Oil, Hugo Chavez, and Who Owns What?

hugo_oil.jpgThe New York Times had an interesting article in their Sunday Magazine about Hugo Chavez and how he is using profits from oil to support his vision of a socialistic Venezuela. While the Western concept of oil as belonging to whomever controls the land on which the equipment to get it out of the ground operates, one of the learnings I took from this article looks at it from another perspective. Can any person or company own these ancient reserves, or does it belong to the society itself under whose land the oil is drilled? Does Big Oil control oil since it could afford to lobby or bribe politicians to allow it to drill within state-controlled preserves or wildlife lands? Does oil belong to governments, to use as any other source of revenue? Does the oil belong to the people  (in Venezuela, the slogan states: El Petroleo es Nuestro!, loosely translated as The Oil Is Ours!), and thus nationalizing the oil reserves is a form of patriotism and duty of the govenerment to care for its citizens? Perhaps oil is more like a drug, where anybody who controls it and the potential wealth it brings wants to decide it is whatever is convenient, insofar as it maintains and supports the status quo for those in power? Perhaps oil is itself a necessary evil? 

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