27 November 2007

The Way I Are

I just CAN'T get this song out of my head!!!

She Will Survive

The unexpected staying power of Kylie Minogue
By Andre Mayer, CBCNews.ca
November 26, 2007

The challengers for the title of Queen of Pop are fervent but few. Céline Dion and Madonna have the strongest claims, given they’ve each sold in excess of 200 million albums. If ubiquity were the sole measure, I’d probably go with Beyoncé, who has an astonishing work ethic. Nelly Furtado has been surging of late, but I question her permanence.

Kylie Minogue’s name is rarely mentioned in such company, and it absolutely should be. The Australian-born singer has had a remarkable run, tallying no less than 29 Top 10 U.K. hits in a 20-year career. Her newest single, 2 Hearts, is a typical gem. Built on a swaggering glam-rock groove, it’s the potent leadoff to X, her 10th studio album.

You’d have little trouble arguing Minogue’s case for pop royalty in Britain, where she dominates the charts (as well as the tabloid press). She hasn’t been nearly as successful in the American market. I suspect it’s partly her Britishness, but also the uniqueness of her talent.

Let’s examine her competition. Beyoncé is a well-known double threat: she can sing and dance. Céline and Nelly can sing but can’t dance; Madonna and Britney can dance but can’t sing. Kylie… well, one could hardly say she’s got a gift for either. Her voice is genial in the lower ranges (her breathiness certainly enhances the effect); but it tends to become pinched, nasally, slightly ducky when she reaches for the high notes. Close watchers of her videos and performances will notice that she tends to downplay movement. It’s not that she’s stiff — Minogue is keenly aware of her wiles — but she’s nobody’s idea of a dancer.

Unequipped for Mariah-type outbursts, Minogue has put greater emphasis on actual songs. That’s no platitude — melody is a quality too often lacking in American pop, which has made a virtue of vocal excess. In fact, Minogue has made a virtue of consistency. Whether it’s mega-singles like On a Night Like This and Love at First Sight or her lesser-known album cuts, Minogue’s songbook is as strong as that of any current female pop star. For her new album, Minogue called on hot producers like Calvin Harris and Bloodshy & Avant, as well as her old songwriting partner, Cathy Dennis. From the shimmering In My Arms, to the sublime Stars to a freaky little romp called Nu-di-ty, X is another solidly tuneful collection; the fact that only two years ago Minogue had surgery for breast cancer makes it even more triumphant.

Given her early output, there was no reason to expect Minogue to last one decade, much less two. Her first release, The Loco-Motion, was a tacky dance-pop update of the 1962 hit by Little Eva. The 19-year-old Minogue sang it with winsome enthusiasm, but even in 1987, the thing seemed naff. Minogue spent her first half-decade under the stewardship of British hitmakers Stock Aitken & Waterman. She enjoyed chart success (I Should Be So Lucky, Especially for You, Better the Devil You Know), but by 1993 was finding SA&W’s style formulaic, if not restrictive.

Seeking to reinvent herself, Minogue co-wrote songs with an unlikely array of Commonwealth talent, from the Pet Shop Boys, to Saint Etienne to members of the rock band Manic Street Preachers. Like Madonna, Minogue was willing to stray from her comfort zone to keep things interesting. (Her most surprising collaborator was caustic Australian crooner Nick Cave, who was so taken by her 1990 hit Better the Devil You Know that he asked her to record the murder ballad Where the Wild Roses Grow in 1995.) After a spate of uneven material — including an awkward bash at guitar-based pop on the 1997 album Impossible Princess — Minogue found her métier. Starting with Light Years (2000) and culminating with Fever (2001), she produced a spate of hot singles in a style that could be best described as futuristic disco.

Then there’s her stage presence. Her shows mix elements of Broadway, burlesque and more general bombast; her flair for jaw-dropping spectacle exceeds even Madonna’s. Who could forget the 2002 Fever Tour, in which she emerged onstage in cybernetic armour? (Beyoncé stole this act at the 2007 BET Awards.) Or what about her performance at the 2002 British Music Awards, in which she hove into view lying on a giant compact disc?

Given Kylie’s highly sexualized persona, critics have good reason to believe she is more invested in style than substance. A member of the British band Lush once remarked, “It’s a shame she gets so much credibility when there are so many women worth a hundred times that. It’s war—you shouldn’t stick up for Kylie, she should be fought at every turn.”

