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Sunday, May 22, 2005

AN UNTIMELY HIATUS: OPI OFFLINE UNTIL SEPTEMBER

Unfortunately OPI will not publish again until the first week in September. There will no doubt be much to reflect on at that time as the international oil and energy outlook becomes increasingly volatile. Among the factors that will shape the international oil landscape are the following.

1) Bush and Chavez are on a collision course and neither man has a history of flinching. While the war will remain one of words and policy, it is likely that Venezuela's already suffering oil industry and output will suffer even more. U.S. supplies in particular and world prices in general will feel the effects.

2) The next months in Iraq will be crucial, not only for Iraqi politics and hence Iraqi oil output, but also for regional politics and regional oil production. If the situation in Iraq deteriorates it becomes much more likely 1) that tensions between the U.S. and Iran will increase, possibly disrupting Iranian supplies, and 2) that al Qaeda will hang on and be a disruptive force in Persian Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia.

3) The aggressive Bush policy vis-à-vis Russia will continue to create tensions that will reverberate through the international oil industry. Ukraine will increasingly seek energy independence from Russia by importing and transporting more Caspian oil, while other CIS states will struggle –sometimes violently, as in Uzbekistan—with democratic movements or and anti-democratic backlash. Most importantly, political-economic tensions within the Russian government itself will have adverse effects on Russia’s ability to grow or even maintain its oil production levels, putting a pinch on already tight world supplies.

4) Tensions within the Chinese government and economy are increasing. If China chooses to deal with the contradictions within its economy it has a chance to land softly, thereby continuing its impressive growth and demand for petroleum. If, on the other hand, the Chinese economy collapses, world oil price pressures will soften significantly. The coming months will reveal more about the likely direction the country will go.

I look forward to an interesting retrospective come September . . .

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