ISIL attacked Saudi Arabia

11.11.2014 Author: Viktor Titov

Saudi Arabia has recently witnessed the aggression that should have happened sooner or later due to its short-sighted policy in Syria, Iraq and Iran. As an old saying goes: “If you dig a hole for others, you’re sure to fall in it yourself.”

A few days ago the Saudi town of Dalva, situated in the oil-rich Eastern Province, suffered an attack of a group of armed Sunni terrorists, which resulted in seven civilian deaths. Most of the attackers were citizens of the Kingdom. The promt response of the local security forces allowed the servicemen to detain 20 members of an underground terrorist group, consisting mainly of those who had previously fought under the black banner of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Law enforcement agencies of Saudi Arabia have managed to capture the head of the armed group, his name is kept secret. The only information that has become available to journalists is that this commander has recently returned from Syria where he was fighting against the pro-Assad forces.

Riyadh is now facing a harsh dilemma: on the one hand, the House of Saud is actively oppressing its Shia citizens, on the pretext of their disloyalty and their alleged attempts to undermine the national security of the kingdom due to the “evil Iranian influence.” On the other – Sunni terrorists, that Saudi Arabia is fighting today alongside with its closest ally – the US, have assaulted Shia civilians on the Saudi soil, and those were virtually enjoying the same rights as the rest of the population, including the right for protection. It is now official: Saudi citizens motivated by religious hatred are commiting manslaughter of their fellow citizens.

The only question is how Riyadh may react when the Sunni terrorists that it had trained and funded will unleash a wave of terror against the Shia population of KSA? A similar course of events has already taken place in the neighboring Bahrain back in 2011, but Saudi regular troops were fast to cross the border in an attempt to prevent the violence from spreading.

It is no coincidence that the events in the city of Dalva are completely ignored by the international media. Should this fact become widely known then the Saudi authorities will be forced to recognize the threat ISIL poses to Saudi Arabia along with acknowledging the underlying instability of Saudi society that can endanger the ruling Wahhabi regime.

Now that the Shia population of the Eastern Province is buzzing with discontent, the House of Saud has found itself in a tight corner. Should the authorities fail to prosecute the terrorists a violent unrest of the Shia population, similar the one that shook Saudi Arabia in 2011 -2012, in the wake of the above mentioned events in Bahrain, will be quick to follow. But if the terrorists are to be punished to the fullest extent of the Sharia law, then the Wahhabis and Salafis will accuse the royal family of “betrayal” of the Sunnis. This course of events will end no better, with a massive wave of violent terror attacks, carried out by ISIL militants all across Saudi Arabia. Now that ISIL thugs have faced harsh resistance in Syria and Iraq, they will be eager to move south to start a “sacred struggle against the corrupt pro-American reign of Al Saud family“. As for the Iraqi Shia population, they can only welcome this U-turn in their ongoing struggle against Islamists. Moreover, it is possible that the indignation of the Saudi Shia population of the Eastern Province will find some form of support in Tehran and Baghdad. This means that the fate of the kingdom’s territorial integrity will be put to the test. The nightmares of the Saudi ruling family seems to be coming true — Saudi Arabia can be split into several parts, which had been joined together to create the kingdom back in 1929. This trend can be accelerated by the fact that a couple of weeks ago the Shia Houthis rebels seized power in Yemen, on the south-western borders of the KSA.

When Riyadh joined the US “anti-terrorist” coalition back in October, along with a number of NATO and GCC countries, political predicted the imminent revenge of ISIL.

So the events of November 4 may only be the first steps. On top of all, Saudi authorities have yielded to the US demands of dumping oil prices in an attempt to undermine Russia’s economy. This led to the narrowing scope of social initiatives being implemented in the Kingdom, since money became scarce in the royal treasury.

By agreeing to support the US global ambitions, the House of Saud has clearly shot itself in the foot. Especially now, when Washington has displayed its willingness to sign an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in two weeks time. This step will force Saudi Arabia to kiss it oil monopoly goodbye along with the role of the main strategic partner of the US in the region. At this point Riyadh couldn’t care less about the US military adventures in Iraq and Syria, it going to try to save its skin

It is clear that the coming days will put the Al-Saud dynasty’s survival skills to the test. Should the KSA authorities fail to keep the situation in the Eastern Province under control — the Kingdom is doomed. With each passing day the Shiite arc becomes more apparent on the political horizon of the Middle East, just like the US miscalculations.

