The major oil-producing countries led by Saudi Arabia and Russia are wrestling with whether to make another cut in supply to the global economy as the OPEC+ alliance struggles to prop up sagging oil prices that have been a boon to U.S. drivers and helped ease inflation worldwide. The 23-member group is meeting Sunday at OPEC headquarters in Vienna after sending mixed signals about possible moves. Saudi Arabia, dominant among the oil cartel's members, has warned speculators that they might get burned by betting on lower prices. Russia, the leader of the non-OPEC allies, has indicated no change to output is expected. The decision comes amid uncertainty about when the slow-growing global economy will regain its thirst for fuel for travel and industry, and with producers counting on oil profits to bolster their coffers. Oil prices have fallen even after OPEC+ slashed 2 million barrels per day in October, angering U.S. President Joe Biden by threatening higher gasoline prices a month before the midterm elections. Then, several OPEC members led by the Saudis made a surprise cut of 1.16 million barrels a day in April. International benchmark Brent crude climbed as high as $87 per barrel but has given up its post-cut gains and been loitering below $75 per barrel in recent days. U.S. crude has dipped below $70. Those lower prices have helped U.S. drivers as the summer travel season kicks off, with prices at the pump averaging $3.55, down $1.02 from a year ago, according to auto club AAA. Falling energy prices also helped inflation in the 20 European countries that use the euro drop to the lowest level since before Russia invaded Ukraine. The U.S. recently replenished its Strategic Petroleum Reserve — after Biden announced the largest release from the national reserve in American history last year — in an indicator that U.S. officials may be less worried about OPEC cuts than in months past. The Saudis, on the other hand, need sustained high oil revenue to fund ambitious development projects aimed at diversifying the country's economy. The International Monetary Fund estimates the kingdom needs $80.90 per barrel to meet its envisioned spending commitments, which include a planned $500 billion futuristic desert city project called Neom. That may have been one motivation behind Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman's warning to speculators that they will be "ouching" if they keep betting on lower oil prices. Bin Salman's pointed comment isn't necessarily a prelude to a cut at Sunday's meeting, said James Swanston, Middle East and North Africa economist at Capital Economics. "Our expectation is that OPEC+ will stick with current output quotas," he said, adding that "there have been signs that the government may be readying to live with lower oil prices and running budget deficits." On top of that, Russia may find current prices to its liking because its oil is finding eager new customers in India, China and Turkey. Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine have forced Russian oil to sell at discounts of around $53 to $57 per barrel. At those prices, Moscow's shipments avoid triggering the $60 price cap imposed by the Group of Seven major democracies to try to limit oil profits flowing into Russia's war chest. The price ceiling allows the world's No. 3 oil producer to keep supplying non-Western customers to avoid a global shortage that would drive up prices for everyone. Insurers and shipping companies largely based in Western countries are barred from handling Russian oil if it is priced above the cap. Russia has found ways to evade the limits through "dark fleet" tankers, which tamper with transponders showing their locations or transfer oil from ship to ship to disguise its origin. An OPEC+ "production cut could push the price of Russian oil above the G7 price cap of $60 per barrel, which would make it difficult to transport and thus to sell the oil," commodity analyst Carsten Fritsch at Commerzbank wrote in a research note. "Russia appears to be doing good business at the current price level." The International Energy Agency said in its April oil market report that Russia has not completely followed through on its announcement to extend a voluntary cut of 500,000 barrels per day through the end of the year. In fact, Russia's total exports of oil and refined products such as diesel fuel rose in April to a post-invasion high of 8.3 million barrels per day. That is in spite of a near-total boycott from the European Union, formerly Russia's biggest customer. Analysts say OPEC+ faces conflicting pressures. A cut could support prices or send them higher, with demand expected to pick up later this year. "The impact of higher oil prices on the global economy will weigh heavily on the ministers' minds," said Jorge Leon, senior vice president of oil market research at Rystad Energy. "High oil prices would fuel inflation in the West right when central banks are starting to see inflation gradually recede." "This could prompt central banks to continue increasing interest rates, a detrimental move for the global economy and oil demand," Leon wrote in a research note.
