Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Ukraine: Russia no longer has “red lines” — Urges boycott of World Cup in Russia — Worried by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

March 20, 2018

The UK nerve agent attack shows Russia has no “red lines” anymore, says Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. In an interview with DW, he contends that Moscow’s aggression against Kyiv could happen anywhere now.

Brüssel Nato-Hauptquartier Pawlo Klimkin, Außenminister Ukraine (NATO)

DW: After Vladimir Putin’s easy re-election as Russian president, you are warning that he no longer has any “red lines” and, with another mandate, will stop at nothing to get what he wants. What are you worried about? Ukraine? The rest of the world?

Pavlo Klimkin: It involves the whole democratic community because five years ago many people did not believe Putin could ever invade Ukraine. One year ago many people did not believe at all that [Russia] could organize, using nerve agents, on British soil. So, fundamentally, there are no red lines here. It’s about a comprehensive and coordinated answer. Without such [an] answer, without a kind of platform for the whole trans-Atlantic community — and I understand Ukraine is an important part of the trans-Atlantic community — Russia will try to meddle in the democratic institutions.

So what you must be saying is that the response so far  sanctions, freezing, no “business as usual”  has not been enough.

But there are other measures; there could be more targeted sanctions. There could be more political pressure. There could be attempts to counter Russian unconventional threats. It could be about energy, it could be about cyber, it could be about many issues.

You’ve suggested nobody should go to the upcoming football World Cup in Russia.

Definitely! Look, how can you say that Russia deserves such a football championship now after what basically has happened: us in Ukraine, Crimea, Donbass, so many cases of meddling into elections in Europe and all around the democratic world. But using nerve agents on British soil, endangering British citizens and doing it — raising the stakes intentionally just one week before the presidential elections in Russia. So we need a tough coordinated answer to the Russian threat.

There has been some criticism of Ukraine for not letting the Russians in Ukraine vote in the Russian election on Sunday. Why did you do that?

Firstly we said very clearly the whole elections are not legitimate on the territory of occupied Crimea because the Russians have one single constituency. The issue of legitimacy for this election is definitely under question. But there is another point about security and safety around Russian diplomatic representations in a very emotional way. How should I explain to people who lost their brothers in arms or their relatives or their loved ones because of the Russian aggression that Russian elections should go just this way? So we have to care also about people and I believe it was good in the sense of safety and security yesterday in Ukraine.

You are saying that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and people like him who are voluntarily representing Russian interests abroad should be put under EU sanctions.

No no no, I am not saying that. But what I did say and it’s very important, is that the EU — both nationally and at the EU level — should act against such persons because they keep driving projects, Russian projects, which are supported by Russian companies, which are under EU sanctions and which are used now as a tool in the sense of Russian meddling into the European Union.

“The EU [..] should act against such persons.” – Ukrainian Foreign Minister @PavloKlimkin urges sanctions on former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder over pro- lobbying.

via our reporter @terischultz

So on lobbyists like Gerhard Schröder, there should be a clear understanding, what is their role, and there should be a clear understanding, what is the way forward. It’s not about sanctioning them tomorrow and after tomorrow. Let’s be fair. But in a political sense, I believe people like Gerhard Schröder totally lost their credibility. And in this sense there should be a political drive enacted against them.

German member of the European Parliament David McAllister said he agreed that it’s a shame Schröder is doing that. Do you think sanctions are something that could happen as people try to drill down harder on Moscow?

Of course, because it’s the only way forward. Otherwise Moscow will come and simply try to meddle in the whole way democratic institutions here in the European Union, in the whole civilized world, [operate] and Russia has been already doing that. Tolerating that would mean Putin could do something else any other day.  And remember what has been tested in Ukraine — Russian propaganda, May 17 invasion, cyber, terrorist attacks, everything — now could be tested here. And the same pattern of propaganda and fake news after May 17 now come back with the Russian denial of what happened in Salisbury. So everyone should be acutely aware of it.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin & EU High Representative Federica MogheriniMogherini visited Ukraine in early March, both giving support to Kyiv and urging further reforms.

You’ve just seen the EU foreign ministers. Does it seem like Europe is going to mount such a response?

I believe the mood is good for shaping up such a response. What kind of measures will be taken I can’t say — you should ask [EU foreign policy chief] Federica Mogherini on that —  but the mood is definitely different from before.

It sounds like this is sort of a zero-sum game for Russia and Ukraine  the worse Russia behaves, the more the EU understands what you’ve been telling them for years … the more NATO sees they need to protect you.

Unfortunately, the understanding of Russian behavior and Russian intention had not come from the very beginning and some people needed time to understand what is Russia about … what this Kremlin regime is about. But it’s coming, it’s coming definitely into this sense of clear understanding what Russia is able to deliver or how Russia is able to meddle in the sense of democratic institutions.

Pavlo Klimkin is the foreign minister of Ukraine. He previously served as his country’s ambassador to Germany from 2012 to 2014. Klimkin spoke to DW at NATO Headquarters after meeting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and European Union foreign ministers.