Like most pop divas, Minogue has made a fetish of her image, but never at the expense of first-rate songs. She’s savvy in other ways, too. Shortly after the release of the single Can’t Get You Out of My Head in 2001, underground producers Soulwax remixed the tune with New Order’s throbbing 1982 hit Blue Monday. When it came time to perform the song at the Brit Awards in 2002, Minogue opted for the Soulwax version — Can’t Get Blue Monday Out of My Head — thus becoming the first pop star to legitimize mash-ups. (The Brit Awards appearance has been expunged from YouTube, but here’s Kylie having another go of it at the 2002 World Music Awards.)

Can’t Get You Out of My Head won her a new cohort of fans. The song was re-recorded by the Flaming Lips, sampled on Kid 606’s 2002 mash-up extravaganza The Action Packed Mentallist Brings You the F---ing Jams and has been covered live by everyone from Basement Jaxx to the Unicorns. Indeed, Kylie is one of the rare megastars to boast the unironic appreciation of the indie set; Madonna and Céline can only dream of that sort of reach. One can even hear echoes of Minogue’s future-disco in the work of artists like Goldfrapp and Róisín Murphy.

X isn’t risky enough to suggest a new direction — if anything, the album reveals Minogue’s own inspirations of late (most noticeably, the work of Gwen Stefani and Timbaland). But like every album she’s released in the last decade, X is a remarkably consistent collection, bound to galvanize dance floors the world over.

X is released by EMI Canada and is in stores now.

Andre Mayer writes about the arts for CBCNews.ca.

Ten indispensable Kylie tracks

Better the Devil You Know (1990): Although unabashedly upbeat, this single marked a shift in Minogue’s image, from jubilant teenybopper to provocateur.

Where the Wild Roses Grow (w/ Nick Cave) (1995): This dark, mournful collaboration with Nick Cave may be the biggest aberration in Minogue’s discography, but it’s also one of her finest recordings.

Cowboy Style (1998): The fiddles and Middle Eastern lilt sound weird at first, but the snaky melody brings it all into focus.

On a Night Like This (2000): An ecstatic club track, this is the starting point of Kylie’s current hit streak.

Spinning Around (2000): As dizzying as its name suggests.

Kids (w/ Robbie Williams) (2000): A smart-alecky duet with Robbie Williams, this song features an absolutely colossal chorus.

Can’t Get You Out of My Head (2001): Simply put, one of the finest disco songs ever recorded. And it’s damn sexy, too.

Love at First Sight (2002): Another indestructible dance-pop gem.

Slow (2003): A more restrained come-on, this robotic cut owes a debt to German synth pioneers Kraftwerk.

I Believe in You (2004): A throbbing, Giorgio Moroder-inspired disco joint co-written with Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters.

The new album, X, is very good. I was quite surprised. There is a big variation in sounds, themes and range and it keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The first single, 2 Hearts, didn't really catch me at first, but now I'm really starting to dig it! Yay for Kylie!

21 November 2007

Oh my god! He's insane!

I got a snicker out of this one. Can you say, 'obscure pop culture reference'?

I guess it could be applied to any artist from the 80s you still secretly have a crush on - but what would the general public do if they saw this sticker on your car? Either laugh at you or drive you off the highway, possibly? Unless they were Sheena Weenies too....

Ahh, good ol' eBay. A junk collector's nirvana.


Foundations of Canadian cities 'near collapse,' investment of $123B needed: report
Tue Nov 20, 5:59 PM

By Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Canada's aging roads, bridges and water systems are on the verge of "collapse" and in need of a $123-billion investment, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities warned Tuesday as it urged Ottawa to devise a new strategy to stave off infrastructure disaster.

The federal government countered by saying it has the necessary strategy in place and that "the time for discussion is over."

Canada has used up 79 per cent of the service life of its roads, sewage systems and other vital components of the country's backbone, and municipalities simply can't afford to fix the problem on their own, said federation president Gord Steeves.

Without significant federal funding, infrastructure could begin to fall apart across the country, he said.

"If we don't act soon as a nation to tackle this deficit we will see more catastrophic failures," Steeves said.

The report states that the breakdown of municipal infrastructure has reached "the breaking point" and "much of our municipal infrastructure is past its service life and near collapse."

As the federation was releasing its report in Ottawa, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario weighed in on the state of the province's bridges, warning $2 billion in repairs would be needed to ensure 40 per cent of the structures don't fall apart within the next five years.

