Olien presser ondskaben

Olieprisen falder i disse tider “not by any action (or inaction) of the Saudis” skriver Peter Coy og Matthew PhilipsBusiness Week “but by the American shale producers, who are simply producing all the oil they can to maximize their profits”.

The world’s biggest oil companies faced ruin in the summer of 1931. Crude prices had plummeted. Wildcatters were selling oil from the bonanza East Texas field for a nickel a barrel, cheaper than a bowl of chili. On Aug. 17, Governor Ross Sterling declared a state of insurrection in four counties and sent 1,100 National Guard troops to shut down the fields and bring order to the market. A month later the Railroad Commission of Texas handed out strict production quotas.

That heavy-handed intervention in the free market was remarkable enough. Even more remarkable was who pulled it off. The person in charge of shutting down the wildcatters, National Guard Brigadier General Jacob Wolters, was the general counsel of Texas Co., an ancestor of Chevron (CVX). And the Texas governor who ordered Wolters in was a past president of Humble Oil and Refining, a forerunner of ExxonMobil (XOM). Big Oil played hardball in those days.

Russell Gold beskriver i Wall Street Journal hvad der “has set up a battle for market share that could reshape the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and fundamentally change the global market for oil”

Vikas Dwivedi, energy strategist with Macquarie Research, says a widespread deceleration of global economic growth sapped some demand. At the same time, several Asian currencies weakened against the U.S. dollar.

The cost of filling up a gas tank in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Malaysia rose, just as these countries were phasing out fuel subsidies. In Jakarta and Mumbai, drivers cut back.

“The fact that supply growth was strong shouldn’t have taken anybody by surprise,” Mr. Dwivedi says. But demand for oil “just fell off a cliff. And bear markets are fed by negative surprises.”

Rising supply and falling demand both put downward pressure on prices. Throughout the summer, however, fears of violence in Iraq kept oil prices high as traders worried Islamic State fighters could cut the countrys oil output.

Then two events tipped the market. In late June, The Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. government had given permission for the first exports of U.S. oil in a generation. While the ruling was limited in scope, the market saw it as the first crack in a long-standing ban on crude exports. Not only was the U.S. importing fewer barrels of oil, it could soon begin exporting some, too. This news jolted oil markets; prices began to edge down from their summer peaks.

On July 1, Libyan rebels agreed to open Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, two key oil-export terminals that had been closed for a year. Libyan oil sailed across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. Already displaced from the U.S. Gulf Coast and eastern Canada, Nigerian oil was soon replaced in Europe, too. Increasingly, shipments of Nigerian crude headed toward China.

Oil prices began to decline.

Og det er dårligt nyt for mange fjendtlige regimer og ideologier, hvis magt bygger på høje oliepriser. De små fracking firmaer i Texas ændrer vilkårerne

The stressed-out giants of today are Saudi Arabia and its fellows in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. The descendants of the 1930s wildcatters are today’s producers of oil from shale, who are driving down the world price of crude by flooding the market with millions of barrels of new oil each day. At $64 a barrel, Brent crude is down 44 percent since June. The twist is that today’s upstarts aren’t draining oil from neighbors’ plots, as happened in the 1930s. And OPEC can’t call in the National Guard against them. All it can do is gape at the falling price of crude and contemplate the destruction of their cartel at the hands of the Americans, whom they thought they had supplanted for good 40 years ago. Energy economist Philip Verleger says shale is to OPEC what the Apple II (AAPL) was to the IBM(IBM) mainframe.

(….)

Collectively, their breakneck production is breaking OPEC’s neck. This is the remorseless, leaderless free market at work.

OPEC used to be something to reckon with. For a brief period in the 1970s its influence was so strong, it could set prices to the penny for scores of crudes, says Bhushan Bahree, senior director for OPEC Middle East research at market researcher IHS (IHS). Its power has waned considerably, but until this year Saudi Arabia could still be counted on to cut output for the good of the cartel when gluts emerged. The Saudis’ refusal last month to take one for the team is historic, says Michael Wittner, head of oil research at Société Générale (GLE:FP) in New York. “That is such a tremendous, dramatic change,” he says. “It’s hard to think of a way to exaggerate how fundamental it is.”

Men det er ikke blot Rusland og regimerne i OPEC, der mærkes af den økonomiske nedtur og amerikansk driftighed. Også den grønne mafia går svære tider i møde, skriver The Independent

A new “era of cheap oil” would be good news for consumers and motorists – but analysts say the consequences for politics, industry and the climate could be even more radical.

(…)

“Renewable energy subsidies have been mostly sold to the public on the basis of the economic benefits,” said Peter Atherton, an energy analyst with Liberum Capital. “But the economic arguments hinged on the idea that fossil fuel prices would get more expensive, while expensive renewable subsidies would be able to come down over time. That’s looking doubtful now.”

Anne Robinson, director of consumer policy at the uSwitch price comparison website, said: “More subsidies are likely to be needed [for green power] as the gap between the cost of fossil fuel power and renewable power gets bigger.” The extra subsidies would be borne by households in the form of higher energy bills.

Green energy technologies such as solar and wind had been banking on sharp increases in fossil fuel prices to make them increasingly competitive and help to attract the huge amount of investment required to build renewable power plants. But that “economic case” is now in danger of being lost, with the environmental argument seen by many as being insufficient to drive through high levels of green energy investment.

Så der er da andet end Julen at glæde sig over.

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