Sunday, July 31, 2011

COUNTRIES WITHOUT BORDERS

    We were high above the Andes, looking for a place to land, with the film The Last Tycoon playing on an endless loop, settled back into the comfortable seats of the King Lear Jet, listening to Rashka, our official tour guide, fill us in on the world. Sheena, the pilot, put the controls for hovering on automatic and joined us. It was kind of interesting.
    Who was on the plane? Oh, there were quite a bunch of us. There was Paula Hopper, who had come up with the idea of a world excursion to be carried out with a Burmese tour guide and a pilot named after a Ramones song. There was Byron Welch, an old man who used to teach all of us thugs about world events and history. There was Rick Wilson, who was between heart attacks. Rick had been a dear friend from my college days. And there was a kid named Gerrit. Nobody quite knew what he was doing there, but he stayed to himself and listened to his iPod most of the time, so nobody minded.


    Rashka said, "It is true that people in any country of the world, those people say that they are happy. They work the mines, they are happy. They bleed from their hands onto the cotton, joyousness abounds. They await the gas in the tank cars, righteousness awaits, sayeth their leaders. But when you have been everywhere and seen and done everything there is to do, as I have, you learn that many people do not know what goes on in their own hearts. They can see their own minds, but their hearts remain strangers. It is sad."
    Paula said, "That is a very interesting way to say it."
    Rashka nodded. "It has been said to me that I speak in a way that reveals. Ha ha. I do not know."
    "A way that reveals," Paula repeated, looking from one to another of us. 
    Our tour guide continued. "Happiness may be a warm gun bang bang shoot shoot. But I prefer to think it is a state of mind wherein the person admires his own personal freedom no matter what physical chains may attempt to enslave him. I have seen prisons where the people were happier than the castle owners across the river. It is most inspiring."
    Sheena the pilot suggested that Rashka get on with the story. He obliged.
    "The happiest people in the world live in Denmark. You may think that is because of the prevalence of drugs. Of course, that has much to do with it. But there are other things. For instance, my friends, do you know what kind of government they have? You would never guess. It is a monarchy. I do not make it up. A queen rules in the way of indirectness through a prime minister and cabinet. It is true. They have no national holidays. They do have a national anthem called 'This is a Lovely Land.' Yet despite their happiness and admonitions to the rest of the world that theirs is a righteous place, they have no need to defend themselves from outsiders and spend a warm bowl of spit on their military, which seems to be all that is required. Imagine that! A warm bowl of spit. It is ingenious, no?"
    Byron said, "Is it true that the women do all the fighting?"
    Sheena spoke up. "Certainly. They will kick your ass for you."
    We all looked at our shoes.
    After a few hours, I said, "Maybe if we ever get out of the frigging Andes, we'll take a look at this Denmark thing of yours."
    Rashka smiled the smile of a smiler. He said, "Silly fool. We are coming in for a landing on the coast of paradiso landi as we speak."
    "Where?"
    "I just made that up. But we are landing in Copenhagen."


    Denmark, it turns out, is a paradiso landi, whatever that means. They have a nearly zero population growth, no discernible urbanization beyond the cities that already exist, a mix of cultures that ranges from Scandinavians to Inuits to Iranians to Somalians. They consume less energy than they produce. Most of their employment is in service industries, so they tend to be a polite people. 


    Paula insists that we hike down to the sea so she can put her feet in the Baltic. No one objects and an hour later the goosebumps are crawling up and down our spines, yet there is something refreshing about the experience. Byron snorts some heroin. I pet a horse. Rick joins the monarchy for three hours. Paula wiggles her toes in the icy waters. None of us are in a hurry to leave.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

VACATION WITHOUT TRAFFIC JAMS

    In keeping with what I hope is an occasional international flair, over the next few days we will explore, as it were, some of the interesting nations on this here madly spinning marble. 


