You read that headline correctly. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is financing oil exploration off Brazil.
The U.S. is going to lend billions of dollars to Brazil's state-owned oil company,
Petrobras, to finance exploration of the huge offshore discovery in Brazil's
Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro. Brazil's planning
minister confirmed that White House National Security Adviser James Jones met
this month with Brazilian officials to talk about the loan.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank tells us it has issued a "preliminary commitment"
letter to Petrobras in the amount of $2 billion and has discussed with Brazil
the possibility of increasing that amount. Ex-Im Bank says it has not decided
whether the money will come in the form of a direct loan or loan guarantees.
Either way, this corporate foreign aid may strike some readers as odd, given
that the U.S. Treasury seems desperate for cash and Petrobras is one of the
largest corporations in the Americas.
But look on the bright side. If President Obama has embraced offshore drilling in
Brazil, why not in the old U.S.A.? The land of the sorta free and the home of
the heavily indebted has enormous offshore oil deposits, and last year ahead of
the November elections, with gasoline at $4 a gallon, Congress let a ban on
offshore drilling expire.
The Bush Administration's five-year plan (2007-2012) to open the outer continental
shelf to oil exploration included new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. But in
2007 environmentalists went to court to block drilling in Alaska and in April a
federal court ruled in their favor. In May, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said
his department was unsure whether that ruling applied only to Alaska or all
offshore drilling. So it asked an appeals court for clarification. Late last
month the court said the earlier decision applied only to Alaska, opening the
way for the sale of leases in the Gulf. Mr. Salazar now says the sales will go
forward on August 19.
This is progress, however slow. But it still doesn't allow the U.S. to explore in
Alaska or along the East and West Coasts, which could be our equivalent of the
Tupi oil fields, which are set to make Brazil a leading oil exporter. Americans
are right to wonder why Mr. Obama is underwriting in Brazil what he won't allow
This may be the answer WHY
Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire investor George Soros bought an $811 million
stake in Petroleo
Brasileiro SA in the second quarter, making the Brazilian state-controlled
oil company his investment fund's largest holding.
As of June 30, the stake in Petrobras, as the Rio de Janeiro-based oil producer is
known, made up 22 percent of the $3.68 billion of stocks and American
depositary receipts held by Soros Fund Management LLC, according to a filing
with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Petrobras has since slumped
Soros has increased his mining and commodities holdings, a move that accelerated in
the first quarter with purchases of such companies as Cia. Vale do Rio
Doce, the world's largest iron-ore producer, and Talisman Energy Inc.,
a Canadian oil and gas company. In November, Petrobras announced the discovery
of Tupi, a field with as much as 8 billion barrels of reserves, making it the
largest find in the Americas since 1976.
``Petrobras has something that other oil companies don't have: oil -- lots of it and
they're going to find more,'' said Ricardo
Kobayashi, equity fund manager with UBS Pactual SA in Rio de Janeiro, which
manages about $5 billion of stocks, including shares in Petrobras. ``If you can
buy now and hang on, if you have the staying power, it's great.''
Tupi is part of a new deepwater offshore region known as the pre-salt that may
contain as much as 50 billion barrels, according to Peter
Wells, oil analyst with the U.K.'s Neftex Petroleum Consultants Ltd.
The drop in Petrobras' U.S.-traded common shares since June 30 would have reduced the value of Soros's disclosed stake by $235 million.
Soros Fund Management didn't report holding any Petrobras shares at the end of the
first quarter. It did disclose much smaller stakes in the Brazilian oil company
during 2007, including 150,000 depositary shares, with a market value of about
$17.3 million, at Dec. 31. The hedge fund company also had calls on another
35,000 shares at Dec. 31.
Petrobras shares traded at an average closing price of $64.83 each during the second quarter,
when Soros bought the stake. The shares today dropped 91 centavos, or 1.8
percent, to $50.68 in New York, valuing Petrobras at $204.8 billion, the
world's 11th-biggest company by market capitalization.
Soros funds also bought almost 9.5 million shares of Lehman Brothers
Holdings Inc. during the second quarter, according to today's filing. Soros
funds held 10,000 Lehman shares at March 31, just before the second quarter
Lehman shares closed at $19.81 each on June 30, giving Soros's stake in the New York-based
brokerage a market value of about $187.7 million when the quarter ended. Lehman
shares have since declined 18 percent, reducing the stake's value to $153.5
Michael Vachon, a Soros spokesman, didn't immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
There are five very interesting videos on Soros's views on capitalism vs. his "global open society." Scary