Scraping the Barrel… 9 August 2012

Today’s barrel scrapes include: a duplicitous tale of one man against the establishment in post-oligarch Russia; oil majors deepen the Arab/Kurd fault lines in Iraq; and Robin Mills shines a light on the way forward for Indian energy security. More below…

Mikhail Fridman – 43rd richest man in the world, Kremlin bezzie and flatteringly described by Steve LeVine as ‘a pudgy man with an impish grin’, but has he fallen out with favour with Putin to become the latest victim in a post-oligarch Russia? In a quick romp through the treacherous, back-stabbing history of Russia’s post-Soviet oligarchy, Steve LeVine recounts how Fridman’s devil-may-care attitude may be wearing thin in a more stable, and frankly more boring, panorama of Putin-approved oligarchs on the receiving end of Russia’s petrodollars. Such as Rosneft’s Igor Sechin who, even cosier with the big man, appears to have pipped Fridman’s AAR to the post in snatching up a piece of BP’s Russian joint venture as the British major gives in and scampers from Moscow. As the last free oligarch standing, it will take all of Fridman’s fames survival skills to avoid game over this time.
US troops might have upped sticks in December, but the decisive influence of US on the future of Iraq may now be seen through the prism of oil majors such as Exxon and Chevron. These companies are at the heart of a dispute between the Kurdish north and the Arab south which threatens to see Iraq torn apart at the seams along ethnic lines. Big Oil’s role in ratcheting up the tensions between Erbil and Baghdad is key, and it can be no coincidence that Iraqi troops were deployed to the border as Total and Gazprom signed on the dotted line with the KRG. The Kurds have made no secret of their long term goal of forming a fully independent Kurdish state and they will use the legitimacy conferred by such deals to test the nerves of the South. With the conflict in Syria and Turkey’s influence straining relations even further, the rift looks like becoming only wider. 


Energy-head Robin Mills responds to the power cut scandal in India a week or two ago, and to the absurd turn of events that led to the electricity minister being promoted the very next day to interior minister. Astounding Indian growth statistics may be provoking the envy of stalling Western economies but the truth is that a stunning 400 million Indians living through the ‘economic miracle’s  are still awaiting reliable electricity supplies. Crazier still, in the wake of the blackout it was left to the near-coal monopoly Coal India to decide its own penalty. Mills sheds some light on the issue (sorry, so close to a pun-free post) by suggesting thoughtful reforms such as cash transfers or electricity supplies provided at ‘lifeline rates’ as a good start. That is if the global scandal of recent weeks can shame Indian politicians into finding the political will to overcome entrenched interests and get those generators whirring into action.

 

To check out previous news roundups, see the Scraping the Barrel series.

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