La fronde anti-éoliennes prend de l’ampleur

ENQUÊTE – Le gouvernement souhaite doubler le nombre d’éoliennes sur le territoire dans les cinq prochaines années. Mais la contestation s’intensifie et réunit des opposants de tous bords.

Après les McDonald’s et les champs d’OGM, la prochaine cible des écologistes ou des zadistes sera-t-elle l’éolien? En juin, un feu criminel détruisait une éolienne et en endommageait une autre à Marsanne, dans la Drôme. L’attaque a été revendiquée mi-juin par un site libertaire précisant «s’attaquer aux dominations». Du bourgeois au militant mélenchoniste en passant par l’anarchiste, le pêcheur et le châtelain, l’opposition à l’éolien est «de plus en plus composite», affirme Fabien Bouglé, porte-parole du collectif d’opposants Touche pas à nos îles! en guerre contre le projet de parc éolien au large de l’île de Noirmoutier, en Vendée.

Certes, cette opposition a historiquement débuté chez des pronucléaires situés bien à droite, «mais ça change», souligne cet élu versaillais, spécialiste du marché de l’art, qui témoigne avoir assisté à une lecture sur le sujet dans une «librairie anar de gauche» à Paris, et qui prophétise «une grande révolte populaire anti-éoliennes». D’autant que semble s’opérer une mutation: la contestation, jusque-là cantonnée aux citoyens et aux associations anti-éoliennes, trouve désormais des voix et des relais dans le monde politique pour porter le combat.

Ainsi Xavier Bertrand, ancien ministre du Travail et actuel président de la région des Hauts-de-France, qui a lancé fin juin un observatoire de l’éolien afin de mieux contrôler l’expansion des parcs dans sa région, qui «défigure complètement les paysages» et «coûte les yeux de la tête». Ou encore ces dix députés, tant de la majorité que de l’opposition, qui ont signé une tribune, «Stop aux nouvelles éoliennes!», dans nos éditions du 20 juin dernier.

Projet «antidémocratique»?

La France constitue aujourd’hui le quatrième parc d’Europe derrière l’Allemagne, l’Espagne et la Grande-Bretagne. Sa proportion d’électricité éolienne représente moins de 5 % de sa consommation mais, d’ici à 2023, les éoliennes terrestres devraient doubler, passant de 7300 à quelque 15.000. «C’est le deuxième gisement de vent d’Europe et la deuxième façade maritime. Le potentiel est considérable», selon Pauline Le Bertre, déléguée générale de France Énergie éolienne (FEE).

On compte 70 % de recours contre les permis de construire devant les tribunaux administratifs, contre 50 % il y a cinq ans

Si l’Allemagne a depuis longtemps compris «la nécessité impérative d’avoir une transition énergétique, en France, de nombreuses associations jouent sur les angoisses des gens, propageant des idées reçues». Le degré d’opposition à l’éolien serait, selon elle, unique en Europe, lié à notre historique avec le nucléaire.

De fait, malgré le discours politique français très volontariste sur le sujet, malgré les sondages favorables à l’éolien menés auprès des Français, l’installation des éoliennes suscite de plus en plus d’opposition. On compte 70 % de recours contre les permis de construire devant les tribunaux administratifs, contre 50 % il y a cinq ans. Une perte de temps pour les promoteurs: la mise en route d’un parc est désormais d’environ neuf ans, contre quatre pour l’Allemagne.

Pour accélérer le processus, le gouvernement a décidé de supprimer le premier degré de juridiction, le tribunal administratif, pour passer directement à la cour administrative d’appel. Un projet de décret est actuellement en consultation devant le Conseil d’État. Cela se pratique déjà pour les projets éoliens en mer, les multiplexes de cinéma et les supermarchés. Un projet «antidémocratique» pour Fabien Bouglé, et qui, ces derniers mois, mobilise et durcit plus encore le front anti-éolien.

Biodiversité

Les associations d’opposants s’offusquent aussi d’un décret paru le 11 juillet qui permet de moderniser les parcs existants sans reprendre de zéro toutes les études d’impact. Que reprochent ces opposants à l’éolien? Sa laideur, sa proximité avec des habitations et des monuments historiques, ses nuisances sonores, ses lumières «aveuglantes», des installations entachées de multiples prises illégales d’intérêt de la part des élus. Les arguments sont multiples. Et parfois écoutés.

