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12 April 2014

Press review 12-04-2014 - Russia calls the bluff (2nd edition)

An unfinished version of this review was inadvertently left for automatically publication last night. Appologies for the mess up; there a few more stories below the fold.

This week Russia has passed on the offensive over Ukraine. The Russian press issued clear hints of a definitive move away from the US dollar in the country's foreign economic relations. These news frame these actions within the design of a new world monetary system, together with the remainder of the BRICS. And Thursday came a letter furnished through diplomatic channels to 18 European leaders simply stating that if no one is willing to foot the bill for the gas Ukraine gets from Russia valves will be eventually closed.

Meanwhile Kiev seems to go from bad to worse, with Parliament paralysed and political institutions disaggregating. In eastern regions of the country unrest grows, russophone populations disprove the coupe d'état and are weary of the political and economic disarray the country has fallen into. In spite of repeated claims of a Russian military build up along the Ukraine border by the western media, Russia does not seem that willing to get further involved in the field, at least for now. The fact to no one is clearly taking responsibility for the survival of Ukraine may actually be the problem at this stage.

05 April 2014

Press review 05-04-2014 - Back to Iraq

This week the highlight goes once again to Iraq, I stumbled upon a remarkable article that gave me lot to think. The writing is politically charged, but raises questions I was frankly unaware of. In essence, the exploration of Iraqi petroleum by foreign (European and American) companies is completely outside of any law; the government has repeatedly failed to force privatisation through parliament. Any doubts I had on the Al Maliki government lack of legitimacy were dissipated with this information, not even the Shiia representatives seem to align with this management of vital resources. And naturally, it puts the Sunni uprising of recent months into a completely new perspective.

And the deeper question is why has the western media been silent on this? More important than the propaganda feed us everyday is what is left told, opinion control through censorship. Luckily today there's the internet, that allows for diligent citizens to seek out information and the broader picture.

03 April 2014

A story of TheOilDrum

This post is a story of TheOilDrum, as I lived it. It is a collection of loose memories patched together into some sort of chronological order. Memory is not fully reliable, same dates or periods may not be precise. This is above all a personal account of the most important events during the website life time.

Certainly a lot is left untold. I was never part of the editorial or administrative boards, thus plenty of the behind scenes events escaped me. The same story told by someone else will surely be different. In spite of being a personal retrospection, I hope it can still provide an holistic view of what TheOilDrum was and point the potentials that this fantastic experiment unleashed.

This post has been in the making for long. The idea came up immediately after the announcement of the website closure, but other commitments kept it at bay. The ninth anniversary of TheOilDrum foundation passed just weeks ago, but still not that late to celebrate. Grab a portion of your favourite ingestible liquid and let yourself go in this journey through time.

29 March 2014

Press review 29-03-2014 - Propaganda

The reasons behind the coup d'état in Ukraine are becoming ever more evident. The propaganda machine made in USA is running flat out, trying to sway Europe as a whole to its side. Vladimir Putin is regularly compared to Adolf Hitler and the annexation of Crimea to the Nazi expansionism that lead to the second World War. But it is in Kiev that modern swastikas are seen, not in Moscow. The US and the UK push the sweet "shale gas" discourse, as if they could ever replace the energy Europe imports from Russia. For now all we can do is hope the chaos into which the Ukraine is immersed does not end up by itself cutting these vital economic ties.

One of the remarkable outcomes of this crisis is the revival of the transatlantic trade agreement. The multiple espionage scandals related to the activities of the American and British intelligence agencies had put negotiations on hold, the European companies being in clear competitive disadvantage with their information harvested en masse. This is the first big victory of the US in this crisis, and might not be the last.

22 March 2014

Press review 22-03-2014 - The gas play

As the crisis in Ukraine rages on, the West slowly recognises it has the weaker hand in the game of force with Russia. Half of all the gas burned in Germany comes from Russia and every member state east of Germany is even more dependent; some depend 100% on Russian gas. There is no way to replace these gas flows in the short or mid term. It requires the deployment of plenty of infrastructure: pipelines, LNG terminals and especially LNG tankers, at least a doubling of the current world fleet. All of it seems very far, especially with the prevailing anti-investment policies. And even with the infrastructure in place, reliable suppliers must be found.

Thus to harsh words follow puny actions against Russia, to the bemusement of the Kremlin. In spite of the pressures from the US and the UK, Europe will continue to do all it can to maintain business as usual with Russia. The intents of "political isolation" are not much more than rhetoric, in a world where the West weights less and less.

19 March 2014

An Introduction to LaTeX

Writing my MSc thesis document was one of the most painstaking experiences I ever had in the computer world. Once the document went over four dozen pages it became very unstable and would wreck the formatting almost every time any substantial text was added. I have the feeling I spent as much time correcting the formatting as I did writing. The worse would come at the very end, by some strange reason Word decided to change all occurrences of the word bacia (Portuguese for basin) to bacio (Portuguese for pee pot); I never noticed it in time and the document went that way for printing. Such frustrating experience compelled me to try a different word processing system; I knew some folk at the Faculty were using LaTeX and decided to give it a try. I never used Microsoft Word again, and almost a decade later, could not possibly conceive going back.

Some weeks ago I administered a short introductory course on LaTeX to a few of my colleagues. Most of them had never seen anything other than Word, but it went quite well nonetheless. Here below I reproduce the contents of this course.

08 March 2014

Press review 08-03-2014 - Europe caught in the middle

The crisis in Ukraine has rapidly escalated into a confrontation between Russia and NATO. It seems the US was more than supportive to the so called opposition that overthrew Viktor Yanukotich. In response Russia retook hold of Crimea, a territory that was under Ukrainian sovereignty for 60 years. It is hard to foresee where will all this lead, but a return to the previous geographic configuration of Ukraine appears remote.

So far NATO has reacted to Russia with sanctions, the US and the UK succeeding in their pressure on the EU to follow their hard stance. Make no mistake, Europe will be the big looser in this stand-off, neither Russia nor the US stand to loose as much. This is the reality of the XXI century, resources have a completely different role in international relationships and conflicts. If for Petroleum and Coal the EU can recur to the international market trying outbid other major importers, the scenario is completely different regarding Gas. If the pipelines out of Russia are tapped off there are no means to replace their flows.