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Analysis and Comment (43)

Is the sun setting on West African oil? A platform in Limbe, Cameroon. Is the sun setting on West African oil? A platform in Limbe, Cameroon. VirginieVV

US fracking boom puts West African oil economies at risk

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US made a point of diversifying its sources of oil to reduce dependence on the Middle East. It was a strategic move which promised a huge boost to West African…
Obstacles in the pipeline? A general view of the South Pars gas field, Iran. Obstacles in the pipeline? A general view of the South Pars gas field, Iran. Abedin Taherkenareh

False dawn? Iran on the edge of the international oil market

In recent months, Iranian and foreign media have been abuzz with reports that a new generation of petroleum contracts aimed at foreign investors will be unveiled by the Iranian Oil Ministry later this…
Shooting the messenger? Lamido Sanusi. Shooting the messenger? Lamido Sanusi. David Shankbone

Central bank independence meets resource curse in Nigeria

The suspension of governor Lamido Sanusi from the helm of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is important, and not just for for analysts of future Nigerian monetary and exchange policies. Sanusi’s case…
There’s been plenty pumped: how much more is there? There’s been plenty pumped: how much more is there? Arne Hückelheim

Explainer: whatever happened to the threat of peak oil?

Despite the arguments that once raged and the considerable volumes written to advocate certain viewpoints and disparage others, interest in peak oil is at an all time low. Indeed some commentators have…
Motorists can expect higher petrol prices in 2014…and beyond. Motorists can expect higher petrol prices in 2014…and beyond. David Crosling/AAP

No petrol price reprieve for motorists this year

Australia’s cost of living is among the highest in the world, despite our low inflation rate. In this series we explore what consumers can expect from the big ticket items - petrol, power and groceries…
Will countries outside the US take on the risks of shale oil? Will countries outside the US take on the risks of shale oil? Flickr/ Randy Udall

Shale oil: the boom heard around the world

The US is in the midst of an oil boom. Shale gas has grabbed much attention, and rightly so. But it is shale oil (a light, crude oil found in shale or tight sandstone, and also known also as tight oil…
There’s more oil down there, and it’s the regulator’s job to make sure it comes up. There’s more oil down there, and it’s the regulator’s job to make sure it comes up. AP/PA

Compel firms to extract North Sea oil in the nation’s interest

For decades the UK has been accustomed to filling its coffers with the bounty from North Sea oil and gas, and the jobs and tax receipts it has brought. At one time exports helped balance the books and…
Oil and gas production is growing in the US, mainly thanks to unconventional production methods. Oil and gas production is growing in the US, mainly thanks to unconventional production methods. EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Now largest oil and gas producer, will the US get extra clout?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported: The U.S. is overtaking Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, a startling shift that is reshaping markets and eroding…
The re-imagining of the Silk Road appeals to local ideologies and advances China’s quest for global influence. The re-imagining of the Silk Road appeals to local ideologies and advances China’s quest for global influence. Sourced from AAP images

Xi Jinping’s New Silk Road: Chinese foreign policy, energy security and ideology

As intense negotiations between Moscow and Washington draw to a close, the Chinese Government will be heaving a sigh of relief that diplomacy seems to have triumphed over the use of force in Syria. China’s…
There’s plenty of oil, but at what price? There’s plenty of oil, but at what price? arbyreed/Flickr

Peak oil is alive and well, and costing the earth

You might have heard that peak oil - the theory that one day crude oil production will stop increasing, even as demand grows - is dead. Shale oil production is surging in the US. The premiere peak oil…
Unrest in Syria has raised concerns about world oil supplies. Unrest in Syria has raised concerns about world oil supplies. potomo

How the Syrian unrest affects world markets

Prospective US and UK military action in Syria has created jitters in the financial and commodities markets around the world. Stock markets have experienced significant losses, whereas commodities and…
A missile submarine conducts tests. A missile submarine conducts tests. Official US Navy Imagery

History suggests intervention in Syria will be bad for business

Since last week’s gas attack on a Damascus suburb, the political class has been gripped by the idea that “something must be done.” Meanwhile Wall Street, already declining through early August, fell further…
Two years ago South Sudanese were partying as the country split from Sudan. Two years ago South Sudanese were partying as the country split from Sudan. Tim Freccia / Enough Project

Little cause for celebration on South Sudan’s birthday

The second anniversary of South Sudan’s independence is overshadowed by the release of the annual State Failure Index by the Fund for Peace, which ranks the country as the world’s fourth most failed state…
The offshore industry need not be so dangerous if safety is put first. The offshore industry need not be so dangerous if safety is put first. PA

The oil industry has yet to learn lessons of Piper Alpha

The explosions and fire that completely destroyed the North Sea oil rig Piper Alpha and cost 167 workers their lives remains the world’s worst offshore oil disaster. Saturday, July 6, marks 25 years since…
Shell and BP in less competitive times. Shell and BP in less competitive times. flikr/recursion_see_recursion

Oil, the marketing wolf pack, and EU price-fixing

When most of us think of cartels, we think of Colombian drug gangs rather than multi-national businesses. But not any more; if European regulators are to be believed, a cartel has been operating much closer…
The land under Coober Pedy is home to vast reserves of shale oil. Perhaps not $20 trillion worth though. edenink/Flickr. The land under Coober Pedy is home to vast reserves of shale oil. Perhaps not $20 trillion worth though. edenink/Flickr.

