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Quick jump to below stories:
Canada to develop a no-fly list
Radio tag testing at Canadian border crossing
U.S. Threatens to Pull Venezuela Drug War Certification
'Credible' threats led to U.S. closures in Saudi Arabia
Soldier's mom digs in near Bush ranch
Kerr-McGee selling its North Sea assets
Saudi Oil and the World Economy
Shortages Stifle a Boom Time for the Solar Industry
Crude oil prices hit new record

[Well, one thing you can forget as an option is sending your draft-aged child, or your draft-aged self, to Canada for either sanctuary or as a transit point to another country. Now with RFID visa cards and a Canadian no-fly list, the chances that American draft-aged youth who might be “flight risks” would even get into Canada are remote. Fuggedaboud getting out of Canada, except in handcuffs, if they suspect unlawful flight to evade the draft. The FBI maintains two official legal attaché offices in Canada (Vancouver, Ottawa) but its agents are all over the country since 9/11 and they are receiving excellent official cooperation. This is not 1970.

I repeat: This is not 1970.

Note to the FBI: I am writing this because it answers one of the questions I am asked more often than any other at my lectures here and around the world. (Many Americans are already expatriates). For that reason I am advising that parents looking for options for their children, and those of draft age themselves who might be exploring options, not to violate any laws such as those being implemented here as matters of policy and procedure.

While we intelligent, savant, educated analysts are mesmerized by Plamegate and tend to discuss it endlessly, other things are moving under the carpet.

Just like the Michael Jackson trial, a show, is a show, is a show… -- MCR]

Canada to develop a no-fly list

CNN (AP)
Tuesday, August 9, 2005
http://www.cnn.com/2005/TRAVEL/08/09/canada.flier.list.ap/index.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) -- Canada is developing a no-fly list in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks and make air travel safer, the federal transport minister has announced.

The program, called Passenger Protect, will identify people who pose "an immediate threat to aviation security" and will work with airlines to stop suspects from flying, Transport Minister Jean Lapierre told reporters in Halifax, the provincial capital of Nova Scotia.

"This list is going to be revised regularly, and it's not going to be published all over the place," said Lapierre, adding that the list would be ready by 2006 and shared with all airlines, sea ports and border crossings.

"Obviously, there are people out there who are full of bad intentions," Lapierre said. "If anybody tries to buy a ticket under those names, well then, they will never get on an airplane."

The U.S. has operated a no-fly list for a few years, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. area. The list could help satisfy U.S. demands that Canadian airlines provide passenger lists for all flights that go through U.S. airspace.

Washington has been pressuring Ottawa to take a greater role in increasing North American security, particularly along the 4,000-mile border with the U.S.

Lapierre also said he plans to meet with key players in the ground transportation system to discuss security in light of the recent subway attacks in London.

Opposition Leader Stephen Harper said he saw little new in the transportation minister's announcements.

"We've had lots of security announcements from this government and very little action," said Harper, leader of the Conservative Party. "This is part of a pattern of phony announcements. I'll believe it when I see it."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Back To Story List


Radio tag testing at Canadian border crossing

AP, Tuesday, August 9, 2005
http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/08/09/border.radio.tags.ap/index.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

ALEXANDRIA BAY, New York (AP) -- Security officials gathered Monday at a Canadian border crossing to mark the first test of a radio frequency identification system to be used by foreign visitors.

If successful, radio "tags" carried by travelers will be part of the standard registration process for those entering the United States.

The technology is like that used to speed passage at toll booths on many highways, said P.T. Wright, the operations director for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's US-VISIT Program.

Testing began last week at the Thousand Islands Bridge crossing from Canada. It also is being done at the Peace Arch and Pacific Highway crossings in Blaine, Wash., and two crossings in Nogales, Arizona.

The new technology could help relieve congestion at border crossings, while also helping authorities weed out potential terrorists, drug dealers and other criminals, officials say.

This is the second phase of US-VISIT, the screening system launched in 2004 at busy airports, sea ports and land crossings. The system requires scanning fingerprints and photographs of the visitor's face into a computer when someone who wants to enter the U.S. applies for a visa.

All foreign travelers using visas will also obtain their radio tags from U.S. Customs officials when they first register to enter the United States. The tag is embedded into a document, which the traveler presents to enter or leave the United States.

The crossing points are equipped with antennas that read the tags for a secured and coded serial number linked to a database with the information provided by the traveler.

The antennas can read the tags up to 30 feet away and recognize many tags simultaneously, Wright said. Ideally, travelers will be able to flash them going by at highway speeds, he said.

The first phase of testing will have a simple focus -- to make sure the antennas can read each chip, that the system correctly relays that information and successfully matches it with the government's databases.

In the second phase, which will begin next spring, border agents will use the system at their checkpoints to identify travelers.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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U.S. Threatens to Pull Venezuela Drug War Certification

Reactions to Venezuelan Government’s Split with the DEA

By Dan Feder
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
August 9, 2005
http://www.narconews.com/Issue38/article1401.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

United States “anti-drug” policy faces a major setback in Venezuela this week, and the drug warriors are loosening their ties as the heat rises. At the State Department’s press briefing yesterday, Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli responded to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s warnings on Sunday that Venezuela would no longer work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Chávez said that, far from abandoning efforts to combat trafficking and money laundering in his own country, his government had decided that – as Narco News has reported for over five years – the DEA’s war on drugs has nothing to do with actually shutting down the business, but is rather part of a strategy of political intervention in Latin American affairs.

Ereli’s limp response was to charge that Venezuela’s statements about DEA crimes are merely noise designed to distract from what he said was the country’s own increasingly poor performance on drug control, a statement which the U.S. government’s own past statements and reports show to be untrue. Ereli furthermore revived one of the U.S.’s oldest political weapons in the drug war, threatening to end Venezuela’s certification as a country participating in anti-drug efforts.

Ereli told the press in Washington:

Well, first of all, the accusations that somehow the Drug Enforcement Agency is involved in espionage are baseless. There’s no substance or justification for them. And as for reports that Venezuela is going to end cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Agency on fighting drug trafficking, those are certainly regrettable.

