Chevron chief: Bush misunderstands oil market

US President George Bush’s desire to cut US dependence on Mideast oil shows a “misunderstanding” of global energy supply and the critical role of Saudi Arabia, the vice chairman of Chevron Corporation said today.

Peter Robertson said the US would be better off working for “interdependence” with oil producing countries rather than seeking to cut dependence.

“This notion of being energy independent is completely unreasonable,” Robertson said to a largely Saudi audience at the Jeddah Economic Forum, which opened yesterday.

“I don’t think anyone actually believes that the US can end its dependence on oil in the Middle East at all.”

Bush in his State of the Union address earlier this month pledged to cut US dependence on Middle East oil by 75% by 2025.

“Quite frankly, I think these comments reflect some misunderstanding of global energy supply. I believe Middle Eastern oil can and must play a certain role in the system,” Robertson said. “Saudi Arabia’s massive resources will continue to promote international energy security and serve as a moderating force in balancing supply and demand.”

Robertson said singling out the Middle East for a reduction in US oil imports would be difficult, since oil was a commodity traded on the open market. What’s more, he said, that would require more expensive oil imports from elsewhere.

“All it would end up doing is raising prices,” Robertson said.

Chevron is also lobbying heavily against proposals floated in the US Congress to raise taxes on oil earnings, after oil companies made record profits as a result of skyrocketing oil prices.

“We’re working very hard to make sure these don’t come into law,” Robertson said. “I think we’ll be successful.”

Chevron, which grew out of Standard Oil of California, got its first concession in Saudi Arabia in 1933 and opened its first office in the country in 1934, Robertson said.

He said oil was getting more difficult to extract, but there was still plenty of it left in the ground.

“Oil and gas are going to be the fundamental source of our energy for the rest of my life and, I’m confident, well beyond that,” he said.

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