My latest op/ed, from Saturday’s Houston Chronicle:
If we needed another example of how hydraulic fracturing is changing the world of petro-politics, we have it in Venezuela.
Anti-government protests have erupted in parts of the country, and President Nicolas Maduro has cracked down on social media and threatened to expel journalists for covering the unrest. The protesters’ demands vary, but most are economic in nature. What does all this have to do with fracking? Everything.
For starters, look at what’s happening with oil prices recently: not much. Crude futures have posted some steady gains in the past few weeks, but that has more to do with the unusually cold winter driving up demand for heating oil. Prices remain well below where oil traded last summer.
In other words, political upheaval in a major OPEC country has barely moved the needle on crude prices. We saw much the same reaction from world oil markets last fall, when the civil war in Syria and a possible showdown with Iran over its nuclear program loomed large.
In the past five years, the U.S. has become one of the world’s biggest energy producers, and its new prominence has upended the balance of power in the global oil market. Just as Iran was forced to bargain over its nuclear program, so, too, is Venezuela finding that its oil-fed socialist agenda is crumbling without the influx of U.S. oil dollars.