Is this the end of OPEC? How Saudi Arabia and UAE infighting threatens the future of the oil alliance
LONDON — Oil producer group OPEC has been plunged into crisis, with bitter infighting between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates raising questions about the future of the energy alliance.
OPEC and non-OPEC partners, a group of some of the world’s most powerful oil producers, abruptly abandoned plans to reconvene on Monday after last week’s meetings unexpectedly failed to broker a deal on oil production policy. The group did not set a new date to resume talks.
It means no agreement has been reached on a possible increase in crude production beyond the end of July, leaving oil markets in a state of limbo just as global fuel demand recovers from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“OPEC+ has been thrown its most serious crisis since last year’s ill-fated price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia,” Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, said in a research note.
“Back-channel talks reportedly are continuing, but questions about UAE’s commitment to remaining in OPEC will likely grow in the coming days.”
The UAE-Saudi dispute appeared to be about more than oil policy, Croft said, with Abu Dhabi “seemingly intent on stepping outside Saudi Arabia’s shadow and charting its own course in global affairs.”
The pandemic held them together and now the post pandemic is breaking them apart.John KilduffFounding partner at Again Capital
OPEC+, which is dominated by Middle East crude producers, agreed to implement massive crude production cuts in 2020 in an effort to support oil prices when the coronavirus pandemic coincided with a historic fuel demand shock.
Led by Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the UAE, OPEC+ has met monthly to decide on production policy.
OPEC solidarity ‘dissolved’
The disarray comes after OPEC+ on Friday voted on a proposal to increase oil production by roughly 2 million barrels per day between August and the end of the year in 400,000 barrels per day monthly installments. It also proposed to extend the remaining output cuts to the end of 2022.
The plans were rejected by the UAE, however, which wants a higher baseline to its quota to allow for more domestic production.
“No agreement was reached and as we stand now the OPEC+ alliance, if it is still the right word to describe the group, will produce at the July level for the rest of the year,” Tamas Varga, oil analyst at PVM Oil Associates, said in a research note.
“The [non-] outcome of the meeting re-writes the supply-demand landscape for the near and potentially for the distant future,” he added.
The rare public stand-off between the UAE and Saudi Arabia saw energy ministers from both countries engaging in a media blitz over the weekend to outline their respective positions.
“For us, it wasn’t a good deal,” UAE Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Suhail Al Mazrouei told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Sunday. He added that while the country was willing to support a short-term increase in oil supply, it wants better terms through 2022.
Speaking to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television channel on Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman called for “compromise and rationality” in order to reach a deal on Monday, Reuters reported.
Separately, a White House spokesperson reportedly said on Monday that President Joe Biden’s administration was pushing for a “compromise solution.” The U.S. is not a member of OPEC (which stands for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) but it has been closely monitoring the latest round of talks given their potential impact on crude markets into next year.
Responding to the news that the OPEC+ meeting had been adjourned without a deal on Monday, John Kilduff, a founding partner at Again Capital, said: “The Opec solidarity dissolved today.”
“The pandemic held them together and now the post pandemic is breaking them apart. The UAE is sticking to their guns on wanting their baseline raised. They want to be able to produce more,” he told CNBC via email.
“Now the fun starts as to who breaks away,” Kilduff said, noting the UAE could be the “first domino” to fall.
OPEC was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC on Tuesday.
Oil prices climb to multi-year highs
The news pushed oil prices to their highest level in nearly three years. International benchmark Brent crude futures traded at $77.65 a barrel on Tuesday morning, up 0.6% for the session, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures stood at $76.62, around 2% higher.
Oil prices rallied more than 45% in the first half of the year, supported by the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, a gradual easing of lockdown measures and massive production cuts from OPEC+.
Samuel Burman, assistant commodities economist at Capital Economics, said OPEC producers were likely to increase oil production above quota next month as member states “seek to take advantage” of higher oil prices.
In addition to a rift between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, he said Abu Dhabi was probably “somewhat irritated” that Russia hadn’t been complying with OPEC’s production quotas.
Burman said non-OPEC leader Russia hadn’t introduced any compensatory cuts at all and was currently overproducing by around 100,000 barrels per day. “We think that this spat involving the UAE increases the chances that the entire agreement falls apart which would clearly pose a downside risk to our near-term price forecasts.”
— CNBC’s Patti Domm contributed to this report.
Weird Alibaba: An inflatable Chinese electric jet ski for $2,000 – What’s the catch?