Bridge safety became a serious public concern last October after five people died when a bridge collapsed in Laval, Que. Another 13 people lost their lives and 100 more were injured this past August when a highway bridge collapsed in Minnesota.

"We had a sense that (Ontario) bridges were generally deteriorating, we had a sense that municipalities were having more and more of a difficult time maintaining these structures, (but) what we got was an eye opener, I think it's a wake-up call," said Andy Manahan, the alliance's executive director.

"The report makes clear that inspections are not being enforced, that hundreds of these structures need rehabilitation, that there's no guarantee that our bridges are safe. So let's not wait for a disaster."

Steeves said the federal government must acknowledge that infrastructure is falling into disrepair nationwide and implement a national plan to fix it once and for all.

But federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Lawrence Cannon said the federation is misleading the public in suggesting that he hasn't already acted.

A new $33-billion, seven-year "Building Canada" plan will help fund infrastructure renewal in big cities and small towns and will address some of the priorities the federation is focusing on, including roads, bridge rehabilitation and safe drinking water, he said.

The federation can continue to debate how much money is truly needed to address all the country's infrastructure problems but the government has a plan and is moving forward to implement it, he added.

"The time for discussion is over, there's $33 billion available, it's going to carry us over the next seven years and we're up and ready to fund (infrastructure projects)," Cannon said in an interview.

"The debate is not what's the amount, the debate should be around what we're doing."

Liberal cities and communities critic Paul Zed said the Conservative plan is woefully inadequate to deal with the overall problem, and that even the people it's designed to serve have no idea how or when they'll get access to the funding.

"People don't know what the Building Canada fund is that the Conservatives have proposed," Zed said.

"It's clear to me that the current government doesn't appreciate the importance of this."

During Question Period in the House of Commons, New Democrat Leader Jack Layton said years of Liberal negligence created the infrastructure deficit but the Conservatives aren't doing enough to deal with it.

Governments will never have enough money to promptly fix or replace every structure in their jurisdictions, so they need to do a better job of closely monitoring which ones pose the biggest safety risks and address them as needed, said Dr. Ghani Razaqpur, the chair of civil engineering at McMaster University.

"It is not sufficient to just say we should just spend more money - that is important, we need the money to fix these things - but I don't think we have enough money to fix all the bridges that we think are in bad shape," Razaqpur said.

"I think we have to prioritize how to do the ones that are in the most urgent need and then do the second tier and so on."

The study team sent questionnaires to 166 municipal governments and got responses from 85. It used these replies to arrive at the $123-billion price tag.

The estimated $123-billion infrastructure deficit is divided into several categories: water and wastewater systems ($31 billion), transportation ($21.7 billion), transit ($22.8 billion), solid-waste management ($7.7 billion) and community, recreational, cultural and social infrastructure ($40.2 billion).

Why have our governments managed to stay solvent all of these years? Because they don't fix anything! Building new stuff exclusively is a great way to stay in the black....and popular. Now we're in a heap of trouble with a groaning, stretched infrastructure that probably won't last another ten years without huge re-investment. The solution? USER PAY! USER PAY!

07 November 2007

Tightening of the noose

Things are starting to look very, very dire. Even the IEA is starting to chirp about the repercussions of unrestrained demand growth. And then the supply side has plateaued, the profits aren't there anymore, and all the cheap low-hanging fruit is history. This is going to affect our societies in major ways, many of which can't even be predicted yet. And all of this is going to start becoming very visible in the next few years, even to those that refuse to believe it's happening.

Rise in global energy demands 'alarming,' IAE says

In an unusually grim and direct warning, the International Energy Agency has predicted that the “alarming” rise in energy demand will speed up climate change, threaten global energy security and possibly create a supply crunch that will send already high prices soaring. The agency urged governments to embrace low-carbon economies to avert a genuine energy and climate crisis. “Vigorous, immediate and collective policy action by all governments is essential to move the world onto a more sustainable energy path,” said the IEA's annual World Energy Outlook, a 675-page report, released this morning in London and Paris. “There has been so far more talk than action in most countries.” In an interview before the report's release, Fatih Birol, 49, the IEA's chief economist and principal author of the WEO, called the report “the most pessimistic overview of the world [energy markets] we have ever portrayed.” He said the agency's climate and energy security fears are based on unprecedented demand growth, driven by the burgeoning Chinese and Indian economies, and governments' inability to curb energy use and the output of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. “There was a lot of talk and a lot of targets, then peanuts happened,” he said.

