Natural gas

In the eastern Mediterranean it smells of powder. Fighter jets from various countries fly over the Levantine Basin and frigates are on a collision course. These are not exercises. It is a crisis reminiscent of the conflict between Ankara and Athens in the 1970s or even the beginning of the First World War. This time it is not just about the ambitions of Greece or Turkey, small islands or a dead prince, but about the struggle for energy. In the Levantine Basin, ever larger deposits of natural gas are being discovered and there are many who would like a piece of the cake.

Back in 2010, the American company Noble Energy and its Israeli exploration partner Derrick Drilling discovered the largest gas field only 130 km from Haifa. A year later, French Total confirmed another deposit with a volume of 127 billion m3. The researchers suspect a total of 3.5 trillion cubic metres of natural gas and 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil deep in the rock beneath the seabed. How much is that actually? Certainly enough to fill the coffers of the states bordering the Mediterranean and make a solid contribution to Western Europe’s energy supply. By way of comparison, the total natural gas consumption in the European Union in 2019 was around 470 billion cubic metres. No wonder, then, that the areas between Cyprus, Turkey, the Greek islands, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Libya became the scene of a conflict that could well turn into a war. It would not be a local war because the conflict and possible gains also involve other actors whose interests could be disrupted by the gas from the eastern Mediterranean, even though their geopolitical interests appear to lie elsewhere.


The natural gas alliances in the Eastern Mediterranean or who with whom against whom?

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Gefira 46 # Pillars of the Middle East

Gefira 46 diverts the reader’s attention to the Middle East, or – to be precise – to Iran and Saudi Arabia, the countries that were once dubbed by the United States the two (stabilizing) pillars of the region. Riyadh and Tehran, which used to be capitals of monarchies, initially friendly to each other, since the 1979 Islamic revolution, have gone their separate ways and have been vying for the preponderance in the Muslim world. The rivalry is enhanced by the fact that Iran’s population is predominantly Shiite, while that of Saudi Arabia – Sunni. The differences do not stop there. Riyadh is pro-American and pro-Israeli while Tehran is unwaveringly campaigning for the Arab cause. Iran and Saudi Arabia are waging a war by proxy by supporting opposite sides to the conflict in Syria or Yemen; they also rely on political partners that are rivals in their own right. Riyadh is almost dependent on Washington, Tehran swerves towards Moscow and Beijing.

Though Iran has been for the most part economically and politically isolated for many years and weakened by the protracted war with Iraq, it has astonishingly preserved its position, has been challenging local and world powers and persevered on its course. The country’s population is multi-ethnic, which can be exploited by Iran’s enemies, but its Persian majority, rebellious though it can be from time to time, seems to remain loyal to the current political establishment, which the well-attended funeral of General Qasem Soleimani, surreptitiously assassinated by the Americans, confirms.

 

Gefira Financial Bulletin #46 is available now

  • The Sunni and Shiite divide
  • Ethnic diversity a weakness of any country
  • The Iranian star shines bright
  • The central banks fell ill with the corona virus

China will govern Eurasia

Every state tries to make as many profits as possible. These come for the most part from taxes along with customs duties which remain an important source of income. The Obama administration serving the neo-liberal US elites forged a plan to encircle China in the Asia-Pacific region called TPP. The Transpacific Partnership was designed to get China to open its market completely, to waive customs duties and to align its law with that of the US. The TPP has been denounced by many of its critics, oddly enough mainly in Europe and in the United States, and not in China. Julian Assange’s statement is perhaps best known: “If the treaty is adopted, the TPP’s trademark regime will trample on human and civil rights.”The TPP was in fact created to give US corporations a head start in Asia by limiting the sovereignty of participating countries. Trump, realizing that Democrats were on very thin ice with the project, cancelled the contract and began his trade war with… tariffs, which brought considerable gains to the US budget. Both governments – Obama’s and Trump’s – realized and still pursue the same strategy by different means: America must countervail China’s superpower. The strategy fails.

China’s New Silk Road plan opposes American attempts to reduce Beijing’s role in world trade. The TPP works even without the USA and China is surrounded by the participating countries in the Pacific. Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore form a semicircle around the South China Sea, a sea that plays a key role for China in trade with the rest of the world. This is why the Chinese decided to shift trade to the railway. A bold, huge and risky project. Let’s take a closer look at it.