    Our first stop is Bangladesh, which, as Beatle George once opined, sure looks like a mess. The country that once was thought of as East Pakistan has the third largest Muslim population on our planet. We notice right away that it feels crowded here. Our tour guide insists that this is not the case, arguing that they have only 2,600 people per square mile. I tip the man a taka for his trouble and he slips it into his one pocket. His name is Rashka and he says he can only afford one pocket because the business has been slow of late. He is an old man, by Bangladesh standards, meaning that he is 60. I ask him for a map and notice right away that he speaks both English and Bengali. He says he has no map. I ask him what a sign above a shop says and he shakes his head. "I am part of the fifty-seven percent of my country that cannot read, my friend." He continues, saying, "We must get back to the shack, Jack"--he calls all white men Jack--to avoid the very bad monsoon rains brought upon us by the cyclones. With no more trees growing here, the flood will wipe us out. Vamoose!" When I inquire, he explains that vamoose is a universal tour guide expression. 


    Our King Lear Jet soars us up and away and within seconds we are sailing above Afghanistan. I ask the pilot to land and she shakes her head. "The war," she replies. "It is not safe. But look." She points out the window and I see what she is talking about. We swoop in low and our pilot says, "You see that big hole? The Taliban destroyed the Bamian Valley Buddhas. The statues has rested there for 1500 hundred years. Today they talk about putting in a Burger King, but I suspect this will be rejected by the people. Did you enjoy Bangladesh?"




    One of our traveling companions shakes his head. Our pilot smiles as we gain altitude and swing right. She says, "It will look like Eden compared to where we are going now."
    "Where's that?" I ask.
    She nods her head. "Sierra Leone."
    According to my copy of National Geographic, Sierra Leone is on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, with coastal swamps rising to interior plateaus and mountains. The name of the country means "lion mountain" and as we circle around before landing, I can see why. 
    "There has been much war," our pilot, who calls herself Sheena, informs us. "The people of Lion Mountain elected a government. Dictators came in from no one knows where and overthrew that government. The Lion Mountain people threw out the dictators. All of this caused much dying."
    We land in the capital city of Freetown. White men in suits stroll along with their women wearing diamonds, gems that have been stolen from the mines. Rashka the tour guide warns us not to stare at the white people. As we walk on and step over bodies lying in mud, Rashka whispers that the diamond mines have cursed the Lion Mountain people. "Once they raised coffee and rice. Now, everyone works the mines. Most do not live beyond forty years."
    Indeed, the smell of cocao is strong in the air. Rashka pulls a thermos from his kit and we all take a sip. It is very strong, but it wakes us up in time to duck when we hear the sound of machine gun fire coming from the nearby mountains. Rashka motions with his thumb. "Vamoose!" he says, and we flee back to the King Lear Jet.


    "Where will we go now?" asks a nervous traveling companion as we settle into our seats aboard the plane. 
    Sheena, our pilot, gives forth a heavy sigh as disappears into the cockpit. I check our itinerary and see that our next stop is Ethiopia. We will have time for a quick nap before the plane takes off. We will see you there anon.

Friday, July 29, 2011

TOP 10 FILMS OF 1976

    It just had to happen, didn't it? You bet. I sat down earlier this year and watched one hell of a lot of movies that came out in 1976. That year holds special meaning to me and so do many of the great, lousy, stupid, brilliant, and forgettable movies that hit the theatres in that glorious year. Here's a bunch of them, in no particular order. 




1. Taxi Driver. Yeah, yeah, I know, but dammit, the thing holds up. Director Martin Scorsese was at his peak, DeNiro hadn't fallen in love with himself and turned into a caricature yet, and Cybill Shepherd was as interesting as she was ever going to be. If you want to claim this movie as a product of its time, that's probably right. But even if you weren't around then, this very funny film will give you nightmares.




2. Rocky. I still don't get it. I didn't get it then and I still don't. The fight scenes have been done better both before and after 1976. The plot line is skimpy as a string bikini. And Stallone shows all the emotion of Jack Lord in a coma. Wait! I get it! It was Talia Shire! Now it makes sense.


3. Network. The kind of film I enjoy is the kind where you have lots of age diversity and a story that says every person in the film is crazy as a shit house rat. Almost everything the playwright and director imagined has come to pass, which should really piss off people who think anything new has happened in their pathetic lifetimes.


4. Carrie. This is still one of the scariest movies of all time, despite claims that director Brian DePalma was trying to be funny and despite the fact that on occasion he actually was hilarious. Stephen King nailed the characterizations and Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie proved themselves a thoroughly disturbing family. Perhaps the real beauty, if you are comfortable with that word, is that this movie worked well in drive-ins as well as in film schools. A triumph of imagination and verisimilitude. 




