On March 5, 2013, Hugo Chavez, one of the most iconic presidents in the world, died at the age of 58. While he was alive, Chavez was a highly controversial figure, calling George W. Bush a drunkard and a "psychologically sick man" and Tony Blair an "imperialist pawn who attempts to curry favor with Danger Bush-Hitler."
Like him or hate him, Chavez definitely had a huge following in Venezuela as well as the entirety of Latin America. His anti-American and socialistic rhetoric made him an ally of Fidel Castro in Cuba and Ahmadinejad in Iran. Combined with Correa in Ecuador, Fernandez in Argentina, and Morales in Bolivia, Chavez was able to make a front in South America against the "evil imperialist gringos."
But with him no longer in the picture, things will change, and cheap Venezuelan oil will be able to flow into the markets, right?
Whoever succeeds Hugo Chavez will be trapped between a rock and a hard place. Venezuela currently has some of the cheapest gasoline in the world; it's costing an average of $1 to fill up one's tank. These low prices are made possible by the enormous amount of fuel subsidies – estimated to be 4.5% of their GDP (for reference, the US Department of Defense spends 4.5% of the US GDP). Any attempts to remove these subsidies will be met with enormous resistance from the population, which has long viewed cheap gas as a birthright.
To make things worse, the production of oil from Venezuela has been steadily decreasing due to the lack of reinvesting back into the oil patch and lack of upgrading the energy infrastructure. Instead of investing in the oil sector, Chavez has been spending most of the money on social programs. This decrease in supply combined with increased demand for oil from a growing population means there is much less oil available for exports.
In fact, since Chavez took power in 1999, Venezuela's oil exports have been cut by half.
Oil provides 45% of Venezuela's revenue, so in order to keep running the country, the government must find a way to get more money out of every barrel that they export.
And what better way is there than to pass it on to the evil imperialist consumers of the West?
This situation is not happening just in Venezuela, but in many other oil-producing countries: Iran, Kuwait, and Indonesia are just a few examples. It is only a matter of time before these countries conspire together in order to raise the worldwide price of crude oil. What will they raise it to?
US$100 per barrel of oil? US$150? US$200?
Whatever it takes to keep the country running and the ruling classes in power.
Will America be spared? According to the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) report, the United States will become self-sufficient in energy by 2035, which means that it will be free from the geopolitical manipulations of oil-producing countries.
Unfortunately for America, this report is flawed and filled with inconsistencies.
In the upcoming Casey Energy Report, we reveal why the IEA is wrong and what it all means for America – and most importantly, your portfolio. This is the first in-depth analysis to be done on the IEA report, and it will cause shock waves in Washington and throughout the energy sector. To sign up for a 3-month trial with 100% money-back guarantee, click here.
Additional Links and Reads
In Search of Energy Miracles (New York Times)
This is an interesting look at some of the more outside-the-box energy initiatives. Though most of them are likely to be uneconomic or at the very least decades ahead of their time, it is always good to be in the loop on the ideas people are coming up with. Energy is a critical part of growth for any economy, and there's no doubt that energy security will play a prominent part of global geopolitics over the next decade.
Qatar is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The country's North Field discovery contains 900 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, enough to supply the entire world for 8 years. This time, they discovered a much smaller field – 2.5 trillion cubic feet. It shows that discoveries overall are getting rarer, and smaller. This bodes very well for oil and gas prices.
Egypt Fuel Shortages Demonstrate Perfect Storm of Economic Pressures (Egypt Independent)
Egypt is experiencing a particularly severe bout of diesel shortages. The lack of international currency reserves means that Egypt cannot secure diesel imports. The poor energy policies of the Mubarak era are coming back to haunt them, as Egypt has gone from energy producer to energy importer. Venezuela can look to Egypt as a foreshadowing of things to come…