Faced with crippling sanctions imposed by the US, the Biden administration should finally free up some of its foreign oil reserves

Photo: An oil refinery in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela.Photographer: Meridith Kohut/Bloomberg

18 May 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Median News

Oil.

Ever since the United States made it known that it would not allow Russia’s Nord Stream 2 to bring supplies into Germany, saving the world and especially Ukraine from Russian domination, the entire world has been frantically searching for a way to end the ensuing worldwide shortages in food, fuel, and more.

There is no end in sight to the so-called ‘cost of living crisis.’

No government on earth seems willing or capable of reining in the chaos.

The price of fuel continues to rise on a daily basis. Food shortages will only increase as governments hunker down to ride out the headwinds.

There is a simple solution. The world should at once call upon the United States to ‘free up’ even a fraction of its oil reserves in Syria, Iran, Venezuela, and even Canada.

It is time for the world to ask President Biden to call on the United States to end the crippling worldwide sanctions.

Free up your oil and save the world. Please.

James Porteous | Clipper Media News


US moves to ease a few economic sanctions on Venezuela

Chevron's four joint ventures with Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, produced about 200,000 barrels a day in 2019, but the United States government ordered it in 2020 to wind down production [File: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

The US continues to sit atop Venezuela’s world’s largest oil reserves, yet its political upheaval and economic decline have pushed more than six million people to migrate in recent years. About three-quarters of those who remain to live on less than $1.90 a day, are considered the international standard for extreme poverty, and many lack access to clean, running water and electricity.

The limited changes will allow Chevron Corp to negotiate its license with the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

17 May 2022 | AP via AJE

The United States government is moving to ease a few economic sanctions on Venezuela in a gesture meant to encourage resumed negotiations between the US-backed opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The limited changes will allow Chevron Corp to negotiate its license with the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), but not to drill or export any petroleum of Venezuelan origin, two senior US government officials told The Associated Press late Monday. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the formal announcement had not been made.

Additionally, Carlos Erik Malpica-Flores — a former high-ranking PDVSA official and nephew of Venezuela’s first lady — will be removed from a list of sanctioned individuals, they said.

The moves follow goodwill gestures by Maduro after meeting in March with representatives of the administration of President Joe Biden and a recent gathering in Central America between US officials and the main Unitary Platform opposition coalition to discuss a path forward.

“These are things that … the Unitary Platform negotiated and came to us to request that we do in order for them to be able to return to the negotiating table,” one of the officials said.

Scores of Venezuelans, including the country’s attorney general and the head of the penitentiary system, and more than 140 entities, among them Venezuela’s Central Bank, will remain sanctioned. The US Department of the Treasury will continue to prohibit transactions with the Venezuelan government and PDVSA within US financial markets.

Maduro himself is under indictment in the US, accused of conspiring “to flood the United States with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America”.

Venezuela’s government suspended talks with the opposition in October after the extradition to the US of a key Maduro ally on money laundering charges. Maduro at the time conditioned his return to the negotiating table on the release from custody of businessman Alex Saab, who was extradited from the African nation of Cape Verde.

The negotiations took place in Mexico City under the guidance of Norwegian diplomats. The US officials said they expect the dialogue to resume within weeks.

California-based Chevron is the last major US oil company to do business in Venezuela, where it first invested in the 1920s. Its four joint ventures with PDVSA produced about 200,000 barrels a day in 2019, but the US government ordered it in 2020 to wind down production, and since then, it has only been allowed to carry out essential work on oil wells to preserve its assets and employment levels in Venezuela.

Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves, yet its political upheaval and economic decline have pushed more than six million people to migrate in recent years. About three-quarters of those who remain to live on less than $1.90 a day, considered the international standard for extreme poverty, and many lack access to clean, running water and electricity.

The US and other countries withdrew recognition of Maduro after accusing him of rigging his 2018 re-election as president. In his place, they recognised Juan Guaidó, who was head of the then-opposition-dominated congress and remains the leader of the Unitary Platform.

For the past five years, the US has used punishing financial and personal sanctions, criminal indictments and support for clandestine groups in an unsuccessful campaign to remove Maduro and restore what it sees as Venezuela’s stolen democracy.

But in March, US officials travelled to Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, to meet with Maduro after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended the world order and forced Washington to rethink its national security priorities.

After the meeting, Maduro freed two American prisoners and promised to resume negotiations with his opponents.

The senior US officials said the government will calibrate sanctions based on concrete outcomes at the negotiations and would reimpose them in the event of backsliding in the dialogue process.

Malpica-Flores was once national treasurer and PDVSA’s vice president of finance. He was individually sanctioned in 2017 as the US targeted people associated with Venezuela’s rampant government corruption.

His aunt, Cilia Flores, is one of the most influential members of Venezuela’s government and a constant presence alongside her husband, President Maduro. Two other nephews of hers are imprisoned in the US on drug conspiracy convictions.