5. Marathon Man. Oy, I have never cared much for the acting of Dustin Hoffman. That said, this is one of his strongest performances and it must be admitted that his scene with psycho Nazi dentist Laurence Olivier is one of the most memorable in all of cinema. The plot makes little sense and Roy Scheider is killed off far too early. But William Devane proved himself to be much more than a poor man's Jack Nicholson here. 




6. The Bad News Bears. Director Michael Ritchie had made a series of political films prior to this family-friendly endeavor. And good as he is as a director and good as Tatum O'Neal is at acting, the real star here is Walter Matthau, who was so type-cast by this time that he didn't even appear to be acting. The grand slam comes when he lets loose with sad anger and hilarious rage.




7. The Tenant. You probably haven't seen this one, which means that you should. Roman Polanski directors and stars in this unsettling, ironic and beautifully crafted film about a Parisian bureaucrat who only wants to rent a room. 




8. Family Plot. Alfred Hitchcock's last film, Karen Black's finest performance (almost--Nashville is hard to beat), Barbara Harris' sexiest and most captivating role, and Bruce Dern's breakthrough performance. Oh, and William Devane plays a bad guy. Funny, suspenseful, and brilliant.




9. A Star is Born. God, what a sack of shit. What a rotten, festering sack of shit. Streisand and Kristofferson: two people no one has ever wanted to see naked, a story about as thrilling as the music--gag, wretch--and a rancid remake of a far superior original. This movie was a signpost that announced the second half of the 1970s weren't going to be nearly as good as the first half. 




10. Car Wash. The African American Nashville. A triumph spitfire on amyls racing down a street of mud with no brakes and a soundtrack perfect for the occupation.




    Each of these films was released in 1976. They did not necessarily sell more tickets or make better box office than the others. They simply were, according to me, more memorable, either in the positive or negative. But there were lots of other movies that year. One of the things the reader may wish to think about while recalling or discovering these movies is how why some people believe that it was the previous year that saw the approximate end of an era of cinematic excellence and that by well into 1976 things had dipped into horrid mediocrity and simple craftmanship. If all that is too much to fathom, even if it is true (which would not explain the better movies on the above list), then maybe we can at least ask ourselves if there are any commonalities involved in the list of other films from 1976. 


    First, let us look at the names of some movies from 1976 that might be said to fall outside the axis of Hollywood. These are often referred to as foreign films, although somehow I suspect that the people who made these films did not experience them that way.


You can click on the colored items in the list and watch clips. 
1900, In the Realm of the Senses, Face to Face, Kings of the Road, Small Change, and The Judge and the Assassin
    One of the things the alert viewer or reader may notice is that Robert DeNiro appears in one of these films. He made our list more than one time, first in English and second in Italian. DeNiro being in a movie did not necessarily indicate that the film in question was released in 1976, of course, although it was in that same year that the actor appeared in another notable film, The Last Tycoon. So we must dig deeper, perhaps towards an emphasis on characterization, strange characterization. 
    Alright, how about we consider the names of directors who may be familiar to mass audiences, as well as to students of film. All of the following people had major films released in 1976.
Martin Scorsese, Alan J. Pakula, Sidney Lumet, Bernardo, Bertolucci, Clint Eastwood, Brian DePalma, Ingmar Bergman, Hal Ashby, John Carpenter, Francois Truffaut, John Cassavetes, Elaine May, Alan Parker, Alfred Hitchcock, Mel Brooks, Elia Kazan, Arthur Penn, Roman Polanski, Richard Donner, Paul Mazursky, Arthur Hill, Richard Lester, Bob Rafelson, and Federico Fellini. Commonalities? We notice right away that except for Elaine May, everyone on the list is male. We may also be aware that, with the exceptions of Scorsese, DePalma and Carpenter, these people were already well-established cinema folks, and even those three exceptions had been in the business for more than five years, although major acclaim did not occur right off. We may even notice something about the people on this list by reflecting on who is absent from it. There is no one on this list named Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, or George Lucas. Of course, that's only because I didn't mention their names earlier.
    Altman had a movie out in 1976. It starred Paul Newman and I'll bet you still can't think of it. It was called Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull's History Lesson. Spielberg didn't release any films that year, although he was working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Coppola and Lucas were reach busy with future blockbusters of their own. And that leads us to a final, interesting observation. With the exception of Rocky, none of the films released in 1976 could be consider HUGE in the sense of nine-figure revenues. 
    But things would change. 