Can shale oil fuel Australia?

Earlier this week, Linc Energy released two reports estimating the amount of oil in the Arckaringa Basin near Coober Pedy in South Australia. Independent reports from Gustavson Associates and DeGolyer…
If you don’t deal with road transport, you’re really not dealing with emissions. If you don’t deal with road transport, you’re really not dealing with emissions. Rachel Wray

Oil’s well in the white paper’s version of future transport

Much of the recent debate over Australia’s new Energy White Paper deals with climate change, the planned growth of Australia’s coal and gas exports, and the future of electricity sector. And although when…
The IEA has made a sketchy prediction that the United States is to be the world’s biggest oil producer within five years. The IEA has made a sketchy prediction that the United States is to be the world’s biggest oil producer within five years. Zoe52/Flickr

Oil, oil everywhere: but still no such thing as US energy independence

The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer by about 2017 and will become a net oil exporter by 2030, the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently predicted. According…
Our lives and lifestyles depend on mobility of people and freight; are we ready to lose that? Our lives and lifestyles depend on mobility of people and freight; are we ready to lose that? Martin Wurt

Wean transport off fossil fuels, or grind to a halt

Over the next 50 years the world will increasingly confront a dilemma. On the one hand, the global economy and local lifestyles depend on the mobility of people and goods. On the other, that mobility depends…
The American people have spoken in favour of climate change by re-electing Barack Obama to a second presidential term. The American people have spoken in favour of climate change by re-electing Barack Obama to a second presidential term. Flickr/350.org

Obama’s second term challenges must include tackling climate change

In his acceptance speech of November 6, Barack Obama at long last reaffirmed the need to address global warming. But unfortunately he also reaffirmed the spurious goal of US oil independence, which can…
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney share the goal of US “energy independence”. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney share the goal of US “energy independence”. Neil Kremer/Flickr

US elections and environment: The dubious goal of US ‘energy independence’

Energy policy featured only briefly in the first debate between President Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney. As became evident in the second debate, Romney’s case for restoring strong economic growth…
Republicans have dragged the US energy policy debate, on issues like foreign oil independence, far to the right. Republicans have dragged the US energy policy debate, on issues like foreign oil independence, far to the right. micheleoneill/Flickr

US elections and environment: the politics and the policy fundamentals

That Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is locked into such an unalloyed pro-oil stance is not so surprising, given the alignment of the core Republican states with oil producers' interests. However…
It’s the dawning of a new day for South Sudan, but there is much to be done. It’s the dawning of a new day for South Sudan, but there is much to be done. EPA/Paul Banks/Unmis

Happy birthday, South Sudan – your struggle isn’t over yet

When I arrived in South Sudan in November 2005, the scars of war were everywhere. Intermittent power came from generators, there was no clean drinking water, schools were little more than benches under…
Plentiful carbon-based fuel and falling world energy prices are a mixed blessing. Plentiful carbon-based fuel and falling world energy prices are a mixed blessing. Adrian Bradshaw/AAP

How to sell green energy in an era of abundant gas and oil

Since the middle of the last decade, well before the worldwide run-up in fuel prices during 2008, it has been widely believed that we are entering a new era of scarcity in carbon-based fuels such as oil…
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses troops and supporters during a public appearance in April 2012. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses troops and supporters during a public appearance in April 2012. EPA/str

Oil fuels the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan – and it keeps getting hotter

Khartoum has resumed its bombardment of South Sudan despite the passing of a UN Security Council Resolution calling for a ceasefire. With military action escalating over the past few days, the two nations…
Many Argentinians are in favour of President Kirchner’s expropriation of oil company YPF, but what impact will it have on the beleaguered nation’s economic growth? Many Argentinians are in favour of President Kirchner’s expropriation of oil company YPF, but what impact will it have on the beleaguered nation’s economic growth? AAP

Why Argentina’s oil grab is a massive economic gamble

In mid-April, in the largest nationalisation since Russia’s acquisition of Yukos in 2003, Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, seized a majority stake in the oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos…
Facing the music: Australia is losing its capacity to refine oil. Facing the music: Australia is losing its capacity to refine oil. AAP/Andrew Brownbill

