venerdì 6 dicembre 2013

An ideal for which I am prepared to die - Nelson Mandela

Yesterday, 5/12/13 Nelson Mandela has died.
He made this statement from the dock at the opening of his trial on charges of sabotage, Supreme court of South Africa, Pretoria, April 20 1964.

I know, it's long, but it deserves to be read.

I am the first accused. I hold a bachelor's degree in arts and practised as an attorney in Johannesburg for a number of years in partnership with Oliver Tambo. I am a convicted prisoner serving five years for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting people to go on strike at the end of May 1961.
At the outset, I want to say that the suggestion that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said. In my youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambata, Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle.

Some of the things so far told to the court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the whites.

I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. I deny that Umkhonto was responsible for a number of acts which clearly fell outside the policy of the organisation, and which have been charged in the indictment against us. I, and the others who started the organisation, felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the government. We chose to defy the law.

We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.

The African National Congress was formed in 1912 to defend the rights of the African people, which had been seriously curtailed. For 37 years - that is, until 1949 - it adhered strictly to a constitutional struggle. But white governments remained unmoved, and the rights of Africans became less instead of becoming greater. Even after 1949, the ANC remained determined to avoid violence. At this time, however, the decision was taken to protest against apartheid by peaceful, but unlawful, demonstrations. More than 8,500 people went to jail. Yet there was not a single instance of violence. I and 19 colleagues were convicted for organising the campaign, but our sentences were suspended mainly because the judge found that discipline and non-violence had been stressed throughout.

During the defiance campaign, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act were passed. These provided harsher penalties for protests against [the] laws. Despite this, the protests continued and the ANC adhered to its policy of non-violence. In 1956, 156 leading members of the Congress Alliance, including myself, were arrested. The non-violent policy of the ANC was put in issue by the state, but when the court gave judgment some five years later, it found that the ANC did not have a policy of violence.

In 1960 there was the shooting at Sharpeville, which resulted in the declaration of the ANC as an unlawful organisation. My colleagues man and I, after careful consideration, decided that we would not obey this decree. The African people were not part of the government and did not make the laws by which they were governed. We believed in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that "the will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the government", and for us to accept the banning was equivalent to accepting the silencing of the Africans for all time. The ANC refused to dissolve, but instead went underground.

In 1960 the government held a referendum which led to the establishment of the republic. Africans, who constituted approximately 70% of the population, were not entitled to vote, and were not even consulted. I undertook to be responsible for organising the national stay-at-home called to coincide with the declaration of the republic. As all strikes by Africans are illegal, the person organising such a strike must avoid arrest. I had to leave my home and family and my practice and go into hiding to avoid arrest. The stay-at-home was to be a peaceful demonstration. Careful instructions were given to avoid any recourse to violence.

The government's answer was to introduce new and harsher laws, to mobilise its armed forces, and to send Saracens, armed vehicles, and soldiers into the townships in a massive show of force designed to intimidate the people. The government had decided to rule by force alone, and this decision was a milestone on the road to Umkhonto. What were we, the leaders of our people, to do? We had no doubt that we had to continue the fight. Anything else would have been abject surrender. Our problem was not whether to fight, but was how to continue the fight.

We of the ANC had always stood for a non-racial democracy, and we shrank from any action which might drive the races further apart. But the hard facts were that 50 years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer rights. By this time violence had, in fact, become a feature of the South African political scene.

There had been violence in 1957 when the women of Zeerust were ordered to carry passes; there was violence in 1958 with the enforcement of cattle culling in Sekhukhuneland; there was violence in 1959 when the people of Cato Manor protested against pass raids; there was violence in 1960 when the government attempted to impose Bantu authorities in Pondoland. Each disturbance pointed to the inevitable growth among Africans of the belief that violence was the only way out - it showed that a government which uses force to maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it.

I came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic to continue preaching peace and non-violence. This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle. I can only say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did.

Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first. Sabotage did not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Bitterness would be kept to a minimum and, if the policy bore fruit, democratic government could become a reality. The initial plan was based on a careful analysis of the political and economic situation of our country. We believed that South Africa depended to a large extent on foreign capital. We felt that planned destruction of power plants, and interference with rail and telephone communications, would scare away capital from the country, thus compelling the voters of the country to reconsider their position. Umkhonto had its first operation on December 16 1961, when government buildings in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban were attacked. The selection of targets is proof of the policy to which I have referred. Had we intended to attack life we would have selected targets where people congregated and not empty buildings and power stations.

The whites failed to respond by suggesting change; they responded to our call by suggesting the laager. In contrast, the response of the Africans was one of encouragement. Suddenly there was hope again. People began to speculate on how soon freedom would be obtained.

But we in Umkhonto weighed up the white response with anxiety. The lines were being drawn. The whites and blacks were moving into separate camps, and the prospects of avoiding a civil war were made less. The white newspapers carried reports that sabotage would be punished by death. If this was so, how could we continue to keep Africans away from terrorism?

We felt it our duty to make preparations to use force in order to defend ourselves against force. We decided, therefore to make provision for the possibility of guerrilla warfare. All whites undergo compulsory military training, but no such training was given to Africans. It was in our view essential to build up a nucleus of trained men who would be able to provide the leadership which would be required if guerrilla warfare started.

At this stage it was decided that I should attend the Conference of the Pan-African Freedom Movement which was to be held early in 1962 in Addis Ababa, and after the conference, I would undertake a tour of the African states with a view to obtaining facilities for the training of soldiers. My tour was a success. Wherever I went I met sympathy for our cause and promises of help. All Africa was united against the stand of white South Africa, and even in London I was received with great sympathy by political leaders, such as Mr Gaitskell and Mr Grimond.

I started to make a study of the art of war and revolution and, whilst abroad, underwent a course in military training. If there was to be guerrilla warfare, I wanted to be able to stand and fight with my people and to share the hazards of war with them.

On my return I found that there had been little alteration in the political scene save, that the threat of a death penalty for sabotage had now become a fact.

Another of the allegations made by the state is that the aims and objects of the ANC and the Communist party are the same. The creed of the ANC is, and always has been, the creed of African nationalism. It is not the concept of African nationalism expressed in the cry, "Drive the white man into the sea." The African nationalism for which the ANC stands is the concept of freedom and fulfilment for the African people in their own land. The most important political document ever adopted by the ANC is the "freedom charter". It is by no means a blueprint for a socialist state. It calls for redistribution, but not nationalisation, of land; it provides for nationalisation of mines, banks, and monopoly industry, because big monopolies are owned by one race only, and without such nationalisation racial domination would be perpetuated despite the spread of political power. Under the freedom charter, nationalisation would take place in an economy based on private enterprise.

As far as the Communist party is concerned, and if I understand its policy correctly, it stands for the establishment of a state based on the principles of Marxism. The Communist party sought to emphasise class distinctions whilst the ANC seeks to harmonise them. This is a vital distinction.

It is true that there has often been close cooperation between the ANC and the Communist party. But cooperation is merely proof of a common goal - in this case the removal of white supremacy - and is not proof of a complete community of interests. The history of the world is full of similar examples. Perhaps the most striking is the cooperation between Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union in the fight against Hitler. Nobody but Hitler would have dared to suggest that such cooperation turned Churchill or Roosevelt into communists. Theoretical differences amongst those fighting against oppression is a luxury we cannot afford at this stage.

What is more, for many decades communists were the only political group in South Africa prepared to treat Africans as human beings and their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us, live with us, and work with us. They were the only group which was prepared to work with the Africans for the attainment of political rights and a stake in society. Because of this, there are many Africans who, today, tend to equate freedom with communism. They are supported in this belief by a legislature which brands all exponents of democratic government and African freedom as communists and bans many of them (who are not communists) under the Suppression of Communism Act. Although I have never been a member of the Communist party, I myself have been imprisoned under that act.

I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African patriot. Today I am attracted by the idea of a classless society, an attraction which springs in part from Marxist reading and, in part, from my admiration of the structure of early African societies. The land belonged to the tribe. There were no rich or poor and there was no exploitation. We all accept the need for some form of socialism to enable our people to catch up with the advanced countries of this world and to overcome their legacy of extreme poverty. But this does not mean we are Marxists.

I have gained the impression that communists regard the parliamentary system of the west as reactionary. But, on the contrary, I am an admirer. The Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, and the Bill of Rights are documents held in veneration by democrats throughout the world. I have great respect for British institutions, and for the country's system of justice. I regard the British parliament as the most democratic institution in the world, and the impartiality of its judiciary never fails to arouse my admiration. The American Congress, that country's separation of powers, as well as the independence of its judiciary, arouses in me similar sentiments.

I have been influenced in my thinking by both west and east. I should tie myself to no particular system of society other than of socialism. I must leave myself free to borrow the best from the west and from the east.

Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use the language of the state prosecutor, "so-called hardships". Basically, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation. These features are poverty and lack of human dignity, and we do not need communists or so-called "agitators" to teach us about these things. South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of remarkable contrasts. The whites enjoy what may be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery. Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition and disease. Tuberculosis, pellagra and scurvy bring death and destruction of health.

The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and the whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites are designed to preserve this situation. There are two ways to break out of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages. As far as Africans are concerned, both these avenues of advancement are deliberately curtailed by legislation.

The government has always sought to hamper Africans in their search for education. There is compulsory education for all white children at virtually no cost to their parents, be they rich or poor. African children, however, generally have to pay more for their schooling than whites.

Approximately 40% of African children in the age group seven to 14 do not attend school. For those who do, the standards are vastly different from those afforded to white children. Only 5,660 African children in the whole of South Africa passed their junior certificate in 1962, and only 362 passed matric.

This is presumably consistent with the policy of Bantu education about which the present prime minister said: "When I have control of native education I will reform it so that natives will be taught from childhood to realise that equality with Europeans is not for them. People who believe in equality are not desirable teachers for natives. When my department controls native education it will know for what class of higher education a native is fitted, and whether he will have a chance in life to use his knowledge."

The other main obstacle to the advancement of the African is the industrial colour-bar under which all the better jobs of industry are reserved for whites only. Moreover, Africans who do obtain employment in the unskilled and semi-skilled occupations open to them are not allowed to form trade unions which have recognition. This means that they are denied the right of collective bargaining, which is permitted to the better-paid white workers.

The government answers its critics by saying that Africans in South Africa are better off than the inhabitants of the other countries in Africa. I do not know whether this statement is true. But even if it is true, as far as the African people are concerned it is irrelevant.

Our complaint is not that we are poor by comparison with people in other countries, but that we are poor by comparison with the white people in our own country, and that we are prevented by legislation from altering this imbalance.

The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority. Legislation designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion. Menial tasks in South Africa are invariably performed by Africans.

When anything has to be carried or cleaned the white man will look around for an African to do it for him, whether the African is employed by him or not. Because of this sort of attitude, whites tend to regard Africans as a separate breed. They do not look upon them as people with families of their own; they do not realise that they have emotions - that they fall in love like white people do; that they want to be with their wives and children like white people want to be with theirs; that they want to earn enough money to support their families properly, to feed and clothe them and send them to school. And what "house-boy" or "garden-boy" or labourer can ever hope to do this?

Pass laws render any African liable to police surveillance at any time. I doubt whether there is a single African male in South Africa who has not had a brush with the police over his pass. Hundreds and thousands of Africans are thrown into jail each year under pass laws.

Even worse is the fact that pass laws keep husband and wife apart and lead to the breakdown of family life. Poverty and the breakdown of family have secondary effects. Children wander the streets because they have no schools to go to, or no money to enable them to go, or no parents at home to see that they go, because both parents (if there be two) have to work to keep the family alive. This leads to a breakdown in moral standards, to an alarming rise in illegitimacy, and to violence, which erupts not only politically, but everywhere. Life in the townships is dangerous. Not a day goes by without somebody being stabbed or assaulted. And violence is carried out of the townships [into] the white living areas. People are afraid to walk the streets after dark. Housebreakings and robberies are increasing, despite the fact that the death sentence can now be imposed for such offences. Death sentences cannot cure the festering sore.

Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the government declares them to be capable of. Africans want to be allowed to live where they obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because they were not born there. Africans want to be allowed to own land in places where they work, and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which they can never call their own. Africans want to be part of the general population, and not confined to living in their own ghettoes.

African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men's hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after 11 o'clock at night and not to be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed to travel in their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where the labour bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.

Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.

This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

mercoledì 27 novembre 2013

Ukraine and the EU - The Economist

Political brutal pressure made in Russia.

One can always count on Ukrainian governments to renege and surprise.
And so it did this time. On November 21st, one week before the European Union summit in Vilnius during which Ukraine was supposed to sign an association agreement, its government suspended talks with the EU. 
The suspense and excitement were replaced by deep disappointment. As one Ukrainian paper put it the government managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (again). A character in Maxim Gorky’s play “On the Lower Depth” says about a mate who strangles himself: “What a song he’d spoiled”. This was the closest Ukraine had ever come to crossing the border between Russia and the West. 
The official version of Ukraine’s turn around is that it could not withstand Russia’s pressure. The government cited the “benefit of Ukraine’s national security” as the reason for “resuming active dialogue with Russia and other countries of the customs union of Belarus and Kazakhstan…. aimed at restoring the lost production output and trade and economic relations.” Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister and the co-author of the whole project, tweeted upon learning the news: “Ukraine government suddenly bows deeply to the Kremlin. Politics of brutal pressure evidently works”. 
Disappointed as they were with Viktor Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine, the EU accepted his version of events. 
After all, Russia’s restrictions have already reduced Ukrainian trade by 25% and more was in store. Mr Yanukovych estimated the potential economic loss from Russian sanctions to be in the order of $15 billion. This is at a time when the Ukrainian economy is already shrinking, and its budget hole is growing with no access to international capital markets. Ukraine is broke and beggars can’t be choosers. Unless, of course, the beggar is Ukraine.

It was not new that Ukraine was under economic pressure from Russia. The Kremlin first imposed sanctions against Ukraine back in August, but this only consolidated the Ukrainian pro-EU front and even its oligarchs, who stood to lose most from the sanctions. Yet, they pushed Mr Yanukovich to sign the agreement with the EU, which they saw, not least, as an insurance policy against his insatiable business appetite. So the question is what swayed Mr Yanukovych’s decision towards Russia at the last minute? Or did he ever intend signing an agreement with the EU? 

Mr Yanukovych, who was a pariah for the West back in 2004 when he tried to rig presidential elections, never saw the EU as his natural habitat. Ukraine’s convergence with Brussels was not a strategic choice based on the long-term interests of his country, but one based on mercurial and short-term interests of Mr Yanukovych and his family, which, unlike Ukraine’s economy, seems to go from strength to strength. Everything that Mr Yanukovych does is guided by the presidential election in March 2015. His rating has been going down steadily and to stay in power, he either needs to rig and repress (which is difficult to do if Ukraine is associated with Europe) or to bribe voters with cash, which he does not have. 
His favourite option would have been to get money from Russia as a price for putting EU integration on hold. On November 9th, Mr Yanukovych flew secretly to Moscow for a four-hour meeting with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, trying to persuade him to do just that. Yet, Mr Putin does not care much for Mr Yanukovych, whom he mistrusts and treats with contempt. What he does care about is not losing Ukraine to Europe. So he purportedly offered Mr Yanukovych an alternative deal: in exchange of money and cheaper gas, he promised to turn a blind eye to any election rigging and to refrain from supporting an alternative candidate at the next election.
There was only one condition: Mr Yanukovych should sign on the dotted line of the customs union, wrecking an agreement with the EU permanently. Mr Yanukovych resisted. In the past ten days he continued to negotiate with the EU until November 21st, already dubbed in Ukraine as “Black Thursday”. It is still not clear what happened and who blinked first: did Mr Yanukovych 13realise that he had no option but to go along with the customs union, or did Mr Putin realise that the game was getting too risky and dropped his demand for the customs union and settled for Ukraine simply turning away from the EU? 

Mr Yanukovych’s turnaround may not be all bad news for the EU or such good news for Russia or Mr Yanukovych himself. Several months of intense negotiations and extreme goodwill on the part of the EU, have created strong expectations from the Ukrainian public, the vast majority of which supports closer links with the EU and only 15% of which supports a union with Russia. Those hopes, at least for now, are bashed. Mr Yanukovych, who only a few days ago was seen as a man who could take Ukraine into Europe, is now seen as a thug who robbed his country of a historic chance. 
Given the structural weakness of the Ukrainian economy as well as Russia’s own economic stagnation, a short-term injection of cash will not solve Ukraine’s problems. Economically and politically things are likely to get worse not better. But now, this will be blamed on Russia and Mr Yanukovych. Ukraine’s opposition have just received the perfect platform for attacking the president. Arseniy Yatseniuk, one of the opposition leaders, is already saying that Mr Yanukovych’s betrayal of national interests is sufficient ground for impeachment. 
Ordinary Ukrainians have already come out on Maidan, Kiev’s main square and the stage of the 2004 revolution, to protest against Mr Yanukovych’s decision. The fact that this is happening on the eve of the 9th anniversary of the Orange Revolution (in which Mr Yanukovych played the main villain) only makes it more poignant.

