TO KILL SOUTH STREAM
Eastern European countries dependent on Russian gas are scrambling for alternatives after President Vladimir Putin blindsided them with a decision to scrap a pipeline bypassing Ukraine.
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland met yesterday to discuss energy security after Russia on Dec. 1 backed out of the South Stream pipeline following European Union objections on legal grounds.
The move leaves much of southeastern Europe dependent on Russian gas transiting crisis-torn Ukraine, cause for concern in a region that suffered shortages in 2006 and 2009 after Russia cut off supplies to the former Soviet satellite. The region's leaders are drawing up a list of alternatives that includes a plan to access Azeri gas.
"In the 25 years since the fall of Communism we haven't diversified the gas and oil routes," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after the meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia. "This is a huge strategic mistake, not only for Hungary but for the entire EU."
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BP and its partners in Azerbaijan's giant ACG oil production complex agreed Thursday to extend the production sharing contract by 25 years to 2049 and to increase the stake of state-owned SOCAR, reducing the size of their own shares.
The U.S. current-account deficit increased to $123.1 billion (preliminary) in the second quarter of 2017 from $113.5 billion (revised) in the first quarter of 2017, according to statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The deficit increased to 2.6 percent of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) from 2.4 percent in the first quarter.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were trading up 41 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $50.30 by 0852 GMT, near the three-month high of $50.50 it reached last Thursday. Brent crude futures LCOc1, the benchmark for oil prices outside the United States, were at $55.91 a barrel, up 29 cents, and also not far from the near five-month high of $55.99 touched on Thursday.
“The principal risk regarding Russian and Chinese activities in Venezuela in the near term is that they will exploit the unfolding crisis, including the effect of US sanctions, to deepen their control over Venezuela’s resources, and their [financial] leverage over the country as an anti-US political and military partner,” observed R. Evan Ellis, a senior associate in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Americas Program.