In the wake of the Arab spring, there’s been a lot of talk about the changing balance of power among the Middle East’s major oil producers. Conversation has centered, especially, on the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Analysts report that Saudi Arabia came to the OPEC ministerial meeting in Vienna (June 2011) determined to get oil producers to raise production quotas for member states in order to lower oil prices around the world.
Lowering oil prices is seen in the Saudi Kingdom as a way of increasing economic pressure on the Islamic Republic.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Prince Turki al-Faisal told his audience that
Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it is there that more could be done to squeeze the current government.
He went on to say:
Saudi Arabia has so much [spare] production capacity — nearly 4 million barrels per day — that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran’s oil production.
Prince Turki al-Faisal is highly regarded since he was once Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief and served as Ambassador to the United States.
According to a post in Race for Iran:
Saudi officials apparently hoped that, by getting OPEC to raise production quotas, it might be possible to ‘de-throne’ Tehran as the long-time holder of the group’s second-highest production quota (after Saudi Arabia). Iran currently has little surplus productive capacity which it could quickly bring on line to take advantage of an increase in its own quota.
The Islamic Republic, of course, was determined to retain its prominent position in the OPEC hierarchy. To the surpise of many, they won the battle, drawing strong support from Algeria, Angola, Iraq, and Venezuela.
Although the Saudis announced that they would unilaterally increase production, the Obama administration undermined the Kingdom’s efforts by engineering the release of 60 million barrels of oil over a 30 day period from the strategic petroleum reserves of the US and other International Energy Agency (IEA) members.
From this outcome, it’s easy to conclude that Saudi Arabia doesn’t have as much clout in the oil market as it used to have. In fact, it’s hard to imagine relying on Saudi Arabia to make up for the volumes that Iran currently puts on the international oil market.
Because of these events — and because many of you have contacted me privately for more information on oil — I thought that now would be a good time to post a list of the best reading on oil. The list draws on the recommendations of many of the best minds currently working on oil. Although some are slightly out of date, many of the books listed below are from a Foreign Affairs reading list published in December 2009. Others have been recommended independently.
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power.By Daniel Yergin.
The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World. By Paul Roberts.
Petromania: Black gold, paper barrels and oil price bubbles. By Daniel O’Sullivan.
Oil, Dollars, Debt, and Crises: The Global Curse of Black Gold. By Mahmoud A. El-Gamal and Amy Myers Jaffe.
Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage (New Edition). By Kenneth S. Deffeyes.
Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. By Matthew R. Simmons.
Thicker Than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia. By Rachel Bronson.
Good Governance in the Middle East Oil Monarchies. See Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States. By F. Gregory Gause III.
Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia. By Marshall I. Goldman.
The Vital Triangle: China, the United States, and the Middle East. By Jon B. Alterman and John W. Garver.
The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes. By Bryan Burrough.
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. By Ron Chernow.
Also, focusing specifically upon the economics of oil NOW, you might want to take a look at the excellent and free publications from the International Energy Agency.
Recommendations? Let me know if there are worthy books that I have missed.
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