Conservative conspiracy theorist charged?

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FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington. An associate of Stone said Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, that he expects to face charges in the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Conservative conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi said on his YouTube show that negotiations fell apart with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and he expects in the coming days to be charged with making false statements. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington. An associate of Stone said Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, that he expects to face charges in the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Conservative conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi said on his YouTube show that negotiations fell apart with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and he expects in the coming days to be charged with making false statements. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Roger Stone associate expects to be charged in Mueller probe


Associated Press

Tuesday, November 13

WASHINGTON (AP) — An associate of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone said Monday that he expects to face charges in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Conservative conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi said on his YouTube show that negotiations fell apart with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and he expects in the coming days to be charged with making false statements.

“I’m going to be indicted,” Corsi said on his show. “That’s what we were told. Everyone should know that, and I’m anticipating it.”

The Associated Press couldn’t immediately confirm Corsi’s claims that charges against him are forthcoming. Corsi’s attorney, David Gray, declined to comment Monday evening. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office also declined to comment.

Corsi is one of several Stone associates who have been questioned by investigators as Mueller probes Stone’s connections with WikiLeaks. American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian agents were the source of hacked material released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, including emails belonging to former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. And Mueller’s office is trying to determine whether Stone and other associates of President Donald Trump had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans.

Corsi, the former Washington bureau chief of the conspiracy theory outlet InfoWars, said Monday that he had no recollection of ever meeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“To the best of my recollection, what I knew in advance about what Julian Assange was going to do in terms of having the Podesta emails, I figured out,” he said.

Corsi said Monday that he has been cooperating with the Mueller investigation since receiving a subpoena in late August. He said he gave investigators two computers, a cell phone and access to his email accounts and tweets.

But he said talks with investigators recently had “blown up.”

“I fully anticipate that in the next few days, I will be indicted by Mueller,” he said, as he made a pitch for donations to his legal defense fund.

Stone, who has also said he expects to be indicted, has denied being a conduit for WikiLeaks, which published thousands of emails stolen from Podesta in the weeks before the election.

In a telephone interview with the AP last month, Stone said: “I had no advanced notice of the source or content or the exact timing of the release of the WikiLeaks disclosures.”

The Conversation

How we arrived at a $1 billion annual price tag to save Africa’s lions

November 5, 2018


Luke Hunter

Chief Conservation Officer of Panthera, Research Associate, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Disclosure statement

Luke Hunter does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of Kwa-Zulu Natal provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.

A billion dollars. That’s approximately what it would cost, to save the African lion. That’s a billion dollars each year, every year into the foreseeable future.

The startling price tag comes from a calculation we did, starting with a new database we compiled of available funding in protected areas with lions. To our knowledge it’s the most comprehensive and up-to-date database of its kind.

Protected areas are the cornerstone of conservation yet we found that most of Africa’s extraordinary parks face grave funding shortfalls. Parks without funding often become protected in name only. Their staff, including the rangers and guards on the frontlines, simply cannot function without funds that pay for working equipment, rations, petrol and to keep the electricity running. Sometimes even salaries go unpaid.

Using the conservation needs of lions as a proxy for wildlife more generally, we compiled a dataset of funding in Africa’s protected areas with lions and estimated a minimum target for conserving the species and managing the areas effectively.

We then applied three thresholds to generate a likely range of funding required to effectively conserve lions; $978/km2 per year based on budgets provided by the African Parks Network; $1,271/km2 based on a new model we developed which estimated what it would cost to conserve lions at about 50% of their carrying capacity; and $2,030/km2 based on calculations of the cost of managing lions in unfenced protected areas.

We applied those figures to answer the question, what will it cost to conserve lions and, more broadly, to secure prey populations and the ecological and economic services offered by protected areas on which both people and biodiversity depend?

The answer is between $1.2bn to $2.4 billion – or $1,000 to $2,000/km2 annually.

Critically though, we’re not talking about lions in isolation. This price tag is for securing most of Africa’s protected areas that still contain lions – 282 massive “lionscapes”. The parks are also home to thousands of additional species, everything from dung beetles to elephants and the plants that sustain them. They also support communities living adjacent to them, and provide jobs to a much wider pool of people.