Des éoliennes ne seront ainsi pas installées en arrière-plan du paysage du Mont-Saint-Michel, pas plus que du côté du pont du Gard. Pauline Le Bertre, elle, indique qu’en France «les restrictions d’installation sont les plus élevées d’Europe. On multiplie les études d’impact liées à la biodiversité, le patrimoine, les habitations.» À l’entendre, une éolienne implantée à 500 mètres d’une habitation, le minimum réglementaire, «fait un bruit semblable à celui d’un frigidaire». Elle vante la compétitivité du mégawatt éolien, 64 euros contre 110 pour le nucléaire dernière génération. Inversement, Karine Poujol, à la tête de l’association Gardez les caps, considère que les 64 éoliennes prévues en baie de Saint-Brieucprovoqueront la mort de la biodiversité sous-marine, alors même que la zone est protégée Natura 2000. Elle anticipe un bruit «semblable à celui d’un décollage d’avion».

Loïk Le Floch-Prigent, ancien PDG d’Elf Aquitaine, défend les coquilles Saint-Jacques du cap Fréhel, qui pourraient être «très affectées» par ces installations fixées par 42 mètres de fonds. L’ancien industriel se défend de jouer pour le camp des pronucléaires, lui qui a «toujours défendu le fait qu’il fallait diversifier», rapporte-t-il au Figaro. Il met en doute cette politique qui «pénalise notre compétitivité en augmentant nos importations de matériel: 95 % des investissements de l’éolien viennent d’Allemagne, du Danemark, d’Inde ou de Chine, tandis que deux tiers des exploitants viennent d’ailleurs». Ce printemps, la Cour des comptes affirmait que «le tissu industriel français a peu profité du développement des énergies renouvelables». Malgré des moyens considérables, qui se sont élevés en 2016 à 5,3 milliards d’euros. La prévision de dépense publique en 2023, elle, est de 7,5 milliards d’euros.




Brexit : HSBC transfère sept succursales de Londres à Paris

La banque investit également lourdement en Asie pour accélérer sa croissance.

Dans la finance, les préparatifs en prévision du Brexit s’accélèrent. La Grande-Bretagne redoute désormais une sortie de l’Union européenne (UE) sans accord avec Bruxelles. Ce qui compliquerait encore davantage le travail de ses banques sur le Vieux Continent. Prenant les devants, HSBC a annoncé lundi que plusieurs de ses succursales européennes, jusqu’alors contrôlées depuis Londres, seront l’an prochain rattachées à sa filiale française.

Ses activités en République tchèque, Irlande, Italie, Luxembourg, Pays-Bas et Espagne seront pilotées depuis Paris par HSBC France, en principe à partir du premier trimestre 2019. Soit juste avant la sortie effective du Royaume-Uni de l’UE, prévue fin mars. «Ce que nous avons prévu depuis le début, depuis plus de deux ans, a été fondé sur le pire des scénarios», explique John Flint, le nouveau directeur général.

» LIRE AUSSI – Brexit: Bruxelles n’exclut pas une sortie sans accord

L’annonce a été faite quelques heures après la publication de résultats mitigés pour le groupe bancaire britannique. Après avoir mené un vaste plan de restructuration ces dernières années et fait des économies à tous crins, la banque a enregistré une hausse de 7 % de ses coûts sur les six premiers mois de l’année, en raison de ses investissements en Asie, où elle veut pousser plus encore son avantage. Elle y réalise déjà près de la moitié de son activité. «Nous sommes en train d’investir pour gagner de nouveaux clients, pour accroître notre part de marché et poser les fondations d’une croissance régulière des bénéfices», souligne John Flint. Aux manettes depuis février, il est d’ailleurs prêt à aller beaucoup plus loin, puisqu’il a dévoilé en juin un plan d’investissement sur trois ans de 15 à 17 milliards de dollars.

Les dépenses déjà engagées ces derniers mois par la banque ont permis d’embaucher afin de conquérir davantage de clients et de se renforcer dans les activités numériques, en particulier en Chine. Mais cette hausse des dépenses a été plus forte que celle du chiffre d’affaires, qui augmente de 4 % (2 % ajustés des éléments exceptionnels). Voilà qui explique l’accueil plutôt froid réservé aux résultats semestriels de la banque à la Bourse de Londres, où le titre a terminé lundi en léger repli (- 1,06 %).

Pourtant, le bénéfice semestriel dévoilé lundi est légèrement supérieur aux prévisions, avec une progression de 2,5 %, à 7,173 milliards de dollars. En Asie, le bénéfice avant impôt du premier semestre a même bondi de 23 %, à 9,4 milliards de dollars, ce qui représente 88 % du bénéfice total du groupe.

