Archive for December 14th, 2008

Venezuela: Oil, Lies and the Internet

December 14, 2008

One of the powerful things about writing a blog is the
ability to link to sources. In fact, I started this blog with “The Fable”  four posts (1,2,3,4)
which contained so many links, that it may have set a record for the number of
hyperlinks contained per line, in telling the Fable about the recent history of
Venezuela. Unfortunately, many of those links no longer exist, as other don’t
seem to have the same respect for the power of links that I do.

Take Venezuela’s oil production for example,, while PDVSA
claims to be producing 3.2 millions of barrels of oil a day, more reputable
organizations in terms of honesty and transparency like OPEC or the IEA,
claim the number is about 800,000 barrels a day less.  I mean, these are not fly-b- night operations, these are
well=respected organizations. In fact, Venezuela happens to be a member of OPEC
and you can hardly accuse OPEC of being a tool of imperialism or anything like
that. In fact, Minister of Oil and Energy and President of PDVSA once announced
Venezuela had requested that OPEC “fix” those numbers.

Which never happened…

OPEC actually lowered its quotas for Venezuela at some
point in order to adjust it to the lies of the Venezuelan Government.

And locally, if you happen to talk to someone at PDVSA,
they tell you that indeed, the country’s oil production is down (mostly
production down in the West of the country) and well below that official number
that only the cheerleaders of the robolution seem to believe in.

Well, this week the World Bank joined the chorus, when it
reported that Venezuela’s oil production had fallen 19% since 2000. Given that
the Venezuelan Government has not been able to alter all of the numbers, then
we can go to the website of
the Ministry of Energy and Oil and look up the oldest annual report with all
the details about the country and its oil. And there under PODE (Petroleo y Otros
Datos Estadisticos) on
page 39 for the 2003 report
, you find indeed that Venezuela produced in
2000 a total of 1,151,436 millions of barrel of oil, which happens to be 3.15
millions of barrels of oil per day and you get 2.55 million barrels of oil per
day using the 19% number. This is above OPEC and the IEA, but below my high estimate
the other day.
So, while the World Bank does not tell us where it got its
number, it certainly was not from OPEC, IEA or the Venezuelan Government.

And while PDVSA claims that we are using 520,000 barrels
of oil a day, in
the same webpage
we see that in 2002, the country was using 560,000 barrels
of oil a day, which would make it very difficult to reconcile with the “new”
number which is simply part of the “fudging” going on today, except they can’t
change all of the sources. Even if Ramirez holds both positions, it requires
too much work to change history Soviet style like that.

But in Spanish, there is a saying that says that that “Mas
sabe el Diablo por Viejo que por Diablo” loosely translated as “The Devil knows
more because he is old more than because he is the Devil”. Which in my case, it
fits very well, as this Devil can never forget when Venezuela began using more
than 500,000 barrels of oil a day, which happened in the year 2001 and the
country used 517,000 barrels per day and I happened to be covering the oil
industry for job-related functions.

Thus, we are expected to believe that after a huge
increase in GDP (Thanks to high oil prices, not Hugo Chavez) and a huge
increase in the number of cars on the road (Thanks to absurd subsidies in the
price of cars and gasoline), consumption actually went down.

And the lies continue. As Russian officials suggest today
that the country is already in a recession, that leader of Chavista shameless
economic “thinking” Rodrigo Cabezas, joins
the cheerleading chorus
, saying that growth in Venezuela in 2009 will be
3%. Certainly not with the country’ oil basket at US$ 31.36, as
reported on Friday by PDVSA
. (A funny number in itself, as it sports the
widest difference all year with the five day WTI average, but I haven’t been
able to figure that one out yet)

And by the way, don’t be fooled by the headline in that
Bloomberg article “48% below the budget
”.  Because the lie about
the country’s oil production is not only used, but is given a Pincocchial
twist, by assuming the country will produce 3.6 millions of barrels of oil a
day at US$ 60 per barrel.

Thus, if the right numbers are used, it should really read
65% below the budget plans” if one
considers the total amount.

Thus, one should not take Cabezas’ predictions too
seriously, recall he was the one that made up the 2008 budget with inflation at
12% and we will close the year at 31%-plus., an error only comparable to naming
Cabezas Minister again, which he is lobbying hard for.

But Chavez has
been clear
, while the crisis will affect Venezuela, “we are shielded”.

Of course, this is from the same man who said oil prices
would stabilize at $100 per barrel, then at $90 and now he is talking about
surviving at $60.

Which reminds me, wasn’t it Hugo Chavez who rescued world oil
prices from oblivion, doing it again?

How come his magic is not working this time around?

The truth is that this is just a bunch of lies and liars
and they will twist and turn as the year progresses. Hugo Chavez was saved by
the “horrible” projects of the Orinoco oil belt, all planed in the terrible
days of the IVth. Republic. 
Without them the country’s oil production will be down 37% since 2000
and Hugo Chavez can’t say he has added a single new producing project in
his ten years in power.

Yes, not a single new oil producing project has been born under the

Saying otherwise would be simply another lie.