A crucial element in the neoconservative crusade against Venezuela is the sanction program, designed to block the legitimate government from selling Venezuelan oil on the global market. For once, the mainstream media has no doubts about the ultimate goal of the US-imposed sanctions. According to a CNN report, “Trump administration imposed sanctions on PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company. The penalties are meant to speed the demise of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's regime by starving his government of cash.”
Asked about the risk of fuel price increases, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: "I'm sure many of our friends in the Middle East will be happy to make up the supply".
That’s an overly optimistic assessment of the situation and most oil analysts are rather sceptical too. Mnuchin seems to believe that Saudi Arabia, the only oil producing country in the Middle East with sufficient spare production capacity, will replace the missing oil imports. Theoretically, that’s possible, but it’s quite improbable. The problem is that the Trump administration used the Saudi help in 2018 in the context of Iranian sanctions, basically duping Riyadh to flood the market with oil, while simultaneously secretly handing out "sanction waivers" for privileged US allies.
The US can’t replace the "sanctioned" Venezuelan oil with American shale oil because American shale oil is of a different variety (it’s too "light" compared with the "heavy" Venezuelan oil) and most of the US-based oil refineries are not suited for processing it. Besides Saudi Arabia, the only other major source of "heavy" oil is Iran. However, Iran is under sanctions too and grating Iran a "waiver" would be a political disaster for the Trump administration. Therefore, the only chance to prevent a spike in domestic oil and gas prices is to convince, bribe or coerce the Saudi leaders in order to increase the shipments of heavy Saudi oil to the US market.
For now, it looks like the US plan is likely to fail. According to a Wall Street Journal report, which quotes unnamed sources “familiar with the kingdom’s thinking”, Saudi officials "don’t want to repeat last year’s scenario and are in fact planning to reduce their exports and output next month".
"Saudi Arabia will be well below the voluntary cap that we agreed to” and will pump beneath its ceiling “for the full six months" of the December cuts accord, he said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
However, the use of strategic oil reserves would only be a temporary solution. If the US-sponsored coup in Venezuela fails to achieve its goals relatively quickly, then it will be ordinary Americans who will be literally paying at the pump for Trump's attempt to overthrow a legitimate Venezuelan government.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.