The Coming Oil Crisis

Written By: - Date published: 9:21 am, January 13th, 2024 - 21 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Economy, energy, International, israel, Palestine - Tags:

An expanding Middle East war that puts the Red Sea and Suez tanker route at risk is a major risk to us because it could hit the global price of oil.

Since the attacks by the United States and United Kingdom on Houthi bases in the last days, oil prices have started to spike.

This runs counter to the 2023 price record. The Chief Market Strategist for B. Riley Wealth Mr Art Hogan explained the growing importance of OPEC as a stabilising influence. “OPEC+ has done an effective job in 2023 of coordinating lower output levels, in an environment of decelerating demand. Additionally Brazil looks set to join the alliance in January 2024.”

Brazil’s entry is likely to put downward pressure on oil price globally since it is not committing to match output with demand, and oil production in the US together with very soft economic growth in China will also be downward-price factors.

However it is pretty apparent that the United States effort towards containment of the Middle East conflict in Israel and beyond is failing. It is now much more likely that this is about to kick off, and with it oil prices are at upward risk.

We have very little protection against rising oil prices.

More than in other OECD countries, New Zealand’s use of transport fuel is weighted towards diesel and jet fuel, which play a minor role in private transport but a major role in tourism and agriculture which are our economic engines. Our economy is already weak and this is exactly what we don’t need.

We should definitely worry that an expanding war in the Middle East will affect oil prices.  Analysts like Goldman Sachs have been flagging this increasing risk for a while now.

During the 1973 Arab states invasion of Israel, Arab members of OPEC imposed an embargo against the United States in retaliation for the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military and to gain leverage in the post-war peace negotiations. It may be 40 years ago, but this current confluence we don’t need again. Then the Iran revolution occurred in 1979. As the previous Minister of Energy Sir Bill Birch stated, “In 1979, New Zealand suddenly lost half its oil supply. The Government could not stand idly by and do nothing.”

You can check out the full public sector response in John Boshier’s 2023 book Power Surge. This results from his recollections as an insider and his own extensive research. Read it if you want to understand the turning points in our energy story, and explore what motivated the key people.

The pressure on New Zealand at that time was so strong that it instigated a massive national programme towards greater energy self-reliance.

But then ideological radicalism and complacency set in. Deregulation of the oil industry in 1988 removed price controls, government involvement in refining, licensing of wholesalers and retailers, and restrictions on imports of refined products. With the dismantling of Marsden Point as a refinery we now fully rely on imports for all petroleum products from road tarmac to butane.

As the Ukraine war did, so the Middle East chaos should again remind us of our vulnerability.

Don’t worry we are a long way from carless days or another oil crisis.

Forty years later from the OPEC embargo, New Zealand doesn’t have an energy strategy. But the previous government did generate a terms of reference for one to be developed.

There are two bits of good news. The U.S. has such strong domestic supply that it can’t be successfully embargoed by OPEC as it was. Secondly the countries upon which we are most reliant – China, the United States and Australia – are not experiencing recession and are sending bounteous volumes of tourists our way. They can pay for the jet fuel.

The bad news is that the United States simply isn’t using its influence to calm the region down. Since 2015, in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has produced the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and caused 377,000 deaths according to U.N. estimates. That’s who the U.S. wants a big diplomatic deal with. And it is continuing to fail to use its influence over Israel to come to any diplomatic solution over its huge attacks on Gaza after the terrorist incursions in October 2023, and rewarding it with unlimited weapons.

This sustained failure with the two worst offenders in the Middle East is not likely to improve, whether Biden or Trump are running U.S. foreign policy.

This is going to get worse.

But New Zealand has zero effect on any of that. So it must prepare.

New Zealand is at high risk of oil price spikes that can cause massive economic damage.

Our government needs to commit to continuing the transformation away from oil dependence towards electricity and decarbonisation across the whole of New Zealand. It needs an energy strategy. It needs to accelerate electric car fleet replacement. It needs to shut down the Huntly coal power station. It needs to work to rid us of petroleum reliance which is our core addiction.

And it needs to act fast. As we all do.

21 comments on “The Coming Oil Crisis ”

  1. Bearded Git 1

    Good post Ad. Agree entirely with your conclusion in final paragraph. But the chances of this happening under the rabble just elected are minimal.