Bangladesh Army-run Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory Limited (BMTF) will supply 3 crore blank smart cards to Bangladesh Election Commission (EC). Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase (CCGP) in a meeting on Tuesday approved the proposal along with some others from different ministries. Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal presided over the virtual meeting. As per the proposal, the BMTF will supply the smart cards under the Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (2nd Phase) project of the Arms Forces Division of the Prime Minister's Office at contract value of Tk 406.50 crore. Under other proposals, approved by the CCGP, state marketing agency Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) will import 12,500 metric tons (MT) of sugar and 1.10 crore litres of soybean oil for its ongoing programme to sell those in open market. Each kg of sugar will cost Tk 82.92 while the soybean oil will cost Tk 146.10 per litre Of these, Smart Matrix Pte., Ltd., Singapore (Local Agent: Mark Line Enterprise, Dhaka) will supply 12,500 MT of sugar at Tk 66.79 crore while the Guven Traders Ptv. Ltd., India (Local Agent: HH Enterprise, Dhaka) will supply 1.10 crore of soybean oil at Tk 148.30 crore. Supplier Smart Matrix Pte., Ltd., Singapore was selected for sugar supply through an international bidding process while the Guven Traders Ptv. Ltd., India, was chosen by the TCB through direct procurement method without any bidding process. The Cabinet body approved a number of proposals of the Roads and Highway Department (RHD) under the Roads Transport and Highway Division to award contracts for road constructions. Of these, the Joint Venture of (1) SRBG, China; and (2) and BTC, Bangladesh won a contract of the Lot No- DS-7 under Package No- WP-04 of the Project "Sasec Dhaka-Sylhet Corridor Road Development" at Tk 947.74 crore. The Joint Venture of (1) CSCEC7, China; and (2) Spectra Engineers Ltd., Bangladesh won the contract of the Lot No. DS-8 under Package No- WP-04 of the project “Sasec Dhaka-Sylhet Corridor Road Development” at Tk.1, 178.68 crore. The RHD selected Taher Brothers Ltd. to award the contract for “Upgradation of Gouripur-Anandganj-Madhupur-Dewanganj Bazar-Hosenpur District Highway to the proper standard” at a value of Tk 131. 47 crore. The RHD selected Joint Venture of (1) Mozahar Enterprise Pvt. Ltd., (2) National Development Engineers Ltd., and (3) Sagar Info Builders Ltd. for Package No. PW-01 of "Sherpur (Kanasakhola)-Bhimganj-Narayankhola-Rambhadrapur-Mymensingh (Rahmatpur) Road Development '' Project at Tk 149.99 crore. The Joint Venture of (1) National Development Engineers Ltd. , and (2) Hasan Techno Builders Ltd., has been selected by the RHD for the package No. PW-02 of the "Sherpur (Kanasakhola)-Bhimganj-Narayankhola-Rambhadrapur-Mymensingh (Rahmatpur) Road Development" at a contract value of Tk 180 crore. Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs at a meeting approved in principle a proposal of the Directorate General of Health Services to procure Firstline TB Drugs, Medical and Surgical Supplies and Laboratory Equipment from the Essential Drugs Company Limited through Direct Purchase Method (DPM) without bidding process. The drugs, services and equipment will be procured for the "Health and Gender Support in Cox's Bazar District (2nd Revised)"project under the United Nations Office for Project Services.
Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers on Sunday announced surprise cuts totaling up to 1.15 million barrels per day from May until the end of the year, a move that could raise prices worldwide. Higher oil prices would help fill Russian President Vladimir Putin's coffers as his country wages war on Ukraine and force Americans and others to pay even more at the pump amid worldwide inflation. It was also likely to further strain ties with the United States, which has called on Saudi Arabia and other allies to increase production as it tries to bring prices down and squeeze Russia's finances. The production cuts alone could push U.S. gasoline prices up by roughly 26 cents per gallon, in addition to the usual increase that comes when refineries change the gasoline blend during the summer driving season, said Kevin Book, managing director of Clearview Energy Partners LLC. The Energy Department calculates the seasonal increase at an average of 32 cents per gallon, Book said. So with an average U.S. price now at roughly $3.50 per gallon of regular, according to AAA, that could mean gasoline over $4 per gallon during the summer. However, Book said there are a number of complex variables in oil and gas prices. The size of each country's production cut depends on the baseline production number it is using, so the cut might not be 1.15 million. It also could take much of the year for the cuts to take effect. Demand could fall if the U.S. enters a recession caused by the banking crisis. But it also could increase during the summer as more people travel. Even though the production cut is only about 1% of the roughly 100 million barrels of oil the world uses per day, the impact on prices could be big, Book said. Also Read: As Biden weighs Willow, he blocks other Alaska oil drilling “It's a big deal because of the way oil prices work,” he said. “You are in a market that is relatively balanced. You take a small amount away, depending on what demand does, you could have a very significant price response.” Saudi Arabia announced the biggest cut among OPEC members at 500,000 barrels per day. The cuts are in addition to a reduction announced last October that infuriated the Biden administration. The Saudi Energy Ministry described the move as a “precautionary measure” aimed at stabilizing the oil market. The cuts represent less than 5% of Saudi Arabia's average production of 11.5 million barrels per day in 2022. Also Read: Oil giant Saudi Aramco has profits of $161B in 2022 Iraq said it would reduce production by 211,000 barrels per day, the United Arab Emirates by 144,000, Kuwait by 128,000, Kazakhstan by 78,000, Algeria by 48,000 and Oman by 40,000. The announcements were carried by each country's state media. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak meanwhile said Moscow would extend a voluntary cut of 500,000 until the end of the year, according to remarks carried by the state news agency Tass. Russia had announced the unilateral reduction in February after Western countries imposed price caps. All are members of the so-called OPEC+ group of oil exporting countries, which includes the original Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as Russia and other major producers. There was no immediate statement from OPEC itself. The cuts announced in October — of some 2 million barrels a day — had come on the eve of U.S. midterm elections in which soaring prices were a major issue. President Joe Biden vowed at the time that there would be “consequences” and Democratic lawmakers called for freezing cooperation with the Saudis. Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia denied any political motives in the dispute. Since those cuts, oil prices have trended down. Brent crude, a global benchmark, was trading around $80 a barrel at the end of last week, down from around $95 in early October, when the earlier cuts were agreed. Analysts Giacomo Romeo and Lloyd Byrne at Jefferies said in a research note that the new cuts should allow for “material” reductions to OPEC inventory earlier than expected and could validate recent warnings from some traders and analysts that demand for oil is weakening. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the Saudis are determined to keep oil prices high enough to fund ambitious mega-projects linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 plan to overhaul the economy. “This domestic interest takes precedence in Saudi decision-making over relationships with international partners and is likely to remain a point of friction in U.S.-Saudi relations for the foreseeable future,” he said. Saudi Arabia's state-run oil giant Aramco recently announced record profits of $161 billion from last year. Profits rose 46.5% when compared to the company’s 2021 results of $110 billion. Aramco said it hoped to boost production to 13 million barrels a day by 2027. The decades-long U.S.-Saudi alliance has come under growing strain in recent years following the 2018 killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist, and Saudi Arabia's war with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. As a candidate for president, Biden had vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the Khashoggi killing, but as oil prices rose after his inauguration he backed off. He visited the kingdom last July in a bid to patch up relations, drawing criticism for sharing a fistbump with Crown Prince Mohammed. Saudi Arabia has denied siding with Russia in the Ukraine war, even as it has cultivated closer ties with both Moscow and Beijing in recent years. Last week, Aramco announced billions of dollars of investment in China's downstream petrochemicals industry.
The government of Bangladesh is preparing to invite international bidding for the country's offshore gas blocks by making the model production sharing contract (Model PSC) more attractive for international oil companies (IOCs) to invest in hydrocarbon exploration in the Bay. “We’re going to offer the price of gas at 10 percent of Brent Crude,” a top official of Petrobangla, the state hydrocarbons agency, told UNB, referring to the most traded of all of the oil benchmarks. The official, preferring anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue, said if Brent oil is traded at $75 per barrel, the gas price would be $7.5 per thousand cubic feet (MCF). The gas price will always remain linked with the international oil price, he said, referring to the new provision of the 'Model PSC 2023'. Also read: Petrobangla to amend Model PSC further to attract IOCs in offshore gas exploration But there will be no difference between the price of gas in shallow and deep water blocks, he said. “If the oil price goes down or up, the gas price will follow it rationally and Bangladesh will purchase the explored gas from the IOCs at this rate,” said the official. Under a Model PSC, normally, if any IOC discovers gas, it gets a 40 percent stake while the government obtains the remaining 60 percent. The government also buys the IOC's gas at a certain price. So if the gas price is raised, IOCs feel encouraged to invest in exploration works. Read More: Govt expedites gas exploration activities to increase primary fuel supply: Nasrul Hamid The government had last amended the Model PSC in mid-2019, whereby the price of gas for any participating IOC, that is, the price at which they would sell the gas to the government, was raised to $5.5 per MCF for shallow water blocks, and $7.25 per MCF for gas extracted from its deep sea blocks. The source also informed that the new proposal has been prepared as per the recommendations of a Scottish consultancy firm, Wood Mackenzie, which was appointed last year to work out the new plan for Petrobangla to attract the international bidding for IOCs. Talking to reporters, Petrobangla chairman Zanendra Nath Sarker recently said the organisation has recently forwarded its proposal with the Scottish consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie’s recommendation to the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources seeking its approval for the plan. Read More: Amid nationwide gas shortages, new exploration work continues in Sylhet The ministry will now seek the approval of the Prime Minister’ Office for Petrobangla's plan. “Once we receive the nod of the PMO and the ministry, we would place a proposal to the Cabinet Economic Affairs Committee for the final approval,” he added. Another senior official of Petrobangla also said that as soon as the Cabinet body approves the proposal, the organisation will invite international bidding within two months. “In this case, we hope we can go for bidding