Baisse des profits en Europe

Mais ces bonnes performances ont été contrebalancées par une baisse des profits sur d’autres marchés, en particulier en Europe, où l’activité est pénalisée notamment par la faiblesse des taux d’intérêt. Toutefois, le patron de HSBC espère toujours stimuler les revenus de son groupe dans les prochains mois, pour que, sur l’année, la progression des recettes soit plus forte que celle des coûts.

Mais la guerre commerciale entre les États-Unis et la Chine, qui préoccupe toujours les marchés financiers, lézarde la confiance dans la capacité de la banque à tenir cette promesse. Pour l’instant, HSBC affirme que cette guerre douanière n’a eu aucun effet sur son activité et ses clients. Le président du groupe, Mark Tucker, a même tenu à rappeler que le marché asiatique restait solide. Mais John Flint reconnaît que la croissance chinoise pourrait en être légèrement affectée.

Touchée par de nombreux scandales financiers ces dernières années, HSBC a aussi annoncé avoir trouvé un accord en juillet avec le département américain de la Justice. La banque paiera une pénalité financière de 765 millions de dollars pour mettre fin aux poursuites sur son activité dans les prêts immobiliers avant la crise financière de 2008.




Extension of North Sea mega-field gets final approval

Oil firm Nexen Petroleum UK has said its partners have given it the nod to extend the life of the North Sea’s biggest producing field.

Nexen, owned by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, also said the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) had approved the Buzzard field phase two development.

In November, Nexen’s UK managing director, Ray Riddoch, said production from Buzzard would be prolonged by up to 10 years as part of a £500-million-plus project.

A number of contracts have already been awarded to the supply chain, while work on the front-end engineering design was completed in June.

irst oil is expected in the first quarter of 2021.

Operator Nexen owns 43.21% of Buzzard, the largest UK North Sea oil discovery in the past two decades.

Its partners are Suncor Energy (29.89%), Chrysaor (21.73%), Dyas (4.7%) and Oranje-Nassau Energie (0.46%).

Nexen is working on the project with a host of oil field service companies including AGR Well Management, Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), COSL Drilling Europe, Subsea 7 and Worley Parsons.

They have formed an integrated team which is based at Nexen’s office in Kingswells, Aberdeen.

The team is going after additional reserves with a subsea development in the northern part of the Buzzard field.

Buzzard, which lies 60 miles north-east of Aberdeen, was discovered in 2001 and produced first oil in 2007.

The latest figures of the OGA show the field is producing more than 140,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

A production and water injection subsea manifold will be installed and tied back to the existing Buzzard complex.

A new module will also be added to the complex for processing and export.

Last week, Subsea 7 said it had won a contract worth between £38-£115m to build and install a three mile pipeline bundle and provide a heavy lift vessel for transporting and installing a new topside module.

BHGE has been chosen to supply a range of subsea infrastructure and topside control systems.

Zvonimir Djerfi, Europe president, BHGE, said the formation of the integrated team was a prime example of companies taking an unconventional approach to collaboration and project development.

 




Can the GCC keep afloat without oil?

The GCC as we know it today would not be the same were it not for the discovery of oil in the region in the early years of the last century.

Now, new data has surfaced that predicts the GCC will break its dependence on fossil fuels by 2050, emerging in the new decade with an economy whose fate is no longer tied to the fickle fluctuations of oil prices.

The question remains, however: How effective will the GCC’s attempts to wean off hydrocarbons be, and which non-oil sectors will be able to keep it afloat?

Making a diversified economy a reality

Speaking to Arab News, New York-based firm Fitch Solutions shared information from their latest report covering global trends through to 2050. Their data shows that countries in the GCC like Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will achieve their goal of a diversified economy by 2050 following their acts of reform.

Initiatives like Dubai’s Vision 2021, Saudi’s Vision 2030, the implementation of VAT, and the lifting of the ban on women driving are all heralds of this long-awaited change. As it currently stands, the UAE is ahead of its neighbors, having announced their reformatory Vision 2021 for Dubai back in 2010. According to Trading Economics, 40% of current UAE exports come from oil and natural gas, the lowest in the region.

Other countries, however, such as Kuwait and Oman still have a lot of ground to cover, with the Kuwaiti oil sector accounting for 40% of the country’s GDP, 90% of total exports and 80% of state revenues, according to Trading Economics.

These Gulf nations cannot afford to rely solely on oil anymore, as the recurring drop in oil price has shown. The 2014 oil price crash gave these rich countries a pang of reality. During that year, the price of a barrel dropped from around $115 in June 2014 to under $27 in February 2016, according to CNBC.

