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A New Oil Crisis Is Developing In The Middle East

A New Oil Crisis Is Developing In The Middle East

oil

After over 40 years in the energy business, more than two decades of that with a parallel career in intelligence, I regularly witness the impact of global developments on the energy markets.

So it’s hardly surprising that I often address geopolitical events here.

Currently, situations in Latin America (Venezuela), Asia (the South China Sea crisis), and Africa (ongoing civil conflict in Libya and Nigeria) show how widespread the geopolitical impact is on energy prices and availability.

Each one either is, or could easily, spike oil price volatility.

But the instability in a different region remains the biggest single factor in how the two sectors interact…

The Middle East.

There, two significant events unfolded over the past week. Each is certain to have an impact on how crude oil trades in the near-term.

The curious de-certification of JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more popularly known as the “Iranian nuclear accord”), by President Trump, was followed in short order by the ominous hostilities between Iraq and Kurdistan over the status of the city and region of Kirkuk.

Both impact the northern Persian Gulf, already a region with a short fuse.

The toppling of Raqqa, the self-styled ISIS capital, may be underway in Syria, but the ongoing cross-border disagreements have already spread elsewhere.

And they could set the whole region on fire…

Sanctions Don’t Work Very Well

First, take the Iranian nuclear deal. Decertifying it was a curious choice by the White House, as it actually accomplishes very little.

The move kicks the can back to Congress, where the legislative branch has 60 days to decide whether the U.S. remains in the accord.

What it does do, of course, is increase volatility.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Half A Million Bpd At Risk From Geopolitical Firestorm

Half A Million Bpd At Risk From Geopolitical Firestorm

Oil

It’s been a long time since geopolitical developments caused major movements in the oil price, but the escalating tension between the U.S. and Iran, combined with the sudden military clashes in Iraq, has pushed geopolitical risk back on to the agenda for the oil market.

“Geopolitical risks to the oil market have continued to intensify,” Goldman Sachs wrote in an October 17 research note. In addition to Iraq and Iran, the decline in Venezuela’s oil production “appears to be accelerating,” while the resurgence in output from Libya and Nigeria continues to be fragile. “There remains high uncertainty on the potential impact of these new tensions on the oil market.”

But it’s Iraq and Iran that have really raised fears of outages. As of October 17, preliminary reports suggest that about 350,000 bpd of oil production from the Kirkuk oil fields were disrupted, with conflicting reports about whether or not that output has come back online. Iraqi officials said that the interruptions would be temporary and short-lived, and the Kurdish government insisted that it wouldn’t block exports through its pipeline system.

It’s in the interest of both sides to keep the oil flowing, but there’s still a risk of miscalculation and escalating conflict. The problem for Baghdad is that the oil must continue to flow through Kurdish pipelines, as the Iraqi government’s preferred pipeline system is damaged and needs repair. That means that both sides need to agree to some sort of revenue sharing arrangement, but that’s been an intractable issue in the past.

Unlike Iraq, Iran presents very little near-term risk. Instead, it will take time to see the response from Washington. If the U.S. reimposes sanctions, “several hundred thousand barrels of Iranian exports would be immediately at risk.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada Aims To Solve U.S. Nuclear Woes

Canada Aims To Solve U.S. Nuclear Woes

Hydro

Canada believes it may have the answer to replacing some U.S. nuclear capacity with other forms of carbon-free energy.

When New York state and Massachusetts retire three nuclear reactors between 2019 and 2021, the two states will lose a combined 2.7 gigawatts of carbon-free power. Both states want to replace that capacity with other forms of clean energy, in line with their ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the share of renewables in their energy mix.

Some thousand miles north, Hydro-Quebec, owned by the Quebec government, is struggling with stagnate demand at home, and as it expands its hydropower generation capacity, the company seeks to sell power to New York and Massachusetts.

Hydro-Quebec faces strong competition from wind and solar proposals in the two U.S. states. In addition, hydropower is a reliable baseload option, but environmentalists say it is destructive to rivers and to river and nearby forest habitats.

