A cynic might treat this as stage one of an eviction notice. That cynic might be right.

An oil venture in Kazakhstan, led by Chevron (NYSE:CVX), is developing the huge Tengiz oilfield in the western part of the Central Asian state. It's also being hit by a $609 million fine levied by the Kazakh government. The fine stems from a probably trumped-up failure by Chevron and its partners to deal appropriately with the sulfur byproduct of the field's heavy concentration of dangerous and toxic hydrogen sulfide gas.

The levy, which Chevron has pledged to fight in court, comes just as the company and its partners in the venture, Tengizchevroil, have invested $6 billion to expand Tengiz. It also parallels another push by the government of Kazakhstan to pressure a second group of Western companies operating in the country.

The other group, led by Italy's Eni (NYSE:E), had been developing the nation's big Kashagan field until August, when the project was shut down amidst demands by the Kazakhstan government for billions of dollars as compensation for developmental delays and cost overruns.

This emerging pattern of Kazakh heavyhandedness follows similar approaches by the neighboring Russian government in its handling of Western energy companies. In late 2006, Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A) (NYSE:RDS-B) was essentially sent packing from its operating position at the Sakhalin-2 project. This year, BP (NYSE:BP) was similarly ousted as operator of the nation's big Kovykta gas field.

For its part, ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), the operator of Sakhalin-1, has said it'll no longer become involved in Russian projects until the nation's future approach to dealing with Western companies becomes clearer. And since it's a partner in both the Eni group and Tengizchevroil, I wouldn't be surprised to hear the world's largest publicly held energy company now utter the same words about Kazakhstan.

Frankly, this series of events in Russia and Kazakhstan -- and you can throw in Venezuela, if you'd like -- has a disturbing ring. In my rarely tentative opinion, there's very little likelihood that the world will come anywhere close to the 120 million barrels of daily production that most energy seers predict will constitute global demand in just a couple of decades. That's about 40% above today's levels, and caprice by a group of tinhorn governments will do little to help supply meet that pie-in-the-sky level.

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