News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Corrupt China coal official had $33 million in cash stashed in one of his apartments, faces bribery trial, ongoing 'crackdown on corruption in China energy sector,' hundreds of officials have fled abroad-SCMP. China has sentenced 13,000 officials for bribery so far in 2014. Many suicides among party officials -BBC

10/31/14, "Corrupt coal official had 200 million yuan [$33 million US] in cash stashed at home, prosecutors say," South China Morning Post, Andrea Chen

"Investigators have found more than 200 million yuan (HK$252 million) [$33 million US] in local and foreign currency at the home of an energy official – a record haul of corrupt cash since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, prosecutors said on Friday.

It confirms media reports from earlier this year that Wei Pengyuan, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission’s (NDRC) coal department, had been put under investigation amid the sweeping crackdown on  

corruption in the country’s energy sector.

Wei was found to have bought several apartments and used one of them to store the huge pile of cash, according to media reports. Investigators had to use16 cash-counting machines to record the haul, and four of the machines broke down under the excessive workload, Caixin, a mainland financial magazine, reported.

“It marks the largest amount of money in cash we have seized from a corrupt official during a single operation since 1949”, said Xu Jinhui, an official from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate who oversees the handing of graft cases....

Wei was one of 11 officials facing trial on bribery charges laid down by the NDRC, the powerful economic policy planning agency, Xu said. Six of the corrupt officials had accepted more 60 million yuan in bribes each.

Other sacked officials from the commission include its former deputy chief Liu Tienan, who stood trial for having allegedly taken 36 million yuan in bribes.

“They are in charge of both policy making and the approval of development projects. In other words, 

they decide how much profit an enterprise can make,” Xu said.

As the price of coal surges, the NDRC’s coal department that issues licences for mines 

becomes a high-risk area for corruption
The top procuratorate had played a more active role in the country’s anti-corruption drive this year, Xu added. It has charged 35,633 officials with bribery in the first nine months this year, a 5.6 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. Eight in 10 cases involve bribes of more than 50,000 yuan or embezzlement of over 100,000 yuan.

The procuratorate has also joined the hunt for corrupt officials who have fled abroad, which has seen 502 of them tracked down between January and September."


10/31/14, "China corruption: Record cash find in official's home," BBC

"Anti-corruption investigators in China have confirmed the reported seizure of the equivalent of $33m in cash at an official's home in May - the biggest such haul to date.

More than 200m yuan (£20m) [$33 million US] were found and four out of 16 counting machines broke whilst measuring the notes, a prosecutor said.

Senior energy official Wei Pengyuan is under investigation for corruption. President Xi Jinping has promised to tackle corruption in China.

The massive haul, first reported in the Chinese press in May, was confirmed at a news conference by top anti-bribery prosecutor Xu Jinhui.

Mr Wei, who is the deputy chief of the National Energy Administration's coal department, was put under investigation in May for allegedly accepting bribes following the discovery of the hidden cash.

China has sentenced more than 13,000 officials found guilty of corruption and bribery in the first nine months of 2014 alone.

President Xi warned that his campaign against corruption would target both "tigers" and "flies", indicating that no-one, even senior party members, was exempt from the crackdown.

Since he came to power, some of China's biggest political heavyweights, including the vice-chairman of China's parliament and the former security chief have been targeted by the anti-corruption campaign.

Experts have even suggested that the proportionately high number of suicides among party officials is down to the pressure from the battle against corruption."

Image above from BBC


BBC: "From other news sites:"

"Investor's Business Daily Chinese official allegedly hides $33M in bribes 49 mins ago


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sea ice extent prevented Northwest Passage from opening to commercial vessels in 2014 for first time in 5 years, lower temperatures

10/28/14, "Northern Sea Route Transit Applications Hit Record High in 2014,", by Mike Schuler

"The Northern Sea Route of the Northeast Passage saw a record number of applications for permits to sail the famed arctic route in 2014, while sea ice extent prevented the Northwest Passage from opening up for the first time in five years, according to new data from Weathernews Inc.’s Global Ice Center.

In their annual 2014 report, Weathernews notes that this year the Northeast Passage fully opened in late August and stayed open for six weeks until closing October 1. Russia’s Northern Sea Route Administration (NSRA) received over six hundred applications for permission to transit the Northeastern passage – or part of it – this year, the most on record, according to the report.

The lowest area of ice observed by the Global Ice Center (GIC) this summer was 4.8 million km2, which is the sixth smallest area in recorded history, but different trends were observed when comparing the Northeast Passage above Russia to the Northwest Passage above Canada.

