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经济学人:北海 油尽气绝

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The North Sea

北海
Running on fumes
油尽气绝
Scottish nationalists are right to charge that Britain has mismanaged North Sea oil. Unionists are probably right to retort that the alternative would be worse
苏格兰民族主义者们明确指出英国对于北海燃油的管理不善。工会成员可能正确反驳了替代可能会更糟糕这一说法。
NORMALLY Britain's politicians would rather be seen peddling green schemes or bashing power firms than gladhanding oilmen. Yet on February 24th bigwigs from the British and Scottish governments travelled to Aberdeen, the country's oil capital, to hold separate cabinet meetings a few miles apart. Both camps hoped to persuade voters in this year's referendum on Scottish independence that they alone could ensure the oil industry's future. Both of them struck a dry hole.
通常,相比接待石油商,英国的政客们更愿去兜售绿色方案或是去抨击电力公司。然而,2月24日来自英国和苏格兰的政府要员们出发前往号称“石油之都”的阿伯丁,分别举行秘密会议。双方阵营都认为能确保石油工业的未来,希望能劝服在今年关于苏格兰独立的公投中的选民。但双方都一无所获。

The North Sea produces almost half of the energy Britain needs. Scottish nationalists hope the taxes it generates, which amounted to 6.5 billion (10.1 billion) last year, will make an independent state rich. But the oil and gas is running out. Production fell by 6% a year on average between 1999 and 2010; since then it has dived by nearly 40% (see first chart). Meanwhile costs are spurting upwards: it is nearly five times more expensive to extract a barrel of North Sea oil than it was in 2002. Investment in exploration, which once rose and fell with the oil price, is at rock bottom (see second chart) even though nine billion barrels may remain unfound. On February 25th Malcolm Webb of Oil & Gas UK, an industry body, said exploration is facing its biggest challenge in 50 years.

