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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
- Ongoing: KIEV, UKRAINE – The Ukrainian parliament last week paved the way for tough sanctions on Russia – which could include halting the flow of Russian gas through Ukraine to Europe. Ukraine's state-owned Naftogaz is already advising European companies to buy Russian gas at Ukraine's eastern border, and is calling for trilateral negotiations to resume.
- August 17-19: ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – US Special Representative for the Arctic Robert Papp wraps up meetings with policymakers, local stakeholders, and environmental groups. Statewide meetings will focus on climate change and other Arctic issues as the US prepares to lead the Arctic Council in 2015.
- Tuesday, August 19: CHARLESTON AND BECKLEY, W. VA. – Former US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will campaign with West Virginia Senate candidate Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R). Despite the US shift away from coal, mining is an outsize issue in the competitive race, and Democratic opponent Natalie Tennant has slammed Romney for his 2003 comment that coal "kills people."
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.
- 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.