As a historian who specializes in Venezuelan history, Antonio Moschella would be the first person to say that oil has had a significant impact on the history of Venezuela.
This is because the proven oil reserves in Venezuela are actually the largest in the world. While a lot of people consider Saudi Arabia to have that crown, that honor actually goes to Venezuela. As of 2014, Venezuela’s reserves stood at 297 billion barrels. According to Hugo Chavez, then president of Venezuela, Venezuela surpassed Saudi Arabia in 2011. As of 2009, Saudi Arabia had about 265 billion barrels in 2009.
In addition to its oil reserves, there is some potential for much more in reserves through the Orinoco Belt. The Orinoco Belt may contain as much as 1,400 billion barrels of heavy crude. Heavy crude is any petroleum with API gravity less than 20°. Extra heavy oil is had an API gravity lower than 10.0 °API. To put things in perspective, any liquid with an API of more than 10 will float on water.
We don’t exactly know much fuel can be extracted from the Orinoco Belt because it will likely involve a significant investment in technology to recover the heavy crude. Oil refineries get more fuel from light crude oil, but this doesn’t mean that the heavy crude and extra heavy crude in the Orinoco Belt won’t be a cash cow for Venezuela in the future.
In the meantime, Venezuelans can take solace in knowing that they won’t be running of oil anytime in the near future.