Venezuela could be a major beneficiary of U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision last week to refuse a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, at just the moment when plummeting oil prices and a dependency on fossil exports have brought the country to the brink of “the largest external shock in its history,” in the words of analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
“With the world’s largest oil reserves, the South American country produces heavy crude that’s similar in consistency to the one coming from Canada’s oil sands, and its economy relies largely on shipping it to the same U.S. Gulf Coast refineries that Keystone XL was meant to supply,” Bloomberg reports.
With oil trading below US$50 per barrel, “Venezuela is more reliant than ever on petroleum earnings, which account for 95% of export income and almost half of government revenues,” Pitts and Wingfield note, citing the country’s foreign ministry. “In August, Venezuela sent an estimated 935,000 barrels a day of oil to the U.S., according to [U.S. Energy Information Administration] data,” with total exports of 2.4 million barrels per day.
“This decision puts to shame Venezuela’s allegations that Obama is waging an economic war” on the country, Carlos Rossi, president of Caracas-based EnergyNomics, told Bloomberg. If that were the president’s agenda, “approving this pipeline would have been an excellent way to do it.”