Saturday, August 12, 2006

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

The political economy of NOCs

The Economist runs a good backgrounder (subscriber only) on national oil companies (NOCs) and their various organizational pathologies. In particular, the article identifies the central peculiarity of nationalized energy companies -- inefficiences now give them greater market leverage in the future.

If nothing else, the story places "big oil" in the proper perspective:

Exxon Mobil is the world's most valuable listed company, with a market capitalisation of $412 billion. But if you compare oil companies by how much they have left in the ground, the American giant ranks a lowly fourteenth. All 13 of the oil firms that outshadow it are national oil companies (NOCs): partially or wholly state-owned firms through which governments retain the profits from oil production.

posted by Dan on 08.12.06 at 11:03 PM


Actually, the article is available for free to nonsubscribers. (I don't subscribe, and I'm reading it right now.) Just start at, and click on the ToC for the print edition. When you arrive at the daypass advertisement, click to view the ad. Once that's done, you'll have access to all content, including that (very interesting) article.

posted by: Adam W on 08.12.06 at 11:03 PM [permalink]

It's mostly an artice on the mess that is Venezuela's PVDSA disguised as one on National Oil Companies. But worthwhile reading.

And I can't see how the future for a big oil consumer like the USA is anything but bleak: we either take someone else's oil while dressing it in democracy -- but at least do it right -- or our foreign policy will need to be far more accommodative. But either way I expect the relationship between Big (US) Oil and the US government to get closer and more formalized as it becomes an increasingly important part of our overall well-being and the price of the stuff continues to rise.

As for Venezuela, the pendulum has swung left. Give it a few years and when oil output really gets bad it'll start to swing back with a new variant of the Privatize Everything school of thought.

Unfortunately, rather than it being a Washington Consensus it may well be a Shanghai Accord.

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 08.12.06 at 11:03 PM [permalink]

While agreeing with The Economist about the mess the State-owned oil companies (and everything else) are, I cannot share its misty-eyed love of the so called private oil firms. As the BP Prudhoe Bay failure shows, big companies are more or less isolated from market forces and inefficient and bureacratic and corrupt. I think a new cathegory is required for these oligopolic monster corporations - they are neither State owned nor private property in the liberal market sense. They are something else, and not necessarily efficient or good. They certainly have little to do with free enterprise or free entrepreneurs.

posted by: jaimito on 08.12.06 at 11:03 PM [permalink]

and here i thought you had an interesting post on the political economy of spooks....

Non Official Cover agents: NOC's

posted by: z on 08.12.06 at 11:03 PM [permalink]

I thought it ws about a different kind of NOC altogether: Network Operations Centers.

Not sure where the politics would come into it, though.

posted by: rosignol on 08.12.06 at 11:03 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?