    Let's hope it is a one-term government…..or less.

  2. Grant 2

    Actually fifty years since 1973

  3. Scud 3

    The reason why the Yanks aren't to worried about oil & gas atm, is because they are largely self efficient due to fracking in the USA & Canada.

    But the flip side to this, is the other Economies that are still reliant POL for not only its Economic Security but also the world's economic development EU, Japan, Sth Korea, India before even look at the likes Of Oz or little old NZ which probably has more to lose than anyone else atm.

    Ie- distance to & from NZ to export & import goods,

    Inflation as costs go up at home & overseas

    Costs for goods & services which will feed in Inflation see above LoL.

    Interest rates rises could see more defaulters happening across all sectors of NZ's Economy again see above LoL.

    The list goes on.

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    The global neolib system is getting a timely resilience test. Terrorists trying to take out supply lines are just one dimension.

    The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Risks 2024 report, published on 10 January, sheds some much-needed light on some of the key risks and issues the global economy is likely to face this year and in the coming years… In 2024, conflict escalation could be seen in three vital hotspots. These include Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. If so, this could have potentially far-reaching economic, geopolitical and security consequences.

    The report highlights: "All three areas stand at a geopolitical crossroads, where major powers have vested interests: oil and trade routes in the Middle East, stability and the balance of power in Eastern Europe and advanced technological supply chains in East Asia.

    Each could lead to broader regional destabilisation, directly drawing in major power(s) and escalating the scale of conflict. All three also directly involve power(s) reckoned to possess nuclear capabilities."

    https://www.euronews.com/business/2024/01/10/global-risks-2024-what-are-the-key-geopolitical-risks-this-year

    Could be a good idea to shoot the breeze with your local thematic leader…

    The survey takes into account the views of nearly 1,500 leaders across a variety of sectors, including business, academia, civil society and government, as well as more than 200 thematic leaders.

  5. Pat 5

    Have a look at the 'oil' price the past couple of years….you may wish to revaluate your projection.

    • Ad 5.1

      I already noted the 2023 trading band.

      I also cited the current trades.

      Go ahead make a point.

      • Pat 5.1.1

        The point is quite simply the oil producers have been limiting supply for the past couple of years due to the lack of demand….demand is what sets the price, and the world cannot afford expensive energy (the basis of a modern economy)…the price is the price that can be paid, and the worlds largest supplier (Saudi Arabia) will continue to set the price as high as it can without collapsing demand…with one eye on the cost of fracking.

        The price may increase short term but will do what it has done the past couple of years and revert to a sustainable level….they have no choice.

  6. SPC 7

    It would be wise for consumer nation states and corporate suppliers this side of the Suez to increase the level of reserves/storage capacity/contingency because of longer shipping times.

    As for oil, the risk is to Persian Gulf supply itself, which means planning for lower levels of dependence on that source (working with suppliers to diversify). But in the short term also partnering with corporate suppliers to ensure greater reserves.

  7. gsays 8

    This touches on one of my pet peeves, the closure of Marsden Point.

    I had a wee look at this below, time and time again it mentions a low likelihood but high consequence event causing a stoppage of imports. (Covid casts a long shadow over the advice.)

    https://www.mbie.govt.nz/dmsdocument/17733-fuel-supply-resilience-without-a-domestic-oil-refinery-proactiverelease-pdf

    At the crux of these problems, and most other of our problems, is this globalist, market driven ideology.

    Refinery NZ is/was a private company with shareholders. Shareholders get twitchy because of their returns being diminished. They aren't interested in national resilience, they are reluctant to spend $ on the necessary upgrades and maintenance.

    There is talk of CC emissions in the report. Typical doublespeak (or some other Orwellian term), closing the refinery doesn't impact global emissions but does lower Aotearoa emissions by " 0.75 and 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) each year." It's just they appear on another nations balance sheet. We will have to pay for that but no mention of that cost in the report.

    I was surprised to learn how big a part Marsden Point played in our supply. "In the years immediately before 2020, Refining NZ supplied about 65 to 70 per cent of New Zealand’s total demand for refined fuels, and 100 per cent of its jet fuel."

    This is without considering the impact on the Northland economy and the specialised jobs that were lost.