The main difference between the New Silk Road and TPP is that it does not force the countries of Asia and Europe to change their policies or laws. The roads and railway lines to be built as part of the major Chinese project will benefit not only China but also the countries where they will be constructed. Even so, the Chinese can use the same method that Western countries are using everywhere in underdeveloped countries: Beijing might, too, make countries dependent on Chinese companies (e.g. those that will maintain new infrastructure) through loans and dependence on them. On the one hand, this will boost growth in the countries along the New Silk Road, while on the other, they could easily fall into Beijing’s debt trap. By the way, Beijing has already taken over a large port in Sri Lankaand is slowly buying up Pakistan Pakistan
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Electric vehicles or how to boost worldwide demand

A good thing – product or service – spreads like wildfire without much talk about it, without much advertising, let alone enforcement. That was the case with automobiles, the radio or television, DVD or CD players, personal computers or cell/mobile phones. A good thing is appreciated by people and demand for it is natural and growing. Advertising only concerns brands but not the thing itself. Have there been a worldwide action undertaken to enforce personal computers? Hardly. The attractiveness of the product, its usefulness in terms of entertainment, business or education could not be overrated. The same was true of mobile cell/phones. Everybody wanted to have one, appreciating the advantages that the device provided its owner with. What does it look like with electric vehicles?

For years we have all been exposed to an intense propaganda; governments have been promising extra money for buyers of electric cars, and people are made to feel guilty if they want to continue to use vehicles running on petrol, oil or gas because they allegedly wreak havoc with the environment. The electric means of transport is said the be the future of communication with no alternative whatsoever. What can be said about this hectic and frantic activity on the part of those who push electric vehicles?


Source: Wharton University of Pennsylvania.

The automotive industry is one of the mainsprings of economy. For all practical purposes it is concentrated in but very few countries – Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Sweden – and it provides those countries with enormous income, giving employment to millions of their residents. The industry had been developing for decades until it reached a saturation point: in the Western world, in the eighties everybody who wanted had an automobile while families often had two. The industry was nearing the dead end. Under such circumstances the dismantling of the Soviet bloc was a godsend, a windfall, a blessing. All of a sudden – from one day to another – the car market enlarged by the whole of Eastern Europe and post-Soviet Asian republics. If you are old enough, you will have remembered: one of the first visible changes that took place in the former socialist countries was the rapid disappearance of Ladas, Trabants, Wartburgs, Skodas, Dacias, Moskvitches, Zaporozhetses and, and, and. They were all scrapped while a string of Western automotive brands flooded East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and Russia. On the one hand the West rid itself of its stock of old cars (at that time it was mainly second-hand vehicles that were purchased east of the Elbe), on the other it began setting up chains of car showrooms for East European customers who at the long last could fulfil their dream of possessing a Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Volvo, Toyota, Nissan or Mazda. Was it not a heyday for the Western automotive industry? Continue reading

No F***king Around Coalition

or how ethnic, racial, religious or social minorities are revolutionary (read: subversive) rams in the hands of the managers of the world.

If you think that it was Lenin or Mao who victoriously conducted the seizure of power without someone heavily investing in them, their parties and comrades, then think again.

In July this year, much to white Americans’ horror, two marches, made up of blacks – armed with assault weapons, masked, clad in black military gear – were held in the United States: one in the Stone Mountain Memorial Park (July 4) and the other in Louisville, Kentucky (July 25). They were organized by what touts itself as No F***king Around Coalition (NFAC), which is led by John Grandmaster Jay Johnson. That’s at least what he calls himself. In the few disjointed statements that Grandmaster Jay graciously delivered one can learn that the NFAC protests against the systemic racism (as usual), acts of white violence (how many times have we heard this?) and he even demands a separate territory for blacks with Texas being an option.


Grandmaster Jay. Source: Roland S. Marin, YouTube.

These are the facts, such are the events. Now a few observations. Continue reading

NordStream 2 splits the Western World

If we were to paint the current situation with a broad brush, we would receive the following simplified picture. The European Union is split into two camps: the old and new member states. The West is split across the Atlantic: it is – roughly – Washington against Paris and Berlin. The world is split into three rivalling superpowers: the United States (strong military and strong economy), Russia (strong military, weak economy) and China (weak military, strong economy). Western Europe gravitates more to Russia than Eastern Europe does; Eastern Europe in turn gravitates more to the United States than Western Europe does.

The state of affairs on the Old Continent is as follows.

[1] Germany wants a stable energy supply in the form of natural gas and from among a number of providers it has decided on Russia because

[2] Russia has large natural gas deposits and being in need of hard currency is willing to sell its energy resources to any bidder.

[3] Germany and Russia countries entered a commercial agreement which resulted in the construction and completion of one pipeline laid on the bottom of the Baltic: NordStream 1.

[4] Since the capacity of one pipeline was not sufficient to satisfy the needs of Germany and other West European states, another agreement was concluded to build a second pipe along the bottom of the Baltic – NordStream 2 – which is now near completion.

[5] Both pipelines sidetrack eastern European countries – Ukraine, Poland, Czechia and Slovakia – which makes them alarmed because soon Russia will be able to cut off its gas supplies to and through those countries – the Yamal (Poland, Belarus) and Brotherhood (Czechia, Slovakia, Ukraine) pipelines – while continuing the provision of gas to Western Europe, thus breaking the economic solidarity of the European Union.
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