Nine years ago, the Orange Revolution swept Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko to power. At the time it was seen as Ukraine’s break-away from the Russian sphere of influence and a decisive move towards Europe. Jubilant crowds waved orange and EU flags together. The promise of that revolution was spectacularly squandered by Viktor Yushchenko, who is now advising Mr Yanukovich to keep Yulia Tymoshenko in jail, and by Ms Tymoshenko herself. 
The orange flags are gone, but the European and national Ukrainian flags are once again flying together. Maidan has already been renamed EuroMaidan. Mr Yanukovych’s turn towards Russia seems to distance Ukraine from Europe, but it could, in fact, achieve the opposite. If all else fails, one can always count on Ukrainian politicians to renege and surprise.

venerdì 15 novembre 2013

"Sete di energia" o "Energia che ha sete"?

Uno dei miei temi preferiti. 
Qualche giorno fa è uscito un interessante rapporto di Wood Mackenzie riguardante i rischi che l'industria energetica mondiale potrebbe dover affrontare a causa della scarsità di risorse idriche.
Già nel suo World Energy Outlook 2012, l'International Energy Agency aveva riservato, per la prima volta, un capitolo apposito su questa tematica, dal titolo "Water for Energy".
Oggi questo rapporto di WM conferma alcune delle considerazioni esposte nel WEO, aggiungendo un pò di ottimismo (non che il WEO fosse allarmista, intendiamoci) riguardo il rischio idrico legato alle tecnologie per lo sfruttamento delle risorse non convenzionali (fracking): alcune società si stanno attrezzando per implementare tecniche di risparmio e riutilizzo, e inoltre il rapporto fa notare che il fracking permette anche l'utilizzo di acque saline, evitando il consumo delle più preziose acque dolci.
L'articolo che propongo è tratto dalla Staffetta Quotidiana.

Buona lettura.

I problemi legati all'acqua pongono una serie di rischi per l'industria energetica e potrebbero avere un ruolo significativo nel forgiare il futuro scenario del mix di fonti energetiche cui attingerà la popolazione mondiale: è quanto sostiene una nuova ricerca Wood Mackenzie , “Troubled Waters Ahead? Rising Water Risks for Energy”, realizzata sulla base dei dati e delle mappe sul rischio idrico del Water Resources Institute.
Quasi tutte le forme di produzione di energia e di generazione di elettricità, infatti, dipendono in qualche modo dall'acqua. Sebbene sia l'agricoltura il settore idrovoro per eccellenza, utilizzando circa due terzi delle provviste d'acqua dolce mondiali, quello dell'energia è il comparto che consuma la maggior quantità d'acqua all'interno del settore industriale (15% della risorsa disponibile a livello globale) e la cui domanda d'acqua e in continua crescita. Con le previsioni Onu che indicano un deficit idrico del 40% entro il 2013, l'utilizzo di acqua nel settore energetico è una preoccupazione centrale dei governi. Secondo lo studio, i maggiori impatti che il rischio idrico potrebbe produrre riguardano in primis la produzione di shale gas, in particolare negli Stati Uniti; a seguire, il settore petrolifero mediorientale e, infine, quello minerario carbonifero e termoelettrico a carbone della Cina.
Le aree a rischio identificate sono quelle in cui è più probabile un elevato livello di concorrenza tra gli utilizzatori d'acqua locali, un maggiore consumo della risorsa nel tempo e un elevato livello di contaminazione delle riserve idriche. “I principali rischi legati all'acqua per l'industria energetica – spiega Tara Schmidt, analista di Wood Mackenzie – includono la limitata accessibilità a nuove fonti di approvvigionamento, i ritardi nello sviluppo dei progetti, l'incremento dei costi e l'inattività degli asset”. I rischi variano molto in base alla fonte energetica e alla localizzazione degli assset. “L'acqua rappresenta un rischio per l'industria energetica. Il progresso apportato da tecnologie innovative, pratiche avanzate di gestione dell'acqua e da specifiche politiche pubbliche può mettere il settore nelle condizioni di affrontare la sfida di ridurre i rischi generati dalla questione idrica”, osserva Paul Reig del World Resources Institute. “Alcune delle soluzioni per ridurre tali rischi – aggiunge – sono l'implementazione di nuove tecnologie per migliorare le performance operative ambientali e, soprattutto, un pronto coinvolgimento dei portatori d'interesse a livello di bacino, insieme ai governo, per identificare le opportunità di azioni collettive finalizzate alla riduzione del rischio idrico”.
Primo comparto a rischio, come già accennato, è quello dello shale gas: se questo settore dovesse davvero decollare a livello globale, sarà senz'altro necessario affrontare i problemi di utilizzo e di contaminazione dell'acqua che può suscitare. “La ricerca mostra che più di metà delle riserve di shale e tight gas negli Stati Uniti, così come negli altri 10 paesi con le maggiori riserve del mondo, si trovano in aree a stress idrico da medio a estremo, dove la concorrenza con gli altri utilizzatori locali della risorsa è alta ed esistono preoccupazioni sulla qualità dell'acqua”, spiega Reid. Le società che operano in queste aree si trovano di fronte al rischio di avere limitato accesso a nuove fonti idriche e potenziali aumenti dei costi fino al 15% o anche oltre. Ciononostante, all'interno del mix globale di fonti energetiche, il gas non convenzionale fornisce una delle opportunità più promettenti di dimezzare o azzerare del tutto l'utilizzo di acqua dolce grazie al ricorso ad acque saline, al riciclo e alla ‘green completion', compensando – potenzialmente – gli incrementi di costo. Peraltro diverse società stanno iniziando ad affrontare le preoccupazioni del pubblico circa possibili contaminazioni dell'acqua, fornendo report sulla valutazione degli impatti e collaborando attivamente alla definizione degli standard per la produzione di shale gas. “Wood Mackenzie prevede che il trend verso una maggiore trasparenza e l'impegno pubblico prosegua – fa sapere Tara Schmidt – al passo con l'espansione degli operatori nei mercati internazionali, con preoccupazioni sempre più pressanti attorno alla questione idrica”.
Per quanto riguarda il petrolio mediorientale, la produzione sta già scontando l'inadeguatezza delle infrastrutture idriche sul piano dello sviluppo degli asset e la crescente domanda di petrolio per le esigenze locali di desalinazione non farà che esacerbare la situazione. “Infrastrutture idriche inadeguate contribuiscono a ritardare significativamente i progetti – afferma Schmidt – e limitano le opportunità di massimizzare la produzione nel lungo periodo potenziando il recupero avanzato di petrolio, le tecniche di completamento e l'esplorazione dello shale gas recentemente intrapresa (come nel caso dell'Arabia Saudita)”. La scarsa iniezione d'acqua in alcuni dei maggiori giacimenti dell'Iraq meridionale sta costando al maggior produttore della regione centinaia di migliaia di barili di petrolio al giorno, fa sapere Wood Mackenzie, e governo e compagnie stanno lavorando per migliorare la gestione dell'acqua nella regione, che soffre la scarsità della risorsa, con interventi sulle infrastrutture, per la conservazione della risorsa, nonché per l'utilizzo di tecnologie di desalinazione più efficienti.
Non sembra più fortunata la Cina, dove l'industria mineraria e gli impianti termoelettrici alimentati a carbone potrebbero ritrovarsi a forte rischio in futuro: secondo l'atlante del rischio idrico Aqueduct, oltre il 70% della capacità di generazione elettrica da carbone della Cina si trova in aree a stress idrico da medio a estremamente alto e le attività del settore si stanno espandendo sempre più nelle assetate province settentrionali e occidentali del paese. Per la produzione di carbone in queste aree è attesa una crescita del 50% entro il 2030, mentre l'output elettrico dovrebbe addirittura raddoppiare. “Con la grande maggioranza delle risorse idriche cinesi concentrate nel Sud del paese – spiega Paul Reig – e la grande maggioranza della nuova produzione di carbone proveniente dal Nord, lo Stato asiatico rischia una forte carenza idrica e importanti conflitti d'interesse tra la popolazione e l'industria”. Di conseguenza, i costi dell'industria mineraria e delle utility elettriche potrebbero diventare sempre più pressanti in risposta agli sforzi del governo di minimizzare l'utilizzo dell'acqua, con la necessità di affrontare modifiche della regolazione e difficoltà di accesso alla risorsa, nonché di mitigare il rischio potenziali interruzioni delle operazioni. A tali problematiche le società coinvolte stanno già cercando di trovare soluzione, cominciando a investire nel riciclo dell'acqua e in tecnologie più efficienti, nonché collaborando con altri utilizzatori della risorsa per individuare possibili soluzioni collettive. Alcune utility stanno anche provvedendo a installare sistemi di raffreddamento ad aria, che potrebbero permettere di ridurre l'uso dell'acqua fino a circa due terzi, mentre alcuni produttori di carbone puntano al riuso delle acque reflue.
Infine, le soluzioni indicate dagli analisti di Wood Mackenzie risiedono principalmente nell'innovazione tecnologica, nella trasparenza e nell'impegno a minimizzare i rischi per tutte le fonti energetiche. Sta alle società comprendere le esigenze e i rischi delle proprie attività sul piano idrico, sviluppare strategie chiare e disponibili al pubblico per affrontarli e tenersi pronti agli sviluppi futuri per non mettere a repentaglio la propria crescita e la fornitura di energia nell'avvenire.

martedì 29 ottobre 2013

Cina-Russia: un'alleanza che va oltre l'energia - Repubblica Affari&Finanza

Propongo oggi un'interessante analisi di Giampaolo Visetti (Repubblica) riguardante il recente accordo Cina-Russia per la fornitura di greggio e gas naturale.
Ancora una volta l'articolo fa capire quanto l'energia sia un settore di altissimo valore strategico, e da qualche parte, come in Russia e in Cina, l'hanno capito molto bene.

