12:00 AM, Oct 11, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Anyone who doubts that the deployment of the technologies we have come to call fracking constitutes a revolution should consider this. U.S. oil production has soared by 70 percent in the past six years. American refineries have cut in half their imports from the OPEC cartel, setting off a scramble by those countries to find new markets. Nigeria, once among our top-five suppliers, no longer exports to us a single barrel of its light, low-sulfur oil -- the type produced by fracking. Thanks to a bit of definitional legerdemain that gets partially around an old anti-export law passed when we were deemed excessively dependent on foreign oil, we are set to become a major exporter. Our crude exports are at their highest level since the 1950s, and when, as seems likely, the remaining ban on exports is removed, will rise sharply. Shipments of just the type of crude European refineries need will head there, more Alaskan oil will be shipped to Asia, and global competition will become more intense. RIP theories of “Peak Oil.”
The ripple effects of the glut-induced drop in oil prices to levels not seen since December 2012 are only now beginning to be felt.
· Consumers are no longer grumpy when filling their tanks. Average gasoline prices have fallen from this year’s peak of $3.71 in April to $3.26 now, leaving $170 million in consumers’ pockets every day, money that would have otherwise gone down the tank. That’s the equivalent of a multi-billion dollar annual tax cut that will almost surely buoy retail sales during the Christmas shopping season, one retailers are approaching with more than their usual trepidation. And when proposed natural gas pipelines from producing fields in the Northeast to consuming centers in the South are completed, consumers there will become still richer as heating bills take a tumble.
· Car manufacturers are overjoyed. Lower gasoline prices make it more attractive for consumers to buy the big much-loved SUVs that are not exactly gasoline-sipping machines -- and are the most profitable vehicles produced by U.S. car manufacturers.
· Railroads are finding themselves hauling lots of oil despite the fact that it costs about $10 more per barrel than by pipeline. But shipping by rail from the Bakken shale fields to the Gulf Coast takes only five-to-seven days, compared to forty days by pipeline, and avoids the massive new investment that extending the existing pipeline infrastructure would require.
· Petrochemical and other manufacturers that use large quantities of fracked shale gas find their costs of energy so low relative to those in Europe and elsewhere, perhaps half those in green Germany, that their competitive positions are better than they have ever been.
· The overall economy and our trade balance are being positively affected by our new position as the world’s largest oil producer. Daniel Yergin, the nation’s preeminent energy historian and analyst, notes that “money that was flowing out of the United States and into sovereign wealth funds and treasuries … will now stay in the US, … creating jobs.”
Enough about the grubby stuff of getting and spending. On to what matters most in our turbulent world: power. Joseph Nye Jr., the Harvard professor and father of the concept of “soft power” (preferred by liberals to the hard stuff) in international affairs, tells the New York Times that a “shale gale” is enhancing America’s clout. “If you are attracted to a country or any leader, a lot has to do with the feeling, ‘Do they have momentum? Is the wind in their sails or are their sales flapping? We’ve got a gust.’”
That gust is blowing away some of the revenues Vladimir Putin is counting on to fund his assault on the post-World War II territorial settlement in Europe. Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy estimates that Russia’s Gazprom could lose 18 percent of its revenues as a result of direct competition from exports of U.S. liquefied shale gas, and increased competition from other liquefied natural gas (LNG) previously imported into the U.S. from Qatar and elsewhere, now seeking new markets. That competition will accelerate when new liquefied natural gas terminals are completed and others converted from import to export facilities (projected cost of one such conversion, Texas’ Golden Pass export terminal, joint venture of Exon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum: $10 billion), and will become even more intense when new export terminals in Australia come on line.
1:04 PM, May 13, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama has been briefed on mystery virus MERS, White House spokesman Jay Carney said at today's briefing.
