Thursday, June 29, 2006

Abnormally High Oil Stocks?

I speculated earlier that if we were going to attack Iran in some manner--regime change or aerial campaign against nuke sites--we'd want oil stocks to ride a hopefully short-term disruption of Iranian exports:

I must be drinking the speculation kool-aid or something. But one aspect of blogging for me is looking at what we should be doing if we are going to carry out a specific mission.

And if we are going to hit Iran, the major threat that can't be dealt with by our military is the oil weapon. Iran probably counts on the threat of cutting off oil exports to stay our hand. So with that in mind, I'd want to prepare for the complete loss of Iranian oil exports for the time needed to take down Iran. My question is, have we been doing exactly this for the last couple years or so?

Well, Kudlow says stockpiles are way up:

The Energy Department just announced that crude oil supplies rose 1.4 million barrels to 347.1 million for the week ended June 16. Analysts had been expecting a drawdown, so this news caught them by surprise. More, crude oil supplies in the U.S. are now at their highest levels since May 1998, when oil was trading around $15 a barrel. Add in the fact that Canadian oil inventories are fully stocked, and the more imminent reality is of a sizable oil-price decrease -- not a huge increase.

Recently I interviewed four oil-tanker executives who control a combined 85 percent of the oil coming into the United States. They confirmed market rumors that the amount of oil being stored on large carriers on the high seas is abnormally high. One of the CEOs even predicted the possibility of $40 to $50 oil in the next 6 to 12 months. In another interview, Chevron CEO David O'Reilly suggested that gasoline and energy demands have flattened in the U.S., and may be showing signs of decline.

I should think that it isn't that easy to keep supplies up--especially on ships--for long. So does the July deadline for Iran to respond to our negotiation offer mean something is up?

"We are disappointed in the absence of an official Iranian response to this positive proposal," said a statement from foreign ministers of the Group of Eight industrial nations. "We expect to hear a clear and substantive Iranian response to these proposals" at a meeting scheduled July 5 between the European Union's foreign minister and Iran's nuclear negotiator.

I've been wrong before so I hesitate to predict action, but is action against Iran looming?