According to the report, ice in the Northeast Passage began to melt away starting in late May, and the NSR was opened fully from August 21 to October 1. On the Canadian side, however, the Northwest Passage remained partially blocked by ice, preventing its opening to commercial vessels for the first time in five years, the report says. According to Dr. Genki Sagawa of the Global Ice Center, this was caused by lower temperatures and few low-pressure systems that help ice to break up.

The possibility of commercial use of the Northern Sea Routed emerged in 2005 when the passage opened fully for the first time, the GIC report says, followed by the first commercial voyages in 2009. Although ice extent followed a trend of recession until reaching the lowest ice coverage ever observed for more than two months in 2012, the following year saw a shorter opening period at a little more than three weeks.

The number of days the NSR stays open can vary greatly from year to year, so the GIC has been keeping a close watch on Arctic ice trends,” said Dr. Sagawa. “Even after the opening closes, it has still been possible in recent years to transit the route with ice-breaker escorts until about November. Since a lot of ice starts to appear along the route about this time, finely detailed information concerning sea ice and weather conditions become critical in order to safely sail the NSR.”

Weathernews says that the increase in applications to transit to the NSR is a good indication of the commercial shipping industries’ eagerness to reduce operating costs by sailing the NSR." via Free Rep.

Image: "Comparison of lowest recorded ice extent of 2014 and current conditions. NSR route is seen on the left. Image credit: Weathernews"


Added: Global Ice Center provides a network for maritime companies and academia. (I wasn't able to access 2014 report cited above so I include this for reference):

About Global Ice Center:

"The Global Ice Center is the “field” for maritime companies and academia to work together to achieve the dream of Polar Routing and to provide innovative service for ship safety concerning sea ice. For the innovative service, the Global Ice Center reinforces the network between maritime companies ship operations and academia by using innovative technology."

Arctic Sea Ice Extent, 10/29/14, close to 1979-2010 mean per NSIDC, click "Daily" tab:

10/29/14, Arctic Sea Ice Extent, NSIDC,  turquoise line: 


10/27/14, "Global Warming Related Sea Ice Decline Linked to Colder Winters in Europe, Asia," Climate Central, Andrea Thompson, via

"In the past decade or so, frigid winters have been happening with a regularity that defies the projections of climate models, 

which said that winter would be the fastest-warming season."...


10/24/14, "The Northwest Passage was finally successfully traversed in 1906 (Some give credit to Robert McClure in 1854, but his success, in my opinion, is dubious at best.)"... 


In 2012 alone $1 billion a day was spent on the idea of man caused global warming. 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The women of Kobani fight ISIS alone and with constant obstruction of Turkey-NY Times Op-ed (Billionaire Mike Bloomberg might win the Nobel Prize he seeks if he helped Kobani's fighting women instead of Turkey's billionaires).

"“Turkey is a great example, and it can be translated to other countries,” Mr. Bloomberg told his breakfast companions. And who knows, he joked, his philanthropy may even win him a Nobel Prize."
10/28/14, "A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone," NY Times Op-ed, by Meysa Abdooct, a Syrian Kurd woman commander

"Turkey's Obstruction of Kobani's Battle Against ISIS." 

"Since Sept. 15, we, the people of the Syrian town of Kobani, have been fighting, outnumbered and outgunned, against an all-out assault by the army of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Yet despite a campaign that has intensified in the past month, including the deployment of United States-made tanks and armored vehicles [by ISIS], the Islamic State has not been able to break the resistance of Kobani’s fighters.

We are defending a democratic, secular society of Kurds, Arabs, Muslims and Christians

who all face an imminent massacre.

Kobani’s resistance has mobilized our entire society, and many of its leaders, including myself, are women.Those of us on the front lines are well aware of the Islamic State’s treatment of women. We expect women around the world to help us, because we are fighting for the rights of women everywhere. We do not expect them to come to join our fight here (though we would be proud if any did). But we do ask women to promote our case and to raise awareness of our situation in their own countries, and to pressure their governments to help us.

We are thankful to the coalition for its intensified airstrikes against Islamic State positions, which have been instrumental in limiting the ability of our enemies to use tanks and heavy artillery. But we had been fighting without any logistical assistance from the outside world until the limited coalition airdrops of weapons and supplies on Oct. 20. Airdrops of supplies should continue, so that we do not run out of ammunition.

None of that changes the reality that our weapons still cannot match those of the Islamic State.