And in Friday’s meeting between Obama and King Abdullah, he’s poised to stand against Obama administration policy on Iran and Syria.2:38 PM, Mar 27, 2014 • By HUSSAIN ABDUL-HUSSAIN
Friday’s meeting in Riyadh between King Abdullah and President Obama is likely to be a tense one. First, there’s the fact that the Saudis and the White House differ on a host of regional issues, from Egypt and Bahrain to Syria and Iran. Moreover, there are also the secondary players likely to be in attendance, one of which from each side the other considers a nuisance. The Saudis think that newly named National Security Council staffer Robert Malley is an irritant, and the White House doesn’t like Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief and formerly longtime ambassador to Washington.
But interim deal with Iran puts the White House and its traditional Middle East allies in opposing camps.2:52 PM, Nov 25, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
In the wake of the interim deal that the White House signed with Iran Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said on the Sunday talk shows that nothing has changed, not with the American position in the Middle East, or with the U.S. alliance system in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is screaming his head off, but Israel has nothing to worry about says Kerry.
Saudi Arabia would prefer not to. Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By JOHN BOLTON
On October 17, Saudi Arabia was elected by the United Nations General Assembly to a nonpermanent seat on the Security Council.
3:07 PM, Oct 9, 2013 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
On October 2, Arab media reported that a Kuwaiti radical Muslim television preacher, Tareq Suwaidan, was prohibited from visiting Saudi Arabia. Suwaidan had sought to go to Mecca to perform “umrah,” a shorter version of the annual hajj pilgrimage.
8:18 AM, Sep 19, 2013 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Against the expectation of many observers, social change continues in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Recent reforms have particularly affected the status of women. At the end of August, the Saudis took a remarkable and surprising step by criminalizing domestic violence. As reported in the London Independent, the Saudi cabinet “passed a ban on domestic violence and other forms of abuse against women for the first time in the Kingdom’s history.”
A view through the two-way mirror of Saudi Arabia.Jan 14, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 17 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
If I were of a cynical nature, I might suspect that this volume possesses an agenda beyond explaining the world’s most important and least predictable Muslim country to Westerners. But an awkward combination of a pretentious title and a lightweight style employed by its author should not distract Saudi-watchers and other interested readers from the importance of this work.
8:19 AM, Nov 28, 2012 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Early in November, the Saudi Arabian government announced the replacement of interior minister Prince Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz, named to the post in June of this year, after the death of Prince Nayef, his elder brother.
2:54 PM, Nov 8, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Smith, told the Arabic news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat that American foreign policy will now change after President Barack Obama's reelection. Smith made the comments at an election night party at his residence.
6:15 AM, Oct 25, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
A post in the Wall Street Journal blog covering India suggests relations are souring between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, long the main instrument of Riyadh’s ideological influence over South Asian Muslims. The desert monarchy has extradited several terrorist suspects to India, under a treaty signed between the two countries in 2010. Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari was sent to India in June, A. Rayees was deported by the Saudis to New Delhi in October, and Fasih Muhammad, last week.
6:05 PM, Oct 9, 2012 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
In the seven years since King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz assumed the throne of Saudi Arabia, the absolute monarch, whose reformist aspirations are widely believed to be sincere, has attempted to curb some of the outrageous human rights violations for which the desert kingdom is known.
3:20 PM, Aug 20, 2012 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Media bias consists of more than partial quotes, deliberate misreporting, and economy with the truth. Doubt that, and read the New York Times last week, reporting—on page one—“U.S. Reliance on Saudi Oil Goes Back Up: Security Concerns Rise With Gulf Imports.” If you think this has anything to do with the president’s decision to veto the Keystone Pipeline, think again, or look for a more balance report.
3:59 PM, Aug 1, 2012 • By ALI H. ALYAMI
For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, Saudi women are being allowed by their ultra-conservative government to compete. As the Saudi athletes marched in the opening ceremonies in London, the women’s faces and open arms showed a joyful sense of emancipation from the yoke of political, religious, and traditional marginalization. By the standards of free and advanced societies, the advance is small, but by Saudi standards, it is a gigantic step forward, with far-reaching implications for Saudi Arabia and the international community.
12:00 AM, Jul 26, 2012 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
For 22 years, Bandar bin Sultan was Saudi Arabia’s influential, irrepressible ambassador in Washington. After years in eclipse, he has just been named as head of the kingdom’s intelligence service. What does it all mean?