What's next in energy: Kiril Sokoloff

The founder of 13D Research says petropolitics is becoming a dangerous game, with more countries reliant on fewer oil producers. Here's his answers to five questions about the future of energy.


NEW YORK (Fortune) -- You've said before that America's growing dependence on foreign oil could soon become a crisis.

Petropolitics is becoming a dangerous game. Witness Putin, Chávez, Morales. The Middle East is a powder keg. Anything could go wrong there tomorrow.

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Kiril Sokoloff, founder of 13D Research

What signs worry you most?

In the 1980s we had a very large unused capacity of oil production - about 14 million barrels. Leaving the warm weather aside, it is now down to around three million and at the same time production has become dangerously concentrated.

Over 192 countries are dependent on oil. But only 30 countries produce most of the oil, and only 17 of those export more than 500,000 barrels a day. And some 71 percent of production comes from state-owned oil companies.

Is the United States to blame?

Actually, since 2000, 85 percent of world energy demand growth has come from emerging economies.

Which countries are you most concerned about?

China now has roughly 33 million automobiles, and it is projected to increase to 130 million by 2015. Right now 70 percent to 80 percent of China's oil demand comes from trucks and freight transportation, not from cars. And the Chinese government is building an 85,000-kilometer equivalent to our highway system that we built in the 1950s.

What's it mean for investors?

This story is going to play out over decades, and the key to long-term investment themes is staying power. The key to staying power is a good entry point. We had two good points last year.

Now we have the prospect of a warm winter, so it's wise to wait and see if it weakens the entire sector, in which case the late spring, if not before, could represent a superb buying opportunity.

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