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Using satellite data to gauge terrorist incomes

Quy-Toan Do's picture

The growing availability of satellite imagery and analysis means that all kinds of things we used to think were hard to quantify, especially in conflict zones, can now be measured systematically.
 
For example, estimating ISIS oil production. Soon after it proclaimed itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (a.k.a. ISIL/ISIS, the Islamic State, or Daesh, its Arabic acronym), the group was quickly branded the richest terrorist organization in history and oil was believed to be its major revenue source. A typical headline in Foreign Policy proclaimed “The Islamic State is the Newest Petrostate.”

Energy prices rose almost 3 percent in April: Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture

Energy commodity prices rose 2.7 percent in April as the crude oil average rose 2.5 percent, according to the World Bank’s Pink Sheet.

Non-energy prices declined 2.4 percent as agriculture fell 1.4 percent, food and beverages prices dipped by 2.1 percent and 1 percent, respectively, and raw materials rose 0.3 percent. Fertilizer prices declined 6 percent.

Metals and minerals prices slid 4.3 percent, led by an almost 20 percent tumble in iron ore. Precious metals eased 2.7 percent.

The Pink Sheet is a monthly report that monitors commodity price movements.

Energy, metals commodity prices seen strengthening

John Baffes's picture

Prices for most industrial commodities, notably energy and metals, are projected to rise in 2017 while agricultural prices are expected to remain stable, the World Bank says in its April 2017 Commodity Markets Outlook.

Closely watched crude oil prices are forecast to rise to an average of $55 per barrel (bbl) over 2017 from $43/bbl in 2016, climbing to $60/bbl next year. The forecast is unchanged since October and reflects the balancing effects of production cuts agreed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers on one side and a faster-than-expected rebound in the U.S. shale oil industry on the other. World oil demand is growing strongly, although at a slower pace than the 2015 spike triggered by lower oil prices.

Cash for peace? How sharing natural resource revenues can prevent conflicts

Tito Cordella's picture

Some countries are blessed with natural resources, others are cursed. It’s been said that all the blessed ones are alike, they put the resources to good use, improving the people’s welfare in a sustainable manner. And for the cursed? More often than not, they struggle with political violence, especially when ethnic or religious fragmentation and weak institutions are a concern. Not surprisingly, it was Venezuela’s former Development Minister and OPEC Founder Perez Alfonso who christened oil the “Devil’s excrement.” 

If natural resources could be the source of such evil, are there ways of “exorcising” them? Perhaps policymakers could try to prevent or resolve resource-related conflicts by sharing natural resource wealth with opposition groups or directly with the people. Would such a counter spell work?

OPEC’S grip on oil prices may be slipping: A historical perspective

John Baffes's picture

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) unsettled oil markets in September when it announced it would resume placing limits on oil production among its members, effectively reversing two years of unrestrained production.

But how much control can OPEC really exert over prices? History suggests that formal agreements to influence the price of a particular commodity eventually fall apart. OPEC’s own history also shows that the short term benefits of managing supplies become long term liabilities. In addition, the oil producing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years with the advent of nonconventional producers, notably the U.S. shale oil industry. These factors will test the oil exporting organization’s power to influence markets.

Gasoline and Other Fossil Fuel Taxes: Why Are They Not Used?

Jon Strand's picture

When I moved from Norway to Washington with my family almost seven years ago, I went from paying more than $8 per gallon for gasoline in Oslo, to around $3 per gallon in the U.S. Our house is close to a bus stop for getting to the Metro, but the bus service is unreliable.  Here is a first-hand illustration of how the price of gasoline affects people’s behavior.  It is inexpensive to drive, so relatively few people are strongly dependent on bus service; with limited ridership there is less call for more reliable bus service and less money available to provide it.  Where it is more expensive to drive, there is greater demand for higher-quality service and lower demand for more fuel-intensive cars.  And fewer people want to live far away from their jobs or schools, or in very large dwellings that are costly to heat and cool.  Our work in energy and environmental economics confirms how economically sound energy pricing is crucial for inducing more efficient behavior.