Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Big Oil Really "Big" Any More?

A number of energy journalists have been asking this question at a pace which has gathered momentum over the past decade. Books have even been written about it. On Oct 7th, a week prior to Thursday’s OPEC conference, I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion under the auspices of S&P and Platt’s which touched on the subject in some detail, contextualising it with the Peak Oil hypothesis.

Here in Vienna, understandably, I find few takers for the hypothesis; at least not at OPEC HQ. But one statement has struck me. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of OPEC's foundation, in his opening address to the conference earlier on Thursday, Wilson Pástor-Morris, Minister of Non-Renewable Natural Resources of Ecuador and President of the Conference, noted:

“OPEC began as a group of five heavily exploited, oil-producing developing countries seeking to assert their sovereign rights in an oil market dominated by the established multinational oil companies. Today OPEC is a major player on the world energy stage. Our 12 Member Countries are masters of their own destiny in their domestic oil sectors and their influence reaches out into the energy world at large.”

Need one say more? OPEC feels NOCs are dominant; so does much of the rest of the market to a great extent. Pástor-Morris also said the issue production quota 'compliance' also featured in OPEC discussions, as the cartel reviews its production agreement.

“But we shall not lose sight of the bigger picture. Neither should anyone else. The achievement of market order and stability is the responsibility of all parties. It is not just a burden for OPEC alone. We all stand to gain from market stability, and so we must all contribute to achieving it and maintaining it,” he added.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo: Holly Rig, Santa Barbara, California, USA © James Forte / National Geographic Society

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