Archive for ‘Resource wars’

February 3, 2015

The shifting world system

Here is a very interesting piece by World Systems Theory guru Immanuel Wallerstein on Putin’s politics in a multi-polar world.

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April 24, 2014

Some links on Ukraine

 

Ukraine oil pipelines

China/Russia pipelines: Reuters on the fossil fuel geopolitics behind the Ukraine conflict

MOSCOW/BEIJING, April 23 (Reuters) – Europe’s plans to reduce its dependence on Russian energy as the Ukraine crisis threatens supplies are spurring efforts by Russia’s top producer, Gazprom, to sign a deal next month to pump gas to China, industry sources say.

The elusive deal, slated to be signed next month when Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit China and seen as vital if Russia is to be a big player in Asian gas markets, would wrap up a decade of talks in which price has been the main obstacle.

“Judging by the speed of work which is under way in Gazprom, I would say that the possibility that the deal would be signed is 98 percent,” a Gazprom source said, adding agreement on what China would pay for the gas was close. [READ THE REST.]

Cutting off Ukraine: The FT on Russia’s risk of killing its golden goose

Arseniy Yatseniuk, Ukraine’s beleaguered premier, claims his country is facing not just military aggression from neighbouring Russia, but “another kind of aggression – aggression through its gas supplies”.

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine is all too real. President Vladimir Putin admitted last week that gunmen who helped Moscow annex Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea last month were Russian. Few western leaders doubt that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine also include Russian soldiers.

Yet while it is difficult to disentangle the gas dispute from the geopolitical crisis, the accusation of “energy aggression” by Russia and its natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, is less clear cut.

By cutting off gas to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009 amid pricing disputes, Gazprom has hardly endeared itself to Kiev, or to European customers further west – which experienced disruptions to Russian supplies through the massive transit pipelines that run across Ukraine.

Now, paradoxically, Russia seems to be putting maximum pressure on its neighbour’s struggling government, while doing its best to avoid cutting off supplies. [READ THE REST]

Send a message to Putin: WSJ on why a trans-Atlantic energy partnership makes geostrategic sense

Energy has always been central to creating a trade and investment bloc through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If a TTIP agreement can reduce wide differences in energy prices between Europe and the U.S., Europeans will pay less for energy, while American energy producers will finally be able to profit from the recent energy boom by selling at competitive market prices. Trying to artificially hold down prices has heavy costs for domestic producers, encourages consumption, and dampens energy production over…  [READ THE REST]

August 26, 2011

Free Libya

Juan Cole explores ten myths about the Libya war. The tenth myth is that the war was all about oil. Here’s Cole’s response:

That is daft. Libya was already integrated into the international oil markets, and had done billions of deals with BP, ENI, etc., etc. None of those companies would have wanted to endanger their contracts by getting rid of the ruler who had signed them. They had often already had the trauma of having to compete for post-war Iraqi contracts, a process in which many did less well than they would have liked. ENI’s profits were hurt by the Libyan revolution, as were those of Total SA. andRepsol. Moreover, taking Libyan oil off the market through a NATO military intervention could have been foreseen to put up oil prices, which no Western elected leader would have wanted to see, especially Barack Obama, with the danger that a spike in energy prices could prolong the economic doldrums. An economic argument for imperialism is fine if it makes sense, but this one does not, and there is no good evidence for it (that Qaddafi was erratic is not enough), and is therefore just a conspiracy theory.

April 13, 2011

Blood in the mobile

The Danish Documentary Blood in the Mobile shows the connection between mobile phones and the civil war in Congo. Director Frank Poulsen travels to DR Congo to see the illegal mine industry with his own eyes. He gets access to Congo’s largest tin-mine, which is being controlled by different armed groups, and where children work for days in narrow mine tunnels to dig out the minerals that end up in our phones.

Via Hope/Glory.

March 28, 2011

Real imperialism – the new power cartography remaps Africa

Modernity writes:

Stealing land is not new, but this particular fashion of buying up chunks of African land can only be called imperialism, the Guardian reports:

“Gambella has offered investors 1.1 million hectares, nearly a quarter of its best farmland, and 896 companies have come to the region in the last three years. They range from Saudi billionaire Al Amoudi, who is constructing a 20-mile canal to irrigate 10,000 hectares to grow rice, to Ethiopian businessmen who have plots of less than 200 hectares.