Are other sectors enough to support the entire region?

The possibility of oil running out has always existed.

Sooner or later, these countries will need to take action. The question remains, however: could non-oil sectors truly support a region that has been so reliant on fossil fuel revenues?

Tourism and hospitality staples of the region’s economy

In recent years, the UAE has continued to nurture and grow its tourism industry. Dubai International Airport (DXB) was not named the world’s busiest airport for no reason. Passenger numbers at the airport topped 43.7 million in the first half of 2018, according to a traffic report issued last month by operator Dubai Airports, up 1.6% from the same period last year.

Dubai, for example, has been seeing a hotel construction boom in anticipation of Expo 2020.

Foreign investment is key

These countries are also looking outside their borders for investment opportunities. Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) currently has stakes in several major companies abroad, such as $72 billion ride-hailing company Uber and future-oriented Tesla.

The PIF’s investment in Uber is reported to be worth $3.5 billion, according to the New York Times. The fund’s latest investment has been in Tesla, reported at a 5% stake. The fund has also staked a $400 million sum in American augmented reality startup Magic Leap.

The country has been intent on investing in technology companies they believe will have a key role in the future of economy as well as mankind.

Inward FDIs are also key, with the UAE and Saudi currently at the forefront of the GCC.

The future is green

Saudi is also looking at green energy ventures. Earlier this year during March, Saudi Arabia and the SoftBank Group Corporation announced a $200 billion solar energy project, set to produce 200 GW by 2030. Saudi’s vast open deserts permit a project of this scale, and this new project will produce an excessive amount of energy that will eclipse Saudi’s needs. This means that the kingdom could become one of the world’s greatest exporters of solar energy, distributed using mass batteries.

It seems that 200 hundred years later after it was first invented, we are still relying on age-old technology such as the battery.

The UAE has some solar plans of its own. Its Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the desert south of Dubai spans 16.2 km2. By 2030, it will have a capacity of 5,000 MW, offsetting 6.5 million tons of CO2 emissions and generating enough energy to power 800,000 homes, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

Bahrain’s prospects are not as ambitious just yet. The country has set a target of 10% of total energy consumption to be met through renewables by 2035, doubling the 5% goal by 2025, Electricity and Water Affairs Minister Dr. Abdulhussain Mirza has said.

The GCC prepares for a future with blockchain

The rise of cryptocurrencies and blockchain has already sent ripples through the region’s banking sector. For the GCC to survive without oil, it will be instrumental that these countries adapt and embrace these upcoming changes.

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi has become the first bank in the MENA region to introduce real-time, cross-border payments on blockchain, Medium reports. The bank has formed a partnership with Ripple.

Saudi’s central bank has also signed a deal with Ripple for an upcoming project.

Freight transportation industry in GCC needs an update if it will survive

Freight transportation and logistics (T&L) is a critical industry in the GCC, yet revenues have been on the decline in recent years. Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) analysts blame this on the GCC lagging behind the technological advancements of T&L industries abroad.

If the GCC’s T&L industry is to catch up and survive post-oil, they will need to adopt digitization practices to update their services to a more demanding international clientele.




Why has Canada spent billions of dollars buying Saudi Arabian oil?

Despite sitting on an ocean of oil, Canada still buys $300 million per month of Saudi crude

As Saudi Arabia aggressively severs ties with Canada, the two countries’ trade relationship hangs in the balance. On one hand, Canada will lose out on Saudi foreign students, military contracts and sales of wheat and grain. On the other, Saudi Arabia will lose the billions of dollars it earns every year by selling oil to Canada.

For years, it has been an oft-repeated Alberta grievance that these imports exist at all. Despite sitting atop an ocean of proven oil reserves, Canada continues to spend a small fortune every year buying oil from a country that executes homosexuals, flogs dissidents and has a nasty habit of funding Islamic extremism.

Below, a quick guide to why Canadians are still gassing up their cars with Saudi crude.

Over the last 10 years, Canada has spent $20.9 billion on Saudi crude
Between 2007 and 2017, Statistics Canada figures show that Canada imported a total of $20.9 billion of Saudi Arabian petroleum oils. For context, this is almost precisely what Canada spends on its military per year. It’s also way more than the expected $15.7 billion cost of the Energy East pipeline. On average, in recent years, Saudi Arabia supplies about 10 per cent of Canada’s oil imports. Canada, in turn, is responsible for buying roughly 1.5 per cent of total Saudi oil exports. What’s more, Saudi Arabia is climbing the leader board of countries that Canada’s relies upon for its foreign oil. As recently as 2010, Saudi Arabia ranked as Canada’s fifth largest supplier of foreign oil (behind Algeria, Norway, the U.K. and Kazakhstan). Now, Saudi Arabia is second only to the United States.