We will never give up. But we need more than merely rifles and grenades to carry out our own responsibilities and aid the coalition in its war against the jihadist forces. Currently, even when fighters from other Kurdish regions in Northern Syria try to supply us with some of their armored vehicles and antitank missiles, 
Turkey has not allowed them to do so.

Turkey, a NATO member, should have been an ally in this conflict. It could easily have helped us by allowing access between different Syrian Kurdish areas, so as to let fighters and supplies move back and forth through Turkish territory.

Instead, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has several times publicly equated our fighters, who are defending a diverse and democratic society, with the murderous Islamic State, evidently because of the controversy surrounding Turkey’s Kurdish minority.

Last week, following domestic and international criticism, Turkish leaders at last said they would open a corridor for a small group of Iraqi pesh merga fighters, and some Free Syrian Army brigades, to cross into Kobani. But they still will not allow other Syrian Kurds to cross Turkish territory to reach us. This has been decided without consulting us.

As a result, the Islamic State can bring in endless amounts of new supplies and ammunition, but we are still effectively blockaded on all sides — on three by the Islamic State’s forces, and on the fourth by Turkish tanks. There is evidence that Turkish forces have allowed the Islamic State’s men and equipment to move back and forth across the border. But Syrian Kurdish fighters cannot do the same.
The Turkish government is pursuing an anti-Kurdish policy against the Syrian Kurds, and their priority is to suppress the Kurdish freedom movement in Northern Syria. They want Kobani to fall.

We have never been hostile to Turkey. We want to see it as a partner, not an enemy, and we believe that it is in the Turkish government’s interest to have a border with the democratic administration of a western Kurdistan rather than one with the Islamic State.

Western governments should increase their pressure on Turkey to open a corridor for Syrian Kurdish forces and their heavy weapons to reach the defenders of Kobani through the border. We believe that such a corridor, and not only the limited transport of other fighters that Turkey has proposed, should be opened under the supervision of the United Nations.

We have proved ourselves to be one of the only effective forces battling the Islamic State in Syria. 

Whenever we meet them on equal terms, they are always defeated. If we had more weapons and could be joined by more of our fighters from elsewhere in Syria, we would be in a position to strike a deadly blow against the Islamic State, one that we believe would ultimately lead to its dissolution across the region as a whole.

The people of Kobani need the attention and help of the world."

This article was translated from the Kurdish for the New York Times by G├╝ney Yildiz.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on October 29, 2014, in The International New York Times."


"Isis...boasts an arsenal of US weapons looted from the Iraqi army in Mosul." (last sentence in 10/14/14 IBTimes article)

“Turkey is a great example, and it can be translated to other countries,” Mr. Bloomberg told his breakfast companions. And who knows, he joked, his philanthropy may even win him a Nobel Prize."...

8/23/14, "Michael Bloomberg’s Harder Sell," NY Times, Landon Thomas, Jr.

"On a sweltering Saturday in June in Istanbul’s old city, Michael R. Bloomberg, power-dressed in a dark blue suit, monogrammed white shirt and cuff links, sat down to a late-morning breakfast with local antismoking activists on a rooftop overlooking the glittering Sea of Marmara.

June 2014, Bloomberg, Istanbul
The group, which included Turkish doctors and public health officials, had gathered to celebrate the surprising success of a campaign to persuade Turks, notorious for their love of tobacco, to smoke fewer cigarettes. It was a campaign formulated and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable foundation of Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.

Mr. Bloomberg was in an expansive mood, holding forth on Istanbul’s antiquities and dropping the names of Turkish big shots he has known: Muhtar Kent, the chief executive of Coca-Cola, and Ahmet Ertegun, the late rock ‘n’ roll magnate. But what Mr. Bloomberg really wanted to talk about was the success of his antismoking program in Turkey, an effort that has drawn the passionate support of his newest Turkish pal, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former prime minister and the country’s just-elected president.

“Turkey is a great example, and it can be translated to other countries,” Mr. Bloomberg told his breakfast companions. And who knows, he joked, his philanthropy may even win him a Nobel Prize. There were some cautious titters from the audience. Was Mr. Bloomberg kidding — or was he issuing a statement of intent?...

Now the man who flirted with a presidential run has one last aspiration: mayor of the world.

Mr. Bloomberg, 72, has vowed to give away his $32.8 billion fortune before he dies. In doing so, he hopes to sharply reduce high smoking rates in Turkey, Indonesia and other countries;...

His vehicle to achieve all of this is Bloomberg Philanthropies, a foundation that he started in 2006 and that now employs about 30 people with programs in 95 countries....