As soon as Washington is trying to project its influence in the region, the Arab regimes are beginning to crumble and fall apart. One can recall the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, along with the civil wars in Syria and Iraq to illustrate this statement.

It is now safe to say that Obama has screwed everything up again by putting its strategic partner in danger. It seems that the defeat in the US midterm elections was a failure all right, yet he never stops to surprise his followers. And it is unlikely that the Republicans will be fascinated by the sight of Saudi Arabia going down in flames.

Viktor Titov, Ph.D in Historical Sciences and political commentator on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook

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How The Petrodollar Quietly Died, And Nobody Noticed

by Tyler Durden on 11/03/2014 23:42

Two years ago, in hushed tones at first, then ever louder, the financial world began discussing that which shall never be discussed in polite company – the end of the system that according to many has framed and facilitated the US Dollar’s reserve currency status: the Petrodollar, or the world in which oil export countries would recycle the dollars they received in exchange for their oil exports, by purchasing more USD-denominated assets, boosting the financial strength of the reserve currency, leading to even higher asset prices and even more USD-denominated purchases, and so forth, in a virtuous (especially if one held US-denominated assets and printed US currency) loop.

The main thrust for this shift away from the USD, if primarily in the non-mainstream media, was that with Russia and China, as well as the rest of the BRIC nations, increasingly seeking to distance themselves from the US-led, “developed world” status quo spearheaded by the IMF, global trade would increasingly take place through bilateral arrangements which bypass the (Petro)dollar entirely. And sure enough, this has certainly been taking place, as first Russia and China, together with Iran, and ever more developing nations, have transacted among each other, bypassing the USD entirely, instead engaging in bilateral trade arrangements, leading to, among other thing, such discussions as, in today’s FT, why China’s Renminbi offshore market has gone from nothing to billions in a short space of time.

And yet, few would have believed that the Petrodollar did indeed quietly die, although ironically, without much input from either Russia or China, and paradoxically, mostly as a result of the actions of none other than the Fed itself, with its strong dollar policy, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia too, which by glutting the world with crude, first intended to crush Putin, and subsequently, to take out the US crude cost-curve, may have Plaxico’ed both itself, and its closest Petrodollar trading partner, the US of A.

As Reuters reports, for the first time in almost two decades, energy-exporting countries are set to pull their “petrodollars” out of world markets this year, citing a study by BNP Paribas (more details below). Basically, the Petrodollar, long serving as the US leverage to encourage and facilitate USD recycling, and a steady reinvestment in US-denominated assets by the Oil exporting nations, and thus a means to steadily increase the nominal price of all USD-priced assets, just drove itself into irrelevance.

A consequence of this year’s dramatic drop in oil prices, the shift is likely to cause global market liquidity to fall, the study showed.

This decline follows years of windfalls for oil exporters such as Russia, Angola, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Much of that money found its way into financial markets, helping to boost asset prices and keep the cost of borrowing down, through so-called petrodollar recycling.

But no more: “this year the oil producers will effectively import capital amounting to $7.6 billion. By comparison, they exported $60 billion in 2013 and $248 billion in 2012, according to the following graphic based on BNP Paribas calculations.”

In short, the Petrodollar may not have died per se, at least not yet since the USD is still holding on to the reserve currency title if only for just a little longer, but it has managed to price itself into irrelevance, which from a USD-recycling standpoint, is essentially the same thing.

According to BNP, Petrodollar recycling peaked at $511 billion in 2006, or just about the time crude prices were preparing to go to $200, per Goldman Sachs. It is also the time when capital markets hit all time highs, only without the artificial crutches of every single central bank propping up the S&P ponzi house of cards on a daily basis. What happened after is known to all…

At its peak, about $500 billion a year was being recycled back into financial markets. This will be the first year in a long time that energy exporters will be sucking capital out,” said David Spegel, global head of emerging market sovereign and corporate Research at BNP.

Spegel acknowledged that the net withdrawal was small. But he added: “What is interesting is they are draining rather than providing capital that is moving global liquidity. If oil prices fall further in coming years, energy producers will need more capital even if just to repay bonds.”

