Archive for November, 2007

Google Tackles Energy

I suppose if anyone’s gonna solve the energy problem, google will.  Power to the problem solver geeks!

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The UN’s Human Development Report for this year is out and it focuses on, surprise surprise, climate change. Havent read it yet. But here’s the press release.

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Of Veils and Segregation

I posted this ages ago when a monaqqaba won a case against AUC because they were barring entry with a face veil. To the comments there i would like to add that the reason i am sorry AUC lost the battle is because AUC is a private institution. It’s not a public park, street or mall. And therefore, the so called moral issue aside, i think they have the right to ban whomever they like. It just so happens that this discrimination is on my side. Just like i was ecstatic the first time i called up mojitos for a reservation when they pointed out that veils and children werent allowed.

The reason i bring this up is the obvious recent revival of the women-only cafes issue thanks, primarily, to forsoothsayer recently receiving an email advertising the place. It should be noted that this email looks to me like some fan of the place emailing her friends. It is most certainly not the kind of message that is likely to have originated from the owners or managers and so everything on their should be taken with a grain of salt.

Kudos to Sandmonkey and co for the phone calls they made. The weird thing, however, is that i actually know a bunch of unveiled women that have been in there. If that’s the case, i would imagine that unless the girl was wearing some large-ass-in-your-friggin-face-CROSS as Copts in Egypt tend to do, she would probably have little trouble getting in.

Personally, I dont see why she would want to. I can understand a person wanting to get into AUC to use facillities such as the library, but not just another probably run of the mill salon/lounge for women. So fucking what if you cant get in?!

I write this post to differentiate between several issues. First and foremost, i continue to maintain that they, like AUC, are a private establishment which is entitled to decide who is and isnt allowed inside. It’s not a public good.

Second, i recognize that this may seem a little racist/religionist to Western (esp American) folk who had to deal with “no blacks no dogs” just a few decades ago. But not every nation has a nazi-like, racist, slave-driving past on its conscience. I have argued countlessly about this issue. While it is technically discrimination, in the sense of differentiation, i find it very lame to fight this as a religious issue. Everyone feels more comfortable with people that are more like them. Just like i want to be able to see people’s faces, these women want to be able to let their hair down.

Third: With that said, i do think that it is indeed a frightening phenomenon from where i stand. I dont like the idea of people (whether official policy or not) thinking in terms of Muslim vs Copt. It’s a sad truth of every day life in Egypt. This is but one more manifestation of the trend in Egypt over the last 50 years. To my grandfather, the fact that copts are disdained by Muslims is so inconceivable that he yelled at me and ended the conversation. My father recalls playing in the streets with a a copt and a jew in the 40s and early 50s. It wasnt until years later that he apparently registered their different identities. Now, people are always asking your name. And if you have a neutral name, you can be sure they’ll ask for more names in an attempt to discretely identify your allegiance. We live in scary times.

Shit, i’m late for an appointment.

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Speaking of Egypt; I dont really follow university politics, but it seems university professors are escalating their activism:

“Demonstrations staged by workers and teachers demanding the government honour their financial rights have proved successful, demonstrating that the state will respond when confronted with a strong stance,” Adel Abdel-Gawwad, chairman of the Cairo University Teaching Staff Club, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Yay for more domino pieces!

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I realize i’ve been posting disproportionately frequently on oil and energy. I would post more on Egypt and the region but my time is quite limited these days.  I feel there’s no point in just posting links without commentary when someone else (the Arabist) already does it far more efficiently and including most of what i would post anyway.

Here‘s someone that claims oil prices are being distorted by fear and financial people speculating.

FP: So what about derivatives trading—

FG: That’s exactly what I’m focusing on. I truly believe that major investment banks and a large number of very high-risk-taking financial players have seized control of the oil markets, especially in the last six months. During that time, oil prices moved in one direction and market fundamentals really moved sideways or even lowered. Demand has slowed down significantly. We have seen all kinds of indications that we are reaching a breaking point here. We’ve seen what happened to gasoline margins on the West Coast; they’ve dropped to an almost 18-year low. All this is an indication that something is wrong with the system, that supply and demand fundamentals do not justify the current price. But if the current price is based on speculation, there is no limit to how high oil prices can go. Basically, as long as there is somebody willing to bid higher, the price of the commodity will move higher. FP: How much of the price of oil right now is really a “risk premium” associated with political turmoil in places like the Middle East, Venezuela, and Nigeria?

FG: Well, it’s very difficult to really quantify it. I wish there were a scale or a yardstick that one can use to do that, but one can deconstruct the $97 oil price and compare it to the $67 oil price only three months ago and see what happened in the world to push oil prices by $30 over a very short period of time. And basically, I can cite a few: The sharp drop in the U.S. dollar because of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates; increased tension in the Middle East with tough talk by the administration against the Iranians; also, the dispute between the Kurdish rebels and Turkey—all of these things basically gave the financial players additional ammunition, if you will, to push the fear factor to a higher level. I do believe that oil prices are inflated, and significantly. If I were to quantify how much, I would say at least $40.

This is the first time i’ve seen someone claim that demand for oil is decreasing.

To my knowledge, there is no oil shortage. Any willing buyers will not have a problem finding oil. Global inventories are over 4 billion barrels. In simple math, that is the equivalent of all the oil produced in the Middle East for six months.

I always wonder when people will realize when it is and isnt suitable to use absolute or relative values. Saying there is 6 months of ME oil in reserves is meaningless and distorts facts. Stockpiles are actually quite low across the board. I’m believe i’ve previously noted articles that mention how stockpiles have continued to decrease (or, at best, stagnate) over the fall period when they historically increase after the summer peak and before the winter peak demand.

Second, the ME region has recently been topped by Africa as the largest provider of oil to the US. Yes; the ME is a (the?) critical region for oil production (and, I suppose, pricing) in the world. But OPEC as a whole (ie including non-ME producers like Venezuela and Nigeria) produces less than half of the world’s crude. SO, in his simple math logic, the 4 billion barrels are equivalent to, at best, 40% of oil production in the world over 6 months. Or, to calculate differently, 72 days of world production. Doesnt sound so benign.

Anyway, thought i’d document opposing opinion.

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OPEC Summit aside

Apparently an oil company consortium led by Brasilian company Petrobras has announced the conclusion of well tests that indicate the deep water Tupi field to be enormous. When the field comes online (it will require the cutting edge of oil drilling technology), it could place Brazil in league with the other major new world fuel producers (like Venezuela, Canada and the States) and potentially the world. In fact it stands to more than double Brasil’s proven reserves ranking it above Norway.

I’m not the expert but, in addition to the effects on world energy markets, i assume that this would likely result in power realignments in Latin America. This: new oil discoveries (and the technology to access them) is the only thing other than major conservation efforts (or a recession) that can seriously, albeit temporarily, hold down oil prices.

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