'You Can Effect Change'

After his breakfast with the anti-tobacco activists, Mr. Bloomberg kicked back on a huge two-story yacht procured by staff members to take him from his hotel on the Bosporus to the next event on his schedule: commencement remarks to be delivered at Koc University, an elite institution founded by the billionaire Rahmi Koc, his friend and fellow alumnus from Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Bloomberg had removed his jacket, revealing his still-slim waistline. As he explained how he hoped to make a difference by getting people to eat and smoke less, he tilted his already quite tan face in the direction of the hot Turkish sun.

Life is good, he had to admit. “I mean if I am not happy, I should see a shrink,” he said with a short laugh.

(Life is even better when you can donate millions of dollars to tackle Istanbul’s traffic woes and then dodge these same maladies by commuting to most of your meetings by boat.)...

Mr. Bloomberg, who owns an 88 percent stake in Bloomberg L.P. did not neglect its corporate imperatives during his two-day visit to Istanbul. Turkey, with its profitable banks and growing capital markets, is one of the company’s more dynamic growth areas. Sales of Bloomberg terminals — which present a mix of news and data to financiers — have doubled there since 2009.

So he headlined a company conference that pushed Istanbul as a regional financial center — hosting a lunch for top clients, local billionaires and Turkey’s finance minister . He also sat for an interview on Bloomberg TV.

The future belongs to cities, Mr. Bloomberg said to a packed hall of Turkish bankers as he described his efforts to attack societal ills like smoking, obesity and traffic deaths.

Of course, Mr. Bloomberg pushing Bloomberg on Bloomberg TV at a Bloomberg conference, with Bloomberg terminals everywhere, represents the very essence of the Bloomberg model.

It is a model that has made him one of the richest men in the world, but not one likely to win him the Nobel. And that is why his bid to change habits around the world is such an important component of his global game plan.
A Thinner Cloud of Smoke

During his visit to Turkey, Mr. Bloomberg took his private jet to visit Mr. Erdogan’s ancestral home on the Black Sea coast. The two men spent an hour hashing out antismoking strategies and chewing  
over developments in the Middle East."...
Image: "Visiting Istanbul, Mr. Bloomberg took a walking tour with officials including the city’s mayor, Kadir Topbas, right. Credit Ivor Prickett for The New York Times"


10/27/14, "The Ties That Bind Michael Bloomberg, Qatar and Radical Islam,", by Terresa Monroe-Hamilton and William Michael

"Bloomberg partnered with the Turkish AKP, an Islamist party hostile to Israel and secular Turks, to seriously curtail smoking in that country, just as he did in New York City:

Crowing about the success of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ anti-smoking campaign in Turkey recently, he said that “Turkey is a great example, and it can be translated to other countries....

Speaking to a group of anti-smoking activists in Turkey earlier this summer, Bloomberg joked that his philanthropy 
may win him a Nobel prize.

Yes, because an award dripping in blood is a prized possession and all that....

BP has been working with the Turkish government since 2009, when its nationwide public smoking ban first went into effect....

In Turkey, where terrorism reigns and encroaching and aggressive Sharia law continues to oppose basic human rights,  Bloomberg is fighting a war on smoking.

For instance, Turkey leads the world in imprisoned journalists. Ironic, since Bloomberg fancies himself the ultimate journalist and businessman. This is a country at the forefront of a rising Caliphate — one in which Christians and Jews are especially persecuted for their religious views. Bloomberg Philanthropies have spent over $600 million on tobacco control advocacy and research since 2007....

Michael Bloomberg has said of his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. 

I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”... 

It is comforting that he seems to “know the mind of God.”"...


Science "rethink" called for after fragment of Australia discovered in South Pacific using new radiometric techniques-BBC

10/27/14, "Fragment of ancient Australia found under Vanuatu," BBC
"A fragment of ancient Australia has been found under Vanuatu in the South Pacific, raising questions about how continents are formed, researchers say
Experts had believed that the volcanic islands, east of Australia, were isolated from continental influence.

But a team from James Cook University says it has found tiny zircon crystals of the same age in rocks on Vanuatu and in northern Australia.

Researcher Carl Spandler said the crystals "shouldn't be there".

The tiny crystals were carried in volcanic magma, the Australian Associated Press reported, and by using the latest radiometric techniques they were dated at up to three billion years old.

Mr Spandler said that the presence of the zircon had major implications for how scientists understand how continents are made.

"There is nothing else like it in the south-west Pacific," he said.