In other words, oil exporters are now pulling liquidity out of financial markets rather than putting money in. That could result in higher borrowing costs for governments, companies, and ultimately, consumers as money becomes scarcer.

Which is hardly great news: because in a world in which central banks are actively soaking up high-quality collateral, at a pace that is unprecedented in history, and led to the world’s allegedly most liquid bond market to suffer a 10-sigma move on October 15, the last thing the market needs is even less liquidity, and even sharper moves on ever less volume, until finally the next big sell order crushes the entire market or at least force the [NYSE|Nasdaq|BATS|Sigma X] to shut down indefinitely until further notice.

So what happens next, now that the primary USD-recycling mechanism of the past 2 decades is no longer applicable? Well, nothing good.

Here are the highlights of David Spegel’s note Energy price shock scenarios: Impact on EM ratings, funding gaps, debt, inflation and fiscal risks.

Whatever the reason, whether a function of supply, demand or political risks, oil prices plummeted in Q3 2014 and remain volatile. Theories related to the price plunge vary widely: some argue it is an additional means for Western allies in the Middle East to punish Russia. Others state it is the result of a price war between Opec and new shale oil producers. In the end, it may just reflect the traditional inverted relationship between the international value of the dollar and the price of hard-currency-based commodities (Figure 6). In any event, the impact of the energy price drop will be wide-ranging (if sustained) and will have implications for debt service costs, inflation, fiscal accounts and GDP growth.

Have you noticed a reduction of financial markets liquidity?

Outside from the domestic economic impact within EMs due to the downward oil price shock, we believe that the implications for financial market liquidity via the reduced recycling of petrodollars should not be underestimated. Because energy exporters do not fully invest their export receipts and effectively ‘save’ a considerable portion of their income, these surplus funds find their way back into bank deposits (fuelling the loan market) as well as into financial markets and other assets. This capital has helped fund debt among importers, helping to boost overall growth as well as other financial markets liquidity conditions.

Last year, capital flows from energy exporting countries (see list in Figure 12) amounted to USD812bn (Figure 3), with USD109bn taking the form of financial portfolio capital and USD177bn in the form of direct equity investment and USD527bn of other capital over half of which we estimate made its way into bank deposits (ie and therefore mostly into loan markets).

More ( here )

And so on, but to summarize, here are the key points once more:

  • The stronger US dollar is having an inverse impact on dollar-denominated commodity prices, including oil. This will affect emerging market (EM) credit quality in various ways.
  • The implications of reduced recycled petrodollars has significant ramifications for financial markets, loan markets and Treasury yields. In fact, EM energy exporters will post their first net drain on global capital (USD8bn) in eighteen years.
  • Oil and gas exporting EMs account for 26% of total EM GDP and 21% of external bonds. For these economies, the impact will be on lost fiscal revenue, lost GDP growth and the contribution to reserves of oil and gas-related export receipts. Together, these will have a significant effect on sustainability and liquidity ratios and as a consequence are negative for dollar debt-servicing risks and credit ratings.

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How Long Can The Shale Revolution Last?

by Nick Cunningham via OilPrice.com,

A new study has cast serious doubt on whether the much-ballyhooed U.S. shale oil and gas revolution has long-term staying power.

The U.S. produced 8.5 million barrels of oil per day in July of this year — 60 percent more than just three years earlier. That is also the highest rate of production in three decades.

Put another way, since 2011, the U.S. has added 3 million barrels per day in additional capacity to global supplies. Had that volume not come online, oil prices would surely be much higher than they currently are.

That has “revolutionized” the energy industry and geopolitics, as scores of energy analysts have claimed. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that U.S. oil production will hit 9.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019, and gradually decline to 7.5 million bpd by 2040.

This would allow the U.S. to be one of the world’s top oil producers for an extended period of time. With such an achievement now at hand, many analysts are predicting an era of American dominance in geopolitics. For example, in an op-ed on Oct. 20, columnist Joe Nocera considered a “world without OPEC,” in which U.S. oil production soon kills off the oil cartel.

