The No. 7-ranked Ohio State field hockey team’s main goal entering the 2010 NCAA Tournament Saturday is simple: win the first two rounds of the tournament and advance to the Final Four. “Even from preseason, our biggest goal was making the Final Four,” senior back Bri Doak said. “If we play like I know we can play, I don’t see why we won’t be in the Final Four next weekend.” OSU (16-4) will play the No. 15-ranked University of Albany (16-5) in the first round of the tournament. Because the bracket for the tournament was not released until Tuesday night, the OSU coaching staff has had little time to scout Albany. However, OSU coach Anne Wilkinson has seen enough to know Albany will be a tough challenge for the Buckeyes. “They’re strong. They’re very, very strong with their tackling,” Wilkinson said. “They have great individual skills and they are very disciplined with the way they play.” The Buckeyes enter the NCAA Tournament coming off a disappointing loss to the Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament Finals. Before the loss to UM, OSU had a 10-game winning streak. With the winning streak gone, OSU players are now looking at the NCAA Tournament as a fresh start. “The Michigan game was a disappointing loss for us,” senior forward Jena Cacciatore said. “The NCAA (Tournament) is a new season. We are 0-0 across the board, so anything can happen.” Cacciatore is excited for Saturday’s game against Albany for more than a chance to make up for the UM loss. Albany’s senior midfielder Sarah Deane is Cacciatore’s good friend and former high school teammate. “I’ve been asking coach to play her for years. When I found out, I knew it would be bittersweet because one of us will get knocked out,” Cacciatore said. “It’s taught me I better be careful what I wish for.” The game will be special for Doak as well. She will be making her 80th career start, setting a new OSU record. “When (Doak) came in as a freshman, she kind of flew under the radar, but she’s always been a constant for us,” Wilkinson said. “She came in with great fitness and has maintained it. She has earned every minute.” OSU plays Albany at 2 p.m. Saturday in State College, Pa. The winner will advance to the second round and play at 2 p.m. Sunday against the winner of Penn State and Syracuse.
Ohio State softball’s sophomore pitcher Alex DiDomenico is making strides to be a star player for the Buckeyes after pitching her fourth complete shutout win of the season over the weekend at the Cherry Blossom Classic. In OSU’s game Saturday against Canisius in Fairfax, Va., DiDomenico struck out three batters and allowed one hit in six innings of play. The Buckeyes won, 8-0. DiDomenico received her first career Big Ten weekly honor of Pitcher of the Week Feb. 18. “It was very exciting for her, but I think most importantly it was the fact that what she did was a team effort,” said OSU softball coach Kelly Schoenly. The Youngstown native’s athletic journey began when she was young. “My dad got me into the sport when I was like 5, and my sister played, too,” DiDomenico said. “They love the sport and they are my biggest supporters, you know, it’s really important to us.” DiDomenico was also selected as an Ohio State Scholar-Athlete in 2012, an achievement that she said she credits to knowing her priorities. “It’s always tough, but really, it’s prioritizing your time and knowing how to put what’s important first,” DiDomenico said. When DiDomenico finds time to unwind, it is not unusual to catch her watching the movie “Pitch Perfect” with teammate sophomore catcher Shelby Pickett, catching up on needed sleep or keeping up with schoolwork. DiDomenico’s teammates also said they often play pranks on her because she has a good sense of humor. “We went around in a circle and everyone had to say ‘woof,’ and it had a name after it, and hers was ‘woof arted,’” Pickett said. “So when you put it together, it’s ‘who farted’ and she had no idea until the end and it was hilarious.” Schoenly said DiDomenico’s determination on and off the field is a characteristic that is hard to miss. “She’s a boxer, a fighter, she’s a bulldog, she’s all of those words,” Schoenly said. “She might get knocked down, might get a hit, but we say she’ll bend, but she won’t break. So she’s definitely got that, ‘You might hit me once but I’m going to come back harder, fighting harder,’ mentality.” DiDomenico said she’s keeping that intense focus on softball and school for the time being. “I would really like to become an All-American and just keep working towards that, you know anything is possible,” DiDomenico said. “I just want a good education, hopefully a good job, but I don’t know, wherever life takes me.” Schoenly said she expects great things in the future from DiDomenico. “I think she’s one of those young women that is going to go and conquer the world,” Schoenly said. “I really feel like she’s got kind of an inner drive where she’s going to do something special because she’s got that energy and desire that you can feel it coming out.” OSU is scheduled to play Indiana at Buckeye Field on Friday at 3 p.m. in the Buckeyes’ first conference game of the season.
