Daily Archives: October 21, 2011

Why The U.S. Federal Reserve Has Been Forced To Bail Out European Banks

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By Richard Clark 

In 1999, the euro became official.   A year later, Greece joined up.   The Big Shared Illusion was that once countries adopted the euro, they wouldn’t default.   They would limit their deficits.   Every country would become like Germany, where debt was highly secure.   So Greek debt, Irish debt and Spanish debt began to trade as if they were super-safe German or French debt.   Countries like Greece that had been considered dicey investments then became overconfident, based on this Big Shared Illusion (BSI).   The European Central Bank would take care of inflation, investors thought.   And surely no one could then go bankrupt.   The Greeks, once forced to pay high interest rates (as high as 18 percent in 1994), could now borrow at low interest.   Happy days were here again!

The second stage of folly, based on the BSI, was that the conservative Greek government went on a reckless borrowing spree, and the banks went on a reckless lending spree.   Big European banks were delighted to lend Greece money.   And, sinking deeply into the BSI — or was it just selective inattention? — more than a few banks eventually began helping the Greeks hide evidence that all was not well.   With the evidence kept hidden, more bonds could be sold to more investors, and that meant more commissions.   Alice had quite profitably stepped through the looking glass.

But then, as early as 2005, many of these big banks began to wake up — they began to realize that the Greeks wouldn’t be able to pay the money back.   But so what, some of them said.     It’s called moral hazard:   you know your risky behavior is not going to be punished because somebody else is going to have to pay for it.   That’s what the banksters counted on in the case of Greece, and accordingly they kept the rivers of money (generated from selling secretly-risky Greek bonds) flowing.   They were just making too much money at it, and couldn’t stop themselves — not when they knew they could get off, in the end, with little more than a slap on the wrist, while others would take the real hit for them.

So the Greek government was given the green light to borrow boatloads of money for their Olympics, which cost twice as much as projected.   Magician-bankers at Goldman Sachs obligingly helped the Greek government disguise the danger of the debt — we’re talking billions — with clever little financial instruments called derivatives.   The public hadn’t a clue what was going on, but who cared? — Goldman was making commissions hand over fist on all these bond and derivatives sales.   So, all the southern countries on the euro-teat continued to borrow heavily (by way of these bonds that were being sold like hotcakes with Goldman’s help) — and spend heavily — and for a while these little countries boomed, while all this newly borrowed money was being spent, and then spent again.   God bless the multiplier effect, and God bless banks like Goldman Sachs for helping make all this magic happen!    .

The sh*t hit the fan when the Greek government changed hands in October 2009.   The books were opened to the light of day, and it became obvious to one and all that there was a much bigger deficit than anyone thought.   Investors then ran for the hills.   Interest rates shot up.   In November, just three months before the Greeks became the epicenter of the European economic crisis, the wizards of Wall Street (a.k.a. banksters) were back on the scene in Athens, frantically trying to peddle still more derivatives deals, so that the appearance of the debt would magically vanish.   The New York Times summed up the banksters’ role in the crisis this way:

“As in the American subprime crisis and the implosion of the American International Group, financial derivatives played a role in the run-up of Greek debt.   Instruments developed by Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and a wide range of other banks, enabled politicians to mask additional borrowing in Greece, Italy and possibly elsewhere.”

In dozens of deals across the Continent, banks provided cash upfront (i.e. loans) in return for government “payments in the future,” with those liabilities then left off the books.   Example:   For big fat loans (i.e. bonds that were sold to investors), the Greek government traded away such things as the right to collect fees at airports, and the right to collect lottery proceeds (i.e. “payments in the future”) . . for years to come.   In other words, Greece traded major sources of future government revenue, for big money NOW.   And banksters like Goldman encouraged this foolhardy undertaking because they were making so much money off of keeping the Big Shared Illusion going.   And damn the final outcome when the house of cards finally collapsed.   Others would pay the price, not banks like Goldman.

But with potentially destructive financial winds gaining hurricane force, it became clear that Greece would need a whole lot of money if investors in their bonds were ever going to get paid back.   So the government jumped on the austerity train to nowhere — making draconian cuts in services, pensions and wages, which only increased their deficits.   And then they had to ask the EU for more money.   Public workers were fired in order to pay the banks their pound of flesh.   Then pensions were slashed to pay the banks still more.   But there still wasn’t enough money to pay the banks all that they were owed.