"Just because island chains or land masses may be far removed from each other today, doesn't mean that they always were. This calls for a rethink of how we calculate the rates and processes of generating new crust on Earth."

The piece of Australian crust now under Vanuatu is believed to have separated from the mainland prior to the Cenozoic Era - about 100 million years ago." map from BBC



Unsettled science: Snail said to be 'extinct' found living in alley in Bermuda, city concrete protected snail from predators-BBC

Added, 10/29/14, "Frogs' chorus leads to discovery of new species in US," BBC, V. Gill

New frog species found in Staten Island, a borough of NY City: "Teaming up with genetics experts to confirm the finding, Mr Feinberg has now published the discovery in the journal Plos One."...


10/27/14, "Bermuda: 'Extinct' snail found living in alley," BBC

"A snail which conservationists thought was extinct has been found living in an alley in Bermuda, it's been reported.

The species of Bermudian land snail, known as Poecilozonites bermudensis, hadn't been seen on the island for more than 40 years. But now a colony of the creatures has been found flourishing in a "damp and overgrown alleyway" in the capital city, Hamilton, by a local resident, the Royal Gazette website reports. [Link may be inactive]. "For it to be found in Hamilton is unbelievable. It's the last place you would imagine that a small colony of rare snails would be discovered," says Dr Mark Outerbridge of the government's Conservation Service. It's thought that by choosing a concrete home, the snails were protected from the predators that wiped out the rest of their population, Dr Outerbridge says.

London Zoo began a Bermudian land snail programme in 2004, to help protect what was thought to be the last remaining species, Poecilozonites circumfirmatus, from extinction. The Poecilozonites family was once so common in Bermuda that they were burned for limestone, according to the Bermuda Sun. 

In 1951, another of the island's native species, the Bermuda Petrel, was rediscovered. 

Until then it was thought the seabird, also known as the cahow, 

had become extinct in the 1600s."


Friday, October 24, 2014

NY Times Editorial Board: "Why Kobani Must Be Saved." Failure to secure full cooperation of Turkey highlights weakness of US strategy

10/23/14, "Why Kobani Must Be Saved," NY Times Editorial Board, 10/24 print ed.

"If Kobani survives, it will have defied the odds. This embattled city on Syria's northern border with Turkey has been on the verge of falling for weeks in the face of a brutal siege by Islamic State militants. But the Syrian Kurds who call Kobani home continue to fight hard, and on Sunday the United States made airdrops of weapons and other supplies to bolster them. The town, once dismissed as inconsequential by American commanders, has become not only a focus of the American operation against the Islamic State, known as ISIS, but also a test of the administration’s strategy, which is based on airstrikes on ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and reliance on local ground forces to defeat the militants. A major problem is that the local ground forces are either unorganized, politically divided or, as in the case of the Kobani Kurds, in danger of being outgunned.

A setback in Kobani would show the fragility of the American plan and hand the Islamic State an important victory. Given Kobani’s location next to Turkey, the town’s fall would put the Islamic State in a position to cross the border and directly threaten a NATO ally, a move that could force the alliance to come to Turkey’s defense.

The big missing piece in the American operation is Turkey, whose reluctance to assist Kobani’s Kurds highlights the enduring weaknesses in America’s strategy. The decision to resupply the Kurds was a desperation move; the Kurds were at risk and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has refused to help despite repeated entreaties from Washington.

Only on Monday, after the American airdrop, did Turkey say it would allow Iraqi Kurdish forces, the pesh merga, to cross Turkey into Kobani. So far, however, no reinforcements of forces have reached Kobani by way of Turkey and Mr. Erdogan made it clear on Thursday that he is prepared to let only 200 pesh merga travel through his country — hardly enough when the Islamic State reportedly has about 1,000 militants in the area.
Turkey has been a troublesome NATO ally in the best of times. Matters have been made worse by its insistence that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is a bigger threat than the Islamic State and by its complicated relationships with various Kurdish groups. Turkey has long enabled the Islamic State, whose original objective was to overthrow the Assad regime, by permitting militants, weapons and money to cross its border into Syria.

Now that the United States is leading the fight against the Islamic State, Turkey says it will work with the Americans. Yet it balks at helping Kurdish fighters in Kobani because it fears this would also strengthen the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (or P.K.K.) inside Turkey. The P.K.K. has been fighting a bitter, separatist war against the Turkish government for three decades, though recently the two sides have engaged in peace talks. It is hard to see what Mr. Erdogan gains by angering the Americans or by angering the Kurds in Iraq, the one Kurdish group with which Turkey has had good relations. Its refusal to assist also jeopardizes the nascent peace talks with the P.K.K.

There were many unknowns when President Obama began a premature and ill-advised mission into Syria. The failure to secure the full cooperation of an important ally leaves the success of the fight against the Islamic State increasingly open to question."

"A version of this editorial appears in print on October 24, 2014, on page A26 of the New York edition."...


Among comments at NY Times


"AC, USA 2 hours ago 

ISIS is Turkey's Sunni Muslim proxy army in Syria, Hezbollah is Assad's Shiite proxy army. Erdogran' preposterous objective in asking for a no-fly zone is for the US to be the air force for ISIS. Of course, if Assad goes, Erdogran will expect to determine who takes over in Syria, as ISIS will chase everyone else out of the country. In the meantime, Erdogran wants the US to create a "buffer zone" in Syria which will relieve him of his Syrian refugees, absolving him of doing anything beyond telling the US and NATO what they must do."


Ed. note: Sorry about big gaps between paragraphs which I'm unable to repair. My google hackers are embarrassed by the NY Times Editorial.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NOAA employee arrested for theft and illegal access of federal database in May 2012, lied to fed. investigators about it in June 2013, arrested Monday at NOAA office 50 miles from Cincinnati-Reuters

10/21/14, "NOAA employee charged with stealing U.S. dam information," Reuters, by Steve Bittenbender

"A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) employee in Ohio has been charged with stealing sensitive information from a federal database for the nation's dams and lying about the breach to federal agents, prosecutors said. 
Xiafen "Sherry" Chen, 59, was arrested on Monday at the NOAA office in Wilmington, Ohio, about 50 miles northeast of Cincinnati, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio said in a statement on Monday.

Chen was charged with theft, illegally accessing a federal database and two counts of making false statements to investigators. She could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the theft charge and five years each if convicted on the other charges, prosecutors said.

Chen was accused of accessing restricted areas of the National Inventory of Dams on various days in May 2012 and downloading sensitive files and providing false information to investigators in June 2013, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Dam Safety Review Board maintain the database, which consists of dams meeting certain hazard or height criteria." via Drudge


US 'dependence on foreign oil' has ended due to US shale revolution. 'New world order' that began with 1973 oil embargo is ending-Nocera, NY Times Op-ed

"The U.S. energy industry looks poised to end the decades-long, precarious "dependence on foreign oil."
10/20/14, "A World Without OPEC?" NY Times Op-ed, Joe Nocera

"Forty-one years ago this month, the Arab oil embargo began. The countries that were part of it belonged, of course, to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries — OPEC — which had banded together 13 years earlier to strengthen their ability to negotiate with international oil companies. The embargo led to widespread shortages in the United States, higher prices at the gas pump and long lines at gas stations. By the time it ended, the price of oil had risen to $12 a barrel from $3.

Perhaps more important than the price increases themselves was the new world order the embargo signaled. The embargo “set in motion geopolitical circumstances that eventually allowed [OPEC] to wrest control over global oil production and pricing from the giant international oil companies — ushering in an era of significantly higher oil prices,” as Amy Myers Jaffe and Ed Morse noted in an article in Foreign Policy magazine that was published last year at the 40th anniversary. Twice a year, OPEC’s oil ministers would meet in Vienna, where they would set oil policy — deciding to either hold back or increase oil production. There was always cheating among members, but there was usually enough discipline in the ranks to keep prices more or less where OPEC wanted them.

As it happens, the title of that Foreign Policy article was The End of OPEC.Jaffe and Morse are both global energy experts — she is the executive director of Energy and Sustainability at the University of California, Davis, and he is the global head of commodities research at Citigroup — who say that if America plays its cards right, OPEC’s dominance over the oil market could be over. I think that day may have already arrived.

“OPEC is not going to survive another 50 years,” Morse told me. “It probably won’t even survive another 10. It has become extremely difficult for them to forge an agreement.”

When Morse and Jaffe wrote their article last year, the price of oil was more than $100 a barrel. 

Today, the per-barrel price is in the low- to mid-$80s. It has dropped more than 25 percent since June. 

There was a time when $80 a barrel would have been more than satisfactory for OPEC members, but those days are long gone. Venezuela’s budgetary needs requires that it sell its oil at well above $100 a barrel. The Arab Spring prompted a number of important OPEC members— including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to increase budgetary spending to keep their own populations quiescent. According to the International Monetary Fund, the United Arab Emirates needs a price of more than $80 to meet its budgetary obligations. That’s up from less than $25 a barrel in 2008.

