By Keith Fitz-Gerald
Money Morning/The Money Map Report
First it called for a meeting of oil producers and oil consumers.
Now Saudi Arabia has proposed a boost in oil production.
At the end of the day, however, neither of these moves will have any real impact on the ongoing escalation in oil prices.
Let me explain …
The Saudi Spin
When Saudi Arabia called for a summit on high oil prices recently, it said there was "no justification for the current rise in prices" – and used the opportunity to express concern that high oil prices could harm the global economy.
That's why Saudi Arabia also wants to work with its cartel compatriots in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to "guarantee the availability of oil supplies now and in the future," said Iyad Madani, the country's minister of information and culture.
Madani made his comments on June 9, at the end of a weeklong Saudi cabinet confab in the seaport city of Jiddah, on the Red Sea. The timing was most interesting, with the comments coming, as they did, just three days after U.S. oil prices posted their biggest one-day run-up in history – .
Let's be clear here: Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter; and the only reason it wants a meeting that will bring it together with both its OPEC suppliers and other international economies (their "consumers" … otherwise known as "us") is to cover its flank.
Indeed, the meeting hasn't even started yet and Saudi Arabia is already establishing a protective position that would keep the Pittsburgh Steelers' vaunted "Steel Curtain" defense from mounting much of a pass rush.
The meeting – also set for Jeddah – will start Sunday. But yesterday (Monday), crude oil prices dropped on the New York Mercantile Exchange for the second trading session in a row on speculation that Saudi Arabia will be increasing its oil production (oil closed at $134.61 a barrel, although "black gold" had actually spiked to a new record of $139.89 before news of the Saudi output increase began making the rounds; crude still costs 98% more today than it did last year at this time).
The Middle East kingdom will pump an extra 200,000 barrels a day next month, Agence France- Presse reported on Sunday, citing United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon. This would boost world supply by 0.2%, Bloomberg News reported.
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You have to give them credit: The Saudis are giving this quite the benevolent spin; if they pull this off, it would be among the biggest media coups of the century.
And let's be honest: The United States would probably try a similar tactic if it were in the same situation.
We would want the world to think favorably of us – and even like us – even as we're sticking it to everyone. And that's particularly true with an issue as emotional as this one, since the animosity over high oil prices is literally multiplying by the day, and since global sentiment (among the oil consumers) is becoming overwhelmingly anti-Oil Baron at the moment.
Add in the fact that nearly everybody on the planet is suddenly out beating the bushes, seeking substitutes for oil, with billions (if not trillions) now being earmarked for the pursuit of alternative-energy solutions … if we were in their position then we, too, would have a vested interest in preserving the global-energy status quo and hanging onto our own power base – which, of course, is a little-disguised reference to the House of Saud, since the end of oil would likely mean the end of the Saudi kingdom, too.
A Call for Control
But even though the Saudis want a meeting for their own, easily discernable reasons, the oil-consuming world should have a wholly different agenda when its representatives get there.
For one thing, it's high time that oil consumers start exerting a little pressure of their own, and a meeting like the one Saudi Arabia has set up would be an ideal venue.
You see, we've closely studied the entire issue of Saudi Arabia's questionable oil-reserve-claims in the past – obviously with little cooperation. So this summit now emerges as an opportunity to ask – in an in-person and point-blank manner – just how much oil remains in the ground. We would also ask – just as bluntly – why Saudi Arabia and its OPEC cronies have repeatedly promised to raise global output to stave off higher oil prices. Yet, for some strange reason, they've never done so.
Starting in 2005, the world's oil output mysteriously plateaued at 85 million barrels a day.
It's probably not that oil producers don't want to increase production; I don't think that they can.
Are We Nearing Oil's "Twilight" Zone?
Most experts who examine the numbers have finally concluded that something's not quite right when it comes to the reserve calculations. In fact, many of these experts – including myself – openly question the figures, and have done so for years.
Some, like noted author, Matthew R. Simmons, author of the best seller "," take it a step further and state that Saudi Arabia has been deliberately overstating its reserve capabilities for decades.
And that really gets us to the heart of this whole controversy: Nobody really knows what Saudi Arabia or any of the other OPEC members have "in the ground."
In my exclusive interview with Jim Rogers in Singapore earlier this year, the global investing guru really put things in perspective with regards to the Saudis' oil reserves when he said that "either you believe them, or you don't," because they're certainly not going to disclose what's actually in their oil fields, nor are they prone to allow open inspections.
We're betting that the Saudis have simply become accustomed to high revenues and rapid economic growth, meaning they have no interest at all in seeing crude prices decline.
So don't expect any self-inflicted wounds.
Even Saudi King Abdullah's statements to the U.N. secretary general earlier this week were nothing more than "positioning." Even with an output of 9.7 million barrels a day – which represents the increase of 200,000 barrels per day that we mentioned a moment ago – Saudi Arabia's boost to production is all show, and no substance.
In the long run, it doesn't matter anyway. The world's supply of oil is destined to run out. The only questions are when – and at what cost.
You see, either the world will use the last drop of oil, and descend into chaos, or before that happens will discover a substitute (or, more accurately, several alternatives), in which case Saudi Arabia will watch as its wealth and its position of power are both undermined.
And the Saudi leaders know it.
Until that happens, it's very much in that country's interest to do all it can to perpetuate the myth that it is doing all it can to stabilize – or even reduce – oil prices by calling for production increases, like the one revealed yesterday, or summits, like the one set for Sunday.
But just understand that these are merely "feel-good" moves – and nothing more.
History suggests that any political cadre will put self-preservation ahead of everything else. And this is no different.
News and Related Story Notes:
Global Markets: Oil Surges to New Record, Pushing Down the Dollar.
- Bloomberg News:
Oil Falls for a Second Day as Saudi Arabia May Increase Output.
Saudi Arabia seeks oil price curb.
- Money Morning News Analysis:
House of Saud.
- Money Morning News Analysis:
Saudi Arabia Agrees to Increase Oil Output After Crude Hits Another New High.
- Money Morning Exclusive Interview:
Jim Rogers: China's Economic Advance is All But Unstoppable.
About the Author
Keith is a seasoned market analyst and professional trader with more than 37 years of global experience. He is one of very few experts to correctly see both the dot.bomb crisis and the ongoing financial crisis coming ahead of time - and one of even fewer to help millions of investors around the world successfully navigate them both. Forbes hailed him as a "Market Visionary." He is a regular on FOX Business News and Yahoo! Finance, and his observations have been featured in Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, and MarketWatch. Keith previously led The Money Map Report, Money Map's flagship newsletter, as Chief Investment Strategist, from 20007 to 2020. Keith holds a BS in management and finance from Skidmore College and an MS in international finance (with a focus on Japanese business science) from Chaminade University. He regularly travels the world in search of investment opportunities others don't yet see or understand.