Saturday, 1 September 2012

Putin´s and Gazprom´s war on shale gas must be stopped

The US led shale gas revolution has already killed the Shtokman arctic gas project, but Russia´s Gazprom is - on orders from the Kremlin - continuing to work hard in order to prevent Europe from benefiting from cleand and cheap shale gas:

It’s the world’s largest gas producer, gas exporter, and gas distribution company with nearly 100,000 miles of gas trunk lines and branches. The Russian government owns 50.01% of it. At home, it has to sell gas under cost, one of the Soviet leftovers. It relies on high-profit sales from Europe to make up for it. But Europe is diversifying away from its single most important supplier.
Competitors include Russia’s number two, Novatek, and Norway—the second largest natural gas exporter in the world. So, in April, Gazprom had to lower its European sales guidance for 2012. Its market share in Europe was 27% last year, and it’s shooting for 30% by 2020, but if the US shale-gas boom ever infects Europe, those plans would become a pipe dream—and if the high-profit sales from Europe tapered off further, it would have to raise prices at home, a political nightmare. Hence its fight by hook or crook against shale gas in France.
Gazprom’s “underhanded tactics” and “scaremongering about a new technology” have Moscow’s nod of approval and are designed to dissuade governments from developing their own shale-gas reserves, according to a report by Platts, a global provider of information on energy, petrochemicals, and metals. Efforts include all manner of operations, online and through encouraging demonstrations, but also paying public relation firms to spread “myths and misconceptions,” said Aviezer Tucker, assistant director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas. A “European Union-wide ban” on shale-gas production, he said, would be the “holy grail.”
With France already knocked off, Sergei Komlev of Gazprom Export has been bouncing around the world in his fight against European shale gas. At a meeting in Qatar, according to Platts’ report, he gave a presentation. “Multiple Handicaps Will Retard Shale Gas Development Outside US” was the title of one of his slides. “Fortunately, it claimed, “European shale gas development faces numerous econombic, regulatory, and political barriers before there are significant amounts of shale gas production, not sooner than in ten or more years.”
Breathing room for Gazprom in the natural gas war. 
Read the entire article here
The shale gas alliance, mentioned in my previous post, is needed also in order to prevent Putin and his allies from destroying a unique chance to get rid of the dependence on Russian energy! 

A shale gas alliance against the EUs "green energy" madness?

A shale gas alliance between the US and such European countries as the UK and Poland would be a step in the right direction, according to conservative economist Przemek Skwirczynski. Not a bad idea! 
Greater still, the BBC quotes another source of information in claiming that the UK has at least 200 trillion cubic metres of shale gas. This would be sufficient for the UK to sell its gas to other countries and not just cover internal demand.
Just one of the potential exploration sites in Lancashire could create some 5,500 jobs with an average salary of GBP 55,000, which seems like just the ticket for the otherwise "lost decade".
Interestingly, Poland also sits on a considerable shale gas field of ca. 22.45 trillion cubic metres with 5.3 trillion available for immediate extraction. Exploration in Poland would create an estimated 155,000 jobs over 10 years and turn Poland into a net gas exporter.
At the moment, similarly to the UK, Poland relies heavily on importing its gas from the very temperamental Russia and, given the historic relationship between these two countries, it would be in Poland's strategic interest to free itself from that marriage of inconvenience. 
Given the potential for a change of guard in Washington, it might be a good time to develop an alliance of shale gas producing countries, in order to rebuild the special relationship on additional economic, as opposed to solely military, principles.
Working with Poland, which seems to be on the Republicans' "friendlies" list, and in any case has been a traditional ally of both UK and USA, could provide a common front to push through gas exploration-friendly policies in Brussels.
Both the United Kingdom and Poland will have to fight their corner in the face of the growing demands from the euro-bloc whose members still largely stick by the economically unviable green energy policies.
Importantly, when it comes to the duumvirate ruling the European Union, France officially suspended its exploration efforts in May 2012 and Germany can be considered Russian Gazprom's man in the EU when it comes to energy.
Hence, both are stumbling blocks on way to shale gas exploration on our continent. After all, despite all the popular sentiment, it is unlikely that we will fully leave, or repatriate powers from the EU, and so the best course of action would be to create alliances to push through our interests.
Read the entire article here

