On March 15 the tanker Front Page left the port of Fujairah, U.A.E. reportedly to drop anchor at another port in the U.A.E. and then was scheduled to sail on to Saudi Arabia. This according to the Wall Street Journal's front page article("Oil Trade With Iran Thrives, Discreetly" 05.20.10).
Tracking information however revealed a very different course. The Front Page made an unreported stop along the coast of Iran to load a cargo of Iranian oil. Illegal? No. Impolitic? Clearly very much so, given the acute political tensions and the draconian oppression being imposed by the Iranian government against its people. Hardly the kind of company one would like to be seen or associated with.
And who was the charterer of the Front Page? None other than Royal Dutch Shell, the very same company currently in the process of petitioning Alaska and the U.S. Government to drill exploratory wells this summer in the Arctic's Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. The Interior Department is presently reviewing Shell's application for a permit to drill. Given the BP Gulf oil disaster there is widespread concern and push-back in Congress to hold back any and all permitting until causes of the disaster are known. Given the evidenced duplicitous nature with whom they are dealing, clearly not a bad idea.
As far as the rest of us, know that the next time you tank up at a Shell station you may well be helping the mullahs of Iran.
But Shell is not alone in doing a "brisk business buying Iranian oil..." Yes, you guessed it. Here too BP stands tall. And along with BP there is Total SA, the French oil giant. Being a dutiful yet circumspect customer of the mullahs, a Total chartered tanker recently turned off its tracking transponder throughout its sail into Iranian waters and loading of oil at its Iranian port of call. In case you may not have known, this is the same Total, parent of Total Petrochemicals USA Inc., with production facilities in Louisiana and Texas producing a range of base chemicals including polyethylene, polystyrenes.
The Wall Street Journal goes on to report that none of current sanction proposals in the U.N. or the U.S. would target Iran's export oil business which happens to generate nearly half of the Iranian government's revenues. The reason being is concern that an embargo would spike the price of oil and severely impact the economies of such major Iranian oil importers as Japan, India, and China.
One needs to question whether this is not the rationale trotted out by the oil companies and delivered by their well-heeled lobbyists to our gullible bureaucrats. These, the very oil companies and oil interests who find it convenient, if not to say highly profitable, to trade in Iranian oil.
Consider the following. Today the world is awash with oil. Oil storage is bulging at the seams from Cushing Oklahoma, to Rotterdam to Singapore. Iran exports currently some 2 million barrels of oil a day, a quantity that would hardly be missed given the supplies currently available. And then there is Saudi Arabia with a capability of producing over 12 million barrels a day while currently pumping but 8 million barrels, a shut in production capability of more than 4 million barrels, twice that of Iran's exports alone. Certainly the Saudis could easily and probably happily make up for any Iranian shortfall without moving the price of oil a nickel. And should the Saudis not be cooperative, seeking to exploit the situation to their own advantage in order to spike the price of oil, they need only be reminded that if the Iranians should come knocking at their door with pistol in hand at some future date, and the Saudis then lift the hot line to call Washington as they are prone to do, no one will be at home to answer their call. (Please also see; "With Russia and China On Board Iran Can Now Be Stopped" 11.29.09.)
It stands to reason that embargoing Iranian oil through governmental or business initiatives could be a highly effective way of dealing with the renegade Iranian regime, and if done thoughtfully, with minimal impact on oil's price. This combined with a policy of shaming those who continue to do business with Iranian agencies either directly or indirectly through third party oil trading brokers, would be an effective adjunct to such an embargo policy.
Finally, if governments don't act, we as consumers can take much into our own hands by boycotting those products that may well be produced from Iranian oil. Given the sourcing policies of the oil companies, i.e. Shell, BP and Total SA., one should be cognizant that the next time you tank up at a Shell station, as but one example, you may well be helping the mullahs of Iran.
If the international oil companies themselves as well as our governments do not take the initiative of boycotting Iranian oil in order to bring down a murderous regime then we must, in solidarity with the oppressed people of Iran, exercise our individual initiative. It is past time for each of us to commit to a 'Peoples Boycott' of products produced in whole or in part from Iranian oil, be it gasoline, heating oil, fuel oil, base chemicals and on. It is the least we can do given the deprivations being suffered by the Iranian people.
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