Friday, February 24, 2012

Gas prices up 12 cents in a week

10 Places Where a Gallon of Gas Is More Expensive Than in the U.S.

While gas prices seem high in the U.S., other countries are saddled with prices at the pump that would give an American driver a heart attack. To find out where drivers have it worse, we spoke to Airinc, a Cambridge, Mass.-based consulting firm that tracks average gas prices at select major cities around the world. Here are 10 cities where gas prices eclipse the pump prices in America, along with the average retail price for a gallon of gasoline.

Most Expensive Gas in the World: Asmara, Eritrea
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $9.58
Cost per gallon of premium gas: (Unavailable)

2nd Most Expensive: Oslo, Norway
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $9.33
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $9.69

3rd Most Expensive: Rome
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $8.51
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $8.71

4th Most Expensive: Copenhagen, Denmark
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $8.48
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $8.77

5th Most Expensive: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $8.46
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $8.55

6th Most Expensive: London
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $8.12
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $8.35

7th Most Expensive: Paris
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $8.06
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $8.56

8th Most Expensive: Hong Kong
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $7.85
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $8.30

9th Most Expensive: Berlin
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $7.76
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $8.34

10th Most Expensive: Tokyo
Cost per gallon of regular gas: $6.59
Cost per gallon of premium gas: $7.15

While these cities all have it worse than the U.S. in the gas department, don’t think we’re beating the whole world at the pump. Several cities have dirt-cheap gas prices, and unsurprisingly they tend to be in oil-producing countries. In Kuwait City, for instance, a gallon of gas at the pump costs the equivalent of 82 cents, while in the Saudi Arabian capital city of Riyadh it’s just 45 cents. The clear winner, though, is oil-rich Venezuela, where government subsidies make a gallon of regular gas cost just 6 cents in Caracas.

Angry About High Gas Prices? Blame Shuttered Oil Refineries

The U.S. has lost nearly 5 percent of its refining capacity in the past three months, as a handful of old refineries have shut down

The average price of gas is up more than 10 percent since the start of the year, a point repeatedly made during Wednesday’s Republican Presidential debate. Predictably, the four GOP candidates blamed President Barack Obama for the steep increase.

Actually, the President doesn’t have that kind of pricing power. The more likely reason behind the price increase, though certainly less compelling as a political argument, is the recent spate of refinery closures in the U.S. Over the past year, refineries have faced a classic margin squeeze. Prices for Brent crude have gone up, but demand for gasoline in the U.S. is at a 15-year low. That means refineries haven’t been able to pass on the higher prices to their customers.

As a result, companies have chosen to shut down a handful of large refineries rather than continue to lose money on them. Since December, the U.S. has lost about 4 percent of its refining capacity, says Fadel Gheit, a senior oil and gas analyst for Oppenheimer. That month, two large refineries outside Philadelphia shut down: Sunoco’s plant in Marcus Hook, Pa., and a ConocoPhillips plant in nearby Trainer, Pa. Together they accounted for about 20 percent of all gasoline produced in the Northeast.This week, Hovensa finished shutting down its refinery in St. Croix. The plant processed 350,000 barrels of crude a day, and yet lost about $1.3 billion over the past three years, or roughly $1 million a day. The St. Croix plant got hit with a double whammy of pricing pressure. Not only did it face higher prices for Brent crude, but it also lacked access to cheap natural gas, a crucial raw material for refineries. Without the advantage of low natural gas prices, which are down 50 percent since June 2011, it’s likely that more refineries would have had to shut down.

The U.S. refining industry is being split in two. On one hand are the older refineries, mostly on the East and Gulf Coasts, that are set up to handle only the higher quality Brent “sweet” crude—the stuff that comes from the Middle East and the North Sea. Brent is easier to refine, though it’s gotten considerably more expensive recently. (Certainly another reason for higher gas prices.)

Then there are the plants able to refine the heavier, dirtier West Texas Intermediate (WTI)—the stuff that comes from Canadian tar sands, the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, and the newer outposts in North Dakota, which just passed Ecuador in oil production. These refineries tend to be clustered in the Midwest—places such as Oklahoma, Kansas, and outside Chicago. While the price of Brent crude has closed at over $120 a barrel in recent days, WTI is trading at closer to $106. That simple differential is the reason older refineries that can handle only Brent are hemorrhaging cash and shutting down, while refineries that can handle WTI are flourishing.“The U.S. refining industry is undergoing a huge, regional transformation,” says Ben Brockwell, a director at Oil Price Information Services. “If you look at refinery utilization rates in the Midwest and Great Lakes areas, they’re running at close to 95 percent capacity, and on the East Coast it’s more like 60 percent,” he says.

