US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and other energy advisors met in Brussels on Wednesday for an energy summit.
“Developments in Ukraine have brought energy security concerns to the fore and prove the need to reinforce energy security in Europe,” the summit statement said.
Ukraine is the main transit route for Europe-bound Russian gas exports - about a third of Europe’s gas passes through the country - and is therefore crucial to energy stability.
Russia has invested billions into European gas networks and has partnerships with German, Italian, and French utilities. Italy’s Eni, France’s EDF, and Germany’s Wintershall are all partners in Gazprom’s $45 billion South Stream project, and additionally to another pipeline that bypasses Ukraine to deliver gas to Europe.
The council said energy ties with Russia “must be based on reciprocity, transparency, fairness, non-discrimination, openness to competition and continued cooperation to ensure a level playing field for the safe and secure supply of energy.”
The strategy of "leveling the playing field" will include expanding the Southern Gas Corridor, which stretches from Azerbaijan to Turkey to Europe, and has the potential to meet 20 percent of EU gas demand.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller met with Guenther Oettinger, the EU’s energy commissioner, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, and discussed German-Russian energy cooperation.
On Thursday, the head of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-owned gas company, will hold talks in Moscow with energy ministers.Towards energy independence
Ukraine imports nearly 50 percent of its natural gas from Russia, a country it now finds itself at diplomatic ends with, as it moves towards EU integration. Though the country’s 2020 goal of complete “full gas sufficiency" seems far off, the US and EU are prepared to help, at least, with diversification.
The US-EU Energy Commissions said Ukraine can move away from Russian gas by increasing gas storage capacity, reverse flow of gas, and working with the International Monetary Fund to become an competitive energy economy.
Increasing the number of storage facilities or increasing the capacity of existing sites could be a capital heavy task that Ukraine’s economy is not ready to tackle alone. However, if parts of Ukraine’s energy sector are privatized, investment in storage facilities is viable.
Reverse-flow, or getting European countries like Slovakia, Poland, Hungary or Germany, to begin sending gas to Ukraine, is another option.
"We expect that Naftogaz can be get 20 billion cubic meters of gas from reverse flow. Its price is lower than the Russian, and now averages $ 350 per 1 thousand cubic meters, " he said.
Helping Ukraine develop its vast shale reserves, believed to be the third largest in Europe, will also be priority of the US-EU commission.
Before the Maidan protests broke out in November, Kiev secured a $10 billion deal with Chevron to explore shale fields in western Ukraine.
Much of Europe hopes to emulate the US shale boom, which has brought energy independence.
Another option is turning to nuclear energy, as Ukraine is home to Europe’s largest nuclear plant, Zaporizhzhia in southeast Ukraine.
Russia still has a strong hold on gas pipelines and fields in Ukraine, and Gazprom, Russia’s largest state-owned gas producer, has $1.7 billion of debt leverage over Ukraine, which hasn’t paid its gas bills since 2013.
Rising debt caused Gazprom to raise prices for the second quarter of 2014 by 44 percent to $385.50 per thousand cubic meters, a $117 increase.
Microsoft is updating Windows 8.1 to make it a bit easier to use for people using a notebook or desktop with a mouse and keyboard. While the last few versions of Windows have been designed explicitly to make the operating system more touchscreen-friendly, Microsoft has been a bit criticized for changing the user interface so […]
Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, introduced HR 4291, the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act (.pdf), to end the collection of all Americans' calling records using Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Both have vehemently defended the program since June, and it's reassuring to see two of the strongest proponents of NSA's actions agreeing with privacy advocates' (and the larger public's) demands to end the program. The bill only needs 17 lines to stop the calling records program, but it weighs in at more than 40 pages. Why? Because the “reform” bill tries to create an entirely new government "authority" to collect other electronic data.
Collecting All Americans' Calling Records Is So 2012
The bill only ends the government collection of all Americans' calling records using Section 215 of the Patriot Act—a good, albeit very small, first step. It also tries to prohibit the mass collection of other records like firearm sales and tax records. Unfortunately, it may still allow the government to argue for such collection as long as the NSA uses a "specific identifier or selection term." In short: we might see the government still try to search these records and other records like library, book, and gun records. The bill leaves almost all of Section 215 as-is; the sole fix being that the section would no longer apply to calling records. The bill also stays mum on the NSA's ability to mass spy on financial records, credit card records, or other purchasing records using Section 215.
Collecting All Americans' Internet Records Is the Future
The next twenty pages of the bill create a process where the government sends orders directed at electronic communication service providers for the collection of "records created as a result of communications of an individual or facility."
The words simply switch out one form of unconstitutional mass collection for another. And this latter version is even scarier than the mass collection of Americans' calling records. A "facility" could include an entire Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Comcast, or company like "Google." And the bill's use of "electronic communication" doesn't use the definition found in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), but the one found in criminal law, which includes any transfer of data like uploaded documents to the cloud, calendar entries, or address book entries. Under the bill, the government might try to argue that the order can collect any type of record created as the result of any "electronic communication" as long as the communication is of an agent of a foreign power or someone in contact with the agent or foreign power. This is an incredibly broad standard.
What's worse is that the order doesn't need prior judicial approval of who is targeted, where the information is supposed to be collected, and why the government is searching for the information. The new order could collect the content of the communication or US personal information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, names, or addresses. That's because the order must only be "reasonably designed" to not acquire such information. There is no mandate in the bill banning such collection or deleting such information upon collection.
The new order' has "civil liberties and privacy protection procedures," written by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence. But don't let the name fool you. The procedures only have to "reasonably limit" the collection, retention, or searching of records not useful for foreign intelligence information. It's too bad that "foreign intelligence information" is essentially defined in FISA to mean "everything." The procedures are reviewed every year by the FISA Court, and once accepted, the government sends out orders to companies for records without any additional judicial approval.
The above procedures to minimize certain information ("minimization procedures") take after ones found in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act, which is used to unconstitutionally mass collect innocent users' phone calls and emails. Unfortunately, the procedures in Section 702 fail at even nominally protecting innocent users communications. Section 702 requires the procedures to be "reasonably designed" to exclude wholly domestic American communications. Despite the fact that the FISA Court found the NSA collecting tens of thousands of such emails, the Court thought NSA's targeting procedures were still "reasonable." We also know that the procedures fail time after time and are designed to retain and search the very communications the NSA isn't supposed to be retaining and searching. Both are good reasons to think such procedures won't work for the bill's newly devised order. We won't even know how much they fail (or succeed) because the procedures are filed in secret and stamped classified. Keeping the law secret worked out well in the past, so it should work out well in the future, right?
The bill is what's expected from the House Intelligence Committee. The committee was created to oversee the intelligence community, but it has been coopted for quite some time. Though it stops the mass collection of all Americans' calling records, the bill's creation of a new order to conduct unconstitutional mass spying on any record created by a communication is disturbing. And it's a bill that will surely fail to pass Congress when real reform bills that would stop all uses of Section 215 to conduct mass spying, like the USA Freedom Act, are already on the table. Tell Congress now to support NSA reform that will stop every government use of Section 215 to mass spy on innocent users.Related Issues: National Security LettersNSA SpyingSecurity
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Please enjoy Mr. Hamiham's cooking show! I like the looks of these sandwiches that he prepared for last year's Persian festival of Sizdahbedar, and his celebratory dances between recipes. If you're impatient, fast forward to 1:46 or so. Don't miss the Sizdahbedar 2014 episode as well! (Thanks, UPSO!)
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