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By Robert Rapier on Jun 23, 2011 with 42 responses

Highlights of BP’s 2011 Statistical Review of World Energy

Global Energy Growth

BP recently released their highly respected annual Statistical Review of World Energy for 2011. Most of the news stories on the report have focused on the exceptionally strong growth in global energy consumption. While that is without a doubt a major story that I will discuss here, I also want to highlight some lesser known facts from the report.

Crude Oil

The report notes that overall energy consumption growth was 5.6%, the highest rate since 1973. Oil prices averaged the second highest level on record, and therefore oil showed the slowest growth rate at 3.1%, to reach a new record level of 87.4 million b/d. (I am on record as stating that I think global oil production – actually total liquids production – will peak in the region of 90 million barrels per day).

Oil production in the U.S. increased for the second year in a row, and is up 11.6% since 2008. Note that this is not a trend I expect to continue, albeit I expect this fact to play a starring role in Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. I think it is going to be somewhat hard for his political opponents to gain traction with accusations that President Obama is blocking domestic oil production given the increased production since he took office. (I am not suggesting that there is no merit at all to the claims; rather I am simply pointing out how I see this playing out).

Many people may not realize that the U.S. is the third largest oil producer in the world, with 8.7% of total global oil production. The U.S. trails only Russia (12.9%) and Saudi Arabia (12.0%).

Natural Gas & Coal

Natural gas and coal prices varied, but for the most part showed strong divergence from oil prices (and much lower prices per unit of energy than oil prices). As a result, growth in natural gas was 7.4%, the largest growth rate in more than 25 years (and a trend I expect to continue for a few years). The largest global consumption increase occurred in the U.S. (+21.7%), where shale gas kept natural gas prices low relative to oil prices.

Coal consumption increased by 7.6% in 2010, the highest growth rate since 2003. Coal’s percentage of global energy consumption also increased to 29.6%, versus 25.6% 10 years ago. China consumes nearly half of the world’s coal (48.2%) and accounted for almost 2/3rds of global coal consumption growth.

Renewable Energy

The U.S. had 24.7% of total global renewable energy consumption. China had the highest growth rate of renewable energy among large countries at 74.5%.

Biofuels production globally increased by 13.8%, led by the U.S. at 17% and Brazil at 11.5%. Renewable energy for power generation increased by 15.5%, led by wind power with an increase of 22.7%.

Hydropower consumption grew by 5.3% in 2010, breaking the previous consumption record. A sampling of countries showing especially strong growth in hydropower were Mexico (+38.9%), Bulgaria (+59.4%), Greece (+29%), Portugal (+88.2%), Spain (+60.9%), Turkey (+44.3%), Iran (+47.2%), Australia (+29.8%), and South Korea (+32.9%).

China remains the top global producer of hydropower with 21% of the global total. Other countries having more than 5% of total global hydropower consumption were Brazil (11.6%), Canada (10.7%), and the U.S. (7.6%).

Nuclear

Global use of nuclear energy grew by 2%, a trend that I expect to reverse itself as a result of public backlash over the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. I also expect that as this happens, nations will fill a large portion of the capacity void with coal (as Germany is reportedly planning to do).

China

Energy consumption in China grew by 11.2%, and the report confirmed the IEA’s earlier report that China is now the world’s largest consumer of energy at 20.3% of global energy consumption. Still, China uses only one-tenth of the per capita oil consumption of the U.S., so there is plenty of room for their consumption to (attempt to) grow. This promises to keep strong pressure on energy prices for the foreseeable future.

Per Capita Energy Consumption

The U.S. is often singled out for its high energy consumption, but alas it is not in first place. Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Belgium all ranked ahead of the U.S. in per capita oil consumption. Belgium? Canada and Saudi Arabia I can understand, but I don’t understand why Belgium would consume more energy than the U.S. But if you look at BP’s per capita oil consumption map in the report, the U.S. is shown in the band of 2.25-3.0 tons of oil consumption per capita, while Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Belgium are all shown as consuming over 3.0 tons per capita.

For natural gas, a larger number of countries had per capita consumption ahead of the U.S., including Canada, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the Netherlands.