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London: While a divorce or a new relationship brings many changes in a person’s life, a new study shows an association with reduced physical activity levels.The findings showed that men who divorced and women who found a new partner reduced their physical exercises. The total number of non-exercise steps was reduced for men who divorced, whereas for women who found a new spouse, the total steps decreased significantly when compared to women married throughout. Also Read – Add new books to your shelfAccording to the researchers, it is difficult to provide a single explanatory factor about the effects of changes in marital status on physical activity. “It seems that the changes in relationships affect the physical activity of men and women differently,” said Kasper Salin, postdoctoral researcher from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland. For the study, published in the Journal of Public Health, the team included 1,051 participants aged between 34 and 49. Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsiveThey also investigated the relationship between socioeconomic position and changes in physical activity. They found that among the men and women with the highest socioeconomic status, the number of aerobic steps increased significantly over the four years. Here, aerobic steps refers to steps taken during activities that last for at least 10 minutes without interruption at a pace of 60 or more steps per minute. “The rise in the number of steps focused on the highest social classes, especially in aerobic steps,” says Salin. “From the point of view of maintaining fitness, it is important to add aerobic steps.”
14 min read EXPAND Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. April 1, 2007 Marketplace ResearchOne thing differentiating eBay businesses that grow from those that don’t is the owners’ levels of eBay market knowledge. Marketplace data and software tools from eBay and third parties can help businesses on eBay research their markets to improve results. eBay’s own Marketplace Research is a recent introduction that provides consolidated metrics on up to 90 days of completed items and allows for sophisticated analysis. It is offered in three tiers: Fast Pass for the casual user; Basic for those who want to handle variables such as starting price ranges and number of successful sales; and Pro, which allows for research by related keywords, among other advanced features.Third-party provider Terapeak, which uses data licensed from eBay, lets sellers and buyers look back through extended time periods to find price trends on specific products through completed listings, along with other sophisticated research tools.DeepAnalysis market research software from HammerTap can do a number of powerful analyses, such as studying how starting prices compare to bids. You can also use it to figure out the best categories for your items by looking at the number of bids or selling prices for similar items.Andale’s Research tools help eBay sellers find the success rate and average selling price of any item and identify the price most likely to increase sales volume. Services can be purchased a la carte.Seller CentralIf you want to build your business, you should become familiar with Seller Central. It’s the mother lode for tips, tools, information and other resources for eBay sellers.Seller Central is organized into convenient sections. Best Practices presents time-tested approaches for selling on eBay. Its recommendations are based on the techniques used by eBay’s most successful sellers. Advanced Selling is for those who are ready to go beyond the basics. Category Tips directs you to specific resources arranged by category to help you fine-tune your approach to fit your category.The “In Demand” section in Category Tips is especially helpful. It lists the top 10 items in your category and the top 10 buyer search words.What’s Hot gives you a look at the items and categories that are popular and also provides you with a preview of eBay’s merchandising calendar so you’ll know about upcoming promotions in time to prepare for them. News & Updates gives you a link to sign up for the PowerUp newsletter, a monthly e-mail with the insider’s view of new selling features, promotions and tools.Part of the What’s Hot section of Seller Central is the “Hot Categories Report,” a monthly listing of categories that meet specific criteria for month-to-month growth in bids and conversion rates. Find out which categories are Super Hot, boasting a 35-percentage-point or more spread between bid growth rate and listing growth, to identify your most promising categories. Get more on the “Hot Categories Report.”The latest addition to this genre of buying analysis is eBay Pop!. Find the latest “Movers & Shakers” as well as the most popular items in several eBay categories. For more details, check out www.ebay.com/ebaypop.What does that leave? The catchall “Resources” link takes you to a page listing scores of tools and links on topics such as deciding what to sell and eBay’s Giving Works charity program.What Buyers WantYou can find out what buyers are looking for by using several eBay resources for sellers who want to build their businesses on eBay. Reviews & Guides is a tool buyers can use to decide what to buy and a way for sellers to look inside buyers’ minds. The “Reviews” section