Back to the USSR: Putin introduces a Stalinist style re-armament program

Vladimir Putin wants to emulate Stalin´s armament policy
(image wiki)

Some time ago former chess legend - now an opposition politician - Garri Kasparov branded Russian President Vladimir Putin "an oligarch who wants to rule like Stalin" and urged the West not to think of him as a democratic leader. That Kasparov was spot on is obvious when one reads about the de facto dictator Putin´s new drive to emulate the red 
tyrant´s armament policy in the 1930s: 

Russia needs a "leap forward" to rejuvenate its sprawling defence industry, Vladimir Putin said on Friday, harkening back to the ambitious industrialisation carried out by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the runup to the second world war.
"We should carry out the same powerful, all-embracing leap forward in modernisation of the defence industry as the one carried out in the 1930s," Putin told his security council, without mentioning Stalin by name.
Putin´s top defence industry official, Dmitry Rogozin has echoed Putin´s drive back to Stalinist policies (which through executions and terror led to the death of at least six million people): 
Dmitry Rogozin, posted on his Facebook page a copy of a 1940 letter from Stalin to gun factory managers and accompanied it with a sarcastic warning: "Such methods of improving discipline also exist."
Stalin's letter to the managers said: "I give you two or three days to launch mass production of machine gun cartridges … If production does not start on time, the government will take over control of the plant and shoot all the rascals there."
Rogozin said: "Of course, it was a joke," but he added that failures would not be tolerated.
"Our satellites are falling, our ships are sinking, we had seven space failures in the last 18 months but not a single plant felt the consequences," he said after the council session.
"The culprits should come on stage. The country should know them."
Putin plans to spend £430bn in the next eight years modernising the military, with the bulk of the money going to 1,350 defence plants which employ about two million Russians. Many defence sector workers backed Putin during the election.
Read the entire article here

Already last October Russia´s human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin and several human rights activists warned about attempts to give Stalin credit for the policies in the 1930s: 
"Thanks to heroic efforts and a total disregard for humanity, our country managed to evolve from a backward agrarian country into a backward industrial one during the Stalin era," Lukin said.
Arseny Roginsky, head of the Memorial rights group, said the least the Russian government can do now is "give a legal appraisal to the crimes of the Soviet regime." Roginsky's group has offered a comprehensive package to help raise public awareness of Stalin's crimes, including suggestions for school curriculums.
Andrei Sorokin, director of the Russian State Archives of Social and Political History, warned that Russia will have no future if it fails to assess its difficult past.
"Russian society has been living in a crisis of public consciousness for the past 25 years," he said.
"Any forward movement or attempts to modernize Russia will fail if we don't work out a consensus on our attitudes toward the Soviet past."
Read the entire article here
By openly favoring a Stalinist style armament program, Vladimir Putin has again shown his total disregard for democratic values. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Angela Merkel and almost half of her cabinet on a kowtowing trip to China

Angela Merkel and her cabinet colleagues are trying to master the old art of  kowtowing  in Beijing.

There was a time when German chancellor Angela Merkel dared to openly criticize China´s communist rulers for the massive human rights violations in their country:
She met with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, at the Chancellery in September 2007. Opinion polls showed that it was a very popular decision. Beijing, however, perceived the chancellor's behavior as a provocation, especially as Merkel had met with the Chinese prime minister a short time earlier, without telling him about her plans. The mood did not improve when she declined to attend the Beijing Olympics in 2008
Read the entire article here
But that was long ago.
Now the only thing that seems to matter for this lady is money and economic interests. Gross human rights  violations and prison camps with thousands of slave laborers are on the back burner when there is a chance to sell more German Mercedes, Audi and BMW luxury cars to newly rich Chinese: 
"Merkel is far more reserved on human rights issues than she used to be," says Eberhard Sandschneider, director of the German Council on Foreign Relations. "She has a new, more pragmatic approach to Beijing. Now she is more likely to be motivated by classic power politics. The days of reprimands are over." 
Read the entire article here

"The theme is business as usual," said Eberhard Sandschneider, director of the German Council on Foreign Relations. "Don't expect much progress in terms of intellectual-property rights from this visit."