Or consider this rather triumphalist piece in Foreign Affairs from earlier this year, where two former National Security Council members who worked under President George W. Bush boasted that the recent surge in oil production “should help put to rest declinist thinking” and “sharpen the instruments of U.S. statecraft.” In the following issue, Ed Morse of Citibank went further. “Despite its doubters and haters, the shale revolution in oil and gas production is here to stay,” he declared.

But a new report throws cold water on the thinking that U.S. shale production will be around for the long haul. The Post Carbon Institute conducted an analysis of the top seven oil and top seven natural gas plays, which together account for 89 percent of current shale oil production and 88 percent of shale gas production.

The report found that both shale oil and shale gas production will peak before 2020. More importantly, the report’s author, David Hughes, says oil production will decline much more quickly than the EIA has predicted.

That’s largely because of high decline rates at shale wells across the country. Unlike conventional wells, which can produce relatively stable rates for a long period of time, shale oil and gas wells experience an initial burst of production in the first few years, followed by a precipitous decline thereafter.

Hughes estimates that the average shale oil well declines at a rate of between 60 and 91 percent over three years. Wells in the Bakken decline by 45 percent per year, which stands in stark contrast to the 5 percent annual decline for an average conventional well.

Or put another way, oil and gas companies will have to keep drilling at a feverish pace just to stand still. This means the industry is on a “drilling treadmill” that will be unsustainable over the long-term.

Predicting what oil production will be in 25 years is difficult, to say the least, but the Post Carbon report projects that oil production from the Bakken and Eagle Ford will be just one-tenth of the level that EIA is forecasting. The EIA predicts that the Bakken and the Eagle Ford will be producing a combined 1 million bpd in 2040. Hughes thinks it will be just a small fraction of that amount – a mere 73,000 bpd.

This is not the first time that David Hughes has taken aim at EIA data. In a December 2013 report, he skewered the high estimates for the potential of the Monterrey Shale in California, calling the EIA’s numbers “simplistic and highly overstated.” Several months later, the EIA was forced to back track on its figures, downgrading the recoverable oil estimates in the Monterrey by 96 percent.

Hughes says the implications of getting it wrong are “profound,” since so many companies are basing very large investments on incorrect projections. He says rosy estimates have cut into investment for renewables, while steering capital towards expensive oil and gas export terminals that should now be called into question.

An article in CleanTechnica points to the possibility of boom towns turning into “ghost towns” if the pace of drilling drops off. If David Hughes and The Post Carbon Institute are correct, there could be quite a few ghost towns popping up in the coming years as the shale revolution begins to fizzle.

Source and Full Report Here

Worldwide Field Development News Oct 18 – Oct 24, 2014

Worldwide Field Development News
Oct 18 – Oct 24, 2014
This week the SubseaIQ team added 9 new projects and updated 38 projects. You can see all the updates made over any time period via the Project Update History search. The latest offshore field develoment news and activities are listed below for your convenience.

