Energy News  





. Russia's Oil-Fuelled Boom Continues

Russia, together with Saudi Arabia, is the world's leader in oil production. Unlike the latter, however, it is not an OPEC member and is therefore not bound by the cartel's restrictions, so it can derive the maximum benefit from the favorable market. Though Russia has not commissioned any new oil fields in the past 15 years, Russian oil companies have managed to increase oil production and, consequently, oil exports by 4% this year. According to estimates, Russia receives $550 million a day from oil exports. The bulk of oil revenues goes to the state budget, accounting for over 60% of the funds.
by Oleg Mityaev
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 06, 2007
Russia's lucky streak continues. The price of oil, the country's main export item and its chief source of budget revenues, has once again soared to record levels. On July 31, the price of a barrel of oil gained $1.38, closing at $78.21 on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). This is the highest it has closed on the NYMEX since the exchange began trading oil in 1983 and is close to its all-time record of $78.40 per barrel reached on July 14, 2006. The rise in oil prices will allow the Russian government to meet this year's budget requirements as early as this August. However, a country cannot live only on revenues from non-renewable resources.

Oil experts explain the surge in prices by American oil refineries' growing demand for crude. Many of them were closed until quite recently; some for scheduled maintenance work, others because of damage suffered from hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Only now have they started to operate at full capacity and therefore, to buy more oil.

This is all true, but there is a more fundamental reason for the steady rise in oil prices. At present, all oil produced in the world is bought up almost immediately by consumers, who push up the price. In these conditions, buyers can only hope that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls over a third of global oil supplies, will increase supplies. OPEC members, in particular Saudi Arabia, which is the cartel's unofficial leader, have substantial unused oil-production capacities. However, judging by OPEC's actions, they see no reason to boost oil output.

Russia, together with Saudi Arabia, is the world's leader in oil production. Unlike the latter, however, it is not an OPEC member and is therefore not bound by the cartel's restrictions, so it can derive the maximum benefit from the favorable market. Though Russia has not commissioned any new oil fields in the past 15 years, Russian oil companies have managed to increase oil production and, consequently, oil exports by 4% this year. According to estimates, Russia receives $550 million a day from oil exports. The bulk of oil revenues goes to the state budget, accounting for over 60% of the funds.

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry was pleased to announce that last month the average price of Russia's Urals blend of crude was $74.24 per barrel, surpassing its previous high of $69.10 in July 2006. Russian government officials hope that it will stay high throughout the month of August. If it does, they will not have to worry about the next few months: the target for the amount of petrodollars in the treasury will have been met.

Meanwhile, it would be a big mistake to rely only on the huge profits generated by the export of hydrocarbons. According to most forecasts, oil prices will drop from their present record levels, but stay fairly high ($50-$60 per barrel) over the next two decades. By the same forecasts, proven oil reserves may be fully exhausted by the middle of this century.

Therefore, we can only welcome the Russian economics ministry's plans to switch from a raw materials-based economy to high technology. According to these plans, the high-tech sector of the Russian economy should be twice as large as the raw materials sector by 2020 and account for a larger portion of Russia's export revenues. This, however, is the ministry's most optimistic scenario.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

related report

Russia and Belarus on the brink of gas war
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 06 - Belarus is again attempting to solve its economic problems at Russia's expense. Minsk, which must do something to rectify its negative foreign trade balance, wants Russia to lend it $1.5 billion. It says that it needs $450 million to repay its debts to Russian energy giant Gazprom for gas delivered in the first half of the year. Moscow will have to choose between helping its neighbor and beginning another gas war. The meeting of Russian and Belarusian prime ministers in Moscow in late July did not solve the problem, as Russia refused to finance the repayment of Belarus's gas debts.

Under a bilateral contract, Gazprom is to supply gas to Belarus at $100 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007, but Belarus paid only $55 in the first half of the year. It pledged to start repaying the debt on July 23, but Gazprom has not received any payments to date.

On August 1, it announced that gas supplies to Belarus would be cut by 45% from 10:00 a.m. on August 3.

Belarus has the money to repay the debt, as its gas pipeline company Beltransgaz received all the necessary payments from its clients, and the remaining funds can be taken from the republic's surplus budget.

Its budget revenues for January-June totaled $7.7 billion, while expenses were $6.95 billion. In addition, in early June Gazprom transferred $625 million to the Belarusian treasury in payment for a 12.5% stake in Beltransgaz.

But Minsk does not want to repay its debts to Gazprom from its own money, hoping for a loan from Russia instead.

The situation is absurd, and nobody can predict where it will go next. Will the Kremlin declare a gas war on Minsk?

Belarus has run out of time to transfer the requisite funds to Gazprom. Besides, the republic's authorities apparently believe that repaying its debts will amount to yielding to Moscow's pressure, and will prevent it from using the debts-for-loan blackmail in the future.

On the other hand, Russia will not benefit from increasing pressure on Belarus, as it has been already accused of using gas supplies as an instrument of foreign policy.

Moscow has pushed itself into a corner. It knew that the money Gazprom paid for Beltransgaz would not be used to repay debts to it last May, when First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said that the money would be channeled into the national development fund for financing investment projects.

