Saturday, April 23, 2005

No Limit WTI Hold 'Em.

There are some people who speculate that the high cost of oil recently has more to due with oil producers manipulation than anything else.

Obviously, most of us who believe in Peak Oil dismiss that immediately, but I'm not willing to dismiss it 100%.

Here's why:

For those of us around the oil poker table (er, market), consumers, producers, intermediaries, speculators, Peak Oil is now a very big part of the game. And Peak Oil means that oil produced in the future is likely going to be worth more (and perhaps much more) than oil produced now.

So if you were a producer, or even just an intermediary or speculator, intent on maximizing your revenue not just in this hand, but over the course of the game, you probably would now want to s-l-o-w the game down some, maybe let the clock run down a little (oops, mixed metaphor, sorry) as oil gets pricier and what you have in the ground gets more valuable. Maybe you slow negotiations down, maybe you fight over tax revenue, maybe you rattle sabers geopolitically, maybe you spread FUD by devouring your own corporation; whatever it takes to keep the game going a little longer and make the other players, the consumers, sweat a little.

I'm thinking here in particular of producing players like Russia, Iran, Venezuela, the rebels in Africa, anti-coastal drilling Californians, even to some extent the Congress re: ANWR. All with different agendas, but ultimately also players trying to maximize their revenues. And when you add up the oil and natural gas in those places, you end up with some very significant numbers.

As consumers, our reaction is outrage. But if Peak Oil is real, then maybe these people are doing humanity a favor. By holding back a little, stretching out that supply, maybe we delay the peak some, maybe we plateau a little longer, maybe we give the invisible hand more time to work it's magic and kill demand.

PS. After I wrote this, I ran across this article about Chris Moneymaker ExxonMobil, and the following probably too candid quote:

Exxon's CEO was quoted this week as saying, "If we wanted to just add more volume, we could do that." But he said, "That's not the objective."

What is? His President responded: "You give me a choice of producing more barrels or making more money, I am going to make more money every time."