MidEast – Persian Gulf
JODCO Announces First Phase Oil Production at Umm Lulu Field
Oct 21, 2014 – Inpex subsidiary Japan Oil Development Company (JODCO) announced that production had started earlier this month at the Umm Lulu field off Abu Dhabi. Production activities are currently associated with the first phase of development at the field and involves using existing facilities at the adjacent Umm Al-Dalkh field with produced oil flowing to shore-based processing facilities on Zirku Island. Phase II will consist of the installation of several fixed platforms and is expected to allow oil production at a rate of 105,000 bopd. The Umm Lulu joint venture consist of Abu Dhabi Oil Company (60%), BP (14.67%), Total (13.33%) and JODCO (12%).
Project Details: Umm Lulu
Australia
IPB Petroleum Preps for Pryderi-1 Probe
Oct 22, 2014 – IPB Petroleum anticipates spudding a wildcat well in the WA-424-P permit in late October or early November. The Stena Clyde (mid-water semisub) has been contracted to drill the well but is currently on location at the Puffin field in permit AC/L6. Pryderi-1 is designed to target a possible 78 million barrels in prospective resources. IPB operates the permit with 75% interest on behalf of its partner CalEnergy (25%).
Project Details: Pryderi
Africa – West
Leopard Wildcat off Gabon Provides Gas Discovery for Shell and CNOOC
Oct 23, 2014 – Shell announced the discovery of oil and gas while drilling the Leopard-1 exploration well in Block BCD10 offshore Gabon. The well was drilled to a total vertical depth of 16,610 feet by the Noble Globetrotter II (UDW semisub) in 6,922 feet of water. A net gas column of 656 was cut through pre-salt reservoir. Shell serves as block operator with 75% and its partner, CNOOC, carries the remaining 25%. The partners are planning to initiate an appraisal drilling program to aid in determining resource volumes.
Project Details: Leopard (Gabon)
Ophir Reports Successful DST at Fortuna Field Appraisal
Oct 22, 2014 – A successful drill stem test (DST) was recently performed at the Fortuna-2 well in Ophir Energy’s Block R offshore Equatorial Guinea. Fortuna-2 was drilled by the Titanium Explorer (UDW drillship) to appraise the 2008 Fortuna discovery. During the DST, a sustained flowrate of 60 MMscf/d was achieved through constrained testing equipment with less than 20 psi of drawdown at the reservoir. Ophir had originally assumed 7 development wells would be needed to exploit the reservoir but the excellent flowrate and minimum drawdown make it likely that less wells will be needed. Fortuna is estimated to contain 1.3 Tcf in recoverable gas resources. Ophir and GEPetrol participate in the block at 80% and 20% interests respectively.
Project Details: Fortuna Complex
N. America – US GOM
Delta House FPU Successfully Installed in MC254
Oct 24, 2014 – Installation of LLOG’s Delta House floating production unit (FPU) has been successfully completed in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The semisubmersible is located in 4,500 feet of water in Mississippi Canyon 254. Based on the Exmar OPTI-11000 hull design, the facility has a peak oil and gas production capacity of 100,000 bopd and 240 MMscf/d. Most of the subsea infrastructure associated with Delta House has been installed and production start up is anticipated in 1H 2015.
Project Details: Delta House
Chevron Hits Oil Pay at Guadalupe Prospect in U.S. GOM
Oct 23, 2014 – Chevron, operator of Keathley Canyon Block 10 in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, discovered oil while drilling a deepwater exploration well at its Guadalupe prospect. Specific details were not provided but the discovery in Lower Tertiary Wilcox sands is described as significant. The well was drilled by the Discoverer India (UDW drillship) to a depth of 30,173 feet. Chevron’s partners in the block include BP (42.5%) and Venari Resources (15%). Additional testing and appraisal will be needed to determine the commerciality of the discovery.
Project Details: Guadalupe (KC10)
Europe – North Sea
GDF and BP Team Up for Vorlich and Marconi Discovery in UK North Sea
Oct 23, 2014 – GDF Suez and BP recently made a new discovery in the UK North Sea while drilling well 30/1f-13A and a sidetrack. The well was drilled to test a structure that spans parts of GDF-operated license P1588 and BP-operated license P363. GDF refers to the discovery as Marconi and BP refers to it as Vorlich. The well was drilled by the Transocean Galaxy II (400′ ILC) under a joint well agreement between the participants of both licenses. Hydrocarbon-bearing Paleocene sands were encountered in license P363 and a sidetrack into license P1588 confirmed the westerly extension of the discovery. Well 30/1f-13A tested at a maximum flowrate of 5,350 boepd.
Project Details: Marconi – Vorlich
Xcite Signs MOU with Baker Hughes for Bentley Field Services
Oct 22, 2014 – Xcite Energy, operator of the Bentley field in UK license P1078, announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Baker Hughes that lays down principles for the provision of services related to the development of the field. Xcite Energy has tasked Baker Hughes with maximizing recovery from the field. Baker Hughes will likely supply drilling and completion services, well engineering, reservoir engineering and electric submersible pumps. Bentley was discovered in 1977 and development started in early in 2012. Xcite is the sole interest holder in the project. Production at the field could be initiated next year with an expected rate of 57,000 bopd.
Project Details: Bentley
Statoil Finds Additional Resources near Grane Field in North Sea
Oct 22, 2014 – Additional oil resources have been proven in the vicinity of the Statoil-operated Grane field in the Norwegian North Sea. Statoil tested the D-structure with well 25/8-18S and exposed an oil column of 82 feet in the Heimdal formation. Data indicates a recoverable volume of 30 to 80 million barrels. The discovery is located just over 4 miles north of the Grane field and is part of Statoil’s strategy of near-field exploration in an effort to extend the life of existing infrastructure. The well was drilled by the Transocean Leader (mid-water semisub) and reached a measured depth of 6,125 feet.
Project Details: Grane
Africa – Other
Chariot Elects Not to Renew Namibian Blocks
Oct 23, 2014 – Chariot Oil & Gas has elected not to apply for a new exploration license concerning its 100%-owned Namibian Blocks 1811A and 1811B that are due to laps Oct. 26. The company has thoroughly analyzed proprietary seismic and well data and has integrated information from third party drilling activity in order to determine the possibility of long range hydrocarbon migration to the Zamba prospect. The efforts have not been able to de-risk the prospect to a level that warrants further investment although Chariot still considers the acreage to be prospective. In May 2012 Chariot drilled an unsuccessful well at the Tapir South prospect. Well 1811/5-1 cut 568 net feet of carbonate and sandstone reservoirs but no hydrocarbon indications were observed.
Project Details: Zamba
Oil Shows Suggest Possible Discovery Offshore Morocco
Oct 21, 2014 – Near the end of July, Genel Energy spud the SM-1 exploration well in the Sidi Moussa block offshore Morocco to test the Nour prospect. San Leon Energy, a junior partner in the block, confirmed in a recent report the well has been drilled to 9,268 feet and that oil was encountered during the drilling process. The partners plan to proceed with well testing to determine possible commercial value of the discovery. SM-1 was drilled by the Noble Paul Romano (DW semisub) in 3,215 feet of water. Block interest holders include operator Genel Energy (60%), state-run ONHYM (25%), San Leon Energy (10%) and Serica Energy (5%).
Project Details: Nour
Asia – SouthEast
McDermott Snags Second Bukit Tua Development Contract
Oct 23, 2014 – McDermott International, Inc. was recently awarded its second contract relating to the Petronas-operated Bukit Tua development in the Ketapang Production Sharing Contract (PSC) offshore East Java, Indonesia. In August, the engineering firm was secured to build the jacket for the BTJT-A wellhead platform that will be installed at the field in November 2014. This week, McDermott was awarded a transportation, installation and pre-commissioning contract regarding the jacket and its topsides along with subsea pipeline tie-in spools. Additionally, McDermott will be responsible for pre-commissioning of the related export and infield pipelines. Offshore work should be completed by the end of 1Q 2015.
Project Details: Bukit Tua

