Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Monday, July 6, 2015
Do Americans have the right to learn whether a foreign government helped finance the 9/11 attacks? A growing number of congressmen and senators are demanding that a 28-page portion of a 2002 congressional report finally be declassified. The Obama administration appearsto be resisting, and the stakes are huge. What is contained in those pages could radically change Americans' perspective of the War on Terror.
Saturday, July 4, 2015
Thursday, July 2, 2015
In a speech last Friday, Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not accept a move by Syrian Kurds to set up their own state in Syria following gains by Kurdish fighters against the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in recent weeks. “I am saying this to the whole world: We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.” He accused Syrian Kurds of ethnic cleansing in Syrian areas under their control.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Monday, June 29, 2015
Sunday, June 28, 2015
the entire package of trade bills, including the "fast-track" trade authority that will allow unamendable treaties to be signed for the next 6 years, passed Congress in pretty much the manner we speculated they would when we discussed them last week...on Tuesday, 13 Democrats teamed with 47 Republicans to cut off debate on the stand alone fast track bill that had passed the House on Thursday of last week, which precluded any filibuster and made way for final passage of the same bill on Wednesday by a 60 to 38 vote...at the same time they passed a renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) paired with Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for displaced workers by a voice vote after it had earlier passed a cloture vote by a 76-22 count...then that same TAA bill, which had been defeated in the House by a 302 to 126 vote two weeks ago, passed the House by a 286-138 vote after Democratic leader Pelosi withdrew her opposition to it since the House Democrats no longer had anything to gain from holding it back...
with Trade Promotion Authority now in place, we'll probably see easy passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US, Japan, and the other Pacific rim countries later this year, probably followed by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union, and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) with a total of 51 countries worldwide, maybe sometime in 2016...after that, what the corporations cook up and push through during the first term of the Jeb Bush administration should bring the entire planet under the corporate-written rules, which will trump the laws of the signatory nations...my most recent rant about these trade deals is here; there's no point in warning about them again, now that they've been given the green light....in terms of how these deals will affect the fracking that is the concern of this group, the first two of these agreements will effectively mandate exports of our oil and gas resources to the signatory nations and therefore the initial signings will unleash a new torrent of oil & gas fracking activity to meet that demand, as US producers ramp up production to take advantage of higher gas and oil prices overseas; subsequently, those exports will reduce our domestic supply and correspondingly drive US energy prices up to the levels of the rest of the world...for example, as of the end of this week, import prices of LNG in Japan were $12.13 mmBTU, while the contract US natural gas price was $2.77 mmBTU; with the trade deal between the two in place, US producers will export to Japan rather than sell to US customers until those prices, allowing for processing and shipping costs, nearly equalize...
in the current oil & gas patch news, the past week saw the first increase since December 5th in the total number of rigs operating in the US, even though the number of oil rigs in service fell for the 29th week in a row...the rig count as reported by Baker Hughes increased by 2 to 859 rigs after dropping by 2 last week, with oil rigs down by 3 to 628 while gas rigs were up by 5 to 228 and miscellaneous rigs were unchanged at 3; those counts were down from 1558 oil rigs and 334 gas rigs a year ago, while the miscellaneous rig count rose from 1 a year ago...even with the increase, the week still saw a shift away from costly horizontal drilling, as rigs working in the major shale plays fell by 10, with the horizontal rig total falling by 8 to 654, while 7 vertical and 3 directional rigs were added, bringing the count of those types of rigs up to 107 and 98 respectively..land based rigs fell by 1 to 824, while 2 rigs were added on inland waters and one drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico was reactivated...
the increase in rigs was concentrated in Louisiana, where drillers added 6 rigs, including the 3 on water, to bring the state total to 75; while 2 rigs were added in Mississippi, which now has 3...single rigs were also added in West Virginia, which now has 20 working, Alaska, which now has 10, and New Mexico, where 44 rigs are operating...meanwhile, drillers in Ohio shut down 3 rigs, leaving 17 running, as did drillers in North Dakota, where 74 remain...two more rigs were also stacked in Texas, where they still have 361, but which is down from 889 a year ago, and a single rig was shut down in Illinois, which is back down to 2....these changes cut the rigs in the Utica shale by 3 to 19, down from 43 a year ago, reduced the Bakken shale rigs by 3 to 74, down from 178 last year, cut the Permian basin rigs by 2 to 231, down from 554, cut the Mississippian rigs by 2 to 20, down from 77 a year ago, reduced the Granite Wash rigs by 2 to 14, down from 72 a year ago, and cut one each from the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale plays, bringing the count in those basins down to 5 and 103 respectively, down from 25 and 214 respectively a year ago...meanwhile, single rigs were added in the Haynesville shale of Louisiana, where they now have 27, down from 41 a year ago, in the Marcellus, which now has 65, vs 82 a year ago, and in the Cana Woodford of Oklahoma, where they now have 33, up from 26 a year ago, as two of the three Woodford shale plays are the only basins that have seen a year over year increases in drilling rigs...