Not long ago, Venezuela asked for an emergency OPEC meeting to discuss decreasing production. Iran has said that such a meeting is unnecessary. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has made it clear that it is primarily concerned with not losing market share, so it will continue to pump out oil regardless of the needs of other OPEC members. This is not exactly cartel-like behavior. The next OPEC meeting is scheduled for late November, but there is little likelihood of an agreement.
And why does OPEC suddenly find itself in such disarray? Simply put, the supply of oil is greater than the demand, and OPEC has lost its ability to control the supply. Part of the reason is a slowdown in global demand. China’s economy has slowed, and so has its voracious appetite for oil. Japan, meanwhile, is increasingly turning to natural gas and nuclear power.
But an even bigger part of the reason is that the shale revolution in North America is utterly changing the supply-demand dynamic. Since 2008, says Bernard Weinstein, an energy expert at Southern Methodist University, oil production in the United States is up 60 percent. That’s an additional three million barrels a day. Within a few years, predicts Morse, America will overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia and become the world’s largest oil producer.

What’s more, according to another article Morse wrote, this one for Foreign Affairs magazine, “the costs of finding and producing oil and gas in shale and tight rock formations are steadily going down and will drop even more in the years to come.” In other words, the American energy industry might well be able to withstand further price drops easier than OPEC members.

When I got Jaffe on the phone, I asked her if she thought OPEC was a spent force. “You can never say never,” she replied, and then laid out a few dire scenarios — mostly revolving around oil fields being bombed or attacked — that might make supply scarce again. But barring that, this is a moment we’ve long been waiting for. 

Thanks to the shale revolution, OPEC has become a paper tiger."


"The U.S. energy industry looks poised to end the decades-long, precarious "dependence on foreign oil."...(from Foreign Policy article linked in above NY Times op-ed).

10/16/13, "The End of OPEC,", by Amy Myers Jaffe, Ed Morse

"Forty years after the Arab oil embargo, new technologies are dramatically reshaping the geopolitics of the Middle East."

