Is the petro world in decline?

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, June 2nd, 2016 - 13 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, energy, peak oil - Tags:

Petro world decline

A few articles have caught my eye about a decline in the influence of petro-states and petro-multinationals. A little quote to start, about energy economy shifts undercutting nations such as Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia:

There Will be Mahem: Petro-States Are Going Down and Taking The World Economy With Them

The most basic assumption behind their operation – that global oil demand will continue to outpace world petroleum supplies and ensure high prices into the foreseeable future – no longer holds.

Some analysts are convinced that world oil demand is heading for a peak and is going to slowly decline:

The IMF believes that slowing worldwide economic growth, international climate change agreement, and the spread of non-carbon reliant generation will continue to dampen demand.

With its 2 June meeting shortly, OPEC seems to have gained stronger collective market share, but by committing to high production it has lost almost all price control power it used to have. It may be strong as a collective, but has nowhere near the raw power recalled from the early 1970s. While in the medium term the US Energy Information Service says global oversupply will decrease somewhat, predictions are for a mere US $50 a barrel.

At the same time as many states who have held the earth to ransom with oil production are facing real economic threat, so too apparently are those multinational oil companies who have held economies to ransom. The Financial Times says the long twilight of the big oil companies is happening:

The Financial Times editorialises that these petro-multinationals should simply accept their weakened status:

Rather than investing in potentially stranded oil and gas projects, or gambling on new technologies that they do not fully understand, the oil companies would do better to continue returning money to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks.”

Is the end of petro-states, petro-multinationals, and the entire petro-world, now visible?

13 comments on “Is the petro world in decline?”

  1. Bill 1

    Is the end of petro-states, petro-multinationals, and the entire petro-world, now visible?

    Certainly, but not due to any ‘peak oil’ scenario or market volatility.

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    “Global oversupply” is 2% to 3%.

    That’s with all producers basically maxing out their production capacity.

    This situation can flip around within about 90 days or so into a serious shortage.

    I expect crude prices to keep rising into 2/2 2017. The hint that this will happen is if Brent breaks $51 or $52 bb.

    Another point – this situation demonstrates how massive global economy depression is good for quickly and sustainably reducing GHG emissions.

    As for this ridiculous ass-backwards headline

    There Will be Mahem: Petro-States Are Going Down and Taking The World Economy With Them

    It should more correctly lead:

    The world economy is going into the toilet, and petro-states are going down with it.

    • mauī 2.1

      I largely agree with that, I had heard an interview with an oil industry person saying that we’ll be back at $100 a barrel in a year or so. I’m not sure how these big price swings are are going to keep oil companies solvent.

      The oil countries are also going to see more war as other states scrap over what’s left and invade them, etc. The countries like the US and Russia who can protect their reserves will also be in a stronger position as everything the world needs, consumer products, food, infrastructure is all made from oil.

  3. linda 3

    Saudi royals are selling Saudi Aramco they sure as hell think so

  4. johnm 4

    The Boiling Pot

    Richard Heinberg

    In the energy world, the growth of unconventional oil and gas supplies appears to have postponed peak oil for a decade (conventional oil production flatlined starting in 2005; all the supply increase since then has come from tight oil, tar sands, heavy oil, and deepwater oil)—but at what cost? Unconventional oil production carries higher environmental risks, including increased greenhouse gas emissions per liter of finished fuel.

    And it took massive investment to finance the surge in unconventionals. If it hadn’t been for easy-money central bank policies in the wake of the 2008 global financial crash, it’s likely the fracking boom would have been an unnoticeable blip. A few years of sky-high oil prices were also necessary. But high prices weakened demand for oil, just as drillers flooded the market with the wrong grades of crude in the wrong places at the wrong time. The result: an oil price crash (starting in mid-2014) and financial bloodletting within the industry.

    We appear to be in a new era in which oil prices are either high enough to stimulate new supply, in which case they are also high enough to cripple the economy; or they are low enough to stimulate the economy, but also so low as to decimate the industry. There is no longer any tenable middle ground.

    Today’s price of $50 per barrel is high in historic terms, but still too low to allow the industry to recover from the past two years of staggering losses. The trouble is, the unconventional production binge required a lot of cash, and most of it was borrowed. According to data compiled by FactSet and Yahoo Finance, the U.S. energy sector is drowning in $370 billion of debt, double the amount a decade ago. Just to make interest payments, energy companies shelled out $16.7 billion in 2015—half of their total operating profit. And despite rebounding oil prices, the situation is getting worse, with over 86 percent of energy sector operating profits going to interest payments in the first quarter of 2016. Unless prices zoom back past $100 a barrel, the tens of billions of dollars in debt coming due between 2017 and 2020 will likely trigger a wave of defaults and bankruptcies.

    That could spell serious trouble for an economy that has been on life support for eight years now. After the nearly catastrophic crash of 2008, low interest rates, bailouts, and quantitative easing succeeded in restoring a sense of economic normalcy, though at the cost of more financial bubbles (in housing, fracking, and tech) and increased economic inequality. But what will the wizards of finance do when things turn ugly again—as they inevitably will, sooner or later? Negative interest rates will prove more than a little unpopular with savers, and throwing trillions more at banks and investors won’t help the masses afford to pay interest on their mounting debt or to buy more consumer goods.

    The world economic order is collapsing and this time there seems no way out
    Will Hutton

    Yet there is a parallel collapse in the economic order that is less conspicuous: the hundreds of billions of dollars fleeing emerging economies, from Brazil to China, don’t come with images of women and children on capsizing boats. Nor do banks that have lent trillions that will never be repaid post gruesome videos. However, this collapse threatens our liberal universe as much as certain responses to the refugees. Capital flight and bank fragility are profound dysfunctions in the way the global economy is now organised that will surface as real-world economic dislocation.