英国所需的近一半的能源都是由北海提供。苏格兰民族主义者希望由此带来的税收能使一个独立国家变富裕,此项税收去年就带来了65亿英镑(101亿美元)。但是石油和汽油已经不多了。在1999年与2010年间的产量每年平均下降6%;自那起,产量急剧下降了将近40%。随之而来的是成本的飙升:现今提取一桶北海原油要花费比2002年近五倍的更昂贵的价格。对于伴随原油价格起落的勘探投资来说,即使是有90亿桶的原油未被发现,它也举步维艰。2月25日,英国石油天然气协会(一个行业团体)的马尔科姆·韦伯表示,勘探正面临着50年来最大的挑战。
Some of these problems are simply signs of age. Britain's offshore fields have gushed for longer than pioneers expected; as a result, much time and cash must be spent maintaining ageing kit. As the most profitable reserves dwindle, drillers are opening up smaller fields in more difficult locations, such as the deep, wild waters found west of the Shetland Islands.
这些问题的一部分仅仅是老化的迹象。英国海上油田的开采程度比开发者们所预想的更深远;也因此,要花费大量的资金和时间来对老化的套件进行维修。带来巨大效益的储量在日趋减少,因此,在更难开发的位置以钻井开发小领域正在进行,比如在设德兰群岛西部的远海深水海域。
Yet roughnecks say the British government's policies have made an ever-trickier job harder. Oilmen once thought the North Sea a safe harbour from risks run in more exotic places, but successive tax grabs have changed their minds. The Labour government increased corporation tax for oil firms in 2002 and 2006; in 2011 the coalition raised it again, crushing investment. Westminster has churned through 14 energy ministers in 17 years.
但是,据钻工所说,英国政府的政策已经使得本就不断棘手的工作更难进行。石油商曾认为相比于外地运营风险的不断升高,北海会是个避风港,但是,持续不断的税收争夺已经改变了这个想法。工党政府在2002和2006年提高了石油公司的公司所得税;在2011年,该联盟再次上调了税收,打压了投资。威斯敏斯特在17年间已经更换了14位能源部长。
The British government also took ages to clarify how the costs of decommissioning rigs will be divided, discouraging new entrants from buying elderly fields. Even as web entrepreneurs are coddled in London, a shortage of skilled engineers pushes up labour costs in Aberdeen. In a report published on February 24th Sir Ian Wood, a veteran oilman, argued that politicians have let the industry regulator grow toothless. He said a beefier body would help firms extract small, hard-to-reach deposits, in part by forcing competitors to more fairly share pipelines and other infrastructure.
通过购买旧设备来阻止新进入者,英国政府也花了很长时间来澄清花费在即将废弃的钻机上的资金划分。甚至是在人才济济的伦敦,技术型工程师的短缺还是增加了阿伯丁劳工的花费。一个资深的石油商人—伊恩·伍德,于 2月24日发表的报告上指出,政客们使得行业监管变得软弱无力。他提出,一个强大的内部结构会在一定程度上,强制性的使竞争者更加公平地分享基础设施和管道通路,达到为公司获取更细微、难以得到的利益。
A brief turnaround in the industry's fortunes could give the authorities a chance to rethink. New tax incentives for oil firms taking on very complex projects, combined with a high oil price, has encouraged a flurry of investment into old fields and those once thought too costly to exploit. As a result, oil and gas production will probably rise this year for the first time in over a decade—though it will soon sink again unless exploration increases. Ed Davey, the energy secretary, promised to implement Sir Ian's recommendations swiftly. Nationalists followed suit.
企业未来的一个短暂的转变给予了当局重新考虑的机会。针对石油商在一些非常复杂的项目上升高油价的表现,出台的新税收优惠政策鼓励了一系列投资到曾认为开发过于昂贵而止步的旧领域。由此而来的,是石油和天然气产量很可能在今年有所提升,这可是十年来第一次。除非勘探增加,不然产量又要不久后再次下降。能源部长艾德·戴维承诺,将尽快实施伊恩先生的建议。英国民族独立者们紧随其后。
thousand-odd oil services firms rose by 17% between 2010 and 2011, to 27 billion, according to EY, an accountancy firm. The small oil companies now investing in the North Sea are hungry for cost-cutting tools and tricks but do not have large research and service arms of their own, so they buy expertise. But the boom also reflects demand for British skills abroad. Subsea UK, which represents underwater engineering companies, reckons its members account for 45% of the global market and make half their cash outside Britain.
随着北海能源的慢慢枯竭,另一行业却在不断崛起。由安永(会计事务所)可知,在2010年和2011年之间,英国千余所石油服务公司的收入增长了17 %,达到了270亿英镑。现在投资于北海的小型石油公司对于削减成本的工具和技巧是极度渴望的,但没有自己的大型研究和服务能力,因此他们购买了技术。然而同时,这种发展也反映了英国海外技能的需求。海底英国,这个水下工程公司的代表,统计出它们的成员占全球市场的45%,并使他们一半的资金处于国外。
Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, says his Scottish National Party would do a better job of exploiting the North Sea, should the country plump for independence in September. He pledges to pour revenues into a national fund that will smooth the impact of oil booms and busts on Scotland's economy, and give it cash to invest. Norway's thrifty governments have stashed away 840 billion from their share of the North Sea's treasure. Gavin McCrone, an economist and former government adviser, calls Britain's failure to save its oil money “a serious mishandling of the greatest opportunity for the economy in the last half century”.
英格兰第一部长阿历克斯·萨蒙德表示,他的苏格兰民主党在开发北海的工作上会做得更好,国家应该在九月份选择独立。他承诺将收入归入国家基金,这将会缓和石油快速发展的影响和对苏荷兰经济的冲击,并且会给投资以资金支持。挪威的节俭政府已从他们北海财富的份额中隐匿了8400亿美元。经济学家和前政府顾问,加文·迈克龙,声称,英国未能挽救其石油财富是“在过去的半个世纪中,经济上最好机会面前的严重失误。”
A shaky platform
一个摇摇欲坠的平台
Up to now oil bosses have mostly avoided the independence debate. “People are all scared to express their opinions,” admits Francis Neill of EV, a company that makes video cameras which work down wells. But most think a Scottish state would raise taxes further. Some fear having to deal with more bureaucracy—about half the North Sea's oil services firms are based in England, and many Scottish ones have facilities on both sides of the border. Separation might complicate their work, and perhaps even drive some abroad.
目前为止,大多是石油老板都在避免独立的争论。EV(一个生产摄影机产量逐步减少的公司)的弗朗西斯·尼尔表示,“人们都惧怕说出自己的看法。” 但是大多数人认为苏格兰应进一步提高税收。由于一半的北海石油服务公司的总部设在英格兰,还有一些苏格兰人在两地边界有其设施,一部分人担心会与当地官僚势力起争执。分散开可能会复杂化他们的工作,甚至可能影响一些国外的工作。
In theory the oil industry's crucial contribution to a new Scottish state ought to guarantee careful treatment from the country's leaders. But city councillors already complain that the nationalist government in Edinburgh has failed to grant Aberdeen the money it needs to thrive. The industry fears its choked-up roads and unsightly centre are making it more difficult to attract workers who could earn as much in Houston or Stavanger.
理论上讲,对于新的苏格兰石油行业至关重要的是保证国家领导对其的认真对待。市议员却早已抱怨爱丁堡的民主政府未能保证给予阿伯丁发展所需资金。业内人士担心,这个道路不平又无华丽中心的地区会因此越来越难争取那些在休斯敦或是斯塔万格高收入的工人。
An independent Scotland would start life with a large budget deficit. That would probably make it impossible to start an oil fund for some years, at least without big cuts to public expenditure. And nationalists may well be overestimating how much of the gloopy stuff they can squeeze out. Holyrood's prediction for oil revenues in 2018 is twice Westminster's estimates. The difference is important. With a big haul, Scotland's politicians could perhaps afford to cosset oil firms. Without one, the young nation might have to milk them harder than ever.
一个独立的苏格兰将开始一种伴有巨大预算赤字的生活。这可能会导致几年间无法启动石油基金,至少在没有公共支出没有大幅度消减的情况下无法启动。民族主义者们可能高估了他们所能压榨出的那些黏糊糊的东西的价值。荷里路德预测的2018年的石油收入是威斯敏斯特所估计的两倍。这个中区别是异常重要的。由于存在很大的距离,苏格兰的政客们可能要担负起“骄纵”石油公司的职责了。如果没有人这样做,这个年轻的国家“喂养”他们可能会变得越来越难。译者:张娣 校对:邵林

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thrive [θraiv]

想一想再看

vi. 兴旺,繁荣,茁壮成长

 
persuade [pə'sweid]

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vt. 说服,劝说

联想记忆
expertise [.ekspə:'ti:z]

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n. 专家的意见,专门技术

联想记忆
guarantee [.gærən'ti:]

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n. 保证,保证书,担保,担保人,抵押品
vt

 
complicate ['kɔmplikeit]

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vt. 弄复杂,使错综,使起纠纷

联想记忆
boom [bu:m]

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n. 繁荣,低沉声,帆杠,水栅
vi. 急速增

联想记忆
border ['bɔ:də]

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n. 边界,边境,边缘
vt. 与 ... 接

 
discouraging [dis'kʌridʒiŋ]

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adj. 令人气馁的 动词discourage的现在分词

 
complain [kəm'plein]

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vi. 抱怨,悲叹,控诉

 
opportunity [.ɔpə'tju:niti]

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n. 机会,时机

 

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