Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More "regime change" in Venezuela?

At the risk of sounding like I'm passing along one of those notorious "Internet rumors", I'm posting a link to another blog post that has an interesting and disturbing speculation.

Steve Lendman posts at his self-named blog on a new book by left-leaning muckraker Greg Palast that he is reviewing, in particular on Palast's findings about Venezuelan oil.   New estimate of Venezuela's total oil 05/23/06.  (You have to scroll down a bit for the post to be visibile; several Blogspot accounts seem to have this problem.)  I'm not familiar with Lendman's work; I would guess from this piece that he would consider himself "left" as distinct from "liberal" (yes, trolls, there can be a difference).  And he seems to be fairly fatalistic about the conduct of the United States in pursuit of "imperial" aims.  But I have some confidence that Greg Palast is careful with his research.

To put it very briefly, if oil is selling at $70/barrel, then it becomes economical to extract oil from lower-grade reserves.  And that mean Venezuela's reserves of usable become larger, simply because it becomes more feasible economically to extract moer of it.  Lendman writes:

From what we know for sure plus what we think we may know about Venezuelan "total" oil reserves, I suggest the reader first take a seat and buckle up. In previous articles, I reported Venezuela may have reserves of about 350 billion barrels if all their known heavy and light crude are counted. That total is far more than is now officially recognized by OPEC which means unofficially the country has greater reserves than Saudi Arabia by that number alone.

But wait, there's more, a lot more. Palast reports a US Energy Department expert believes Venezuela holds 90% of the world's super-heavy tar oil reserves - an estimated total of 1,360,000,000,000 (1.36 trillion) barrels. Let me repeat that - 1.36 trillion barrels.  ...

So with a report like this coming from an apparent credible source (according to Palast) in the US Energy Department, it takes little imagination ... to understand more than ever that Venezuela is likely viewed by any US administration as the world's most important source of future oil supply. And to readers who understand US imperial intentions, it takes even less insight to realize the Bush administration intends to go all out to get its hands on it even if it takes a war to do it.  ...

I've reported before ... that the US is now planning a fourth attempt to oust Hugo Chavez by whatever means it has in mind. I think the wheels of its plan are now in motion, but we won't know what will unfold until the fireworks begin. With the information now available and published here, I feel more certain than ever that US instigated serious trouble is heading toward Venezuela and maybe harsher than we might expect. Venezuela's likely total oil reserves are potentially so great that the country has to be the grandest of grand prizes for the US. It's a virtual certainty the US will do anything it takes to try to seize and control it.  (my emphasis)

I have no idea whether the notion that the Bush administration is trying to encourage the overthrow of the Venezuelan government again at this time is correct.  Based on their past conduct there, I certainly wouldn't rule it out.   On the other hand, it seems to me that with a disaster of a war in Iraq and with obvious preparations to expand that war to Iran going on, the administration's time and resources for "regime change" are more focused on the Middle East right now.

But the change in the dynamics of the oil market based on the market price for oil is definitely a major factor worth watching.  If a persistently higher price makes more of Venezuela's oil reserves usable, it would certainly move higher in Washington's list of foreign-policy priorities.

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