Thursday, March 13, 2008

Speculation (part 1)

I had lunch yesterday with another old friend -- we met in a poetry class when I was first getting back to poetry after a long hiatus. I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, Sage. 2000.

This guy taught me about pantoums, took my kids on a behind the scenes tour of the New England Aqurium, and plays blues harmonica in a pick up jam at Johny D's in Sommerville Sunday nights. Actually, I also used to always want to swim across Walden Pond -- somehow this seemed insurmountable to me at one point -- and Michael went out there with me one early morning and did it with me just to keep me company. He used to swim it every day.

Michael's an oil man.

Thirty years ago, after making a bunch of money on gold in the futures market he was looking to break into another arena... he met a guy at a party who said, want to buy part of an oil well...

Okay -- first off, if that had been me, no doubt if that had been my money it would have wound up in Tahiti!

He likes the risk -- and the wheeling and dealing. To hear him talk, the wild west is still alive and well and living on the internet. Not much of a field for women, he says -- though there are women accountants and women in the insurance, he says -- women scantily clad at boots at the trade shows... where's one of those strong Cartwright women when you need 'em!


I loved Bonanza!

Turns out, aside from the big oil companies, there are hundreds of oil speculators all across the country. They dig the little wells -- though his best producer was yielding 200 barrels a day, to the tune of about $20,000 a month, if I remember right. He digs mainly in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado. Right now he's invested in roughly 10 wells, and thinks he hits about 50 percent of what he digs.

He says he's the only oil speculator he knows in Boston -- says we don't have the temperament for the risk -- for the irregularity or the highs and lows.

"People don't understand what a dangerous business oil is."

For one thing, every month you get statements and a check and a bill-- what you make versus what the expenses are -- what you owe. Some months you owe more than you get -- and this can be hard on the nerves and lead to different kinds of difficulties. A former partner started padding bills as they were sent out.

My friend's own daughter entered the business for a little while -- but she didn't keep up with the outgoing payments; her wells weren't doing very well... You have to keep up. "I told her, I'm taking you out of the oil business."

There's one or two big wells in a lifetime, and a lot of disasters. He told one story about a rig that just started falling over mid pump...

"People don't understand what a dangerous business oil is."

I did ask him if he worried about the environment.

"Oh we are a mess," he said. "We could go back to a time where the oceans were dead -- that would be a disaster ... We have to get off oil."

In the meantime, though, as long as someone is going to be digging them, it may as well be him.

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