First of all, cooperating in the fight against illicit drug trade is beneficial to both United States and to Venezuela and failure to cooperate only benefits narcotraffickers.

Second of all, we, for our part, want to continue counternarcotics cooperation but I would note that over the past several months, we’ve seen a steady deterioration in the Government of Venezuela’s commitment on this front.

Looking ahead, I mean obviously, a decision—if Venezuela did indeed go forward with severing this or ending cooperation, that would obviously have an impact on deliberations concerning our annual decision-making process regarding Venezuela’s counternarcotics cooperation efforts under the International Narcotics Control Act.

If Venezuela has been “steadily deteriorating” in its anti-narcotics work, why are we just hearing about it now? U.S. officials jump at the chance to disparage the Venezuelan government, consistently repeating allegations with “no substance or justification,” by any standard, that Chávez funds Colombian rebel groups or engineers protests in Bolivia or any number of other claims. So why wasn’t the U.S. making a stink about this earlier?

The fact is that the U.S. has repeatedly, though without much fanfare, recognized the success of the Chávez government in this area, despite some law enforcement corruption problems similar to those that affect all countries through which narco-dollars move. Some key excerpts from the State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) for 2005:

Cocaine seizures during the first six months of 2004 equaled the amount seized in Venezuela during all of 2003, thanks in large part to two multi-ton seizures made by Venezuelan task forces that worked closely with USG and UK law enforcement. The GOV also carried out some 400 cocaine and heroin seizures during the first half of the year. Several important cocaine and heroin trafficking organizations were effectively attacked during 2004, and several important extraditions were made.

The GOV recognizes that drug consumption is high in Venezuela and is working hard to reduce it. There are dozens of private, state, and NGO demand reduction and treatment groups in Venezuela. These are organized into larger associations that meet and cooperate on a regular basis. By law, all private companies employing more than 200 workers must donate one percent of their profit to public awareness and demand reduction programs. There is no shortage of resources in Venezuela for demand reduction.

DEA and British law enforcement work closely with vetted GOV counternarcotics units. These units continue to be very successful, not only in seizing multi-ton loads of cocaine, but also in breaking apart the organizations that traffic drugs in and through Venezuela. The GOV affords complete operational latitude to these vetted units.

And as Gregory Wilpert reports in Venezuelanalysis.com:

According to the 2003 annual report of the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, drug interdiction efforts in Venezuela increased dramatically when Chavez came into office. For example, the interdiction of cannabis more than doubled in the first four years of Chavez’s presidency, relative to the four years prior to his presidency. Also, the interdiction of heroin more than tripled in this time period.

The U.S. Embassy stopped posting annual drug control reports on its website in 2003. According to this last report, the Venezuelan government managed to improve its drug control work despite the political upheavals that took place in 2002. “the number of interdictions was high, to a large degree thanks to the implementation of a variety of new programs.”

As for the certification process that Ereli alluded to, the record is pretty clear that “certification” from the U.S. on either drugs or human rights is essentially a political exercise, meant to reward countries cooperating with U.S. interests and pressure those from whom the U.S. wants certain concessions. Colombia is a perfect example of this; see this interview with former Colombian Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff in the Mexican newspaper Por Esto!:

The government most interested and invested in the policy of the drug war and at the same time is its grand promoter, he said, is the United States government, which has used the policy to subjugate the countries of Latin America. On one end they use the “de-certification” process. De Greiff notes: “They’ve used this on multiple occasions as a threat when U.S. conditions that have nothing to do with the drug war are imposed, as was the case in 1995 when the U.S. Ambassador in Colombia conditioned that country’s certification on changes in a banana export agreement with Europe.” On the other end they use political and military intervention, more and more, to try and maintain domination and protect the warehouse of cheap natural resources for the United States.

(See also this 2002 report by Al Giordano on a typical case of certification hypocracy in Mexico.)

In fact, coincidentally enough, Colombia’s “human rights certification” has just been approved after nearly a year-long holdup (see this report at the Center for International Policy for more details). And after those chummy moments between Bush and Uribe in Crawford, Texas, you can bet Colombia ain’t gonna have too many problems with its drug war certification for a while either. Never mind that, among other things, the new “ peace and justice law” in Colombia is essentially encouraging paramilitary traffickers to sell off their cocaine stocks, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to hold on to their profits while they legally reenter society.

On the one hand, the “de-certification” threat is a pathetic one, as it appeals to the old logic that a country had to bend over backwards to win approval from the U.S. in order to maintain international legitimacy. Chávez has been one of the principal people to break that trance, and such a move won’t faze him or his supporters. But read between the lines and there is the further threat of violence that Chávez has so often denounced and U.S. officials so indignantly dismiss. The United States has only ever denied counter-narcotics certification to two Latin American countries. One is Colombia. The other is Panama, and that certification denial was quickly followed by a bloody U.S. invasion.

Back To Story List


'Credible' threats led to U.S. closures in Saudi Arabia

From Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau
August 8, 2005
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/08/08/saudi.threat/index.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department closed its embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia for two days after receiving "specific and credible" threats against its facilities in the kingdom, State Department officials told CNN.

One official said that the United States had "unusually specific and credible" information about plans to launch a vehicle bomb attack sometime on Monday.

The information did not specify which of the U.S. missions was targeted, so the State Department closed its embassy in Riyadh and consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran. They are scheduled to be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

U.S. officials are always on high alert in Saudi Arabia, but there has been a heightened concern recently about attack against U.S. interests the country.

Meanwhile, Australia and Britain warned Monday that militants would soon strike in Saudi Arabia, which is battling supporters of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Saudi officials said they had no information of an imminent attack. (Full story)

On July 20, the embassy sent a "warden's message" to U.S. citizens in the kingdom that warned that more terrorist attacks could be in the works.

The advisory said the embassy "has received indications of operational planning for a terrorist attack or attacks in the Kingdom."