Refining Capacity

Politicians in the U.S. have made a great deal of noise in the U.S. over falling refining capacity, often accusing oil companies of purposely withholding capacity to drive up profits. While it is undoubtedly true that unprofitable refineries in the U.S. are being shut down, (U.S. refining capacity fell by 0.5% in 2010), this trend is true throughout Western countries.

Refining capacity across Europe & Eurasia declined by 1.0% in 2010, which might lead one to conclude that there is more involved here than greedy U.S. oil companies. In fact, global refining capacity increased by 0.8% as refining operations shifted to areas with lower labor costs and more direct access to crude oil. Refining capacity in Africa, China, Iraq, and India respectively grew by 8.9%, 12.%, 6.8%, and 3.6%. I expect the loss of U.S. refining jobs to continue such that crude oil imports are slowly replaced by finished product imports.

Conclusions

There are three important takeaways for me from the current report. First is the fact that global energy consumption continues to rise rapidly even in the face of high prices. This trend is unlikely to reverse itself in the foreseeable future, assuring long-term upward pressure on energy prices. Due to the wide spread in the U.S. between natural gas and oil prices, I would also expect a continued shift toward using more natural gas as fuel for vehicles (especially fleet vehicles).

Second, the fact that China is now the world’s largest consumer of energy should not be taken lightly. Their interests are not necessarily the interests of the West, and yet they may soon be — if they are not already — considered the most important customer for global energy supplies. This will give them more leverage over global energy supplies, potentially at the expense of the West.

Finally, the global increase in fossil fuel consumption is the sort of observation that supports my prediction that the only thing that is going to stop carbon emissions from rising is for the world to actually start running out of fossil fuels. We can pass all the legislation we want, write about it, talk about, and urge action — but developing countries are still going to burn cheap energy and emit carbon dioxide. So it should not come as a surprise that global carbon emissions in 2010 rose at their fastest rate in over forty years. I will discuss this in more detail in the next essay, but I have a very pessimistic view that carbon emissions will be arrested as a result of voluntary actions.

  1. By moiety on June 23, 2011 at 5:52 am

    Can you clarify Belgium; very strange.

     

    From http://data.worldbank.org/indi…..PCAP.KG.OE we see that Belgium is not in the top 10 for energy use as kg of oil equivalent per capita (2008).

    From the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Belgium is not in the top 10 for oil comsumption per capita (also 2008).

     

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  2. By rrapier on June 23, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Moiety said:

    Can you clarify Belgium; very strange.


     

    Agree; I could not reconcile that. I did find here Luxembourg ranked ahead of the U.S. and Belgium ranked just behind the U.S. in 2007. The U.S. has had a sharp decline in consumption as a result of high gas prices, so I presumed based on the 2007 data that this might actually be correct.

    Why, though, I have no idea. Incidentally, the Netherlands ranked in the same per capita consumption bracket as the U.S. Having lived in the Netherlands, I also found that one hard to believe.

    RR

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  3. By moiety on June 23, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Those are the types of figures I see as well.

     

    The Dutch situation I think is always explained by them producing a lot of materials from gas and oil and then exporting the resulting products. While in theory they have used the energy contained in the gas, they dont keep it as it were. Maybe.

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  4. By andytk on June 23, 2011 at 8:23 am

    the global increase in fossil fuel consumption is the sort of observation that supports my prediction that the only thing that is going to stop carbon emissions from rising is for the world to actually start running out of fossil fuels. We can pass all the legislation we want, write about it, talk about, and urge action — but developing countries are still going to burn cheap energy and emit carbon dioxide.

    This has long been my position too. Its human nature, no one is going to voluntarily reduce their standard of living (closely correlated with energy consumption) while those in developing economies are hardly going to pay any attention who are consuming x5 – x10 their per head capita energy consumption.

    About the best thing that could have been hoped for was a reduction of elec generation emissions by rising nuclear generators, but with the Fukushima disaster has probably sunk that now.

    Greater efficiencies simply reduce the import cost to the importing nation, while allowing other nations to pick up the slack in useage. As RR pointed out, there are a lot of Chinese looking to improve their standard of living.
    And why shouldn’t they. Good luck to them I say.