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If you’re a country that has your own sovereign currency — like the U.S.   — then you have some options in such a situation.   You can do monetary expansion to head off deflation, for example, and devalue your currency.   But once Greece went on the euro, it said good-bye to such options.   So it cut, cut, and cut, but is now going bankrupt anyway.   The country is mired in falling incomes (that reduce consumer spending, thereby leading to layoffs and ever lower average incomes) and is also mired in rising deficits, and is therefore sinking ever further into what might be called the Herbert Hoover death spiral.

Meanwhile, members of the EU are flipping out.   Contributions to the bailout agreed to in July . . are supposed to be proportional to a country’s economic status, and thus the Germans have the biggest chunk to fork over.   But most Germans are not keen on the notion of doing this just so that the Greek and French banks can get paid.   Hey, they’re thinking, wouldn’t it be cheaper to recapitalize our own banks directly?

The French are really flipping out, because after the Greek banks, their banks ended up holding the biggest hordes of Greek debt (i.e. bonds).   So they’re worried about their credit rating once it is widely realized that the bonds they are holding are essentially “toxic waste” that’s worth maybe half of its nominal value, if that.

So the bailout decision has been postponed until mid-November.

The realization is dawning that this sh*tstorm is too big, and that the Greeks can’t fix themselves.   So they may have to go bust.   And if Greece goes bust, that means the Greek debt will be written down, way down, to maybe half its initial value, or less.   Which means the Greeks would then only owe half the money they currently owe to the banks and other bond holders.   Thus all banks and other investors in these junk bonds will take it on the chin.   Hard.   And because these banks were in crappy shape anyway (despite their phony stress tests), the possibility of cascading bank defaults arises.

Thus the proposal to build a firewall around Greece, so that if it does go bust, everybody else will be protected.   (Good luck with that.)   And then wait “til the same thing happens in Portugal, Spain, and maybe Italy.

In a nutshell, Europe is in the process of deflating and collapsing, in order to protect banksters.

Sadly, this doesn’t have to happen.   The big banks could be taken over by the government, recapitalized, and their management fired — FDR-style and S&L style.   Admittedly, this is unthinkable in the world of bank-centric, neoliberal economics, in which the banks essentially own the governments.   On the other hand, the anti-bank constituencies, on both the left and the right, are much bigger now than they were when the financial crisis began, and with the Occupy Wall Street movement spreading around the world by leaps and bounds, the banksters might be taken down after all.   So, will the banksters prevail, or will their victims, who are building their forces at warp speed?

In a way, the Greek crisis is a chance to do things right:   take the big banks into receivership, reorganize them, let their investors take a major haircut, and then sell them back into the private sector once their toxic assets are sold off.   But that proly ain’t gonna happen.   Therefore, because there’s not enough money in the EU for a bailout, the International Monetary Fund will likely have to step in.   And guess who’s the major member of the IMF?   The United States!   That’s right, there will be smoke, and there will be mirrors, but there will be no one warning the American taxpayer to “Get ready to hand over some more money to the banksters.”   Yet that’s what’s likely to happen:   The bailout will come from the United States — even though right now Treasury Secretary Geithner is denying it.

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What you have just read is my interpretation and synopsis of an article written by Lynn Parramore at Alternet.

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Follow the “MONEY”: Synthetic Bonds Are the Answer to Euro-Area Crisis

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By Harald Uhlig

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) — The euro area is burning and policy makers seem increasingly powerless to douse the flames. Meanwhile, we can only stand by and watch this nerve-wracking spectacle.

Yet the situation may not be utterly hopeless. In the last month or so, researchers have floated proposals for the creation of synthetic euro bonds that may offer a way out. The idea rests on three principles: No cross-subsidization between countries; safety; and the replacement of risky sovereign debt by synthetic bonds in European Central Bank repurchases.

I know what you are thinking: Are these people out of their minds? Collateralized debt obligations? Synthetic securities? That is what got us into this mess in the first place.

Let’s take a closer look. The proposals all start with some version of an open-ended mutual fund that would hold euro-area bonds. Ideally, the fund would hold these assets in proportion to the gross domestic product of each member country. It would then issue certificates that would be fully backed by these bonds. If there is a partial or full default on one of the securities (Greek 10-year bonds, say), then the mutual-fund certificates would lose some value.