Right now, all the Saudi oil is coming through a single New Brunswick refinery
All of the Saudi oil imported into Canada in 2017 and 2018 came through New Brunswick, which only has one oil import facility: The massive Irving Oil-owned Saint John refinery. Between January and June of this year that refinery has imported $1.8 billion of Saudi oil — roughly $10 million per day. The amount of U.S. oil entering the refinery, for comparison, is equivalent only to about $3.8 million per day. Unlike most Canadian refineries, Saint John has no access to a pipeline; every barrel of oil it processes either comes by tanker or train. (The oil train that caused the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, in fact, was headed to the Saint John refinery). “We source crude oil from all over the world for our refinery in Saint John, N.B.,” a spokesman for Irving Oil told the National Post in 2016. And whenever someone is seeking out the cheapest product from the world market, it’s not unusual that a lot of it is going to come from oil-rich Saudi Arabia. It’s like turning to the world market to buy the cheapest possible t-shirts: Chances are that they’re going to come from Bangladesh.

Alberta and Saudi oil aren’t necessarily the same thing
On paper, Canada could become energy self-sufficient tomorrow. Every day we produce about 3.9 million barrels of oil per day, and use less than 2 million barrels. A study this year from the Canadian Energy Research Institute even calculated that energy self-sufficiency might reduce emissions. But think of oil like whiskey: There are many different types and qualities. A bourbon connoisseur probably isn’t going to be happy with a bottle of Old Crow and a Manhattan isn’t going to taste the same if it’s made out of Scotch. Similarly, Alberta oil is not interchangeable with the stuff coming out of Saudi Arabia. Andrew Leach, an energy economist at the University of Alberta, even said that comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. “Saudi crude and WCS (Western Canadian Select) doesn’t overlap much in terms of their markets,” he told the National Post. For one thing, most eastern Canadian refineries cannot process bitumen, the thick tar-like hydrocarbon that comes out of the Athabasca Oil Sands. Almost anybody can process Saudi Arabian crude, but only an elite fraternity of the world’s most complex refineries can turn Alberta bitumen into gasoline. To get to the east coast, Canadian bitumen also has to be shipped overland from more than 4,000 kilometres away, significantly adding to its total costs (Saudi Arabia is 10,000 kilometres away from the Canadian east coast, but tanker shipment is cheap). It’s also why Western Canadian Select, the industry name for most oil sands bitumen, sells at such a steep discount to more conventional oil types coming out of Saudi Arabia. In June, for instance, WCS sold at an average of USD$52.10 a barrel, compared to USD$67.87 for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), an oil category priced similarly to most Middle Eastern oils. “The oil Alberta produces is simply of a lower quality than … WTI, and is located farther away from customers,” writes the Alberta government in an online briefing note describing the WCS “discount.”

Even with a pipeline, it’s not a guarantee that refineries would buy Canadian
The cancelled Energy East pipeline, of course, would have pumped Saskatchewan and Alberta petroleum into New Brunswick. Politicians touted the pipeline as a way to supplant foreign suppliers such as Saudi Arabia. “We believe this nation-building project would have benefited all of Canada through new jobs, investment, energy security and the ability to displace oil being imported into Canada from overseas,” Alberta premier Rachel Notley said upon the project’s cancellation. However, refineries are no different than a driver cruising gas stations looking for a fill-up: They seek out whoever has the best price and buy accordingly. If Alberta can’t sell its oil on the Atlantic Coast for a lower price than Saudi Arabia, refineries aren’t going to buy it — particularly if they can’t process it. “Getting product from Western Canada, while conceptually sounding like a good way to push out Saudi oil, doesn’t fix everything,” said Jason Parent with the Canadian oil industry analyst Kent Group. As of press time, WCS is currently selling at an incredible $30 discount over more conventional oil types. While this would likely be enough to entice Atlantic buyers, the discount isn’t always so competitive — particularly if Saudi Arabia is actively trying to overproduce and drop oil prices in order to kneecap the Canadian and U.S. oil industry. This is part of the reason why Canada never built a pipeline to the east coast in the first place. A west-to-east pipeline was indeed considered soon after the discovery of oil in Alberta in the 1940s, but it was soon scrapped. “Eastern provinces did the math and found it cheaper to import foreign oil by tanker, rather than bother with the extra cost of domestic supply,” said Peter Tertzakian, director of the Calgary-based Arc Energy Research Institute. However, even if the business case is a little complicated, Tertzakian still advocates a pipeline as something Canada should do for strategic reasons. “We could be completely self sufficient if we wanted,” he said. “It’s just a question of how much we are willing to pay for it.”

Canada can’t really hurt Saudi Arabia’s bottom line
The easiest way for Canada to cut off Saudi Arabia imports would be simply to buy more American oil. It’s about the same price, it doesn’t require specialized facilities and considering that they already buy so much of ours, there’s a certain justice to it. The U.S. also has an excellent human rights record compared to the Saudis. But while such a move might assuage Canada’s moral compass, the practical effect would be almost nil. It’s a seller’s market for oil right now. Production of U.S. shale oil is slowing down, Iran is being hammered by sanctions and petroleum demand continues to tick upwards all over the world. All this means that if Canada could successfully prevent a drop of Saudi oil from ever entering our borders again, it’s unlikely that Riyadh would ever notice. Any oil tanker turned away at Saint John could simply set course for New Jersey. Unlike Canada, Saudi Arabia sells a product that is easy to transport and that can be processed by almost anyone. Said Andrew Leach, “Saudi oil will still sell at the world price.”

 




Mohammed bin Salman Is Weak, Weak, Weak

When I pulled my Hyundai out of the driveway two weeks ago and headed 450 miles north, it was only for a short vacation, but I was still excited to be leaving the Beltway after a confusing year for foreign-policy wonks. Freed from the obligation to make sense of the growing dysfunction of the United States and its rippling effects on the world, I took long runs on country roads, ate too much ice cream, lazed on the beach with my wife and young daughters, read a novel, and celebrated a birthday.

I returned to the office a few days ago and almost wish I hadn’t. The weirdness of 2018 continues. Upon reconnecting, I discovered that the odious former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, tweeted in support of LeBron James (he also likes Michael Jordan), Toto covered Weezer, and the government of Saudi Arabia freaked out at Canada. Not Iran or Qatar, but Canada… the Great White North. The place that has bestowed such gifts to the world as John Candy, poutine, Wayne Gretzky, the Montreal bagel, and the 55-yard line.

Like most countries, Canada does have darker aspects. The way Canadians treated what they now refer to as the First Nations was horrific, for example—although they recently apologized and accepted responsibility for the near-destruction of those cultures. And even when Canadians are angry at you, they tend to be unfailingly polite about it.

So, what is the Saudi beef? Why have they thrown the Canadian ambassador out of the country, halted Saudi flights to Toronto (a lovely airport), and told anywhere between 7,000 and 16,000 Saudis enrolled in Canadian universities that they can’t go back to school in a few weeks? A tweet. More specifically, last Friday the Canadian foreign ministry tweeted: “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.”

That’s it. The Canadian government did not impose sanctions, offend Islam, or make common cause with the Houthis in Yemen. As anyone with a passing interest in international affairs knows, Ottawa has publicly positioned itself—often in contrast to the United States—as a strong voice in defense of human rights. This is particularly the case under Liberal Party-led governments such as the one under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has been (politely) forceful in her defense of a rules-based and liberal international order.

According to their Saudi counterparts, by expressing concern for the plight of peaceful activists in the kingdom, Canada’s diplomats were in egregious violation of Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty. This is the kind of response that one might expect from say, Egypt—though even the Egyptian leadership, which loathes civil society, activists, and their international supporters with great passion, would not throw an ambassador out of the country and cancel the scholarships of thousands of university students.

There are various theories to explain the Saudi reaction to Canada’s tweet. Some analysts have suggested that the episode is another example of Saudi Arabia’s reckless foreign policy under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Others see it as another warning to Saudis that the only reforms in the kingdom are those that the crown prince has articulated, and they are at their peril should Saudis demand more. Both explanations are plausible—and either way, Mohammed bin Salman comes out looking every bit the impetuous, petty, immature, tyrant that his critics say he is.

Arab leaders have some good reasons for responding poorly to activists and nongovernmental organizations that international supporters of these individuals and groups tend to overlook. But rounding up people who peacefully express a different vision of society from the Saudi leadership is weak. Not just weak in a vague moral sense, but as a basic description of the government’s political standing. General rule: If a leader is arresting people who disagree with them, it is a sign that this leader is well aware of a significant gap between the stories the government is telling its citizens about how good life is under its benevolent leaders and how people are actually experiencing it. The Saudi women in jail right now had to be arrested, because if they weren’t silenced, there would be an ever-increasing risk that they would expose the emptiness of the government’s sunny narrative about the future. Coercion of this sort is a demonstration of brute force and political weakness.