Chevron strikes oil at Guadalupe, Gulf of Mexico

Chevron Corporation today announced a new oil discovery at the Guadalupe prospect in the deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The Keathley Canyon Block 10 Well No. 1 encountered significant oil pay in the Lower Tertiary Wilcox Sands. The well is located approximately 180 miles off the Louisiana coast in 3,992 feet of water and was drilled to a depth of 30,173 feet.

“The discovery further demonstrates Chevron’s exploration capabilities,” said George Kirkland, vice chairman and executive vice president, Upstream, Chevron Corporation. “Guadalupe builds on our already strong position in the deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico, a core focus area where we expect significant production growth over the next two years.”

“The Guadalupe discovery adds momentum to our growing business in North America,” said Jay Johnson, senior vice president, Upstream, Chevron Corporation. “Our deepwater exploration and appraisal program continues to unlock important resources in the Gulf of Mexico.”

“The company expects additional Gulf of Mexico production from the Tubular Bells and Jack/St. Malo projects by the end of the year.”

“Chevron subsidiaries are among the top producers and leaseholders in the Gulf of Mexico, averaging net daily production of 143,000 barrels of crude oil, 347 million cubic feet of natural gas, and 15,000 barrels of natural gas liquids during 2013,” said Jeff Shellebarger, president, Chevron North America Exploration and Production Company. “The company expects additional Gulf of Mexico production from the Tubular Bells and Jack/St. Malo projects by the end of the year.”

Chevron subsidiary Chevron U.S.A., Inc. began drilling the Guadalupe well in June 2014. More tests are being conducted on the discovery well and additional appraisal wells will be needed to determine the extent of the resource.

The Guadalupe well was drilled by Transocean’s Discoverer India deepwater drillship (photo).