The report barely mentions the Alberta oil sands, whose vast reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia's. The omission was no accident. In spite of their size, the IEA thinks the oil sands will amount to little more than a global rounding error as demand, now about 85 million barrels a day, rises to a predicted 116 million barrels by 2030. “By 2015, the oil sands should produce about three million barrels a day,” Birol said. “That will be only about 3 per cent of total oil production. The oil sands will not, unfortunately, change the game.” Birol admits the IEA underestimated China's and India's voracious appetite for oil and other forms of energy in previous reports. Driven by the two countries' energy demands, the IEA concludes that the world's overall energy needs will be “well over 50 per cent higher in 2030 than today.” Almost half of the demand growth will be driven by China and India. In the IEA's so-called reference scenario, which assumes governments will have underwhelming success in changing energy use patterns, combined oil imports of the two countries will climb from 5.4 million barrels a day in 2006 to 19.1 million in 2030. That's more than the combined imports of the US and Japan today. At existing trends, China will surpass the US to become the world's largest energy consumer after 2010. Oil demand for Chinese transportation use will quadruple between 2005 and 2030. The fleet of cars and trucks will rise sevenfold to 270 million vehicles. The Indian figures aren't far behind.

The rising demand for fossil fuels, including coal, the fuel that will see the biggest increase in use, will accelerate climate change, the IEA says. In its reference-case scenario, it predicts emissions will jump by an astounding 57% between 2005 and 2030, with China overtaking the US this year as the biggest emitter. Even in the more optimistic scenario, in which carbon reduction measures considered by governments today are put into force, emissions would rise by 27%. At the IEA's press conference in London this morning, executive director Nobuo Tanaka said “if governments don't change their policies, oil and gas imports, coal use and greenhouse gas emission are set to grow exponentially through 2030 … these trends could threaten energy security and accelerate climate change.” The IEA report concluded that: “Urgent action is needed if greenhouse gas concentrations are to be stabilized at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system.”
(Globe and Mail 071107)

Output points to peak in profits

Sagging crude output at the world's top oil companies is the latest indicator their profits may have peaked even as oil runs toward US$100 a barrel. Oil and gas production fell at all the largest publicly traded oil companies in the third quarter, as aging oilfields, production-sharing agreements and soaring costs and demand for drilling services took a toll on output. Profits at oil majors such as ExxonMobil and BP have also flattened or dropped despite the record oil prices. And their lower output will only push up international prices further as demand from the US and emerging economies outpaces new supply. "A lot of majors for years have been focused on returns and not about putting rigs to work," said Johnson Rice analyst Ken Carroll. "We're seeing the results." The big integrated oil companies reported third-quarter earnings that largely fell short of year-earlier levels due to much lower profits from gasoline production. Moreover, the companies' exploration and production businesses were not able to pick up the slack in the quarter, even with oil averaging about $75 a barrel in the quarter. Exxon, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP, Chevron, ENI and ConocoPhillips posted third-quarter output drops of between 2% and 11%.

Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips all attributed parts of their production declines to countries changing the terms of production agreements or to contracts that gave host countries a larger share of oil produced at the higher prices. Venezuela, Nigeria and Canada have all made moves to harness a greater share of oil revenue. Rising costs were also an issue. According to a Cambridge Energy Research Associates study released in May, oil and gas production costs were up nearly 80% since 2000 on demand for steel, drilling rigs and other production materials. BP chief financial officer Byron Grote estimated third-quarter costs were up 10 per cent from the year-earlier quarter and the head of Chevron's exploration and production operations acknowledged the company had shelved some projects due to the higher costs. High demand for materials has also forced the delays of some projects, like Chevron's Tahiti prospect in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The companies also have to contend with the natural decline rates of oil projects. Shell attributed its 9% drop to field decline, a factor BP also said hurt its output.
(Calgary Herald 071107)

Exploration and extraction equipment is in general very old and in very short supply. The majors are hesitant to build new equipment to send out to remote risky ventures because the ROIs are just going to continue heading into the negative territory which is the antithesis of what corporations today are looking for. There may be oil left out there to plunder, but it's getting to the point where it's not worth it anymore unless the price continues to increase to levels that will kill economies.

06 November 2007

Dirty Filthy

Am I the only one that notices an inverse relationship between the amount of smoke we blow up our asses about our marvellous growth and progress, and the perception that we seem to be moving backwards faster and faster by the day?