For all the Saudi government’s declarations about the “new Saudi Arabia” and how the country is moving forward thanks to the crown prince’s reform program, it rings hollow against the background of jailed peaceful dissenters. The Saudis will argue that all the Western reporting and analysis is wrong—the people arrested were in communication with foreign countries and thus trying to undermine the Saudi state. It is a claim that is both tiresome—because it comes from the script every foreign ministry reads anytime their governments want to repress activists—and revealing. There is no foreign conspiracy, of course. It is the dodge of a nervous Saudi leadership, fearful that its people will discover its inability to deliver on its promises.

The Saudis and their supporters often complain that they get a bad rap in Washington. I am sympathetic to this claim. Sure, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman got some terrific personal press on his barnstorm through New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley last spring—but news coverage of Saudi Arabia at around the same time was demonstrably negative. With good reason, of course. In November 2017, the Saudis orchestrated the brief resignation of the Lebanese prime minister—surely one of the stranger diplomatic episodes in the Middle East ever—and then there was the terrible (and ongoing) humanitarian toll of Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen. The Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, meanwhile, seems to have been a pointless exercise in showing Doha who is the big dog in the Gulf.

Yet the negative coverage ignored the middle ground; complications and shades of gray are typically saved for stories other than Saudi Arabia. The war in Yemen has been a foolish blunder, but hardly anyone mentions the brutality of the Houthis. The Qataris may be victims of Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian, and Bahraini scheming, but they are not innocent victims. The crown prince is hardly the reformer that he has proclaimed himself to be, but he does seem to enjoy genuine support at home.

Still, whatever beating the Saudis are taking over the war of words with Canada, it is entirely of Riyadh’s own making and well deserved. One is hard-pressed to truly understand what officials at the Royal Court are thinking, beyond taking a cue from the Trump administration and declaring, “We are Saudi Arabia, bitches.” The Saudis really can’t have it every which way: posturing as “reformers,” tossing activists in jail, and then taking umbrage when people dare criticize them for not actually reforming.

The crown prince decided to pick a fight with the wrong country. Not because Canada is powerful and the Saudis are dependent upon them, but rather because Ottawa has taken a stand on the straightforward principle that peaceful dissent is not a crime. In their overreaction, the Saudis have decided to flaunt their own foolishness and feebleness. Instead of railing against Ottawa, Riyadh should apologize for its rash behavior. That’s what the Canadians would do.




TANAP to deliver first commercial gas on June 30

– The project came in under budget from the original $11.7 billion down to $7.99 billion

First commercial gas from the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP) to Turkey will begin transit by June 30, Saltuk Duzyol, TANAP’s general manager said on Tuesday.

TANAP, which will carry Azeri gas to Turkey and then onto Europe, is currently 93.5 percent complete, Duzyol confirmed at TANAP’s Eskisehir Measurement and Compressor station where Turkey receives Azeri gas.

“Phase 0, which starts from the Turkey-Georgia border and ends in Turkey’s Eskisehir province is almost completed,” Duzyol said and added that the second part of the project – Phase 1 – starts from Eskisehir and continues to the Ipsala district of Edirne on the Turkey-Greece border, where TANAP will be connected to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the pipeline that will bring Azeri gas to European markets.

“We completed 80.7 percent of Phase 1. When we finish building this phase, we will wait for TAP. The percentage of the total completion of TANAP is currently 93.5 percent,” he said.

Phase 0, which started testing on Jan. 23, is still ongoing but from June 30 commercial gas transfer will start, Duzyol said.

The TANAP project has seen the employment of around 13,000 and currently has around 7,000 employed. The project had 82 million man-hours worked and the equivalent length of 175 million kilometers driven.

The project has also revealed many unexpected surprises during its construction phase, Duzyol said, disclosing that nine species of bugs were discovered along with a new plant species, previously unknown to the scientific community.

“We also discovered 154 archeological sites during the route selection and construction,” he added.

He said the total value of contracts signed for the project to date is $5 billion.

– Project cost is under budget

Duzyol lauded the project management and the procurement process as a success in bringing the costs of the project under budget.

The estimated investment cost was $11.7 billion at the start of the project, he explained adding that, and “We have successfully pulled this figure down to $7.99 billion with the procurement process and project management we have successfully provided. I am proud to say that this is a huge financial success.”

