Greg Bulla on Unsplash
This week, we discuss:
Crunch negotiations between the SNP and Green Party
Saudi Aramco bounces back with soaring profits
The Democrats’ illegal migrants dilemma
SNP-Green Deal Under Pressure
The SNP and Green Party are in crunch negotiations to secure a deal before Nicola Sturgeon reveals the government’s legislative agenda at the end of the month. However, not all appears to be going smoothly.
What does it mean?
The most obvious implication of a formalised deal is that it would create a pro-independence majority within the Scottish government. The coalition will be hoping that a formal arrangement may put pressure on the UK government, yet there’s little indication that Boris Johnson is softening to the idea of a referendum any time soon.
Government officials are keen to put a final deal before cabinet on Tuesday 17 August, but points of contention risk putting the deal in jeopardy. The SNP are eager to present a united front on climate issues ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, however the Greens refused to vote for last term’s climate bill, slamming the targets for lacking ambition. Instead, the party is applying “maximum pressure” on the Scottish government regarding the future of North Sea oil.
An attempt to paper over the cracks could backfire on both parties. The SNP risk embarrassment on the climate agenda if their own governing partners speak out against their lack of action and ambition, but if the Greens roll over and sacrifice key principles, they risk repeating the mistakes previously made by the Liberal Democrats on tuition fees. Who will be the first to flinch?
Aramco comes back fighting
Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom’s energy giant, has seen its profits soar by 300%. Posting their Q2 results, the state-backed oil company revealed net income almost quadrupled from the same period last year to $25.5bn and that it was maintaining its dividend at $18.8bn.
What does it mean?
Aramco’s financial results have surprised many analysts, who predicted a modest bounce-back. The pandemic and spectre of new COVID-19 variants continues to loom over the energy sector, and there were expectations this would dent Aramco’s income. Indeed, when oil prices plunged as travel restrictions took hold, Aramco’s profits nosedived by 25%.
Saudi Arabia’s “crown jewel” has also been a target for hostile actors. Houthi rebels in Yemen have attacked Aramco’s facilities with drones and missiles, whilst last month their systems were hit by a cyber-attack. Despite all this, Aramco achieved “100 percent reliability in the delivery of crude oil”.
Aramco has solidified its position as the most profitable oil company in the world, while Western companies face pressure from governments, investors, and the public to switch to renewable energy.
These results will not sit well with anyone concerned by Monday’s UN climate report, but they will delight the de-facto ruler Mohammed Bin Salman. The Saudi government is the majority shareholder of Aramco by quite a distance, and the dividends will make a big contribution to the Crown Prince’s expensive ‘Vision 2030’ reform projects.
Trouble on the horizon for the Democrats
The US Department for Homeland Security submitted an August 2nd declaration as part of ongoing litigation regarding illegal immigration. The document shows that around 210,000 undocumented migrants were apprehended at the Southern border in July.
What does it mean?
This is the most migrants U.S. border authorities have encountered since March 2000, when Border Patrol reported 220,063 apprehensions. Indeed, in the first half of 2021, the number of “enforcement actions” preventing illegal entry were double the total number for 2020, reaching a 20-year record of over one million. Both Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Guatemala’s Alejandro Giammattei attribute this to “expectations” raised by Biden’s presidency.
They are not the only ones. Overall public support for the Administration’s immigration stance has been in free fall since Spring. By May, more than two-thirds (Pew Research) of Americans disapproved of Biden’s handling of the crisis. And Vice President Kamala Harris has not helped matters, failing to visit the border for months, even as her own approval ratings tanked.
Of especial significance to Biden’s political capital is growing hostility in Hispanic border communities. The electoral risk this portends was made clear last November, when Trump gained Hispanic support, particularly around the Texas border.
Alas, Biden is in a dilemma. He can keep adhering to the ideological pieties of a professional and media class who look aghast at immigration restrictions. But he will pay a pretty price – alienating working-class voters (of all ethnicities) at the next election.
This Week’s Must Reads
‘The IPCC report is a massive alert that the time for climate action is nearly gone, but crucially not gone yet’ by Greg Jericho for The Guardian
‘North Korea: the failure of ‘maximum pressure’ on Kim’s isolated regime’ by Edward White for the Financial Times
‘Did The White House Knowingly Leave Afghanistan In Chaos? If So, What Are The Possible Outcomes?’ by Melik Kaylan for Forbes
‘Funny old priorities’ by Ben Sixsmith for The Critic
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