A senior Soviet energy planner today branded as "gross distortions" a new CIA prediction of Soviet oil shortages by the mid-1980s.
Eduard Vertel, a chief of fuel and oil products management in the powerful State Planning Committee, called reports of the new CIA projections, "deliberate distortion" designed in part to weaken Western conference in the Soviet Union as a reliable long-term trade partner for oil products.
His attack on the intelligence agency and relatively rosy description of what is clearly a troubled sector of the equally troubled Soviet economy appeared today in the daily Sovietskaya Rossiya newspaper.
Rather than potential future shortages, Vertel declared, "It is completely the other way. The Soviet Union has enormous fuel potential. The Central Statistical Board shows we produced 287 million tons of oil in the first half of 1979 [11.51 million barrels a day], more than anywhere else in the world this year, and 8 million tons [321,000 barrels a day] more than the same period last year. So what are the 'oil crisis' statements grounded on?"
What Vertel did not say, however, is that Soviet oil production for the first half of the year was 9.5 million tons (381,000 barrels a day) short of the plan goal, and some Western analysts predict production increases in the second half cannot make up this deficit. Overall, Soviet oil production is estimated at 580 million tons this year (11.6 million barrels a day), which would be more than 10 million tons (200,000 barrels a day) less than the goal.
The CIA predicted in a 1977 report that Soviet oil production would drop sharply in the 1980s, forcing the country to start importing. The CIA repeated its forecast in recent testimony to the U.S. Congress.
The agency said Soviet oil production peaked in April when it hit a record 11.7 million barrels a day and predicted the output level would start declining. By 1982, the CIA estimated, the Soviet Union will have to import 700,000 barrels of oil a day. By 1985, it predicted, the Soviets and their Eastern European allies will need to import up to 4.5 million barrels a day.
Vertel asserted in the newspaper interview that while there are substantial difficulties in exploiting oil reserves in the principal fields of western Siberia, "these difficulties are being solved even though it means greater expense."
Vertel said the Soviet Bloc, through well-planned efforts at energy saving and greater use of nuclear power and coal, will not face the kind of shortages besetting the capitalist West.
Soviet oil production shortfalls are mirrored across the economy, according to official figures for the first half of this year. Beset by a bitter winter, spring floods and continuing lackluster productivity increases by the work force, the nation's economy has turned in one of its worst overall performances since World War II.
Although expansions continues, planned production targets in steel, coal, electricity, and fertilizer have not been made. In addition, the harvest has been predicted by American experts as more than 20 million tons short of the goal.
Soviet oil exports to nations of the East Bloc trading group, Comecon, are expected to total about 80 million tons (1.6 million barrels a day) this year, and the British energy secretary last month reported his belief that the Soviet Union has decided to freeze oil exports westward at their present level. The Soviets earn hard currency from their oil exports, which they use to buy Western technology, in part to speed exploitation of their energy reserves.
Soviet domestic oil use is rising rapidly and the Kremlin has promised that shipments of fuel and other energy to Comecon will increase by 20 percent during 1981-85. Some of this will be in the form of natural gas and electricty as well as oil and petroleum products.