Buona lettura.

Le prime due economie emergenti, alleate storiche per una parte del Novecento, uniscono le forze per ricostruire il blocco travolto dall'implosione dell'Urss

Cina e Russia hanno raggiunto l'accordo che consentirà, nei prossimi dieci anni, di continuare a crescere sia al primo consumatore che al primo produttore di energia al mondo. A firmare il contratto record, a Pechino, il premier cinese Li Keqiang e quello russo Dmitry Medvedev. L'intesa prevede che Mosca fornisca, in un decennio, altri 100 milioni di tonnellate di petrolio, in cambio di 85 miliardi di dollari. Quasi chiuso anche il patto sul gas. Gazprom invierà in Cina 38 miliardi di metri cubi di gas naturale, volume che consentirà alla seconda economia mondiale di diminuire la dipendenza dal carbone, che la sta soffocando. Dal 2018 le forniture saliranno a 60 miliardi di metri cubi. Cina e Russia, grazie al via libera sul patto energetico, hanno firmato anche altri 21 accordi di cooperazione bilaterale, che potrebbero consentire ai due Paesi di varcare entro il 2015 la soglia dei 100 miliardi di dollari di interscambio. L'intesa trasforma Pechino e Mosca, reciprocamente, nei primi due partner commerciali. A partire dal 2005 la Cina ha investito ogni anno in Russia una cifra tra i 300 e i 600 milioni di dollari, mentre Mosca non ha mai superato i 30. Il salto di qualità è evidente. Nel 2012 Pechino ha importato dalla Russia 276 milioni di tonnellate e l'ex Urss è stata solo il suo quarto fornitore di greggio. Se l'intesa sul petrolio è conclusa, resta da definire il prezzo per il gas. «Ma la cooperazione energetica tra Cina e Russia - ha rassicurato Medvedev - è il passaggio fondamentale nell'alleanza tra i Paesi in crescita e a beneficiarne sarà l'intera ripresa economica mondiale». Anche il presidente cinese Xi Jinping ha confermato che un accordo sul prezzo del gas è solo questione di dettagli. «Ormai - ha detto il neo-leader cinese - Cina e Russia sono partner strategici di nome e di fatto». Enormi le conseguenze per il mercato petrolifero. La russa Rosneft, gigante dell'energia siberiana, nei prossimi dieci anni invierà in Cina circa 70 milioni di barili di greggio all'anno. Incasserà una montagna di denaro, che potrà investire nel restauro delle vecchie condotte, oltre che in nuovi oleodotti. Forte dell'accordo con la Cina, sarà anche nelle condizioni di trattare prezzi più vantaggiosi con gli altri clienti stranieri, a partire da quelli della zona euro. I mercati hanno subito compreso che il rinnovato asse Mosca-Pechino supera ampiamente gli interessi energetici. Pechino e Mosca hanno firmato un documento politico in base al quale «entrambi i Paesi continueranno a migliorare il coordinamento strategico, per mantenere la loro autorità nelle Nazioni Unite e nel consiglio di sicurezza, in modo da promuovere congiuntamente la pace, la stabilità e lo sviluppo nel mondo». Ciò significa che l'alleanza su petrolio e gas rafforza lo storico blocco comunista sui più scottanti dossier internazionali, dalla Siria alla Corea del Nord, riducendo fortemente i margini di manovra degli Stati Uniti, in difficoltà sia in Africa che in Asia. Tra Pechino e Mosca l'intesa è oggi evidente. Valdimir Putin e Xi Jiping, in un anno si sono incontrati cinque volte: il presidente cinese ha visto Barack Obama solo una volta, per un weekend in maniche di camicia in un ranch privato, snobbato in extremis da Michelle, che ha rinunciato a conoscere la collega first lady. Pechino riempirà dunque i forzieri del Cremlino, consolidando l'impero di Putin. I russi, rendendo possibile la lotta cinese all'inquinamento, contribuiranno invece in misura decisiva alla stabilità interna della nuova leadership cinese.

Grazie all'energia, un universo che si ricompone.

mercoledì 23 ottobre 2013

Shell writedown is bad news for US shale (FT)

Over the past few years, the oil majors have been punch drunk on US shale.
Now comes the hangover.

By Guy Chazan (Financial Times)

Royal Dutch Shell surprised the market on Thursday with a $2.1bn impairment, mostly on its liquids-rich shale properties in North America.

The writedown showed that the results from Shell’s exploration drilling for oil in its US shale acreage have been much worse than it anticipated. “Shale oil bulls take note,” wrote Oswald Clint of Bernstein Research.
The news was sobering for a sector used to upbeat headlines. Production of tight oil in places such as North Dakota’s Bakken shale has increased so fast that it has reversed the decades-long decline in US oil output, reducing America’s reliance on oil imports and even fuelling talk of US energy independence.
Shell’s news shows that some of the breathless rhetoric about shale’s potential may be unwarranted – a view Peter Voser, its chief executive, appears to endorse. The idea of a shale revolution spreading from the US across the world is “a little bit overhyped,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Shale impairments are nothing new. A clutch of companies, including BHP Billiton and BG Group, wrote down their US shale gas assets last year, as the low price of American natural gas reduced the value of their reserves. But it is far less common for the oil majors to take charges on their tight oil properties.
The impairment highlights a broader problem for Shell – the weak performance of its Upstream Americas business. It incurred a loss in the second quarter, and Shell says it will probably stay in loss for the rest of the year, and possibly longer.
Analysts at Credit Suisse say Shell’s performance in its upstream – or exploration and production – division is a “real worry”.
Ever since the oil industry figured out how to use hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and horizontal drilling to extract gas from shale formations, the US “unconventional” gas story has had an irresistible allure for the supermajors.
Shell has been more gung-ho than most. In 2008, it paid $5.7bn to buy Duvernay Oil, which held promising tight gas acreage in western Canada. Two years later, it paid $4.7bn for East Resources. which held big positions in the Marcellus Shale.
Shell says that its North American onshore gas portfolio now includes about 3.5m acres of mineral rights, with the potential to yield 40tn cubic feet of gas – the energy equivalent of nearly 7bn barrels of oil.
But some analysts have said it paid too high a price to gain entry into the sector. And such a large position proved a double-edged sword last year when the shale gas supply surge pushed gas prices to 10-year lows.
Shell said at the time that it would switch its focus from gas to more profitable “liquids-rich shales” and Simon Henry, chief financial officer, said the company would produce 250,000 barrels of oil a day from its tight oil properties in five years’ time.
But that could end up being way too optimistic. Mr Henry admitted on Thursday that the results of Shell’s exploration efforts in US tight oil had been disappointing, and “the production curve is less positive than we originally expected”. As of today, the company is only producing 50,000 b/d from these properties, he said.
Shell’s experience has been echoed by others. Oil companies who rushed to buy acreage in Ohio’s Utica shale a few years ago have discovered the rock is not as porous as in other formations such as Texas’ Eagle Ford or the Bakken, and there is less natural pressure underground to help force the oil out. Many companies are now trying to sell their holdings there.
Shell, it seems, is taking a similar tack: it has launched a strategic review of its North American shale portfolio, with the aim of halving the number of areas it operates in there. Mr Voser says the company wants to divest some small-scale properties which “are still prospective and can produce, but do not have the size we are looking for”.
And perhaps driven by the bad news from US shale, Shell says it is dropping its medium-term production target – once considered a touchstone for investors.
Analysts were unfazed. “No one [externally at least] believed it anyway,” said Neill Morton of Investec.

giovedì 17 ottobre 2013

Financial Times: Gulf oil production hits record

"Despite the shale revolution, the Middle East is and will remain the heart of global oil industry for some time to come". I think that these words of Fatih Birol (IEA) are enough to explain the topic of the following article of Ajay Makan (Financial Times). The shale revolution is already a reality in US, but, as last data say, it's still far to seriously threat the "Gulf states supremacy".

