Daily SITREP: U.S. Shale Oil Output Dropping Faster than Predicted (Thu, 17 August 23) – Forward Observer

Daily SITREP: U.S. Shale Oil Output Dropping Faster than Predicted (Thu, 17 August 23)

Good morning. Here’s your Daily SITREP for Thursday, 17 August 2023.


  • READ TIME: 6 Minutes, 28 Seconds
  • Inside the Beltway
    • (1) Georgia DA Wants 04 March Date for Trump RICO Trial
  • Domestic INTSUM
    • (2) Critical Infrastructure Vulnerable to “Living Off the Land” Attacks
    • (3) FOMC: Fed Officials See Continued Risk of Rising Inflation
    • (4) Roy and Biggs Demand Answers from Mayorkas on Border
    • (5) U.S. Shale Oil Output Dropping Faster than Predicted
  • Global SITREP
    • (6) Niger Asks for Volunteers
    • (7) Lithuania Closing Two Border Crossings with Belarus
    • (8) Milley to Tel Aviv Over Military Concerns
    • (9) China Responds to U.S.-Vietnam Announcement


  • (1) GEORGIA DA WANTS 04 MARCH DATE FOR TRUMP RICO TRIAL: In a motion filed yesterday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis requested that former President Trump’s trial under Georgia’s state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Statute begin on 04 March 2024.
    • Atlanta Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade said the proposed trial date is intended to give Trump’s attorneys enough time for discovery and not interfere with the other criminal and civil trials Trump is facing in 2024.
    • Why It Matters: The 04 March 2024 trial date, if confirmed by the judge in the Atlanta indictment, would put the start of Trump’s RICO trial the day before Super Tuesday in the Republican primary election. The criminal and civil trials appear coordinated to keep Trump away from the campaign trail while draining his campaign war chest. – R.C.


  • (2) CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE VULNERABLE TO “LIVING OFF THE LAND” ATTACKS: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released its first Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) Cyber Defense Plan yesterday, warning that 90% of small and medium businesses including critical infrastructure entities that rely on RMM software could be vulnerable to “living off the land” cyber attacks.
    • In a recent joint Cybersecurity Advisory, CISA said the Chinese state-sponsored hacking group Volt Typhoon uses “living off the land” as one of its primary tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).
    • Why It Matters: U.S. critical infrastructure remains vulnerable to cyber attacks, including ransomware attacks and even potential zero-day exploits planted in Chinese-made hardware. This new CISA report highlights another major vulnerability in “living off the land” attacks. Instead of using malicious code to attack or break into computer systems, “living off the land” attacks use native programs already on a computer system to conduct cyber attacks. In this case, malicious actors could use remote monitoring and access software commonly used for IT helpdesk issues to attack critical infrastructure systems. These types of attacks are difficult to detect and do not require complex capabilities to conduct. – R.C.
  • (3) FOMC: FED OFFICIALS SEE CONTINUED RISK OF RISING INFLATION: According to the last Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, Federal Reserve officials remain worried about the possibility of an inflation uptick this year.
    • “Most participants continued to see significant upside risks to inflation, which could require further tightening of monetary policy,” according to the published notes.
    • Fed officials have also expressed surprise at how resilient the U.S. economy has been, as numbers have outperformed many economists’ expectations.
    • The latest Atlanta Fed GDPNow model increased the annualized U.S. economic growth estimate from 5.0% to 5.8%, substantially higher than the 1.75% Blue Chip Consensus.
    • Why It Matters: When viewed in aggregate, the U.S. economy does seem resilient. But Gross Domestic Product (GDP) captures overall consumer, investment, and government spending, and governments are spending big on infrastructure projects. In the coming months, governments will spend hundreds of billions more, which could further raise the GDP estimate. This will add to shortages, driving the next round of inflation this fall. – H.B.
  • (4) ROY AND BIGGS DEMAND ANSWERS FROM MAYORKAS ON BORDER: Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Andy Biggs (R-AZ) sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas demanding information on U.S. funding of Regional Processing Centers and screening processes after reports that the U.S. federal government is funding the San Vicente Camp processing center a transit point for suspected Chinese intelligence operatives.
    • Roy and Biggs said the Biden administration has utterly failed to take the steps necessary to secure the southern border and, worse still, is using taxpayer dollars to house migrants as they travel north towards the border. 
    • Why It Matters: Customs and Border Protection has not published July border encounter numbers yet, but we are likely on track to return to Title 42 levels of border encounters. If Roy and Biggs are correct, the U.S. government itself is the culprit for the huge jump in border encounters in June and the likely increase in July. – R.C.
  • (5) U.S. SHALE OIL OUTPUT DROPPING FASTER THAN PREDICTED: According to a report from energy research firm Enverus, oil shale production in the U.S. is dropping faster than previously expected, and despite shale output doubling in the last decade an oil production surge is not coming.
    • Enverus Intelligence Research director Dane Gregoris said the rate of production decreases in shale wells is getting steeper, and production growth will be more difficult than it was in the past.
    • Why It Matters: This is another blow to U.S. energy security. Faster-than-expected production drops could indicate depletion in the Permian and Delaware Basins. Leigh Goehring and Adam Rozencwajg believe we will hit peak shale production within twelve months, and production will continue to fall as shale fields are drilled to depletion. Prices will continue to go up, making the Biden administration’s goal of refilling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at less than $80 a barrel even more unrealistic than it is now. – R.C.