Angela Merkel rejects sanctions on predecessor Schröder for Russia support — Many now view Schröder as “just another Russian oligarch”

March 19, 2018

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is unlikely to be punished for his Russian dealings, as Ukraine would like. But he’s still coming under fire across the political spectrum in Germany.

Gerhard Schröder (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Pleul)

Spokesman Steffen Seibert didn’t waste many words at the German government’s Monday press conference when asked about calls by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin for sanctions on former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Angela Merkel, Seibert said, saw “no reasons” to punish Schröder, who has held a variety of top posts with Russia companies and was recently described by the Wall Street Journal as “Putin’s most important oligarch.”

Ukraine is outraged that people in Russian-annexed Crimea were allowed to vote in Sunday’s national election, which saw Vladimir Putin handed a fourth term as Russian president. After Seibert’s statement, Klimkin said he was widening his appeal for sanctions against the former chancellor.

Read moreVladimir Putin’s landslide re-election: Leaders react and look forward

“The EU – both nationally and at the EU level – should act against such persons because they keep driving projects, Russian projects, which are supported by Russian companies, which are under EU sanctions and which are used now as a tool in the sense of Russian meddling into the European Union,” Klimkin told Deutsche Welle in Brussels. “So on lobbyists like Gerhard Schroeder, there should be a clear understanding (of) what is their role, and there should be a clear understanding what is the way forward.”

Klimkin is in Brussels for consultations with EU foreign ministers as part of “Ukraine + Group of Friends of Ukraine in the EU” format.

“It’s the only way forward,” Klimkin added, referring to sanctions on lobbyists. “Otherwise Moscow will come and simply try to meddle in the whole way how the democratic institutions here in the European Union, in the whole civilized world, function. and Russia has been already doing that. Tolerating that would mean Putin could do something else any other day.”

Playing Putin’s game?

Protest against pipeline (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen)Critics say that pipeline deals with Russia will make Germany dependent on Putin

It is unclear what, if any, sanctions either Germany or the EU could impose on Schröder, who was German chancellor from 1998 to 2005 and has worked for a number of Russian energy companies. In particular, he has been blasted for joining Nord Stream, the company that runs a major gas pipeline between Russian and Germany, immediately after leaving office. As chancellor, Schröder worked closely with Putin to promote the pipeline. That’s earned him, in some quarters, a reputation as a Putin stooge.

“Personally, I regret his decision because he’s lost his credibility on foreign policy,” conservative Member of the European Parliament David McAllister said in Brussels. “If you’re on a payroll from the one side, it’s very difficult to be considered as 100 percent neutral. It’s his personal decision. He’s now retired. I just personally hope that other chancellors, once they have retired in many years to come, won’t do the same mistake. And I’m pretty sure the current chancellor won’t.”

Read moreVladimir Putin: How a spy rose to power and held on to it

Schröder has also been taken to task by a prominent member of the Green Party, Schröder’s junior coalition partners during his time as chancellor.

“I would agree with what the Wall Street Journal has written recently,” Green Bundestag deputy Omid Nouripour told DW in Berlin. “We don’t need sanctions against Schröder. He didn’t violate any laws. But we need to create awareness of what’s going on. There are a lot of people who are very well-known, like former Chancellor Schröder, who are playing Putin’s game in this country. This is dangerous.”

A blast from a Ukrainian lobbyist

Ukraine Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin (Reuters/. P. Bernstein)Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin is trying to rally support against Russia in the EU

Another figure to blast Schröder was former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“It’s his decision, but politically it’s a disaster,” said Rasmussen in Brussels. “I think the best way to proceed will be to really block the Nord Stream 2 project.”

Rasmussen is an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and a vocal supporter of Ukrainian causes, so his words should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.

Despite a request for a statement, Germany’s Social Democratic Party has thus far not taken an official position on the calls to sanction the former SPD chancellor. Schröder himself has insisted on numerous occasions that there is nothing illegal about his work for Russian companies.

‘Cooling off’ ex-politicians

Gerhard Schröder (r) and Vladimir Putin (picture-alliance/dpa)Schröder’s friendship with Putin while in office has served him well in his post-political career

The anti-influence-peddling NGO Lobby Control in Berlin said that it could not comment on a foreign-policy issue such as whether Schröder should be punished. But a spokesman added that the former chancellor should not be given special treatment because of his past.

“We do view Schröder’s activities very critically,” Lobby Control’s Timo Lange told DW. “From our perspective, it’s important that the German government and the SPD show that Schröder doesn’t enjoy any special privileges or access because he was once the chancellor and the head of the party.”

Lange echoed Nouripour’s call for greater awareness in Germany of former politicians’ lobbying activities and said that a 2015 law prohibiting the highest-level politicians from immediately accepting lobbying jobs after they leave office should be beefed up.