Chevron U.S.A., Inc., with a 42.5 percent working interest in the prospect, is the operator of the Guadalupe discovery well. Guadalupe co-owners are BP Exploration & Production, Inc. (42.5 percent) and Venari Resources LLC (15 percent).

Source

Ebola Czar :: President Obama Already Has An Ebola Czar. Where Is She?

By Mollie Hemingway
October 14, 2014

As the Ebola situation in West Africa continues to deteriorate, some U.S. officials are claiming that they would have been able to better deal with the public health threat if only they had more money.

Dr. Francis Collins, who heads the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The Huffington Post, “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.” Hillary Clinton also claimed that funding restrictions were to blame for inability to combat Ebola.

Conservative critics have pointed out that the federal government has spent billions upon billions of dollars on unnecessary programs promoting a political agenda rather than targeting those funds to the fight against health threats.

Other limited government types point to the Progressive utopian foolishness seen in opposing political factions, both sides of which seem to agree humanity could somehow escape calamity if only we had a properly functioning government. People who don’t want an all-powerful government shouldn’t blame it for not having competence when crisis strikes.

What’s particularly interesting about this discussion, then, is that nobody has even discussed the fact that the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.

Before the media swallow implausible claims of funding problems, perhaps they could be more skeptical of the idea that government is responsible for solving all of humanity’s problems. Barring that, perhaps the media could at least look at the roles that waste, fraud, mismanagement, and general incompetence play in the repeated failures to solve the problems the feds unrealistically claim they will address. In a world where a $12.5 billion slush fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores, perhaps we should complain more about mission creep and Progressive faith in the habitually unrealized magic of increased government funding.

Lay of the Land

Collins’ NIH is part of the Health and Human Services Department. Real spending at that agency has increased nine-fold since 1970 and now tops $900 billion. Oh, if we could all endure such “funding slides,” eh?

Whether or not Dr. Collins’ effort to get more funding for NIH will be successful—if the past is prologue, we’ll throw more money at him—the fact is that Congress passed legislation with billions of dollars in funding specifically to coordinate preparation for public health threats like Ebola not 10 years ago. And yet the results of such funding have been hard to evaluate.

See, in 2004, Congress passed The Project Bioshield Act. The text of that legislation authorized up to $5,593,000,000 in new spending by NIH for the purpose of purchasing vaccines that would be used in the event of a bioterrorist attack. A major part of the plan was to allow stockpiling and distribution of vaccines.

Just two years later, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, which created a new assistant secretary for preparedness and response to oversee medical efforts and called for a National Health Security Strategy. The Act established Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority as the focal point within HHS for medical efforts to protect the American civilian population against naturally occurring threats to public health. It specifically says this authority was established to give “an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.”

Last year, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 which keep the programs in effect for another five years.

If you look at any of the information about these pieces of legislation or the office and authorities that were created, this brand new expansion of the federal government was sold to us specifically as a means to fight public health threats like Ebola. That was the entire point of why the office and authorities were created.

In fact, when Sen. Bob Casey was asked if he agreed the U.S. needed an Ebola czar, which some legislators are demanding, he responded: “I don’t, because under the bill we have such a person in HHS already.”

The Invisible Dr. Lurie

So, we have an office for public health threat preparedness and response. And one of HHS’ eight assistant secretaries is the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, whose job it is to “lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters, ranging from hurricanes to bioterrorism.”

In the video below, the woman who heads that office, Dr. Nicole Lurie, explains that the responsibilities of her office are “to help our country prepare for, respond to and recover from public health threats.” She says her major priority is to help the country prepare for emergencies and to “have the countermeasures—the medicines or vaccines that people might need to use in a public health emergency. So a large part of my office also is responsible for developing those countermeasures.”

Or, as National Journal rather glowingly puts it, “Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.” A profile of Lurie quoted her as saying, “I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover. It’s a pretty significant undertaking.” Still another refers to her as “the highest-ranking federal official in charge of preparing the nation to face such health crises as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and pandemic influenza.”

Now, you might be wondering why the person in charge of all this is a name you’re not familiar with. Apart from a discussion of Casey’s comments on how we don’t need an Ebola czar because we already have one, a Google News search for Lurie’s name at the time of writing brings up nothing in the last hour, the last 24 hours, not even the last week! You have to get back to mid-September for a few brief mentions of her name in minor publications. Not a single one of those links is confidence building.

