Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gas prices higher this week because of Nigeria

The financial news gets it, but so far the front pages of most US papers are too focused on Iran. I mean, hey, what with "All-Options-Are-On-The-Table" Bush in charge, with good reason, right? (nervous laughter)

The US price of light, sweet crude oil has just topped $72 a barrel, and has now set all-time records for three days in a row (though the inflation adjusted price of barrel of crude during the 70s oil crisis was $80). [See also a report from the BBC]

Unfortunately, Iran fetishism has diverted attention away from the source of the latest "rally" in the oil market: Nigeria.

According to Bloomberg:
Crude oil rose to a record after a car bomb exploded in the capital of Nigeria's oil-producing region, renewing concern of militant attacks on rigs and pipelines that will disrupt supplies from Africa's largest producer.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, whose assaults have already shut down about a fifth of the country's output, said it detonated a car bomb yesterday at a barracks in Part Harcourt in the Rivers state. MEND struck Royal Dutch Shell Plc's facilities in February and yesterday called for oil workers to leave, threatening further sabotage.

"The car bomb news pushed the price up again,'' said Kevin Blemkin, a broker with Man Financial Plc in London. "The market is very nervous.''


The claim of a bombing at the Bori military barracks followed a statement yesterday by the militants rejecting a plan announced by the Nigerian government to boost development in the Niger River delta. That statement threatened new attacks on oil companies. About 500,000 barrels of day of Nigeria's output remain shut down, Oil Minister Edmund Daukoru said on April 18.
If you doubt that Nigeria has the potential to be the next "squirmish" in the "war on high oil prices," remember that the US Navy is already there (March 21, emphasis mine):
Admiral Ulrich arrived in Nigeria on Monday from Ghana, where he attended a conference between the Gulf of Guinea nations and the US on ways of securing the region, at the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Institute in Accra.


Admiral Ulrich also confirmed that the US has two ships in the region - one in Accra, Ghana and the other in Congo - to help the region's navies in "terrorism training".

With the situation in the Middle East, the US is looking more and more to Africa - especially the Gulf Guinea - for its oil supply, necessitating increasing interest in the security of the area especially amid rising terrorism in the world.

And by "terrorism" he means the rather complex struggle for local autonomy in the Niger Delta. Obasanjo better work out something quick, and hope, next time, that the militants in the Delta don't reject it.

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