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October 13, 2008
The Glories of Socialism
Nancy Pelosi said a few weeks ago that we should nationalize the oil companies. Well, Hugo Chavez has already done that and perhaps we should examine the results. They may be instructive for clueless jackboots like Pelosi who believe the market is some place to go to buy a head of lettuce:
Venezuela's daily oil production has fallen by a quarter since President Hugo Chavez won power, depriving his "Bolivarian Revolution" of much of the benefit of the global boom in oil prices.
To win allies and forge an anti-American front, Mr Chavez sells oil to friendly countries at low prices. Ironically, the only big customer buying Venezuelan oil at the full market price is the United States, which the president routinely denounces as the "Empire".
"As production falls, the sales to the US become more important," said Pietro Donatello, an oil analyst from Latin Petroleum in the capital, Caracas. "Only the US is paying the full amount for Venezuelan oil and in cash, the rest are in some kind of barter agreements."
The state oil company, PDVSA, produced 3.2 million barrels per day in 1998, the year before Mr Chavez won the presidency. After a decade of rising corruption and inefficiency, daily output has now fallen to 2.4 million barrels, according to OPEC figures. About half of this oil is now delivered at a discount to Mr Chavez's friends around Latin America. The 18 nations in his "Petrocaribe" club, founded in 2005, pay Venezuela only 30 per cent of the market price within 90 days, with rest in instalments spread over 25 years.
Corruption? Inefficiency? Do tell, Hugo. Why is that?
Meanwhile, Mr Chavez has given PDVSA countless new tasks. "The new PDVSA is central to the social battle for the advance of our country," said Rafael Ramirez, the company's president and the minister for petroleum. "We have worked to convert PDVSA into a key element for the social battle."I think all Democrats - including our possible incoming president - should take a remedial economics course. It may remind them that when all is said and done - after they've finished bashing and demonizing the oil companies - those entities do a heckuva lot better job at getting gasoline and heating oil to the consumer than the government could ever dream of doing.
The company now grows food after Mr Chavez's price controls emptied supermarket shelves of products like milk and eggs. Another branch produces furniture and domestic appliances in an effort to stem the flow of imports. What PDVSA seems unable to do is produce more oil.
But then, what fun would that be? If it's good enough for Chavez, it should be good enough for the USA.
Even if we end up with an economy like that of a banana republic.