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Russia Oil Price Cap Effect   12/03 07:09

   Here is what to know about the Russian oil price cap, the EU embargo and 
what they could mean for consumers and the global economy.

   FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Western governments have agreed to cap the price 
of Russia's oil exports in an attempt to limit the fossil fuel earnings that 
support Moscow's budget, its military and the invasion of Ukraine.

   The cap is set to take effect Monday, the same day the European Union will 
impose a boycott on most Russian oil -- its crude that is shipped by sea. The 
EU reached a deal for a $60-per-barrel threshold Friday, and the Group of Seven 
nations and Australia signed off on the deal later in the day.

   The twin measures could have an uncertain effect on the price of oil as 
worries over lost supply through the boycott compete with fears about lower 
demand from a slowing global economy.

   Here is what to know about the price cap, the EU embargo and what they could 
mean for consumers and the global economy:

   WHAT IS THE PRICE CAP AND HOW WOULD IT WORK?

   U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has proposed the cap with other Group 
of 7 allies as a way to limit Russia's earnings while keeping Russian oil 
flowing to the global economy. The aim: hurt Moscow's finances while avoiding a 
sharp oil price spike if Russia's oil is suddenly taken off the global market.

   Insurance companies and other firms needed to ship oil would only be able to 
deal with Russian crude if the oil is priced at or below the cap. Most insurers 
are located in the EU or the United Kingdom and could be required to 
participate in the cap.

   HOW WOULD OIL KEEP FLOWING TO THE GLOBAL ECONOMY?

   Universal enforcement of the insurance ban, imposed by the EU and U.K. in 
earlier rounds of sanctions, could take so much Russian crude off the market 
that oil prices would spike, Western economies would suffer, and Russia would 
see increased earnings from whatever oil it can ship in defiance of the embargo.

   Russia, the world's No. 2 oil producer, has already rerouted much of its 
supply to India, China and other Asian countries at discounted prices after 
Western customers shunned it even before the EU ban.

   WHAT EFFECT WOULD DIFFERENT CAP LEVELS HAVE?

   A $60 cap will not have much impact on Russia's finances, said Simone 
Tagliapietra, an energy policy expert at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. 
That "will almost go unnoticed," he said, because it would be near where 
Russian oil is already selling.

   Russian Urals blend sells at a significant discount to international 
benchmark Brent and fell below $60 for the first time in months this week on 
fears of reduced demand from China due to outbreaks of COVID-19.

   "Up front, the cap is not a satisfying number," Tagliapietra said, but it 
could prevent the Kremlin from profiting if oil prices suddenly shoot higher 
and the cap bites.

   "The cap might be lowered over time if we want to increase the pressure on 
Russian President Vladimir Putin," he said. "The problem is: We have already 
spent a lot of months waiting for a measure to dent" Putin's oil profits.

   If the cap had been as low as $50, it would cut into Russia's earnings and 
make it impossible for Russia to balance its state budget, with Moscow believed 
to require around $60 to $70 per barrel to do that, its so-called "fiscal 
break-even."

   However, a $50 cap would still have been above Russia's cost of production 
of between $30 and $40 per barrel, giving Moscow an incentive to keep selling 
oil simply to avoid having to cap wells that can be hard to restart.

   Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute for International Finance in 
Washington, tweeted last week that a $30 cap would "give Russia the financial 
crisis it deserves."

   The wrangling over where to set the cap highlighted the disagreement on 
which goal to pursue: hurting Russia's finances or taming inflation, with the 
U.S. coming down on the side of controlling price increases, said Maria 
Shagina, a sanctions expert at the International Institute for Strategic 
Studies in Berlin.

   With Monday's deadline looming, she said that "$60 is better than not 
agreeing at all. They can obviously revise it later on to reflect conditions on 
the market ... and tighten it."

   WHAT IF RUSSIA AND OTHER COUNTRIES WON'T GO ALONG?

   Russia has said it will not observe a cap and will halt deliveries to 
countries that do. Russia could retaliate by shutting off shipments in hopes of 
profiting from a sharply higher global oil price on whatever it can sell around 
the sanctions.

   Buyers in China and India might not go along with the cap, while Russia or 
China could try to set up their own insurance providers to replace those barred 
by U.S., U.K. and Europe.

   Russia also could sell oil off the books by using "dark fleet" tankers with 
obscure ownership, as have Venezuela and Iran. Oil could be transferred from 
one ship to another and mixed with oil of similar quality to disguise its 
origin.

   Even under those circumstances, the cap would make it "more costly, 
time-consuming and cumbersome" for Russia to sell oil around the restrictions, 
Shagina said.

   The greater distances involved in shipping oil to Asia means up to four 
times more tanker capacity is needed -- and not everyone will take Russian 
insurance.

   "You need to tap into this dark fleet, and it's not limitless," she said. 
"Iran and Venezuela are using it, rather effectively, but you might face 
competition with the same targets. ... This cat-and-mouse game is always 
inherent in sanctions mechanisms."

   WHAT ABOUT THE EU EMBARGO?

   Russian producers likely won't be able to reroute all their oil from Europe, 
formerly their biggest customer, and some will likely be lost to the global 
market -- at least at first.

   Analysts at Commerzbank say the EU embargo and cap together could result in 
"a noticeable tightening on the oil market in early 2023" and expect the price 
of international benchmark Brent to climb back to $95 per barrel in coming 
weeks. On Friday, Brent slid to $85.48 a barrel.

   The biggest impact from the EU embargo may not come Monday but on Feb. 5, 
when Europe's additional ban on refinery products made from oil -- such as 
diesel fuel -- come into effect.

   Europe still has many cars that run on diesel. The fuel also is used for 
truck transport to get a huge range of goods to consumers and to run 
agricultural machinery -- so those higher costs will be spread throughout the 
economy.

    

 
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