contains eBay user-written comments and ratings for specific products, such as books and CDs. The “Guides” section consists of handbooks written by experts, collectors and other members to give you insight into topics ranging from collectible dolls to caring for antiques. Learn more about Reviews & Guides at http://reviews.ebay.com.You can browse the Want It Now listings to see exactly what buyers are looking for, in their own words. Buyers can create Want It Now posts to share what they want to purchase with millions of sellers, including you. Learn more about this free service at http://pages.ebay.com/wantitnow.Picture ManagereBay’s Picture Manager is a fully integrated service to help you post pictures for your listings. With Picture Manager, you save time by tapping into all your pictures from the “Sell Your Item” form or My eBay. You won’t have to leave eBay to change, add or remove pictures. You won’t have to upload pictures for each individual listing, and you can add multiple pictures to any listing for one flat fee.You can transfer all the pictures you already have on eBay to Picture Manager with a single click. Once you do so, Picture Manager gives you a single place to host all your pictures for About Me and eBay Stores as well as listings. Security tools allow you to add your User ID to your pictures as a watermark. Picture Manager is priced at several levels, from $9.99 a month for 50MB to $24.99 a month for 1GB. Featured Store sellers get discounted rates, and Anchor Store sellers can subscribe to Picture Manager at any level for no fee. Get more information about Picture Manager and its features at http://pages.ebay.com/picture_manager. Register Now » BUILD Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global Shopping Comparison SitesDid you know that more than half of online shoppers use a shopping comparison site to make their buying decisions? And the comparison site they use most is Shopping.com, a part of eBay since August 2005. Shopping.com is a place shoppers can go to compare prices, availability and shipping costs from thousands of vendors in a single location. When shoppers make their selections, they’re directed to the chosen vendor to complete their purchase. Using shopping comparison sites effectively is an excellent way to expand an offline business on eBay. You can join the merchants listed on Shopping.com, including some of the world’s largest stores as well as many smaller vendors, by providing the site with a listing of your products in a format specified by the service. Shopping.com will create your list for a fee, but there is no fee if you create the list yourself. Enroll, and Shopping.com gives you directions for uploading your list to the website. After that, you pay only when shoppers click on your product listing to go to your buying page from Shopping.com’s search results. For more detailed information, including pricing, visit www.shopping.com.PayPal Merchant ToolsUsing PayPal Merchant tools is the preferred way to pay and be paid for online transactions. This eBay-owned service gives you the ability to cost-effectively handle credit and debit cards as well as bank transfers and PayPal account balances. Your customers don’t need to have a PayPal account to pay you, and there are four service levels to meet the specific needs of your business. PayPal Website Payments Standard lets you start accepting payments immediately without delays for approval. You don’t need to have a shopping cart or make an annual commitment, and there are no monthly fees or charges for startup or cancellation of the standard service. However, there are transaction fees.PayPal Website Payments Pro gives U.S.-based merchants the features of merchant accounts without the same high costs. PayPal Website Payments Pro costs $20 a month in addition to transaction fees. PayPal Email Payments lets you get paid quickly by e-mail. It’s fast and easy to set up–just 10 minutes, and you don’t even need to have a website. You can send out e-mail invoices and receive payments through PayPal. Customers don’t need their own PayPal account to send funds to your account–they can do so when they receive your e-mailed invoice.Each of these three PayPal service levels has the option (either with a paid upgrade, by application and approval, or through the “Virtual Terminal” feature, respectively) of accepting credit or debit card payments directly on the site as well as by phone, fax, mail or in person.PayPal as an Additional Payment Option is a way for merchants who already have a merchant account to add PayPal and give customers another way to pay. Get more details about PayPal Merchant tools at www.paypal.com.Merchant eCommerce Solutions CenterEstablished offline businesses looking to expand to eBay can get an all-points introduction to the world of eBay Stores at the Merchant eCommerce Solutions Center. With a single click, you can pull up a matrix comparing eBay’s e-commerce solutions, including selling on eBay with an eBay Store, selling online with a ProStores web store and selling on eBay without an eBay Store.Additional links take you to articles on e-commerce and other eBay merchant resources, including PayPal. If you have slow-moving inventory you want to get rid of or a local presence you’d like