“We would favor extending the so-called ‘cooling-off period’ from the current maximum of 18 months,” Lange said. “It remains to be seen how this rule will be enforced now since it’s the first time we’ve had a change of government.”

Lange added that Germany should institute a registry for all lobbyists. Legislation to create one was put forward by the Greens and the Left Party during the last legislative period but was shot down by the conservative-SPD government.

Reporting from Brussels by Teri Schultz.


Putin’s Key Oligarch Escapes Sanctions

March 17, 2018

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder aids Russia’s ambitions in Eastern Europe, but has dodged Western attention. 

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2017.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2017. PHOTO: FELIPE TRUEBA/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Hitting upon a potent response to Vladimir Putin were Obama sanctions targeted at his top cronies, later adopted and extended in last year’s bipartisan legislation signed by Donald Trump.

Sanctions aimed at key individuals can be surprisingly effective, it turns out. They help to undermine internal support for the regime or at least its most unattractive policies.

One oligarch, though, remains overlooked. Arguably he is the most important of all. That’s former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Mr. Putin has worked with astonishing success to reorganize energy logistics in Europe to isolate, threaten and intimidate strategic countries, especially Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic nations. Mr. Schroeder has been his vital helpmate at every step.

One of Mr. Schroeder’s last acts before being turned out of office in 2005 was authorizing Nord Stream, a pipeline bypassing key territories and controlled by Russia’s Gazprom .Weeks later, at Mr. Putin’s arrangement, he took up Nord Stream’s lucrative chairmanship.

He has since added the chairmanship of Nord Stream 2, a second proposed pipeline that Germany’s now-resurrected coalition government previously approved, though with great reluctance, at the urging of Mr. Schroeder’s former party, the Social Democrats. He added a third, impressive title in September, chairman of Rosneft, the state-owned Russian oil giant at the heart of the Putin kleptocracy.

Mr. Schroeder has been a one-man Trojan horse against every European Union commitment to curb Russian energy leverage and improve the competitiveness of its gas market. Notice that the alternative was never to shut Russian gas out of Germany. It was simply for Germany, at every step, to stop lending itself to the enhancement of Russia’s energy power, with Mr. Schroeder leading the influence brigades.

He has also been the most reliable, quotable excuser of Kremlin misbehavior. Days after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea, he rushed off to St. Petersburg to be conspicuously photographed hugging Mr. Putin. Last year’s revelation of the Rosneft job, six weeks before September’s German national elections, was an equally calculated gesture.

His bright young successor as head of the Social Democrats let it be known that he viewed the decision as “wrong” and counseled Mr. Schroeder: “You don’t have to take every job that comes along.”

Germany’s recently retired president, not known for seeking out the press, sought out the press to express disapproval of Mr. Schroeder’s promotion.

Angela Merkel publicly called the decision “not acceptable” (and then accepted it).

Thus Mr. Schroeder makes himself merely debatable, rather than intolerable. This is how “normalization” really works.

Mr. Schroeder is everything Donald Trump was supposed to be in the fevered dreams of Rep. Adam Schiff —a luxury-loving, paid-up, swaggering instrument of Vladimir Putin. Except there’s no secret about it. He can even boast of being two wives ahead of Mr. Trump. Mr. Schroeder has been down the aisle so many times that the German press dwells on his reputation as the “lord of the rings” more than it does his Putin captivity.

By now, too many Germans have apologized for him for too long to think about reversing themselves, even when Mr. Putin’s missiles shot down a Malaysian airliner. Germany’s allies and its European Union partners, including the quietly frantic Poles and Balts, can’t quite refer to Mr. Schroeder as a Putin agent nestled in the heart of Germany’s political and business elite. His name doesn’t appear on any U.S. government list. Section 241 of last summer’s sanctions law required the U.S. Treasury to identify the “most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs” behind the Putin regime. These descriptors would seem to apply to Mr. Schroeder but it remains diplomatically impermissible to say so.

A term has even been coined by students of European geopolitics: “Schroederization.” Witness the Robert Mueller indictment of Paul Manafort, with its allusions to the recruitment of retired heads of state as paid lobbyists for Russia, understood to include former prime ministers of Italy, Finland and Austria.

As a general matter, can targeting sanctions at a few well-placed individuals really help with a problem like Mr. Putin, last seen using a banned nerve agent to kill an inconvenient person on British soil?

Yes. “While Europe’s economic sanctions are having little effect on Russia, those applied by the United States dramatically affect the country and its dealings with Europe,” Germany’s prestigious Handelsblatt newspaper reported in January, referring to U.S. sanctions against Putin cronies.

By making it hard for Putin associates to do business or travel in the West, or use its financial system to protect their wealth, the West can seize up the machine that sustains Mr. Putin’s power.

A kleptocracy can’t function if its beneficiaries can’t secure and enjoy their wealth. Among those currently unimpinged in their enjoyment is former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Appeared in the March 17, 2018, print edition.

What Schroeder Says…

The US is pushing for a weaker Russia while Europe is betting on a resurgent neighbour to the east to boost trade, Germany’s former chancellor has said.

