Thursday, February 10, 2005

Chávez with China and the Mullahs

Leading German news magazine Der Spiegel (No. 6/2005) ran a short article on Chávez's plans for his oil exports. As is so often the case, Chávez has set the cat among the pigeons with his intentions. I wonder whether he will stay in power long enough to see his plans come to fruition; I suspect he won't. (Keeping in mind that in many other areas, notably generating wealth and increasing civil liberties, his grandiose announcements have come to nought -- not even after six years of concentrating power in his own hands.)

Oil for China's Refineries

Leftist populist President Hugo Chávez wants to reduce his dependency on oil experts to the USA with the help of the mullah regime in Teheran. Iranian experts are to assist sales staff of Venezuelas state oil company, PDVSA, in opening up new markets in Asia -- currently, far more than half of all deliveries goes to the United States. Chávez main focus lies on increasing the exports to China. Last week, he sealed an agreement with Beijing that will allow the People's Republic to develop gas and oil reserves in Venezuela. For the moment, the plan to increase the exports is being scuppered by technical problems: Venezuelan oil is very heavy, and China does not dispose of the necessary refineries. Furthermore, Venezuela has no access to the Pacific. Caracas is therefore negotiating with Panama and Colombia about building pipelines to their maritime ports -- thereby greatly irritating Washington. U.S. oil companies that have invested in Venezuela are worried that the "Chávez effect" could affect their sales. Caracas has already announced its intention to stop its exports to the USA should Washington interfere in the "internal affairs" of Venezuela because of the oil trade. Three years ago, the USA had already approved of an attempted coup against Chávez.


Blogger A.M. Mora y Leon said...

Cripes, does this magazine do any reporting? So 60% of oil exports going to the US is 'far more than half'? This is ridiculous. I thought this was a reputable magazine! (It may no longer be reputable, but this translation is highly informative!)

No, the US is not 'greatly irritated' if Chavez wants to sell oil to China. For your information, Spiegel, the US snickers at the transport costs and wonders who gets to foot them.

On a more serious note, I've asked around and the US does not care if a pipeline is built through Colombia to ship oil to China. In addition, I haven't heard anything about the US being upset about shifting the flow of Ecuadorean and Alaskan oil that already goes to the Atlantic via an existing pipeline to Venezuelan oil that goes to Pacific ports. (I can just guess what the Alaskans and Ecuadoreans would say to this but fortunately, the Panamanians are not into breaking long-term contracts.)

The whole agenda of this piece seems to be to say that the US will do anything, anything at all, to get its hands on Venezuelan oil. It's a helpless giant. This certainly must make antiamerican readers feel good but it has no basis in reality.

Last Friday, the US State Department came out and said we Americans don't need Venezuelan oil. And I have a study on my desk right here that shows how US refineries coped with a cutoff of Venezuelan oil. (Detail: they did just fine.)

This magazine seems desperate to portray the US as helpless and boxed in. Since they didn't do any serious reporting on this (as it is understood in America), all I can think is: these guys must be 'projecting.'

But thank you for the informative translation, it was a real eye-opener for me! I had no idea they'd write something like that!

2:37 am  
Anonymous Roger said...

a.m. mora y leon
I very much like your comments on the different blogs and of course The American Thinker. Please keep it going!

Der Spiegel is about as left and anti-American as they come. I speak German and am horrified by some of the stories (=lies) they publish about the USA, since the Iraq war. And that is not to say that they did much better before the war.

Oh well, the European leftist elite! While I like your blog, John, in my mind, you are part of the club. Your global warming junk science and the attempt in censoring "a.m. mora y leon" gives you away.

1:49 am  
Blogger John said...

Dear Roger,

first things first: I have never censored A.M. nor anyone else, for that matter. I have expounded my views and backed them up with sources wherever possible.

Secondly, I do not see how you arrive at the conclusion that global warming is "junk science". Most reputable climatologists believe it is likely to exist, while a few reputable climatologists think it does not (or, to be more exact: it is still too early to tell). The jury is still out on the definitive answer, but considering the downside potential of the development, I'd rather play it safe than sorry.

Thirdly, I am not part of the European "leftist elite". I do not share the views of the European left and am horrified by the leftward drift taking place at the fringes (at least, I hope they are the fringes). However, I am not much less horrified by the rightward, fundamentalist drift currently taking place in the United States.

Finallly, Der Spiegel. It is not "anti-American", but rather critical of many of the current U.S. administration's policies. But it is critical about everything else, too -- would you call it "anti-German", "anti-French" and so forth as well? Critical reporting is a rather important role the media play. I much prefer it when they are critical than when they are uncritical.

Is the Spiegel "left"? Not that I am aware of. It usually takes the position that the labour market in Germany needs to be flexibilised, that taxes need to be lowered, Social Security cut back, bureaucracy reduced, and so forth. So why do you label it "left"?

To A.M.: 60% is 20% more than half, which I think is fair to say is "far more than half". I don't know whether or not the U.S. would be irritated by Venezuela's selling oil to a major geopolitical rival with the aid of members of the "Axis of Evil", in the process reducing the profits of U.S. oil companies. It does seem likely, however.

This is not to say that the U.S. won't find other sources of oil; of course it will. As I see it, the intention of the article is not so much to portray the U.S. as a "helpless giant", but rather to describe Chávez's intentions of reducing his reliance on (and links to) the USA. And there's no disputing the fact that that is exactly what he wishes to do (whether he will be able to is a different question).


11:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AM I have seen your comments in other blogs and I am still trying to understand why your beligerant laguage to this blog.
I agree on your comments in the other places, but I just can't pinpoint your sharpness here.
Can you elaborate AM?
I, as many other people would like to know.
This blog has, as we see it, backed up all the comments it makes, give it the benefit of the doubt.

6:48 pm  
Blogger A.M. Mora y Leon said...

Here is an interesting Wall Street Journal article on German and other media that confirms my impression of German media - prior to this translation and I guess reading this WSJ item, I had thought German media was more neutral. This at least explains things:

3:31 pm  
Blogger John said...

Dear A.M.,

thanks for the link, which was very informative. I would be interested to see how critical the different national media are overall (i.e. not just regarding coverage of a single topic: the USA). Here's some food for thought:

My observation from living in several different countries has been that Germans (not only in the media) tend to criticise anything, anywhere, anytime, and with gusto. (One of the things they most criticise is themselves, by the way.) I am therefore not surprised that they criticised the USA more than even the Arab media did.

Best regards,

6:28 pm  
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