Cheap coal comes at a price

Now that the price of coal is at a historic low relative to oil, there's no stopping consumers and producers alike from embracing Al Gore's nightmare. A ton of US coal is so cheap at about US$47 that European utilities will pay $50 to ship it across the Atlantic, according to Galbraith's, a 263-year-old London shipbroker. While oil and coal cost the same as recently as 1998, West Texas Intermediate crude is five times more expensive. Peabody Energy, Consol Energy and Arch Coal, the three biggest US coal companies, forecast the largest increase in exports in 20 years, degrading the call for a moratorium on coal plants by former US vp and this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore. Coal use worldwide has grown 27% since 2002, three times faster than crude, said BP. US East Coast coal has risen 71%, while oil tripled on the New York Mercantile Exchange. "Coal is by far the cheapest fuel because there's no price on how much damage it causes," said John Holdren, a Harvard University professor of environmental science and director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, MA. "Unless you get policies to put a price on carbon dioxide and other emissions, no other plants can compete." US coal prices are equal to $1.98 for each million British thermal units of energy, compared with $12.51 for fuel oil and $6.91 for natural gas, data compiled by Bloomberg show. A million British thermal units is the equivalent of eight gallons of gasoline. "There is a huge advantage with coal, and this will continue indefinitely," said Gianfilippo Mancini, the head of fuel purchasing for Enel, Italy's largest power company, which is spending $5.8-billion to convert oil-fed plants to run on coal. US coal exports to Europe for the first nine months of this year were 11.4 million tons, up 15% from the same period
in 2006, according to the US Energy Department.

But what is the environmental price of coal? It generates 41% of the world's man-made carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for the warming of the Earth's climate, Gulf of Mexico hurricanes and rising sea levels. And the rush to produce and use more coal continues. Pittsburgh-based Consol will open its largest metallurgical coal mine by Jan. 1, with as much as five million tons of annual production available to overseas buyers. More than 1,000 coal-fed power plants will be built in the next five
years, mostly in China and India, according to the US Department of Energy. Meanwhile, new cleaner-burning technologies for coal, such as one that converts the fuel to a synthetic gas, have been delayed or rejected as too costly. However, there are some cracks appearing in the coal success story - financing new North American coal plants may become more difficult as environmental groups step up efforts against lenders including Citigroup and Bank of America. But the bigger environmental
battle is overseas where US coal exports have increased 37% this year and will continue to climb because of record global demand and a weaker dollar.
(National Post 071106)

02 November 2007

The World is surely at an End

Loonie high on fed cut

The Canadian dollar stormed through its August, 1957 peak of US$1.0614 yesterday to post a record high for the modern age as a cut in US interest rates prompted the slump in the greenback to dramatically accelerate. While the loonie got a lift from a scorching rally in Toronto stocks and a record high in oil prices, the slump in the greenback gave the Canadian currency additional jet fuel. It soared 93¢ to close at $1.0585 before hitting US$1.0617 after 4pm. That was the highest since the Bank of Canada began keeping records in 1950, while historical graphs show it has not been this lofty since the late 1870s. The US dollar also slumped to a record low against the euro of $1.4504, and to 76.465 on the dollar index, a basket of major currencies, amid signs it is now in free fall. "They're [the Fed] putting chum in the water for the sharks to eat the US dollar alive," said Andrew Busch, global foreign-exchange strategist at BMO Capital Markets. Of particular concern to traders was that the greenback failed to gain purchase despite a more hawkish statement than expected on interest rates from the Federal Reserve and data showing the economy expanded at a 3.9% pace in the third quarter. Although the Fed did cut rates 25 basis points to 4.5% yesterday, it gave investors no indication a still-creaking housing market would induce it to ease further and in fact played up the inflationary risks. "There's profoundly bearish sentiment out there that is going to take quite a bit to turn around," said Shaun Osborne, chief currency strategist at TD Securities. "I think there is risk here we continue to see the dollar running lower and maybe [see] even an acceleration in the trend here unless we see a firm statement of support from the US."

In its statement, the Fed said readings on core inflation have improved modestly this year, but recent increases in energy and commodity prices, among other factors, may put renewed upward pressure on inflation. "In this context, the committee judges that some inflation risks remain, and it will continue to monitor inflation developments carefully," the Fed said. It added the upside risks to inflation were now roughly balanced with the downside risk to growth. The statement effectively puts the Fed back in neutral after slashing rates 50 basis points in September to fend off contagion from the summer credit market meltdown. "Essentially, the impact of their statement was to say that ... they do not believe the deterioration in housing and poor credit market conditions will lead to a recession," said Hugh Johnson, chairman of Johnson Illington Advisors. "They also seem to imply they're not going to allow the financial markets to bully them ... they will make their future interest rate decisions on the basis of incoming economic and inflation numbers."
(National Post 071101)

Can anyone believe this? The dollar was over $1.07US at one point today. What the hell is going on? Aighhh!

