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Big Questions for Big Oil
Sacha Kumaria, Wall Street Journal
As summer draws rapidly to its conclusion, eyes are already turning to the colder months ahead and, inevitably, to the price of oil. In recent weeks, Goldman Sachs analysts have suggested that oil could reach $100 before the end of 2007. A record number of options to buy oil at $100 a barrel have been sold. Some mainstream commentators are even raising the specter of $200 a barrel by mid-2008 if the risk premium — which industry estimates average at around $34 — increases in response to Iranian retaliation against further sanctions or growing unrest in Nigeria.
In such circumstances, one would expect such commentators to be bullish about the prospect for independent oil companies (IOCs) such as Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP. Rising oil prices have pushed these companies’ profits sky-high over the past five years. Yet a growing number of industry voices suggest that the era of the vertically integrated supermajor may be over, and that IOCs have been unable to adapt to the new global business environment.
…IOCs are facing both structural and cyclical challenges. Depressed oil prices throughout the mid- to late 1990s caused a period of low investment in new exploration by IOCs and nationalized oil companies (NOCs) alike, which has left many firms reliant on a relatively smaller number of “superfields” that are beginning to dry up. As the oil price has steadily risen, several governments — most notably in Russia and Venezuela — have responded by expropriating foreign-owned oil and gas fields for their own state-run firms, usually under the guise of environmental transgressions or tax irregularities.
Mr. Kumaria is a senior adviser to the Center for Energy Studies at Cambridge University.
(30 August 2007)
The original is behind a paywall, but Leanan at TOD points out that you can view it if you go through Google News.
Exxon’s ex-CEO admits we need alternatives, but says there’s plenty of petroleum left
Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek
Sept. 3, 2007 issue – Lee Raymond succeeded as an oilman by staying focused on oil. (In the mid-1980s, he was responsible for unwinding the alternative-energy program at his former company, Exxon.) Now chairman of the National Petroleum Council, Raymond says that petroleum remains plentiful, and a new report he’s prepared for the Bush administration argues for developing new sources of oil and gas. But the report also advocates moderating demand, especially by raising fuel efficiency in cars. As for global warming? Raymond, who is also chair of President Bush’s alternative-energy committee, says, “No comment.”
Q: Do you think the world is running out of oil?
A: As the study says, the world is not running out of the resource. The problem we’re getting into is the question, can we develop it in a timely way, given the constraints we have on the political front, the economic front, and just the time it takes to get things done?
(3 Sept 2007 issue)
Mr. Raymond’s qualifications for giving advice on energy policy:
- Oversaw the scuttling of Exxon’s alternative energy program.
- Led Exxon during the years when it aggressively attacked the concept of global warming, and now refuses to discuss it.
- Maintains that we have “plenty of oil” left and shouldn’t worry about energy independence.
Presumably, the report mentioned in the article is the National Petroleum’s Council voluminous and contradictory, Facing the Hard Truths About Energy.