While Germany still exports more to the U.S., and far more to the European Union, than to China, the Chinese market has been one of the fastest sources of growth for German companies in recent years, helping to offset weak growth in advanced economies since the global financial crisis.
German exports to China were 206% higher in 2011 than in 2005, compared with only a 24% increase in exports to the rest of the European Union and 6.3% to the U.S., according to German government data.
Merkel is also joining many previous European beggars in Beijing who have tried to excel in the art of kowtowing: 
In fact, Merkel reportedly plans to directly ask China for aid in combating the ongoing euro debt crisis in Europe. Senior government officials say she will bring up the issue of whether the Chinese would like to directly purchase sovereign bonds of Spain and Italy, the two major ailing euro-zone countries, arguing that their high yields makes them an attractive investment.
Read the entire article here
Although both the Germans and the Chinese are going to put a spin on the "results" of the German visit, Merkel will not have very much to take home from Beijing. The Chinese growth is slowing down, and China is not going to bail out the failed euro countries. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Great news: Romney ready to sell F-16 jets to Taiwan if elected

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney´s stand on Taiwan is excellent news and should be welcomed by all people who believe in western democratic values:

In a recent exclusive interview with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper), the Romney campaign’s foreign and national security policy director Alex Wong confirmed the presidential hopeful’s inclination to sell the jets.
He added that while US President Barack Obama’s administration has held back on selling the F-16s to Taiwan, “Governor Romney strongly believes that we should sell Taiwan those air fighters to ensure Taiwan’s ability to defend its democracy.”
Saying selling the fighters to Taiwan would increase jobs in the US while maintaining the US’ security benefits in the Asia-Pacific region, Wong also said this was the primary policy difference separating Romney from Obama.
Romney wishes to maintain the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait and does not recognize the validity of recent calls to abandon Taiwan, Wong said, adding that the US would be standing side by side with its partners in the Asia-Pacific region and work with them to prevent China from engaging in military intimidation of its neighbors.
Romney’s strategy is to encourage China to integrate into the regional and global system led by the US and become a responsible partner, rather than a belligerent power, Wong said.
The development of Asia in the past three decades is incredible and the US wishes for the continuation of regional stability and prosperity, the continuation of free trade, and the development of democracy and human rights, he added.
This is why Romney feels that the US has to maintain a strong military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, so that a rising China would not seek to dominate the region, Wong said.
Read the entire article here

Another casualty of the shale gas revolution: Putin´s pet energy project Shtokman ends in failure

Vladimir Putin´s and Gazprom´s pet project, the Shtokman offshore gas project in the Barents Sea, is the latest casualty of the American shale gas revolution. Putin has failed to keep the project alive despite promising massive additional tax discounts. When there is more than plenty of cheap and clean shale gas available, nobody is interested in bying over-expensive Russian arctic gas. The Shtokman failure is also an enormous blow to Putin´s and his German stooge Gerhard Schröder´s plans to expand the controversial Nord Stream pipeline: 

An official at Russia's top gas producer Gazprom said on Wednesday that the company agreed with partners at Shtokman giant gas enterprise that the project is not feasible for now as the costs are too excessive.

Vsevolod Cherepanov, head of Gazprom's production department, said that Gazprom agreed with France's Total and Norway's Statoil that costs are too high for the project to be implemented at the moment.

"All parties have come to the conclusion that the financing is to high to be able to do it for the time being," he said.