  • (6) NIGER ASKS FOR VOLUNTEERS: The ruling military junta in Niger is calling for volunteers to prepare for possible military intervention from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
    • The African Union has rejected the ECOWAS proposal of a military solution to restore the previous government in Niger. ECOWAS will hold talks on a standby military force to deploy to Niger for the next two days.
    • A new U.S. ambassador is set to arrive in Niamey to begin working with the junta while the State Department attempts to avoid escalation.
    • Why It Matters: The military junta in Niger has been heavily propagandizing the population, particularly younger citizens. This is likely in advance of what could be a general conscription effort to oppose an ECOWAS-led intervention. Due to logistical challenges, an organic African intervention in Niger is unlikely to succeed. If Russia and/or China fell in with Niamey’s new government to oppose Western efforts to restore the democratic order, that could be a longer-term problem with regional implications. Look for foreign intervention by the Russia-China alliance to determine the severity of the situation between Niamey and ECOWAS. – M.M.
  • (7) LITHUANIA CLOSING TWO BORDER CROSSINGS WITH BELARUS: Citing an increased threat from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, the government of Lithuania announced the closing of two border crossings with Belarus.
    • “This decision is a preventive measure aimed at controlling threats to national security and possible provocations at the border,” according to Lithuania’s Interior Minister. Lithuania will instead route cross-border traffic through a port of entry with greater security measures.
    • “Poland and Latvia share their concern about the threat of hybrid warfare from Belarus,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said following a meeting with Lithuanian President Edgars Rinkeviczs.
    • Why It Matters: Russia and Belarus have been conducting gray zone activities along Baltic borders since before Moscow invaded Ukraine. Lithuania’s security measures are prudent given that Moscow and Belarus see the Suwalki Gap as key terrain to create a land bridge between the Russian-led Union State and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Poland and Latvia’s concerns are warranted. – M.M. 
  • (8) MILLEY TO TEL AVIV OVER MILITARY CONCERNS: U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, is scheduled to travel to Tel Aviv next week to assess how a crisis in the Israeli government and military is affecting U.S. readiness in the region.
    • Some Israeli reservists have suspended their service to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s overhaul of the country’s Supreme Court. 
    • Milley will meet with Israeli defense officials to discuss how the ongoing issues affect U.S.-Israeli cooperation. Senior Israeli officials warned earlier this week of decreasing readiness.
    • Why It Matters: Much of the unrest in Israel is being driven by U.S. NGOs working to undermine Netanyahu’s political agenda – specifically his Iran counter-nuke strike planning. Milley is likely visiting Tel Aviv to assess the success of the White House-directed effort and to determine how close Jerusalem is to taking the gloves off with Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. – M.M.
  • (9) CHINA RESPONDS TO U.S.-VIETNAM ANNOUNCEMENT: A Chinese foreign ministry official met with his Vietnamese counterpart this morning, likely in response to comments from U.S. President Joe Biden last week that Vietnam was ready to join the U.S. sphere of influence.
    • “Vietnam wants to change our relationship and become a partner,” Biden said last week, adding that he would soon travel to the country.
    • Vietnamese officials said they would maintain positive relations with China and avoid any official contact with Taiwan.
    • Why It Matters: China appears to be playing defense against closer U.S. relations with Vietnam. If Biden’s comments are accurate – if Vietnam is prepared to become a major U.S. strategic partner on the diplomatic level of Japan and South Korea – then the shift would represent another U.S. diplomatic coup in the Asia Pacific. A Chinese state media outlet encouraged Vietnam to adhere to its communist ideals, adding that it’s part of what brings the two countries together. China, however, recently started airstrip construction on an island that is currently disputed territory with both Vietnam and Taiwan. Chinese encroachment is pushing Vietnam toward the Western alliance, despite Chinese diplomatic efforts. – M.S. 


M.S. indicates analyst commentary from Mike Shelby

M.M. indicates analyst commentary from Max Morton

J.V.  indicates analyst commentary from Jared Vaughn

R.C. indicates analyst commentary from Robert Cook

H.B. indicates analyst commentary from Harrison Burge

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