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., is planned to cease operations on May 31, 2019, while the two operating units at the Indian Point Energy Center will close in 2020-2021, with the decision driven by sustained low wholesale energy prices.

The closing of the three reactors would mean that NY and Massachusetts will lose a total of 2.7 gigawatts of carbon-free power.

This year, both NY state and Massachusetts issued requests for proposals for clean energy projects. Massachusetts seeks renewable energy generation and renewable energy credits (RECs) of 9,450,000 MWh annually and seeks proposals for long-term contracts of 15–20 years to provide the distribution companies with clean energy generation. The state has received more than 40 bids, including proposals from Hydro-Quebec-led developments. Hydro-Quebec says it is proposing six options —either 100-percent hydropower or a hydro-wind supply blend — offered over one of three proposed new transmission lines.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

China Takes Aim At The Petrodollar

China Takes Aim At The Petrodollar

Dollar

China continues to pursue its ambitious plan to make its currency—the yuan—more international.

The world’s top crude oil importer and key oil demand growth driver is now determined to get as many oil exporters as possible on board with accepting yuan payments for their oil.

China is now trying to persuade OPEC’s kingpin and biggest exporter, Saudi Arabia, to start accepting yuan for its crude oil. If the Chinese succeed, other oil exporters could follow suit and abandon the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Pulling oil trade out of U.S. dollars would lead to decreased demand for U.S. securities across the board, Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High Frequency Economics, tells CNBC. Weinberg believes that the Chinese will “compel” the Saudis to accept to trade oil in yuan.

Other analysts warn that the true test of China’s push for a yuan oil trade will be if the Saudis are willing to risk the anger of the U.S. by accepting yuan payments.

The other option isn’t much better for the Saudis—if they continue to resist trading in yuan, they risk losing further market share of the world’s top crude oil importer and possibly the snub of Chinese investors for the much-hyped IPO of Saudi Aramco next year. Chinese sovereign wealth funds and major state companies have deeper pockets than major institutional investors in the West. For China, an Aramco investment could increase Beijing’s bargaining power to convince Aramco to accept yuan payments. Although there’s no indication yet that Aramco would want yuan for its oil, the Saudis say they’re willing to consider issuing yuan-denominated bonds, in what could be a break from the practice to issue debt only in U.S. dollars.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada’s Pipeline Industry Takes Another Hit

Canada’s Pipeline Industry Takes Another Hit

pipeline

Another oil pipeline in Canada bites the dust. TransCanada announced last week that it would scrap its plans to build a 2,800-mile major pipeline that would traverse nearly the entire country, closing off a crucial potential export route for Canada’s oil sands.

The $15 billion Energy East pipeline would have carried 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta to Canada’s eastern coast for refining and export. It faced significant opposition from communities affected along the pipeline’s route, but TransCanada had been confident that it could overcome those hurdles.

More recently, however, top Canadian regulators decided that the pipeline would need to face an assessment of the project’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, a review that TransCanada fiercely opposed. Ultimately, it appears that the Canadian pipeline company shelved the project in light of the heightened environmental scrutiny.

Canada’s pipeline industry cried foul, blaming the government for regulatory uncertainty. “The common thread here is that Canada generally has displayed an unwelcoming policy environment and an uncertain approval process,” Explorers and Producers Association of Canada president Gary Leach, told the Financial Post, citing other billion-dollar projects that have been cancelled in the past year. “For Canada, I think this is a blow. We are deluding ourselves if we think Canada is a place with a stable, predictable investment climate.”

The lack of pipeline capacity is why so much onus has been put on Keystone XL, a pipeline that has been in limbo for the better part of a decade.

But the problem for TransCanada is that Energy East was always going to be a heavier lift than other projects. While some blame regulators for the death of Energy East, others see changing market conditions behind TransCanada’s decision to pull the plug. The project ran into trouble when oil prices cratered in 2014. Also, even with Keystone XL blocked, there are other projects that are more attractive than Energy East.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil Prices Spike On Middle East Tensions

Oil Prices Spike On Middle East Tensions

Oil

Oil prices rose on Friday on bullish data from China showing an uptick in oil imports by 1 million barrels per day in September, from a month earlier. On top of that, anxiety over President Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, plus simmering tension in Iraq likely added a bit of upward pressure on crude prices. WTI and Brent gained more than 2 percent in early trading on Friday.