The Gulf states are producing more oil than ever before, defying expectations that the US shale revolution would break their 40-year grip on the global oil market and diminish their importance to the world’s consuming nations. 

Surging production in North America is expected to eat into the market for oil from Opec. But the quartet of Gulf kingdoms that dominate the cartel of oil exporters have so far emerged unscathed. Instead, they have expanded their share of the world market as political and social factors have reduced production from a number other members. 

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar set aggregate production records in each of the last three months, according to fresh estimates from the International Energy Agency. In September they accounted for 18 per cent of global demand – a level only matched twice in IEA data stretching back to the 1980s.

“Despite the shale revolution, the Middle East is and will remain the heart of global oil industry for some time to come,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist said.

US crude oil production has increased by 50 per cent since 2008 and the country is expected to meet the lion’s share of the world’s growing demand over the next five years. But while US companies tend to maximise production to generate more profits, the Gulf states – and Saudi Arabia in particular – invest heavily to maintain spare capacity.

That has allowed them to raise production to offset a run of disruptions across the Middle East and Africa in the last two years. US-led sanctions have reduced Iranian production by 1m barrels a day since the start of last year, while civil unrest has returned this summer to Libya and crude oil theft increased in Nigeria. 

As a result Gulf states are capturing more of the fast growing Asian market. India imported 44 per cent of its crude from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE in July, up from 36 per cent in 2011, while China relies on the countries for a quarter of its imports compared to 21 per cent in 2007.

A rapid return to production among other Opec members, for example through a resolution to Iran’s nuclear standoff with the US, could yet leave the Gulf states exposed to the US shale revolution. And some analysts argue that Opec could yet need to discuss production cuts when its oil ministers next meet in Vienna in December.

The record output has provided a windfall for the oil-dependent monarchies. The 16.4m barrels a day produced by the four states during the third quarter was worth more than $150bn at today’s prices of more than $100 a barrel. 

The principal beneficiaries have been Saudi Arabia, which has increased output more than 10 per cent since the start of the year to a record of 10.19m b/d in August, and the UAE where the 2.77m b/d produced in September was a record, and 7 per cent higher than at the start of the year. Kuwait has also set a series of production records this year, but Qatar has been unable to raise production significantly. 

It also means the region remains crucial to the world’s major powers. The US continues to import almost 60m barrels a month from the Gulf, a number that has actually increased in the last three years even as US imports overall have fallen. 

Cantico delle Creature - San Francesco d'Assisi

Per uno scout nell'anima come me, il Cantico delle Creature è un po' come un manifesto.
Mi riporta alla memoria la strada, le attività con i frati francescani che ho avuto la fortuna di fare, ma soprattutto mi fa ricordare la Natura che tante volte mi sono fermato ad ammirare a bocca aperta, e tramite Lei lodare il Nostro Signore.

Buona lettura.

Altissimu, onnipotente, bon Signore,
tue so’ le laude, la gloria e l’honore et onne benedictione.

Ad te solo, Altissimo, se konfàno et nullu homo è ne dignu te mentovare.

Laudato sie, mi’ Signore, cum tucte le tue creature, spetialmente messor lo frate sole, lo qual’è iorno, et allumini noi per lui. Et ellu è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore, de te, Altissimo, porta significatione.

Laudato si’, mi’ Signore, per sora luna e le stelle, in celu l’ài formate clarite et pretiose et belle.

Laudato si’, mi’ Signore, per frate vento et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo, per lo quale a le tue creature dai sustentamento.

Laudato si’, mi’ Signore, per sor’aqua, la quale è multo utile et humile et pretiosa et casta.

Laudato si’, mi' Signore, per frate focu, per lo quale ennallumini la nocte, et ello è bello et iocundo et robustoso et forte.

Laudato si’, mi’ Signore, per sora nostra matre terra, la quale ne sustenta et governa, et produce diversi fructi con coloriti flori et herba.

Laudato si’, mi’ Signore, per quelli ke perdonano per lo tuo amore, et sostengo infirmitate et tribulatione.

Beati quelli ke 'l sosterrano in pace, ka da te, Altissimo, sirano incoronati.

Laudato si’ mi’ Signore per sora nostra morte corporale, da la quale nullu homo vivente pò skappare: guai a quelli ke morrano ne le peccata mortali; beati quelli ke trovarà ne le tue santissime voluntati, ka la morte secunda no 'l farrà male.

Laudate et benedicete mi’ Signore' et ringratiate et serviateli cum grande humilitate.

sabato 21 settembre 2013

Rosario Livatino, 23 anni fa.

Il 21 settembre 1990 veniva ucciso il giudice Rosario Livatino, per il quale, nel 2011, è stata aperta la causa di beatificazione. Io voglio rendergli omaggio tramite le famosissime parole pronunciate il 9 maggio 1993 ad Agrigento da Giovanni Paolo II.
Don Ciotti in un suo libro ha raccontato che quelle parole furono ispirate dalla visita che il pontefice fece a casa dei genitori di Livatino, prima di recarsi alla Valle dei Templi.
Durante quella visita, il papa parlò con la madre di Rosario, e, stringendole le mani, aprì e lesse una pagina del diario del giudice.
Poche ore dopo, davanti a migliaia di siciliani, pronunciò queste parole.
Grazie Rosario Livatino. 

Che sia concordia!
Dio ha detto una volta: non uccidere!
Non può l’uomo, qualsiasi uomo, qualsiasi umana agglomerazione… mafia, non può cambiare e calpestare questo diritto santissimo di Dio!

Questo popolo, popolo siciliano, talmente attaccato alla vita, popolo che ama la vita, che dà la vita, non può vivere sempre sotto la pressione di una civilta contraria, civiltà della morte!

Nel nome di questo Cristo crocifisso e risorto, di questo Cristo che è vita, via, verità e vita.
Lo dico ai responsabili: convertitevi! Una volta, un giorno, verrà il giudizio di Dio!

giovedì 29 agosto 2013

“Bolle” e Siria: bad and good news per lo shale-gas

di Marco Campagna

Eccoci di nuovo a parlare di “shale-gas con le bolle” come lo chiamai qualche tempo fa.

Nel mio articolo precedente parlavo del fatto che, secondo alcuni esperti (Andy Hall, guru del trading, in primis), negli anni passati ci sia stata fin troppa fiducia  sui rendimenti attesi dei pozzi di shale gas e shale oil americani, e che questa sovrastima (stimata dal Post Carbon Institute tra il 100% e il 500% della produzione realmente registrata) abbia portato alla formazione di una “bolla” non troppo dissimile dall’altra ben più famosa bolla dei sub-prime. Infatti, secondo Hall ma anche per il Fondo Monetario Internazionale, il repentino declino della produzione dei pozzi avrebbe potuto generare la necessità di aumentare la trivellazione di pozzi fino ad un livello insostenibile economicamente, generando inoltre la diffusione di prodotti finanziari di copertura che, se nelle mani sbagliate, avrebbero potuto fare qualche danno inaspettato. Fatto il “riassunto della puntata precedente”, che può essere letta integralmente qui, passiamo alle novità degli ultimi giorni.

Da una recente analisi targata Bloomberg, nei primi sei mesi del 2013 il mercato nordamericano degli asset oil & gas si è dimezzato rispetto allo stesso periodo dell'anno scorso, passando da 54 a 26 miliardi di dollari. Compagnie importanti come BHP e Shell hanno drasticamente ridimensionato i loro investimenti in shale gas e shale oil. Sembra che la corsa a questi “fossili non convenzionali” negli USA inizi a rallentare, e qualcuno inizia a chiedersi se gas e petrolio da scisti siano veramente in grado di mantenere le promesse di prosperità di poco tempo fa.

Anche evitando inutili catastrofismi, è però innegabile che, un po’ per il fatto che i prezzi del gas negli Usa siano scesi nel 2012 a causa (o grazie a, dipende dai punti di vista) dell'oversupply, e un po’ perché in effetti alcuni pozzi stiano rendendo meno del previsto, si è verificata una contrazione di investimenti, facendo così calare il valore degli asset. Dopo i record degli ultimi tre anni il volume degli asset energetici scambiati sul mercato nordamericano ha toccato il minimo dal 2004.

Le aziende si stanno concentrando sullo sfruttamento dei progetti già operativi e si sono praticamente fermate sul fronte nuove acquisizioni: oltre al fatto che, a mio avviso, ci sia una  normale fase di assestamento successiva ad un boom iniziale, secondo gli analisti il motivo di questo slowdown è dovuto alla difficoltà di giustificare nuovi investimenti, dato che i giacimenti ottenuti nella corsa avvenuta dal 2009 al 2012 attualmente come valore sono ben al di sotto del prezzo cui sono stati acquistati. Insomma, dopo il boom del 2008-2012, per la prima volta da quando si sono diffuse le tecniche di trivellazione che permettono di ottenere gas e petrolio dagli scisti, gli investimenti in shale gas sono calati.

