Members-Only Area!
I see there is still a lot of traffic on my site. I am debating on putting my property owners association's web site in this space but I keep going through some of the letters, commendations and pictures of two of my "American Hero's", being my Grandfather Joseph Phillips and my brother George Eddie Payne. Both worked their way to the top of their professions, which anyone who visits my site know to be Federal Agents. Now most people watch television and see Jack Bauer or Jack Ryan and even Indiana Jones as their heroes without a soul in the world to compare them to. Well, I have two people who rival some of those adventures and putting that information online sometimes may or may not be of interest to you and it may even upset some of you, but I find it fascinating.

Take for instance something I have only recently discovered. That being the fact that sometime before World War II my grandfather Phillips spent some time in Venezuela on the offshore oil rigs of either U.S. oil companies or Venezuelan oil companies. I recently came across more of those pictures with some information written on the back. Now my grandfather did not often take vacations so I can only imagine that the U.S. Treasury Department, for which he worked as a Federal Agent had sent him there for some reason. I still have most of his diaries and plan on going through them to see if any of them contain information on what he was doing during the late 1930's - early 1940's after Prohibition had been abolished.

If this would be of interest to any of you email me and let me know. The traffic is nice but to actually hear from you would be even better. Joe Payne
Pictures from my Grandfathers Trunk - Pre WWII

Oil values in Venezuela are up for debate

By Frank Bracho
Reporting from Caracas

Oil still contributes about 80 percent of Venezuela’s foreign income, 60 percent of the fiscal public income and 25 percent of the nation’s GDP, so it remains of paramount importance to the country’s financial life.

At a world level, Venezuela has been a distinguished and emblematic oil producer. Standard Oil and Shell became grand thanks to the vast income derived from Venezuela’s oil and installations. For many years, Venezuela was the greatest oil exporter in the world and a critical supplier of the military machinery of the allied forces during World War II. For this, Venezuelan oil was a target of the German fleet. Venezuela was also the founder of OPEC and today holds the second-largest oil corporation in the world (in terms of assets): Pdvsa, the Venezuelan state oil company.

So what does Venezuela have to show for all that? To say the least, the balance is bittersweet. The oil boom that began at the turn of the past century practically swept away the nation’s agrarian culture. Self-sustaining traditional peoples succumbed in those regions dedicated to oil exploitation. There were many spills and great contamination at the time. In 1922, spillage at the well Barrosos No. 2 was almost four times greater than the notorious Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. The “easy” oil money undermined the productive, moral and social weft of the nation.

On the other hand, oil was the great modernizer: It facilitated national integration and gave Venezuela the necessary resources to build roads, schools and hospitals unparalleled in Latin America. Oil revenues spurred industrial development and put Venezuela on the world map.

That was the past. Today, there is much discussion in Venezuela about using oil to create a healthier economy—diversified and independent—and about planning for a day when oil revenues may fall short. Slogans such as “Planting Oil” and “Post-Oil Venezuela,” both emphatically stated by Arturo Uslar Pietri, reflect a generation of Venezuelan thinkers who grew up in the oil-producing 20th-century and are well aware of the good and bad aspects of oil exploitation. Some of the most outstanding thinkers of this generation are Alberto Adriani, Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso (the father of OPEC) and Manuel Pérez Guerrero.

In reality, however, Venezuela hasn’t been all that successful in achieving the “planting of oil.” Shortly before his death in 1999, Uslar left the following scathing judgment of Venezuela’s oil century: “The fact is that there was no development. There was no improvement of the quality of life and work of the population, and we have not managed to give the majority of Venezuelans the real possibility of a decent social and financial destiny.”

Oil days are numbered

Today, three conflicting schools of thought represent the evolving debate over oil in Venezuela. One could be called classic pro-government, which favors keeping the oil industry in the hands of the state, selling on the basis of better prices (rather than on quantity) and maintaining a tight bond with OPEC.

Another school could be called reformer-opposition, promoting privatization of the industry, selling on the basis of high volume (even if this means increasing production fourfold) instead of at higher prices and distancing Venezuela from OPEC and favoring privileged ties with (concessions from) the United States. Given the upcoming changes in the worldwide energy paradigm, the latter school, with its expansionism, seems to be in a hurry to “scrape the bottom of the pot” and is probably backed by powerful transnational interests.

Despite their differences and shared admission that, in face of the inexorable ecological, technical, social, political and corporate factors, the days of oil are numbered, the two schools still want to continue with risky oil dependency and addiction.

The third school of thought, still a minority but gaining in the national conscience, could be called the voice of a genuine post-oil Venezuela. This school of thought doesn’t care whether oil production is in the hands of the government or the private sector; what counts are the values with which the industry is handled. This school recommends Venezuela undertake a serious and responsible transition toward a post-petroleum economy (akin to what Mexico accomplished when it brought down oil dependence from 90 to 10 percent of foreign income) as well as an energy model based on clean and renewable resources such as wind, eco-hydro, geothermia, biomass and hydrogen, to safeguard the integrity and health of the country and the planet. Fortunately, Venezuela is favored with an immense biodiversity that may be used in a sustainable fashion.

Because of the power of this call to conscience, post-oil Venezuela thinking has influenced the other schools of thought. On the pro-government side, it has played a part in preparation of the official position at the Second OPEC Summit, held in Caracas in September 2000, and in an alternative seminar in Caracas undertaken by Centropep, with the support of the president, in the run-up to the summit. Moreover, the recent Forum for a Post-Oil Venezuela, sponsored by the World Society for Venezuela’s Future—an event that would have been considered taboo in Venezuela only a few years back—was well attended by important actors of the reform/opposition movement and featured Jerome Glenn, director of the UN’s Millenium Project, as its main international guest.

In the great Venezuelan political debate and ideological struggle of recent times, the oil issue has always been in the background in an omnipresent way.

Frank Bracho served as Venezuela’s ambassador to India from 1990 to 1993.