He disclosed that project partners awarded $3.75 billion in credit from international financial institutions and the European Union provided $10.2 million in grant aid.

The stakeholder numbers for the project have also increased from three to four.

“The Southern Gas Corridor Company (SGC) had previously a 58 percent share but transferred a 7 percent stake to SOCAR Turkey. Currently, the SGC holds 51 percent, Turkey’s BOTAS 30 percent, BP 12 percent and SOCAR Turkey 7 percent,” he explained.

Duzyol also stressed that the TANAP pipeline could also be used to transfer gas from the Eastern Mediterranean or Iraq, conditional on sufficient demand and agreements.

TANAP’s initial capacity per year will be 16 billion cubic meters from which Turkey will withdraw 6 billion cubic meters while the remaining 10 billion cubic meters will be delivered to Europe.




TANAP project to enter into service in June: Turkish minister

The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project will enter into service as of June 12, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak said on May 11.

“The opening ceremony will be held with the attendance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on June 12,” Albayrak said during his speech at a sector meeting in the northwestern province of Bursa.

Project officials announced in April that the first gas would be pumped on June 30.

TANAP, running from the eastern province of Ardahan on the border with Georgia towards borders with Greece and Bulgaria, is the central and longest section of the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). The main aim of the SGC is to connect the giant Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan to Europe through the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), TANAP, and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The SCP runs from Azerbaijan to Turkey through Georgia and the TAP starts in Greece and runs to Italy through Albania and the Adriatic Sea.

The initial capacity of TANAP is expected to be 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year, gradually increasing to 31 bcm. Around 6 bcm of gas will be delivered to Turkey and the remaining volume will be supplied to Europe.

Albayrak also said Turkey would start its first solo oil and gas deep-sea drilling in the Mediterranean before the end of this summer.




Oil at $100 not to hurt world economy as much as in 2011

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A general view of the Amuay refinery complex which belongs to the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in Punto Fijo, Venezuela (file). The global economic impact of oil hitting $100 a barrel won’t be as big as when that happened in 2011 thanks to changes in the US. An analysis by Bloomberg Economics estimated that oil touching the triple-digit mark would shave 0.4% off US gross domestic product in 2020, compared with a baseline price of $75 a barrel. Yet that’s less of a hit than in the past because overall price levels have risen, the amount of energy required to produce a unit of economic output has slipped and the US has become less of an oil importer thanks to its shale industry. That mutes the effect of oil price shocks on the world’s biggest economy, and in turn on other countries. As such, “$100 oil won’t feel like it did in 2011,” and will actually feel “more like $79” a barrel, economists Jamie Murray, Ziad Daoud, Carl Riccadonna and Tom Orlik found. “With the US still firing on close to all cylinders, the rest of the world would suffer less as well – global output would be down by 0.2% in 2020.” The economists also estimated that oil would have to hit $200 a barrel before seriously stymieing the global economy.




Goldman Tells Big Oil: Take the Gas Risk, Demand Will Follow

The world’s largest energy producers will probably start hitting the gas on new projects, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Suppliers are better placed than buyers to bear the cost and risk of new liquefied natural gas projects, and may drive the next wave of investment, the bank said in a note. While the industry’s aware of the need for more output, the traditional model, where financing for new LNG capacity is dependent on binding sales agreements, has become an impediment, Goldman said.

The oversupplied LNG market is at risk of swinging into a deficit early in the next decade if new projects aren’t commissioned soon enough to meet increasing global demand. Large energy companies — including Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc, which have projects in the pipeline — will probably drive investments, according to Goldman.

“Natural gas is gaining market share relative to other fossil fuels, but new sources of supply must be developed to sustain this trend post 2020,” analysts including Christian Lelong said in the May 15 note. “A greater willingness to take on price risk should reduce the historical dependency on long-term contracts and leave producers firmly in the driving seat.”

Many consumers lack the risk appetite for long-term LNG supply agreements because the visibility on downstream demand is limited, particularly in the power sector given the rise of renewables, the New York-based bank said. Producers, which have stronger balance sheets, are better placed to mitigate these risks, according to Goldman.

Gas buyers are delaying decisions and declining to go into long-term contracts, even as key markets including China and India need to clean up their air, said Charif Souki, chairman of U.S. LNG developer Tellurian Inc., in an interview at the Flame gas conference in Amsterdam.

“U.S. gas can be delivered to Asia very efficiently,” and so can low-cost Russian gas, Souki said. The fuel is a very attractive way for Asia to shift to cleaner energy, and buyers will need to convince sellers to invest in new capacity, he said.