In the case of a small country or a partial default, the losses would be small. So, the certificates would be reasonably safe.

The most important aspect, however, is that there would no mutual bailout guarantees, no cross-subsidization between countries and no need for high-level political brinkmanship. This is the core of the proposal I put forth with my colleagues Thorsten Beck and Wolf Wagner, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

Safer Securities

We recognize that many people will say that reasonably safe isn’t safe enough when it comes to synthetic securities. We believe they could be made safer. Markus Brunnermeier and his fellow members of the Euro-nomics group propose to divide the mutual-fund certificates into tranches. The junior tranche would be hit first in case of a default. The senior tranche would be most protected and could be called “European safe bonds” or “ESBies.” Both tranches would be traded on markets.

This would slice a slightly risky investment into several parts, one of which is safe. It would be an important feature if the ECB can’t be persuaded to use the raw mutual-fund certificates directly for repurchasing transactions, or if the original certificates are still considered too risky on bank balance sheets.

The biggest disadvantage of this idea is that it is too reminiscent of the infamous alchemy of 2008. I think it can work if properly implemented.

Another proposal by two Italian economists, Angelo Baglioni and Umberto Cherubini would create the original mutual fund, but it would only buy senior debt from governments, which would be required to post cash collateral. That is less appealing because it would require too much political maneuvering, would too easily allow cross-subsidization, and would entail restructuring of current government debt to create securities of appropriate seniority.

But the main point is this: It would be feasible to fine- tune any proposal to ease particular concerns of participants regarding seniority and safety, as long as the three principles I outlined above are obeyed.

The last of the three principles may be the most critical: These certificates must replace risky sovereign debt in ECB repurchasing transactions. One objection to this is that there is no particular reason now, for, say, a Greek bank to hold Greek debt or for a Spanish bank to hold Spanish debt, when they could all hold much safer German bonds.

‘Hold to Maturity’

The banks that can still afford to mark their sovereign debt to market, rather than “hold to maturity” and pretend all is well, can do this now. They can ensure their safety by selling the debt of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, and buying German bonds.

The trouble with that scenario is that if all banks were to act this way, the prices of those bonds might plummet. That would mean far deeper trouble for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain the next time they try to issue new debt. It would cause problems for the banks, too, as they would get even less than what they currently think the bonds are worth.

The ECB has danced around this issue by repurchasing risky sovereign debt, buying it outright in the open market, supporting these prices through intervention, and trying to unwind again. The ECB is ultimately backed by the euro area’s taxpayers, who either get more inflation or a depreciation of their currency, if things turn south.

In addition, the central bank’s actions have had the unintended effect of encouraging private banks to hold the risky assets, rather than discouraging them from doing so. This makes sense: These bonds get higher returns, are still usable as collateral with the ECB, and are implicitly guaranteed by government bailouts if things go wrong. The real loser is the taxpayer.

The mutual-fund construction removes much of this moral hazard. It can buy a sizeable fraction of the risky debt, taking it off the books of the ECB and the commercial banks. Yes, it may still need to buy German, Dutch and Finnish bonds on the market, but the banks, in turn, would buy these certificates. And, importantly, the ECB uses the mutual-fund certificates or their ESB-safe versions for its repo- and open-market transactions, while gradually phasing out its support of individual risky sovereign debt.

Who can create these certificates? A savvy market participant could probably pull this off in a few days. But it would be better to have a public institution do it instead. Competition among several such funds may even be better, with the ECB deciding which ones to accept and which ones to phase out. In any case, this can be done quickly, if decision makers in government and the financial-market institutions can be persuaded to act.

This isn’t a glamorous, magic solution. Nor is it a sexy proposal for politicians to sell in speeches. This is a simple step forward that wouldn’t cost much, but is easy and effective. Most of all, it is what the euro area needs right now.

(Harald Uhlig is chairman of the economics department at the University of Chicago and a contributor to Business Class. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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Helix seeks to provide capping stack in case of Cuba drill accident

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Washington (Platts)

Helix Energy Solutions Group is talking to US officials about providing a capping stack to Repsol to respond to any blowout and spill from its deepwater well off Cuba‘s coast, the company confirmed Friday.