Read the entire article here

Here is some background information, provided by analyst Vladimir Socor:

Initially, the Kremlin and Gazprom had intended to go it alone at Shtokman. President Putin announced (or confirmed) that decision in 2005. One year later, Putin offered to export the lion’s share of Shtokman’s first-phase gas to Germany. At that point, Shtokman was the designated source for the second line of Gazprom’s Nord Stream pipeline to Germany. (That second line’s construction is planned to start during the current year, without a clearly identified supply source for its 27.5 billion-cubic-meter design capacity, even as Nord Stream’s first line of the same capacity is being underutilized). 
The Kremlin soon concluded that development of Shtokman was beyond Gazprom’s means. Gazprom signed a framework agreement with Total and Statoil in 2007 and formed the Shtokman Development AG project company with them in 2008. Departing from the model of production sharing agreements, the Kremlin introduced a special investment vehicle arrangement, reducing its two partners to a status of service contractors in this project. A fully owned subsidiary of Gazprom holds the license to Shtokman resources. Gazprom, Total and Statoil hold stakes of 51 percent, 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, in the Shtokman Development company. The project company’s main task is to build the offshore infrastructure for the first phase of production. Expected to start by 2013, commercial production was to reach 24 bcm per year in the first phase, a staggering 71 bcm annually in the second phase, and potentially 95 bcm per year in a third phase. 
Under those plans, 50 percent of the production volume was to be exported by pipelines (including Nord Stream) to Europe, and another 50 percent in the form liquefied natural gas (LNG) mainly to the United States. Left behind by the LNG revolution, Russia hoped to catch up by acquiring Western technology from its partners in Shtokman. However, the shale gas revolution left Russia behind again. By 2010, with shale gas over-saturating the US market, Shtokman lost that raison d’etre.

Putin´s life of luxury exposed

                      One tiny part of the "Galley Slave´s" wealth: "The Watches of a Kleptocrat"

Vladimir Putin's expensive taste is one of his "most serious reasons for holding on to power," the Solidarity opposition group said in pamphlet released on Tuesday in Moscow.

In a just-released pamphlet co-authored with Solidarity activist Leonid Martynyuk, Mr. Nemtsov claims that President Putin has at his disposal 20 lavish state villas and palaces, four yachts, a fleet of more than 40 aircraft, 15 helicopters, phalanxes of cars, a collection of luxury wristwatches worth about $700,000, and an alleged personal fortune that may amount to billions of dollars.
Though Putin's official salary is just over $100,000 per year, "with a lifestyle like that, it could be compared to that of a Persian Gulf monarch," say the authors of "Life of a Galley Slave" – the title is a riff on a famous Putin quote, in which he declared that he has "toiled like a galley slave, from morning to night" in his public life.
Most of the assets enumerated in the pamphlet are actually state possessions. Like Soviet commissars of the past, Putin has extensive personal access to a vast empire of property and perks that he does not literally own. Putin has repeatedly denied holding a private fortune.
Nine of Putin's state domiciles, including the lavish Konstaninov palace in St. Petersburg, have been constructed recently on his orders. By contrast with Putin's total of 20 official residences, the president of the United States has just two; even the entire British royal family has only eight state-owned residences at its disposal.

Nemtsov and Martynyuk are actually rather polite in their description of Putin´s reason for holding on to power. The real reason is that the criminal dictator, has made himself a lifetime "president" in order to escape prosecution by a future democratic government. 

"Europe´s Green Energy Capital" Scotland - myth and reality

Scotland´s First Minister Alex Salmond appears to live in his own dream world, in which he is the mighty leader of an independent "Europe´s Green Energy Capital"

"Scotland has a target of delivering the equivalent of 100% of domestic electricity demand from renewables"

Our wind and seas hold some of the most concentrated potential not only across the UK and Europe, but in the world – our practical offshore renewables resource has been estimated at 206 GW. By harnessing around a third of this resource, installed offshore renewables capacity could reach 68 GW by 2050 – enough to meet Scotland’s own domestic electricity needs seven times. Around 20 per cent of the electricity generated in Scotland is already exported to the rest of the UK and Scotland can go far beyond this to become the green energy capital of Europe.