Questo rallentamento, osserva Bloomberg, potrebbe durare per anni e minaccia di ostacolare la crescita della produzione di gas e petrolio. Le aziende che hanno investito nello shale nel rush degli ultimi 3 anni, ora con gli asset che valgono meno di quanto si prevedeva, si trovano a corto di risorse per finanziare nuove trivellazioni. Più i produttori sono indebitati e costretti a vendere asset per finanziarsi, più il valore di questi calerà.

Il tutto fa quindi tornare in mente le previsioni di Andy Hall e del FMI di qualche tempo fa, ovvero che forse si stava riponendo fin troppa fiducia nel petrolio e gas da scisti, gonfiando così una nuova bolla finanziaria.

Fin qui le “cattive notizie” per lo shale-gas e oil, ma, facendo un “volo pindarico” fino alla crisi siriana, c’è invece chi vede good news all’orizzonte.

Nick Butler, del Financial Times, espone la possibilità che la bollente situazione in Siria possa rafforzare la “causa” degli idrocarburi non-convenzionali. Butler parte dal fatto che, già in questi giorni, l’effetto Siria si sia fatto sentire sui mercati del petrolio, facendo arrivare il Brent a 115$/b: il motivo è ovviamente che i mercati temono l’eventualità che USA ed Europa non riescano a fermarsi ad un mero “bombarda e fuggi”, ma che invece accendano ancor di più il conflitto sunniti-sciiti (con asse Arabia Saudita-Iran), rimanendovi impantanati. In effetti, che l’intervento in Siria sia tutt’altro che ben pianificato e con chiari obbiettivi, è piuttosto lapalissiano.

Tornando al ragionamento di Butler, viene giustamente fatto notare che questa febbre siriana, come tante altre, passerà velocemente e che inoltre la Siria è un attore nettamente minore nello scenario dei produttori di petrolio e gas medio-orientali: infatti l’Europa (primo importatore di greggio siriano) ne ha fatto facilmente a meno.  Dal punto di vista globale, con la crescita della Cina in fase di rallentamento, l’India che non sembra ancora avere quella struttura istituzionale necessaria per attrarre gli investimenti nelle infrastrutture necessarie a spingerne lo sviluppo, l’Europa in netto calo dei consumi e gli USA alle prese con il famoso boom degli idrocarburi non convenzionali, il reale rischio per uno shortage di olio o gas sul mercato è ancora decisamente basso.

Ma ecco la considerazione finale di Butler: il più grande impatto della situazione siriana, egiziana, libica e della meno nota situazione irachena, è che il "mondo che consuma" si stancherà del Medio Oriente e dei suoi conflitti infiniti, vista l’importanza primaria della sicurezza degli approvvigionamenti. Per questo gli eventi in Siria danno un nuovo incentivo allo sviluppo di rifornimenti energetici indigeni e low-cost, rendendo così Bashar Al-Assad il miglior sponsor per l’industria dello shale-gas.

mercoledì 28 agosto 2013

Fracking: Dash for Cash, by Economist

Why in USA, though anti-fracking-protests exist, many locals populations allowed the execution of hydrofracking drilling for shale gas and oil, and, contrarily, in UK the protest is becoming a national and irremovable  issue? The American answer is easy:
Stuff their mouths with cash.

“THERE are many, many more of us than there are of you,” shouted protesters in Balcombe, a village in southern England with an exploratory drilling rig and a population swollen by eco-warriors, to the police and the frackers. Sadly, they are right. Britons are broadly opposed to hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, or “fracking”—at least if it might happen anywhere near their homes. Cuadrilla, an energy firm, has already been spooked into shutting down its rig.

Fracking has transformed America’s energy market and helped the country out of recession. It can create jobs, lower bills and reduce dependence on unreliable, autocratic oil- and gas-producing countries. Once a well is drilled—something that can be done increasingly speedily—it is scarcely more of a blot on the landscape than a garden shed. Nobody knows whether the earth under Britain can be pummelled into giving up much oil and gas, although the latest estimates suggest there is a lot of the stuff. Why not start looking?

For two broad reasons, say the protesters. The first objection to fracking, favoured by Greenpeace and smaller green groups like No Dash for Gas, is environmental. Hydrocarbons, say the campaigners, are bad; the methane occasionally emitted from wells is a greenhouse gas; fracking can pollute water. The second objection, voiced more often by locals carrying “Frack off” signs, is to the lorries and disruption that come along with mining: pure NIMBYism.

The environmental objections are weak. Natural gas is far cleaner than coal. America’s many wells have produced little pollution—and the danger could be reduced by decent regulation. Technology is making it possible to drill many wells from a single pad and to reuse the water that is pumped in.

Oddly, the NIMBYs have a stronger case. Fracking is indeed a nuisance, particularly while wells are being drilled. Lorries clog the roads. Workers spend money locally—but they also get drunk and fight locally. In western Wyoming, rising crime strikingly tracked an increase in drilling.

Stuff their mouths with cash
Fracking has boomed in America partly because local people have been paid off handsomely. Landowners can sell the rights to the hydrocarbons under their fields. States tax extracted oil and gas, and redistribute much of the revenue to the affected counties, which spend it on glorious schools and fire stations. America has NIMBYs too—and some states have banned fracking outright—but money has proved a powerful salve.

In centralised Britain, by contrast, almost all the proceeds from fracking that do not flow to miners would end up in the Treasury’s coffers. Oil and gas rights are held in effect by the crown, not landowners. George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, sets the tax on shale-gas production: it is 30%, much lower than taxes on North Sea fields. Mining firms pledge to pay £100,000 per well and 1% of revenues to local communities (not yet defined). As a result of a broad reform to business rates, local authorities may also be able to keep a share of the rates paid by energy firms, subject to complex calculations. This is simply too small and too vague a lure.

The ideal solution would be to radically decentralise the tax system and allow local authorities greater freedom to set extraction taxes—which would encourage miners to go where they are least disliked. Unfortunately, the government is unlikely to loosen its grip over taxation. But one simple change would help. Following long protests against wind farms, in April the rules were changed to allow local authorities to keep all the business rates paid by turbine installers. Do the same for fracking.

sabato 24 agosto 2013

No middle ground in fracking debate, by Guy Chazan (FT)

A useful and clear Q&A article to help everyone wants to know more about hydraulic fracking and shale gas. Financial Times (here with Guy Chazan) is trying to consider pros and cons of fracking, presenting both sides of the same coin in a hard-to-find impartial manner.

Enjoy your read.

Balcombe, the leafy West Sussex village where UK shale pioneer Cuadrilla is drilling for oil, is ground zero in an increasingly fiery national debate about fracking, the controversial extraction technique.
On one side is David Cameron, prime minister, who says exploiting the UK’s shale gas reserves will drive down energy bills and make Britain more competitive. On the other are environmentalists who say fracking poisons water supplies, pollutes the atmosphere and triggers earthquakes. Attitudes are hardening, as the two sides dig in. “The problem is there’s no middle ground any more,” says Joseph Dutton of Leicester University’s Global Gas Security Project. “We need an informed, rational debate, not the highly emotional discourse we have right now.”

Exhibit A is Gasland, a 2010 documentary that shows a Colorado man setting his kitchen tap water on fire with a cigarette lighter. Regulators said that was in fact caused by “biogenic” gas that has been detected in local groundwater for years, and had nothing to do with fracking. “There are a lot of misconceptions,” says Susan Brantley, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. But they have proved enduring, and are even influencing policy, as well as public opinion. France and Bulgaria have banned fracking outright, and green campaigners say the UK should do the same. The FT considers the process and its pros and cons.

What is shale?

Shales are the most abundant form of sedimentary rock. They also serve as the “source rock” for oil and gas that migrates over time into conventional reservoirs, where it can easily be extracted. A lot of hydrocarbons are still in shale, but for decades, geologists could not figure out a way to access them, stymied by the low permeability of the rock. In recent years, that has changed. Oil companies in the US worked out a way of using techniques such as horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, and 3D seismic imaging to unlock North America’s vast shale resources.

What is fracking?

Fracking involves pumping fluid into a shale formation at high pressure to create cracks in the rock. The fluid contains a “proppant” such as sand which “props” open the fractures: the oil and gas then flows through these pathways towards the well. The fracking fluid is mainly made up of water, but also contains chemical additives such as polymers to reduce friction and allow the water to be pumped at lower pressures.

