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Now, everyone talks of a glut. The oil price is well and truly in the doldrums. Since , the price of oil has been on a downward trajectory which has taken the industry into territory not seen for decades.
What, on the face of it, seems like great news for the consumer is already having serious knock-on effects in the world economy. Some are positive, some are not. If you look back to the pre-financial crisis peak of the drop is even steeper. The days when the talk was of a crisis caused by high oil prices seem to belong to a different era. On one level the answer could not be simpler: There is not enough demand for all the oil that is being produced.
Well, there are many factors at play in the global market but several major issues are particularly relevant. On the supply side, the United States has nearly doubled its domestic production over the last few years. The growth in shale oil means the foreign oil it no longer needs to import has to find a buyer elsewhere.
OPEC has not been cutting production to shore up prices, something it used to do all the time. And Russia, despite its economic problems, is managing to keep pumping at record levels. All of which helps to explain why, despite demand continuing to rise, supply has risen even faster. At a meeting in Doha, Qatar in April, major oil producers including OPEC members and Russia met as part of efforts to agree to an output freeze, but the talks ended with no deal.
Saudi Arabia had called for Iran to be part of the agreement, but Tehran refused. With increased competition Saudi Arabia may be happy to keep prices low for a while to make it uneconomical for other countries to develop further oil production. Some analysts think OPEC will never return to its production-cutting ways.
A number of potential catalysts could drive oil yet lower. Others expect to see a moderate recovery over the next few years. With lower oil prices, many new oil projects are being cancelled or postponed, which is likely to reduce some of the over-production as older and more expensive projects close down. The effect of this may be counter-balanced in the short term by the massive amount of surplus oil which is currently being stored around the world. This effectively adds even more supply to the future market.
The most obvious beneficiaries are drivers paying far lower petrol prices. Diesel, heating oil and natural gas prices have also fallen sharply around the world. Consumer goods are also becoming cheaper as manufacturing and transport costs fall. And oil importing nations benefit from having to spend less fulfilling their energy needs. Venezuela, Nigeria, Ecuador, Brazil and Russia are just a few petro-states that are suffering economic turbulence.
The oil companies are experiencing tough times. Exxon has reported record low quarterly profits, and was recently stripped of its top AAA credit rating. If oil prices drop further there are likely to be much deeper cutbacks in production as oil companies pull out of existing projects and cancel more future construction. The impact on the long-term oil market is likely to be significant. Keith Breene , Formative Content. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
Mazarr and Ashley L. There's one thing robots can't do as well as humans: Chart of the day: These are the world's most expensive cities Rob Smith 04 Apr More on the agenda. Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis. How does the price compare to recent years? Why have prices dropped so much? Weekly US field production of oil. Balance of supply and demand. Why is OPEC behaving differently? Agreement given such differing national interests seems unlikely in the near future.
How long will this go on for? There seems to be little belief that prices will rise significantly in the near future. Oil-producing countries are the biggest losers. Many smaller independent oil and gas producers are going out of business altogether. Written by Keith Breene , Formative Content. Future of Energy View all.
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Are governments switched on?