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Friday, October 13th, 2017

Trump to decertify Iran deal. President Trump has confirmed his plan to decertify the Iran nuclear deal on Friday, a move that could ratchet up tensions between the two nations. However, he will stop short of calling for new sanctions. Instead, he will ask the U.S. Congress to hold off until the administration tries a new strategy to tighten the screws on Tehran. Iran promised a “crushing” response if the U.S. declared the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. As of now, the ramifications for the oil market are unclear, but probably not that significant in the near-term. The key European nations party to the agreement are still supporting the original deal.

Troops mobilize in Iraq. Kurdish authorities have sent thousands of troops to the key oil region of Kirkuk to defend the region, after the Iraqi government mobilized troops and tanks south of the city. The military movements raised concerns of a possible clash between the central government in Baghdad and Kurdish forces, a development that some fear could lead to civil war. Related: Kurdistan Accuses Baghdad Of Planning Oil Field Seizure

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

OPEC To Take Drastic Action Despite Shale Slowdown

OPEC To Take Drastic Action Despite Shale SlowdownOil

WTI recently dipped below $50 per barrel for the first time in a month, erasing the strong September rally. It’s no coincidence that after two weeks of price declines, OPEC has tried to talk up the oil market again, hinting that more drastic action could be forthcoming.

Echoing the world’s top central bankers, OPEC’s Secretary General said that the oil cartel might need to take “extraordinary” measures to balance the oil market next year. “There is a growing consensus that, number one, the re-balancing process is underway,” OPEC’s Mohammad Barkindo told reporters on Sunday in New Delhi. “Number two, to sustain this into next year, some extraordinary measures may have to be taken in order to restore this stability on a sustainable basis going forward.”

As always, OPEC is vague on the specifics, but the working assumption is that the group will agree to an extension of the cuts until at least mid-2018, or perhaps even as late as through the end of the year. There’s been some discussion about deeper production cuts, but there aren’t a ton of analysts who see OPEC going that far, despite Barkindo’s cryptic language.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia engaged in a bit of its own psy-ops with the oil market on Monday, saying that it was taking “unprecedented” steps to cut its oil exports. Saudi Aramco said it would lower exports by 560,000 bpd next month, “the deepest customer allocation cuts in its history.”

The comments are consistent with the country’s longstanding pattern of trying to jawbone the market when it wants higher prices. Based on Monday’s activity, the effort didn’t work. “The fact that we did not get any significant strength from the Saudi news is rather disheartening for the bulls,” Stephen Schork, an analyst and author of the Schork Report, told the WSJ. “The market is very skeptical of this.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World’s No.1 Oil Trader: U.S. To See Final Oil Output Spike In 2018

World’s No.1 Oil Trader: U.S. To See Final Oil Output Spike In 2018

Oil

The best is yet to come for US oil production—but it will be a short-lived hurrah, according to Ian Taylor, head of oil trading giant Vitol.

US oil production has steadily increased throughout 2017 as US drillers regained their footing after the oil price crash. What started out at 8.946 million bpd of crude oil production in the first week of January has now reached an average of 9.561 million bpd as of September 29, according to the EIA.

The EIA is expecting US oil production to reach 9.8 million bpd in 2018, according to the latest Short Term Energy Outlook.

US crude oil exports, too, have taken the world by storm, particularly over the last couple of weeks, as traders seize an opportunity created by the extra wide spread between WTI and Brent, which as of the latter part of September, reached $7 per barrel, according to data provided by S&P Global Platts.

These US exports are now flooding the global market—a global market that is still oil-heavy as OPEC members—well, most OPEC members—continue to dutifully curb oil production to alleviate the overhang. That overhang is smaller today than it was in December 2016—in fact, 130 million barrels smaller, according to OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo, but is still 171 million barrels too heavy as of August.