SUPERFICIALLY STRANGERS


"Fear not your enemies, for they can only kill you.
Fear not your friends, for they can only betray you.
Fear only the indifferent, who permit the killers and betrayers
to walk safely on the earth.
"

Edward Yashinsky







   I would add to that the notion that personal commitment is a good measure of sacrifice, meaning that the more one sacrifices, the more committed one tends to be, which explains compulsive gambling and co-dependent relationships. It also explains much of my adult life, sad to say, a subject we will save for a different time.
    The subject today is indifference. How difficult it must be to simply not give a damn. How easy it is. We scream with righteous indignation at the miscarriage of justice of someone such as Casey Anthony walking away from a murder which it seems likely she did commit and yet when a person we actually know in real non-televised life is in a jam, we begin to rationalize until we forget what we were trying to forget. 




    I don't know who said this next thing. I only know I wish it had been me. "Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option." That's a good one, huh? Most of us have been at or near that situation, I'll bet. 
    And yet--despite all anecdotal evidence contraindicating the wisdom of the deed, we continue to feel the urge to reach out to people, to listen while they cry, to admire their faces while they laugh, to not wince when they sing, to understand ourselves better by understanding them. We consider our choice of words so as to avoid wounding our friends with our honesty. We take them in when they have nowhere to go. We take them in when they have all the places in the world to go. 


    We respect their choices in diet, religion, politics, and body odor. We are quick to lose patience with them because our friends should know better than to say or do stupid things. We wonder what they see in us.
    We are not indifferent. 
    Oh, in order to remain politic and above the fray, we may feign indifference to the way the friend ignores his children or yells at his wife. We may rationalize the bruises into oblivion, we may chastise our other friends for the innuendos they make about him. We may pledge allegiance to metaphoric blindness regarding a million indiscretions. Or we may tell ourselves that our friend's drinking habits are perfectly understandable, all things considered; that if anyone had an excuse for self-destruction, it most certainly is her; and we even struggle with the ethics of the matter when that same friend comes to us asking for money which we know he or she will spend on some additional life-draining substances. 
    That was me until quite recently. I bought into the mindlessness of "the more you give, the more love you share" concept and quite naturally it bit me in places better left unbitten. Please don't get me wrong. I am not in any way, shape or form suggesting that any objective person would take a look at me or my behavior and conclude that I am a good person. I am no such thing. But I do try, at least most of the time, just as you reading this must also do. We all sleep alone, no matter who lies next to us. Because we do, the decisions we make are often influenced by what we call conscience, which is what separates us from the sociopaths. We don't want our friends to suffer so we enable or at a minimum turn the proverbial blind eye toward their self-loathing habits. 
    Well, sir or ma'am, maybe we do, but as of last week I have stopped. 
    I will not go into specifics here, although those of you who know me personally will probably have this figured out. But it is to those of you who do not know me that I address these remarks because even though we are superficially strangers, we are the same, you and I. We have made the same mistakes and we will probably live to make new ones. 
    One mistake I hope we do not continue to make is our self-deluding indifference to the rotten things our friends sometimes do, and usually do to themselves. While I am not bold enough to suggest that every interaction become an intervention, I am suggesting that pretending not to mind when someone we love is dying by his or her own hand does not cut it any more. 
    Rereading this I see that it has become something of a lecture. Very well, then, it is a lecture. 
    Words are sometimes all we have. Words are reflections of our thoughts. Thoughts determine our feelings and vice versa. That said, I leave you today with the words of a man wiser than he knew himself to be.

The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.

Chuck Palahniuk

     
I hope your legend lives on forever.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

ARRIVING IN ARIZONA

    The day I arrived in Phoenix I was in need of some Coca-Cola, so I went into an ABCO grocery store. The floor was dirty but I was far too thirsty to be picky, so I bought a six-pack and made to leave. As I was walking back to what was left of what I laughingly refer to as my motorcycle, a car came toward me through the parking lot at a high speed. I was sure the bastard was going to run me over. At the last second, the driver swerved and I did what I would have done no matter where I had been. I reached out and snapped off the car's radio antenna. 
    The car screeched and stopped. The woman driving disgorged herself from the vehicle and walked toward me, holding a handgun tightly against her leg. I said hello. She did not speak.
    She fired off one round just to scare me. 
    I was not in Ohio any more.


