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, 104 (1), 377-82

The Iranian Petroleum Crisis and United States National Security

Affiliations

The Iranian Petroleum Crisis and United States National Security

Roger Stern. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

The U.S. case against Iran is based on Iran's deceptions regarding nuclear weapons development. This case is buttressed by assertions that a state so petroleum-rich cannot need nuclear power to preserve exports, as Iran claims. The U.S. infers, therefore, that Iran's entire nuclear technology program must pertain to weapons development. However, some industry analysts project an Irani oil export decline [e.g., Clark JR (2005) Oil Gas J 103(18):34-39]. If such a decline is occurring, Iran's claim to need nuclear power could be genuine. Because Iran's government relies on monopoly proceeds from oil exports for most revenue, it could become politically vulnerable if exports decline. Here, we survey the political economy of Irani petroleum for evidence of this decline. We define Iran's export decline rate (edr) as its summed rates of depletion and domestic demand growth, which we find equals 10-12%. We estimate marginal cost per barrel for additions to Irani production capacity, from which we derive the "standstill" investment required to offset edr. We then compare the standstill investment to actual investment, which has been inadequate to offset edr. Even if a relatively optimistic schedule of future capacity addition is met, the ratio of 2011 to 2006 exports will be only 0.40-0.52. A more probable scenario is that, absent some change in Irani policy, this ratio will be 0.33-0.46 with exports declining to zero by 2014-2015. Energy subsidies, hostility to foreign investment, and inefficiencies of its state-planned economy underlie Iran's problem, which has no relation to "peak oil."

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declares no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Iran energy balance net of all trade, 1980–2003. The only nonpetroleum account in Fig. 1 is hydropower, 4.3% of total energy production; thus this energy balance gives an overview of Iran's petroleum economy. The graph is color-coded as follows: green, production plus imports; blue, exports; gold, domestic consumption.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Iran oil production versus OPEC quota, 1989–2006.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Iran natural gas disposition 2000–2004. The graph is color-coded as follows: purple, domestic consumption; dark blue, reinjection; yellow, flaring; orange, exports; light blue, shrinkage.

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