since we haven't looked at a picture of the historical track of the oil rig count in quite a while, we'll include a current version below, which comes from Friday's article on this week's rig count at the Business Insider...you'll note that the US oil rig count was below 200 for more than 3 years until horizontal drilling & fracking started taking off in 2005, and subsequently rose to over 400 in late 2008 before the recession hit, at which time oil crashed to $35 a barrel and more than half of the rigs running then were stacked...the oil rig count then began rising again in 2009 to top 1400 in 2012 and then moved up gradually until it peaked at 1609 on October 10th of last year...as you can see, it's been all downhill from there...now we're nearly at a 5 year low; we'd have to go back to August 6, 2010 to find a week when less rigs were running than the 628 that were working on June 26th of this year...(btw, natural gas rigs peaked at 1,606 on August 29, 2008, after natural gas prices spiked to over $13 mmBTU, but i haven't seen a chart for that rig count crash)
meanwhile, US field production of crude oil rose during the third week in June to an average of 9,604,000 barrels per day, up from 9,589,000 barrels a day last week but short of the record pace of 9,610,000 barrels per day we saw in the first week of June; however, that was still 13.7% higher than the 8,446 ,000 barrel per day of field crude production seen in the third week of June last year...meanwhile our imports of crude oil fell by 302,000 barrels per day to 6,623,000 barrels a day in this report, after rising 444,000 barrels per day last week; while that's down 7.8% from the same week last year, weekly crude imports are so volatile that we check the weekly Petroleum Status Report (62 pp pdf) for the 4 week average, which at an average of roughly 7,000,000 barrels a day, leaves our imports 3.5% below the same 4 week period last year...with US refineries operating at a summertime 94.0% of capacity last week, gasoline production rose by 283,000 barrels per day to 9,934,000 barrels per day and our inventories of crude oil (excluding the strategic reserve) dropped for the 8th week in a row, falling by 4,934,000 barrels and leaving ending stocks 1.1% lower at 462,993,000 barrels as of June 19th; however, that's still 19.3% more oil than we had stored in the same week a year ago, and still near levels not seen at this time of year in at least the past 80 years...and as those inventories of crude are being drawn down, inventories of refined products are rising...in this most recent week, total motor gasoline inventories increased by 0.7 million barrels and are near the top of their normal range, distillate fuel inventories increased by 1.8 million barrels and are near their seasonal average and propane/propylene inventories rose 1.3 million barrels last week and are well above the upper limit of their average range..
(see more news links here)
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
US military admits it carried out secret race-based experiments to test impact of mustard gas on US soldiers
Up to 60,000 men were enlisted for a programme, declassified in 1993, to test mustard gas and other chemicals agents on US troops.
But National Public Radio reported that the Pentagon has for the first time admitted that it grouped its test subjects by race as it believed African American and Puerto Rican US troops might respond to the poisonous gas different to white soldiers.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
it appears that the international corporate trade deals are moving forward again, after last week's setback...initially, Boehner's planned Tuesday re-vote on the defeated trade adjustment assistance (TAA) bill was abandoned after consulting with Obama, and plans at midweek were to postpone the House vote on the issue for 6 weeks, so as to coincide with the July 30th expiration of the Highway Trust Fund authorization...that's because in helping defeat the TAA on Friday, Pelosi never said that she intended to stop TPA (trade promotion authority, aka "fast track"), but rather slow it down, and gave indications that Democrats would be willing to allow fast track on trade in exchange for a long term highway funding bill...however, on Thursday, when the national news media was preoccupied with coverage of the Charleston church shooting, the House took a vote on a stand alone version of TPA, which the House Rules Committee had attached to H.R.2146, an uncontroversial police and firemen retirement bill the night before...with 28 Democrats joining all but 50 Republicans, that fast track bill was passed by a 218 to 208 margin and sent to the Senate..
now, as you'll recall, the Senate defeated just such a stand-alone fast track bill a bit over a month ago, and then turned around and passed it when the TAA, a displaced worker assistance bill, which Republicans tended to oppose, was coupled with it...so now, for this House fast track bill to pass the Senate, at least a handful of the Senate Democrats who originally voted against a stand alone TPA will have to switch their votes to for it, and to do that they must be convinced that the TAA bill that they wanted will pass separately....there are at least two ploys being discussed to achieve that; one would be to link TAA with the bill extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for 10 years; the AGOA, first passed 15 years ago, allows favored African exports, such as clothing and textiles, to enter the US mostly duty-free, and it is usually renewed with broad bi-partisan support...another possibility would be to couple TAA with a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which finances and insures foreign purchases of US goods, many from Democratic states, and which the Republicans have blocked up until now...presumably, if one or both of these carrots could be dangled in front of the Democrats, enough of them would snap at that lure such that both the House passed stand alone TPA and a TAA bill combined with one of these other trade bills could pass the Senate...then, the TAA bill, with whatever it's attached to, would have to go back to the House for a vote, where it is assumed that a bill with mostly Democrat party initiatives could pass easily, assuming Boehner's co-operation...