This is primarily why the cheapest gas prices in the country are found in such states as Colorado, Utah, Montana, and New Mexico, while New York, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C., have some of the highest prices.

Ahmadi worship centre: Locals demand removal of barricades, CCTV cameras

Around 700 locals were gathered outside an Ahmadi worship centre in Satellite Town, Rawalpindi on Friday, demanding the removal of barricades and CCTV cameras installed outside it.

Leading the locals, businessman Sharjeel Mir said that the centre’s administration had assured them a few weeks ago that their demands would be fulfilled however nothing was done.

A representative of the Ahmadi centre told The Express Tribune that those gathered outside the worship place had forcefully removed the security cameras, while police present in the area failed to take any action against the attackers.

As reported earlier a ‘banned’ Jihadi organisation along with local traders had held a rally near the worship place against the “unconstitutional” activities of the marginalised community.

The Express Tribune had spoken to a number of Ahmadis, who had emphasised that the community had committed no unlawful activities and had pleaded that the hate campaign be stopped so they could feel safe in the area.

Suicide attack on Peshawar police station kills four


Taliban suicide bombers armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a large police station in Peshawar early Friday, killing four officers in an assault meant to avenge the death of a militant commander in a US drone strike.

City police chief Imtiaz Altaf said three militants entered the compound after attacking the main gate, then blew themselves up when police returned fire, he said.

”They wanted to occupy this police station, but they failed,” he told reporters. Four policemen were killed and six wounded in the attack, said police officer Sattar Khan.

There were more than 370 policemen at the station at the time of the assault, said provincial Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain.

The number of policemen was so high because authorities send graduates of the police training academy to the station for 18 months before stationing them at other posts.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told The Associated Press the attack was carried out by an affiliated group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigade.

Abu Zarar, a man who claimed to be a spokesman for the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, also told the AP that the group executed the attack.

He said it was in response to the death of one of the group’s commanders, Badar Mansoor, in a US drone strike on Feb. 9.

Ahsan, the Taliban spokesman, denied the group carried out a car bombing that killed 12 people at an outdoor minibus terminal in Peshawar on Thursday.

Meanwhile in a separate incident, two men planting a homemade bomb at the side of a road were wounded when it exploded, police officials said.

Time for dialogue with Baloch leaders:Zardari

President Asif Ali Zardari

on Friday said that addressing Balochistan issue is the top most priority of the government and he is willing to visit the province to engage a dialogue with the Baloch leaders, DawnNews reported.

Speaking with Governor Balochistan Nawabzadah Mir Zulfiqar Magsi at his Karachi residence, President said that steps are being taken to arrange an All Party Conference (APC) to address the Balochistan situation.

He also urged Magsi to reach out all Baloch tribal leaders and encourage them for peace efforts and engagement of a dialogue.

It is important to note that Balochistan Governor is also the chief of the Magsi tribe of Balochistan.

Minister of Sindh Nadir Magsi was also present at the meeting.

Amnesty calls on Saudi Arabia to release protester


Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of a Saudi teacher arrested almost a year ago after arriving at the site of a planned anti-government demonstration that never took place.

In a statement released late Wednesday, Amnesty said, the trial of Khaled al Johani, which took place on Wednesday, was "utterly unwarranted" calling on authorities to release him "immediately and unconditionally”.

“He shouldn't be standing trial in any court for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director, Phillip Luther.

Al-Johani was arrested last March in the capital Riyadh and is being charged with supporting demonstrations, being present at the site of a planned protest, and talking to the foreign press "in a manner that harmed the reputation of the Kingdom," according to the London-based rights group.

On March 11 of last year, Saudi Arabia launched a massive security operation to deter protesters from a planned ‘Day of Rage’ to press for democratic reform in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia.

The rallies never took place as thousands of police and security personnel set up checkpoints and deployed in the streets of the capital.

“Al-Johani is believed to be the only protester who was able to reach the location of the planned demonstration and was arrested within minutes of talking to BBC Arabic about the lack of freedoms in Saudi Arabia," the statement said.

Amnesty said the 42-year-old father of five, including a six-month old who was born during his detention, is being tried in a court that was established to deal with terrorism charges.

The statement said that Al-Johani, who stood trial at the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh, has so far not been granted legal representation, though the judge during Wednesday's hearing said he would be allowed to appoint one "within a week." Al-Johani's trial will resume in April, it added.

Barack Obama: No 'silver bullet' to reduce gas prices

President Barack Obama has warned that there are no "silver bullets" for bringing fuel prices down quickly.

Speaking at the University of Miami, Florida, the president defended his energy policy and commitment to clean energy.

He hit out at Republican critics, saying their three-point plan to "drill our way out of this problem" would be insufficient without a wider strategy.