Gerhard Schroeder suggested a fault line had emerged among Western allies, with Washington seeking to “isolate Russia” while its allies on the continent, including Germany, hoped to see the country prosper.

Mr Schroeder, who served as chancellor between 1998 and 2005, called for an end to sanctions and warned against attempts to “destabilise Russia”.

Speaking at the Eurasian Economic Forum in Verona, the former head of state said: “The US believes that it is possible to isolate Russia from the political point of view, and this is dangerous from the economic point of view.”

Mr Schroeder, who was appointed chairman of Russia’s state-controlled oil company Rosneft last month, added: “I see that the United Statesis interested in a weaker Russia, and the interest of Europe and Germany is that Russia will prosper, two reasons: we need a market, especially Germany, we need resources for our industry.”

Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it had been the policy of every US administration since the end of the Cold War to seek Russia’s integration into the world economy and global political affairs, “precisely because the idea of an isolated Russia is impossible and the idea of an impoverish Russia is undesirable”.

“The heart of the dispute between the West and Russia is not over Russia’s isolation or integration; it is over the terms of Russia’s integration,” Mr Shapiro, an expert in transatlantic relations, toldThe Independent.

Putin watches Russia’s military might on display in war games

“Both the US and Germany seek a Russia that plays by the political and economic rules, largely determined by the United States and its partners; Russia seeks a special status for its integration that recognises it as a great power with special rights.”

Mr Schroeder faced a backlash – including from the incumbent German Chancellor, Angela Merkel – after he accepted the job at Rosneft, which is subject to Western sanctions.

Some claimed he was “cashing in” on his former role as chancellor. But Mr Schroeder dismissed the criticism, saying his opponents wanted a “new Cold War”.

“Imagine if I had been proposed not for a Rosneft board position but for Exxon in America,” he said. “Nobody would ask my true motives.”

He added: “It is the largest oil company in the world, with important links to Germany. It is not the long arm of the Kremlin. They are the majority shareholder, but BP is a shareholder – not a small shop. Qatar is a shareholder.”

Rosneft also has informal ties to the Kremlin via its CEO, Igor Sechin, who is a close associate of the Russian President and who has earned the title “grey cardinal” on account of the influence he enjoys in Moscow.

Gerhard Schroeder greets Vladimir Putin in 2005 in Berlin (Getty)

As chancellor, Mr Schroeder backed plans for a pipeline between Germany and Russia. He has maintained links to another Russian energy giant, Gazprom, since leaving office and is a vocal supporter of Vladimir Putin, having once called the Russian President a “flawless democrat”.

“Compared to Mr Trump, Mr Putin is a very rational man, you have to admit,” he said.

Philippines says in talks with China state firm on joint sea exploration

March 1, 2018


 Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water
China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal clame. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines said Thursday it is in talks with a Chinese state firm for joint South China Sea energy resource exploration and extraction, in a proposed deal described by President Rodrigo Duterte as akin to “co-ownership” of contested areas.

The two countries have long been embroiled in a bitter dispute over their competing claims to the region — with China claiming nearly the entire sea — but Duterte has in recent years softened his predecessors’ policy of opposing Beijing’s claims.

Duterte said Wednesday an arrangement to turn two of the rival claimants virtual joint owners of the strategic and supposedly oil and gas-rich sea was preferable to the “massacre” of Filipino troops in a war with China.

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Chinese bases near the Philippines

“Now their (Beijing’s) offer is joint exploration, which is like co-ownership. It’s like the two of us would be the owners. I think that’s better than fighting,” he said during a visit to the war-torn southern city of Marawi.

Negotiations between the Philippines and China over South China Sea exploration were raised last month by Filipino Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque provided more detail Thursday, specifying that talks were underway between the Philippines’ energy department and an unnamed Chinese state firm, and that extraction of energy resources was now on the table.

He did not specify which specific area of the sea was under discussion.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim all or part of the sea. Proposed cooperation between Manila and Beijing has caused alarm among neighbouring Southeast Asian countries in the past.

“We might enter into an agreement with a Chinese-owned corporation, not the Chinese state itself,” Roque said in an interview aired on ABS-CBN television, adding the company he declined to name was state-owned.

“I know that they’re discussing, they’re moving forward and it’s likely to happen,” he added without giving a timetable or the exact terms of the proposed deal.

“This will now actually entail joint exploration and possible exploitation of natural resources.”

– ‘Alternative sources’ –

Duterte’s willingness to cooperate with China marks a turnaround from predecessor Benigno Aquino’s stance accusing Beijing of encroaching, occupying, and building structures on reefs and rocks that Manila claims as part of its exclusive economic zone.

Aquino won an international arbitration tribunal ruling in 2016 invalidating Beijing’s claims, but Duterte set aside the ruling while courting investments and trade from the Philippines’ giant neighbour, the world’s second-largest economy.

Cayetano said last month that Manila would consult legal experts to make sure any accord would not infringe on Philippine sovereign rights.