Helix would have to secure special licenses from the Commerce Department to export technology to Cuba as well as permission from the Treasury Department for its personnel to travel to Cuban waters to assist in responding to a blowout.

While the company would not specifically say it had applied for those licenses, spokesman Cameron Wallace did say that Helix was “currently engaged with relevant US regulatory agencies regarding the possibility of providing spill containment solutions for use in Cuban waters. The ultimate scope of services to be offered is still under consideration, and no firm commitments have yet been made,” Wallace said.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security has already issued licenses for the use of some equipment, including booms and skimmers, by US companies in Cuban waters, Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Bromwich told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the Treasury and Commerce departments are reviewing applications for licenses to provide a subsea well containment system, remotely operated vehicles and intervention vessels in case of a massive blowout and spill.

Helix already owns a deepwater capping stack, one of two that are part of the Helix Well Containment Group, a consortium of companies drilling in the US Gulf of Mexico. The two stacks, one of which is owned by HWCG, are rated to a depth of 10,000 feet and are staged for use by any of the member companies in case of a major oil spill.

Wallace said Helix would build a third capping stack, designed to meet the specific parameters of Repsol’s Cuban well, if it secures the necessary permissions.

“The goal of the operation is to protect the nation’s coastlines,” Wallace said. “We need to be able to act in the event that our coasts are threatened and this is one means of doing that.”
While the capping stack would initially be designed and built for the Repsol well, it would be available for other projects in the future, Wallace said.

Gary Gentile, gary_gentile@platts.com

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Occupiers Have A Mascot, Robin Hood. Too Bad He Is Opposed To Their Rhetoric.

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by Casey Hendrickson

I suppose it was inevitable. Eventually, people ignorant to the circumstances they are protesting were bound to extend their ignorance to a new mascot.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d expected them to take up the Robin Hood fallacy.

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On October 29, on the eve of the G20 Leaders Summit in France, let’s the people of the world rise up and demand that our G20 leaders immediately impose a 1% #ROBINHOOD tax on all financial transactions and currency trades. Let’s send them a clear message: We want you to slow down some of that $1.3-trillion easy money that’s sloshing around the global casino each day – enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world.

‘Take from the rich, give to the poor,’ is the often misused mantra of Robin Hood.  However, Robin Hood was not about wealth redistribution at all.  This proposal to demand a tax in Robin Hood’s name is the very definition of irony.  Robin Hood wasn’t an occupier, he was a tea partier.

Robin Hood’s beef wasn’t with the wealthy.  It was with the abusive government over-taxation policy.  It was the Sheriff’s unfair taxation to fund government programs he opposed.  Robin Hood has often been depicted as an aristocrat who had his wealth wrongly stripped from him.  He would oppose the occupiers at every turn.

Demanding a tax in his name is the exact opposite of what he stood for.  Robin Hood would have thrown tea into the harbor. Robin Hood would have been there at the beginning of the tea party movement.  Echoing what our founders and the tea partiers after them stood for … less taxation and getting the government out of our lives. Not the pillaging of the fruits of one’s labor.

Robin Hood is not one of the fictional 99% … Robin Hood is one of the 53%.

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UK: Well Enhancer Helps in Testing of Well Cap Deployment

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Aberdeen-based Helix Well Ops UK (Well Ops), a business unit of Helix Energy Solutions Group (Helix ESG), was at the centre of a recent exercise that successfully tested the UK oil and gas industry’s ability to deploy a well capping device.

The purpose of the Emergency Equipment Response Deployment (EERD) exercise was to simulate the logistical process of responding to a well control incident. This involved transporting a well capping device, loading it on to a vessel and lowering it over the side before fixing it to a specially-built simulated well on the sea floor.

Led by the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG), the exercise was conducted from the Well Ops vessel the Well Enhancer at a site in block 206/4, around 75km north-west of Shetland.

Performed from the deck of the 132-metre long well intervention and diving support vessel, the 10-day operation demonstrated how the industry would handle a well blow-out and resultant oil spill.

The exercise was part of the UK oil and gas industry’s response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Well Ops was able to implement best practice learnt by its parent company Helix Energy Solutions Group, which had played a key role in the response to that incident.

Launched in 2009, the Well Enhancer provides remotely operated vehicle (ROV), diving and well intervention services. It features a 150-tonne multipurpose tower fitted with passive and active heave compensation (AHC) and is capable of deploying wireline, slickline and coiled tubing (CT) tools to a depth of 1,000m. The vessel also features kill pumps, an intervention lubricator control system and a 100-tonne crane which is operational to 600m.

