Imagine a president who gets behind drilling, welcomes the cutting-edge technology of companies such as ExxonMobil, and offers generous 15-year tax breaks to ensure that new drilling projects move forward. That's the kind of energy policy America needs in order to achieve energy-independence. Unfortunately, it's not Barack Obama who's behind those positive energy policies; it's Vladimir Putin.
As Russian president-elect, Putin has made it clear that he intends to open his country's arctic and Black Sea regions to drilling. The potential is so great, and the necessary investment so immense, that even Russia's giant state-run oil companies, Rosneft and Gazprom, lack the resources and technology to proceed. So, with Putin's blessing, Rosneft and Gazprom have entered into joint-production agreements with Exxon, Italian major Eni, and other Western companies. The stakes are huge -- not just for these companies, but for the Russian economy.
The arctic and Black Sea fields being jointly developed by Rosneft and Eni contain an estimated 36 billion barrels of oil equivalents. Those under development by Rosneft and Exxon, which may ultimately require an investment of as much as $500 billion, contain estimated reserves of 36 billion barrels in the arctic Kara Sea fields alone. (Total recoverable arctic reserves have been estimated at 134 billion barrels of oil equivalent but will likely go higher as exploration proceeds.) In addition to the arctic and Black Sea fields covered in the Exxon and Eni agreements, president-elect Putin has expressed an interest in the possibility of joint ventures to develop vast Siberian tight shale formations.
Instead of permitting delays, EPA harassment, Interior Department exclusions, and environmental lawsuits, drillers in the Russian arctic and Black Sea can expect considerable support from the Russian government. Both the Eni and Exxon agreements were signed in Putin's presence, the latter in the company of Rosneft and Exxon CEOs at Putin's estate outside Moscow. These two deals alone should generate new domestic oil production of more than 80 billion barrels. At current European Brent Sea prices of $120 per barrel, that production (two-thirds owned by Rosneft) amounts to a $6.2-trillion boost to the Russian economy.
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