to expand worldwide, or you simply want to explore the potential of eBay to drive online shoppers to your business, the Merchant eCommerce Solutions Center should be your first stop.The site also gives you a link to a list of Certified Business consultants that can help you get started. Learn more about the Merchant eCommerce Solutions Center by visiting www.ebay.com/merchantsolutions. eBay Certified ProviderseBay Certified Providers are eBay-qualified experts with proven tools and techniques to help sellers. Certified Providers have highly sophisticated offerings for expert sellers–and easy-to-use services and solutions for people just starting their businesses on eBay.Service providers give nontechnical help with listing strategies, template design and similar matters. Solution providers can help with software and technical services, such as custom software development, listing management software and integrating your business with the eBay platform. These experts provide assistance with marketplace strategy, merchandising design, customer support, managing inventory or transactions, and more.As Was is an example of a Certified Provider. This service, provided by an experienced eBay seller, can help you launch your business on eBay with custom templates, logo design, strategies for sales and marketing, vendor recommendations, operations management and more. For details, visit www.aswas.com.Receller is also a Certified Provider, and it makes listing an item on eBay as simple as snapping a picture with your camera phone. You photograph an item, send it to Receller, and a listing coach calls you back to take the information for your listing. This service is a boon to new eBay sellers because their coaches apply eBay selling best practices to help you get the best results from your listing. Learn more at www.receller.com.For more on Certified Providers and to find the right one for you, visit http://solutions.ebay.com and look for the Certified Provider logo.Education Specialists are another type of eBay-qualified expert specializing in teaching others to use eBay. The more than 1,000 Education Specialists across the country are all trained by eBay and use the official eBay University curriculum to teach you how to sell. Learn more about the Education Specialist Program or find a class in your area at www.ebay.com/esp.Digital Photo TipsPictures are vital to creating effective listings–the better your pictures, the better your listings will work. Start with the right camera. The large files created by many high-resolution digital cameras are too bulky to upload easily and use in listings; small 72 dpi images are fine.One solution is to use one of two Casio cameras (priced at $300 and $400) with the “eBay Best Shot Mode.” This feature automatically reduces the size of the picture and overall file size. If your camera doesn’t do this, you will often need to resize your photo and perhaps change the quality to medium or so to make it easier to load in your listing. If you’re listing small items, you’ll need the ability to use a macro lens for close-ups; consider placing a small object or ruler next to the item to indicate size. Focus carefully–soft-focus pictures look fuzzy and unappealing. If you don’t have natural lighting, choose a camera that has an external flash for better lighting. Control over white balance also helps you photograph in light other than daylight. The best background is white seamless paper, available from professional camera shops. Finally, you’ll want a camera that’s easy to connect to your computer for uploading images.Sell Your ItemThe “Sell Your Item” form is the eBay seller’s gateway to the 222 million registered eBay members. The newest version of the form features a simplified listing process with fewer pages and fields, cutting down on the time it takes to create a listing. You enter all your details on one page, and you can review it before completing the listing. You can also customize the form to hide options you don’t use, showing only the ones you do use.You can create colorful, attractive item descriptions with twice as many fonts as the form’s previous version and more than 120 different colors. The new form also supports the Firefox browser. There is a “category suggestions” feature that gives you advice on listing your item in the best category for maximum exposure. Other additions are dynamic help and personalized tips, which automatically provide guidance and best practices as you make your way through the form. The new form also offers a listing preview section that lets you see in advance what your listing will look like when potential buyers see it. Finally, there are reusable listing templates to make it easier to list additional items. Learn more about the new “Sell Your Item” form at http://pages.ebay.com/syi/newform.What Would You Sell?Before you can sell on eBay, you need to have something to sell. The good news is, you probably already do. What Would You Sell? is an eBay feature that helps you identify items you own that you could sell on eBay. It also helps you see how similar items have fared, decide whether to sell yours and get help listing them.Here’s how it works: What Would You Sell? displays mock-ups of rooms in a typical house, such as bedrooms, a