within July or August next,” he told UNB preferring anonymity. He said previously many IOCs were reluctant to participate in the bidding of the exploration due to the price offered by Bangladesh. Read More: Accelerate gas exploration to overcome energy crisis: ICCB “Now we hope it will be a lucrative offer for the IOCs to invest in the offshore areas of Bangladesh for gas exploration,” he added. Petrobangla appointed Wood Mackenzie last year to help amend the Model PSC 2019, to attract international oil companies amid the volatile international fuel market. Official sources said the recent excessive hike in petroleum fuel price, especially that of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has prompted the government to go for further amending the existing PSC so that the IOCs get interested to invest here. The country has a total of 48 blocks of which 26 are located offshore and 22 onshore. Of the 26 offshore blocks, 11 are located in shallow sea (SS) water while 15 are located in deep sea (DS) water areas. Read More: Russian Embassy refutes TIB statement on Dhaka-Moscow grain deals, gas exploration Of these, 24 offshore gas blocks remain open for IOCs while two blocks -SS-04 and SS-09-are under contract with a joint venture of ONGC Videsh Ltd and Oil India Ltd where drilling works have recently started. There was a target to invite international bidding in March 2020 for exploration in offshore areas, but that got postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic that emerged at exactly the same time. "The recent upward trend in oil and gas price has pushed the policymakers to further raise the gas price by introducing much more flexibility and incentives including keeping the export option open in the PSC," said another Petrobangla official. He mentioned that the government had to import LNG at $36 per MMBtu while it was just below $10 early last year. Read More: Gas Fields in Bangladesh: Exploration of 2 more wells expected to begin this year The latest Russian invasion of Ukraine has further deepened the global market volatility pushing up the petroleum fuel price over $100 per barrel, the highest in the last 7 years. Now again the oil and gas prices are on a downward trend and Brent crude oil is traded at $75 per barrel while LNG price is at below $14 per MMBtu. Bangladesh's offshore area remains unexplored despite the settlement of its dispute with neighbouring Myanmar and India over the maritime boundary almost nine years ago. Currently, about 2300 mmcfd gas is being produced from 22 gas fields in the country, while about 700 mmcfd gas is being imported from abroad to meet the demand of about 4000 mmcfd, leaving a deficit of about 1000 mmcfd. Read More: US companies encouraged for oil, gas exploration in Bangladesh's offshore
The oil is pumped 24 hours a day several meters from Raghed Jasim’s home in Iraq’s crude-rich southern heartland. Gas flares from the field light the night sky bright orange, spewing acrid smoke; when the wind picks up, the 40-year old’s clothes are coated black. For Iraq’s poorest, evidence of the country's monumental oil wealth is inescapable. So is the knowledge that very little of it trickles down to them. Jasim’s savings were depleted when he was diagnosed with cancer last year, a disease he is convinced was caused by the toxic plumes. Twenty years since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein and remade Iraq’s political order with the promise of democracy and freedom, he has one wish: To find a way to leave. “There is no future here for my children,” he said. Basra province, which boasts most of Iraq’s oil reserves, is symbolic of the deep disparities that have endured since the 2003 invasion. Basra continually bewilders experts, envoys and residents: How can a relatively stable province so rich in resources rank among the poorest and most under-developed in the country? “Of course, I blame the corrupt Iraqi government,” said Jasim, a policeman, echoing a widespread view in the region. “But I blame the Americans too. They replaced our leaders with thieves.” Local leaders in Basra talk of the oil reserves as both a blessing and a curse. They say resources bring affluence but have also given rise to vicious competition between political elites and armed groups at the expense of the Iraqi people. The power-sharing system in place since 2003, which divides the state and its institutions along ethnic and sectarian lines, sucks oil wealth into a pool of corruption and patronage. The higher the oil price, the more entrenched this system becomes as sectarian-based parties claim lucrative ministry portfolios, appoint loyalists in key positions and dole out public jobs to ensure support. According to the International Monetary Fund, public sector employment tripled from 2004 to 2013, but service delivery in health, education and power sectors remained inadequate. The result is that elections keep establishment parties in power. Voter turnout has dropped to record lows. Apart from institutional failures, air pollution is extensive in Basra, and salinity levels arising from a severe fresh water crisis are leading causes of illness, according to local researchers. Unemployment is rampant, with more than half the population below the age of 25. Public anger gave rise to violent protests in 2018, the precursor to mass anti-government protests in the capital a year later. But a swift crackdown by security forces and assassinations by armed groups have created a climate of fear. “The killings silenced many activists,” said Basra activist Ammar Sarhan. “Business continues as usual.” The 2003 toppling of Saddam propelled the oil-rich country into the global economy, opening the doors to foreign investment. In pre-invasion planning, U.S. advisors and their Iraqi opposition allies in exile had envisioned a shock system of reforms that would revamp Iraq’s oil industry and fund post-war reconstruction. Instead, violence hobbled oil production for years. A charm offensive by then-Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahrestani paved the way for major oil contracts to be awarded in 2007 and 2009. Today exports reach over 3 million barrels a day, double the rate in the early 2000s. The state budget, which in 2021 reached up to $90 billion, is financed almost entirely by oil revenues. Still, the government fails to deliver essential services, including water and electricity. In Basra, conditions rank amongst the worst in the country. Unemployment stands at 21%, above the national average of 16% according to a 2022 study by the International Labor Organization. Statistics for poverty rates vary from 10-20% according to various studies and local economists. Meanwhile, the province boasts around 70% of the country's oil production capacity. The road leading to Jasim’s humble home is rocky and unpaved. In 2003, he was a young man bewitched by the Bush administration’s rhetoric of building a democratic Iraq, he said. “We were full of hope,” he recalled. Twenty years on, he is middle-aged, tired of rampant government corruption and recovering from cancer. The loan he had taken out to build a home was used up to pay for $30,000 in private medical bills. Basra’s decrepit public hospitals were overwhelmed and unable to provide treatment, he said. His is a common story in Nahran Omar, a village of fewer than 2,000 people adjacent to a state-run oil field where cancer rates are disproportionately high. Every family here has a story of illness and debt, said Bashir Jabir, the mayor. “After 2003, more and more oil was exported, and we expected to benefit from this,” he said. “Instead, it hurt us.” The government long played down the link between cancer rates in the south and oil production activity, saying cases are only marginally higher than the rest of the country. This changed in 2022, when then-Environment Minister Jassim al-Falahi acknowledged that pollution from the fields was the main reason for the rise in sickness. Nahran Omar highlights a tragic irony: The natural gas burned from the oil fields, if captured, could solve Iraq’s perennial electricity shortages and reduce pollution. But securing investment to do this has been set back by protracted contract negotiations, a common headache for most major foreign investors. The entry of foreign investors also exacerbated competition between tribes, said Sheikh Muhammed al-Zaidawi, who leads an assembly of southern tribal elders. Tribes, which often wield more influence than government institutions in the south, pressure foreign companies for jobs, compensation, training for youth and development of their villages. “Most of the problems between tribes today are caused by the presence of oil companies,” he said, “All of them want to benefit.” Tribal disputes often turn into deadly gun battles. Reliance on the oil industry has stifled private sector development. Nearly every prime minister since the invasion has repeated calls to diversify the economy and boost incentives for Iraqi businesses. Nidhal Musa is one success story. She grew up in a poor suburb of Basra city and was 35 when the U.S. invaded Iraq. She spent subsequent years taking care of her sick and disabled husband. Desperate to earn money, she began sewing clothes to sell in the local market. By 2013, she had gathered a group of women just like herself, beleaguered and in need of money to support their families. She pooled together enough funds to open a garment factory and became known for employing the poor. But not everyone welcomed her success. In 2022, Musa received a slew of death threats. “Be very careful,” one message read. She believes she is being targeted because she refused to use her local fame to back a powerful political party that asked her to promote their campaign in 2021 elections. “They try to keep us weak,” she said. “They know perfectly well, if the people are hungry, they will be preoccupied only by their hunger.”
As President Joe Biden prepares a final decision on the huge Willow oil project in Alaska, his administration announced he will prevent or limit oil drilling in 16 million acres in Alaska and the Arctic Ocean. Plans announced Sunday night will bar drilling in nearly 3 million acres of the Beaufort Sea — closing it off from oil exploration — and limit drilling in more than 13 million acres in a vast swath of land known as the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska. The moves come as regulators prepare to announce a final decision on t he $8 billion Willow project, a controversial oil drilling plan pushed by ConocoPhillips in the petroleum reserve. Climate activists have rallied against project, calling it a “carbon bomb” that would be a betrayal of Biden's campaign pledges to curb new oil and gas drilling. Also Read: Oil giant Saudi Aramco has profits of $161B in 2022 Meanwhile, Alaska lawmakers, unions and indigenous communities have pressured Biden to approve the project, saying it would bring much-needed jobs and billions of dollars in taxes and mitigation funds to the vast, snow- and ice-covered region nearly 600 miles (965 kilometers) from Anchorage. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, called Willow “one of the biggest, most important resource development projects in our state’s history.” Biden’s decision on Willow will be one of his most consequential climate decisions and comes as he gears up for a likely reelection bid in 2024. A decision to approve Willow risks alienating young voters who have urged stronger climate action by the White House and flooded social media with demands to stop the Willow project. Approval also could spark protests similar to those against the failed Keystone XL oil pipeline during the Obama administration. Rejection of the project would meet strong resistance from Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation, which met with top officials at the White House in recent days to lobby for the project. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who provided key support to confirm Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, said it was no secret she has cooperated with the White House on a range of issues. “Cooperation goes both ways,″ she told reporters. Haaland, who fought the Willow project as a member of Congress, has the final decision on whether to approve it, although top White House climate officials are likely to be involved, with input from Biden himself. The White House said no final decision on Willow has been reached. Under the conservation plan announced Sunday, Biden will bar drilling in nearly 3 million acres of the Arctic Ocean, and impose new protections in the petroleum reserve. The withdrawal of the offshore area ensures that important habitat for whales, seals, polar bears and other wildlife "will be protected in perpetuity from extractive development,'' the White House said in a statement. The action completes protections for the entire Beaufort Sea Planning Area, building upon President Barack Obama’s 2016 withdrawal of the Chukchi Sea Planning Area and the majority of the Beaufort Sea, the White House said. Separately, the administration moved to protect more than 13 million acres within the petroleum reserve, a 23-million acre chunk of land on Alaska’s North Slope set aside a century ago for future oil production. The proposed Willow project is within the reserve, and ConocoPhillips has long held leases for the site. About half the reserve is off limits to oil and gas leasing under an Obama-era rule reinstated by the Biden administration last year. Areas to be protected include the Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay Special Areas, collectively known for their globally significant habitat for grizzly and polar bears, caribou and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. Abigail Dillen, president of the environmental group Earthjustice, welcomed the new conservation plan, but said if the Biden administration believes it has authority to limit oil development in the petroleum reserve, officials should extend those protections to the Willow site. "They have the authority to block Willow,'' she said in an interview Sunday. Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club's lands protection program, said the benefits of the new protections would be more than undone by damage from Willow, which would be the biggest new oil field in decades in Alaska, producing up to 180,000 barrels per day, according to ConocoPhillips. “No proposal poses a bigger threat to lands, wildlife, communities and our climate than ConocoPhillips’ Willow project,'' Manuel said in a statement. "Oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters must end — full stop. The eyes of the world are watching to see whether this administration will live up to its climate promises.'' In 2015, President Barack Obama halted exploration in coastal areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and he later withdrew most other potential Arctic Ocean lease areas — about 98 percent of the Arctic outer continental shelf. The bans were intended to protect polar bears, walruses, ice seals and Alaska Native villages that depend on the animals. President Donald Trump reversed Obama's decision, but a federal judge restored the Obama-era restrictions in 2019, ruling that Trump exceeded his authority. The Biden administration received one bid in December for the right to drill offshore for oil and gas in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.
The United Arab Emirates on Thursday named a veteran technocrat who both leads Abu Dhabi’s state-run oil company and oversees its renewable energy efforts to be the president of the upcoming United Nations climate negotiations in Dubai, highlighting the balancing act ahead for this crude-producing nation. Authorities nominated Sultan al-Jaber, a trusted confidant of UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who serves as CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. That firm pumps some 4 million barrels of crude a day and hopes to expand to 5 million daily. Those revenues fuel the ambitions of this federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula — as well as the production of more of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide that the U.N. negotiations hope to limit. Read more: UAE keen to scale up engagements with Bangladesh But al-Jaber also once led a once-ambitious project to have a $22 billion “carbon-neutral” city on Abu Dhabi’s outskirts — an effort later pared back after the global financial crisis that struck the Emirates hard beginning in 2008. Even today, he serves as the chairman of Masdar, a clean energy company that grew out of the project that now operates in more than 40 countries. “Sultan al-Jaber has the credentials and background to lean into trends that are already on going,” said Ryan Bohl, an Austin, Texas-based Mideast analyst for a risk-intelligence firm called the RANE Network. “Him being an oilman, I don’t think that will be that big of a risk for him.” The Emirates’ state-run WAM news agency made the announcement, noting al-Jaber’s years also serving as a climate envoy. “This will be a critical year in a critical decade for climate action,” WAM quoted al-Jaber as saying. “The UAE is approaching COP28 with a strong sense of responsibility and the highest possible level of ambition.” He added: “We will bring a pragmatic, realistic and solutions-oriented approach that delivers transformative progress for climate and for low-carbon economic growth.” His nomination, however, drew immediate criticism. Harjeet Singh, who is the head of Global Political Strategy at Climate Action Network International, said al-Jaber holding the CEO title at the state oil company posed “an unprecedented and alarming conflict of interest.” “There can be no place for polluters at a climate conference, least of all presiding over a COP,” Singh said. Each year, the country hosting the U.N. negotiations known as the Conference of the Parties — where COP gets its name — nominates a person to chair the talks. Hosts typically pick a veteran diplomat as the talks can be incredibly difficult to steer between competing nations and their interests. The nominee’s position as “COP president” is confirmed by delegates at the start of the talks, usually without objections. The caliber of COP presidents has varied over the years. Observers widely saw Britain’s Alok Sharma as energetic and committed to achieving an ambitious result. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry faced criticism by some participants for the chaotic and at times non-transparent way he presided over last year’s meeting. In its announcement about al-Jaber, WAM said the Emirates had invested “more than $50 billion in renewable energy projects across 70 countries, with plans to invest a minimum of $50 billion over the next decade.” It wasn’t immediately clear where those figures came from. Mubadala, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, has invested some $3.9 billion since 2018 in renewable energy, according to the New York-based research firm Global SWF. Masdar listed some $14.3 billion in investments in a 2020 briefing. Masdar did not respond to questions about its investments Thursday. But at the same time, Mubadala has invested $9.8 billion over the same period in oil and gas projects, Global SWF said. The UAE is home to a massive solar park in Dubai, as well as the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, which is the Arabian Peninsula’s only atomic energy source. But it also requires vast amounts of energy to run the desalination plants that brought green golf courses to its desert expanses, power the air conditioners cooling its cavernous malls in the heat of the summer and power heavy industries like aluminum smelters. The UAE’s clean energy policies grew in the mid-2000s as Dubai’s real-estate boom saw it constructing the world’s tallest building and massive, palm-shaped archipelagos off its coast. The World Wildlife Fund at the time estimated the UAE had the world’s largest ecological footprint per capita — meaning that each of its residents used more resources on average than those living in any other nation. The UAE still ranks high on similar lists. The Masdar City project grew out of that concern of being tarnished, before being pared back. “By us actually doing it and investing money, we had access to lessons learned that no one had access to,” al-Jaber told The Associated Press in 2010. “We have to learn, adjust, adapt and move forward. We can’t be rigid.” The UAE then pivoted Masdar City into a campus now hosting the U.N.’s International Renewable Energy Agency and the firm itself into investing into renewables at home and abroad. Joe Biden, just before leaving office as America’s vice president, even visited Masdar City in 2016. Analysts believe the Emirates is trying to maximize its profits before the world increasingly turns to renewables. The Emirates itself has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050 — a target that remains difficult to assess and one that authorities haven’t fully explained how they’ll reach. The UAE “have made no bones about being a major oil and gas producer and presumably he is very well connected to rulers in the country,” said Alden Meyer, a longtime climate talk observer at the environmental think tank E3G. “I hope (al-Jaber) has good diplomatic and negotiation skills and the ability to build consensus and compromise.” COP28 will be held at Dubai’s Expo City from Nov. 30 through Dec. 12.
The Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday declared unconstitutional a 2005 pact by China, the Philippines and Vietnam to jointly explore for oil in the disputed South China Sea, a decision that also brings other proposed agreements into doubt. The decision by 12 of the court's 15 justices voided the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking agreement by state-owned companies in the three nations, which are among Asian countries locked in decades-long territorial disputes in the busy waterway. Two justices dissented and one was on leave and did not vote. The court did not immediately make public the full decision and only released highlights in a statement. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June last year, expressed willingness to revive failed negotiations for joint oil exploration with China in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Beijing last week. The court ruled that the 2005 agreement violated the constitution by allowing the state-owned oil companies of China and Vietnam to undertake joint oil exploration in Philippine waters. The charter specifies that “the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the state.” The petitioners argued that oil exploration in Philippine waters should be undertaken by Filipino citizens or corporations and groups that are at least 60% owned by Filipinos, according to the court. Proponents argued that the agreement only involved pre-exploration activities which were not covered by the constitutional prohibition. But the court said the accord’s intent “is to discover petroleum which is tantamount to `exploration.’” The agreement led to a joint oil search in 142,886 square kilometers (55,168 square miles) of sea, including waters claimed by the Philippines as part of its territory and other areas it contests with China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Under President Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos’s predecessor, the Philippines signed a 2018 agreement with China aimed at agreeing on terms for a possible joint oil and gas exploration in the disputed waters. But years of negotiations failed, mainly due to disagreement over which side has sovereign rights over the stretch of sea to be covered by the joint search. Duterte’s administration terminated the agreement shortly before his six-year term ended last year. A 2016 ruling by a United Nations-backed arbitration tribunal invalidated China’s extensive territorial claims based on historical grounds in the South China Sea. Beijing did not participate in the arbitration, rejected the decision and continues to defy it.