Most of Africa’s large protected areas are underfunded. We estimate that only around 20% of the 282 areas have sufficient funds to ensure the survival of lions, as well as the other species they support. To our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has been able to put a number on the total figure that will be needed to protect Africa’s parks in perpetuity.

The power of parks

They are famous places like the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and South Africa’s Kruger National Park where, every year, millions of tourists see magnificent wildlife in the flesh.

They’re also places like Luengue-Luiana and Mavinga National Parks in Angola, which few people have heard of, let alone visit.

Potentially just as magnificent as the Mara and Kruger, parks like Luengue-Luiana lack the financial resources required to effectively manage them.

Closing the financial gap for Luengue-Luiana and other parks in the same dire straits would safeguard parks and the priceless wealth of African biodiversity they contain, with the lion as the iconic apex predator of every one of them.

Adding immeasurably to their potential conservation value, parks can also act as potent engines of economic opportunity. The tourism industry in sub-Saharan Africa generates an estimated $34 billion annually and directly creates six million jobs.

Protecting parks also means protecting access to jobs for local communities whether as rangers, managers or chefs working in parks, lodges and hotels. There’s also a much wider network that supplies parks with goods and services – everything from locally grown food to liability insurance for the rare cases where tourists ignore the rules and attempt to take a selfie with a lion.

Investing a billion dollars a year now would not only secure the lion and its landscapes, it also would secure the long term future of many millions of people living nearby.

Why it’s possible

An injection of one billion dollars is unlikely to happen overnight or in a single, stunning lottery-type win. But putting the figure into context makes me believe that it’s possible.

A billion dollars is only 2% of the $51 billion allocated each year by foreign governments and multi-lateral organisations to advance development in Africa. In this context, finding an extra $1 billion seems a prudent investment given that it will be used to safeguard the real estate on which potentially millions of new jobs rely.

Preserving protected areas – and saving the lion – is now a global challenge. And it’s time other countries stepped up to the plate.

Our paper also found that in many countries, international funding for parks is a fraction of the commitment made by African governments. But, more so than for any other continent, Africa’s wildlife is humanity’s shared heritage and responsibility. Now is the time for the international community, the donors and supporters of all stripes, to match Africa’s commitments. What better species than the magnificent lion to unite such an effort?

The research was undertaken by Peter Lindsey, Jennie Miller and Lisanne Petracca with contributions from a multi-authored team working in eight countries.

Pike County Murder Arrests

(WAVERLY, Ohio)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Pike County Sheriff Charles S. Reader, and Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk announced the arrests of four people Nov. 13 for the murders of eight people in Pike County on April 22, 2016.

The following four members of the Wagner family, of South Webster, were taken into custody this afternoon and are charged with planning and carrying out the murders:

George “Billy” Wagner III, 47

Angela Wagner, 48

George Wagner IV, 27

Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26

Killed were: Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, and their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20. Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20, was also killed, along with the elder Christopher Rhoden’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.

More details about the investigation and arrests will be released to members of the media at a news conference later today.

Florida recount chugs along as more irregularities surface


Associated Press

Tuesday, November 13

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s election recount chugged along Tuesday as more irregularities are uncovered and a judge asked the warring sides to “ramp down the rhetoric,” saying it erodes public confidence in the elections for Senate and governor.

One county revealed it had allowed some hurricane-displaced voters to cast their ballots by email — a violation of state law. Another had to restart its recount after getting about a quarter finished because someone forgot to push a button.

Palm Beach said it won’t finish its recount by the Thursday deadline. And in oft-criticized Broward County, additional sheriff’s deputies were sent to guard ballots and voting machines, even though a judge said no Republican who has publicly alleged fraud in the county’s process — a list that includes President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott — has presented any evidence to law enforcement.

White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp said Tuesday the president “obviously has his opinion” on the recount. Trump on Monday tweeted that “An honest vote count is no longer possible” in Florida, without elaborating, and said “new ballots showed up out of nowhere.” It was unclear what he was referring to. He demanded that the election night results — which showed the Republicans leading based upon incomplete ballot counts — be used to determine the winner.

