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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Energy fun, october, 2008

In today's edition:
  1. Piebalgs wants EU-wide energy regulator
  2. EU’s Piebalgs on 'Nabucco tour' for gas supplies
  3. Khodorkovsky's lawyer attacks European energy firms
  4. Euro gains favour amid crisis
Little but profoundly enjoying, especially the third one. Enjoy!

Piebalgs wants EU-wide energy regulator

3 November 2008

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has announced his intention to propose a new EU-wide energy regulator, with equal powers to national regulators, and to push for greater independence of national watchdogs.

In an interview published by Spanish daily ABC on Sunday, Piebalgs said the lessons learned from the current financial crisis showed that more competition was needed in the energy sector. With only a few giant companies in Europe, governments are obliged to intervene to rescue them whenever they run into trouble, the commissioner argues.

The Spanish energy regulator CNE has been under scrutiny from the European Commission for some time after it failed to remove restrictive conditions for a takeover bid for Spanish energy company Endesa by Germany's E.ON. Last March, the European Court of Justice ruled against Spain in this case (EurActiv 07/03/08).

The proposals by Piebalgs appear to go further than the Commission's original proposal, while MEPs in the industry (ITRE) committee backed calls for a strong EU-wide regulator in a vote on 28 May (EurActiv 29/05/08).

France in particular is in favour of a European agency for cooperation between European energy regulators. source

My comment: As you very well know, I support fully the energy unbundling and I still cannot quite figure out why the EC gave in to the pressure of the giants. What's even funnier-most giants are state owned. Ok, maybe it's not so fun, but in any case, I'm sure the crisis will lead us to better understanding of the balance between wishes and needs. And between profits and benefits. As for France's reaction-I wonder why if they are all so agree, they voted against the full energy unbundling. A mystery!

EU’s Piebalgs on 'Nabucco tour' for gas supplies

4 November 2008

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs will visit Turkey and Azerbaijan from Wednesday (5 November) on the first leg of a high-level tour of Central Asian countries involved with the bloc's flagship Nabucco gas pipeline project.

The US has long been pushing for the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines from the Caspian basin that would bypass Russia, especially via Georgia. The Nabucco project for a 3,000 km pipeline, with a planned capacity of 31 billion cubic metres per year, was launched to bring Caspian gas to Western Europe, bypassing Russian territory. A branch of Nabucco is expected to bring gas from North African countries, such as Egypt and Libya.

The visit, which was initially planned for a larger number of supply and transit countries, was finally restricted to Turkey and Azerbaijan due to calendar constraints, said Piebalgs's spokesperson Ferran Tarradellas. The commissioner would also like to visit Kazakhstan and Egypt in the short term, Tarradellas told EurActiv.

However, Turkmenistan will not be visited by the commissioner this time round, Tarradellas said. The country, which is home to the largest gas reserves of the Caucasus, is being heavily courted by Russia to sell its gas to Gazprom at world market prices. Moscow could then resell it to Europe as "Russian" gas, according to the strategy.

A future branch of Nabucco to Iraq, which holds the world's tenth largest gas reserves, is seen by the Commission as "very important".

Tarradellas said Iraq had shown interest in selling gas to Nabucco, adding that discussions had already taken place about the transfer of substantial amounts of Iraqi gas via Syria and the Trans-Arabian gas pipeline, or directly via a link between Iraq and Turkey.

Recently, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov dismissed the potential of the Nabucco project, and especially plans to bring gas from Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan, claiming the resources of the two Central Asian countries were insufficient. The only way to fill the Nabucco pipeline was with Iranian gas, he said (EurActiv 30/04/08).

Iran, which holds 15% the world's estimated gas reserves, is not on the commissioner's list due to the uranium enrichment row between Western countries and Teheran, which prevents the EU from developing the project.

Speaking at a recent plenary session in Parliament, MEPs criticised the Commission for being slow in starting the Nabucco project. Tarradallas said the commissioner's visit should not be seen as a reaction to this criticism, but rather as business as usual in implementing a high priority project.

Meanwhile, Gazprom is pursuing its own diplomatic efforts. In a recent meeting with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who visited Moscow over the weekend, the Russian state monopoly reportedly offered to buy all of Libya's gas production in a deal similar to those it is trying to strike in the Caucasus.

Asked if such a deal would hamper Nabucco, Tarradellas said Libya already supplied gas to Italy directly or through Tunisia. Selling its gas to Russia was "not the most intelligent thing" for Libya to do, he said.

Libya also bought two billion dollars-worth of Russian-made fighter jets, helicopters, antiaircraft missiles and tanks. Moreover, the Russian press reported that Libya might offer to allow Russian ships to use the Mediterranean port of Benghazi as a naval base. source

My comment: I urge you to read the source-article for more details on the Russia's relations with Libya since they are particularly interesting. In any case, I find it even more interesting how desperately the EC want to make Nabucco seems real, when we all know that's it's nowhere out of its project phase. I doubt it's even on engineers table. In that case, how precisely they are planning to finish it until 2013? This is a real thing, not an opera, and it requires real work to be done. I personally don't see any hope for it in the near future and I think the EC should focus on ironing the best possible deal with Russia than on nonsense visits. Nabucco simply has too many political problems for the moment. Instead of messing with the beast, we better find a way to best deal with it.