This month the concessions are being worked at a breakneck pace, with giant tractors and heavy machinery clearing trees, draining swamps and ploughing the land in time to catch the next growing season.

Forests across hundreds of square km are being clear-felled and burned to the dismay of locals and environmentalists concerned about the fate of the region’s rich wildlife.

Local government officers have denied claims that people are being forcibly moved to make way for foreign companies.[…]

Ashwin Parulkar writes:

Al Amoudi is not alone in seeing the vast Ethiopian plains as cheap, fertile property ripe for investment. During the past six years, as global food and oil price increases made it more expensive to import food, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states began investing in earnest in Ethiopia and Sudan—in excess of $75 billion from 2005 to 2009, according to the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development. The largest land investor among the Gulf States, the United Arab Emirates, now controls over 1,100 square miles of farmland in Sudan.

India has also emerged as a major player in African agriculture. Last year, Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture, Tefera Deribew, visited India to announce his government’s intention to offer 4.4 million acres of farmland to Indian agro-enterprises. According to the government of India, the country’s private sector has already invested more than $4 billion in farmland located in other countries. The first to do so in Ethiopia was Karuturi Global, an Indian-based agri-business known primarily for producing cut roses. In 2010, it acquired a lease for 740,000 acres in Gambella to farm wheat, maize, and rice. Groups of Punjabi farmers are currently negotiating a deal with the Ethiopian government to lease 250,000 acres at astonishingly low rates—$3.60 per acre per year, for 25 to 40 years, with the first five years rent-free.

These deals are part of a land grab taking place all across Africa, a transfer of control unprecedented in the post-colonial era. According to a World Bank report released in January, 48 percent of all land deals struck worldwide between October 2008 and August 2009 involved land in sub-Saharan African countries.

The pace of acquisitions has been stunning. September, a World Bank report revealed that in 2009, some 111 million acres of farmland was acquired globally by foreign investors—nearly 75 percent of it in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to 2008, foreign investors only acquired an average of 10 million acres per year.

India’s minister of commerce has said:

“While the current volume of India-Africa trade stands at $45 billion, we have set a target of $70 billion for 2015. I am confident we will achieve that,” he added.

Modernity continues:

The Torygraph reported on this phenomena in 2009:

“Indian farming companies have bought hundreds of thousands of hectares in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique, where they are growing rice, sugar cane, maize and lentils for their own domestic market back in India.

Its government has given soft loans as aid to support the overseas ventures in what has been described as a challenge to China and Saudi Arabia in the new scramble for Africa. China, South Korea, and a several Arab countries have led the way in creating new African mega-farms to outsource domestic food production and use cheaper labour.

Critics have described the development as modern “piracy” and “land grabbing” from countries that have in the past been blighted by famine and severe food shortages.

South Korea has bought just under 700,000 hectares in Sudan, while Saudi Arabia has signed a deal for 500,000 hectares in Tanzania.”

Among the drivers for the new scramble for Africa are food commodity price rises and the related economics of monoculture agribusiness around foods like palm oil, which is an increasingly ubiquitous ingredient in the world’s diet, despite the ecological devastation it causes. Here’s The Ecologist reporting on one example:

Indonesia’s move to bring in a two-year moratorium on new palm oil plantations to protect its remaining rainforests has seen agribusiness giants like Sime Darby switch expansion plans to Cameroon, Ghana and Liberia

The sudden upsurge in land deals by palm oil companies in Africa could lead to large-scale deforestation and loss of farmland by local communities, NGOs and environmental groups in Africa have told the Ecologist.

The world’s largest palm oil producer Indonesia is due to implement a two-year ban on granting new concessions of land to plantation companies in forest areas. There are also restrictions on the availability of land in Malaysia. This has led companies like Sime Darby, which has more than half a million hectares of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia, to look elsewhere.

