It appears that the members of the OPEC cartel would like to have their cake and eat it too. At mid-week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the organization's new secretary-general had stated that the oil-producing nations may need to attract foreign investment in order to keep up with the world's oil needs.
A little history here: Oil production in many of today's OPEC nations was originally started and built by the West's major private oil companies. For instance, what ultimately became Iraq Petroleum Company was largely formed by predecessors of today's BP
Starting shortly after the end of World War II, the governments of many members of today's cartel -- beginning with Venezuela -- saw fit to demand the formation of revenue-sharing joint ventures with the private companies. Later, many of the countries, including Saudi Arabia, opted to boot the private companies entirely, handing production responsibility to government companies in the process. Interestingly, Venezuela, which was the first country to place its government's hands in the private companies' pockets, is just completing its latest iteration of energy nationalization.
So the claim by Abdalla el-Badri that OPEC will need an investment of $230 billion to $500 billion by 2020 -- a portion apparently to come from private companies -- to increase its current production of slightly more than 30 million barrels per day to about 40 million is something of a head-scratcher.
Perhaps Mr. Badri can explain to us how the private companies might invest and presumably operate in a group of countries that, with few exceptions, prohibit such activities. For now, however, I'm treating this latest surprise from the cartel as yet another indication that mankind's ability to keep up with global energy demand in the coming years is anything but guaranteed.
I also continue to urge my Foolish friends to adopt similar skepticism and concern, and accordingly to include in their portfolios shares of such major international integrated energy companies as ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips
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