Following arrival at the test site, the first stage of the exercise involved deploying a specially-built landing base onto the seafloor at a depth of 300m, in order to accurately simulate a subsea well. This was deployed over the side of the vessel by the onboard 100-tonne main crane. Having recreated the subsea environment, ROVs were deployed to distribute a non-toxic fluorescent dye which replicated the use of subsea oil dispersant in a live well control situation.

The next element of the EERD process saw heavy-duty cutting shears being deployed to sever subsea marine pipes. The two choke lines and one riser were cut using an ROV-mounted saw and the cut sections recovered to deck. This process is necessary to clear the riser out of the way and allow the cap to be landed and seal off a blown-out well.

The 40-tonne demonstration cap was then lowered 300m by wireline, run from the AHC multi-purpose tower, through the Well Enhancer’s moon-pool and landed onto the simulation well. AHC keeps the load at a fixed position relative to the seabed and avoids the vessel’s motion being transferred to the load. ROVs were then used to lock the cap onto the base and activate the valve functions. The trial used a device that was of similar size and weight to the actual well cap which was launched at Offshore Europe 2011.

On completion of the exercise, all the equipment, including the landing base, was recovered back onto the deck of the Well Enhancer and no negative effects to the marine environment were detected.

Steve Nairn, Well Ops’ regional vice president of Europe and Africa, said: “The well capping device is a major and important piece of equipment for the UK oil and gas industry. This test has demonstrated the industry’s ability to respond to a major well control incident and underlined the capability of light well intervention vessels.

“The UK has not experienced a blowout for over 20 years and Well Ops is committed to working with the industry to ensure we are fully prepared should such an incident arise, but also to prevent such incidents in the first place. We are glad to have provided an effective contribution to this successful exercise.”

SubseaUK

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Follow the “MONEY”: Never been a better time to make Robin Hood Tax a reality

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By Roger James
Sep 29, 2011

“The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) we propose will be banks’ contribution to a fair society,” said EU president José Manuel Barroso this week.

The EU Commission further noted that financial firms had played a role in the current “economic crisis” and was “under-taxed” compared with other sectors, also arguing that banks must make a “contribution” back to society after the €4.6 trillion of taxpayers’ money they have received in the last three years.

Earlier this year 1,000 economists urged G20 countries to accept a similar ‘Tobin tax’. France and Germany have been joined by Bill Gates alongside other leading financial actors, George Soros, Warren Buffet and the UK’s Lord Adair Turner who have stated their support for a tax on financial transactions which could raise billions for the fight against poverty and climate change.

Gates was asked by President Nicolas Sarkozy to come up with proposals for new forms of financing for development for this autumn’s meeting of the G20 meeting of the biggest twenty economies in Cannes in November.

The next few weeks leading up to the G20 are going to be critical in deciding whether an FTT is agreed and crucially whether the resources are earmarked for the fight against poverty at home and abroad and to tackle climate change.

EU Finance Ministers next week are expected to discuss the proposal as part of pre-G20 and EU summit discussions. Public and political support is building behind an EU-wide FTT before the EU Heads of State Summit on October 17 and 18 and for a global agreement before the French G20 Summit starting on November 3.

I was heartened to see it as the leading item on the 10pm news only to be followed by interviews with City of London representatives who decried the idea claiming that about 80% of the revenues of any Europe-wide financial tax would come from London.

The UK Government is currently opposed to the idea. The UK Treasury said it would “absolutely resist” any tax that was not introduced globally because it may drive business overseas. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the contrary, has clearly stated that FTTs exist in all the major financial sectors already, without driving business away.

The best example of this is the UK, where we have a stamp duty of 0.5% on all share transactions. The UK’s major competitors do not have this and there certainly is no global agreement, yet it is a successful FTT that raises around £5 billion pounds each year. It is designed so it can’t be avoided and London remains one of the biggest stock markets in the world.

The Robin Hood Tax Campaign, backed by 115 aid agencies (including Oxfam), green campaigners, trade unions and faith groups is campaigning for a tiny tax of about 0.05% on transactions like stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives.

