It was perhaps an even bigger upset than Appalachian State University's thumping of the vaunted Michigan Wolverines earlier this season. But, comparisons aside, who'd have expected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to end up on the short side of his nation's weekend election?
The vote dealt largely with a string of Hugo's power-hungry proposals, including one that would have allowed him to stand indefinitely for re-election. The package was opposed by a coalition that included students, church and business leaders, media freedom groups, and human rights organizations. The defeat means Chavez won't be able to run for re-election in 2012.
That last figure should key Foolish investors' response to the election results. On the one hand, it does warm the cockles of one's heart to see a U.S. antagonist like Chavez get his comeuppance -- especially from his own people.
But he still has a half-decade to continue to make mincemeat of his nation's energy production and to cut deals with other countries that could seriously reduce the volume of Venezuelan imports to the United States. He also has plenty of time to fluster the Western oil companies, as he did earlier this year in the Orinoco basin with the likes of ExxonMobil
Venezuela's crude production has slipped about 25% just in this decade, from approximately 3 million barrels a day to about 2.4 million barrels currently. And while I can't agree with one analyst -- who appeared on CNBC last week contending that, without Chavez and his funneling of funds away from energy and toward his myriad social programs, production in the nation today would be closer to 6 million barrels daily -- he clearly hasn't benefited the output numbers.
Today, Venezuela accounts for about 15% of our nation's oil imports. But since a slug of those imports are funneled in through the country's Citgo refining and marketing entity, and since capital spending on that arm has fallen off significantly, it's easy to see how its volumes to the U.S. could be at risk.
So my feeling is that it'd be a mistake for those of us who follow the world's energy circumstances to rejoice excessively over Chavez's whipping. As I told you a few months ago, he can still pump your gas.
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does welcome your comments or questions. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that even Hugo couldn't thwart.