Salmond is also fantasizing about support for his energy hallucinations from "major international figures". However, the only one lauding his new energy empire seems to be former vice president Al Gorewho is busy cashing in on the global warming fraud in order to become the first carbon billionaire:  

Climate change campaigner and Nobel Laureate Al Gore praised Scotland’s commitment to renewables when he said: "Scotland has not only provided inspiring leadership, you are exploiting one of the greatest resources anywhere on the planet, with wind onshore and particularly offshore, all sorts of variety of windmills - and the new renewable technologies are especially important". So clearly, major international figures think we have the framework right in Scotland.

When Salmond - hopefully soon - wakes up from his green pipe dream, he has to face the real world

The number of homes north of the Border in “fuel poverty” is expected to have increased rapidly to 800,000 last year – more than a third of the total – thanks to rising energy bills.
If heating and electricity prices continue to spiral at the same rate, the report found that the “median household” in Scotland will find it difficult to afford their bills from this year.
It is projected that middle-class Scots will be spending 12 per cent of their income paying for electricity and heating by 2015, but the Tories warned the SNP’s focus on expensive wind power would make the situation worse.
Although ministers have focused the efforts on helping people on benefits, the study found that more than a third (38 per cent) of those in fuel poverty are middle class or wealthy.
Fuel poverty is defined as a household spending more than 10 per cent of its income on energy bills. The Scottish Government has promised to eradicate the scourge “as far as is reasonably practical” by 2016.
However, the study suggested this is a forlorn hope, noting that energy bills have risen at the six times the rate of household income in recent years. British Gas, which includes Scottish Gas, recently reported profits of £2 million a day.
Alex Johnstone, Scottish Tory housing spokesman, blamed the SNP’s “obsession with renewables”. He said: “The Scottish Government’s policy of pursuing wind generated electricity is causing household energy bills to rise, intensifying the fuel poverty situation across Scotland as a result.”
And it is getting much worse, if Salmond is allowed to continue with his obsession: 

ELECTRICITY bills will rise by at least 58% if the UK Government is to meet its renewable energy target within the next eight years, according to an industry expert.
Sir Donald Miller, who spent a lifetime as an engineer in the power industry, rising to chair both the South of Scotland Electricity Board and ScottishPower, warned the cost to households would increase by that amount if ministers were to meet their tar-get of 30% or more of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020. It would mean the average annual electricity bill of £489 for Scottish homes would go up by £283.62 to more than £773 a year within the next eight years.
The more ambitious Scottish Government target of generating the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020 would mean even greater rises in household bills, he warned. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Chancellor Merkel reprimands Bavarian politicians for telling the truth

Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder: 
"An example must be made of Athens, that this euro zone can show teeth". "Everyone has to leave Mom at some point and that time has come for the Greeks."

Alexander Dobrindt, General secretary of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU):
 "I'm convinced that there is no way to avoid a Greek exit from the euro zone." He added: "I see Greece outside the euro zone in 2013."

The two representatives of the German CSU are of course telling the truth. But in Germany, as well as in most other countries, politicians who dare challenge the "official" truth are not tolerated. Chancellor Angela Merkel - and a great number of other German politicians from left to right - have severely criticized the "heretic" Bavarians

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday reprimanded a politician from her coalition for saying European Central Bank President Mario Draghi was on the way to becoming the "currency forger of Europe" and that a Greek exit from the euro zone was unavoidable.
"We're in a very decisive phase in the fight against the euro debt crisis at the moment," Merkel told public broadcaster ARD on Sunday. "My request: everyone should weigh their words very carefully."
It was a swipe at Alexander Dobrindt, the general secretary of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Dobrindt had told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview published on Sunday: "I'm convinced that there is no way to avoid a Greek exit from the euro zone." He added: "I see Greece outside the euro zone in 2013."
He criticized Draghi's proposal to set an upper limit for bond yields of ailing euro-zone nations, saying it was an attempt to "finance debt countries through the back door" and accusing him of misusing the ECB as a "bucket wheel" to shift "money from the stable north of Europe to the deficit-ridden south."
Dobrindt's CSU is preparing for a regional election in Bavaria and the general election in autumn 2013. He and other senior CSU members as well as politicians around Europe have made provocative remarks on Greece in recent weeks in what political rivals have slammed as cheap populism aimed at winning votes.