“It’s not that we have no choice. We can go back and say, ‘Fine, no one benefits from the resources now’. But come on, we’re trying to look for alternative sources of energy,” Roque said Thursday.

He said Filipino firms could not do it on their own and would need Chinese capital, while noting that “when a Filipino company attempted to explore on its own they were met by Chinese warboats (gunboats).”

He was referring to a 2011 incident when Manila said Chinese patrol boats harassed a seismic survey vessel chartered by a unit of a Philippine mining company at Philippine-claimed Reed Bank in the South China Sea.

© 2018 AFP


From Rappler

Why it matters: The 1987 Constitution states that resources within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) must be reserved for Filipinos. The West Philippine Sea is a portion of the larger South China Sea which falls within the country’s EEZ and continental shelf.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, an expert on maritime law, has said the Constitution bans “joint development ” within the country’s EEZ.

While the government can tap a private company as a contractor to extract resources within the EEZ, there can be no state-to-state joint development, he said.

Cause for concern? Duterte’s use of the term “co-ownership” could be a cause for concern given that the West Philippine Sea and its resources are supposed to be exclusively for Filipinos.

China’s claim to the West Philippine Sea was invalidated by the Permanent Court of Aribtration in the Hague, Netherlands, back in 2016. Beijing, however, has chosen to ignore the ruling.

Duterte also used the term “co-ownership” after joking that it would be better if China declares the Philippines as one of its provinces, a remark widely condemned by lawmakers and citizens.



We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)




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China has long had its eye on James Shoal and may move toward the island unless Malaysia or Indonesia protest…


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Coal Jobs Get a Boost—From Exports

February 24, 2018

U.S. utilities continue switch to natural gas despite pro-coal policies of President Trump

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, outdoor and water

Miners in Indiana and other states are getting a small lift from global markets: American companies are shipping more coal to Europe and Asia, helping to stop the yearslong drop in the number of U.S. mining jobs.

Miners in Indiana and other states are getting a small lift from global markets: American companies are shipping more coal to Europe and Asia, helping to stop the yearslong drop in the number of U.S. mining jobs.

The latest job increase runs counter to the long-term decline in coal used to generate electricity in the U.S., as coal-fired power plants are closed in favor of plants that burn cheap, abundant and cleaner natural gas.

Exports of U.S. thermal coal used by utilities rose 117% to 42 million tons last year. That more than offset the 11-million-ton decline in coal used at U.S. power plants, which fell to 667.5 million tons last year, from 678.6 million tons in 2016. Coal accounted for 30% of U.S. electricity generation in 2016, compared with nearly 34% for natural gas.

Read more

  • Coal’s Decline Spreads Far Beyond Appalachia
  • Power Shift: How Natural Gas and Renewables Dethroned King Coal

The stronger export market is translating into a bump in coal-mining jobs. Last year, coal companies added nearly 1,000 jobs, a trickle compared with the 60,000 workers who lost mining jobs between 2011 and 2016.

Coal producer Alliance Resource Partners LP plans to reopen an underground mine in rural Gibson County, Ind. that the company shut in 2015. The mine employed 417 miners in late 2014.

“We are seeing actual coal-fired generation power plants being built in other countries,” Alliance’s CEO Joe Craft told analysts recently. “So we’re expanding.”

The export opportunities come from a tightening of global supply, attractive pricing in Western Europe and greater coal use in developing countries like India, where imports of U.S. thermal coal jumped to 6.8 million metric tons last year, from 2.4 million tons a year earlier.

By contrast, the loosening of environmental rules by the Trump administration, while welcomed by the coal industry for boosting confidence, has had little direct effect on domestic coal usage or exports, industry experts say.

Mines in the Illinois coal basin, which includes parts of Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky, are so far benefiting the most for several reasons. The mines there tend to be lower-cost operations than in more heavily mined areas in Appalachia.

Mining companies in the Midwest can also ship coal by river and export it through the Gulf of Mexico, while ports on the East Coast are often congested and politicians and environmental groups have blocked coal shipments from the West Coast.

One major greenfield coal project—the Poplar Grove mine—is under construction in western Kentucky and expected to begin shipping coal in the fall.

Kelly Thurman, judge executive of McLean County, Ky., said he is looking forward to the jobs as well as added coal severance tax revenue based on the value of coal that is mined. The county used revenue from another coal mine that opened within the past two years to pay for a new $120,000 ambulance and to pay for part of a new fire station and a new water system.

“We’re one of the few spots that is really experiencing any growth,” Mr. Thurman said. “It has tremendous potential for us as a county government.”

The Poplar Grove mine will ship just under half of its production to a Kentucky power plant, but Paringa Resources Ltd.’s CEO, Grant Quasha, said the company will look at export opportunities. “It has been very positive to have that increase in demand from the international markets,” he said.

Other companies say they also expect exports for thermal coal to remain strong in 2018. Exports of metallurgical coal used to make steel were up 35% last year, buoyed by an improving global economy.

