By Mark Finley
The Saudi leadership drives a hard bargain. They have won a major concession from the US while making a largely symbolic change in oil policy – and kept Russia on board with the plan. Consumers (and politicians) hoping for relief from rising prices at the pump are likely to be disappointed.
On Thursday, the OPEC+ group agreed (in another 15-minute meeting) to accelerate planned production increases, responding to consumer anxiety over soaring fuel prices. Interestingly, this decision appears to have been supported by Russia, despite sanctions that have created major difficulties in marketing the country’s oil exports.
Under the terms of a deal reached last year, the group had originally planned to increase output by a bit over 400,000 b/d in each of July, August and September—at which point the large COVID-related production cuts made in 2020 would have been fully reversed after nearly two-and-a-half years. Yesterday’s agreement condenses the plan into increases of about 650,000 b/d in July & August, so the group reaches the production total originally planned for September a month early (see table below).
The change in policy comes after months of refusing to alter the production plan despite appeals from President Biden and other leaders of oil-consuming countries, refusals which had prompted the US and its IEA allies to begin large releases of strategic stocks to limit price pressures.
The OPEC statement after the meeting explained the acceleration as driven by expectations of reopening from lockdowns in “major global economic centers” (ie, China) and increased refinery demand for crude following seasonal refinery maintenance. The group concluded by noting their commitment to “stable and balanced markets for both crude oil and refined products.”
The White House welcomed the decision, and also applauded the Saudi role in a ceasefire in Yemen. Later in the day, word circulated that President Biden, after vowing to make Saudi Arabia a ‘pariah’ for the Khashoggi murder and refusing to speak with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, would visit the Kingdom later this month. (Friday evening the White House said the trip would take place next month.) This certainly gives the appearance that the two developments are connected.
It looks like a good deal for the Saudis. In return for a visit from the President, Saudi Arabia forged an OPEC+ change that will – on paper – add just over 200,000 b/d of crude oil supply in July and 400,000 in August. The cumulative increase would add about 20 million barrels to the global oil market during July and August. To put that in context, the cumulative supply added over two months would cover world oil demand for roughly 5 hours. Alternatively, it would be equivalent to one-third of what the US will add over that period based on planned releases from its strategic stockpile.
Of that cumulative 20 million barrels, roughly 5 million would come from Saudi Arabia based on the Kingdom’s share of the group’s production target – adding less than half a day’s worth of current production in total over the next two months beyond what had previously been planned.
And in reality, there may not be much more: OPEC+ has been dramatically under-producing relative to official targets. In April (the most recent month for which we have data), the group missed its overall production target by over 2.5 million b/d. Roughly half of the “miss” was due to the drop in Russian production, but beyond that many members already lack capacity to add new supply. Nigeria, Angola, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Azerbaijan have all consistently missed their production targets in recent months. Given the group’s recent overall performance and assessments of likely remaining spare capacity being concentrated in the OPEC Gulf producers (GCC-3 plus Iraq), it is reasonable to expect perhaps half of the promised production increase to materialize—ie, perhaps 10 million barrels in aggregate over July & August compared with what had previously been planned. That would be equivalent to an increase of just 150,000 b/d from OPEC+ in a global marketplace of 100 million b/d.
Some reports argue that this marks the start of a new, post-Russian OPEC+ arrangement, and a thawing of Saudi-US relations. In theory, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf producers with spare capacity could increase output beyond their targets to make up for shortfalls elsewhere. But they have consistently refused to choose this path in recent months, and since last week’s meeting there has been no public statement to lend credence to this speculation. The fact that Russia agreed to the change in OPEC+ policy (which was announced a day after Foreign Minister Lavrov visited Riyadh), also suggests that such a dramatic break is wishful thinking for now.
The announcement does not appear to have shaken bullish market views: After falling early in the day on news that OPEC+ would raise production, Brent prices closed slightly higher the day of the meeting, and have risen further since then (currently $120 per barrel). AAA reports that US national average retail prices for gasoline and diesel fuel both hit (nominal) records today (June 6th), at $4.87/gal and $5.65/gal, respectively.
Mark Finley is the Fellow in Energy and Global Oil at the Baker Institute. Before joining the Baker Institute, Finley was the senior U.S. economist at BP. For 12 years, he led the production of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, the world’s longest-running compilation of objective global energy data.
After fleeing civil war as a child, the 'mayor of the rail trail' in Hamilton uses rock art to help him heal – CBC.ca
If it’s a nice day in Hamilton, chances are good that Antonio Merino will be sitting at his special spot alongside the Escarpment Rail Trail.
His nook on the Mountain side of the trail, near the foot of the Margate Stairs, can’t be missed – it’s a solid 15 metres of sculptures and artwork made from painted rocks, fallen branches and other found objects.
A curvy branch juts from a log, evoking the head and body of a swan. Painted rocks are everywhere, bearing messages supporting essential workers or in remembrance of people who have died. There’s a row of sticks that have been painted blue to look like a pond, with wooden birds and alligators looking over it and a fish trapped on a line inside.
“It’s just a passion for me,” said Merino, enjoying his home-away-from-home on a recent, hot-as-an-oven summer day. “It’s a way to express without words. I did this all because I like to see a better world.”
Tall wooden stakes hold up a tarp with two seats underneath it – one for Merino and one for the litany of guests who stop by for a visit each day. The densely treed area of the Niagara Escarpment provides plenty of canopy shade as well, with the little sun that is able to peek through the trees forming a speckled, cheetah-print of light on the forest floor.
Nearly everyone who walks by says hi to Merino, who has become a central part of the community that has developed among regular trail users. “He’s the mayor of the trail,” said one passerby.