Is fracking new?

About a million wells have been fracked in the US since the 1940s, when the technique was first used, although pressures used in the process have increased vastly since then. The big change happened in the 1990s when fracking was applied to shale and, combined with horizontal drilling, released enormous quantities of gas that had previously been impossible to extract economically.

What has been the effect?

Shale gas production has soared in the US, providing a wave of cheap and abundant energy. In 2000, shale represented just two per cent of US natural gas supply. By 2012 it was 37 per cent. Last year, the surge in output pushed the US gas price to 10-year lows.

Can it happen here?

The government and Cuadrilla say yes. Latest estimates suggest there are about 1,300tn cubic feet of shale gas in the northwest of England alone. Even if only a tenth of that can be extracted, it is still the equivalent of 51 years’ supply. The government says developing this resource will create jobs, bring down fuel bills and reduce dependence on imported gas. Even the Church of England says fracking could help tackle fuel poverty: “blanket opposition . . . fails to take into account those who suffer most when resources are scarce”, it says.

What are the environmental concerns?

One of the most common objections is that the process can contaminate groundwater. Environmentalists say that methane can leak into aquifers in areas where shale gas drilling has taken place – a fact confirmed in a 2011 study by Duke University. But the industry argues that fractures usually remain separated from groundwater aquifers by thousands of feet of rock, and there is next to no risk of leakage, especially if well casings are structurally sound.
One academic review published in 2011 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that the environmental impacts of shale are “challenging but manageable”, and that properly constructed wells should pose no problem. But it did identify some risks, such as surface spills of fracking fluids, pollution from inappropriate wastewater disposal and excessive water withdrawals.
Water use is a key issue. Some 4-6m gallons of water are required to frack each well and in some parts of the US that have been hit by drought, there are concerns about how fracking can affect the availability of water for other purposes, such as agriculture.
Waste water is also a problem. After a well is fracked, some of the fluid comes back up to the surface along with “flowback”, naturally-occurring water from deep underground that can contain pollutants or even radioactivity and requires careful disposal. Regulators are now increasingly calling on companies to reduce waste by recycling more water from fracking operations.

Can fracking cause earthquakes?

Cuadrilla had to suspend operations in the northwest of England in 2011 after its fracking caused a sequence of “seismic events”. But experts say fracking-related earthquakes are relatively rare and, when they do occur, are too small to be detected on the surface. They say coal-mining is much more likely to cause tremors than fracking for gas.
A larger problem is the disposal wells where flowback water from fracking is deposited for permanent storage. A study by researchers at Columbia University says that as many as 109 tremors in Ohio in 2011 and 2012 were directly linked to a well in which wastewater from fracking in nearby Pennsylvania was being injected deep underground.

What about the impact on communities?

Some of the residents of Balcombe are neutral on the fracking process, but do not want to see a big industrial development on the edge of their village. They worry about the impact on local air quality of increased road traffic and gas flaring. That, say experts, is understandable. “You can be ‘pro’ shopping malls, but not want a shopping mall in your backyard,” says Prof Brantley.

What about climate change?

The broader objection to fracking is that the more it is done, the more natural gas is produced and burnt, and the more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming. Environmentalists say shale gas distracts attention and investment from renewables such as wind and solar that are crucial tools in fighting climate change. In the words of Caroline Lucas, the Green MP who was arrested during the Balcombe protests: “The evidence is clear that fracking undermines efforts to tackle the climate crisis.”
On the other hand, fracking’s promoters point to the fact that the increased use of gas can cut carbon emissions. Gas emits half the carbon dioxide per unit of energy of coal. As a result, US energy-related emissions of CO2 fell by 450m tonnes over the past five years as the power sector switched from coal to gas.

domenica 11 agosto 2013

Yesterday's fuel

L'Economist sostiene che il picco di consumo del petrolio si stia avvicinando inesorabilmente, sottolineando una differenza sostanziale: non è l'offerta che presto potrebbe iniziare a diminuire, bensì la domanda.

Buona lettura

The world’s thirst for oil could be nearing a peak. That is bad news for producers, excellent for everyone else

THE dawn of the oil age was fairly recent. Although the stuff was used to waterproof boats in the Middle East 6,000 years ago, extracting it in earnest began only in 1859 after an oil strike in Pennsylvania. The first barrels of crude fetched $18 (around $450 at today’s prices). It was used to make kerosene, the main fuel for artificial lighting after overfishing led to a shortage of whale blubber. Other liquids produced in the refining process, too unstable or smoky for lamplight, were burned or dumped. But the unwanted petrol and diesel did not go to waste for long, thanks to the development of the internal-combustion engine a few years later.

Since then demand for oil has, with a couple of blips in the 1970s and 1980s, risen steadily alongside ever-increasing travel by car, plane and ship. Three-fifths of it ends up in fuel tanks. With billions of Chinese and Indians growing richer and itching to get behind the wheel of a car, the big oil companies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and America’s Energy Information Administration all predict that demand will keep on rising. One of the oil giants, Britain’s BP, reckons it will grow from 89m b/d now to 104m b/d by 2030.

Scraping the barrel
We believe that they are wrong, and that oil is close to a peak. This is not the “peak oil” widely discussed several years ago, when several theorists, who have since gone strangely quiet, reckoned that supply would flatten and then fall. We believe that demand, not supply, could decline. In the rich world oil demand has already peaked: it has fallen since 2005. Even allowing for all those new drivers in Beijing and Delhi, two revolutions in technology will dampen the world’s thirst for the black stuff.

The first revolution was led by a Texan who has just died (see article). George Mitchell championed “fracking” as a way to release huge supplies of “unconventional” gas from shale beds. This, along with vast new discoveries of conventional gas, has recently helped increase the world’s reserves from 50 to 200 years. In America, where thanks to Mr Mitchell shale gas already billows from the ground, liquefied or compressed gas is finding its way into the tanks of lorries, buses and local-delivery vehicles. Gas could also replace oil in ships, power stations, petrochemical plants and domestic and industrial heating systems, and thus displace a few million barrels of oil a day by 2020.

The other great change is in automotive technology. Rapid advances in engine and vehicle design also threaten oil’s dominance. Foremost is the efficiency of the internal-combustion engine itself. Petrol and diesel engines are becoming ever more frugal. The materials used to make cars are getting lighter and stronger. The growing popularity of electric and hybrid cars, as well as vehicles powered by natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells, will also have an effect on demand for oil. Analysts at Citi, a bank, calculate that if the fuel-efficiency of cars and trucks improves by an average of 2.5% a year it will be enough to constrain oil demand; they predict that a peak of less than 92m b/d will come in the next few years. Ricardo, a big automotive engineer, has come to a similar conclusion.

Not surprisingly, the oil “supermajors” and the IEA disagree. They point out that most of the emerging world has a long way to go before it owns as many cars, or drives as many miles per head, as America.

But it would be foolish to extrapolate from the rich world’s past to booming Asia’s future. The sort of environmental policies that are reducing the thirst for fuel in Europe and America by imposing ever-tougher fuel-efficiency standards on vehicles are also being adopted in the emerging economies. China recently introduced its own set of fuel-economy measures. If, as a result of its determination to reduce its dependence on imported oil, the regime imposes policies designed to “leapfrog” the country’s transport system to hybrids, oil demand will come under even more pressure.

A fit of peak
A couple of countervailing factors could kick in to increase consumption. First, the Saudis, who control 11% of output and have the most spare capacity, may decide to push out more, lowering prices and thus increasing demand. Then again, they might cut production to try to raise prices, thereby lowering demand further. Second, if declining demand pushes down the oil price, drivers may turn back to gas-guzzling cars, as they did when oil was cheap in the 1990s. But tightening emissions standards should make that harder in future.

If the demand for oil merely stabilises, it will have important consequences. The environment should fare a little better. Gas vehicles emit less carbon dioxide than equivalent petrol-powered ones.

The corporate pecking order will change, too. Currently, Exxon Mobil vies with Apple as the world’s biggest listed company. Yet Exxon and the other oil supermajors are more vulnerable than they look (see article). Bernstein, a research firm, reckons that new barrels of oil from the Arctic or other technologically (or politically) demanding environments now cost $100 to extract. Big Oil can still have a decent future as Big Gas, but that will not prove as profitable.

The biggest impact of declining demand could be geopolitical. Oil underpins Vladimir Putin’s kleptocracy. The Kremlin will find it more difficult to impose its will on the country if its main source of patronage is diminished. The Saudi princes have relied on a high oil price to balance their budgets while paying for lavish social programmes to placate the restless young generation that has taken to the streets elsewhere. Their huge financial reserves can plug the gap for a while; but if the oil flows into the kingdom’s coffers less readily, buying off the opposition will be harder and the chances of upheaval greater. And if America is heading towards shale-powered energy self-sufficiency, it is unlikely to be as indulgent in future towards the Arab allies it propped up in the past. In its rise, oil has fuelled many conflicts. It may continue to do so as it falls. For all that, most people will welcome the change.

venerdì 9 agosto 2013

La Partita della morte

"Il calcio non è questione di vita o di morte, è molto di più."