    The second lesson I learned was that many kids here do not go to school. It was 1:30 in late September. I saw thousands of teenagers hanging out in front of convenience stores. Many of those kids smirked at the diminutive stature of my motorcycle.  


    The third and most important lesson I learned is that we tend to not keep Governors. Ev Mecham and Fyfe Symington were criminals who got caught. Janet Napalitano got promoted. And Jan Brewer got  abducted by space aliens. Poor old Rose Mofford was the only honest Governor who wasn't insane. They named a park after her. 
    One of these days I'm going to find that old motorcycle of mine and get the hell out of here.




   Ah! There it is!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WHERE THE OIL IS

    


   What countries have the oil? The ten countries with the largest quantities of petroleum reserves are:
1. Saudi Arabia
Proved oil reserves: 259.9 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 19.20%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009): Total oil production: 9.76 million barrels
Consumption: 2.43 million barrels
Exports to the US: 1.09 million barrels (Dec. 2010)





2. Canada
Proved oil reserves: 175.2 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 12.94%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009):
Total oil production: 3.29 million barrels
Consumption: 2.15 million barrels
Exports to the US: 2.71 million barrels (Dec. 2010)





3. Iran
Proved oil reserves: 137.6 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 10.16%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009):
Total oil production: 4.18 million barrels
Consumption: 1.69 million barrels
Exports to the US: 0 





4. Iraq
Proved oil reserves: 115 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 8.5%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009): Total oil production: 2.4 million barrels
Consumption: 636,000 barrels
Exports to the US: 336,000 barrels (Dec. 2010)







5. Kuwait
Proved oil reserves: 101.5 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 7.5%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009):
Total oil production: 2.5 million barrels
Consumption: 372,000 barrels
Exports to the US: 125,000 barrels (Dec. 2010)





6. Venezuela
Proved oil reserves: 99.4 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 7.34%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009): Total oil production: 2.47 million barrels
Consumption: 723,000 barrels 
Exports to the US: 917,000 barrels (Dec. 2010)



7. United Arab Emirates
Proved oil reserves: 97.8 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 7.22%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009):
Total oil production: 2.79 million barrels
Consumption: 492,000 barrels 
Exports to the US: 10,000 barrels (Sept. 2010)





8. Russia
Proved oil reserves: 60 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 4.43%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009):
Total oil production: 9.93 million barrels
Consumption: 2.74 million barrels 
Exports to the US: 514,000 barrels (Dec. 2010)



9. Libya
Proved oil reserves: 44.3 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 3.27%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009): Total oil production: 1.79 million barrels
Consumption: 264,000 barrels 
Exports to the US: 66,000 barrels (Dec. 2010)



10. Nigeria
Proved oil reserves: 37.2 billion barrels
Proportion of world total: 2.75%

Daily Oil Statistics (2009):
Total oil production: 2.21 million barrels
Consumption: 272,000 barrels 
Exports to the US: 1.07 million barrels (Dec. 2010) 











What are the top 50 oil companies in the world?






