Tuesday, December 09, 2014

‘Petroleum Club’, policy choices & ‘crude’ control

Several nations are about to join the ‘Petroleum Club’ of crude oil producers where they’ll rub shoulders with well established patrons of the hydrocarbon exporters' fraternity.

The policymaking choices they face today could have a massive bearing on the future direction of their economies and overall management of national oil wealth. Every national market’s direction is ultimately shaped by the level of control its government wishes to have over domestic exploration and production.

Some do not have a national oil company (NOC), yet others give most of the decision-making and clout to a state entity. Factoring in developments and case studies till date, academic Bianca Sarbu delves into the key issue of state influence in her book Ownership and Control of Oil published by Routledge.

The author discusses different decisions taken by governments, subsequent outcomes, emerging themes and industry trends in their wake. In a book of just under 200 pages, split into six detailed chapters, Sarbu substantiates her arguments by pulling in case studies – both recent and historic – and puts forward conclusions confronting theoretical explanations.

The text is peppered with figures, tables and charts lending veracity to Sarbu’s scrutiny of government decisions in key oil producing countries. Her painstaking analysis of upstream policies on a pan-global level helps the readers compare and contrast what’s afoot, where, and why.

An entire chapter is dedicated to profiling Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi based on Sarbu’s in-depth research and direct interviews with over 30 energy experts on both countries. Holistic examination of NOCs’ role in oil production since the nationalisations of the 1970s from sheikdoms to democracies, leads the author to some interesting conclusions.

Sarbu opines that technical expertise of the NOC plays an important role in “explaining upstream policy choices,” especially when limits on the executive are low and “ruling elites are more likely to take economically rational decisions.”

From first impression to midway scrutiny, all the way up to ultimate conclusion, Sarbu’s treatment of the subject at hand is solid. Its an invaluable contribution towards wider understanding and contextualisation of policy frameworks within emerging and established oil producing countries and the impact they have had or are likely to have for better or worse.

The Oilholic would be happy to recommend this title primarily to industry consultants. That said policymakers, oil and gas sector professionals in general, as well as students of petroleum economics and the Middle East would appreciate it in near equal measure.

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: Front Cover – Ownership and Control of Oil © Routledge, May 2014.

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