In December, a Saudi-based al Qaeda group claimed responsibility for a raid on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah that killed five non-American consular employees.

U.S. officials said that four gunmen were also killed in the attack. (Full story)

In March, U.S. officials moved Americans living in Jeddah to other locations after an unspecified threat. (Full story)

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[The courage and fortitude of Ms. Cindy Sheehan, mother of the late Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, is to be acknowledged and respected. Nobody should have to endure the loss she has undergone. She and her fellow members of all the military families deserve so much better than the injury they’ve got, to which the current occupant (that’s the word) of the White House adds insult with his shameless behavior.

Remember, however, that Vietnam and Iraq don’t exactly qualify for the traditional meaning of the word “war.” Their civilians were under our incredibly powerful bombers; our civilians were an ocean away. Depending on which numbers you use, the ratio of American deaths to Indochinese deaths in that earlier fight was about 58 : 2,500. And each one of those people was a member of a family; that’s where people come from. “We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.”

On our side of the Iraq “war,” the killed person signed up for it – dirt poor, bribed, brainwashed, only eighteen, whatever. It was a decision. On the invaded side, the killed person hadn’t the least iota of choice. Except perhaps the choice to resist or not – but many of “our” Iraqi victims were quietly trying to sit it out when they were, well, murdered.

I’d like to repeat a comment I made here in June of this year:

I thought that by the fall of 2002 everybody knew that the Bush junta had already been planning an invasion of Iraq since before 9/11. Hundreds of thousands of us meandered pointlessly up the Great Lawn in futile indignation about it, on October 15th and then in February and March and May and June. What was it that they [the soldiers and their families, the legislators and military officers who have since stopped supporting the war] hadn’t understood? That American wars have been deliberate acts of aggression launched upon bogus pretexts for the past two centuries?

As far as I can see – and I don’t understand these matters – when you sign away the duty to obey your own conscience, you lose your moral life – whether the violent orders you obey are legal or illegal (and whether those laws themselves are just or unjust). The fact that you are risking your physical life in the process may be awesome in its courage and stately in its nobility – but it does nothing to reverse your moral suicide.

A solemn essay by Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col. USAF (ret.) from last Christmas reads, “We are hearing about soldiers and Marines waking up to a new kind of conscientious objection – a re-awareness of the right guaranteed to American soldiers everywhere of never having to obey an illegal order.”

So that’s the trouble: Some embittering horrific orders are legal, while other embittering horrific orders are not. Damn right I don’t understand.

The reason the Downing Street memos are not causing a politically significant wave of popular outrage is because everyone already did understand. The documents simply confirm in embarrassingly concrete terms the story that Scott Ritter and Joe Wilson and others have been telling us since 2002. If you’re outraged now, it’s because you’re pretending not to have known this all along. At this point it’s impossible to be shocked that a cadre of sociopathic Dominionist oilmen planned a racist war against a starved people floating on a sea of hydrocarbons. What’s shocking is that we can have the very minutes of the meetings become public without any consequences for the perpetrators. That means there is no legal infrastructure, no institution of jurisprudence that can inflict so much as a flea-bite on the tyrant’s finger.

Once you know about Abu Ghraib and Bagram AFB, you can’t be shocked by Guantanamo; it’s all one continuous horror and the shocking thing is that we continue to believe that the military – by which I mean the defense corporations and the top ranks of the armed services – doesn’t run the country. Sure, the American skin game is older than Theodore Roosevelt’s adventure in the Philippines – but there was also a military coup d’etat in the U.S. in 1963, and the perpetrators and their protégées are still in power. All these brutal police actions are somehow exceptions to the rule, aberrant blunders against a backdrop of benevolent lawfulness? No way.

–JAH]

Soldier's mom digs in near Bush ranch

Senator sees 'echoes of Vietnam' in vigil to meet president

http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/08/07/mom.protest/index.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- A mother whose son was killed in Iraq says she is prepared to continue her protest outside President Bush's ranch through August until she is granted an opportunity to speak with him.

Later, in a TV interview, a Democratic senator from California said the episode evokes images that were commonplace during the Vietnam War.

Cindy Sheehan's 24-year-old son -- Army Spc. Casey Sheehan of Vacaville, California -- was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City on April 4, 2004. The Humvee mechanic was one of eight U.S. soldiers killed there that day by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. (Full story)

They are among the 1,829 American troops, including 31 this month, who have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

The president -- who is spending a nearly five-week-long working vacation at his Texas ranch -- said in a speech Wednesday that the sacrifices of U.S. troops were "made in a noble cause."

Sheehan said she found little comfort in his comments.

"I want to ask the president, why did he kill my son?" Sheehan told reporters. "He said my son died in a noble cause, and I want to ask him what that noble cause is."

Sheehan said hers was one of a group of about 15 families who each met separately with the president one day last June.

"He wouldn't look at the pictures of Casey. He didn't even know Casey's name," she told CNN Sunday. "Every time we tried to talk about Casey and how much we missed him, he would change the subject."

Sheehan said she was so distraught at the time that she failed to ask the questions she now wants answered.

"I want him to honor my son by bringing the troops home immediately," Sheehan told reporters Saturday. "I don't want him to use my son's name or my name to justify any more killing."

Sheehan, who co-founded the anti-war group Gold Star Families for Peace, led about 50 demonstrators near the Bush ranch Saturday. Some protesters were with the group Veterans for Peace, which was holding a convention in Dallas.

The protesters stopped their bus miles from the ranch in Crawford, and walked less than a half-mile before being stopped by local law enforcement officials.

A message on the Gold Star Families Web site says, "We want our loved ones' sacrifices to be honored by bringing our nation's sons and daughters home from the travesty that is Iraq IMMEDIATELY, since this war is based on horrendous lies and deceptions.

"Just because our children are dead, why would we want any more families to suffer the same pain and devastation?"

The message also urges Bush to send his twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, to Iraq "if the cause is so noble."

The site says the group is made up of families of soldiers who have died as a result of war, primarily in Iraq.

