Running on empty: leaked cable reveals Saudi reserves lower than publically stated

Many readers have alerted me to recent Wikileaks cable about Saudi oil reserves. Hat tip to all!

It is worth seeing the full text of the leaked cable:

SUMMARY: On November 20, 2007, CG and Econoff met with Dr. Sadad al-Husseini, former Executive Vice President for Exploration and Production at Saudi Aramco. Al-Husseini, who maintains close ties to Aramco executives, believes that the Saudi oil company has oversold its ability to increase production and will be unable to reach the stated goal of 12.5 million b/d of sustainable capacity by 2009. While stating that he does not subscribe to the theory of “peak oil,” the former Aramco board member does believe that a global output plateau will be reached in the next 5 to 10 years and will last some 15 years, until world oil production begins to decline. Additionally, al-Husseini expressed the view that the recent surge in oil prices reflects the underlying reality that global demand has met supply, and is not due to artificial market distortions. END SUMMARY.

Note how al- Husseini does not “subscribe to the theory of peak oil”, but non-the-less admits production will plateau in the next 5-10 years.

Cognitive dissonance aside, it is a remarkable statement.

Yep, peak oil is around the corner folks.

No just in case you think this falls into the “nothing to worry about” category, another leaked document puts things into perspective…

Late last year a report prepared by the German military was leaked noting the following impacts:

Oil will determine power: The Bundeswehr Transformation Center writes that oil will become one decisive factor in determining the new landscape of international relations: “The relative importance of the oil producing nations in the international system is growing. These nations are using the advantages resulting from this to expand the scope of their domestic and foreign policies and establish themselves as a new or resurgent regional, or in some cases even global leading power.”

Increasing importance of oil exporters: For importers of oil more competition for resources will mean an increase in the number of nations competing for favour with oil producing nations. For the latter this opens up a window of opportunity which can be used to implement political, economic or ideological aims. As this window of time will only be open for a limited period, “this could result in a more aggressive assertion of national interests on the part of the oil producing nations.”

Politics in place of the market: The Bundeswehr Transformation Center expects that a supply crisis would roll back the liberalization of the energy market. “The proportion of oil traded on the global, freely accessible oil market will diminish as more oil is traded through bi-national contracts,” the study states. In the long run, the study goes on, the global oil market, will only be able to follow the laws of the free market in a restricted way. “Bilateral, conditioned supply agreements and privileged partnerships, such as those seen prior to the oil crises of the seventies, will once again come to the fore.”

Market failures: The authors paint a bleak picture of the consequences resulting from a shortage of petroleum. As the transportation of goods depends on crude oil, international trade could be subject to colossal tax hikes. “Shortages in the supply of vital goods could arise” as a result, for example in food supplies. Oil is used directly or indirectly in the production of 95% of all industrial goods. Price shocks could therefore be seen in almost any industry and throughout all stages of the industrial supply chain. “In the medium term the global economic system and every market-oriented national economy would collapse.”

Relapse into planned economy: Since virtually all economic sectors rely heavily on oil, peak oil could lead to a “partial or complete failure of markets,” says the study. “A conceivable alternative would be government rationing and the allocation of important goods or the setting of production schedules and other short-term coercive measures to replace market-based mechanisms in times of crisis.”

Global chain reaction: “A restructuring of oil supplies will not be equally possible in all regions before the onset of peak oil,” says the study. “It is likely that a large number of states will not be in a position to make the necessary investments in time,” or with “sufficient magnitude.” If there were economic crashes in some regions of the world, Germany could be affected. Germany would not escape the crises of other countries, because it’s so tightly integrated into the global economy.

Crisis of political legitimacy: The Bundeswehr study also raises fears for the survival of democracy itself. Parts of the population could comprehend the upheaval trigged by peak oil “as a general systemic crisis.” This would create “room for ideological and extremist alternatives to existing forms of government.” Fragmentation of the affected population is likely and could “in extreme cases lead to open conflict.”

Crisis. Instability. Failure.

Let’s throw in climate change just for fun!

And what are governments doing to meet this challenge?

Oh that’s right…

Nothing.

In my mind, the need to adapt is even greater.

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4 thoughts on “Running on empty: leaked cable reveals Saudi reserves lower than publically stated

  1. adelady says:

    We wouldn’t want to get all puffed out running up hill then tripping over the steep decline on the other side, would we.

    But you can still keep running full tilt across the top of a plateau – surely that’s a good thing – unless you do that RoadRunner thing when you run off the edge.

  2. From the summary:
    “While stating that he does not subscribe to the theory of “peak oil,” the former Aramco board member does believe that a global output plateau will be reached in the next 5 to 10 years and will last some 15 years, until world oil production begins to decline.”

    How does a smart mind achieve such contortions? He doesn’t subscribe to the “peak oil’ “theory”, but production will plateau, then decline.

    Like I don’t subscribe to the theory of gravity, but I know better than to jump off a cliff

  3. john byatt says:

    Tar Sands, shale, Arctic wells , what a future we are leaving our grandchildren!

    ABC 4 corners tonight on don’t mention the word “methane’ or Natural Coal seam gas as they like to call it in QLD

    LEAKS

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