Still, Vitol feels that the current U.S. crude oil production growth is unsustainable beyond 2018.

Vitol is anticipating an increase in US crude production of 0.5 to 0.6 million bpd in 2018, at which point the increase in production would cause cost inflation, rendering at least some of today’s current production projects unprofitable. And according to Vitol, some are barely profitable as it is.

“If you look at the economics on most of the big Permian players, not many of them make a lot of money,” Taylor said, speaking to Reuters.

For now, Vitol is expecting “boringly rangebound” prices, but eventually, the expected slowdown in production, along with “robust” demand growth, will inevitably push up prices past that stubborn $50-$60 level.

Russia And China Continue To Boost Oil Ties

Russia And China Continue To Boost Oil Ties

Oil

Even before the OPEC/non-OPEC production cuts took effect in January 2017, Russia had already beaten Saudi Arabia to become China’s single largest oil supplier for 2016. Since then, Saudi Arabia has sacrificed still more of its market share in the prized Chinese market, while Russia has dominated Beijing’s top suppliers’ list for most of this year.

Now Russia’s oil giant, Rosneft—whose chief executive Igor Sechin is a close ally of Vladimir Putin—is reportedly aiming to further increase its crude oil deliveries to China, as Russia looks to boost energy ties with the world’s biggest crude oil importer and top driver of global oil demand growth.

Since the OPEC/Russia oil production deal began, the U.S. has stepped up sanctions on Russia, which made Western banks and companies even more cautious in dealing with Russian firms. Considering this, it’s not a huge surprise that Rosneft and Russia want to boost ties with Chinese firms, refiners, and banks.

Rosneft now aims to almost double its crude oil exports to China through Kazakhstan, Reuters reported last week, citing industry sources.

Although it’s not immediately clear when that increase will take place, this plan is only the latest in a series of projects that boost Russian oil supplies to Chinese refiners. Chinese firms, on the other hand, recently made big investments in Russian energy projects and firms, including in a large stake in Rosneft.

Chinese industrial conglomerate CEFC recently agreed to buy 14.16 percent in Rosneft for approximately $9 billion. The deal didn’t come as a surprise, coming on the heels of a Rosneft announcement regarding the sealing of a strategic partnership deal with CEFC, but it’s clearly indicative of a continuing warming between Moscow and Beijing that gave the former the upper hand in the race for market share with Saudi Arabia.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Geopolitical Consequences Of U.S. Oil Exports

The Geopolitical Consequences Of U.S. Oil Exports

Tanker

Two crucial things happened yesterday.

The first you may have noticed – oil prices moved back up.

As for the second, most so-called “experts” seemed to have missed.

See, the environment we’re seeing in energy markets is very different from what we saw only a week ago, when oil prices were also rising.

Because yesterday also saw – for the first time in world history – a reigning Saudi Arabian monarch in Moscow for talks with Russia’s head of state.

Historically, Russia has been much closer to Iran – Saudi Arabia’s main regional enemy.

Now, King Salman and President Putin are expected to endorse the plan to extend the OPEC-Russia deal to cut oil production and boost prices beyond the current end date of March 2018.

But that’s not all they’re going to talk about…

Other, more far-ranging matters will also be on the agenda, including the war in Syria.

And the catalyst for this huge shift in global geopolitics is surprisingly simple.

It’s all about America’s record-breaking oil exports…

Russia and Saudi Arabia Need Each Other… for Now

Now, there’s no indication that Russia and Saudi Arabia are on the road to an alliance on anything beyond oil prices.

Even then, that accord remains only as long as it is in the subjective interest of the parties.

Nonetheless, it is disquieting to Washington that any such prospects may be on the horizon… or that U.S. oil exports may be introducing a range of foreign policy concerns.

From an energy perspective, the main issue at hand is the OPEC-Russian deal to cap oil production, which is now almost certain to continue further than the agreed-on end date of March next year.