Joe Hagin, White House deputy chief of staff, and Stephen Hadley, national security adviser, met with Sheehan for about 45 minutes Saturday, according to White House spokesman Trent Duffy.

Sheehan said that the two men "were very respectful."

"They told me the party line of why we are in Iraq," she said. "I told them that I don't believe that they believed that."

Duffy said Saturday that "many of the hundreds of families the president has met with know their loved one died for a noble cause and that the best way to honor their sacrifice is to complete the mission."

Bush has refused to provide a time frame for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, saying American forces will return home when Iraqis can take care of their own security.

"President Bush wants the troops home as soon as possible, but the U.S. will not cut and run from terrorists," Duffy said.

Sheehan elicited sympathy from both sides of the political spectrum on Sunday.

"What you're seeing with that mom trying to meet with President Bush is echoes of Vietnam," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat. "Because no one is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

"I think the president ought to meet with this mother," said Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican. "What I would say to her is her son will always be remembered as a great hero and a patriot, advanced freedom in Iraq and the Middle East, has made this country more secure."

Boxer said her own message would be different: "I would tell her to do everything she could to spare other families this grief, to get us off this cycle of violence."

Recent surveys have shown decreasing public support for the war.

In a Newsweek poll released Sunday, 64 percent of those asked said they do not believe the war in Iraq has made Americans safer, and 61 percent said they disapprove of the way the president is handling the war.

The telephone poll of 1,004 adults was taken from Tuesday to Thursday last week and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

CNN's Elaine Quijano contributed to this story.

Back To Story List


[Guess who sits on the Board of Kerr-McGee? Matthew Simmons.

It looks like he's putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak. --

MCR]

Kerr-McGee selling its North Sea assets

By Oil and Gas Journal editors
August 8, 2005 http://ogj.pennnet.com/articles/article_display.cfm?Section=ONART&C=GenIn&
ARTICLE_ID=234039&p=7

HOUSTON, Aug. 8 -- Maersk Olie & Gas AS, Copenhagen, plans to buy most of Kerr-McGee Corp.'s North Sea assets for $2.95 billion. The UK's Centrica PLC agreed to buy four North Sea fields and exploration acreage from the Oklahoma City producer for $566 million.

The buyers assumed all related abandonment obligations, which totaled $182 million as of June 30. The buyers also agreed to assume $175 million in after-tax derivative liabilities.

Subject to approval from government agencies, the transactions are expected to close during the fourth quarter.

"Our remaining oil and gas property portfolio will be weighted toward longer-life, less capital-intensive properties," said David Hager, Kerr-McGee chief operating officer.

Kerr-McGee plans to accelerate development drilling in the Wattenberg and Greater Natural Buttes areas of the Rocky Mountain region. The company also wants to focus on the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, Hager said.

Divestiture details

Kerr-McGee's North Sea assets include proved reserves of 231 million boe. Its North Sea production for the second quarter averaged 77,700 boe/d, representing 21% of the company's total second-quarter production.

At closings, Kerr- McGee expects net after-tax cash proceeds to be $3.1 billion. The company plans to use all net proceeds to reduce debt.

Kerr-McGee plans to sell some Gulf of Mexico shelf properties and selected US onshore properties. The total combined divestitures are expected to represent 25-30% of the company's proved reserves as of Dec. 31, 2004.

In addition, Kerr-McGee is proceeding with efforts to sell or spin off its chemical business, the world's third-largest producer and marketer of titanium dioxide (OGJ Online, Mar. 9, 2005).

Kerr-McGee expects to complete the chemical business separation and most of the divestitures before yearend.

Back To Story List


Saudi Oil and the World Economy

The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2005/07/26/DI2005072601004.html

 In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

In his recently published book "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy," author Matthew Simmons argues that Saudi Arabia will in coming decades be unable to maintain its current level of oil production, with large-economic repercussions. Simmons also examines the political and social climate of the nation and its desire to conceal the potential shortfalls from global consumers.

Matthew Simmons , an oil industry analyst and CEO of Simmons & Company International, was online Thursday, August 4, at 3 p.m. ET to discuss Saudi oil supplies.

The transcript follows.

____________________

Ottawa , Canada: There have recently been large oil discoveries in China's Bohai Bay. How do you see this affecting the oil supply situation over the next decade?

Matthew Simmons: The Bohai Bay is probably a very productive area but you're talking about fields that have production profiles of 50-100,000 barrels a day each and they're apparently not very long life reserves. So you'd have to have scores of them to replace the giant fields of Saudi Arabia.

_______________________

Suwanee , Ga. : Some analysts think the world will reach its Hubbert's Peak in the next year. What is your opinion of when this will occur?

Matthew Simmons: The biggest worry I have as a result of doing the research on Saudi Arabia's oil is that there is a real risk that they have already exceeded sustainable peak oil production and the longer the produce at current risk the higher the risk that they could start into a production collapse. If that turns out to be true than the odds are 95% that the world has then exceeded sustained peak oil production. What the people that get into the peak oil debate often don't think about is that peak oil is not the maximum amount of oil you could produce in a single day, it's realistically the amount you could produce per day for at least a half decade. Therefore it could already be happening. And we'll never know that until we get better data.

_______________________

Saint John , Canada : Given that there is a well understood technology for synthesizing other fossil fuels into oil (mostly coal) do you believe it will be possible to offset the production declines from conventional oil wells by increased coal liquefaction? How environmentally destructive is that process?

Matthew Simmons: I don't understand the environmental impact of coal gasification. Almost every single aspect of using unconventional oil, whether it's coal or Canadian tar sands or oil shales are all incredibly energy intensive, so they use a lot of energy to convert them into usable energy, and they don't come out of the ground at high amounts. So it becomes a daunting task to begin offsetting oil coming out of a highly pressurized oil field, which can come out at a rate of 5-10,000 barrels per day per well with unconventional oil sources, which are energy intensive and come out in small amounts.

_______________________

Mount Shasta , Calif. : Of all the sources of world oil/gas reserve estimates, which do you deem most accurate?

