Sunday, March 25, 2012

South Sudan and Oil Pipelines


South Sudan became an independent country in 2011.

534. What was the newest new country prior to South Sudan? Is Kosovo an independent country yet?

In yesterday's Post (here), Sudarsan Raghavan and Andrew Higgins wrote about China's role in Sudan and South Sudan -- in particular, its difficulty in navigating the countries' disputes about oil located in the south but transported via the north:

At the center of the struggle between the two Sudans is oil, which until last summer was controlled by Khartoum but which now lies mostly within the borders of the world’s newest state, the Republic of South Sudan. China is the biggest player in the oil industry on both sides of the frontier: It holds big stakes in the main oil fields in the south and in pipelines and other infrastructure in the north.
535. Is oil the most important resource in the world, if "importance" is judged in terms of how significantly people's lives would change if we suddenly did not have the resource? By that definition, water and food are both more important. Excluding those two things, is oil tops? What else would be on the list -- wood, coal?  Which minerals are most crucial to our lives?

536. A few years ago I read about the large lithium reserves in Afghanistan.  Are the Afghans developing their lithium-extraction industry?

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Back to South Sudan: the Post article states that South Sudan pays Sudan for the right to ship its oil through the pipeline, and that these fees are a major source of the tension:

The south has refused to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties for using Sudan’s pipelines, saying that the fees were exorbitant. Sudan responded by seizing oil tankers carrying South Sudanese crude and imposed a blockade on the export of the oil. Last month, South Sudan shut down its oil production, roughly 350,000 barrels a day, after accusing Sudan of stealing $815 million worth of its oil.
As a remedy, South Sudan is planning to construct an alternate pipeline through Kenya.

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This makes me think about the American controversy about the Keystone pipeline in Nebraska. Here's the Wikipedia summary of that project: "The Keystone Pipeline System is a pipeline system to transport crude oil and diluted bitumen from oil sands in Alberta, Canada to multiple destinations in the United States, including ports along the gulf coast."

This goes to show that mining and moving resources is a major political issue the world over.

537.  What is bitumen and where would it rank on my hypothetical list of the most important resources?

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