Money on the accounts of Beltransgaz and the surplus of the Belarusian budget is listed in Belarusian rubles, whereas mutual settlements are made in dollars. The Kremlin could hardly expect Minsk to spend the hard currency reserves of the National Bank in order to repay its debts to Russia.

Minsk learned to draw maximum benefit from its close relations with Russia long ago. It has now refused to repay its gas debts and is pressuring Moscow into granting a $1.5-billion loan simply to have the necessary funds to improve the national economy. Belarus needs hard currency to make up for its negative trade balance.

According to the National Bank, the country's import exceeded export by $881.6 million in the first half of the year, and Belarusian companies' debts to foreign contractors amounted to $295 million (without the debt to Gazprom). The bank has only $2.9 billion in hard currency reserves.

A weak payments balance is one of the shortfalls of the Belarusian "economic miracle." Its GDP grew by 8.9% in the first half of the year, inflation was only 3.5%, and industrial production increased by 7.7%.

But the good news is undermined by growing dependence on export-import transactions. A trade deficit is not threatening when it is balanced by a positive inflow of capital. However, the investment climate in Belarus is one of the worst in Europe. Foreigners are wary of investing in a country where the state controls production and is not willing to exchange property for money.

The Belarusian government has problems finding foreign loans. This year it intended to take out a $1 billion loan in China, borrow another $1 billion from Austria's Raiffeisenbank, and raise 10 billion rubles ($390.61 million) by floating bonds on the Russian ruble-nominated stock exchange, MICEX.

The only positive news was Venezuela's recent promise to lend it $500 million for joint projects.

If the foreign exchange rate is hit by a crisis, the Belarusian currency and economy will be in for a serious shock. The alarm signal sounded during the gas conflict with Russia early this year, when Belarusians rushed to sell Belarusian rubles.

The National Bank stabilized the situation by mobilizing the credit reserves of state-controlled banks and slashing the money supply. But this did not seriously improve the situation or the business climate.

President Alexander Lukashenko then launched a new campaign to increase the production of consumer goods and liquidate unprofitable enterprises, which made up 30% of the industrial sector.

Stanislav Bogdankevich, former chairman of the National Bank's board of directors, said that unless emergency measures were taken the Belarusian economy would be hit very hard in 2008. If Minsk pays internationally accepted prices for gas and oil, its economy will fold by 2011.

No wonder that Minsk has decided to use Russia again in an attempt to improve the situation. Who else, apart from the kind-hearted eastern neighbor, would grant it a soft loan cushion of $2 billion?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Source: RIA Novosti

Community
Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com




Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News
A Future Natural Gas Cartel
Doha, Qatar (UPI) Aug 02, 2007
The April 9 meeting in Doha, Qatar, of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum attracted intense media scrutiny. Pundits speculated that the hidden agenda of the meeting, the first in two years, was to explore the possibility of developing a natural gas cartel along the lines of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Such a cartel would have immense financial and political clout in the global economy. Russian President Vladimir Putin first proposed the idea in 2002.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • US Congress Nudges Energy Industry To Go Green
  • Tapping Into Space For Energy
  • Russia's Oil-Fuelled Boom Continues
  • A Future Natural Gas Cartel

  • Nuclear Booms Almost Everywhere
  • Nuclear Plant Adviser Quits After Calling Quake Experiment
  • IAEA To Visit Japan Quake-Hit Nuclear Plant Next Week
  • Hitachi Cuts Losses With Nuclear Plant Sales

  • Invisible Gases Form Most Organic Haze In Both Urban And Rural Areas
  • BAE Systems Completes Major New Facility For Ionospheric Physics Research
  • NASA Satellite Captures First View Of Night-Shining Clouds
  • Main Component For World Latest Satellite To Measure Greenhouse Gases Delivered

  • East Africa Battles Deforestation With Butterfly Nets
  • Peru Launches Drive To Regrow Lost Forests And Jungles
  • Increase In Creeping Vines Signals Major Shift In Southern US Forests
  • Report Finds Forest Enterprises Stifled By Red Tape, Putting Forests And Incomes At Risk

  • Wild Weather Forces Farmers To Adapt
  • Researcher Studies Proteins That Make Rice Flourish
  • Asian Land Grabs Highlight Class Friction And Bureaucratic Failures
  • Natural Disasters Hit Chinese Grain Output

  • See What You're Spewing As You Speed Along
  • Toyota To Test Electric Plug-In Hybrid Prius Cars
  • Smart Traffic Sign Stops Collisions
  • Toyota Plug-In Hybrid To Hit The Roads

  • Boeing Flies Blended Wing Body Research Aircraft
  • Steering Aircraft Clear Of Choppy Air
  • EAA AirVenture 2007
  • Sensors May Monitor Aircraft For Defects Continuously

  • Could NASA Get To Pluto Faster? Space Expert Says Yes - By Thinking Nuclear
  • NASA plans to send new robot to Jupiter
  • Los Alamos Hopes To Lead New Era Of Nuclear Space Tranportion With Jovian Mission
  • Boeing Selects Leader for Nuclear Space Systems Program

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement