Commodity Corner

Views on commodities and energy

There’s room at the OPEC inn, but only for a price

One of the many traditions of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is that the holder of the group’s rotating presidency should host one of the group’s policy-setting meetings, typically the last of the year.
While regular conferences at OPEC’s Vienna home are a relatively straightforward affair, taking the group offsite has a tendency to generate major logistical challenges.
Last year, the highest hurdle for journalists attending an Algerian-hosted meeting in Oran was getting a visa to travel there.
This year, a big theme of the Angolan conference taking place on Tuesday in Luanda has been where to stay in a capital of scarce and exorbitantly-priced hotels.
Some of the journalists have resorted to sharing rooms in guest houses, far from the action, meaning a long crawl through the city’s traffic jams before they can get any access to the story they have already flown thousands of miles to cover.
The ministers meanwhile are staying in Luanda’s most opulent and very newest hotel, the Hotel de Convencoes de Talatona, where the biggest concern is that the paint is not yet dry.
It was inaugurated on Friday, just in time to accommodate the ministers in return for some serious petrodollars. Prices range from $600 for a standard single room to $5,000 a night for the presidential suite or $3,500 for one of the hotel’s luxury villas. Across the road, many Angolans live in shacks they have built themselves.

Michael Pollan: “What’s in the beef?”

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Photo by Kris Krüg

Where does your burger come from? Journalist and food writer Michael Pollan has traced back the source of much of what we eat, and says that the ultimate answer is oil. Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, argues that it takes massive amounts of petroleum-derived fertilizers and pesticides to run industrial farms and feed lots, with dire consequences for human health and the Earth’s climate.

Check out Pollan’s multimedia presentation below, from the Poptech conference in Camden, Maine last month.

from Environment Forum:

Calling Dr. Strangelove!

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Perhaps you've heard about the Russian submarines patrolling international waters off the U.S. East Coast (if you haven't, take a look at a Reuters story about it) in what feels like an echo of the old Cold War. The Pentagon's not worried about this particular venture, but there are concerns from the U.S. energy industry about another Russian foray -- this one in concert with Cuba. In rhetoric that may ring a bell with anyone who saw the 1964 satirical nuclear-fear movie "Dr. Strangelove,"
the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research is sounding the alarm about a Russian-Cuban deal to drill for offshore oil near Florida.

"Russia, Communist Cuba Advance Offshore Energy Production Miles Off Florida's Coast," is the title on the institute's news release. Below that is the prescription for action: "Efforts Should Send Strong Message to Interior Dept. to Open OCS in Five-Year Plan." OCS stands for outer continental shelf, an area that was closed to oil drilling until the Bush administration opened it last year in a largely symbolic move aimed at driving down the sky-high gasoline prices of the Summer of 2008.