    The IMF is profoundly concerned, warning at last week’s annual meeting in Peru of $3tn (£1.95tn) of excess credit globally and weakening global economic growth. But while it knows there needs to be an international co-ordinated response, no progress is likely. The grip of libertarian, anti-state philosophies on the dominant Anglo-Saxon political right in the US and UK makes such intervention as probable as a Middle East settlement. Order is crumbling all around and the forces that might save it are politically weak and intellectually ineffective.

    The heart of the economic disorder is a world financial system that has gone rogue.


    A surprisingly frank article that captures many points missed elsewhere but still skirts entirely the cardinal issue. What we face is not a financial crisis, though it plays out as one. It is a crisis in the continually falling global average rate of profit. Capitalism can no longer mass-produce goods at prices low enough for shrinking consumer markets to buy and that still ensure a profit.

    Whilst the expansion of credit has become an enormous problem, it is a symptom of the underlying crisis, not a cause. In fact, the expansion of credit, which took place in industrial credit, lending to producers, consumer credit, lending to households, and financial credit, lending to brokers and dealers, was a means by which capitalism prolonged the boom period for an extra decade and so forestalled the eventual collapse we’re seeing right now.

    This is why all the reformist talk of new strategies, democratizing the Euro and so on, can come to nothing. And it’s also why the reformist programme of Syriza failed in Greece. Capitalism today is in a worse state, in structural terms, than it was in the 1930’s, when the crisis ended in a world war.

    There is no feasible reform programme. The capitalists, as a class, want to cut to the chase. They want to savagely attack the conditions and rights of working people in order to extend the period of their rule so far as they can. They offer nothing but a gloves-off policy, not only to the class they exploit but also to themselves, as competitors for ever-decreasing markets. They move to a rapid concentration of capital in the most efficient corporations while everyone else can go to the wall, including entire countries such as Greece.

    That this crisis is truly global and is already leading to war and mass migration, should be no surprise. But the almost total silence on the subject by the most eminent bourgeois economists and their lackeys in the press, needs to be well and truly broken. Good that Will Hutton has said a few things, added some facts, but those who wish to address matters seriously will have to do much more.


    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      But while it knows there needs to be an international co-ordinated response, no progress is likely.

      There only needs to be a global response if you’re concerned with protecting the global rich from the risks that they took. If you’re not concerned about that then a country can do a clean default and renew their own currency.

      The heart of the economic disorder is a world financial system that has gone rogue.

      It hasn’t gone rogue – it’s always been rogue. That’s why it’s been variously banned by societies and religions for the last 5000 years. A financial system based upon debt simply doesn’t work. But we keep getting the greedy schmucks in to power and they make it legal and then we let them run down society.


      Capitalism has never worked and will never work. It will always result in exploitation of the many by the few and result in collapse of society. Exactly what we’re seeing today.

    • Ad 4.2

      The OECD current report doesn’t see that kind of cataclysmic crisis looming; what they observe in the medium term is a continuation of low global growth.

      Their commentary to National Radio this morning positions New Zealand as one of the best performing economies and due to be so for quite some time.

      They outline the potential for major downturns, of course, but note the global trends are for sustained low growth.

      Which in turn affects oil consumption for many years to come.

  5. ianmac 5

    Surely if the supply falls away the cost of petrol will become astronomical. $5+ per litre?

  6. Infused 6

    No. You just don’t understand the economic warfare the US/Opec are currently in with the Arabs/Russia etc.

    This high output was done for a reason. Opec had no ‘real’ say in the matter.

    This little war has had its effect. You will see crude rise for the next few years, peaking in 2020.

    • Ad 6.1

      I’ve seen that commentary as well, with the Saudis essentially hoping that burning off the alternative players will eventually prop their prices back up.

      That’s a gamble they don’t appear to be winning so far.

    • Rocco Siffredi 6.2

      If it’s the US/OPEC against the Arabs/Russia, who are the Arabs exactly? Most of them are in OPEC.

      Why would Iran & Venezuela team up with the US to fight an economic war with Russia that destroys their own economies?

      If you believe oil prices will rise until 2020, have you got your options in place?

  7. Steve Withers 7

    I’m buying a Nissan Leaf in the next few weeks. It will be “good enough”.

    My intention is that I have already bought my last petrol-driven car.

    Though I mainly use the train and buses…..I have the car for those longer (20km?) regional trips that need to get from A to B in ways that public transport currently can’t match.

    Like getting to anywhere on Te Irirangi Rd. The buses appear to not use it at all because traffic makes it too unreliable. Instead they run up anddown parallel streets and you need to walk from – say – 160 Chapel Rd to get to anywhere nearby on Te Irirangi.

    There are still part of town (much of Howick and Botany) where you can punish yourself trying to use public transport…..but a car is better.

    • Ad 7.1

      As Aucklanders, we’re pretty unusual for having only one car.
      We’re looking at the Hyundai Sonata hybrid as our replacement.

      It’s a plug-in hybrid. And shiny like a car.

      Other than that, like you we train in every day, and cycle on the weekends.
      But good to have a car four touring purposes.

      It’s possible we’ll just keep thrashing the Volvo into the ground, and just wait until we build in Wanaka for this kind of capital purchase. Great to see there are more options coming out.

      Te Irirangi Drive still has the design width capacity in future to have a dedicated bus line put up the middle of it. Unfortunately this government prefers to do the Reeves Road flyover before it really gets AMETI Panmure to Botany underway.

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