living room, etc. Clicking on one of these rooms takes you to the appropriate mock-up. When you click on one of the items in the picture–a painting on the living room wall, for example–a window will pop up with information about similar items on eBay; for instance, art sells on eBay every 14 seconds. Clicking a link in the window takes you to recently completed listings in that category.A link on the “What Would You Sell?” page takes you directly to a “Sell Your Item” form so you can instantly begin the process of turning your unwanted items into cash. If you need selling tips, another link takes you to Seller Central. Learn more about What Would You Sell? at http://pages.ebay.com/sellercentral/whatwouldyousell/what_to_sell_house.html.Shipping CenterFulfillment is a vital part of eBay selling, and the Shipping Center is your eBay tool for handling logistics cost- and time-effectively. The shipping tools available here let you do things such as include a flat shipping rate in your listings or use the eBay Shipping Calculator so buyers can use their own ZIP codes to figure out their shipping cost.When it comes time to ship a customer’s purchase, the Shipping Center helps you buy and print labels for both domestic and international UPS and U.S. Postal Service shipments. You can also use the Shipping Center to request a pickup from UPS or USPS, saving you time and gas money on a trip to either drop-off location. Finally, you can track shipments using My eBay or PayPal’s “Account Overview” feature.Links from the Shipping Center take you to sources for shipping supplies on eBay, a helpful video to save you time on shipping and eBay’s Freight Resource Center, where you will find tools to calculate shipping rates and arrange shipment for items over 150 pounds.eBay charges no fees for Shipping Center services, and you can pay carriers for the cost of shipping and insurance through PayPal. Learn more about the Shipping Center at www.ebay.com/shipping. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Nigeria has 37 billion barrels of crude oil reserve and is Africa’s largest oil producer. The country also boasts 187 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, the ninth-largest reserve in the world. Nigeria has all the right geology for oil and gas. But geology isn’t everything. The best geology in the world can still be a terrible place to put your money if other risks threaten to steal all of a project’s profits and potential – and country risk can pose precisely that threat. Think about it this way. In considering any business venture, you need to know several key parameters, such as how much it will cost to establish the operation, how much you will produce, and what percentage of your profits the government will take. In Nigeria, you cannot calculate any of these metrics with confidence because the rules are so complex and corrupt. Now a new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), being debated in Nigeria’s parliament after some 15 years in the works, is supposed to change all of that. The new PIB is intended to clarify, codify, and clean up an industry where corruption and uncertainty are killing investment interest. Unfortunately, the new PIB is just as bad as the 13 separate rules it is set to replace. It would solidify a structure that operates on bribery and favors and it would take so much profit from producers that the effort would no longer be worth the risk. It would scare away the oil and gas investors that it is supposed to attract, and in doing so would doom Nigeria’s troubled energy sector to continue on its current downhill trajectory. I want to talk about Nigeria today not just to scare investors away from one particular country, but to remind us all that country risk can easily make or break a project. No matter how fantastic the geology or how large the reserve, if the government of the day is corrupt, desperate for income or popularity, straight-up greedy, or any combination thereof, best just walk away with your money. If you invest in a country with that kind of government, you might as well have just handed your dollars to the government on a golden platter. And if you don’t know how much risk a country bears, best to find out from an energy investment team that travels the world to assess country risk firsthand. Setting the Stage: Nigeria’s Oil Nightmare Nigeria officially produces 2.7 million barrels of oil a day, but no one has any confidence in that number. Oil is stolen at a shocking rate in the country, so figures from traders on Nigeria’s saleable oil show output well below that government figure. More generally, information about Africa’s biggest oil industry is an opaque myriad of numbers, and no one knows which ones are accurate. Experts say Nigeria could easily measure how much oil it produces but it chooses not to… because if there were an authoritative figure, the truly horrifying scope of corruption would be exposed. Mismanagement, theft, and corruption cost the industry billions of dollars a year. Heavy government subsidies for petrol add another $16 billion to the annual tab. In addition the country’s four refineries work far below capacity, forcing Nigeria to import most of its fuel. A new report, commissioned after the country erupted in protests