It has the potential to raise £250 billion a year globally. It will not affect retail banking, which includes savings and mortgages. It will instead introduce a micro-tax on short-term, casino-style trading which employs a small number of highly paid bankers in London, not the tens of thousands employed in high street financial services.

The world faces a dramatic economic crisis but alongside our concerns we must remember that the financial crisis has driven millions of people into poverty and put many more at risk, as the world’s poorest countries scramble to fill huge budget holes with dwindling help from richer nations. Poor people in the UK are also being hit hardest by cuts. Revenue from a Robin Hood Tax could go a long way to helping make the world a fairer place by helping tackle poverty and climate change, at home and abroad.

Oxfam and others do have concerns about the apparent EU proposals. While we welcome the fact that the FTT is moving from rhetoric to reality, a significant part of the revenues should be used as Bill Gates suggested, to help poor countries facing chilling reductions in aid, trade, and investment – not just shore up the EU budget. An FTT is not a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ unless clear commitments are made to use the revenues for tackling climate change and poverty at home and abroad

That is why huge public pressure is needed to convince the government it is more costly to ignore the people than to ignore the banks. Actor Bill Nighy has been a prominent public supporter. The UK campaign alone has a quarter of a million supporters, and there are sister campaigns across the globe. A recent EU poll of more than 27,000 people found that 61% of Europeans support FTT, including 65% of Britons.

If you are reading this article please give your support to this campaign at a critical time. Many MPs have declared they are supportive – contact your own and ask them to write to the UK Chancellor and to press their own party spokespeople to come out in support. Have a look at Robin Hood Tax site for all the low down. One fun thing to do is add your own (or friend’s) face to a RHT Video. It’s great!

If a tax is agreed, it’s crucial that a commitment is made that the resources will go towards tackling poverty and climate change – not into the general EU or national budgets. Otherwise it’s not a Robin Hood tax.

We have lots of support, both expert and popular, there has never been a better time or opportunity to make the Robin Hood Tax a reality!

Roger James is a campaigner at Oxfam South West in Bristol

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ENI makes huge gas find in Mozambique

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Italian energy company ENI said it encountered nearly 700 feet of continuous gas pay at the Mamba South discovery about 25 miles north of Mozambique. The company said the discovery could contain as much as 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

ENI said the “impressive discovery” will lead to major developments in the natural gas sector in Mozambique. This includes access to regional and international markets through liquefied natural gas capacities.

The discovery was made in 5,200 feet of water.

ENI said the Mamba South discovery marks the largest operated discovery in the company’s exploration history.

The company added that its results at Mamba South exceeded initial expectations. ENI serves as the operator with a controlling interest in the area.

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Americans dissatisfied with direction on energy issues

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by Simone Sebastian

Americans are cynical about energy companies’ control over pricing, think government is failing on energy issues, and believe the environment should take a backseat in energy concerns that spur economic growth.

Those are among the results of a new poll from the University of Texas-Austin targeting consumers’ views on energy issues, including dependency on foreign oil and development of renewable energy.

Overall, Americans think the country is on a bad path when it comes to energy. More than 43 percent said the nation is heading in the wrong direction in dealing with energy issues. Just 14 percent we’re heading in the right direction.

The nationally representative survey of 3,400 adults was developed by the Energy Management and Innovation Center at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business and its results were released this week.

Americans praised their own households’ handling of energy issues, but thought government and big businesses are falling far short on their responsibilities. Among the respondents, 71 percent said they were dissatisfied with how congress has addressed energy concerns and 54 percent were critical of President Obama on the issue.  Oil and gas companies, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Department of Energy all fell to the bottom of the pack, too.

Yet, 57 percent said they were satisfied with how they’ve handled energy in their own homes.

“This survey shows that the public craves leadership on energy issues,” said UT-Austin President Bill Powers in a written statement.

When asked to identify the most powerful factor in the cost of energy, Americans pointed to energy companies and utilities. Thirty-six percent of the respondents said energy businesses have primary control over the price of energy. By comparison, 21 percent said global politics made the biggest impact and 18 percent pointed to government regulations. Just 15 percent said consumer demand was the biggest factor.

In energy policies, respondents gave economic growth greater importance than environmental concerns, a result the researchers linked to atough economy. While 37 percent responded that economic growth should be given priority, 33 percent gave more weight to environmental concerns. The rest believed the issues should be balanced.

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