“It’s really great to see somebody utilize the space, utilize found objects and just make it their own,” said Laura Heaney, who stopped to visit while walking past with her dog. “My first impressions were that somebody had a creative streak in them and wanted to put it out there in the world.”
Sandra France, who hikes past twice a day, says the spot has become a focal point for trail users.
“It’s like a little community down here and this is the hub,” she says. “Sometimes you’ve got to take a number if you want to be able to say hello to him because he’s very popular and keeps everyone going around here.”
‘This is helping me to release pain, sorrow’
Merino is 53, with a slight frame and gentle smile. His ever-present dark sunglasses are held on with a cord, and his dark hair is thick and cut short.
He takes pride in the fact that the space he’s created brings joy to the people who go by, but he’s also made pieces that hint at what is beneath his positive countenance.
“A man from nowhere, just giving hope,” reads one. “Lost soul,” says another.
“This is helping me to release my pain, my sorrow, and the horror that I lived in the past,” he told CBC Hamilton. “When people say, ‘The past is gone, yesterday is gone,’ it all depends. Yesterday can be gone, but the horror stays. There are two choices: do you live in hell or learn how to live with the hell inside you?”
Merino was born in El Salvador, raised by his grandmother after his mother abandoned him when he was three months old, he says. The brutality and chaos of the civil war took over his life at age 10, its atrocities echoing in his head to this day.
The war would go on to kill more than 75,000 people between 1979 and 1992, and about 8,000 more would disappear, according to the United Nations. Some of those were Merino’s family members, neighbours and friends – including his grandmother, which left him on his own at age 11.
The pain brought me here, but that pain made my heart soften.– Rail trail artist Antonio Merino
Later, the threat of being forced to join the army made him flee the country. He moved through Costa Rica and Mexico while waiting for a Canadian visa, finally moving to this country on Aug. 16, 1989.
“The pain brought me here, but that pain made my heart soften and I learned how to be more kindful,” says Merino, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder and receives disability support payments as a result. “All the people I saw get killed, I believe their spirits came to me to protect me.”
He lived in Belleville and Cambridge before eventually settling in Hamilton many years ago.
When COVID-19 hit, Merino was in the process of trying to get his high school diploma through an adult education school, which he says shut down with the pandemic. The isolation of that period combined with his existing mental health struggles left him in a dark place, until the day he discovered the rail trail.
“I actually live by the trail, a half a block, and did not know the trail was here,” he says, noting he’s been in the same Wentworth Street apartment for 16 years.
That first day on the trail, he found a lost photo album, an interesting rock, an emerald, and another rock painted with the words, “you are loved” – which he saw right at the spot where he now sits daily.
“I got this crazy feeling that something was going on,” he said. “Then I came back the next day and started collecting rocks.”
‘2 years ago, I was just a masked man in a ghost town’
Now Merino spends six to 10 hours a day near the spot, sanding, painting and arranging the rocks and other natural items he finds. He attributes almost a mystical power to some of his most special finds.
“I have some rocks I won’t sell because I believe I will be cursed if I sell them. I believe Mother Nature brought them to me,” he says.
His friends along the trail also bring him rocks sometimes, as well as money – he has a donation box, but says things have dried up lately with the hard times people are facing. Some people ask him to make rock art to honour deceased loved ones. One woman even begged him to let her kiss his hand, after sensing he was a special person.
“It feels very strange,” Merino said. “I said to this lady, ‘I am a normal person. I am not an angel. I am nobody.'” He let her kiss it anyway.
He also gets plenty of attention from local children; a “blessing,” he says.
“I have maybe 50 letters and rocks that kids made for me… Parents come here and lend me the kids and I babysit them. I teach them art.
“Two years ago I was just a masked man in a ghost town. Nobody knew me. [Now] sometimes when I am downtown, police officers put the siren on and say, ‘Antonio!’ People downtown say, ‘Hey, I know you!'”
He says feeling like he’s part of something has changed his outlook, and he hopes to provide a piece of that to others.
PHOTOS: Walkerville Art Walk Takes Over Wyandotte | windsoriteDOTca News – windsor ontario's neighbourhood newspaper windsoriteDOTca News – windsoriteDOTca News
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QU Announces Art Scholarship Recipients for Fall 2022 – Quincy University
QUINCY, Ill. – Quincy University’s Art Department awarded two art scholarships for the fall
“The Quincy University Art Department created the Art Talent Search Competition as a
way to raise the awareness for new or transfer students to obtain scholarships,” said Karl Warma,
M.F.A., professor of art. “QU has a long tradition of providing scholarships to art students, but
the growing financial need of students in art programs meant we needed more program
The selection process was held during the School of Fine Arts and Communication
Showcase on February 19, 2022. Participants submitted an application, portfolio and had
personal interviews with QU Art Department faculty. Recipients were chosen at the discretion of
the art faculty on the talent and personal vision of the candidate.
“We are so fortunate to have student’s bringing their developing talents to our Art &
Design Department at QU,” said Gary Meacher, M.F.A., assistant professor. “Every year we
have the chance to reward those talents with our annual scholarship competition.”
Laura VanNice, an incoming transfer student, was awarded a $5,000 scholarship.
VanNice previously studied at Moberly Area Community College. VanNice is from Hannibal,
Mo., and pursuing a degree in graphic design.
High school senior Aliya Callaway received a $3,000 scholarship. Callaway is from
Advance, Mo., majoring in graphic design.
“Laura VanNice and Aliya Callaway are talented young women who will bring additional
creative energy to the Art Department program at QU. We look forward to their active
participation starting in the fall of 2022,” said Warma.
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