Posts tagged “Saudi Arabia”
Geopolitical Risk Continues, Part Two
Turmoil in Egypt continues to roil oil markets and confound Middle East regional stability. Goldman Sachs said Monday, August 19th, five days after the violence escalated, it expected tighter oil markets to propel Brent to $115 “in the very near term.” More interesting though are the shifts occurring in the geopolitical landscape of the broader Middle East.
Saudi King Abdullah publicly gave his approval and support for the military-backed government of Egypt. He pledged a $12 billion aid package along with the UAE and Kuwait, four times as much as the military and economic grants from the U.S. and the European Union combined ($1.5bn and $1.3bn respectively). The threat of political Islam vis-a-vis the Muslim Brotherhood is seen as potentially up-ending stability in the Kingdom. This high-stakes game of regional poker has just gotten more complicated. The outcome, which may occur in waves of violence and instability, could take many years to be realized.
A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), a group made up of 28 nations, says that the United States will surpass fossil fuel giants Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by the year 2017.
The United States is closer than many think to true energy self-sufficiency, says the annual long-term report, contrasting sharply with previous IEA numbers that suggested that Saudi Arabia would remain the world’s top oil producer until at least 2035. (Read more: Hofmeister: Surging Demand and Flat Production Equals High Oil Prices)
Saudi Arabia’s per capita oil consumption is higher than the U.S. and most developed countries
Long known as perhaps the most oil-rich country in the world, Saudi Arabia’s dwindling crude oil deposits could see that nation become an oil importer in less than 20 years, according to a a report compiled by Citigroup Inc.
With the country’s peak rates of electricity production growing at up to eight percent per year and with oil and its derivatives used to generate about 50 percent of the power used by its own citizens, the bank warns that Saudi Arabia could find itself without the crude oil needed to keep its young and relatively wealthy population stocked with energy, forcing it to import the fuel from other nations as soon as the year 2030.
A Complex Issue
A couple of months ago, Robert Rapier, Sam Avro, and I had an interesting debate about the resource curse in the context of a Tom Friedman column about how countries that aren’t blessed with natural resources succeed because they are forced to invest in their people. I believe, as my post (Oil – Easy to Produce, but Not Easy to Buy) said, that countries blessed with natural resources like oil “don’t have to learn how to build factories” because they can sell oil to the world instead. Robert and Sam cited countries like Norway, the U.S., and the U.K. as examples of countries that have thrived even with resources.
The new edition of The New York Review of Books features an article, “What Makes Countries Rich or Poor?” written by Jared Diamond that is a review of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. This is another book to add to my ever-growing list of ‘must-reads’ – but Diamond’s review gave some interesting points that are very relevant to our previous discussion about the resources curse and what causes countries to grow or fail. The truth, as shown by the article, is complicated: there are many determinants to growth, and it is difficult to separate out individual causes.
If an embargo is successful in preventing Iran from selling a significant amount of oil on the world market, what would replace it?
On Friday the White House released the following statement:
there currently appears to be sufficient supply of non-Iranian oil to permit foreign countries to significantly reduce their import of Iranian oil, taking into account current estimates of demand, increased production by some countries, private inventories of crude oil and petroleum products, and available strategic petroleum reserves and in fact, many purchasers of Iranian crude oil have already reduced their purchases or announced they are in productive discussions with alternative suppliers.
That the President or anybody else is counting on the world demand for petroleum curve to shift left in 2012 seems doubtful. And which are the countries from which increased production is anticipated? Libyan production averaged only 500,000 barrels/day in 2011, and if things go well could soon be producing a million barrels more than that daily. In the mean time, disruptions in Sudan, Syria, and Yemen have taken out a separate 640,000 barrels/day. The best hope is perhaps Saudi Arabia, which presumably has been making private statements to U.S. officials similar to this public statement from Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi last Wednesday:
Saudi Arabia’s current capacity is 12.5m barrels per day, way beyond current levels demanded, and a reliable buffer against any temporary loss of production. Saudi Arabia has invested a great deal to sustain its capacity, and it will use spare production capacity to supply the oil market with any additional required volumes.
“There is no rational reason for high oil prices,” writes Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, in today’s Financial Times. Well, I can think of one– if oil prices were lower, the world would want to consume more than is currently being produced.
The graph below plots total world oil production over the last decade. After growing rapidly in earlier years, production hit a bumpy plateau. In November 2007, just before the U.S. recession began, the world was producing 84.9 million barrels each day, a little less than was produced in the spring of 2005. Although production stagnated, the demand curve continued to shift out, with world GDP growing 5.3% in 2006 and another 5.4% in 2007.
Robert Rapier had an interesting post on his R-Squared column. He claimed that Tom Friedman was mistaken in his most recent column (Pass the Books. Hold the Oil) in saying that Taiwan has succeeded because they have no natural resources; therefore they can be a model for how other countries can become successful by investing in their people. Robert says that’s not the whole story: even though they don’t produce oil, they are still dependent upon it. Again, I find myself defending Friedman, and that’s really not my default.
Robert does a good job of showing how much oil Taiwan actually uses, and his numbers here are great – and important. I had no idea that Israel consumes more oil per capita than the EU. The common thread, unfortunately, is that growing economies require growing amounts of oil.
I am constantly amused by the views of presidential candidates on energy policy. Their views are either so disingenuous or so naive that I often find it difficult to vote for a candidate. In the 2008 election, I could have voted for Barack Obama, who declared war on fossil fuels, painted the oil companies as enemies of the people, and proposed pandering gimmicks like the “use it or lose it” proposal. It has been interesting to watch President Obama vacillate between punishing oil companies with windfall profit taxes, and encouraging greater production by offering them more tax incentives. It is as if President Obama now recognizes that domestic production of oil and gas would need to be a very big… Continue»
I am between flights and have been traveling for a few days, but wanted to get off a quickie on current oil prices. In hindsight, perhaps I was not aggressive enough with my predictions for 2011. My predictions covered two themes: Next generation biofuel producers whose business models would begin to collide with reality, and oil prices that would head back over $100 per barrel. Less than two months into 2011, there has been big news on both fronts. We have already spent a few weeks discussing the Range Fuels debacle, and now oil prices have once again breached $100. In fact, many markers such as Brent crude have been above $100 for several weeks, and they recently approached $120… Continue»
Peak oil must serve as an “alarm that we need to take more seriously” by diversifying Saudi Arabia’s economy, Mohammed al-Sabban said.