We’ve known for quite a while now that the implosion of Venezuela’s government has brought with it the collapse of their oil industry. Dictator Nicolas Maduro looted the state oil production facilities and facilitated their collapse. Despite having the largest proven oil reserves on the planet, production has nearly ground to a halt. But just how bad have things gotten? In the past couple of months, their total output has been exceeded by the state of North Dakota. (Wall Stree Journal, subscription required)
You know things are bad when North Dakota zooms past you.
Venezuela, by some measures home to the world’s largest crude reserves, saw oil output drop in September to a four-decade low of 1.17 million barrels. The same month saw North Dakota, owner of the Guinness World Record for the most snow angels, produce a record of nearly 1.3 million barrels.
Fracking technology accounts for North Dakota’s ascent, but so does bad policy. Go back to 2000, Hugo Chávez’s first full year in power, and Venezuela pumped nearly 3.2 million barrels a day, or about 33 times what North Dakota managed.
While this provides a grimly humorous way to point out Venezuela’s failure, it’s worth pointing out that the other factor in this comparison is that fracking in North Dakota has succeeded to the point where they’re producing more oil and natural gas than they can ship. (Tip to Washington… we really need to get back to work on a couple more pipelines there.)
But North Dakota is still only one state and its oil fields don’t even cover two-thirds of its 70,000 square miles. By comparison, Venezuela stretches out over 350,000 square miles. The magnitude of North Dakota’s success is overshadowed by the depth of Venezuela’s failure, and the fault for that collapse of one of the world’s formerly largest oil producers falls squarely on the shoulders of Nicolas Maduro and the inevitable collapse of socialism in his country.
Venezuela’s oil industry could still be humming along today and financing the social programs the people rely on to survive. But such are the wages of corruption and the history of socialism around the globe.