Russian authorities rejected a price cap on the country's oil set by Ukraine’s Western supporters and threatened Saturday to stop supplying the nations that endorsed it. Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States and the 27-nation European Union agreed Friday to cap what they would pay for Russian oil at $60-per-barrel. The limit is set to take effect Monday, along with an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia needed to analyze the situation before deciding on a specific response but that it would not accept the price ceiling. Russia's permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, warned that the cap's European backers would come to rue their decision. “From this year, Europe will live without Russian oil," Ulyanov tweeted. "Moscow has already made it clear that it will not supply oil to those countries that support anti-market price caps. Wait, very soon the EU will accuse Russia of using oil as a weapon.” The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, called Saturday for a lower price cap, saying the one adopted by the EU and the Group of Seven leading economies didn't go far enough. “It would be necessary to lower it to $30 in order to destroy the enemy’s economy faster,” Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskyy’s office, wrote on Telegram, staking out a position also favored by Poland — a leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine. Read more: Can Ukraine pay for war without wrecking economy? Under Friday's agreements, insurance companies and other firms needed to ship oil would only be able to deal with Russian crude if the oil is priced at or below the cap. Most insurers are located in the EU and the United Kingdom and could be required to observe the ceiling. Russia’s crude has already been selling for around $60 a barrel, a deep discount from international benchmark Brent, which closed Friday at $85.42 per barrel. The Russian Embassy in Washington insisted that Russian oil "will continue to be in demand" and criticized the price limit as “reshaping the basic principles of the functioning of free markets.” A post on the embassy's Telegram channel predicted the per-barrel cap would lead to “a widespread increase in uncertainty and higher costs for consumers of raw materials.” “What happens in China will help shape whether the price cap has any teeth,” said Jim Burkhard, an oil markets analyst with IHS Markit. He said dampened demand from China means most Russian crude exports are already selling below $60. The price cap aims to put an economic squeeze on Russia and further crimp its ability to finance a war that has killed an untold number of civilians and fighters, driven millions of Ukrainians from their homes and weighed on the world economy for more than nine months. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that since Friday Russia's forces had fired five missiles, carried out 27 airstrikes and launched 44 shelling attacks against Ukraine's military positions and civilian infrastructure. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the president's office, said the attacks killed one civilian and wounded four others in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region. According to the U.K. Defense Ministry, Russian forces “continue to invest a large element of their overall military effort and firepower” around the small Donestsk city of Bakhmut, which they have spent weeks trying to capture. Read more: Russia rejects pullout from Ukraine as condition for talks In southern Ukraine's Kherson province, whose capital city of the same name was liberated by Ukrainian forces three weeks ago following a Russian retreat, Gov. Yaroslav Yanushkevich said evacuations of civilians stuck in Russian-held territory across the Dnieper River would resume temporarily. Russian forces pulled back to the river's eastern bank last month. Yanushkevich said a ban on crossing the waterway would be lifted during daylight hours for three days for Ukrainian citizens who "did not have time to leave the temporarily occupied territory.” His announcement cited a “possible intensification of hostilities in this area.” Kherson is one of four regions that Putin illegally annexed in September and vowed to defend as Russian territory. From their new positions, Russian troops have regularly shelled Kherson city and nearby infrastructure in recent days, leaving many residents without power. Running water remained unavailable in much of the city — and one resident was seen scooping up water from a dirty puddle. The city continued to suffer heavy shelling Saturday that left many residents disoriented, toppled power lines and dumped torn-off tree branches on the roads. “When we start to repair (electricity networks), the shelling starts immediately,” said Oleksandr Kravchenko, who is in charge of high-voltage networks in Kherson. “We just repair electric lines and on the next day we have to repair lines again.” Ukrainian authorities also reported intense fighting in Luhansk and Russian shelling of northeastern Ukraine's Kharkiv region, which Russia's soldiers mostly withdrew from in September. The mayor of the city of Kharkiv, which remained under Ukrainian control during Russia's occupation of other parts of the region, said some 500 apartment buildings were damaged beyond repair, and nearly 220 schools and kindergartens were damaged or destroyed. He estimated the cost of the damage at $9 billion. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met Saturday in Minsk with the president and defense minister of Belarus, which hosts Russian troops and artillery. Belarus has said its own forces are not taking part in the war, but Ukrainian officials have frequently expressed concern that they could be be induced to cross the border into northern Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting that his troops and Russian forces train in coordination. “We ready ourselves as one grouping, one army. Everyone knows it. We were not hiding it,” he was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax.
Soybean oil price may go up as Bangladesh Tariff Commission (BTC) is considering proposal for hiking edible oil price due to higher production costs. Bangladesh Vegetable Oil Refiners and Banaspati Manufacturers Association (BVORBMA), the association of owners of edible oil refining and marketing companies, has submitted a proposal to raise soybean oil price by Tk 15 per litre. The oil refiners argued that traders will count losses due to higher production costs and price hikes in the global market if soybean oil price is not adjusted. Also read: Soybean oil: No real effect of reduced tariff The refiners submitted a letter last Tuesday to Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh, urging the government to readjust the prices by Sunday (tomorrow). The refiners made the proposal a month after lowering soybean oil price by Tk 14 a litre. Chief Executive of BVORBMA, Nurul Islam Molla, told UNB, the situation was described to the commerce secretary. After a meeting with Salman F Rahman, the prime minister’s adviser for private industry and investment on October 3, the association lowered the prices by Tk 14 a litre. The price of a litre of unbottled soybean oil was set at Tk 158, a litre bottle at Tk 178, and a 5-litre bottle at Tk 880. Read More: TCB to procure 2.25 litres of soybean oil, 15,000 mts of lentil for OMS.