Stamattina sono capitato sul blog, dove ho letto questa storia drammatica, che unisce calcio, coraggio e onore.
Abbiamo bisogno di storie come questa, per credere in uno sport che oggi sembra quasi dimenticare le sue origini, e per continuare a fare memoria di chi, in quegli anni, ha avuto le palle cubiche (scusate il "francesismo").

Buona lettura.

Il pomeriggio di domenica 9 agosto 1942 si disputa, allo stadio Zenit di Kiev, quella che rimarrà ricordata negli annali con il tragico nome di “partita della morte”. Il contesto, come si può facilmente intuire da luogo e data, è quello dell’Ucraina occupata dai nazisti che l’hanno invasa un anno prima nell’ambito dell’Operazione Barbarossa, uno dei momenti più crudi del secondo conflitto mondiale. Un contesto più preciso e legato all’ambito calcistico può essere definito citando l’esistenza di un torneo che ha in precedenza visto scendere in campo compagini di diversa estrazione: da gruppi di internati di varie nazionalità a selezioni tratte da reparti dell’esercito tedesco.

A distinguersi su tutti è una squadra locale, l’FC Start, composta nella sua ossatura da giocatori che militavano, prima dello scoppio della guerra, nell’allora fortissima Dinamo Kiev: Nikolai Trusevich, Mikhail Sviridovskiy, Nikolai Korotkikh, Aleksey Klimenko, Fedor Tyutchev, Mikhail Putistin, Ivan Kuzmenko e Makar Goncharenko. La formazione è completata da Vladimir Balakin, Vasiliy Sukharev, e Mikhail Melnik provenienti da un’altra squadra della capitale ucraina, la Lokomotiv. Nonostante i giocatori non si allenino da tempo a causa della guerra e siano costretti a lavorare nella bottega di un panettiere per sopravvivere, tengono alta la fama della leggendaria squadra  di cui facevano parte in precedenza e fanno già pregustare ai nazisti il vanto di sconfiggere in finale una formazione degna di così alta considerazione. La squadra allestita dall’esercito di occupazione raccoglie gli ufficiali della Luftwaffe, l’aviazione tedesca, e si presenta sotto il nome di Flakelf, il fiore all’occhiello dello “sport armato” hitleriano.

La propaganda esalta la squadra nazista tappezzando la città di manifesti che ne narrano le gesta, sorvolando sul fatto che pochi giorni prima la stessa è già stata sconfitta dall’FC Start e che il match del 9 agosto ad altro non serve se non a concedere ai giocatori ucraini la possibilità di salvarsi la vita lasciando che la squadra espressione della razza ariana dimostri la propria straordinaria superiorità. Secondo quanto riportano le discordanti fonti – che spesso è difficile capire dove abbandonino il terreno della cronaca, inoltrandosi in quello fumoso della leggenda – quel primo match si era concluso sul 5-1, con una prova di forza da parte dell’FC Start tale da ammettere poche repliche.

Prima dell’inizio dell’incontro il team ucraino riceve negli spogliatoi la poco gradita visita di un ufficiale delle SS designato per arbitrare l’incontro. Il discorso che questi fa ai giocatori va decisamente oltre le solite raccomandazioni che un arbitro rivolge agli atleti, visto che l’ufficiale nazista lascia intendere senza troppi giri di parole quello che dovrà essere il loro compito quel giorno: perdere. Al fischio d’inizio si capisce subito che quelli della Flakelf sono disposti ad ottenere ciò che vogliono con le buone, ma soprattutto con le cattive, potendo contare, ovviamente, su un trattamento di favore da parte dell’arbitro. E proprio su un’azione dalla regolarità quantomeno dubbia la compagine tedesca trova il vantaggio. Il pareggio arriva grazie ad una conclusione da lontano di Kuzmenko. Poco dopo è Goncharenko ad appoggiare in rete dopo essersi portato a spasso l’intera difesa della Flakelf; e sempre lui, prima dell’intervallo, allunga sul 3-1.

Nello spogliatoio ai giocatori dell’FC Start vengono ricordate le conseguenze di una loro mancata sconfitta contro la formazione nazista e probabilmente queste minacce riscuotono l’effetto sperato perché appena rientrati in campo la Flakelf segna due volte e pareggia. A distanza di sessantacinque anni è difficile sapere cosa possa aver spinto gli ucraini a compiere un gesto all’apparenza folle, sta di fatto che la porta degli invasori viene violata altre due volte. A questo punto, narrano alcune versioni, il difensore Klimenko, forse conscio che ormai il loro destino è segnato e che quindi tanto vale andare fino in fondo, dribbla alcuni avversari e, superato anche il portiere, invece di appoggiare nella porta sguarnita, si gira e calcia la palla verso il centro del campo, come a non voler infierire su un avversario nettamente inferiore.

A questo punto le forze d’occupazione sono assolutamente determinate a mettere in atto le minacce rivolte ai propri avversari, ma non sembra che lo facciano “a caldo”, come sostengono alcune versioni. I giocatori ucraini non devono comunque attendere molto prima di avere notizie dei nazisti. Nei giorni successivi, infatti, agenti della Gestapo fanno irruzione nella panetteria in cui lavorano i membri dell’FC Start e li arrestano, portandoli nel quartier generale della polizia segreta hitleriana a Kiev. Qui gli ufficiali nazisti sottopongono gli ucraini a tortura, con l’intento di fargli confessare crimini che non hanno commesso e poi giustiziarli. Nessuno cede, ma uno di loro, Nikolai Korotkikh, non sopravvive alle torture infertegli. I suoi compagni vengono trasferiti al campo di concentramento di Siretz, dove sono costretti a lavorare in condizioni disumane. Quando, nel 1943, i tedeschi subiscono un attacco partigiano, viene ordinata la rappresaglia nei confronti dei prigionieri del campo; in particolare, il famigerato Paul von Radomski, comandante in carica a Siretz, ordina la fucilazione di un internato ogni tre. A farne le spese sono Kuzmenko (colui che ha segnato la rete del pareggio), Trusevich (il portiere della squadra) e Klimenko (il capitano e colui che ha irriso i nazisti decidendo di non segnare a porta vuota), che vengono uccisi e gettati a Babi Yar, il dirupo situato a Kiev e tristemente noto come la sede del più ampio episodio di massacro di ebrei da parte dei nazisti (oltre 33.000 in soli due giorni), oltre ad essere il luogo in cui più di 100.000 persone vengono giustiziate nel corso dell’occupazione tedesca. Per altri tre elementi dell’FC Start – Goncharenko, Tyutchev e Sviridovsky - la sorte è più favorevole visto che sono trasferiti nella capitale con lo scopo di essere dedicati a lavori forzati in loco, ma da dove, temendo di condividere il destino dei loro compagni, riescono a trovare il coraggio per fuggire e nascondersi fino all’arrivo delle truppe dell’Armata Rossa. Non è ancora dato sapere quale fu la sorte degli altri eroi dello Start.

L’arrivo dei sovietici significa per i superstiti la fine dell’incubo nazista, ma, ben lungi dal ricevere gli onori che gli spetterebbero, sono indotti a tacere riguardo alla vicenda poiché il fatto di aver partecipato ad un torneo di calcio organizzato da nazisti può comportare un’accusa di collaborazionismo, rimettendo nuovamente a rischio la propria incolumità.

Solo dopo la caduta di Stalin Goncharenko trova il coraggio di raccontare l’accaduto, facendo finalmente entrare gli undici eroi dell’FC Start nella leggenda. Leggenda immortalata in un monumento (a destra) collocato all’esterno dello Zenit di Kiev, che dal 1981 si chiama Start Stadium.

La loro storia è stata di ispirazione per molti: il regista ungherese Zoltan Fabri ne trasse un film intitolato “Due tempi all’Inferno” (1961) e così fece il collega sovietico Evgenij Karelov (“Il terzo tempo”, 1962). Molto più noto è “Fuga per la vittoria” (1981) dell’americano John Huston, che si avvalse della recitazione di Sylvester Stallone, Bobby Moore, Michael Cane e Pelè, ma rielaboro la storia in modo decisamente libero.

Bill Shankly, leggendario allenatore del Liverpool negli anni ’60, amava ricordare: “Il calcio non è questione di vita o di morte, è molto di più”. Forse anche lui quando pronunciava queste parole aveva in mente gli undici eroi dell’FC Start.