101. DATA TRANSPARENCY
Matt Simmons is on a never-ending crusade about "data transparency" in the global oil industry. Here he is speaking on the topic at the Hudson Institute:
And so, basically, I think it's time to take really seriously an era of real data reform, and create some real transparency that means something. You know, if we were all the owners of a refrigerator company or let's say BMW, and we just designed a fabulous new line of cars, and these cars are going to sell like hotcakes and then someone says, “You know, look, the only thing that makes us a little nervous is that we have one steel mill that provides us with all of our rolled steel, but we have actually, we lost their phone number, but I just found it, and I said, “how good are your steel mills?” And they say, “Oh, our steel mills are in great shape.” Don't you think that we would want to send someone there, and actually check them out, to just make sure they were ready? And I think it's time to check them out and a total - I am not talking about Saudi Aramco; I am talking about every single oil producer on earth that wants to be counted serious, including Exxon, BP - the whole nine yards - because we are too close to the edge - and my solution (and there are probably a lot of better solutions) but the only advantage to this is that it could be done by the end of the year is that we enforce, hopefully voluntarily, we enforce timely production of field-by-field production.SourceDespite the spaghetti grammar, I think we all get the drift of that last sentence. Basically, we're talking about a team of first-world inspectors "enforcing" oilfield checks in sovereign nations like Saudi Arabia because it's a matter of U.S. national security. Sort of an extension of the arms inspectors they sent into Iraq. (In fact, you can regard oil as arms. It's like the South African attorney said in #96: "oil likely falls within the definition of munitions of war".) It's obvious why the Saudis and other nations will not allow that. It's an infringement of sovereignty.
How come Simmons never mentions the Russians? Doesn't he want to inspect their arms too? It seems to me their oil production is a lot more likely to collapse than the Saudis. But strangely, he doesn't mention the Russians (or the Venezuelans, or anybody else for that matter). After the obligatory "all nations need to get on board", he always hammers the Saudis. Maybe it's because Russia and Chavez are going to tell him to buzz off.
Transparency is also hypocritical, as usual. Simmons' argument: "Despite the fact that Saudi oil numbers are state secrets, they pose huge potential risks to mankind, so we have a right to know them." You could make the same argument about secret bio-weapons programs in the U.S. Why don't we have some transparency there? If "trust us" isn't enough from the Saudis, then it isn't enough from the U.S. either.
Note the veiled threat, where Simmons says "enforce, hopefully voluntarily" in the quote above. The Saudis are right to resist it.
It's sort of like the junky telling the dealer: "I'm going to enforce an inventory of the dope in your closet, hopefully voluntary, to check whether there's plenty in there for me to use."
To which the dealer says: "First of all, it ain't your dope, and second, how do you plan to enforce it? Stop buying?"