Iran has the capacity to double oil exports if market needs more barrels: Official

Proven oil reserves in Iran, according to its government, rank fourth largest in the world at approximately as of 2013, although it ranks third if Canadian reserves of unconventional oil are excluded. This is roughly 10% of the world’s total proven petroleum reserves. At 2020 rates of production, Iran’s oil reserves would last 145 years if no new oil was found. Iran used to export up to 2.8 million bpd of oil before Washington imposed sanctions on the country in 2018 after abandoning an international agreement on the country’s nuclear program.

Bloomberg via Al Arabiya English 15/05/2022


Iran has capacity to double oil exports if there’s sufficient demand, a top official said, even as a deal on the country’s nuclear program that could pave the way for the lifting of sanctions remain elusive.

Iran will “exert maximum effort” to recoup its crude oil market share and revive its customers, Mohsen Khojastehmehr, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Co., told reporters Saturday in Tehran.

While Iran doesn’t publish figures for oil production or exports, analysts estimate that it sells as much as 1 million barrels per day. The government’s budget plan forecasts daily sales of 1.4 million barrels for the year through March 2023.

Iranian crude exports were dealt a blow after former US President Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 that curbed the country’s atomic activities in exchange for economic relief, including its critical oil sales.

Talks this week between the European Union and Iran on attempts to revive the deal went better than expected, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief.

Separately, Khojastehmehr said NIOC will sign an agreement with banks and local production companies “in the next few months” to develop the second phase of the Azadegan oil field’s northern and southern sections to boost output in a $7.5-billion project.

Azadegan is the largest field that Iran shares with neighboring Iraq, holding an estimated 32 billion barrels of oil.


Syria’s government criticizes US decision to allow investment in country’s north

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) deploy around Ghwayran prison in Syria’s northeastern city of Hasakeh on January 25, 2022. (AFP)

In 2018, Syria had an estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil reserves, compared with Saudi Arabia’s 297 billion, Iran’s 155 billion and Iraq’s 147 billion barrels. The oil fields are concentrated in the province of Deir al-Zour, in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, and Hassakeh in the north-east.

Al Arabiya English 13/05/2022 Reuters


Syria’s foreign ministry on Friday criticized a US decision to allow some foreign investment in areas of northern Syria that are outside of government control, vowing to “defeat” the move.

On Thursday, the US Treasury Department approved activities in 12 sectors including agriculture, construction and finance, in what it said was a strategy designed to defeat ISIS terrorist group through economic stabilization.

The decision does not permit any transactions with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or others blacklisted by the US during the 11-year-long Syrian war.

In a statement on Friday, the foreign ministry in Damascus said Syria was “determined to defeat this new conspiracy,” encouraging people in the country’s north to “bring it down.”

It described the decision as part of Washington’s “destructive approach” to Syria. Damascus blames Western sanctions for widespread civilian hardship in the country, where a collapse of the currency has led to soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.

Government troops and allied forces have recaptured most of the territory they had lost after demonstrations against al-Assad in 2011 devolved into a brutal conflict.

Swathes of territory in the northwest are held by Turkish-backed forces, while the northeast is mostly controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The northeast holds much of Syria’s oil reserves and wheat production, while the northwest was once an agricultural and industrial zone.

The license authorizes purchases of oil products such as gasoline in the area, but does not permit transactions with the government or sanctioned individuals or the import of Syrian petroleum products to the United States.

In a call with reporters, US officials rejected assertions that the move could be seen as helpful to efforts by some Arab allies to bring back Assad in from the cold, and repeated that Washington had no intention of lifting sanctions on him.

Instead, officials have insisted that economic revitalization would stymie efforts by the remnants of ISIS to recruit new members.


Kenney says Canada could boost oil export capacity to U.S. by up to 900,000 barrels per day

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in Ottawa on May 5, 2022. PHOTO BY REUTERS/BLAIR GABLE FILES

Oil reserves in Canada were estimated at 172 billion barrels (27×109 m3) as of the start of 2015 . This figure includes the oil sands reserves that are estimated by government regulators to be economically producible at current prices using current technology. According to this figure, Canada’s reserves are third only to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Over 95% of these reserves are in the oil sands deposits in the province of Alberta.

17 May 2022  | Nia Williams | Reuters

Canada could add up to 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil export capacity to the United States through technical improvements to existing pipelines and increased crude by rail shipments, Alberta premier Jason Kenney told a U.S. Senate committee on Tuesday.

Alberta, the biggest oil-producing province in Canada, has been studying ways to enhance pipeline utilization to boost crude exports as Europe seeks to reduce its dependence on Russian oil.

Kenney and federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson were in Washington addressing a Senate energy and natural resources committee on the issue of energy security.

The Canadian government has previously said Canada could increase oil exports via pipeline by 300,000 bpd by the end of this year.

Kenney said an extra 200 bpd on top of that could be shipped south by rail, while technical improvements from midstream companies could add as much as 400,000 bpd of pipeline capacity by next year.

“This concept of a North American energy alliance is manifestly in the interest of both the U.S. and Canadian people,” Kenney said.

The premier urged senators to help safeguard the Enbridge Inc Line 5 pipeline, which the state of Michigan is trying to shut down because of concerns it could leak into the Great Lakes.

He also condemned President Joe Biden’s decision to revoke a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and urged lawmakers to consider plans for a new major Canadian-U.S. export pipeline project.