“It’s been incredibly frustrating to watch. You have a 12,000-vote gap and the other candidate refuses to concede,” Schlapp said, referring to Scott’s opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. “So I think at this point that it’s going to go through the process of the manual recount and the machine recount and we’ll see what happens, but we’re confident that Rick Scott will be the next senator of Florida.”

State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. In the Senate race, Scott’s lead over Nelson was 0.14 percentage points. In the governor’s contest, unofficial results showed Republican former Rep. Ron DeSantis ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points.

Once the recount is complete, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or less, a hand recount will be ordered. All 67 counties face a state-ordered deadline of Thursday to finish their recounts.

Trump’s comments came just hours before Broward Chief Circuit Judge Jack Tuter held an emergency hearing on a request by Scott’s lawyers that deputies be put in charge of ballots and voting machines that aren’t being used until the recount is over.

An attorney for Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes described layers of security including keycard and password access to rooms where ballots are kept, secured by deputies and monitored by security cameras and representatives of both campaigns and parties.

Scott’s lawyers had alleged in court documents that Snipes was engaging in “suspect and unlawful vote counting practices” that violate state law and that she might “destroy evidence of any errors, accidents or unlawful conduct.”

The judge said he could see no evidence of any violations, and said “I am urging because of the highly public nature of this case to ramp down the rhetoric.”

“If someone in this lawsuit or someone in this county has evidence of voter fraud or irregularities at the supervisor’s office, they should report it to their local law enforcement officer,” Tuter said. “If the lawyers are aware of it, they should swear out an affidavit, but everything the lawyers are saying out there in front of the elections office is being beamed all over the country. We need to be careful of what we say. Words mean things these days.”

Scott’s motion was supported by lawyers representing the state Republican Party and opposed by Snipes’ office, Nelson’s campaign and the state Democratic Party. After Tuter told all sides to meet to discuss a compromise, they agreed to add three deputies to the elections office.

Meanwhile, Elections Supervisor Mark Andersen in heavily Republican Bay County told the Miami Herald on Monday that he allowed about 150 people to cast ballots by email, which is illegal under state law. The county was devastated by a Category 4 hurricane in October, and Scott ordered some special provisions for early voting there.

Manatee County, south of Tampa Bay, had to restart its recount Monday because a needed button on the machine wasn’t pushed. The error was caught after about a quarter of the county’s nearly 165,000 votes had been recounted, said Michael Bennett, the county’s Republican elections supervisor. It shouldn’t affect the county’s ability to meet Thursday’s deadline.

In Palm Beach, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said the county’s 11-year-old tallying machines aren’t fast enough to complete the recount by Thursday. The county is doing the Senate race first and will then do the governor. If the deadline is not met in a race, the results it reported last Saturday will stand.

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee contributed to this report.

For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: .

US analysts locate secret North Korean missile sites


AP Diplomatic Writer

Tuesday, November 13

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. analysts said Monday they have located 13 secret North Korean missile development sites, underscoring the challenge that the Trump administration faces in trying to reach its promised broad arms control agreement with Pyongyang.

The administration has said it is hopeful about eventually reaching an agreement with North Korea. President Donald Trump declared after his historic summit in June that with President Kim Jong Un there was “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” But a report based on satellite imagery shows the complexity posed by an extensive network of weapons facilities that the U.S. wants to neutralize.

A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies has identified 13 secret facilities used to produce missiles and related technology. Although the sites are not launch facilities and in some cases are rudimentary, the authors of the report say they are hidden and illustrate the scope of the North’s weapons program and the country’s determination to conceal its military might.

“The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,” they said.

The authors say the sites, which can be used for all classes of ballistic missiles, should be declared by North Korea and inspected in any credible, verifiable deal that addresses Pyongyang’s most significant threats to the United States and its allies.

South Korea’s presidential office said the report didn’t include any information it didn’t already know. Presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said continued activity at North Korean missile sites only underlines the need for nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang to proceed at a faster pace.

Kim took exception to a New York Times article on the report that said North Korea was engaging in “great deception,” saying that the North has never promised to dismantle a short-range ballistic missile base 135 kilometers (84 miles) northwest of Seoul that was highlighted by CSIS.

Kim said such suggestions can “trigger misunderstanding and potentially block dialogue … at a time when we need dialogue between North Korea and the United States.”

Seoul has worked hard to revive nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea that have reduced fears of war in South Korea following a series of North Korean weapons tests and threats of military action by Trump last year.

North Korea analysts not involved in the report said the findings were not surprising given Pyongyang’s past activities but were still cause for concern. They noted that Kim had not agreed to halt either nuclear weapons or missile development in negotiations with Trump or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“The fact that North Korea has continued to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in the midst of high-level diplomacy with China, South Korea and the U.S. should not come as a surprise,” said Abraham Denmark, the Asia program director at The Wilson Center. “Despite all the summitry, North Korea is just as dangerous today as it was a year ago.”

“Improving relations with Pyongyang may be a laudable goal, but any claim that the North Korean nuclear and missile threats have been solved is either wishful thinking or purposefully deceptive,” he said.

“Interesting but unsurprising report,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association. “Kim Jong Un only committed voluntarily to halt long-range missile tests.”

The report was released less than a week after North Korea abruptly called off a new round of negotiations with Pompeo that had been set for Thursday in New York. The cancellation, which the U.S. ascribed to scheduling issues, followed threats from North Korean officials to resume nuclear and missile testing unless U.S. sanctions are lifted.

The administration has said repeatedly that sanctions will not be lifted until a denuclearization agreement is fully implemented.

Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Will China help Trump denuclearize North Korea?

November 13, 2018


Randy Kluver

Dean, Oklahoma State University

Robert Hinck

Assistant Professor, Monmouth College

Skye Cooley

Assistant Professor of Communication, Oklahoma State University

Disclosure statement

Randy Kluver has received funding from the Department of Defense to conduct research on global media narratives.

Robert Hinck has received funding from the Department of Defense to conduct research on global media narratives

Skye Cooley receives funding from the Department of Homeland Security. He is affiliated with Strategic Multi-Layer Assessment group.

When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June pledged to work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” by 2020, the White House hailed the agreement as “a tremendous moment for the world.”

The agreement came after a year of tense negotiations between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump – an undiplomatic diplomatic process that included insults, threats, name-calling and canceled diplomatic visits.

“I was really being tough. And so was he,” Trump later said. “And we’d go back and forth. And then we fell in love. OK?”

With all the bilateral drama, it’s easy to forget that this nuclear showdown does not involve just the U.S. and North Korea.

The China-Korea connection

The Korean peninsula has been in a protracted conflict since 1950, when Communist North Korean troops invaded South Korea.

North Korea has been considered a dangerous nuclear power since withdrawing from the international nonproliferation treaty on nuclear weapons in 1985, with neighboring Japan and South Korea most at risk of nuclear attack.

Both are strong U.S. allies who essentially support Trump’s negotiations with Kim’s regime.

Less certain is the position of China, North Korea’s Communist northern neighbor.

China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade and is perhaps the only true “friend” North Korea has.

It is also an economic behemoth with its own ambitions of global dominance.

In recent years China has flexed its foreign policy muscles, paying for major infrastructure development in Africa, Pakistan and the Caribbean. Its diplomacy budget has almost doubled since Xi took office in 2013.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang has assured the United States that China supports “the U.S. and [North Korea] in actively seeking a political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue” and is “committed to achieving denuclearization.”

Korea experts have their doubts.

Many believe China fears that a successful Trump negotiation could lead the U.S. to replace China as North Korea’s top ally. Its government “does not want a reunified Korea, indebted to Washington, sitting just across its border,” Richard McGregor, senior fellow at Australia’s Lowy Institute, told CNN in May.

So where does China’s government really stand on the U.S.-led denuclearization of North Korea?

China defends North Korea

To answer this question, we analyzed one year of Chinese news coverage and commentary on North Korean denuclearatization.

Because journalism in China is heavily state-controlled, media analysis can shed light on government positions that may not be public as official policy.

Our project examining China’s view of the U.S-North Korea negotiations is part of ongoing research into the domestic media coverage of global affairs in Russia and China, two countries that contest America’s dominance in the current world order.

We read China’s position on the Trump-Kim process as delicately balanced between defending its Korean ally while signaling its respect for the international community.

Chinese media makes sure to report North Korea’s side of the argument, tacitly supporting Kim Jong Un’s need for security while questioning American intentions in the Asian region.

For instance, Xinhua reported in Oct. 2017 that “Kim justified the development of nuclear and missile programs by [North Korea] as the only way of defense against ‘protracted nuclear threats’ by the United States.”

As an op-ed from the English-language Chinese daily Global Times further argues that the United States uses North Korea “as a pretext to justify its military presence in Northeast Asia.”

When Chinese media does denounce aggressive North Korean military actions, such as intercontinental missile tests, the articles usually go on to portray the United States’ anti-ballistic missile systems and joint military exercises with Japan and South Korea as far more destabilizing for the Asia region.

China opposes “any strategic military deployment by the U.S. that will cause threats to China’s security under the excuse of dealing with the peninsula situation,” declared China’s Global Times in 2016.

Towing the line

Still, China is careful to uphold international standards when it comes to North Korea.

It advocates for a cooperative and dialogue-based peace process and has endorsed and implemented all United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea.

After North Korea’s nuclear tests in fall 2017, for example, the U.N. unanimously adopted severe economic sanctions that further isolated the regime. China criticized U.S. rhetoric about Kim’s regime as overheated, but ultimately signed off on the sanctions.

In Chinese media, such actions – defending North Korean sovereignty while supporting the international community – confirm China’s role as a fair arbiter. China sees itself as perhaps the only nation appropriately balancing North Korea’s economic needs with the world’s security concerns.

For Chinese media, this confirms China’s importance in global diplomacy. When President Trump said that “China has aided efforts with North Korea,” his comment was widely quoted.

Will China help denuclearize North Korea?

Ultimately, our analysis finds that China’s global aspirations have not yet led President Xi to openly dispute American leadership in resolving world conflicts.

China is likely to play a supporting role in the gradual denuclearization of North Korea, even as it seeks to shape that process to ensure that Chinese influence and prestige in the region is upheld.

Chinese media has even praised President Trump’s June 6 summit with Kim, saying it warmed relations between the nations and laid a foundation for further progress toward peace.

The Chinese government may well work “on both sides towards this goal,” as Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a December 2017 press conference.

But in the end, we believe Xi is more of a U.S. partner than foe when it comes to Korea.

The Conversation

Trump’s new Iranian oil sanctions may inflict pain at home without serving strategic objectives

November 13, 2018


Gregory Brew

Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Presidential History, Southern Methodist University

Disclosure statement

Gregory Brew contributes to, a website dedicated to energy market and geopolitical analysis.

The Trump administration has formally imposed new sanctions on Iran aimed at hindering Iran’s oil exports – a move that had been in the works for six months.

The U.S. government has also made a second, more surprising, announcement: It’s granting eight countries waivers that will let them keep on buying Iranian petroleum.

Since I’m a historian of energy and U.S.-Iranian relations, I’ve been monitoring how the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran has affected global oil markets. I believe that these new sanctions do not serve U.S. energy interests because they may spark price increases that would punish American consumers. More generally, this move illustrates what I see as the incoherence of Trump’s energy policies and international diplomacy.

Taking aim at oil exports

Since Iran first became a major oil producer in the 1930s, its government has depended on oil and gas revenue for most of its budget. When the Obama administration imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran in 2012, to force Tehran to the nuclear bargaining table, the Middle Eastern country’s exports declined sharply.

The U.S. lifted those sanctions after Iran agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an international agreement that placed restraints on Iran’s nuclear program. As a result, its overseas oil sales shot up in 2016 and 2017.

But now President Donald Trump, who has derided the agreement since his electoral campaign, is bringing the hammer back down.

Shortly after withdrawing from the nuclear deal in May 2018, the administration announced that it would re-impose sanctions and attempt to reduce Iran’s oil exports to “zero.”

Trump’s team also vowed that it would retaliate against any countries that kept buying Iranian oil after Nov. 5. Iran’s oil exports then slid from 2.6 million barrels per day to about 1.7 million by September.

Panic over prices at the pump

The administration claims that it wants to change Iran’s behavior and that the sanctions are intended to pressure the Iranian government to stop supporting terrorism. Many analysts have speculated that the U.S. intends to exert pressure on Iran until the regime collapses.