Mr Obama is vulnerable to attack in an election year for high fuel prices.

In Florida, average gasoline prices have risen to $3.69 (£2.34) per gallon.
'Licking their chops'

Mr Obama took aim at his opponents, saying that some politicians would use rising gasoline prices as a political opportunity.

"Only in politics do people root for bad news, do they greet bad news so enthusiastically. You pay more, they're licking their chops," he said, referring to a recent newspaper headline.

Spelling out what Mr Obama called his opponents' "three-point plan for $2 gas", he said: "Step one is to drill and step two is to drill. And then step three is to keep drilling."

Mr Obama advocated for an "all-of-the-above strategy", saying that in addition to exploiting domestic oil and gas resources the US should end its subsidies to oil companies, make the power grid more efficient, and invest in new energy sources.

The president emphasised that there were no "quick fixes" that could bring fuel prices down and that oil prices were vulnerable to global events.

Growing demand for oil in emerging markets and rising political tensions in the Middle East were making fuel more expensive for Americans, he added.

Mr Obama was addressing an issue that has been thrown into the spotlight and could become a target for criticism during an election year.

High fuel prices could also dampen the fragile economic recovery by increasing overhead costs for households and businesses, and dragging down consumer spending - a development that the president's political opponents would be likely to seize on, analysts say.

Mr Obama has also been slammed by Republicans for blocking the Keystone XL pipeline project that would run from oil sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas.

Speaking on the campaign trail this week, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Americans are "going to be hit with the same force of wind that hit us in 2008 in the summer that caused us to go into a recession.

"All because of the radical environmentalist policies of this president."

Some experts have said that the US economy could begin to suffer if fuel prices rise above $4 per gallon.

No 'Basant' for residents of Lahore

For the third year in a row, the residents of the cultural capital of Pakistan - Lahore - will not be able to celebrate 'Basant'

this spring. The provincial government led by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told a court today that it had no plans to allow events related to the decades-old festival. Presenting the Punjab government's stance in the Lahore High Court, district administration chief Ahad Cheema informed Justice Umer Atta Bandial that the administration had no plans to celebrate 'Basant' in Lahore during February 25-26 as was done in the past. "There is a ban on Basant and the government is acting accordingly," Cheema said. Following Cheema's deposition, the judge dismissed a petition filed by lawyer Ilamuddin Ghazi, who had asked the court to direct the government not to celebrate Basant. Ghazi had contended in his petition that Basant was a Hindu ritual and went against the tenets of Islam. Sheikh Muhammad Salim of the All Pakistan Kite Flying Association told PTI that it was unfortunate that the Punjab government was depriving residents of Lahore of an opportunity to celebrate festivals like Basant. "The law allows kite flying for 15 days a year and Basant is a matter of only one day and one night," Salim said. In several districts of Punjab, Basant would be celebrated next month, he pointed out. "Why is Lahore being deprived of this?" he asked. Salim said some 25,000 families involved in making kites and other related products were facing financial constraints due to the ban imposed on 'Basant' by the PML-N government. He urged the Chief Minister to allow people to celebrate Basant. The last time Basant was celebrated in Lahore was in 2009, when Punjab was under Governor's Rule.

Terror, militancy makes people psychiatric patients

Pakistan Observer

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Culture and Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain has said that the recent wave of terrorism and militancy had made the people psychiatric patients. Therefore, the government was holding maximum traditional games and cultural programs to provide them peaceful atmosphere, he added.

This he said while addressing the concluding ceremony of 3-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 2nd Traditional and Cultural Games for girls at Qayyum Sports Stadium Peshawar on Thursday. The event was organized by the Culture Department in collaboration with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Corporation and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Olympic Association.

The ceremony besides others was also attended by the Sports Minister, Syed Aqil Shah, Lady MPA Tabassum Katozai, Secretary Culture and Information, Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Director General Sports Engr. Khan Zeb, Director Sports, Pervez Khan Sabit Khel, Secretary General Olympic Association Zulfiqar Butt and a large number of the students of different schools.

Mian Iftikhar said that traditional games were our historical and cultural heritage and the purpose of holding these games was to provide healthy opportunities to our students. He added that we want to convey a message to the world through games that the Pakhtuns were peace loving people and want peace on their land at all cost. He said that we hate terrorism in any shape and want healthy activities in this region.

Meanwhile, the Information Minister after visiting the site of bomb blast at Kohat Bus Stand and inquiring after the health of injured persons at Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar, while talking to media persons has strongly condemned the sad incident and said that the people were united against the terrorists and they hate them. He furthered that such coward acts could not deviate us from our stance and Jihad against terrorism till complete elimination of terrorism from the society.