“Both in thermal and metallurgical, the export market is really the most interesting and really the only game in town where there’s any obvious growth,” said Paul Forward, an analyst with Stifel.

The number of coal miners rose to 82,840 last year, from 81,883 a year earlier, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The figures include contract miners as well as direct employees at companies.

The latest mine openings are likely to be partly offset by the expected closure of a few mines this year, including an underground coal mine employing 370 miners in Greene County, Pa., south of Pittsburgh.

Murray Energy, the largest underground coal-mining company in the U.S., said it would export more coal this year, about 22.5 million tons, compared with 15 million tons last year.

“The world needs the coal, and we have seen the growth,” said Chief Executive Robert Murray, a vocal supporter and financial backer of President Donald Trump. “It’s not just a matter of hiring people. It’s a matter of keeping our mines alive right now.”

Write to Kris Maher at

UK’s top energy supplier Centrica says cutting 4,000 jobs — 17-percent drop in profits in 2017 due to a loss of customers

February 22, 2018


© AFP | British energy firm Centrica is to cut 4,000 jobs after profits fell 17 percent in 2017
LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s top energy supplier Centrica said Thursday it would cut 4,000 jobs by 2020 after announcing a 17-percent drop in profits in 2017 due to a loss of customers and poor performance in North America.”We expected the new programme to involve reduction in like-for-like headcount of around 4,000 by 2020,” the company, which employs around 33,000 people, said in a statement.

Centrica chief executive Iain Conn said the company’s financial result for the year had been “weak” and put the blame partly on the possibility of a price cap being introduced in Britain.

“There is a link between our cost efficiency programme and preparing for any price cap in the UK. We’ve got to be competitive and this measure means we’ve got to drive more efficiency,” Conn told the BBC.

The proposed price cap “has created a lot of uncertainty about Centrica’s future,” he said.

In a statement Conn blamed the results on “political and regulatory intervention in the UK energy market, concerns over the loss of energy customers in the UK and the performance issue in North America”.

The company said the total number for account holders in Britain had fallen to 20.34 million from 21.72 million over the year — a decline of 6.0 percent.

The number in North America went down by 9.0 percent.

Centrica, which owns British Gas, said its operational profits had fallen 17 percent to £1.25 billion (1.41 billion euros, $1.74 billion).

The company said it also expected to create 1,000 additional roles by 2020.

China Sucks Gas Out of Global Market Amid Shift From Coal

January 23, 2018

Move boosts LNG price and leaves large swathes of industry in China struggling with limited gas supplies

Heavy smog envelops the express road in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, in October. China’s smog levels are well in excess of World Health Organization standards.
Heavy smog envelops the express road in Shijiazhuang, north China’s Hebei Province, in October. China’s smog levels are well in excess of World Health Organization standards. PHOTO: JIA MINJIE/ZUMA PRESS

China is replacing coal with gas, sucking up global supplies of the fuel and pushing up the price of liquefied natural gas to a three-year high.

The world’s No. 2 economy is cutting back on coal after President Xi Jinping made a cleaner environment a key priority at last Fall’s Communist Party Congress.

That has left large swathes of industry in China struggling with limited gas, including giants like German chemical company BASF SE and local producer Yunnan Yuntianhua Co., as supplies are diverted to households that had previously relied on coal for heating.

China’s smog levels are still well in excess of World Health Organization standards, and analysts see no letup in the country’s move out of coal, which releases more greenhouse gas emissions than gas.

That’s good news for the LNG industry, which ships super chilled gas in its liquid form, at a time when large amounts of new supply has limited price gains.

“We were optimistic on the opportunity in China, but the magnitude surprised us,” said Anatol Feygin, chief commercial officer at U.S. LNG exporter Cheniere Energy Inc.

China BoomChina’s gas demand is driving the price ofliquefied natural gas higher.China’s natural gas demand
.billion cubic metersLNGOther2013’14’15’16’17’18050100150200250300

Japan Korea Marker, per million Britishthermal unitsSource: S&P Global PlattsNote: 2018 demand is an estimate

Cheniere opened an office in Beijing in 2017 to market its LNG and is in discussions with China National Petroleum Corp. for a long-term sales contract for U.S. gas. Among others, Malaysia’s national energy company Petronas also announced plans last year to expand their LNG sales in Southern China.

The price of LNG delivered to Asia hit $11.70 per million British thermal units this month, its highest level since November 2014, according to the Platts JKM benchmark price.

Chinese LNG imports rose by almost 50% in 2017, and the country has now eclipsed South Korea to become the world’s second-largest importer behind Japan.

The extra imports still haven’t been enough for some parts of Chinese industry.

On Dec.12, BASF stopped producing some chemicals at a Chongqing-based facility due to “a supply shortage of natural gas,” it said in a statement at the time. The company told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that its production remained suspended and it is unclear when it will resume.