Get used to US$100 oil, OPEC warns

Several leading oil experts, gathered in London yesterday for an annual energy conference, sketched a near-term future in which mounting global demand and shrinking supplies push oil prices well past the US$100-a-barrel mark. Consuming countries, they argued, will simply have to deal with the fact that new pockets of oil are getting far harder and more expense to tap. That, combined with years of underinvestment by the industry, has led to a tapering off of new oil supplies that will continue for years, despite rising energy demand in Asia, the Middle East and some industrialized countries. Yet on a day when US benchmark oil prices retreated from Monday's record high, closing down US$3.15 a barrel, or 3.4%, to $90.38 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, two OPEC ministers at the same gathering insisted that the immediate problem is not too little oil. Prices have jumped nearly 40% since early this summer, the oil ministers of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates said, because of the slumping dollar, widespread Wall Street speculation and bottlenecks in the refining process. "Please don't blame us" for record oil prices, said Abdullah al-Attiyah, Qatar's minister of oil, expressing a sentiment that is widely held among major oil-producing countries. "You have blamed us for 50 years."

The debate over what is driving the current surge in oil prices is sure to get more spirited if prices continue to soar and oil executives, consumers and politicians seek to assign blame. But the feuding theories at this year's Oil & Money conference also show how hard it is to pinpoint a cause. Sadad Al-Husseini, an oil consultant and former executive at Aramco, Saudi Arabia's huge national oil company, gave a particularly chilling assessment of the world's oil outlook. The major oil-producing nations, he said, are inflating their oil reserves by as much as 300 billion barrels. These amount to hypothetical reserves that are "not delineated, not accessible and not available for production." A lot of production in the Middle East is from mature reservoirs, and the giant fields of the Persian Gulf region, he said, are 41% depleted. Global oil and gas capacity is constrained by mature reservoirs and is facing a "15-year production plateau," Husseini said. He predicted that supply shortages will continue to add $12 to the price of oil for every million barrels a day in additional demand. Global demand, now at some 85 million barrels a day, was on average 10 million barrels a day lower in 1999.

Nobuo Tanaka, the new executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, which is funded by the world's leading industrialized consumer nations, said he sees little likelihood that the world's spare capacity for oil production will increase notably in the near future, partly because so many oil-rich countries continue to shun outside investors. IEA analysts insist that a sufficient resource base exists to supply demand through 2030, but Tanaka said he isn't confident there will be enough investment, skilled workers and technology to actually get to that oil "in a timely manner." Andrew Gould, the chairman and ceo of Schlumberger, the huge oil-services company, expressed similar concerns, noting that 70% of the oil fields that now quench world demand are more than 30 years old. The growth in global demand since 2003, he said, has been roughly the equivalent of the daily output from two of the world's larger suppliers: the North Sea and Mexico. "Our industry simply cannot cope with these kinds of increases," Gould told the assembly. OPEC countries now supply about 40% of world production. But that slice is expected to grow in coming years as output decreases in non-OPEC countries such as Mexico and Russia. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest single supplier, is looking to increase production
substantially into the next decade.

But with oil prices now flirting with $100 a barrel, OPEC officials have been aggressive in batting aside talk that they are to blame. "The market is increasingly driven by forces beyond OPEC's control, by geopolitical events and the growing influence of financial investors," said Mohammed bin Dhaen al-Hamli, the United Arab Emirates' oil minister, who also serves as OPEC's president. Hamli noted that prices are still "far below" the all-time inflation-adjusted high of $101 a barrel, set in the spring of 1980 after the 1979 Iranian revolution shocked oil markets. His Qatari counterpart, al Attiyah, pointed out that gold prices have been also skyrocketing. "Why are people concentrating on oil and closing their eyes on gold?" he asked, adding later that he is "fed up" with people blaming OPEC for fluctuations in oil prices. Both ministers said the cartel will not formally consider whether to increase supplies to the world market during a heads-of-state meeting in Saudi Arabia next month. The group agreed last month to add about 500,000 barrels a day to world production, effective Nov. 1.
(Globe and Mail 071031)