Thank you very much for authoring your book and making yourself available to answer questions today on washingtonpost.com.

Matthew Simmons: The most accurate are the small companies who have chosen to have their reserves audited by an independent third party. The smaller the company the more necessary it is to do that because it becomes your borrowing base, and your banks insist on it. It's like a company saying they don't need an audit. The bigger the reserve base the more likely it is that there was no third party assessment and the greater the odds that the estimates could be wrong. Thank you for the compliment.

_______________________

Philadelphia , Pa. : It seems to me that many of the potential energy policies that could improve national security would also help address the problem of global warming. Can you comment on this overlap?

Matthew Simmons: I think ironically if oil is approaching its peak then the worst fears about global warming aren't realized, because we can't produce the increased amount of oil that gives rise to the worry. Secondly, in the areas of the world that have experienced peak oil, they have in almost every case quickly gone into production declines which further lessens the global warming risk to the extent that global warming is created by fossil fuels.

_______________________

Melbourne , Australia : Have you had any feedback or response to your book from Saudi oil industry insiders?

Matthew Simmons: I've had a lot of interesting feedback from retirees. So far I haven't had any feedback from anybody that's currently within Saudi ARAMCO. I gather by what third party sources say is that there is an edict within Saudi ARAMCO to never again mention my book. They've had their say, they totally disagree with my book, and that's that-the issue's closed.

_______________________

Seattle , Wash. : Hello Mr. Simmons,

How would you respond to the Cambridge Energy Research Associate's analysis, as described in a recent Washington Post article "It's Not the End of the Oil Age" by Daniel Yergin, which paints a less urgent picture?

It's Not the End Of the Oil Age.

Thanks,

Kathy

Seattle , Wash

Matthew Simmons: I'm one of three co-authors of an op-ed piece that we have just submitted to The Washington Post that hopefully will get published. What the three of us collectively feel is that it is a very unrealistic assessment, it is not a detailed, bottom up field by field, they ignore by and large depletion issues, and it's based on an enormous belief that technology and enthusiasm and urgency will create new oil supplies. That is precisely the same logic that CERA used very loudly in 2001 and 2002 to dispute the critics views that natural gas in North America was running into trouble. And it took less than 24 months after they had dismissed any problems in natural gas before they made a discovery that we had a natural gas crisis. I think what they're doing being as casual on future oil supplies, let alone predicting we're headed toward another oil glut, is doing the world a great disservice.

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London , U.K. : Mr. Simmons.

In your book you claim that Saudi Arabian oil production has peaked or is on the verge of peaking. However the Saudi authorities claim that they will be able to increase daily production to more than 12 million barrels per day in the near future.

If what you are saying is true then why would the Saudis claim that they can increase production?

Matthew Simmons: I suspect that they actually believe they can, and I would point to the unfortunate experience of almost all our major oil companies in the U.S. and England who five years ago were just as confident they could grow their production over the next decade by 5-7% per annum. And all of this turned out to be unjustified optimism. Today most of the major oil companies are witnessing production declines. It turns out that estimating future oil production is just as difficult as measuring future earnings per share. It's an art vs. a science and it's very easy to get fooled, especially when you're dealing with old oil fields.

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Laurel , Md.: How significantly will the new Caspian Sea oil pipeline effect world supplies?

Are any other important delivery systems in the works to increase economically feasible supplies?

Matthew Simmons: The Caspian Oil system is one of the largest new oil pipelines built in two or three decades. But what's interesting is that it's being built on the assumption that two or three major Caspian oil projects that will take the next 5-7 years to create and then the further 5-7 years to reach peak production will actually work. And if they do work it adds less than 2 million barrels a day to the world oil market by 2016.

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Wheaton , Md. : Are you predicting a world oil shortage? Don't you think newly discovered oil in central Africa and the former Soviet states will compensate for the loss of oil from Arab-occupied lands?

Matthew Simmons: The oil coming out of West Africa and Central Africa is not likely to significantly increase the oil supply of Africa because of the declines taking place in the existing base. The oil coming out of Russia is now apparently starting back into decline because they haven't really come up with any significant new discoveries. So it's hard to find an area that could come on fast enough to ever start to mitigate a decline in Middle East oil.

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Detroit , Mich.: In the short run, which country do you expect can best make up any shortfall of oil production by Saudi Arabia?

Matthew Simmons: If things really went well, Libya. Libya's new opening up could potentially add 2-3 million barrels a day, but it would take at least 5-10 years for that to happen. Algeria could add possibly a million barrels, with everything going right. Some think the UAE could maybe had 500,000 barrels a day, some say Kuwait could add 500,000. But these are all best case scenario estimates and they all assume that the current production bases in each of these countries stays flat.

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London , Ontario : I have read recently that now King Abdullah will have a bit of a time reining in members of the extended family who want to pursue a policy of protecting their oil reserves and getting the best price the market will bear. He was somewhat insulated from this sort of criticism while he was the power behind the thrown, but it appears that his policy of supplying as much oil as possible may be under attack from factions looking out for Saudi interests. Could this spell the end of $60/barrel oil? Will we look back at this as the "golden age" of cheap energy?

Matthew Simmons: I think it will be very interesting to see what changes if any come from the fact that King Abdullah is now king vs. de facto king. It wouldn't surprise me if even King Abdullah led a new era of taking more seriously cutting back on their production so that they can ensure that it lasts for a long period of time, and that policy would not be driven by greed or anger toward the west but simply a husbanding of their only resource to make sure they don't risk a production collapse. And from where those pressures arise is unclear, but once people spend time reading the detail that they could have read if they had just gathered the papers written by all their own technical people because that's the logical conclusion all these cumulative technical papers leads to--production conservation as the only solid insurance policy to protect against a pending production collapse. There's nothing that worse Saudi Arabia could accidentally do to harm the west than accidentally create a production collapse in their oil flows.

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Aurora , Ill.: There are some people who say deep well drilling will provide the oil we need and cite several wells in Russia that are designed for deep drilling. I don't think the flow rate or the quality from those wells is really going to help us, but I'm curious as to what you tell people when they talk about deep drilling?

