What a difference low oil prices make! Bully boy Hugo Chavez expropriated oil companies operating in Venezuela when prices were high. But now that his oil revenues have fallen and Venezuelan production declined (turns out that running an oil production operation requires more expertise than being a Marxist thug), he wants them back. The New York Times writes:
... faced with the plunge in prices and a decline in domestic production, senior officials have begun soliciting bids from some of the largest Western oil companies in recent weeks - including Chevron, Royal Dutch/Shell and Total of France - promising them access to some of the world's largest petroleum reserves, according to energy executives and industry consultants here.
Their willingness to even consider investing in Venezuela reflects the scarcity of projects open to foreign companies in other top oil nations, particularly in the Middle East.
Somehow the Times neglects to mention all the prime oil exploration sites in America that are off-limits to oil drilling, thanks to the greenies. Wouldn't want its liberal readers to think about it. But the Times also notices the political pickle Chavez has gotten himself into:
But the shift also shows how the global financial crisis is hampering Mr. Chávez's ideological agenda and demanding his pragmatic side. At stake are no less than Venezuela's economic stability and the sustainability of his rule. With oil prices so low, the longstanding problems plaguing Petróleos de Venezuela, the national oil company that helps keep the country afloat, have become much harder to ignore.
Embracing the Western companies may be the only way to shore up Petróleos de Venezuela and the raft of social welfare programs, like health care and higher education for the poor, that have been made possible by oil proceeds and have helped bolster his popular support.
That sounds like a good reason for these companies to say no. If the Venezuela monopoly falls on its face and Chavez is thrown from power, they are more likely to get a deal with a partner who will not go back on his agreement when oil is found and produced.
I note glaring omissions from the list of companies--Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips which are still trying to get paid for he theft of assets by Chavez when he nationalized the oil business 1997. It is reason enough to suggest that any deal with Chavez is a fools bargain.