Self-sufficiency in Oil: II. The Soviet Bloc
D uring 1960, a team of American oilmen visited the Soviet oil industry, and on a return trip a team of Soviet oilmen visited the American oil industry. The reactions of each might be selectively summed up in remarks said to have been made by the two leaders. The leader of the American team asked, 'Why do you employ so many people?' The leader of the Soviet team asked, 'Why do you drill so many wells?' Both questions were telling; they brought out basic differences between the legal and economic circumstances in which managers of the oil industry conduct their business in these dominant countries of world capitalism and communism. To the third party who has to depend on imported oil, however, the oil industries of two rival colossi have at least one thing in common: they can supply broadly enough for their own needs. In this they are, so far, unlike all other industrialized societies.
For three to four years at the turn of the century, Russia was actually producing more oil than the United States. It drew level and passed in 1897-98; but by 1902 its brief spell in the lead was over. Russia did not experience the revolution of mass motor ownership that took place in the United States during the first two to three decades of this century. In fact, it never has. And Mr. Khrushchev, during his eventful visits to America in 1959 and 1960, was ready to say that he thought it never should. The statements of statesmen about technological and social development, over the years, have a way of rebounding upon themselves. Nevertheless, gasoline consumption by the private motorist is certainly not one of the ways in which the Russian government proclaims the ambition of surpassing American standards of living. However, the Soviet production target for oil by 1980, set at 14 million barrels a day, is higher than any forecasts ever made for the United States.
The present level of Russian output -- nearing 31/2 million barrels of oil a day and about 70,000 million cubic metres of gas a year -- is only