Mian Iftikhar maintained that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was the supporter of dialogue with terrorists but the agenda and the negotiating team should be known and all the stakeholders including Pakistan, USA and Afghanistan should be the part of dialogue. He reiterated resolve of the government that it would never bow-down before the terrorists and its sacred war would continue till its logical end.

Harbiyar Marri rejects Rehman Malik’s offer to retract cases

Balochistan’s nationalist leader on Friday spurned the government offer to retract the cases against him, as he witnessed situation going from bad to worse in the province.
Talking to a private TV channel, Harbiyar Marri said that he rejected Rehman Malik's offer to withdraw cases against him, adding that he did not need permission to go back to Balochistan.
He said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik was not sincere and had no concern about the sufferings of Baloch people as he deployed frontier corps (FC) personnel in the province for killing them. Marri said on the direction of Rehman Malik tortured and mutilated bodies of Baloch people were being recovered in various areas.
Denying meeting with Rehman Malik in the past as the interior minister claimed, Harbiyar Marri said that he would never meet killer of innocent Baloch nation.
“Pakistan is calling me a traitor of the country but I am thinking and well-wisher for Baloch nation who are being deprived from their rights”, Marri said.
He said that first the government remained silent over Balochistan and ignored fundamental rights of the people but now that international community has started raising its voice, the government focused its
attention toward the issue.
He said the Baloch people did not receive any benefit thus far, adding their identity wass being defiled under a conspiracy. Marri noted the government has taken Balochis as its slaves.

APC on Balochistan


The furore in Pakistan over the hearing and resolution in the US Congress regarding Balochistan refuses to die down. Politicians and the media have expended much breath and space on the issue, but by and large, they have indulged in misplaced concreteness. While every kind of condemnation of the US for interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs is to be had at the drop of a hat, very few have taken a deep breath to assess soberly, calmly and wisely why things have come to such a pass. The Balochistan problem is as old as Pakistan. It has not been handled wisely, force and deception being employed more often than not against Baloch nationalists demanding their due rights. A continuation of this policy in the current fifth war in Balochistan since independence has stoked separatist sentiment to the point where the nationalists in exile are openly demanding an independent Balochistan.

One such view can be had from an interview of Brahamdagh Bugti in exile. He has reiterated his view that the policy of ‘kill and dump’, whereby mutilated tortured bodies of Baloch nationalists keep turning up every other day all over Balochistan, justifies the demand for separation from Pakistan. He has welcomed the US Congressional hearing and resolution, thereby rejecting the argument of the issue being an internal matter of Pakistan on the grounds that in today’s world, atrocities on the people by state forces call for international intervention. In the same breath he has dismissed out of hand the Pakistan government’s declared intent to convene an All Parties Conference (APC) on Balochistan. He has advised the Governor and Chief Minister of Balochistan to quit their office and join the resistance or else go home and keep quiet. Despite setting up a committee to contact and persuade all stakeholders to participate in the APC, Prime Minister Gilani seems to be swimming against the tide. The Baloch nationalists, even the moderates still subscribing to the federation, have rejected the APC as having been overtaken by events and therefore without merit. To add ammunition to this stance, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has set forth two non-negotiable conditions for attending the APC: the arrest of Akbar Bugti’s killers, and the recovery of missing persons. Some observers regard these conditions as not achievable, leading to the conclusion that Nawaz Sharif and his party, despite being the original authors of the idea of an APC on Balochistan, have backed away from the proposal as unlikely to be of any use. The fact is that without the participation of the Baloch nationalists, especially those in exile or in the mountains, and given the military’s seemingly unbending determination to continue with its present repressive course, an APC would be Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, an exercise in futility, and end up no better than the Aghaaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package announced by the PPP government with such fanfare, and which the PM himself has conceded has been overshadowed by the ground situation in the province.

The US administration has been at pains to distance itself from the Congress events on Balochistan. This is understandable when Pakistan-US relations are almost frozen and efforts to warm up ties are still subject to delay because of Pakistan’s parliamentary review of the relationship and terms of engagement. The Congress happenings have been, to put it mildly, unhelpful in this regard. That said, it should not be ignored that Balochistan potentially offers much temptation to the great powers. Its long Mekran coastline a stone’s throw from the Straits of Hormuz, its gas, oil and minerals potential, and its location as a possible listening post for Iran could tempt Washington to at least keep the option of support for the Baloch nationalists as a card to be played at an appropriate time. Clearly, US strategic and economic interests would dictate any such eventuality, not necessarily any deeply felt sympathy for the plight of the Baloch. The fact that Brahamdagh Bugti on the one hand denies any foreign support for his movement and at the same time welcomes any such help in future may be a reflection of his bitterness and anger, but perhaps the Baloch protagonists of independence for the province could do worse than cast a sceptical eye on Washington’s aims. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.