You can't really understand the dynamics of global oil pricing without a keen appreciation for US national security policy
(Vocus) November 12, 2008
Veteran journalist James Norman has created a buzz in the oil patch with his keynote addresses at recent oil industry gatherings in Midland, Houston, and Calgary. Industry insiders whose fortunes are tied to the dynamics of oil prices have been very attentive to, and appreciative of, this provocative and revelatory view of market dynamics. His book, The Oil Card: Global Economic Warfare in the 21st Century, has become required reading for those who truly need to understand how our markets and our geopolitical world really work.
This thorough-going and unusual analysis of historical oil price movements lays out in powerful detail the mechanics by which the US and its allies drove down crude prices in the 1980s in a stunningly successful and bloodless effort to bankrupt the former Soviet Union. It then goes on to look at how a reversal of those tactics appears to have been at work from 1998 to mid-2008 to wage similar economic warfare against the fast-rising People's Republic of China.
Though it went to the printer just before oil prices peaked in July 2008 at almost $150/bbl, amid forecasts of oil hitting $200 or even $300/bbl, the book presciently warned crude could tumble again if Russia were to become belligerent or re-align with China. That indeed came to pass in August 2008 with Russia's invasion of Georgia, and subsequent moves by the Kremlin to mend fences with Beijing
With oil back down to around $60/bbl, Norman's basic premise has been vindicated. Namely: that macro-level oil pricing lately has had relatively little to do with the "fundamentals" of oil supply and demand.
There is ample crude available globally despite much-hyped fears of shortages, now requiring draconian cutbacks by OPEC to prevent a free-fall in pricing. Rather, as repeatedly noted by ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond in Congressional hearings, oil prices have been largely a function of geopolitics.
"You can't really understand the dynamics of global oil pricing without a keen appreciation for US national security policy," Norman states.
This will remain true regardless of the outcome of the recent US presidential election.
Oil Card Book: Jim Norman has a long and distinguished career as a journalist covering the oil industry and corporate America, including 10 years at BusinessWeek and five years at Forbes magazine.
Until retiring in 2007, he spent 10 years as a senior writer in New York for McGraw-Hill's respected daily oil industry newsletter, Platts Oilgram News. At Platts he was noted for his detailed and "prophetic" warnings as early as 1998 that the UN Oil-For-Food program was ripe for money laundering by the Saddam Hussein regime, which became a damning indictment of UN officials in the "Volcker Report" of the UN Independent Inquiry Committee.
His detailed critique of Enron accounting and governance in August 2001 helped trigger a few days later the SEC investigation which led to the collapse of Enron's market value and creditworthiness when that probe was disclosed.
The Oil Card applies this same methodical reporting and analysis to cut through the fog and cant of conventional wisdom about oil economics. Though packed with a wealth of detail, I think you will find the book quite readable and accessible to any non oil-industry readers who seriously seek to understand the murky macro forces driving world markets and events.
As noted on the back cover by former top-rated Bear Stearns oil analyst Frederick Leuffer: "This book is a must-read for consumers and investors alike. After reading The Oil Card, you will never feel the same about 'free' markets again. Once you start reading, you won't be able to put it down."
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