Matthew Simmons: There are two elements of deep drilling that get bandied about-first is deep water oil, and second is deep formation oil (lower depths in the earth), and then there's the combination. What's interesting is from what we know of these virgin areas is that they are very expensive to drill, the expiration risk is very high (about 1 in 5 to 1 in 8 seem to work) and then most of the production, once it comes into stream, rapidly goes into decline. For example in the Gulf of Mexico where you have deep water oil being produced also from deep formations, once they come onstream they tend to peak within 18 months and they tend to decline by as much as 70-80% in a 5-7 year period of time, so it's hard to envision that we could ever find enough of these to sustain an offset when Saudi Arabia's production goes into decline.

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Cabot, Vt.: Mr. Simmons - The people of the United States owe you a tremendous amount of appreciation for the work you have done, the spirit of fairness and scholarship you've brought to the debate on oil depletion, and the strength of character with which you maintain the discussion with your peers. We're all rooting for you. Keep up the good work of informing the public.

Matthew Simmons: I really appreciate that, particularly since I spent two and a half years of hard work making sure I got a very important message out in the public domain. I have really been incredibly touched by the outpouring of letters and emails that I've received in the last eight weeks from a wide variety of people in a wide variety of countries, some experts in oil and some observers of oil.

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Arlington , Va. : Mr. Simmons,

Can you give us a quick short, medium, long term outlook on Natural Gas in North America ? Should I enter into a fixed price/therm contract with my gas company?

Thanks

Matthew Simmons: The short, medium and long term outlooks for natural gas in North America are really poor. It gets more dismal the further you go out. Ironically we peaked in U.S. natural gas supply in 1973, only two years after we peaked in oil supply. And for an odd number of reasons there was so much confusion in our natural gas markets that only a handful of people began observing that we clearly peaked almost three decades later.

If you take the current estimated gas production and strip out all of the sources of unconventional gas, such as deep water associated gas, coal-bed methane gas, and tight-sands gas, the conventional base that peaked at 63 bcf per day is now down to around 30-35, and it went entirely unobserved. I would basically take a long term contract in any instance because we still have very cheap natural gas prices.

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Arlington , Va. : Mr. Simmons,

On Monday there was a chat with Middle East Scholar Thomas Lippman in which I asked and received the Q/A below. Do you have any comment on this question and his response?

--- Arlington, Va.: Do you envision that King Abdullah will allow any more candor in discussing Saudi oil production status? It seems in the past year there have been very much mixed reports from Saudi official from saying that they had plenty of capacity to saying they needed to develop more capacity to saying they will not have the capacity to meet future demand for petroleum.

Thomas Lippman: I disagree that the Saudis have been less than forthcoming about their oil resources and their plans for expansion. The most complete articulation of these points that I know of was in the Wall Street Journal on the Friday before Abdullah met with Bush in Texas in April. There have been a few reports to the effect that Saudi Arabia has overstated its reserves and that its aging wells have passed their peak, but those reports have not been substantiated. Note that the joint statement issued by Bush and Abdullah in Crawford says, "the United States appreciates Saudi Arabia strong commitment to accelerating investment and expanding its production capacity to help provide stability and adequately supply the market."

Matthew Simmons: Saudi Arabia and the petroleum industry have been at their own admission and almost anybody's observation far more transparent in releasing data over the course of the past 18 months than they have ever been. If you closely listen to and read the data they are releasing it is not as comforting to me as the casual statements made by their leaders as to the ease of their being able to produce 12-15 million barrels a day for 50-100 years. There's no question that they're working on a series of new projects but none of these projects are new fields, they're complicated old fields that could never properly produce in the 1960's and 1970's. They're still silent on any production declines taking place in the old fields. They adamantly refuse to release and field by field production data and within private circles there are people starting to whisper to people in the west that it is probably unlikely that Saudi Arabia can produce 12 million barrels a day ever. But at the same time the public relations campaign says 15 million barrels a day if it's needed for 50-100 years. So I would stay we still have an awful lot to learn. Too many people that should know better are now asserting that the officials in the oil industry have proved they can produce 15 million barrels for 50-100 years and all they have done is show power point graphs that draw a line saying this is what the production will be. I could just as easily project my net worth over the next 30 and have it exceed the net worth of Bill Gates by 2030 but there's absolutely no basis or no probability that will ever happen. That technique should never be described as technically proving something.

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Groningen , Holland: Hello Matthew,

I appreciate your work very much. It's important that someone really puts all the puzzle pieces together. My question is: Why do you think most of the optimistic oil marketeers, energy-advisors and politicy don't talk about depletion at all? Don't they know about the depletion, do they think better techniques are going to offset depletion, or do they think we will find enough oil to offset the decline? Because it seems to me that the current world-depletion rate of 5% annually is going to be the biggest factor in the supply-demand gap. At 5% annual decline, we will need an extra 20 million barrels a day just to keep up with the current daily supply rates.

Matthew Simmons: First, I'm worried that the real current average daily decline rate is probably more like 8-10% per annum, which makes the problem far more of a challenge. The only thing I can imagine as to why so many "oil experts" seem to ignore depletion is that no company has ever produced any data about their decline rates. Economists tend to believe that good things happen for good causes and because energy is so important, if there is a need for energy we will just find more energy. There is also a wide body of optimists that believe that modern oil field technology has effectively defeated depletion. And I know that modern oil field technology has created far higher decline rates than we ever had the ability to do before this technology. Then there is a final belief that a host of new unnamed technologies will make it even easier to offset depletion, but no one has any idea what the unnamed technologies are and there aren't any being worked on that have any significance. All the technologies that have gotten so much attention in the past decade took 30 years to invent, commercialize, and introduce around the world. And the new technology blackboard is bare today.

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Cambridge , U.K.: Do you believe the E.U. will be able to weather the effect of peak oil better than the U.S. and what result could this have on the geopolitics and business of energy?