Yunnan Yuntianhua said on Dec. 13 that its ammonia and urea production lines in the southwest province of Yunnan were halted due to “partial suspension in natural gas supply in southwest regions” to ensure heating demand for residents during the winter, according to a company filing to the Shanghai stock exchange.

Analysts say that given Beijing’s very public commitment to improving air quality, the shift away from coal is unlikely to lose urgency over the medium term. But neither will Chinese policy makers let citizens freeze, meaning that gas supplies will continue to be diverted to households.

“It’s clear that Beijing will continue its push to reduce reliance on coal,” said Fan Qingtian, senior analyst at Changjiang Futures Co. It isn’t unusual for Chinese policy makers to implement broad rulings that lead to unintended consequences, he said.

China has committed to increasing gas’s share of its energy mix to 10% by 2020 from its current level of around 7%. That could increase annual gas demand by more than 50% from 2016 levels to 325 billion cubic meters, according to Bernstein.

“There’s an issue of how quickly can this be achieved without creating bottlenecks and price spikes especially when it’s cold,” said Kerry Anne Shanks, head of Asia Pacific LNG research at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

The surge in demand from China couldn’t have come at a better time for the LNG market. A wave of new projects in Australia, the U.S. and Russia have helped keep the price of LNG at almost half its 2014 peak of more than $20 per million BTUs.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the biggest LNG shipper and producer, estimates that from 2016 to 2020, trade will increase by one-third to 350 million tonnes a year.

“I think part of the reason they [China] decided to do this was they knew they could purchase extra amounts from the market without tripling the price of LNG,” said Alan Townsend, senior energy specialist at the World Bank.

As it takes in more gas, China has been beefing up import facilities, according to consultancy Energy Aspects.

At the end of last year, China had the capacity to import 56 million tonnes of LNG a year and that is set to rise by a third to 74 million tonnes by 2020. A new pipeline from Russia to China is due to be completed in 2019, plus production from domestic gas fields is ramping up.

The move to gas is set to stay.

“Once certain cities, industries go into gas, they can’t get out; it’s that simple, even if the price increases,” said Javier Moret, global head of LNG at RWE Supply & Trading GmbH.

Write to Sarah McFarlane at and Nathaniel Taplin at

Saudi Arabia calls for extending non-OPEC cooperation

January 21, 2018


© AFP/File | Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh said a new framework for cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers might differ from the current agreement

MUSCAT (AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh on Sunday called for extending cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers beyond 2018 after a deal to shore up crude prices.”We should not limit our efforts to 2018. We need to be talking about a longer framework for our cooperation,” Faleh said before a meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC countries in Muscat.

This is the first time OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia explicitly calls for extending a 2016 deal between oil producers to cut back production to combat a global oil glut.

OPEC and non-OPEC countries signed a landmark agreement in November 2016 to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day to fight huge oversupply and lift sagging crude prices.

That deal was initially for six months, but the 14-member cartel and 10 independent producers have since extended it until the end of this year.

“I am talking about extending the framework that we started ?- which is the declaration of cooperation -? beyond 2018,” Faleh told reporters.

But Faleh said the new framework for cooperation might differ from the current agreement and its production quotas.

“It does not necessarily mean sticking barrel by barrel” to the same agreement, which has helped a healthy rebound in oil prices to around $70 a barrel.

It would mean “assuring stakeholders, investors, consumers and the global community that (the agreement) is here to stay”.

It would send the message that “we are going to work together not only with the 24 countries, but inviting more and more participants,” he said.

Faleh said oil producers have not yet achieved their target of reducing world stocks to normal levels and striking a balance between supply and demand.


Israeli premier on 6-day visit to India to deepen ties

January 14, 2018

The national flags of Israel and India stand in the campus of the Center of Excellence for Vegetables at Vadrad village, some 70 km from Ahmedabad, on January 12, 2018. (AFP)

NEW DELHI: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beginning his first visit to India to promote defense, trade and energy ties.

Netanyahu arrives Sunday for a six-day visit. On Monday, he’ll meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and call on President Ram Nath Kovind as well as attend an India-Israel CEO Forum Meeting.
India’s External Affairs Ministry says the two countries are expected to sign agreements on cybersecurity, energy and space cooperation and film production.
Israel and India have developed close ties in high-tech and defense cooperation.

T. Boone Pickens Calls It Quits on Energy Trading

January 12, 2018

The oilman and investment manager cites deteriorating health and poor returns; fund will move toward a family-office structure

T. Boone Pickens, 89 years old, wrote in his letter to investors, ‘Trading oil is not as intriguing to me as it once was.”’
T. Boone Pickens, 89 years old, wrote in his letter to investors, ‘Trading oil is not as intriguing to me as it once was.”’ PHOTO: DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS


T. Boone Pickens, a famous oilman and investment manager, said he is closing the energy-focused hedge fund he has run for the last two decades as his health declines.

The move closes a chapter in a nearly seven-decade career that has included stints as a wildcatter, corporate raider, cattle trader and clean-energy evangelist.