So why has the top official for public health threats been sidelined in the midst of the Ebola crisis? Only the not-known-for-transparency Obama administration knows for sure. But maybe taxpayers and voters should force Congress to do a better job with its oversight rather than get away with the far easier passing of legislation that grants additional funds before finding out what we got for all that money we allocated to this task over the last decade. And then maybe taxpayers should begin to puzzle out whether their really bad return on tax investment dollars is related to some sort of inherent problem with the administrative state.

The Ron Perelman Scandal

There are a few interesting things about the scandal Lurie was embroiled in years ago. You can—and should—read all about it in the Los Angeles Times‘ excellent front-page expose from November 2011, headlined: “Cost, need questioned in $433-million smallpox drug deal: A company controlled by a longtime political donor gets a no-bid contract to supply an experimental remedy for a threat that may not exist.” This Forbes piece is also interesting.

The donor is billionaire Ron Perelman, who was controlling shareholder of Siga. He’s a huge Democratic donor but he also gets Republicans to play for his team, of course. Siga was under scrutiny even back in October 2010 when The Huffington Post reported that it had named labor leader Andy Stern to its board and “compensated him with stock options that would become dramatically more valuable if the company managed to win the contract it sought with HHS—an agency where Stern has deep connections, having helped lead the year-plus fight for health care reform as then head of the Service Employees International Union.”

The award was controversial from almost every angle—including disputes about need, efficacy, and extremely high costs. There were also complaints about awarding a company of its size and structure a small business award as well as the negotiations involved in granting the award. It was so controversial that even Democrats in tight election races were calling for investigations.

Last month, Siga filed for bankruptcy after it was found liable for breaching a licensing contract. The drug it’s been trying to develop, which was projected to have limited utility, has not really panned out—yet the feds have continued to give valuable funds to the company even though the law would permit them to recoup some of their costs or to simply stop any further funding.

The Los Angeles Times revealed that, during the fight over the grant, Lurie wrote to Siga’s chief executive, Dr. Eric A. Rose, to tell him that someone new would be taking over the negotiations with the company. She wrote, “I trust this will be satisfactory to you.” Later she denied that she’d had any contact with Rose regarding the contract, saying such contact would have been inappropriate.

The company that most fought the peculiar sole-source contract award to Siga was Chimerix, which argued that its drug had far more promise than Siga’s. And, in fact, Chimerix’s Brincidofovir is an antiviral medication being developed for treatment of smallpox but also Ebola and adenovirus. In animal trials, it’s shown some success against adenoviruses, smallpox, and herpes—and preliminary tests show some promise against Ebola. On Oct. 6, the FDA authorized its use for some Ebola patients.

It was given to Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died, and Ashoka Mukpo, who doctors said had improved. Mukpo even tweeted that he was on the road to recovery.

Back to that Budget

Consider again how The Huffington Post parroted Collins’ claims:

Money, or rather the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion—barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation.

Of course, between the fiscal years 2000 and 2004, NIH’s budget jumped a whopping 58 percent. HHS’s 70,000 workers will spend a total of $958 billion this year, or about $7,789 for every U.S. household. A 2012 report on federal spending including the following nuggets about how NIH spends its supposedly tight funds:

  • a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
  • $175,587 to the University of Kentucky to study the impact of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quail.
  • $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
  • $592,527 to study why chimpanzees throw objects.

Last year there were news reports about a $509,840 grant from NIH to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads. There are many other shake-your-head examples of misguided spending that are easy to find.

And we’re not even getting into the problems at the CDC or the confusing mixed messages on Ebola from the administration. CDC director Tom Frieden noted: more here

Indeed. The Progressive belief that a powerful government can stop all calamity is misguided. In the last 10 years we passed multiple pieces of legislation to create funding streams, offices, and management authorities precisely for this moment. That we have nothing to show for it is not good reason to put even more faith in government without learning anything from our repeated mistakes. Responding to the missing Ebola Czar and her office’s corruption by throwing still more money, more management changes, and more bureaucratic complexity in her general direction is madness.

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