And after some concerns had been raised over individual OPEC members exceeding the quotas the deal assigned them, evidence is now emerging that the restraint is holding.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gulf Of Mexico Output Falls Nearly 100% After Hurricane Nate

Gulf Of Mexico Output Falls Nearly 100% After Hurricane Nate

offshore rig

As of Sunday, 92.61 percent of crude oil production capacity in the Gulf of Mexico was shut in, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. In barrels, this amounted to 1.62 million per day, with 298 platforms and 14 rigs evacuated, representing 40.43 percent and 70 percent of platforms and rigs in the Gulf, respectively. Another 10 rigs, dynamically positioned ones, were moved from their locations as a precaution.

Nate, which made final landfall in Mississippi, has been moving inland and has in the process weakened back into a tropical depression. Heavy rains are in the forecast, according to the Weather Channel, but oil and gas field and refinery operators are already preparing to restart their shut-in facilities

Chevron and Shell are bringing back personnel to the platforms and doing assessments on the infrastructure, including platforms, pipelines, and terminals. New Orleans has already resumed normal port operations and vessel traffic, quenching worries that Nate will disrupt oil and fuel shipments from one of the main Gulf Coast ports.

Chevron also said it was assessing the impact of the hurricane on its Pascagoula refinery, which has a daily capacity of 340,000 bpd, and which Genscape said Chevron had shut down on Saturday. Chevron never confirmed the report, and on Sunday there were signs of activity at the refinery.

Phillips 66, however, shut down its Alliance refinery, with a capacity of 247,000 bpd, and has now reported it undamaged from the hurricane. The company planned to restart the facility yesterday, but because of a crude oil shortage in the Gulf, it may take a few more days for the refinery to resume normal operations.

This shortage should have a beneficial if short-lived effect on prices as well as on inventories while the platforms and refineries that were shut down return to normal operation.

 

Is This The Geopolitical Shift Of The Century?

Is This The Geopolitical Shift Of The Century?

Putin

The geopolitical reality in the Middle East is changing dramatically.

The impact of the Arab Spring, the retraction of the U.S. military, and diminishing economic influence on the Arab world—as displayed during the Obama Administration—are facts.

The emergence of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish triangle is the new reality. The Western hegemony in the MENA region has ended, and not in a shy way, but with a long list of military conflicts and destabilization.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Russia shows the growing power of Russia in the Middle East. It also shows that not only Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also Egypt and Libya, are more likely to consider Moscow as a strategic ally.

King Salman’s visit to Moscow could herald not only several multibillion business deals, but could be the first real step towards a new regional geopolitical and military alliance between OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and Russia. This cooperation will not only have severe consequences for Western interests but also could partly undermine or reshape the position of OPEC at the same time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is currently hosting a large Saudi delegation, led by King Salman and supported by Saudi minister of energy Khalid Al Falih. Moscow’s open attitude to Saudi Arabia—a lifetime Washington ally and strong opponent of the growing Iran power projections in the Arab world—show that Putin understands the current pivotal changes in the Middle East.

U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and even the UAE, have shown an increased eagerness to develop military and economic relations with Moscow, even if this means dealing with a global power currently supporting their archenemy Iran.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran, Iraq, And Turkey Unite To Block Kurdish Oil Exports

Iran, Iraq, And Turkey Unite To Block Kurdish Oil Exports

Oil

Iraq, Iran, and Turkey are taking a unified stance against Kurdistan’s oil sector after the region elected to seek independence from Baghdad in a referendum in September, according to a new report by Rudaw.

“In the case of northern Iraq, Iran, Iraq and Turkey will form a tripartite mechanism and will decide on shutting down the oil,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with leaders from the other two nations on Thursday.

day before the vote, the Iraqi central government issued a statement calling on “neighboring countries and countries of the world” to stop buying crude oil directly from Kurdistan and only deal with Baghdad.