Sanctions may bring about pain and suffering for the Iranian people, but I agree with other experts who doubt that they will weaken the most entrenched and conservative elements of Iran’s government – let alone dislodge its leadership.

What’s more, negotiators of the original nuclear accord doubt that Iran will agree to anything new. It’s more likely that further confrontation with the U.S. will strengthen Iranian hardliners and neuter chances of further negotiation, just as heightened tensions doomed talks between George W. Bush’s administration and the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami in the early 2000s.

Regardless of the political effect on Iran, Trump’s effort to squeeze Iranian oil exports have affected global oil markets.

The reduction in Iranian shipments has put pressure on global oil prices, propelling them for a while above US$80 a barrel for the first time in four years. Oil prices then tumbled once the Trump administrated granted the waivers. U.S. gasoline prices were falling when the sanctions were imposed yet averaging $2.74 per gallon, which is higher than they’ve been in years.

Trump has fumed about this spike, blaming the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for not pumping enough to meet worldwide demand.

But OPEC is not responsible for this upswing. Its members have been producing more oil lately to make up for declines in Iran and Venezuela. In fact, its spare capacity, which could be vital in the event of a major disruption, is running low.

Saudi Arabia claims it can pump an extra 2 million barrels per day. But data from the Energy Information Administration indicates that Saudi Arabia will only have the potential to increase its daily production by 1.2 million barrels in 2019. That’s a dangerously slim margin.

Energy dominance

The Trump administration has an insurance policy against the tightening oil market: its “energy dominance” policy and higher domestic production levels.

Domestic production has doubled in a single decade, thanks to a boom in drilling that began during the Obama administration following groundwork from George W. Bush’s presidency.

Crude oil exports are way up too, thanks to the repeal of of a 40-year ban on most of those shipments in late 2015.

With domestic production booming, there’s a chance that the U.S. could be insulated from shocks to the global oil market.

But compared to Saudi Arabia, Russia and other major producers, America still sells relatively little crude to other countries and it imports far more oil than it exports.

What’s more, U.S. oil comes from hundreds of smaller fields, which makes it hard to easily cut or increase output. As a result, the notion that the U.S. can serve as a “swing producer” to restrain global oil price volatility is, in my opinion, unrealistic.

One way that the Trump administration could help is by encouraging energy conservation. Instead, it’s done the opposite by encouraging more fossil fuel investment than ever. Developing more oil fields may boost U.S. production, but it will also deepen American dependence on gasoline and diesel, making the U.S. economy more vulnerable to disruptions in the global market.

No end game

So why did the Trump administration give eight of Iran’s biggest customers, China, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Greece, Turkey, Japan and Italy waivers?

Perhaps it recognized the risks tied to squeezing Iran’s oil out of the markets altogether. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that waivers were granted after each country promised to continue cutting Iranian imports over time.

Trump has admitted that he was “going a bit slower” on Iran. “I don’t want to lift oil prices,” he said.

He took this position despite reported protests among Iran hard-liners like National Security adviser John Bolton. Pompeo, another hardliner, defended the waivers as part of a broader strategy of pressure on Iran. He rejected the idea that this was a retreat.

Whatever the intent, this move did soothe fears of a supply shortage.

With these waivers in place, Iran’s oil exports are likely to rebound slightly in the coming months.

But should the Trump administration change course again, cutting off much more of Iran’s access to global oil markets at a time when the world’s spare capacity is dangerously low, it could lead to much higher gas prices in the U.S. and elsewhere.

And that’s the fundamental contradiction at the heart of U.S. oil policy. Punishing Iran by choking off its access to global petroleum markets will end up punishing U.S. consumers. They will have to pay more at the pump and higher oil prices will make just about every purchase more expensive.

FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington. An associate of Stone said Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, that he expects to face charges in the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Conservative conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi said on his YouTube show that negotiations fell apart with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and he expects in the coming days to be charged with making false statements. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) – In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington. An associate of Stone said Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, that he expects to face charges in the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Conservative conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi said on his YouTube show that negotiations fell apart with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and he expects in the coming days to be charged with making false statements. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
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