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30 August 2014

Press review 30-08-2014 - The North Sea End Game

Scotland is voting an independence referendum in two weeks time. The debate has heated up considerably in recent weeks with the North Sea petroleum and gas resources coming into play. A great deal has been debated around reserve estimates and the implications for an hypothetical sovereign Scottish budget. However, far more important than reserves is knowing the net revenues that such resources can yield. And it is here than EROEI chimes in.

There is not much wealth in a resource that, however plentiful, is a marginal producer, parked at the head section of the supply curve. Yes, there is still petroleum and gas under the North Sea, but these are now mostly low return resources, that - as the article below explains - hardly provide revenues for their own exploration. The moment costs per barrel go above the market price it is all over.

Nevertheless, the sheer political risks associated with either the "yes" or the "no" supersede the budgetary questions and should be the main driver of the Scots' decision.

23 August 2014

Press review 23-08-2014 - American "shale gas" to reach Europe by 2016

I have repeatedly expressed my scepticism regarding the impact the outburst of gas extraction from source rocks in North America can have on the European market. However, in the market place most players seem to be driven by the belief that these gas resources will change the market.

Just this week the Portuguese Secretary of State for Energy announced the signing of several contracts between American and European companies to start shipping gas from the former to the latter from 2016 onwards. This gas is to enter Europe through Sines, the westernmost deep water LNG terminal in Europe, with a total storage capacity close to 400 000 m3.

The Secretary of State believes the so called "shale gas" to reach European shores at prices well under those paid today for conventional gas. Nevertheless, his discourse is mostly conditional, repeatedly employing the word "could". Portugal and Spain do not consume Russian gas, having historically relied on Algeria for this fuel. With exports from that country in decline, diversification through LNG is mostly inevitable.

09 August 2014

Press review 09-08-2014 - Beholding cahos in confort

Iraq is back to the front pages and for the wrong reasons. In another twist of events, the Islamic State (IS) started attacking cities in the autonomous Kurdish region, openly engaging - and defeating - the peshmerga. What had so far been a safe heaven for non-Sunni refugees has suddenly turn into hell.

The IS is now pushing in three different fronts: to the west in Syria, to the north-east against the Kurds and to the south-east against the Shiites; it still holds the initiative in all of these. This is the most serious war of the XXI century, for its barbaric nature, for the large territories it extends to and for the number of countries involved: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, US, plus Turkey Jordan and Saudi in high alert.

Remarkably, there is no visible impact on Iraq's petroleum exports. So far the only impact on the comfortable lifestyles of the west are the gory images circulating through the so called social media.

06 August 2014

Ubuntu Shopping Lens deemed legal by UK data privacy office

It was almost two years ago that the infamous Shopping Lens feature was added to a beta preview of Ubuntu 12.10. Plenty of folk did not like the idea of having their Ubuntu suddenly transformed into an online shop; the inadvertently fashion in which the feature was announced only dumped more wood on the fire.

Throughout the following weeks the row focused on the awkward matching of unsolicited advertisements with free and open source software. In the meantime I started wondering if something far more serious could be at stake. Regarding previous experiences with data collection in my professional career and after carefully re-examining the European Directive on data privacy, I made public a series of concerns that lead me to a mini-saga, and Canonical to consider the matter in a totally different way.

This is a short story of this mini-saga and how it finally came to an end last week.

02 August 2014

Press review 02-08-2014 - Shooting one's toes

The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 is taking the central role in events relevant to Europe's energy predicament. The propaganda machine from both sides keeps raging. Russia is persistently blamed by the western media, often with circumstantial evidence that is soon retracted. The Russian media tried a series of awkward explanations until the Russian military released evidence of two Ukrainian jet fighters following the Malaysian aircraft within minutes of its destruction. A series of tweets from a mysterious air controller of Spanish ascendency in Kiev seem to corroborate the presence of Ukrainian fighters, as so several eye witnesses (briefly reported by the BBC). The western media that took notice claim this air controller does not exist.

Irrespective of whom committed this abhorrent crime, its purpose seems to have been served. It prolongs the war, increases the strain on the European economy and most importantly, puts an end to the efforts towards a peaceful solution to the crisis.