Rank by
2007 Oil
Equivalent
Reserves



Company
Worldwide
Liquids Reserves,
Million
Barrels
Worldwide
Natural Gas Reserves,
Billion
Cubic Feet
Total Reserves
in Oil Equivalent Barrels,
Million Barrels
1Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) 3259,900253,800303,285
2National Iranian Oil Company (Iran) 3138,400948,200300,485
3Qatar General Petroleum Corporation (Qatar)315,207905,300169,959
4Iraq National Oil Company (Iraq) 2,3115,000119,940134,135
5Petroleos de Venezuela.S.A. (Venezuela) 399,377170,920128,594
6Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (UAE)  392,200198,500126,132
7Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (Kuwait) 3101,50055,515110,990
8Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(Nigeria) 336,220183,99067,671
9National Oil Company  (Libya) 2,341,46450,10050,028
10Sonatrach (Algeria) 2,312,200159,00039,379
11Gazprom (Russia)0171,17629,261
12OAO Rosneft (Russia)17,51325,10821,805
13PetroChina Co. Ltd. (China)11,70657,11121,469
14Petronas (Malaysia)5,36082,99219,547
15OAO Lukoil (Russia)15,7152815,720
16Egyptian General Petroleum Corp. (Egypt) 23,70058,50013,700
17ExxonMobil Corporation (United States)7,74432,61013,318
18Petroleos Mexicanos (Mexico)11,04812,57813,198
19BP Corporation (United Kingdom)5,49241,13012,523
20Petroleo Brasilerio S.A. (Brazil)9,61312,54711,578
21Chevron Corporation (United States)7,08722,14010,870
22Royal Dutch/Shell  (Netherlands)3,77640,89510,767
23ConocoPhillips (United States)6,32025,43810,668
24Sonangol (Angola)39,0359,53010,664
25Petroleum Development Oman LLC (Oman)5,50030,00010,628
26Total (France)5,77825,73010,176
27Statoil (Norway)2,38920,3195,862
28ENI (Italy)3,92511,2045,840
29Dubai Petroleum Company (United Arab Emirates) 2,34,0004,0004,684
30Petroleos de Ecuador (Ecuador)34,517NR4,517
31Pertamina (Indonesia) 390320,5384,414
32EnCana Corp.  (Canada)92713,3003,201
33Occidental Petroleum Corporation (United States)2,2283,8432,885
34China National Offshore Oil Corp. (China)1,4906,2322,555
35Devon Energy Corporation (United States)9988,9942,535
36Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (United States)1,0148,5042,468
37Repsol YPF (Spain)9528,1372,343
38Canadian Natural Resources (Canada)1,3583,6661,985
39XTO Energy (United States)3089,4411,922
40Ecopetrol (Columbia)1,4502,4391,867
41Chesapeake Energy Corp. (United States)12410,1371,856
42Talisman Energy Ltd. (Canada)7495,4641,683
43Apache Corp. (United States)1,1342,4461,552
44EOG Resources (United States)1797,7451,503
45Romanian National Oil Co. (Romania) 28633,5501,470
46BHP Billiton Ltd (Australia)5654,7271,373
47BG Group PLC (United Kingdom)3935,5721,345
48Hess Corp. (United States)8852,6681,341
49Marathon Oil Corp. (United States)6503,4501,240
50Shell Canada Ltd. (Canada)8081,4001,047

Notes:



1 Ranked in order of 2007 worldwide oil equivalent reserves as reported in "OGJ 200/100", Oil & Gas Journal, September 15, 2008. 
2
 Information from Energy Information Administration Country Analysis Briefings.
3 OPEC member








1. Saudi Aramco
8.2 million bpd
    No other company can even come close to Aramco's 260 billion barrels of proven reserves of conventional oil. In recent months Aramco has been pumping 8.2 million bpd, but has the infrastructure on standby to do 12.5 million if needed. It's Ghawar field is the biggest in the world, capable of 5 million bpd alone. In the U.S. Aramco co-owns three refineries with Royal Dutch Shell.

2. National Iranian Oil Company
3.8 million bpd
    Iran's oil production peaked at 5 million bpd in the late 1970s. Since then investment has been constrained by revolution, war with Iraq, and now sanctions that have forced the likes of Shell, Statoil and Total to leave mega-projects behind. Yet Iran still manages to produce 3.8 million bpd from a proven reserve base of 140 billion bbl.

3. Petroleos Mexicanos
2.9 million bpd
    Mexico nationalized its oil industry in 1938, kicking out American companies and barring any foreign investment. Its Cantarell offshore field was pumping 2.1 million bpd as recently as 2004, but has plunged since then, to 700,000 bpd now. Nearby Ku-Maloob-Zaap field is picking up some of the slack. Pemex' 1.2 million bpd imports to the U.S. are second after Canada.

4. Iraq National Oil Company
2.5 million bpd
    Though Iraq technically has three state oil companies--North, South and Missan--they are all nominally under the control of the central oil ministry. Iraq almost certainly has 50% more recoverable crude than the official estimates of 115 billion barrels. Recent bidding rounds have led to contracts with the likes of Shell, BP and CNPC to develop or rehab fields with 41 billion barrels. With enough money and peace and time, Iraq's output could easily top 6 million bpd.