Archive for May 3rd, 2008

By- Suzie-Q @ 1:00 PM MST

Hunting for oil beneath the ice

There’s a new rush for petroleum from Alaska to the North Pole. Can ConocoPhillips and other energy giants find another Saudi Arabia under the ice?

By Barney Gimbel, writer

(Fortune) — It’s 25 below outside, and the heat in the van is busted. Randy Boyer, a burly ConocoPhillips contractor in thermal coveralls, navigates the slick ice road. “This is nothing,” he says, keeping his eye on the thin red line running down the center of the road. “The other week we had a whiteout, and I was stuck in my truck for 36 hours.” Right now we’re some 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and it’s so white outside that the distant horizon appears to blend seamlessly into the blustery sky.

Boyer pulls over into a small mobile base camp to switch trucks. We’re deep in the tundra of Alaska’s North Slope, and you need a vehicle with tanklike treads or special tires to venture off-road. After a bone-rattling 15-minute ride – the tundra only looks flat – we catch up with a red truck creeping across the frozen landscape. A worker bundled in a blue coat of Michelin-man dimensions trudges behind it, uncoiling orange cable that looks like the extension cord you might keep in your garage. Every 100 feet or so, he plants three small blue geophones into the ground.

He’s setting up to “shoot seismic,” an oil driller’s term for a laborious surveying process that maps the earth’s subsurface. It will take a team of 100 workers more than a week to lay a precise grid of 21,000 geophones, which act as motion detectors, along 145 miles of wire. After that a truck known as a “vibrator” will make stops along the grid, lowering a large plate onto the ground. The apparatus creates seismic waves – tiny earthquakes – that are recorded by the geophones. Geologists in Anchorage will then spend six months transforming that data into a picture of the underground formations. Some of them, they hope, will contain oil.

The folks at Conoco surveyed this slice of barren land about a decade ago. But times are a bit desperate up here in North America’s largest oil region, and they’ve come back. “We’re looking to see if we left anything behind,” says Jim Darnall, an acquisition geophysicist for ConocoPhillips, as he brushes ice off his bushy gray beard. “We’re trying to milk this field anyway we can.”

Is this what America’s late-20th-century oil paradise has been reduced to – the petroleum equivalent of rooting for loose change in the cushions of a sofa? U.S. crude production is at its lowest since 1949, and nowhere has that decline been steeper than in Alaska, where oil output is less than half what it was a decade ago. The fields that since the late 1970s have provided more than 20% of America’s oil are slowly running dry. It’s a phenomenon that is hardly limited to Alaska. The world’s five largest oil companies are replacing only 82% of the oil they pump each year, as once-prodigious fields fade and state entities in such countries as Venezuela and Russia consolidate ever more control over their oil and gas.

The combination of falling reserves and $100-plus oil is sparking a frenzy of oil and gas activity in Alaska the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the state’s initial oil boom more than three decades ago. ConocoPhillips (COP, Fortune 500), Alaska’s biggest producer and America’s third-largest oil company, is spending huge sums to re-explore old stomping grounds like the North Slope. The company is also investing in heavy-oil technology and early preparation for a proposed $30 billion natural gas pipeline. “We think the Arctic is the new frontier,” says Conoco CEO Jim Mulva, “and it’s not just in Alaska. The potential exploration opportunities go all the way around the Arctic Circle.”

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By- Suzie-Q @ 12:00 PM MST

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April Had 68 Percent Rise In Planned Layoffs

By- Suzie-Q @ 10:00 AM MST

Layoffs Rise 68 Percent in April
Published: Thursday May 1, 2008

NEW YORK (May 1) – U.S. companies’ planned layoffs jumped 68 percent in April from the prior month to the highest since September 2006, pointing to further deterioration in the labor market, a report showed on Thursday.

Planned job cuts in U.S. companies totaled 90,015 last month, up from 53,579 in March and up 27 percent from a year earlier, employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. reported.

The April layoffs were the steepest since the 100,315 cuts announced in September 2006.

Most of the announced job cuts came from the financial sector, due to the housing slump and about $300 billion in write-downs on bad mortgages and investments, the firm said.

The financial services industry announced 23,106 cuts in April with almost half of them occurring in a two-day period that saw hefty planned layoffs from Citigroup (C.N) and Merrill Lynch (MER.N), it said.

The telecommunications sector was second in announced layoffs in April with 8,007, followed closely by 7,954 planned cuts in the transportation industry.

Employers have announced 290,671 jobs to be eliminated in the first four months of 2008, up 9 percent from the 266,658 cuts recorded during the same span in 2007, the firm said.

Going forward, the fallout from record oil prices may result in more layoffs than the housing slump, John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“The impact of high gasoline prices is rippling through the economy much faster than the housing collapse ever did or will,” Challenger said in a statement.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Theodore d’Afflisio)

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Sudhan @11:35 CET

Dave Lindorff | Common Dreams News Center, May 2, 2008

In the last few days, both the Israeli military and the US military have fired missiles into homes, in an effort to target what they said were terrorists, in the process killing many innocent civilians.

But what a contrast we see in both the reporting on these events, and in the response within the two countries!

In the Israeli case, the IDF fired a missile into a family home in Gaza, killing a mother and her four young children, who were eating breakfast at the time. The children were aged 6 through 15 months. While the IDF and the Israeli government blamed the tragedy on Hamas, saying it operates in proximity of civilians and is thus responsible for their deaths, an Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, has caqlled for a criminal investigation into the killings, saying that Israel and the IDF have violated internation law by firing the missile in a densely populated area where civilian casualties would be likely. A spokesman for the group, Sarit Michaeli, says that Israeli claims that it is not responsible for such deaths are incorrect, and adds that under international law, “Even if you attack a legitimate military target, the anticipated damage has to be in proportion to the anticipated gain.”

How does such a moral calculus apply to American military policy? The most recent example of US military tactics in this regard came yesterday, when American forces, in clear violation of international law regarding national sovereignty, fired a missile into a house in Somalia (a nation that the US is not at war with), reportedly killing an alleged leader of the Al Qaeda organization in Somalia, Aden Hashi Ayro, but also another nine people — all unidentified. Reports suggest that many of those killed and another seven who were wounded, were innocent civilians who happened to be sleeping in the house in question.

To date, no American human rights group has protested this action as a criminal violation or a violation of international law. No member of Congress has decried the attack.

Continued . . .

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Hillary’s right turn

Sudhan @10:24 CET

Michael Tomasky | The Guardian, May 2, 2008

Twice this week now, Hillary Clinton has stood there smiling like the Cheshire Cat as the governor of North Carolina used the word “pansy” and then as a union leader in the same state, who more famously referred to her “testicular fortitude”, went on to inveigh that Hillary was the only thing that stood between the good and God-fearing people of North Carolina and the “Gucci-wearing, latte-drinking, self-centred, egotistical people that have damaged our lifestyle.” Clinton, according to the report linked to here, “smiled sheepishly before breaking into a nervous laugh.”

As campaign moments go, these may not be up there with the Iraq-withdrawal debate or, Lord knows, truly important things like Barack Obama’s failure to wear a flag lapel pin. But they’re worth marking all the same.

These are explicitly right-wing tactics and talking points. Those of you across the pond may be unfamiliar with a very famous soundbite from the 2004 presidential campaign, which featured in a commercial that ran early that year in Iowa and was produced by the anti-tax group Club for Growth.

Continued . . .

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