    Andy

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  5. By Optimist on June 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I am on record as stating that I think global oil production – actually total liquids production – will peak in the region of 90 million barrels per day

    Careful with your credibility, champ. Why try to predict the unpredictable? Global oil production may well rise to 100 million bpd, even if that means it can be maintained for a short period. Who knows?

    We can pass all the legislation we want, write about it, talk about, and urge action — but developing countries are still going to burn cheap energy and emit carbon dioxide.

    Hang on, why is this the fault of the people who release the least CO2 per capita? If your concern is about the future, state it as such.

    It seems to me that most of the opportunities for saving exist in the developed world, where people release more CO2 per capita, and can generally afford to invest in alternatives.

    Global use of nuclear energy grew by 2%, a trend that I expect to reverse itself as a result of public backlash over the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

    I have to say I am happy to see that development. The only thing worse than the risks from global warming is the mess of nuclear energy, with the fate of nuclear waste still undecided in the US. Kit may argue about the great safety record of nuclear, but when things do go wrong (as they always will) we pay the price for generations…

    China had the highest growth rate of renewable energy among large countries at 74.5%.

    RR, any idea how they are doing that? Are they on course to find the yellow brick road to feasible renewables before we do? I find it hard to believe they follow the US model of heaping subsidies upon mandates to win the votes of people who insist they are rugged individuals seeking nothing more than to reduce the federal deficit…

    First is the fact that global energy consumption continues to rise rapidly even in the face of high prices. This trend is unlikely to reverse itself in the foreseeable future, assuring long-term upward pressure on energy prices.

    I think you ahve this the wrong way round: prices will increase until there is a reduction in use. That’s the genius of the free market.

    The current situation just means that prices are not high enough (yet). That will change soon enough.

    This will give them [China] more leverage over global energy supplies, potentially at the expense of the West.

    Again, not to worry: in a free market there is always enough for everybody (who can afford it). And if you can’t afford it: that’s when you get inventive.

    …but I have a very pessimistic view that carbon emissions will be arrested as a result of voluntary actions.

    I suspect this has more to do with your previous essay, and the general public’s misunderstanding of what the word green or clean energy means. Media cluelessness duely noted. Not that long ago, ethanol was the green fuel. And here in SoCal there are $1 million fuel cell vehicles driving around, as if hydrogen by itself is the solution to all our energy challenges. As they say: there are no pills for stupidity…

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  6. By mac on June 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    RR

    The U.S. is “third in world-wide oil production” ? I wouldn’t have thought so….. Perhaps 8 or 9 or something like that, since known U.S. oil reserves are at number 11 just behind Nigeria.

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  7. By DGH on June 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    The United States has one of the worlds largest oil reserves so production is hardly a surprise. Probable reserves are estimated between 150-200 billion barrels.

    The one that sticks out to me is China and coal. A few years ago they had a 100 year reserve now it is 35 years. Peak production has to be getting near.

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  8. By mac on June 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    “The United States has one of the worlds largest oil reserves so production is hardly a surprise. Probable reserves are estimated between 150-200 billion barrels”.

    Yes. that no doubt true, but when the Saudis only have production costs of perhaps 10,15 or 20 bucks a barrel, its hard to compete.

    What the heck, just Bakken in North Dakota/Montana supposedly has 300 billion bbls of oil. The problem is that it is either not technically possible to recover the oil with current technology. or even if we can recover the oil, it’s more expensive than OPEC oil. (esp. Saudi oil) So, we keep buying from OPEC because it’s cheaper.

    Big mess.

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  9. By Benny BND Cole on June 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    I also read the report, and I have to say I think RR is missing the boat on this one.

    The real story is that demand is flatlining at higher prices. Consumption in 20101 was hardly above that of 2006! And many regions, such as japan and Europe, show secular declines in consumption, even as living standards rise (Japan’s economic woes are tied to monetary policy, not oil).

    From the report: “OECD oil consumption rose by 480 Kb/d – making 2010 the first year of annual OECD growth since 2005. Despite the increase, consumption in 2010 was still 3.6 Mb/d below the peak in 2005″

    Yes, other regions are boosting their consumption–but the developed world is not, and well below earlier peaks. (much of Europe and Japan is below levels back to the early 1980s).

    I have long said that at more than $100 a barrel, you get both immediate reductions in demand, and long-term accumulating reductions in demand, and alternative production.

    We saw prices crack dramatically at $147, and now we see a slump from $110 or so to $90 or so.

    The uptake? Peak Oil is a fraud. The price signal works. At more than $100, oil markets correct, sooner or later, and usually within a year. Producers might better be worried about Peak Demand.

    Natural gas is coming on, biofuels are coming on, much higher mpg vehicles are coming on.

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  10. By Justin on June 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Maybe my math is off, but does that mean RR is predicting peak oil for 2012 if the rate of increase is the same as it was last year (3.1%). I guess we can expect crazy price swings for a few decades until nat gas can come on to save the day or teotwawki – you know either or…

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  11. By mac on June 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm

     

    We will “run out of oil” in the economic sense long before we run out of the physical commodity.

    It’s technological adance and the “price signal” once again.

     

    Like former Saudi Oil Miinister Sheik Yamani said:  “The stone age did not end for lack of stones.”

    The stone age ended because superior technologies deceloped— like the “Bronze Age”.

     

    Neither will the so-called “Oil Age” end for lack of oil.

     

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  12. By Benny BND Cole on June 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    What if China and India mandates battery or CNG? Suddenly the whole Peak Oil Doom story pops. And what if Iraq really does to 12 mbd of production? If Venezuela dumps its lunatic leader?

    China already mandated electric bicycles.

    The world has problems, but Peak Oil is not one of them.

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  13. By DGH on June 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    What the heck, just Bakken in North Dakota/Montana supposedly has 300 billion bbls of oil. The problem is that it is either not technically possible to recover the oil with current technology. or even if we can recover the oil, it’s more expensive than OPEC oil. (esp. Saudi oil) So, we keep buying from OPEC because it’s cheaper.

    I was not including uneconomical or technically challenging numbers.

    For example see:

    http://epw.senate.gov/public/i…..0d7cf8c519
    Or search for U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources: Terminology, Reporting, and Summary

    This congressional report puts the estimate at 162.9 billion barrels.

    Even if we opened up all these areas it would not be enough to make us energy independent but it is enough to keep oil production in the United States reasonably high for the next 90 years.

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  14. By mac on June 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Benny has it right.

    You can read and argue “official”: warmed-over statistics from the past” (often two or three years old)

    Or, you can actually read the current news articles about what’s actually happening in the market-place.

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  15. By mac on June 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    DGH;

    I think we still have significant oil resources in Bakken, or off-shore West Coast .and East Coast, also western Florida and Alaska.

    Will these deliver us from our “oil dilemma” ?

    No… The only thing that will deliver us from our oil dilemma is to abandon the ICE.

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  16. By mac on June 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    My tooth-brush is made from cellulose acetate. Not oil……… What the heck am I going to do ? Commit suicide because I am not using “oil” based products ?

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  17. By mac on June 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    5,000 Years  of  Ethanol subsidies. 

     

    That’s Amazing ………………….

     

    And, (to think of it),  I actually thought that alcohol  had labored through-out  history as  an intoxicant, that was heavily taxed,

    and not subsidized.

     

    How stupid of me.!!!!  I  simply did not know (or realize) that alcohol was used as subsidized motor fuel  for the internal combustion engine well before Roman Empire.

     

    “Hat Trick”  to the guy that told me this…….What a genius !!!!

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  18. By rrapier on June 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    mac said:

    My tooth-brush is made from cellulose acetate. Not oil……… What the heck am I going to do ? Commit suicide because I am not using “oil” based products ?


     

    You are simply kidding yourself. Having worked in a plant that used to produce cellulose acetate, I can tell you that the process is wholly dependent on fossil fuels for several steps of the production process.

    Look, the issue isn’t that we can’t find replacements for a lot of these things, it is that life is going to be different, more expensive, and less convenient without them.

    RR

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  19. By rrapier on June 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Justin said:

    Maybe my math is off, but does that mean RR is predicting peak oil for 2012 if the rate of increase is the same as it was last year (3.1%). I guess we can expect crazy price swings for a few decades until nat gas can come on to save the day or teotwawki – you know either or…


     

    Couple of things. I don’t say “exactly 90″, I say “around 90.” Could be 90, could be 93. I don’t think it will be 95. But it won’t go in a straight line. We have had very strong price signals the past couple of years, but it won’t surprise me if this kills off some demand. So it may be a bit of a stair-step. But to commit to a date, I think it’s 75% likely in the next 5 years and 90% likely in the next 10.

