US wades into Iraq: Is it all about oil? Libya reintegrates. Shale and GOP. [Recharge]

US airstrikes, which helped Kurdish peshmerga take back at least part of Mosul Dam over the weekend, are fueling speculation that oil motivated US involvement in Iraq. But the facts point otherwise. Also: Libya continues its reintegration into global oil markets; if the GOP captures the Senate, the US shale boom would likely accelerate. Catch up on the week in global energy with Recharge.

A worker walks past a section of an oil refinery, which is being brought on a truck to Kalak refinery in the outskirts of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region in July. US airstrikes have shored up oil interests in northern Iraq. Mitlants' retreat

From oil markets to solar innovation to gas wars, each weekend Recharge examines the big ideas in global energy. Subscribe for free.

Oil interests: Renewed American military action in Iraq inevitably fuels speculation over oil's role in US-Middle East relations. The latest airstrikes – 25 over the weekend – helped Kurdish forces retake part of the strategic Mosul Dam from militants. They also ease concerns that Kurdish oil in the north is vulnerable to militants of the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS). But the strikes have done more to protect Yazidis than they do to protect Big Oil, which is chiefly concerned with southern Iraq. What's more, the Obama administration has discouraged foreign oil development in Kurdistan, and is more interested in renewables than in foreign crude.

Ras Lanuf: Libyan port Ras Lanuf last week launched its first oil tanker in a year, as Tripoli slowly reintegrates Africa's largest proved oil reserves into the global oil market. Markets have proven resilient even with persistent turmoil in the Middle East, though soft demand made it hard to find a buyer for Libyan crude. 

Legislative power: If Republicans capture both chambers of US Congress in November – a distinct possibility – the North American shale boom will likely shift into higher gear. Republicans and energy-state Democrats are eager to approve LNG exports, peel back the crude export ban, and approve Keystone XL. That unified support would challenge Obama's ambitions for reducing carbon emissions.

In the pipeline

Drill deeper

With Natural Gas Byproduct, Iran Sidesteps Sanctions [New York Times]
“If this [condensate exporting] gets up to the billions of dollars, then it could lead to retaliatory measures,” Denise Natali, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University, tells The New York Times. “This could reinforce suspicions about Iran, that it cannot be trusted.”

Poor installation, grid constraints and defective panels plague China's huge solar program [E&E]
China had 19.5 gigawatts of solar power by the end of 2013. But "many solar installations failed to generate as much electricity as planned," Ji Zhenshuang, deputy director at the Beijing-based China General Certification Center, tells E&E. Defective panels and grid constraints stymie China's solar ambitions as it tries to shift away from coal.

World Awash in Oil Shields Markets From 2008 Price Shock [Bloomberg]
Why are oil markets rosy as tensions percolate in energy-rich Iraq and Russia? The US shale boom means oil-hungry America imports less crude, while soft demand globally takes pressure off the oil supply.

Energy sources

  • Naftogaz: "... [T]he current situation cannot be considered stable. The possibility of a crisis similar to 2009, when Gazprom terminated gas transit to Europe, cannot be ignored."  
  • BNEF: "Mexico and Central America are likely to install just over 1GW of wind power capacity this year, beating 2012′s record of 757MW, with potentially another 1.3GW in each of 2015 and 2016."
  • CTI: "Shell has one of the highest proportions of high-cost potential production, with 45% requiring a market price of $75/bbl and 30% requiring at least $95/bbl, although ConocoPhillips has the highest cost production profile with 56% and 36% respectively."

– David Unger is the Monitor's energy writer. Jared Gilmour is the Monitor's Budge Sperling reporting fellow, covering energy and politics.

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