    It was surprising to learn how big a part the refinery played in our fuel make up. "In the years immediately before 2020, Refining NZ supplied about 65 to 70 per cent of New Zealand’s total demand for refined fuels, and 100 per cent of its jet fuel. "

    NZ needs to get more resilient in respect to the nature of it's imports, ie, developing the pharmaceutical industry etc.

    These are issues that seem beyond the imagination and ability of our political masters of all stripes and the public service.

    Hey, neo liberals gotta neo liberal.

    • gsays 8.1

      This touches on one of my pet peeves, the closure of Marsden Point.

      I had a wee look at this below, time and time again it mentions a low likelihood but high consequence event causing a stoppage of imports. (Covid casts a long shadow over the advice.)

      https://www.mbie.govt.nz/dmsdocument/17733-fuel-supply-resilience-without-a-domestic-oil-refinery-proactiverelease-pdf

      At the crux of these problems, and most other of our problems, is this globalist, market driven ideology.

      Refinery NZ is/was a private company with shareholders. Shareholders get twitchy because of their returns being diminished. They aren;t interested in national resilience, they are reluctant to spend $ on the necessary upgrades and maintenance.

      There is talk of CC emissions in the report. Typical doublespeak (or some other Orwellian term), closing the refinery doesn't impact global emissions but does lower Aotearoa emissions by "0.75 and 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) each year." It's just they appear on another nations balance sheet. We will have to pay for that but no mention of that cost in the report.

      I was surprised to learn how big a part Marsden Point played in our supply. "In the years immediately before 2020, Refining NZ supplied about 65 to 70 per cent of New Zealand's total demand for refined fuels, and 100 per cent of its jet fuel."

      This is without considering the impact on the Northland economy and the specialised jobs that were lost.

      It was surprising to learn how big a part the refinery played in our fuel make up. "In the years immediately before 2020, Refining NZ supplied about 65 to 70 per cent of New Zealand's total demand for refined fuels, and 100 per cent of its jet fuel. "

      NZ needs to get more resilient in respect to the nature of it's imports, ie, developing the pharmaceutical industry etc.

      These are issues that seem beyond the imagination and ability of our political masters of all stripes and the public service.

      Hey, neo liberals gotta neo liberal.

      Edit; The comments section of this Stuff article are worth a peruse,
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/125650659/closure-of-marsden-point-oil-refinery-set-to-cost-240-jobs

      • SPC 8.1.1

        Sure, instead heavy trucks on roads, limited coastal shipping – concerns about commitment to Kiwi Rail and fast efficient movement of goods by rail between the two islands.

  8. Tricledrown 9

    Inflation is going to kill the any economic resurgence National will do there austerity thing and create more poverty and social breakdown.

  9. Tricledrown 10

    Inflation is going to kill the any economic resurgence National will do there austerity thing and create more poverty and social breakdown.

    What will National do, nothing except exasperate the situation

    This would be a good time for house building not going to happen.

    Fix the fing ferries not going to happen electrify the entire rail system not going to happen.

    Add value to Agriculture in a huge revamp so we are not dependent on heavy low value exports as Shipping will be way more expensive.

    Import substitution not going to happen

    Reduce dependence on Oil

    Not going to happen.

    NactNZfirst coalition is going to be a disaster.

    • bwaghorn 10.1

      The electrified main trunk bisected my farm, I don't recall seeing a single train actually useing the wires , big diesels roaring by is what I see.

    • Gosman 10.2

      Import substitution is an idiotic policy especially for a smallish country like NZ

  10. Mike the Lefty 12

    When oil prices spike up the coalition government will say its not their fault for the higher pump prices, exactly the opposite of what they were saying a year.

    Also interesting how the exceptionally low recent lamb and mutton prices have gone by without a murmur from the farmers, who must be really suffering from the low gate prices, seeing as when prices were double what they are now the sheep farmers still complained they weren't making any money.

    When its National in power and their prices drop they shrug their shoulders, blame the weather and just carry on. When its Labour in power they blame the government and drive their tractors into town.

  11. John 13

    Unfortunately, Treacherous swine have closed our only oil refinery permanently. It has been destroyed, not mothballed.

    If we had a nationalized refining company, we could be importing cheap Russian crude, refining it and raising the lifestyles of all NZer's.

    But no, thanks to the efforts of the great traitor Douglas, Richardson and Co, the Commons were gutted!

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