As usual for entries in this Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week column, the fun EVs we dredge up tend to bridge the gap between fun-looking and palm sweat-inducing. Would you take a cheap inflatable electric jet ski out into the bay or off the coast? What if I told you that you had to build it yourself?
That appears to be the case here with this week’s find. It’s an inflatable vessel that is jet ski shaped, though I’m not sure it fulfills all of the requirements to become a jet ski – namely the water jet turbine.
In fact, there’s actually no motor at all. It seems to be just the 3.5 meter (11 ft) boat itself, but at least it comes with a convenient transom in back to mount your own motor.
And in our case, we can slap on an electric outboard to turn this thing into not just a bad idea on water, but a green bad idea on water.
If you really wanted to stay true to the advertising, you could actually get an electrically powered jet ski-style water turbine to add to this boat. Amazon can hook you up with an impressive offering that looks like it would require cutting an inlet hole in the bottom of the boat and an exit somewhere through the rear transom.
Short of building a true jet ski though, I think an overpowered trolling motor will probably suffice. The vendor for the motor linked above seems to propose that is equivalent to 10 hp, which sounds reasonable for a small watercraft like this.
Technically the motor is only rated at 2.2 kW, which is around 3 hp. But we generally find that small electric outboards offer performance of around 3x the rated power of combustion engine outboards due to their much higher torque. It may not rip as fast as the larger gas engine below, but then again maybe it will. Who knows until we find out ourselves?!
You’ll need a whopping 60V of battery for that awesome little electric outboard, which I’m hoping will fit either under the seat or under the “hood” of the jet ski.
I’d actually be pretty interested to get a look under that hood to see what’s going on with that steering wheel. Since the jet ski/inflatable boat seems to be set up for a transom-mounted trolling motor, I don’t know how they expect to tie in steering linkage to something like that.
But my past experience of buying electric boats on Alibaba has taught me to never discount the ingenuity of East Asian engineers building low-cost vehicles that will presumably hold the life of one or more people in their hands.
One thing is for sure: At around $2k, this will definitely be the cheapest new jet ski you could buy, electric or otherwise. Personal watercraft aren’t cheap, and the electric ones carry a significant premium.
But if you’re handy, don’t mind wiring up a motor and battery yourself, and also don’t mind a steering wheel for show while you twist around to control a tiller motor, then you just might wind up with one of the most unique vessels on your local lake or river.
And consider the ease of transport! You probably don’t even need a trailer like you would for a traditional jet ski. The entire thing weighs just 176 kg (388 lb), though the spec sheet also says it is made from fiberglass, so perhaps the data isn’t quite accurate. Either way, this inflatable vessel can’t weigh too much. And the fact that you can deflate it to fit in the back of a van or SUV is a big benefit too. Or you can just leave it inflated and probably fit it in a truck with the tail gate down. Not my mini-truck, but maybe your truck.
At $2,025 for this thing, it’s pretty darn cheap – though that’s before the cost of batteries and a motor. Don’t forget though that there’d be several thousand dollars in shipping costs, customs import charges, taxes, broker fees, etc. Also, don’t forget that you should absolutely not buy this thing. While I’ve picked up some cool and weird little EVs from Alibaba over the years, it’s never a good idea. The process is long and complicated, not to mention fraught with extra charges at every step of the way. And you never know if the company who just received your wire transfer is even going to deliver your product in the end, which is just another fun little stressor that comes with shopping on Alibaba. So please, don’t join the ranks of my foolish readers and risk your hard earned money on something weird like this.
But if you ignore my warnings and decide to go for it, be sure to let me know what happened! And maybe update your will before the maiden voyage.
Here are the best April Fool’s jokes from the e-bike industry this year
April Fool’s Day, celebrated annually on the first of April, is usually a light-hearted and mischievous occasion marked by good-natured pranks, hoaxes, and jokes. Large organizations often take part in hoodwinking others, creating an atmosphere of amusement and (hopefully) harmless trickery. Sure, it’s annoying when you fall for it. But it’s also humorous to see what companies can come up with next. E-bike companies and the larger micromobility industry often have fun getting in touch with their inner prankster (remember the pedal-powered popemobile?!), and this year was no exception. These are some of the fun and light-hearted new announcements from around the electric biking and micromobility world.
We’ll keep updating as we find more, and feel free to send me any you find today (contact info in my author blurb below the article).
Magnum’s human-powered bike
Here in the e-bike industry we are often so deeply focused on the latest batteries or the most innovative new motors that we can sometimes forget our roots. Magnum Bikes, a popular electric bike company, wants to make sure we all remember where we came from with the “launch” of its new human-powered electric bike.
