sector, with a possible value of $15 billion. Among the proposals is a share buyout along the lines of the US Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) for banks and automotive companies during the 2008 financial crisis. (Photo: kris krĂĽg)

Africa
South Sudan divisions

Thousands flee clashes in South Sudan

Thousands are fleeing ongoing inter-communal clashes in South Sudan’s Jonglei State and the newly created Greater Pibor Administrative Area—the latest challenge to efforts to cement peace following last month’s formation of a unity government. The UN peacekeeping mission reports that some 5,000 civilians have been displaced amid fighting between Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic militias. Pibor, in the east of the country, is one of two new oil-rich “administrative areas” created by President Salva Kiir as part of the compromise deal with the rebel opposition that cleared the way for the power-sharing government. (Map: Wikipedia)

Syria
Syria oil map

Great powers jockey for control of Syrian oil

In his talks with Vladimir Putin on their carve-up of northern Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed joint Russian-Turkish control of the oil-fields in Deir ez-Zor province, now under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Wall Street Journal meanwhile reports that the SDF is selling oil from the those fields to the Assad regime. This is certainly an absurd irony, as US forces are backing up the SDF in control of the fields. Further evidence that, rhetoric and even official policy notwithstanding, the US is actually tilting to Assad in the Syrian war. The sales would appear to be another bid by the Kurds to win a separate peace with the Assad regime now that they are caught between foreign powers. The bitter irony is that Assad, ultimately, is also hostile to Kurdish autonomy. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)