News / Africa

Oil Said to Be Key to Libyan Rebels' Fortunes

The Zawiya Oil Refinery, west of Tripoli, Libya (File)
The Zawiya Oil Refinery, west of Tripoli, Libya (File)

As Libya's rebels and pro-government forces fight over cities and the country's political future, oil too is a key prize in the conflict, and some argue, a motive for outside intervention.   

A man pumping gas near Tobruk, in eastern Libya, says people everywhere in the world are interested in oil.  But he argues it should be shared, that there is no reason to fight over it.

Libya actually makes up but a tiny fraction of the world oil market, and despite soaring energy costs, energy analysts say the rebellion did nothing to supplies that couldn't have been replaced by other oil producers.  

Charles Gurdon, director of the risk analysis firm Menas, says he believes the outside intervention in Libya's conflict was motivated by a genuinely humanitarian effort.  That said, he notes there is a specific, regional interest in Libyan oil.

"I think the major issue really is Libya's importance to the markets of southern Europe.  It produces red, light sweet and expensive crude for the Italian, French and Spanish markets.  And obviously, being on the right side of the Suez Canal gives it distinctive advantages," Gurdon said.

Italy and France, of course, have been driving players, along with Britain and the United States, in the military campaign in Libya, begun after the U.N. Security Council authorized measures to protect Libyan civilians from their own government.  

So, too, has Qatar, which has been helping rebels in the east sell their oil to the world.   

But there is another, more unusual buyer - Beijing. China, along with Russia, has been wary of the democracy-seeking, anti-government wave washing over the Arab world.  And both countries have been critical of what they see as Western powers overstepping the U.N. mandate.  But business, apparently, is a separate matter.

"We understand that both Chinese and Italians have been in Tobruk with suitcases full of money buying crude oil. I think the [Gadhafi] regime is trying to prevent oil reaching Tobruk because obviously oil is the only source of revenue the opposition has," Gurdon stated.

Libya's rebel-held east is home to many of the nation's oil fields, refineries and terminals. While the rebel government has been able to get some oil out, the head of its oil ministry says for now, shipments are on hold.  

An adviser to the Agoco, a state oil subsidiary now in rebel hands, says the main problem is damage from attacks by government forces on oil fields and a refinery south of Tobruk, as well as the refinery and terminal at Brega. Youssef Rahim Sharif says once the situation is more secure, Libyans in the east can get the oil flowing.  

"We have lots of Libyans with expertise in the oil industry.  We have engineers.  We have administrators.  We have technicians,” Sharif said. “We have all the technical staff - all Libyans who will be able to run the oil industry and run it [well]."

Sharif also promised a break with the practices of the government of Moammar Gadhafi, which is believed to be riddled with corruption.  The issue of transparency is important enough for Human Rights Watch to call on the rebels - and Qatar - to make sure the sale of national assets are all accounted for and abide by international standards.  

The Libyan government has promised preferential treatment to those who support its cause.  On the rebel side, Sharif, too, indicates there is room for favoritism.

"The free Libya in the future will be willing to cooperate with all the international firms, especially the countries who supported our revolution and stood with us in these days - I mean the hard days.  And these will be the ones who will be given the first benefits to be our partners in rebuilding Libya in the best way," Sharif explained.

Resumption of those sales will likely be the main way the rebel government can maintain its military campaign as well as keep the east running.    

But is it legal?  Agoco, despite being run by the rebels, is still part of a state enterprise and as such is arguably under U.N., U.S. and European sanctions.    

"I think as far as the legal implications are concerned, I think it's a very gray area.  But for the moment, I think the United Nations is turning a blind eye to the sale of crude by both sides," Gurdon said.

The United Nations, which became mired in scandal monitoring the sale of oil from Iraq in the 1990s, appears to have no interest in getting involved in such issues in Libya.

The matter is not of pressing concern to Colonel Gadhafi, who political observers believe has access to billions of dollars in cash.

But for the rebels, how soon they can get more oil to market, and whether legalities continue to be overlooked, may determine if they succeed.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs