Thursday, May 10, 2012

Some brief updates: A war weary public, and the Levantine Bain

Some brief updates on subjects I have touched on before:
In a new poll recently conducted by the Associated Press and GfK, a private communications firm, support for the Afghanistan war has plummeted to its lowest levels ever. Among Democrats, only 19% support the war, and Independent and Republican support polls only slightly higher, at 27% and 37% respectively. Overall, as the AP put it, "66 percent opposed the war, with 40 percent saying they were “strongly” opposed. A year ago, 37 percent favored the war, and in the spring of 2010, support was at 46 percent. Eight percent strongly supported the war in the new poll.

As I have previously written about, these type of views are the norm now among the American public.  People are sick of fighting wars abroad, whether they are drawn out counterinsurgency campaigns or "humanitarian interventions" carried out by NATO cruise missiles.  Continuing to be militarily bogged down in the Afghan quagmire has virtually no supporters outside the beltway, (only 8% strongly support it!), and yet within Washington DC, executing a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan is a legitimate option to be debated.

Concerning the recent discoveries of massive energy deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean's little explored Levantine Basin, Cyprus has now moved ahead to develop its Aphrodite offshore field, estimated to contain 200 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas.  Aphrodite is just one of a set of large new gas fields discovered in the area over the past year, including Israel's Leviathan field (500 BCM), and the Tamar field (300 BCM) located in territory disputed between Israel and Lebanon.  Instrumental in all of these discoveries has been Noble Energy, a Houston based company, which partners with the Israeli Delek Group.  Gazprom, the Russian energy company, has also expressed interest in joining on both the Cypriot and Israeli projects.

As these fields provide a large excess of energy for Israel and Cyprus's needs, the two countries hope to join together and export the gas to Western Europe, through either tankers or a proposed underwater pipeline.  There are, however, many complications, not least the fact that transporting the gas to Western Europe would be prohibitively expensive.  As it was put in a recent Asia Times article on the subject:
Export routes and transportation modes currently under consideration seem, however, exorbitantly costly in relation to the likely volumes. One option would involve a pipeline on the Mediterranean seabed, from Israel's Leviathan project to Cyprus, onward on the seabed (possibly via Crete) to mainland Greece, and by overland pipeline(s) into European Union territory. 
Another option would entail liquefying the gas in Israel and/or Cyprus (both countries are vying to host this operation), shipping the liquefied product by tankers to mainland Greece for re-gasification, and delivering the product through Greek pipelines to EU countries. Under both of those scenarios, Cyprus has ambitions to host a strategic gas storage site. 
A third option would consist of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from these fields directly to consumer countries in the Mediterranean, or through the Suez Canal to East Asia. Those three options involve high shipment costs for bringing relatively limited volumes to markets, there to compete against suppliers with larger volumes or lower transportation costs. This would remain a disadvantage unless new offshore discoveries in Israel and Cyprus exceed the scale of the already confirmed reserves.

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