Akins, James E.
April 1973
Foreign Affairs;Apr1973, Vol. 51 Issue 3, p462
This article focuses on U.S. State Department's concerns about oil supply-demand projections. Oil experts, economists and government officials who have attempted in recent years to predict future demand and prices for oil have had only marginally better success than those who foretell the advent of earthquakes or the second coming of the Messiah. The recent records of those who have told us we were running out of petroleum and gas are an example. Oil shortages were predicted in the 1920s, again in the late thirties, and after the Second World War. None occurred, and supply forecasters went to the other extreme: past predictions of shortages had been wrong, they reasoned, therefore all such future predictions must be wrong and we could count on an ample supply of oil for as long as we would need it. The world's oil reserve picture is even more startling when looked at in detail, for the oil is not distributed uniformly even through the Arab world. Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco and Yemen have virtually none; Egypt has little, Algeria and Libya somewhat more; but the giant reserves are concentrated in the countries of the Persian Gulf: the Federation of Arab Amirates, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq and, by far the most important, Saudi Arabia. The proven reserves of Saudi Arabia are frequently listed as 150 billion barrels, but this is almost certainly too low. One company with extensive experience in that country believes that the present proven reserves are over twice that figure. And the probable reserves could double the figure again.


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