Residents in the Danish city of Copenhagen pay by far the highest electricity bills in Europe. New monthly figures show people in the  city pay as much as €-.3028 per kilowatt hour (kWh), or £23.71. By comparison, Belgrade residents pay the least for electricity at €0.092, which is £4.71 per kWh. European electricity bills can vary as much as 149% depending on where you live in Europe. Overall Southern and Eastern European countries pay more than the rest.

The sharp drop in world petroleum prices is threatening to undermine the fragile economies of several African countries dependent on crude oil exports. The most vulnerable in the world’s poorest continent include Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sudan – as well as developing nations such as Algeria, Libya and Egypt in North Africa.

Tumbling oil prices has provided the Nigerian government with the excuse to remove fuel subsidies that cost as much as $7 billion a year

Saudi Arabia told the oil markets last week that it is prepared to ride out the current crude price drop without cutting production no matter how low prices go.

Saudi Arabian authorities plan to cut wages and push ahead with investments next year as the world’s largest crude oil exporter seeks to counter the effect of tumbling crude prices on the economy. The Saudi government said it expects the budget deficit in 2015 to widen to 145 billion riyals ($39 billion), about 5 percent of gross domestic product and roughly triple this year’s deficit. This would be the country’s largest deficit in its history.

China cut retail gasoline prices again last week for the 10th time since July.  It is Chinese government policy to cut prices whenever international crude oil falls by 50 yuan per ton during a time span of 10 working days.

China’s drop in demand growth for crude oil is probably a major cause of the worldwide demand glut, which is driving down prices. For 2014 various analysts put the country’s consumption growth at anywhere from 1.1 to 3.4% which is quite a drop from recent years.

Many observers are saying that Russia does not really have an economy anymore, but an oil and natural gas exporting business, which supplies much of the government’s income.  This year has been one of the most volatile since the fall of the Soviet Union 23 years ago. The drop in world oil prices (oil is Russia’s major source of income) set off an economic storm which sent the ruble from 33 to the US dollar down to a low of 80 on December 16h and now back to 54 to the dollar. Last week the Kremlin ordered state owned businesses to convert their foreign currency holdings into rubles which gave the ruble a record one-time bounce. The country is no doubt on the way into what may be a deep recession in the coming year. Government ministers are talking about a 4% drop in GDP next year. The deputy prime minister said last week that Russia may cut its crude oil production next year and that Russian output could shrink by some 10% or 1 million b/d in the next 2-3 years. The government also announced that it is postponing plans to drill for oil in the Arctic.

The US shale-oil industry has affected Europe’s largest crude oil explorers. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services revised its outlook to negative for Royal Dutch Shell, Total SA and BP as the oil-market rout driven by weakening demand and a flood of supply from American shale oil threatens their cash flow into 2016.

The UK’s oil industry is in “crisis” as prices drop, according to a senior industry leader. Oil companies and service providers are cutting staff and investment to save money. Robin Allan, chairman of the independent explorers’ association, told the BBC that the industry was “close to collapse”. Almost no new projects in the North Sea are profitable with oil below $60 a barrel, he claims.

The rapid fall in oil prices is hitting the South American country of Venezuela hard, raising questions among investors about the  country’s ability to pay its debts and heightening concerns about the health of developing economies around the world. A nearly 50% drop in the price of crude since mid-June has left Venezuela’s finances in shambles. The price of credit-default swaps on Venezuela debt, a type of insurance, indicate a 61% chance of default.

Australia announced the world’s first conversion of natural gas derived from coal seams into liquefied natural gas (LNG).  The LNG, produced by Bechtel at its Queensland Curtis LNG (QCLNG) facility will be exported by ship to markets in Asia. When fully completed in 2016, the facility will produce about 25 million metric tons of LNG annually, the equivalent to powering a city the size of Tokyo with 13 million people.

Morocco could be emerging as a major player in North Africa in terms of potential natural gas production. Circle Oil, a British energy company focused on Middle East and North Africa, announced last week what it considers to be a significant natural gas discovery in the country.


with h/t Tom Whipple






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