The REAL Big Oil

At the Washington Examiner today, Mark Tapscott does an excellent job pointing out one of the more mendacious memes spouted by the Left when it comes to energy.

Tapscott’s piece is actually covering another of the Big Lies on energy, this one’s latest resurfacing coming as a result of President Obama’s move to “force” holders of federal mineral leases to execute on those leases or lose them. That gag has whiskers on it and there isn’t an ounce of truth – or oil – to be found there. We’ll leave that argument alone for the purposes of this post.

But what Tapscott says in addressing that question is well worth repeating…

Based on government data, the answer to the first question is this: Ninety four percent of federal onshore lands are off-limits to oil and gas exploration, while 97 percent of offshore federal lands are off-limits.

So virtually all of the public lands now owned by the American people but controlled by the federal government isn’t even eligible to be placed on the auction block for bidding by U.S. companies for energy exploration rights leasing.

Who benefits from this lockup of virtually all of America’s public lands from American energy companies?

He then answers, by naming the folks who truly represent Big Oil.

And it may come as somewhat of a surprise to many, but Big Oil isn’t ExxonMobil. Or Shell. Or Chevron. Or ConocoPhillips. Or even BP.

Those guys might be big companies, but in the grand scheme of things they’re more like Medium Oil. None of them are even in the Top 10 largest oil companies on the planet.

Who are the
Big Top 10

Tapscott’s list differs slightly from one we found at a Forbes article from last July. We’ll use Forbes’ list for the top four, since it contains more detail. By the amount of oil produced per day, they are…

  1. Saudi Aramco: Sitting atop 260 billion barrels of proven reserves, the world’s top producer puts out 8.2 million barrels of oil per day (as of July 2010). It has a reported capacity of over 12 million bpd. Aramco’s Ghawar field alone is worth 5 million bpd.
  2. National Iranian Oil Company: NIOC is on the decline, according to Forbes, but it’s still responsible for 3.8 billion barrels of oil per day, with proven reserves of 140 billion barrels.
  3. Petroleos Mexicanos: PEMEX puts out 2.9 million barrels a day, but as we know production is dropping quickly. Some 1.2 million barrels per day of that production is exported to America, which makes Mexico the second-biggest importer of our oil (Canada is the largest).
  4. Iraq National Oil Company: This is a reflection of that country’s oil ministry as a whole, as it owns three different oil companies which combined pump 2.5 million barrels a day out of the ground off proven reserves of some 115 billion barrels – with the expectation that at least half that amount is also available. Furthermore, it’s estimated that if Iraq ever got completely stabilized and its infrastructure refitted, production could expand as high as 6 million bpd.

Forbes does have Exxon and BP ranked 5th and 6th with 2.5 million barrels per day of production, but in terms of proven reserves under control, which Tapscott is using for his rankings, the rest of the top 10 (not counting PEMEX, as PEMEX’s reserves are not in the Top 10 since they’ve only got about 11 billion barrels) are…

  • Qatar General Petroleum Corporation – 15 billion barrels in reserves, 905 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 500,000 bpd
  • Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (UAE) – 92 billion barrels in reserves, 199 tcf in natural gas, 2.3 million bpd
  • Kuwait Petroleum Corporation – 102 billion barrels in reserves, 56 tcf in natural gas, 2.3 million bpd
  • Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. – 100 ┬ábillion barrels in reserves, plus another 500 billion in heavy oil not currently in production, 2.2 million bpd
  • Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation – 36 billion barrels in reserves, 198 tcf in natural gas, production capability of 2.9 million bpd but currently between 1.6 and 2.0 million bpd because of instability in Nigeria and the resulting disruptions of production.
  • National Oil Company (Libya) – 41 billion barrels in reserves, 50 tcf in natural gas, 1.8 million bpd
  • Sonatrach (Algeria) – 12 billion barrels in reserves, 159 tcf in natural gas, 1.9 million bpd

As Tapscott notes, one thing which easily jumps out at you is that these are all state-owned oil companies controlled by tyrants and kleptocrats other than the possible exception of Iraq.

That’s what Big Oil truly is.

Here’s something else they share: When the U.S. government prevents domestic energy firms to explore and develop this country’s incredibly abundant resources – we are “the Saudi Arabia of coal” and could be swimming in cheap gas if we developed our plentiful oil shale resources – Americans are forced to import more foreign oil.

That’s why we currently import nearly three-fourths of all the oil we consume. And guess where most of that foreign oil comes from? You got it, those Top 10 companies listed above. So every time Obama delays another lease or drilling permit, oil potentates like King Faisal, Hugo Chavez, and Ghadaffi grin from ear-to-ear because they know it means more dollars coming to them.

And just to put these facts into further clarifying context, America’s biggest energy company is ExxonMobil, which is second on the Fortune 500 and is currently valued at approximately $153 billion. The SaudiArabian Oil Company that is the world’s second largest owns the world’s largest reserves and is valued at more than $2 trillion.

So when politicians talk about “Big Oil,” ask them if they know where ExxonMobil ranks among the world’s 10 biggest oil companies. Chances are excellent they won’t have a clue that the answer is “nowhere.”

In all, America’s “proven reserves” are said to be 20 billion barrels. Virtually everyone knows we’ve got a lot more than that. It’s said there are 44 billion barrels in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Sarah Palin’s excellent Facebook entry today notes estimates of 90 billion barrels in the Arctic Circle, one-third of which is within Alaskan territory. There are 20 billion barrels in the Bakken field in North Dakota and Montana, according to some estimates. And so on. But when we finally get set to produce in those fields, we won’t be doing it with a state-run oil company; in fact, it will be Medium Oil – Exxon, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell – or even the smaller, independent operators who will be developing those fields.

So as Tapscott says, when someone starts talking about Big Oil within the context of American energy policy, look them in the eye and explain to them that not only don’t they know what they’re talking about but their ignorance is doing damage to our economy and national security.

And then tell them to please shut the hell up.



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