in January when the government tried to reduce fuel subsidies, states oil-theft volumes have climbed to the astonishing level of 250,000 barrels a day, or 10% of production. Some months as much as 400,000 barrels are stolen every day. Even more shocking: 40% of refined petroleum products – either refined in Nigeria or imported – that are moved through state-owned pipelines are lost to theft and sabotage. Small-scale pilfering has been endemic in Nigeria since the late 1990s, but now more sophisticated thieves are stealing directly from export terminals, tank farms, refinery tanks, and ports. The stolen oil is worth some $6 billion annually. Of course, writing a sweeping new bill to regulate an industry rife with corruption and vested interests is not easy. That’s why the PIB has been in the works for more than a decade. Five years ago the bill made it to Nigeria’s Parliament, but disagreements between the administration, oil majors, and lawmakers stymied its passage. With almost no regulatory or fiscal certainty on the table, Nigeria has become a dangerous place for Big Oil to do business. While they wait for that certainty, oil majors have held off on many billions of dollars in investment – one expert estimates the industry lost $28 billion in investments in 2011 alone. As a result, oil output is about the same as it was a decade ago, and only three exploratory wells were drilling in 2011, down from more than 20 in 2005. The government has not held a licensing round for five years. Nigeria’s New Oil and Gas Bill The Nigerian government says its main goals in developing new regulations for its oil sector are to clean up a corrupt industry, clarify a confusing sector, and encourage new investment. Unfortunately, the PIB accomplishes none of those goals. I won’t embark on a full dissection of the bill. What I will do is point out the most glaring of problems – starting with the fact that the PIB would give a few select politicians huge powers within the sector. Here’s a good example: the president would have the power to grant licenses and leases without a competitive process – or any kind of process, for that matter. This leaves the door wide open for everyone to continue practicing the political favoritism and corruption that has crippled the industry in the past. The president would also have the power to set special tax rates for any projects he deems as strategic to the nation. Imagine if Romney or Obama were given this power… Alongside a president who can hand out licenses as he pleases and siphon funds from any project he deems strategic, the Minister of Petroleum is granted draconian powers to determine rentals and royalties. There are two huge problems with this. First, giving immense powers to individuals only encourages bribery and corruption. Second, companies thinking of developing a new project have no certainty around their rental and royalty payments if the minister creates her own arrangement for each project. Well, that’s a slight overstatement. Companies would know the minimum level of government take from new projects – and it’s too high. Executives from a wide range of Big Oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil, have said publicly that the tax terms outlined in the PIB render offshore oil and gas projects unviable. Exxon is the second-biggest offshore operator in the country, and it says it will not invest any more in deepwater projects if the PIB is passed. Part of the problem is that oil companies demand better fiscal terms to operate in places like Nigeria, to compensate for the extra risks posed by piracy, kidnappings, theft, and corruption. Instead of providing that kind of financial incentive, the PIB absolves oil companies of any responsibility for environmental damage caused by sabotage… which would mean that no one is accountable for such damage. The environment will continue to be destroyed, and the sabotage will continue. More than half of Nigeria’s 160 million people earn less than $2 a day. From that perspective, rampant pipeline sabotage and bunkering in the Delta region are understandable: the Nigerians who commit these acts are helping themselves to a portion of their country’s resources. The only way to ease this kind of activity is to truly share profits with local communities. To that end, the PIB would create a Petroleum Host Communities Fund. Producers would have to give 10% of their after-tax profits to this fund – disbursements that would be credited against other payments to the government to not increase overall government take – and the funds thus generated from onshore and shallow water offshore production would be distributed to affected communities. It sounds great… but unfortunately, just like so many other parts of the PIB, the Host Communities Fund is a great idea that is structured so as to invite political interference. The PIB does not define how the funds will be distributed, putting another lever in the hands of the president and his ministers. Communities would be pitted against each other in a race for favor with the government, and the president could easily use this race for favor to achieve his own ends within the Delta. Also left in the hands of government: a whole whack of oil-related assets. International advisors had