    RR

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  20. By rrapier on June 23, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Benny BND Cole said:

    I also read the report, and I have to say I think RR is missing the boat on this one.

    The real story is that demand is flatlining at higher prices. Consumption in 20101 was hardly above that of 2006! And many regions, such as japan and Europe, show secular declines in consumption, even as living standards rise (Japan’s economic woes are tied to monetary policy, not oil).


     

    Ever wonder why we have had so much time above $100 per barrel since 2008? Because you are wrong. The West has gotten the low-hanging fruit; I always said there is plenty of fat in the system for us to cut back. But in most of the world, there is no fat in the system and they want to be fat like us. So even though consumption is down in the West, the developing world used all of that up and then some. Overall petroleum consumption is up 3% since 2006 in the face of $100 oil and reduced demand in the West. That is not good news for oil-based economies.

    We have sharply different views on how this is going to play out. For 2015, you probably see $50 oil. I see $200 oil. But in 2005, I did see $100 oil for 2011. Lucky guess?

    RR

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  21. By Rufus on June 23, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I’m not sure about the price, but I’m pretty sure about the outcome. 2015 will be just one in a long line of Recessionary years, I think.

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  22. By mac on June 24, 2011 at 1:33 am

    “Look, the issue isn’t that we can’t find replacements for a lot of these things, it is that life is going to be different, more expensive, and less convenient without them”.

    RR

    Exactly. There are a number of plastics that come from oil that simply cannot be replicated (at least at present) with organic plastics derived from cellulose or saccharides.

    I just wanted your readers to be informed that we can actually make plastics from cellulose. Early films were printed on celluloid, an organic derivative,

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  23. By mac on June 24, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Robert,

    (C6H10O5) is the “benchmark” formula for cellulose

    While there are many, many different ingredients in various oils that can vary from well to well (including dissolved methane, sulfur compounds, water, etc,, the benchmark formula for oil might be perhaps C5H12) or perhaps octane (C8H18)

    Sound a bit like C6H10O5 ? Cellulose ?

    Lots of Hydrogen and Carbon atoms in both oil and cellulose.

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  24. By mac on June 24, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Robert,

     

    I lived in Europe for nearly four years and have travelled there many times.

    Does the fact that Robert also lived in Europe for a brief period make him an expert on Europe or European affairs,

     

    The simple answer is “NO”

     

    I also worked in a plastiics factory and probably know a helluva lot more about injection molding than Robert does,

     

    Does this make “mac” a world authority on plastics ?

     

    Heck No.

     

    Robert says: “I have already been there and done everything you will ever do in life”

    What an obnoxious attitude!!  It just doesn’t wash with me.

     

    Cut the comedy and just argue the facts, Robert..

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  25. By rrapier on June 24, 2011 at 6:42 am

    mac said:

    Robert,

     

    I lived in Europe for nearly four years and have travelled there many times.

    Does the fact that Robert also lived in Europe for a brief period make him an expert on Europe or European affairs,

     


     

    “Brief”, in this case is living in 3 different countries and for longer than you lived there. Yeah, I know a fair amount about living and working in Europe. I have no idea what your point is though.

    Robert says: “I have already been there and done everything you will ever do in life”

    What an obnoxious attitude!!  It just doesn’t wash with me.

    What a truly bizarre post! For the life of me, I sometimes don’t know where you come up with your material. At times it is totally and completely off the wall and doesn’t seem to correlate with anything I have written.

    Cut the comedy and just argue the facts, Robert..

    Cut the strawmen and try to make it clear exactly what you are arguing against. I can’t even figure out which post you are responding to. And don’t ever stoop to putting words in my mouth. I haven’t said anything remotely like you quoted.

    RR

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  26. By addoeh on June 24, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Robert Rapier said:

     

    Ever wonder why we have had so much time above $100 per barrel since 2008? Because you are wrong. The West has gotten the low-hanging fruit; I always said there is plenty of fat in the system for us to cut back. But in most of the world, there is no fat in the system and they want to be fat like us. So even though consumption is down in the West, the developing world used all of that up and then some. Overall petroleum consumption is up 3% since 2006 in the face of $100 oil and reduced demand in the West. That is not good news for oil-based economies.