"Forty years have passed since the Arab oil embargo went into effect on Oct. 16, 1973, triggering a period of incredible change and turmoil. After the United States provided support to Israel during the Yom Kippur War, a cartel of developing-world countries (via the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC) banned the sale of their oil to Israel's allies and thereby set in motion geopolitical circumstances that eventually allowed them to wrest control over global oil production and pricing from the giant international oil companies -- ushering in an era of significantly higher oil prices. The event was hailed at the time as the first major victory of "Third World" powers to bring the West to its knees.
Designed in part to bring Arab populations their due after decades of colonialism, the embargo opened the floodgates for an unprecedented transfer of wealth out of America and Europe to the Middle East. Overnight, the largest segment of the global economy, the oil market, became politicized as never before in history. But four decades later, the shoe may finally be on the other foot. Now, on the 40th anniversary of the 1973 embargo, the United States has a historic opportunity to lead a counterrevolution against the energy world created by OPEC as innovation in the U.S. energy industry looks poised to end the decades-long, precarious "dependence on foreign oil."... 
Rather than let the forces of supply and demand determine prices, post-1973, the lowest-cost oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, artificially shut production and discouraged capital investment, creating a lasting wedge of rents or financial profitability that market conditions never warranted. (Today, oil prices in real terms are more than four times higher than in 1972.)...
The 1970s witnessed a profound and unprecedented transfer of wealth to the Middle East that continues to have significant repercussions today -- from democracy movements to terrorism to civil wars. The region's leaders failed to set up long-term mechanisms to distribute the benefits of that wealth transfer broadly to their populations and to establish an equitable stake in governance of resource proceeds that would have brought a newfound stability to the region. Instead, they bought lavishly, gilding their palaces and buying fleets of luxury autos. For decades, they squandered the opportunity to use oil wealth to modernize their societies and train their populations for future global economic competition. The result -- unfolding not just in the Middle East but in other oil-producing countries as well -- is a crisis of governance that is itself triggering a round of oil-supply disruptions.
Massive petrodollar inflows brought with them a new political paradigm of "rentier" patronage, characterized by financial excesses, corruption, repression, and billions of dollars in accumulated weapons purchases. Populations of oil-producing states, for the most part, are little better off today than in 1973. Many of the countries have been war-ravaged or riven by sectarian hatreds. And, even with decades of relatively high oil prices and associated worker remittances, most countries of the Middle East still see modest GDP per capita, below $30,000 person on a purchasing-power-parity basis. 
Deep income inequality means that much of the region's population is in fact still living in poverty, even in places like Saudi Arabia. So it should be no surprise that 40 years after the 1973 embargo, citizens of the region are rising up against those who squandered their futures. Tired of waiting for the day when rising oil revenues would somehow magically bring back the promise of prosperity, youth are taking to the streets; port and oil workers are mounting strikes; and jihadists are taking up arms to end the oil curse once and for all. Their frustrations do not unfold in a vacuum. High oil prices associated with all this unrest is propelling energy investment elsewhere to great success.
Energy efficiency is also getting a boost, shrinking the long-term market for Middle East oil. The upshot will be that it will be harder and harder over time for Arab rulers to count on oil money to keep them in power. And that has a trickle-down effect to the populations they've been keeping quiescent with handouts for decades. 
Ironically, just when political revolutions were gaining momentum across the Middle East, a different kind of revolution was emerging that looks likely to bring a new epoch of dislocation and distortion to prevailing oil and gas structures. This second energy revolution is also ameliorating the impact of the first. 
Since January 2011, at the dawn of the rebellions against dictatorial governments in North Africa, the amount of oil "offline" or being blocked from production by either domestic turmoil (in Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, Yemen) or international sanctions (in Iran) has generally been above 2 million barrels per day (m b/d), four times the average level of supply outages before the so-called Arab Spring
Then Libya erupted once again this past summer, taking another 1.2 m b/d, or more, offline. But the impact of these disruptions has been relatively mild, given that over the same period, production in North America, the heartland of the three revolutionary changes in unconventional hydrocarbon production (shale, deep water, and oil sands), has grown by more than 2.5 m b/d. And more is on the way.... The impact of all this change in the energy world will go far beyond just replacing continuing Arab Spring outages. Unconventional oil and gas and the clean-tech booms are spawning a host of new, smaller oil and gas exploration companies committed to innovation and willing to take on risk. They have no stake in the multibillion-dollar megaproject world of the international majors and national oil companies, and as such, they have fewer concerns about sustaining high profits from giant assets found decades ago. They are enabling the United States the opportunity to take a lead in changing the way energy is bought and sold -- not just in the United States, but globally. 
Energy innovation is taking many forms in the United States, creating major export opportunities and giving Washington the tools it needs to ensure that the conditions of a 1973-style oil embargo will not repeat themselves. The oil embargo was so devastating because strong economic growth throughout the 1960s had taken up the margin of spare oil-productive capacity in the United States and across the world, leaving the Middle East's oil producers with undue monopoly power. Similar razor-thin extra productive capacity left markets highly vulnerable in 2006 and 2007, when OPEC made contraseasonal cuts in output to increase prices, instead of considering the risks to global economic growth. But as oil and gas production from U.S. and Canadian shale formations rises, the ability of oil producers like Russia to use an "energy weapon" to gain extra benefits from consuming countries is diminishing....
Abundant U.S. natural gas is just the first step. Booming domestic natural gas supplies have already displaced and defanged Russia's and Iran's grip on natural gas buyers. By significantly reducing American domestic requirements for imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), rising U.S. shale gas production has had the knock-on effect of increasing alternative LNG supplies to Europe, breaking down fixed pricing from entrenched monopolies. But this is just the beginning: Over the coming decade, the United States looks likely to overtake Russia and rival Qatar as a leading supplier of natural gas to international markets....
American unconventional oil and gas plays from Texas to Pennsylvania are also generating new surpluses of natural gas liquids, which are increasingly exported as transportation fuel or petrochemical feedstock to Europe, Asia, and elsewhere -- reducing demand growth for oil from the Middle East. And U.S. crude oil exports might also be possible some day, strengthening America's lead in market-related pricing for kingpin crude oil, much the way rising North Sea production did in the 1980s.  
As an increasing number of companies and investors flock to North America to develop prolific unconventional resources, Middle East heavyweights like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran are losing their lock on remaining exploitable reserves, reducing their ability to band together and create artificial shortages. Already, Mexico and Argentina are reading the tea leaves and reversing protectionist resource nationalism policies, instead pushing through reforms to attract capital investment to their doorsteps....
Some 40 m b/d of the global 85 m b/d oil market is open for competition from natural gas -- in the form of compressed natural gas for cars and buses, and LNG for heavy-duty vehicles and marine transportation. We conservatively expect at least 2 m b/d of currently projected oil demand to cede to natural gas by 2020, further weakening perspectives on future global oil-demand growth and once again chipping away at Middle Eastern influence."...



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