Thursday, July 24, 2008

Switzerland v Libya - an illustration of why we need to get off foreign oil

When I saw that Switzerland had taken Muammar Qaddafi's son, Hannibal, (and his wife) into custody for mistreating hotel employees last week, I found it interesting, but not particularly newsworthy.

Col Gaddafi's youngest son Hannibal, 32, and his wife Aline were arrested last Wednesday after an incident in a five-star hotel in Geneva. He was released on bail two days later after posting bail of 500,000 Swiss Francs. His wife, who is nine months pregnant, was taken to hospital during police questioning.

The couple were charged with assaulting two of their staff, a Moroccan man and a Tunisian woman, with a belt and coat hanger. The woman was hospitalised.

It's not like Hannibal, whose real name is Motassim Bilal, hasn't been in trouble in Europe before. He has.

Well, I started paying a bit more attention today that when I saw that Libyan Tankers Stopped Carrying Oil to Switzerland. (Libya is the biggest supplier of crude to Switzerland. I've seen reports ranging from 50% to 90%.)

Libya's state-run oil tanker company said it will stop carrying oil destined for Switzerland following the arrest in Geneva of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's son.

Switzerland will have to find other tankers than those of General National Maritime Transport Co. to help import the 60,000 barrels a day of oil it gets from Libya, company chairman Ali Belhag said in a telephone interview from Tripoli. Qaddafi's son, Hannibal, helps run the company

``Tankers will stop carrying oil that has Switzerland as the final destination,'' he said. ``This decision is from our company, other shipping companies are not affected.''

The holder of Africa's largest oil reserves, Libya is the biggest supplier of crude to Switzerland. The Alpine nation buys 4 percent of the North African state's daily output of 1.7 million barrels, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

The company demanded an apology from the Swiss government and that a lawsuit against Qaddafi's son and his wife for mistreating hotel employees in Geneva last week is dropped, said Belhag, who spoke as he was taking part in a demonstration against the Swiss embassy in Tripoli. The Libyan port authority will not accept handling Swiss cargo until these demands are met, he said.

For it's part Switzerland is discouraging trips to Libya while officials claim there will be no disruption to supply.

Rolf Hartl, managing director of the Swiss Oil Association, said he had not received confirmation of a Libyan cutoff. On Wednesday, he had predicted an oil boycott would not significantly impact Switzerland.

"We have compulsory stocks which cover Swiss domestic demand for about two-and-a-half months for gasoline, diesel and heating oil and about three months for jet fuel," he told World Radio Switzerland.

"We would have ample time to adjust our supply scheme and to cover the loss of Libyan imports."

Let's all hope so.