pushed for a PIB that incorporated the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and then partially privatized it, following the example of Brazil’s Petrobras. Doing so would require the company to be managed like any other international oil company, with minimal political interference. Instead, the PIB would break the NNPC into three entities and privatize only two. The management company left in government hands would contain major oil assets and revenue streams that would remain subject to heavy political interference. And I mean heavy. The NNPC currently controls every aspect of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, from exploration and production to refining and pipelines, and it will continue to do so if the PIB is passed. But this is a company that is regularly listed as one of the most closed oil companies in the world. In fact, a joint report from Transparency International and the Revenue Watch Institute judged the NNPC to have the worst record of 44 national and international companies examined. Audits and examinations regularly produce descriptions like “accountable to no one” and “a slush fund for the government.” The PIB is a failure on almost every front. Oil companies considering Nigeria are looking at the PIB and walking away. Nigeria – home to the eleventh-largest oil reserves and ninth-largest gas reserves in the world – will continue to see its production pinched between declining investment, greedy government take, and massive theft. The decimated environment of the Niger Delta will see no savior, and the people who live there will continue to live in grinding poverty while corruption and theft steal billions every year. It’s a tragedy for Nigeria and a warning for oil investors. The warning is one I repeat regularly: never underestimate country risk. Greedy governments and corrupt politicians can and will take every cent of profit from oil and gas projects in their lands, leaving companies bankrupt and investors robbed. Nigeria is by no means the only country pinching its oil sector. Venezuela and Argentina are also robbing their energy producers to buy popular affection, along with a raft of other nations. However, there’s a silver lining. Every time a country screws up its oil sector, the Big Pinch tightens: there is a bit less oil available to feed an oil-hungry world and a bit more pressure on exporters to earn even more from each barrel that is available. The result? Oil prices that have nowhere to go but up. Anyone who understands the risks and makes the right investments will be able to ride those prices to huge returns. However, country risk is hard to assess from afar. That’s why my ground team travels the world, from Albania to Iraq, Africa to Asia, going wherever a prospective energy story takes us to understand the situation firsthand and separate fact from fiction. It would be impossible for every investor to assess every prospective investment in person – which is why we do it for you. If you are an interested and active energy investor, consider a subscription to my flagship newsletter, Casey Energy Report, and travel with us on the journey to find the best investments in the global energy sector. Additional Links and Reads US Poised to Become World’s Top Oil Producer; May Soon Overtake Saudi Arabia (Huffington Post) What a headline! Using data from the US Energy Information Administration, the reporter behind this article suggests that surging US oil output could push the US past Saudi Arabia and into top spot in the global oil-production rankings within a few years. Citibank also provides some data, predicting that US production could reach 13 to 15 million barrels per day by 2020, making North America the “new Middle East.” Why the US Is Not the New Saudi Arabia (Christian Science Monitor) If this headline seems a direct rebuttal of the article above – that’s because it is. This writer challenges the article, saying that anyone who “actually examined figures available from the US Energy Information Administration website carefully instead of simply parroting oil industry sycophants” would have ended up with a headline more like: Marginal gains in US oil production mean continuing high prices and imports for Americans. The writer explains that there are several ways to define oil supply, and the one used to suggest that US is catching Saudi Arabia in oil production includes natural-gas plant liquids and biofuels, making for a very misleading conclusion. Europe Left Behind as Shale Shock Drives America’s Industrial Resurgence (Telegraph) The wonders of US shale gas continue to amaze. Fresh evidence daily suggests that swaths of the American industry are gaining a massive and lasting advantage in energy costs over global rivals – and those advantages are demolishing assumptions about US economic decline. Oil Firmer at US$110 as Sandy Shuts US Refineries (National Post) Hurricane Sandy is providing a clear reminder of the vulnerabilities of offshore oil production to weather. Predicted to be the largest storm ever to hit the North American mainland, Sandy is prompting refineries to close and oil analysts to reduce consumption estimates in the face of canceled flights, a dearth of commuters, and an all but shut-down road transportation sector.