Sime Darby – reported to be the largest palm oil producer in the world – has leased 220,000 hectares of land in Liberia and is considering buying a further 300,000 hectares for palm oil plantations in Cameroon. Despite the Indonesian ban, it still wants to acquire 1 million hectares of plantation land worldwide by 2015. Other rival palm oil giants like Sinar Mar, Olam International and Wilmar International are also tying up land deals in Liberia, Gabon and Ghana.

Another driver is the massive growing biofuel market. Here’s an example from Kenya:

An Italian company has asked the authorities for permission to lease 50,000 hectares there to grow jatropha, whose seeds are rich in oil that can be turned into bio-diesel.

This plant, originally from South America, has long been grown in Africa as a hedge to keep out animals – goats stay well away as it is poisonous. The area affected is community land which is being held in trust by the local council.

Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd is 100%-owned by the Milan-based Nuove Iniziative Industriali SRL. It has leased almost a million hectares in Africa; jatropha oil from a plantation in Senegal is being supplied to the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea. Other companies have leased land for the same purpose in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ghana, as well as in India.

March 16, 2011

Libya and the politics of oil

Gene, in an aptly titled post ,”The anti-imperialism of boneheads“, writes:

At his 21stcenturymanifesto blog, the Communist Party of Britain’s Nick Wright has posted this devastating graphic argument against a no-fly zone in Libya.

A classic example of boneheaded anti-imperialism in purest form: Companies like BP lust after Libyan oil; therefore they must be pushing to overthrow the government which is supposedly blocking their access to it.

In fact, reports BloggingStocks:

The political turmoil in Libya must be chilling for BP as it could bring into limbo the future of the $900 million exploration and production agreement BP had signed with the Libya’s National Oil Company in 2007. The deal was BP’s single biggest exploration commitment at that time and gave BP the rights to explore 21,000 square miles onshore and offshore of Libya.

That is to say: the last damn thing BP wanted was a rebellion against a regime with which it signed a $900 million deal. And now that the rebellion is underway, the last damn thing BP wants is for it to succeed.

It would be bad for business.

January 10, 2011

Essential reading on world affairs

Rising powers: China’s hard and soft power

Robert Gates Clarifies China’s Stealth Capabilities

The newest big oil company: China?

Global food crisis: feeding rebellion

Frontline Tunisia

Governments Around the World Struggle with Surging Food Prices

11 dead in Tunisia rioting

Unrest spreads to Algeria

Big oil and corporate corruption

Climate Change Skeptics are Stooges for Big Oil

Big oil’s intriguing resurgence

2011: The Arctic vs Big Oil

Big Gas Find Sparks a Frenzy in Israel

China remains world’s biggest car producer and market for second year

Blood for oil: Saudi’s hard power

Saudi Arabia’s Terror: What Hillary Clinton Knows

Saudi Arabia: Taliban Lite (With U.S. Complicity)

ANALYSIS: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

Labour on the march

Israel port strike settled as workers win 6% pay increase, big gains for new workers, more vacation and sick days

Alta Gracia, Dominica: How One Tiny Factory Is Challenging the Sweatshop Norm

Workers strike in UAE after labour riot

The bosses strike back

Labor lawyer imprisoned in Xi’an for organizing against corrupt privatization of state enterprises

Kraft Foods Employee In Colombia Killed By Gunman, Says Union

Recent worker deaths in the Bangladeshi garment industry from police repression and from a factory fire

And even under “actually existing socialism”, the workers are fucked over

Cubans fret as massive job cuts get under way

Venezuela: Fifty-one year-old welder and leader of Sintraferrominera ironworkers union, has spent over a year in prison

December 4, 2010

Blood for oil

Human rights groups have been critical of Chin...

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Christopher Hitchens, in a recent interview, said the following: “Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, anywhere that the concept of human rights doesn’t exist, it’s always the Chinese at backstop. And always for reasons that you could write down in three words: blood for oil.”