Security in doubt as Australia’s aging oil refineries shut down

The looming closure of three Australian refineries will affect the security of liquid fuel supplies in Australia. This is particularly so if the government and the oil industry do not devise a joint strategy…
Celebrating: after being seen as a basket case for so long, Brazil’s economy is now powering. Celebrating: after being seen as a basket case for so long, Brazil’s economy is now powering. AAP

Brazil and Australia: the rise of the southern hemisphere powers

Few countries have been left unscathed by the global financial crisis and it seems that they are all situated in the southern hemisphere. Brazil and Australia are some of them. Recently, their economies…
More fossil fuel is out there, but if policy doesn’t stop us, physics will. More fossil fuel is out there, but if policy doesn’t stop us, physics will. EvolveLove/Flickr

Can technology save us? Reality-checking Andrew Charlton’s Quarterly Essay

In his recent Quarterly Essay, Man-made world: choosing between progress and planet, economist Andrew Charlton presents technological innovation as the solution to climate change and the route to unbounded…
Future freeways could be very different places. Future freeways could be very different places. johnsnape

The beginning of the end for automobility?

Car travel is becoming a victim of its own success. If we in the West had only kept cars for ourselves, automobility could have survived much longer. But we shared them with the rest of the world, and…
Nigeria’s troubles are fuelled by ethnic and religious tensions. Nigeria’s troubles are fuelled by ethnic and religious tensions. EPA/Stringer

Death, oil and religion: the origins of conflict in Nigeria run deep

The coming of the new year was not auspicious for Nigeria. Despite being rich in oil, the country is overwhelmed by corruption and violence. The north of the country has been torn apart by terrorist attacks…
Partial boycotts don’t work; it’s too easy to secure new buyers and sellers. Partial boycotts don’t work; it’s too easy to secure new buyers and sellers. AAP

Half-hearted Iran embargo won’t push up oil prices

The European Union (EU) voted last week to ban oil imports from Iran. The EU will immediately ban the signing of any new oil contracts with Iran, while the existing ones will be fulfilled up to 1 July…
A proposed EU oil embargo may push Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad closer to China and Venezuela. A proposed EU oil embargo may push Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad closer to China and Venezuela. AAP

An EU oil embargo is unlikely to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions

Last week the European Union indicated that it is likely to enact an oil embargo on Iran. The move is aimed at damaging Iran’s crucial oil export business enough so the country’s regime curtails its nuclear…
Do recent falls in commodities suggest more severe conditions in the future? Do recent falls in commodities suggest more severe conditions in the future? AAP/AFP

Fluctuating commodity prices: what are the implications for Australia?

Commodity prices have see-sawed in the last few weeks amid ongoing turmoil in Europe and concerns over China. Should we view recent falls in commodity prices with concern? Do these movements suggest more…
Oil gets into the ocean in all sorts of ways, but oil spills are the most visible. Oil gets into the ocean in all sorts of ways, but oil spills are the most visible. AAP

How can we clean up the Bay of Plenty oil spill?

Responding to oil spills, like that in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, is a very complex, high pressure situation. Decisions must be made based on whatever data are available at the time. One of the difficulties…
Peace and stability will be crucial for Libya’s post-revolution development. Peace and stability will be crucial for Libya’s post-revolution development. AAP

After Gaddafi, will Libya’s ‘resource curse’ become a blessing?

With the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s autocratic regime, the transitional government in Libya is prompting hopes for a new era of democracy in the country. While a swift transition to democracy is certainly…
Future fuels will be made from a range of raw materials, including algae. Future fuels will be made from a range of raw materials, including algae. SandiaLabs

Explainer: the evolution of biofuels

It’s one of the key challenges of our generation: transforming our global energy use from emissions-intensive, non-renewable fossil fuels to low-carbon, sustainable energy technologies. The challenge for…
OPEC president Mohammad Aliabadi believes speculation in futures is inflating oil prices. He is wrong. OPEC president Mohammad Aliabadi believes speculation in futures is inflating oil prices. He is wrong. AAP

Why it’s wrong to blame speculation for pushing up oil prices

OPEC Conference president Mohammad Aliabadi recently joined a chorus of international observers to blame speculation as the source of ongoing volatility in the global oil market. Speaking at an OPEC Conference…
Our old-fashioned addiction will be hard to kick. Our old-fashioned addiction will be hard to kick. JD Hancock/flickr

Going up: peak oil wolf is scratching at the door

Oil is a finite and non-renewable resource. Its production is going to peak. “Peak oil” is the point at which half of the world’s original endowment of oil has been extracted. This is the point at which…

Research Briefs (3)

Oil sands create pollution

The pollution created from extracting and processing Canadian tar sands is comparable to a large power plant or a mid-size…