Matthew Simmons: The E.U. has a totally different crisis because of peak oil than the U.S. The U.S. has a motor gasoline crisis because of the number of vehicles we have and the 12,000 miles on average each one of them travels per year and the lack of any viable forms of public transportation in most parts of the country. Conversely the E.U. has the world's largest use of diesel future because transporting of goods by truck vs. rail or water is about three times what it is in the U.S. The European waterways aren't wide enough or deep enough to use viable water based transportation which is the single most efficient way of transporting goods (about 20 times more efficient than a truck). And the train systems of Europe are now all used to transport people vs. goods. So Europe is just as vulnerable as the U.S. but for a totally different reason.

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Portland , Ore.: If Saudi oil dries up I can envision the economic shock to the West and probably Asia too, but what I'm curious about is how this will play out in Arab lands.

How long would the cash reserves of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. last with dwindling oil output?

Would this also mean mass numbers of Saudis would try to emigrate to Europe?

Surely lower oil revenue would translate into unrest at home. Any ideas how this might play out?

Matthew Simmons: First of all Saudi Arabia's oil won't run out. The risk is that it will go into production decline. It's really important for people to realize that production decline is not the same as running out. Once they start the production decline the price of oil will and should go way up, and in a strange sense this opens a window for Saudi Arabia and the other Middle East oil producers to rapidly address an issue they have ignored for the past 50 years. None of the Middle East countries have an economy that is stable outside of oil. They all have exploding birth rates, 40-50% populations under 20 with no jobs, and if they understand this is happening and the oil has peaked, they have a marvelous opportunity of using this era of extremely high oil prices to create sustainable economies over a 5-10 year period of time and create an economic average GDP per capita equal to at least Greece or Portugal or Eastern European countries and that would start to narrow the incredible gap between the handful of incredibly rich and the rest who are poor. In time they could actually create a long period of economic stability and widespread economic stability if high oil prices are wisely used to create a sustainable and diversified economy and more equal distribution of wealth per capita.

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Boston, Mass.: If Saudi oil production is in decline, won't that make the competition for the remaining world oil supplies between China and the U.S., in particular, and China/India and U.S./Europe, in general, all the more intense?

Matthew Simmons: Absolutely, which is why we need a global economic cooperative framework for how we allocate oil use and in this framework we need to give India and China, for instance, an incremental use of another 50% more oil while we go on out diet to have any sense of equality. If we don't do this than we will basically end up playing musical chairs, and musical chairs can get violent very fast.

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Bethesda , Md. : What an interesting and informative session!

In one of the presentations available on your company's Web site you indicated that the precise amount of uranium available is a bit mysterious.

Would you say some of the same questions about the sustainability of fossil fuel apply to nuclear power as well?

Matthew Simmons: The quality of data we have on coal isn't very good. The quality of data we have on uranium, because we haven't needed any more uranium for the last 35 years because in 1979 Three Mile Island happened and after that we never though we needed any more uranium, so our resource knowledge is really skimpy.

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Maryland : Are you coming to speak in the D.C. area any time soon? And what can we as citizens do to get our government to talk about it and plan for the peak in oil production? Thanks.

Matthew Simmons: I have several speaking engagements in the D.C. area in the fall and we'll post them on the Simmons & Company Web site, Simmons & Co Intl..

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Munich , Germany: It may seem unrealistic at the moment, but how many barrels a day could a peaceful Iraq add to the world market?

Matthew Simmons: That's a complicated question because the two fields that make up 80% of their production are in a bad state of repair. Over a 10 or 15 year period of time we would be lucky to sustain 2-3 barrels a day from Iraq.

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Matthew Simmons: Thank you for some very thoughtful questions.

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Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

© 2005 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

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Shortages Stifle a Boom Time for the Solar Industry

By Chris Dixon
August 5, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/05/national/05solar.html?8hpib

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

With a bill in California that aims to put solar power in half of new homes within 13 years, and with installation incentives in the federal energy legislation passed last week, the future of solar energy in the United States would seem all the brighter. But the future may have to wait, if only a little while.

American suppliers for the solar energy industry say that burgeoning demand both domestically and overseas, a weak dollar and shortages of raw material have created back orders of several months on electricity-generating photovoltaic, or PV, panels.

"For all the years I've been doing this," said Daryl Dejoy, owner of a solar installation company in Penobscot, Me., "I could get all the solar panels in the world and no customers. Now I have all the customers in the world and no product."

Executives of American solar manufacturers and industry groups say the global solar market has grown roughly 40 percent annually in the last five years, driven in large part by Germany. Under an incentive program championed by that country's Green Party, German businesses and individuals with solar equipment can sell power they create to utilities at above-market rates. The utilities pass the excess cost on to their customers.

"It's giving Germans a solid 15 to 20 percent return on equity," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, the trade group for the American solar industry. "You're seeing a lot of companies in Germany start venture capital units based on solar farm development. People are even putting panels up on barns."

Germany consumes 39 percent of all solar panels in the world, with Japan next at 30 percent and the United States a distant third at 9 percent.

Germany installed nearly 400 megawatts of solar power last year, Mr. Resch said, while Japan, whose government subsidizes solar energy consumption, installed nearly 300 megawatts. Americans, with far less in subsidies, installed 90 megawatts, most of it in California.

Japan had the greatest total solar power capacity by the end of 2004, at 1,100 megawatts, followed by Germany, with 790 megawatts, and the United States, with 730, said Noah Kaye, spokesman for the solar energy association. The American figure was enough to power about 300,000 homes, however, some 120,000 more than in 2000.

Now the Million Solar Roofs legislation in California, passed by the State Senate and under consideration in the Assembly, would subsidize the installation of solar equipment with a goal of putting 3,000 megawatts of solar energy to work by 2018. Assessments on electricity bills would pay for the subsidies.

California is among many states - New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are others - that already provide subsidies to solar power users. But the scope envisioned by the new California bill, whose enactment appears likely, dwarfs all others.

In addition to the state efforts, the energy measure passed by Congress last week offers a tax credit of up to $2,000 for homeowners who install solar equipment.