In today’s world, the neo-conservatives talk the talk of human rights and democracy, but fail to take on the big offenders, while liberals have a selective standard that highlights Israel but ignores Zimbabwe. Britain’s new rulers actively appease Chinese totalitarianism; Obama vacillates and tries to please everyone; human rights organisations are compromised by their support for Jihadi terrorists; and the Wikileaks revelations show the extent to which American interests are entangled with those of the Gulf oil robber-barons.

In this post, I am highlighting just a few of the human rights issues from around the world, that seem to fall beneath the radar of the liberal conscience.

One of the most neglected of conflicts is the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, 35 years old and displacing a whole people into refugee camps in the desert. Unlike Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, there are no proposals for boycott, divestment or sanctions against the Moroccan state, which unlike the Israeli state is an absolute monarchy. This post examines liberal complacency about this outrage.

This post focuses on a more well-known conflict situation, Darfur in Sudan, but focuses on a neglected aspect of it: China’s role in fuelling the conflict. The blogger links to a Reuters article which shows China’s obstruction of the UN’s attempts to dis-arm the conflict, obstruction motivated by the fact that China is breaching the arms embargo, arming the massacres. The blogger rightly comments:

The craven nature of Western powers complying with, or not wishing to offend their most beloved trading partners, China is shameful, but not unexpected. As with David Cameron’s trip, Western leaders will occasionally raise, very carefully, a few questions about human rights in China. But it is all for the benefit of the media and “face”.

Western leaders won’t let the inconvenient issue of human rights get in the way of doing lucrative contracts with China. Business comes first in the West, that’s how they see it, and it is the Darfurians and Tibetans that lose out as a result.

The post also links to Eric Reeves, who highlights the failure of the Obama administration to make a difference.

The human rights situation in Burma is also much on the public mind in the West, with the recent release of Aung San Suu Ki, but again not the role of big business in general and Chinese capitalism ion particular in sustaining it. Modernity reports (via the Sydney Morning Herald) that:

According to Mizzima (a dissident Burmese newsagency based in India), from 1988 to early 2009, Burma attracted foreign investments worth $US15 billion. According to Irrawady, another dissident newsagency, it sharply fell in 2009-10 to $US315 million. But in 2010-11, the Burmese junta expects foreign investors will commit to projects worth about $US16 billion (mostly in oil and gas, and electricity generation). China and Thailand continue to be the biggest investors followed by the UK (about $US2 billion) and Singapore.

More than 30 companies from Australia, China, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are now engaged in oil and gas exploration and production. Mining, manufacturing and tourism are also attracting investment. The number of tourists visiting Burma is also on the rise. In past five years, Burma’s economy grew an average by about 6.5 to 7 per cent.

Burma has China to thank for providing a model of economic development. China’s massive economic growth has been a potent force counteracting the dissemination of such democratic values as rule of law, freedom of speech and independent judiciary.

To repeat Hitchens’ point: blood for oil.

China is also involved good old-fashioned military aggression from Burmese soil, the kind of gunboat geopolitics that used to be called imperialism, but for some reason that term these days seems only to be used for the actions of the fading Western powers.

Burma has allowed China to build naval and electronic reconnaissance facilities on its Great Coco Island (18 kilometres from India’s major naval and satellite launching facilities in Nicobar Islands). Burma’s ports offer China’s emerging blue water navy a multi-directional access to both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.

Blood for oil, too, although rather less dramatically, in Ghana.

The discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities at the West Cape Three Points in the Western Region of Ghana in 2007 has triggered the high cost of liv ing in Sekondi-Takoradi and its immediate environs in recent times.

Since the oil-find 3 years ago, the cost of living in Sekondi-Tako radi and surrounding communi ties has been on the ascendancy. The discovery of oil has brought in its wake an upward review of prices of all items, goods and services being pro vided in the city.

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June 7, 2010

News and analysis: mostly about oil

Birds killed as a result of oil from the Exxon...

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In this edition, the BP oil spill and some more oil  spills, BP strike-breaking in Colombia, Tata in India, the Eurozone crisis, India’s gap between rich and poor and the crisis of consumerism.

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May 19, 2010

Global news and analysis

In this issue: the bailout, the Greek uprising, the Louisiana oil spill, the oil lobby, Chinese interests in the Middle East, and the age of peak everything.

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