The 89-year-old Oklahoma native cited both his deteriorating health and weak financial performance as reasons for closing the fund, according to a letter that he plans to publish soon and was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Pickens said he is recovering from a series of strokes last year and a bad fall.

“It’s no secret the past year has not been good to me, from a health perspective or a financial one,” he wrote in the letter. “If you are lucky enough to make it to 89 years of age like I have, those things tend to put life in perspective.”

“Trading oil is not as intriguing to me as it once was,” he added.

A spokesman for Mr. Pickens declined to comment on the fund’s size or returns. The fund managed more than $2 billion a decade ago, the Journal reported at the time. In recent years, the firm’s assets, including a private-equity fund and some mutual funds that will continue running, totaled about $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The letter said his hedge fund would move toward a family-office structure. Family offices manage the fortunes of the wealthy and are able to sidestep much of the regulatory scrutiny experienced by firms that handle outside clients’ money.

Two of Mr. Pickens’s top lieutenants, Brian Bradshaw and David Meaney, have already left BP Capital and will jointly launch an energy fund, Assert Capital Management, next week. Mr. Pickens will be an investor, Mr. Meaney said.

There have been other signs Mr. Pickens is looking to simplify. Late last year, Mr. Pickens listed his massive Mesa Vista ranch for sale, asking $250 million. He pieced together the 64,809-acre ranch through multiple purchases starting in 1971. There he has explored for oil, entertained oil magnates and politicians and hosted epic quail hunts. It includes its own air strip, an 11,000-square-foot kennel for his 40 bird dogs and a chapel where he once married.

His decision to wind down the fund follows closures of several other commodity funds that have struggled with low returns and redemptions amid plummeting prices. Even as oil prices started to recover last year from a rout that began in 2014, trading conditions were harsh for funds that specialize in energy.

Prominent oil trader Andrew Hall said last summer that he would wind down the main hedge fund at Astenbeck Capital Management. Madava Asset Management, led by veteran energy trader George “Beau” Taylor, is also shutting.

T. Boone Pickens, an Oklahoma native, was a generous donor to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University. Above, with Oklahoma State strength coach Rob Glass in August 2009.
T. Boone Pickens, an Oklahoma native, was a generous donor to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University. Above, with Oklahoma State strength coach Rob Glass in August 2009. PHOTO: SUE OGROCKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In recent years, Mr. Pickens ran his financial firm from a conference room in its Dallas office. On the wall next to him hung maps showing the drilling projects scheduled for his 100-square-mile ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Visitors, including reporters, would find him with a bowl of bite-size Butterfinger candy bars by his side and a small dog at his feet.

He tended to focus on commodity bets, while others at the small firm picked stocks. The firm’s recent securities filings detail a portfolio loaded with pipeline operators, Permian Basin oil drillers and the odd chemical company and airline.

Mr. Pickens’s convictions often resulted in volatile returns, but the fund delivered what it promised, which was exposure to energy, according to people familiar with the fund’s performance.

“I’m surprised he didn’t quit a decade ago,” said John Trammell, a former investor with Mr. Pickens. “All of us can hope to be that engaged at his age.”

Mr. Trammell said that the volatility in returns was a reason his former fund of hedge-funds firm had invested with Mr. Pickens, but that his clients became uncomfortable with mounting losses around 2010.

Still, he said he considers Mr. Pickens one of the most informed energy traders in the hedge-fund industry. “He had a very good model for global oil flows and he had a very good understanding of the decision-making process in the Middle East.”

Mr. Pickens trained as a geologist and started his career at Phillips Petroleum. In the 1950s, he started the company that would become Mesa Petroleum Corp., which went on to make a string of unsolicited bids for much larger rivals.

He become a corporate raider in the 1980s and made his share of enemies. In 1983, Mesa made a bid for Gulf Corp., one of the country’s largest companies. Even though it wasn’t successful, Mr. Pickens’s run at Gulf forced the oil titan into the arms of Chevron Corp. and a Pickens-led investment group earned $760 million when the shares it bought in Mesa appreciated during the takeover attempt.

Mesa met trouble in the mid-1990s, when low natural gas prices sapped its profitability. Mr. Pickens was ousted, and the company was merged with a company that eventually became the giant shale driller Pioneer Natural Resources Co. He launched BP Capital in 1996 after he left Mesa.

In recent years Mr. Pickens reinvented himself as a promoter for the domestic energy industry, arguing that the U.S. needed to wean itself from foreign oil with more natural gas and wind power. But the energy renaissance he championed, fueled by shale drilling, helped produce a glut of oil and natural gas that sent prices tumbling.

Mr. Pickens described himself as “a victim of [his] own success,” as the U.S. energy industry’s output helped dampen volatility and made it harder to eke out profits from trading.

“I’m ecstatic that I’ve hung on long enough to see it all unfold,” Mr. Pickens wrote in his letter.

Write to Alison Sider at, Ryan Dezember at and Juliet Chung at