Called the Navigator Infinite, Magnum says the bike can get over 100 miles (160 km) of range. I guess “infinite” truly is at least 100!
Muc-Off releases intimate lube
Muc-Off is a brand of bike cleaning products that is known for, among other things, its various bike lubricants.
I’ve tested the company’s bike cleaners as well as their dry and wet chain lube for different riding conditions.
But now the company is apparently branching out into another industry that is slightly more, err…. intimate.
With the release of personal lubricant for adult activities, Muc-Off wants to be there for you no matter what you’re riding.
Though perhaps the company put it best, explaining that they “worked long and hard to develop a deep penetrating lubricant that fills that sweet spot between smoothness and abrasion. With our bicycle lubes the target is to hit zero friction, but following round, after round, after round of internal tests, we found friction to be vital in achieving a satisfactory outcome.“
Well there you go.
Charge your electric car with pedal power
If you thought traditional fast chargers were just too darn slow, then FastNed says they have the solution. And it just so happens to be connected to your feet.
The company is touting its new 750 kW fast charger known as Bike Boost that is powered by pedaling. They claim it can fill your electric car’s battery in just 5 minutes.
That’s more than just a Wheaties breakfast… that must require eating an entire truck of Wheaties!
Radio Flyer’s new air travel
We’ve been more attracted to Radio Flyer’s electric bikes lately, but perhaps it’s time to rethink travel by wheel. Instead, Radio Flyer has announced a new air service known as Radio FlyAir.
It’s not just a Radio Flyer jet though. The entire airline seems to have gotten the red wagon treatment, complete with wagon luggage carriers and kids riding through the terminal.
The best e-bike April Fools prank of all time?
Try as they might, I’m not sure any company will top what I believe to be the best April Fools product launch of all time: The RadFit from Rad Power Bikes.
Just as electric bikes have revolutionized the bike industry, so too can they upend the stationary exercise bike industry. At least that’s what Rad suggested with its electric stationary bike.
I don’t want to butcher this one, so just watch the short video below for the full effect. I promise that it’s worth it.
Lead image credit: ETA
Scientists have found major storage capacity in water-based batteries
Texas A&M University scientists have been working with metal-free, water-based battery electrodes, and they’re finding that the difference in energy storage capacity is as much as 1,000%.
How the water-based batteries work
In the scientists’ paper, published in Nature Materials this week, the water-based, or aqueous, batteries consist of a cathode – the negatively charged electrode; an anode – the positively charged electrode; and an electrolyte, like traditional batteries. But in this water-based battery, the cathodes and anodes are polymers that can store energy, and the electrolyte is water mixed with organic salts.
The electrolyte transfers the ions – the charge-carrying particles – back and forth between the cathode and the anode, and the electrolyte is also key to energy storage through its interactions with the electrode.
Chemical engineering professor and co-author Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus asserts:
If an electrode swells too much during cycling, then it can’t conduct electrons very well, and you lose all the performance.
I believe there is a 1,000% difference in energy storage capacity, depending on the electrolyte choice because of swelling effects.
According to their paper, the electrodes – the “redox-active non-conjugated radical polymers” – are promising candidates for water-based batteries because of the polymers’ high discharge voltage and fast redox kinetics.
However, the researchers note in their paper’s abstract:
[L]ittle is known regarding the energy storage mechanism of these polymers in an aqueous environment. The reaction itself is complex and difficult to resolve because of the simultaneous transfer of electrons, ions, and water molecules.
The future of aqueous batteries
The researchers suggest that water-based batteries might be able to mitigate potential shortages of metals such as cobalt and lithium, as well as eliminate the potential for battery fires.
There would be no battery fires anymore because it’s water-based.
In the future, if materials shortages are projected, the price of lithium-ion batteries will go way up. If we have this alternative battery, we can turn to this chemistry, where the supply is much more stable because we can manufacture them here in the United States and materials to make them are here.
The researchers also conducted computational simulation and analysis, and they’ll carry out further simulations to better understand the theory.
Chemistry assistant professor and co-author Dr. Daniel Tabor said:
With this new energy storage technology, this is a push forward to lithium-free batteries. We have a better molecular level picture of what makes some battery electrodes work better than others, and this gives us strong evidence of where to go forward in materials design.
Read more: A Mars rover scientist is about to scale carbon-oxygen batteries
Photo: Texas A&M Engineering
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