Turkey’s Ceyhan port provides an outlet for the Kurdish Kirkuk oil to meet international markets without interference from Baghdad. Erdogan, Tehran and other members of the international community had censured Erbil for proceeding with the independence referendum as Iraq recovers from a three-year war against the Islamic State (ISIS). The Turkish leader had previously threatened to cut Kirkuk off from Ceyhan, but did not provide details on how such a measure would be carried out.

Russia’s oil majors side with Kurdistan in its quest for an independent fossil fuel establishment. Rosneft signed off on a $1 billion gas pipeline deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) a week prior to the historic vote, signaling Moscow’s approval of a hypothetically separate Kurdistan. Related: The Trillion Dollar Market That Stopped Chasing Profits

Both Iran and Turkey house sizeable Kurdish populations, so the referendum raises fears that Kurds from other nations may seek similar political solutions.

Kurdistan produces around 600,000 bpd of crude oil, or about 15 percent of Iraq’s total output. After the votes were counted, the KRG said that the ‘Yes’ to independence option won at the polls, with 92.73 percent of voters opting to grant Erbil its own regime.

 

Scotland To Permanently Ban Fracking

Scotland To Permanently Ban Fracking

Oil

The Scottish government said on Tuesday that it wants to extend a current moratorium on fracking into a permanent full ban, with a final vote likely taking place at the Scottish Parliament later this year.

“I can confirm that the decision of the Scottish Government is that we will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland,” Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse told the Scottish Parliament today.

In January 2015, the Scottish Government put in place a moratorium on granting consents for unconventional oil and gas developments in Scotland. Back then, the government promised to undertake further research on potential impacts before holding a full public consultation. The consultation ran from January 31 to May 31, 2017, and received more than 60,000 responses, the government said.

Today, Minister Wheelhouse told the Parliament that 99 percent of respondents in the consultation were against fracking. The ministers have a “moral responsibility” to tackle climate change, he noted.

“Fracking cannot, and will not take place in Scotland,” Wheelhouse said.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted that “Scottish government backs ban on fracking”.

Just yesterday, The Scotsman reported that ministers of the SNP party of government had been warned by other parties that a failure to ban fracking would be a “betrayal” to climate change commitments Scotland has made.

The Labour Party, Greens, and Liberal Democrats are all opposing fracking and supporting a ban, so they would likely support the Scottish government in a Parliament vote on banning fracking.

Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the decision to ban fracking, which they described as a “truly momentous win for the anti-fracking movement.”

A British Geological Survey report from 2014 said that there were “modest” shale reserves in Scotland. The estimate of shale gas in place is 80 trillion cubic feet, and the central estimate for shale oil in place is 6 billion barrels of oil. The volumes of oil and gas that could be commercially extracted are likely to be much lower, according to the 2014 report.

U.S. Shale Isn’t As Strong As It Appears

U.S. Shale Isn’t As Strong As It Appears

Permian

The extraordinary cost reductions achieved by North American oil and gas companies have likely reached their limit, and any boost in profitability for much of the U.S. shale and Canadian oil sands industries will have to come from higher oil prices, according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service.

Moody’s studied 37 oil and gas companies in Canada and the U.S., concluding that although the oil industry has dramatically slashed its cost of production in the past three years and is currently in the midst of posting much better financials this year, there is little room left for more progress.

“After substantially improving their cost structures through 2015 and 2016, North American exploration and production (E&P) companies will demonstrate meaningful capital efficiency to the extent the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil price is above $50 per barrel and the Henry Hub natural gas price is at least $3.00 per MMBtu,” Moody’s said. In other words, WTI will need to rise further if the industry is to improve its financial position.

The report is another piece of evidence that suggests the U.S. shale industry is perhaps struggling a bit more than is commonly thought. U.S. shale has been portrayed as nimble, lean and quick to respond to oil price changes. And while that is largely true, strong profits remain elusive, despite the huge uptick in production.

Shale drillers have substantially lowered their breakeven prices, but further reductions will be difficult to achieve, Moody’s Vice President Sreedhar Kona said in a statement.

“Higher than $50 per barrel WTI essential for a meaningful return on capital,” Moody’s said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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