Read the entire article here

Sunday, 26 August 2012

French philosopher André Glucksmann: Pursuing a federal European state "is the wrong goal"

Germany´s Der Spiegel has published an interesting interview with the French philosopher André Glucksmann. Glucksmann, who has strongly criticized the West for its tendency to to close its eyes to evil forces in the world, is - rightly - critical of the present European leaders. Particularly Glucksmann singles out Germany´s unilateral energy co-operation with Putin´s Russia, which he considers a threat to Europe.  And he also - rightly - says that a European federal state is the wrong goal: 

SPIEGEL: European countries are also bound by shared cultural aspects. Is there such a thing as a European spirit?
Glucksmann: European nations are not alike, which is why they can't be merged together. What unites them is not a community but a societal model. There is a European civilization and a Western way of thinking.
Glucksmann: Europe was never a national entity, not even in the Christian Middle Ages. Christianity always remained divided -- the Romans, the Greeks and later the Protestants. A European federal state or European confederation is a distant goal that is frozen in the abstraction of the term. I think pursuing it is the wrong goal.
SPIEGEL: Is the European Union chasing after a utopia in both political and historical terms?
Glucksmann: The EU's founding fathers liked to invoke the Carolingian myth, and an EU award was named after Charlemagne. But, after all, his grandchildren divided up his empire. Europe is a unity in its division or a division in its unity. Whichever way you put it, though, it's clearly not a community in terms of religion, language or morals.
SPIEGEL: These days, many people cite the phrase "never another war" as Europe's raison d'être. Does this foundation still hold up now that the specter of war in Europe has dissipated?
Glucksmann: The Balkan wars in the former Yugoslavia and the murderous incendiary actions of the Russians in the Caucasus didn't happen that long ago. The European Union came together to oppose three evils: the memory of Hitler, the Holocaust, racism and extreme nationalism; Soviet communism in the Cold War; and, finally, colonialism, which some countries in the European community had to painfully abandon. These three evils gave rise to a common understanding of democracy, a civilizing central theme of Europe.
SPIEGEL: Is a new, unifying challenge what's missing today?

Glucksmann: It wouldn't be hard to find if Europe didn't act so heedlessly. In the early 1950s, the core of the union was the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the first supranational economic alliance in the area of heavy industry; (it was) Lorraine and the Ruhr area, the ECSC as a means of preventing war. As everyone knows, the counterpart today would be a European energy union. Instead, Germany decided to embark on its transition to renewable energy on its own, ignoring the European dimension. Everyone is negotiating individually with Russia for oil and gas, Germany signed an agreement to build the Baltic Sea pipeline despite the resistance of Poland and Ukraine, and Italy is involved in the South Stream pipeline through the Black Sea.
SPIEGEL: So each country is pursuing its own interests amid changing alliances and bilateral agreements that ignore the spirit of the European Union?
Glucksmann: (This is a) grim example of cacophony because it shows that the member states are no longer willing and able to form a united front against external threats and Europe's challenges in the globalized world. This touches on the nerve of the European civilization project, in which each person is supposed to be able to live for himself, and with which, however, everyone wants to survive together. And it makes things easy for Russia under (President Vladimir) Putin. Despite all the weakness of that giant of natural resources, its capacity to cause damage remains considerable and is something its president likes to use. Recklessness and forgetfulness create the conditions for new catastrophes in both the economy and politics.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that the idea of a European community of fate hasn't really taken hold yet?
Glucksmann: Not in practice. Globalization brings global chaos, and a global police force -- which the United States played for a long time -- no longer exists. The players may not be keen on war, but they don't exactly mean well by one another. Everyone is playing his own game. In this anarchic confusion, Europe has to assert itself and face up to threats offensively. Putin's Russia, which wants to regain parts of what it lost, is a threat. China, a bureaucratic slave state, is a threat. Militant Islamism is a threat. Europe has to learn to think in terms of hostility once again. (German philosopher) Jürgen Habermas, for example, doesn't see this when he says that well-intentioned cosmopolitanism can unite everyone in global citizenship.

Read the entire interview here