Khodorkovsky's lawyer attacks European energy firms

7 November 2008

The legal representative of imprisoned former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has called for a formal investigation into the role allegedly played by European energy firms in undermining the rule of law in Russia.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a Russian businessman and owner of oil giant Yukos. He was arrested by the Russian prosecutor general's office in 2003 on charges of fraud. In 2005, he was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison.

The move was widely condemned by the international community. A wide variety of politicians and businessmen – both in Russia and internationally – consider the trial process to have been largely political given that Khodorkovsky had funded several Russian political parties, including the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, prior to his arrest.

In contrast with this view, then-Russian President Vladimir Putin denied playing an active role in the prosecution, saying that the prosecutor's move showed that no-one was above the law.

Speaking in Brussels on 5 November, Robert Amsterdam, the lawyer who represents Khodorkovsky, called on the European Parliament to bring together European energy companies to testify before Parliament regarding their lobbying practices associated with Russia's domestic situation and the rule of law.

"There are specific European energy companies that have invested in the destruction of the rule of law in Russia," Amsterdam claimed, urging the Parliament to hold a hearing on the issue.

These companies have "signed deals in Russia and then lobbied their home states not to strengthen law in Russia but to weaken [it]," the lawyer stated, going on to say that "they profit from no rules [in Russia]".

Amsterdam called on the Parliament to "find out from Total what they said to the French government, why ENI bought Yukos assets that were knowingly tainted and why they engaged in asset laundering [and to] ask BP how much they spent on lobbying Whitehall and what were they doing".

"The first thing we need is transparency [and] we need to understand the role of so many of these Western companies that have actually supported some of the worst in Russia," Amsterdam explained.

In response, centre-right MEP Christopher Beazley (EPP-ED) recalled that "Total and other European companies have been investigated for their activities in the African countries".

A spokesperson for BP said the petrol company had "categorically stated that it is not a political entity, it is a commercial entity".

"BP's investment in Russia has purely been a commercial transaction that is in the interest of shareholders and it is to the benefit of Russia," the spokesperson stated.

A Total spokesperson declined to comment. source

My comment: Haha. Ok, what else could you say to this. So, the whole world stands up for the guy, but his lawyers instead of being good puppies blame European giants for being bad to Russia. Well, the mother land before everything else! Jokes and fun aside, I was never able to understand why the put him in the jail on first place, though I have some suspicions. In any case, Total and BP are obviously not clean and they should take responsibilities for their actions. I don't say it simply because of those statements, but let's remember what happened with the BP director in Russia-he was changed due to some "personal flaws". Ok, a bad quote, but he really was changed with someone who understood Russia better-according to the official statement of the company. Isn't it odd?

Euro gains favour amid crisis

28 October 2008

Denmark, Iceland and Poland are increasingly looking towards the euro as their own currencies tumble in the wake of the financial turmoil that has swept the continent. But it remains unclear whether the single currency can provide a safe haven from the crisis.

"The world crisis has shown that it's safer to be with the strong, among the strong and to have influence on the decisions of the strong," said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk yesterday (27 October).

Poland is expected to come forward today with a timetable for joining the euro by 2012 after its currency – the zloty – fell against the euro by 10% in recent days.

The situation in Iceland is even worse, with the krona diving 40% after the recent collapse of the country's booming financial sector, forcing Reykjavik to appeal for €5 billion in international loans.

Despite the Icelandic population's traditional resistance to joining the EU – namely due to the strong anti-EU fishermen lobby – 72.5% of Icelanders are now in favour of adopting the euro, according to a poll published by the daily Frettabladid.

In Denmark, the crisis has also reopened the euro debate as international investors seek to shift towards bigger – and hopefully safer – currencies. The Danes rejected the single currency back in 2000 but the crisis appears to be harnessing support for the euro. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has already announced his intention to hold a fresh referendum on the issue before 2011 (EurActiv 23/11/07).

Yet it remains to be seen whether the euro can provide a safe haven from the crisis. Indeed, the single currency fell to a two-year low against the dollar yesterday amid recession fears and speculation that the European Central Bank would cut interest rates next week.

Many investors are also concerned about European banks' exposure to investments in emerging markets, such as Ukraine and Hungary, which have both had to turn to the International Monetary Fund for help. source

My comment: I really insisted on posting this, because it shows a very nice and obvious trend. When things get rough, naughty children comes back to mamy. Very informative, huh? The point is that people are starting to realise the strength of the EU even after it hit most of the developed economies in Europe. That's certainly positive-in the end, they will all take money from the Central European Bank, if it provides help, it should requires something in return, right?

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