within hours of the House passage of the TPA bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a cloture motion on it, meaning it could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday...however, it's questionable whether Democrats would switch their votes merely on an assurance from McConnell and Boehner that the bargain chip TAA would be allowed to pass; the trustworthiness is just not there...for instance, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell voted for fast track earlier based on a promise that the Senate would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, providing financing needed for foreign Boeing jet purchases; that hasnt happened, and it could thus be a case of "once burnt, twice shy" for Senators who would otherwise allow themselves to be compromised...so we can hope that there is at least enough bad blood among our congresscritters to at least slow this thing down...nonetheless, now that Obama has opportunistically switched parties and has become a Republican, it appears that with a majority of his party in both houses he should eventually be able to push his corporatocratic agenda through...from there, we're probably less than a year away from ramping up exports of our oil and gas to the 11 other countries on the Pacific rim that will be signatories to the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and then to the rest of the world, as soon as similar treaties can be signed with them...
meanwhile, the ongoing reduction in working drilling rigs nearly stalled this week, as the rig count as reported by Baker Hughes was only down by 2 to 857, with oil rigs down 4 to 631, gas rigs up 2 to 223, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at 3...that's still an unprecedented 28 straight weeks of less drilling each week than the one before it, but we wouldn't be surprised if that reverses itself soon and drillers begin to add more rigs than they idle, especially if oil prices rise or even stay as stable as they have been...contract US oil prices were within 50 cents of $60 a barrel this week, and they've generally been within a few bucks of that price since mid-April, so the incentives to start or stop drilling haven't changed much recently, and we'd think that all of the rigs that were working plays that were unprofitable at $60 should have been shut down by now...the 857 rigs that were running this week is now down by 1001 from a year ago, and 914 of those shutdowns were in the oil patch..
on net, there was one less horizontal rig and one less vertical rig in operation in the US this week than last, leaving 662 horizontal, 100 vertical, and 95 directional rigs running at week end, down from 1250 horizontal, 380 vertical, and 228 directional rigs that were in operation a year earlier...two oil rigs working offshore in the Gulf were idled this week; that left 825 land based, 27 offshore, and 5 rigs on inland waters remaining, which was down from 1784 land based, 59 offshore rigs, and 15 rigs on inland waters a year ago...north of the border, Canadian drillers added 9 rigs, all land based, with their oil rigs up 6 to 74 and their gas rigs up 3 to 62.
five states saw rig reductions this week; Louisiana was down by 2 offshore to a total of 69, New Mexico, down was by 2 to 43, Oklahoma was down by 2 to 105, Wyoming was down 1 to 21 and Ohio was down 1 to 20...on the other hand, drillers in Utah added 2 to bring their total to 8, and 4 states added one each: Alaska, now at 10, Illinois now at 3, North Dakota now with 77, and Pennsylvania with 47...rig counts in all other states, including Texas, were unchanged, but that doesn't mean they were stagnant; based on the counts from the districts, Texas saw at a minimum 5 rigs shut down, and 5 rigs started elsewhere in the state...
there were also only modest decreases in our oil output and stocks this week as well...US field production of crude oil slipped by 21,000 barrels per day from the record output of last week to an average of 9,589,000 barrels per day during the week ending June 12th; however, that's still 13.8% above the 8,428,000 barrels per day output we saw during the second week of June a year ago...our oil stocks fell too, as they normally do at this time of year...our inventories of crude oil in storage were lower for the 7th consecutive week, falling by 2,676,000 barrels to 467,927,000 barrels; but again, that's still 21.1% higher than the 386,348,000 barrels we had stored a year ago, and the highest stocks ever for the 2nd week of June in over 80 years of EIA record keeping...meanwhile, with US refineries still running at 93.1% of their operable capacity, our crude oil imports rose by 444,000 barrels per day, or 6.7%, from an average of 6,623,000 barrels a day last week to 7,067,000 barrels per day in this report....that's still below last year's pace, though; according to the weekly Petroleum Status Report (62 pp pdf), our crude oil imports averaged 6.9 million barrels per day over the last 4 weeks, which is now per 5.3% below the same four-week period of last year....
(the above was crossposted from Focus on Fracking, where you’ll also find links to dozens of other oil patch stories)