Politics and World Oil Economics: An Account of the International Oil Industry in Its Political Environment

By J. E. Hartshorn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
Pressure from Consumers

F ew people in the oil business, when this book was written, were prepared to take the pressures upon them from consumer governments as seriously as those from producer governments; and in the short run they were obviously right. The dramatic demands, the explicit or implicit threats to cut off their supplying operations, come from the host governments in producing countries. Moreover, their relations with those hosts are ultimately crystallized into contractual arrangements: improvement or deterioration in such relations either fortifies an agreement or brings arguments for its modifications. In consuming countries where the oil industry operates simply as a processor and marketer, its contractual arrangements until recently were only with private individuals. Its relations with governments, and the favour or disfavour it receives in their policies, are generally more detached. Some of these consuming countries, again, are the homes of the great international companies: these companies make a significant contribution to national wealth and may expect, though they do not invariably receive it, some special consideration. And yet the world oil market is in surplus; consumers throughout the importing countries are seeking to take as much advantage of this as they can; and energy is so vital to every consuming country nowadays that no government can ignore its strategic, commercial and fiscal significance. Moreover, there is one point of uncertainty regarding oil that consumer governments share with producers. Petroleum is brought to their shores from various sources, just as it is taken away from the producing countries towards various destinations, chosen according to the convenience of international companies operating largely beyond their jurisdiction. They cannot always assume that the companies' commercial convenience will be more than incidentally identical with their own national interests.

The present circumstances in which this growing concern of consumer governments with oil may grow in importance are those of

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