But the shortage of solar panels has led to long waits and inconvenience for many Americans who are ready to spend $10,000 to $20,000 for residential solar power systems of 2,000 to 5,000 watts. The shortage has been made worse because photovoltaic electricity is used to power not only homes but also businesses, boats, recreational vehicles, highway signs and cellphone towers.

Mr. Dejoy, of Penobscot Solar, said that for the nation's installers, the situation was "brutal." Even orders that were paid for months ago, he said, had no guaranteed date of delivery or even final price. Recently, a customer who had agreed on an order of several thousand watts balked when Mr. Dejoy told her that a panel supplier had increased the price by a dollar a watt.

Matt Lugar, director of solar sales for the Sharp Electronics Corporation's solar division, in Huntington Beach, Calif., said the supply problems were "a natural evolution in any industry that's exploding."

"There's a lot of panic among our customers who have been in solar for a long time," Mr. Lugar said of the installers. "Prices are rising dramatically. Unfortunately, it's the natural movement of supply and demand."

Until early 2004, Mr. Lugar said, the price of solar panels was dropping as technology advanced. Since then, manufacturers' prices have risen as much as 15 percent, he said, adding that the purified silicon at the heart of solar panels and computer semiconductors alike had also been in extremely short supply.

Mr. Lugar said it was difficult to predict when the industry would be able to meet demand, given a possibility of large subsidy increases in Spain, Italy and Portugal.

But Mr. Kaye, of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said that California's incentives could entice suppliers to increase production for the domestic market.

And his boss, Mr. Resch, said the shortage of customary solar resources provided an opportunity for producers of newer "thin film" solar panels. These panels, which can be rolled up for portability or installed on curved surfaces, are now produced in relatively small quantities by several Silicon Valley manufacturers.

"The solar energy industry is diverse," Mr. Resch said, "and will meet the challenges the market presents."

For now, solar installers like William Korthof of Pomona, Calif., can only lament.

"We're getting unannounced price hikes from suppliers," Mr. Korthof said, "and are seeing a complete inability to forecast when they can ship us product. Last year I had waits of two weeks for panels. This year it's two to three months."

Mr. Korthof said that his business, Energy Efficiency Solar, was installing roughly 25 kilowatts of solar power a month for customers. With a reliable supply, he said, he would be installing 50 or more.

Mike Dewalt, who lives outside Peoria, Ill., said he had waited three weeks for a shipment of solar panels for his home. Several weeks later, Mr. Dewalt said, the supplier told him that four more 120-watt panels he wanted would be at least eight weeks in arriving, and that payment would be required immediately.

Mr. Dewalt said that after calling Northern Arizona Wind and Sun, he had his panels in a week. But Eric Phillips, general manager of that business, said its waiting times had also lengthened.

"I'm probably taking 10 to 20 calls a day for modules I can't supply," Mr. Phillips said.

"Only three to four years ago, solar was a really hard sell - trying to convince people to put a system on their home," he said. "These days, we say, 'I can't get the kinds of numbers you need.' "

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Crude oil prices hit new record

Gillian Wong | Singapore
08 August 2005 11:32
http://www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breaking_news/breaking_news
__business/&articleid=247489#

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Crude futures rose to a new high of $62,69 in Asian trading on Monday as the United States government announced the closure of its embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia due to security threats and on continued concerns that earlier shutdowns of US oil refineries would reduce supply.

Midmorning in Singapore, light, sweet crude for September delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose as high as $62,69 in Asian electronic trading before slipping back a bit to $62,51, up 20 cents from its close on Friday.

On Friday, crude settled at $62,31 a barrel, a record close for crude since Nymex trading began in 1983.

That's at least 40% higher than a year ago, though crude prices would have to surpass $90 to reach the inflation-adjusted high set in 1980.

Gasoline edged up slightly to $1,8415 a gallon while heating oil rose marginally to $1,7390 a gallon.

The market was on edge as traders closely monitored geopolitical developments in Saudi Arabia following Sunday's announcement of a security threat against US government buildings. A week ago, the death of the country's king also rocked markets, even though most analysts believe there would be little change in the oil policies of Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest petroleum producer.

The planned closure on Monday and Tuesday of the US embassy in Riyadh and consulates in Jiddah and Dhahran was "in response to a threat against US government buildings" in the kingdom, the embassy said, adding it would also limit non-official travel of its mission personnel.

In a statement, it urged Americans residing in the world's largest oil-producing and -exporting country to keep "a high level of vigilance", but did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.

Hours after the announcement, a Saudi interior ministry spokesperson, Major General Mansour al-Turki, said his government had no information about a possible threat.

Over the past few years, rising oil consumption has strained the world's limited excess production capacity, putting energy traders on edge about any threat to supply.

Meanwhile, analysts said positive US economic figures on Friday showing payrolls expanded by 207 000 in July, the highest reading in five months, continued to boost bullish sentiment in the market.

"The US economy looks healthy and it's safe to infer that the demand for oil and diesel will remain pretty firm and that the price of oil should be helped along as well," said commodities strategist David Thurtell, of Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.

Oil prices rose even though the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) said late on Friday that it increased oil production by 300 000 barrels a day in the past two weeks, to about 30,4-million barrels daily.

The increase was an attempt to cool surging oil prices, Opec president Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah said, but the market appeared to have largely disregarded the Kuwaiti prime minister's remarks, as refinery concerns continued to weigh on traders' minds in a time of supply tightness.

At least seven US refineries have reported problems of one kind or another in the past two weeks, ranging from fires at Chevron's El Segundo, California, plant, and British Petroleum's Texas City refinery to the complete shutdown of Exxon Mobil's plant in Joliet, Illinois.

Traders feared overworked US refiners may not quickly recover from shutdowns to meet demand for gasoline and other products.

Ken Hasegawa, of Tokyo-based brokerage firm Himawari CX, said the buying momentum propelled by refinery woes was "strong enough to push September Nymex crude to as high as $62,80 a barrel". -- Sapa-AP

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