    We have sharply different views on how this is going to play out. For 2015, you probably see $50 oil. I see $200 oil. But in 2005, I did see $100 oil for 2011. Lucky guess?

    RR

    From the graphs I’ve looked at, we haven’t had *that* much time above $100 since 2008.  For Brent, we have about 6-8 months in 2008 and since March for 2011.  For West Texas, we’ve had 6 months in 2008 and three months in 2011.  Out of over 60 months of data (2006 to today), it’s about 15% of the time we’ve been above $100.  In addition, we’ve had about 5 months with oil below $50 (just since 2008).  So can we draw a long term conclusion on what $100 oil does to the developing world?  If the west is cutting back at that figure (and perhaps even lower than that), wouldn’t the developing world also cut back?  Or are they still going forward with all their projects despite the fact a major resource (probably the major resource) just continues to climb ever higher in price?
     

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  27. By Optimist on June 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    We have sharply different views on how this is going to play out. For 2015, you probably see $50 oil. I see $200 oil. But in 2005, I did see $100 oil for 2011. Lucky guess?

    Really?

    The West has gotten the low-hanging fruit; I always said there is plenty of fat in the system for us to cut back.

    Are you saying we’ve already cut back in the west, or that we need to cut back much more? If you are saying we’ve cut back already, I have to disagree: at $200/bbl we’ll find a lot of low-hanging fruit.

    But in most of the world, there is no fat in the system…

    Not true. There is a lot of inefficiency in the rest of the world. But bring on $200/bbl, and watch them get better at it in short order.

    That is not good news for oil-based economies.

    Why call it an oil-based economy? At $200/bbl, it won’t be oil-based for long. The transition will be painful for many, but it won’t be the end of civilization.

    5,000 Years of Ethanol subsidies. That’s Amazing ………………….

    Not as amazing as your ability to misunderstand. Who said anything about 5,000 years of subsidies? The point is that we should NOT be subsidizing a 6,000 year old (infant) industry. Capiche?

    Or are you missing Kit so much that you are trying to fulfill the role?

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  28. By Benny BND Cole on June 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    RR–

    Right now, it looks like the $147 peak and the $110 recent top were spikes, not norms. Read Addoeh’s very smart comments above. (RR’s comments are very smart too–he is just wrong when he underestimates the price signal).

    I am not predicting $50 oil–I did predict, and stay with my prediction, that when oil tops $100, it sets into motion reactions that lower the price. Over $100 is peek-a-boo time.

    As you and the BP report both point out, uses of other energy sources are growing rapidly–and CNG cars are just getting traction now, and the Chevy Volt has been barely introduced (although the Honda FIT hybrid is talking 70 mpg. Wow!).

    In short, the question is whether current oil output can be maintained, at between $50 and $100 a barrel. Remember, CTL, and GTL. And biofuels.

    This question must take into account Mexico, Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, all of which are producing well below capacity due to money-state thug politics and corruption. Iraq says it can boost output 12 mbd. Venezuela could probably do that in the long run. Iran who knows?

    But we know demand begins to go in reveerse at more than $100 a abrrel.

    RR–Peek-a-boo above $100 does not make it the new norm. It may, in fact represent only speculative peaks.

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  29. By rrapier on June 24, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Benny BND Cole said:

    RR–

    Right now, it looks like the $147 peak and the $110 recent top were spikes, not norms. Read Addoeh’s very smart comments above. (RR’s comments are very smart too–he is just wrong when he underestimates the price signal).


     

    Forget $100 oil. Just look where oil is relative to a decade ago. That tells you that something unusual is going on in the oil markets. I think there will be fits and starts, but over the next few years I predict that the norm will be above $100, and maybe way above $100.

    Look at Europe. Gasoline in Germany was $8 a gallon; $336 a barrel. Do you know which alternatives were coming to the rescue? None. Do you know how many cars were on the roads? Plenty.

    So I see a situation where some alternatives will come on, but too slowly and at too small a scale to prevent continued upward pressure on oil prices.

    RR

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  30. By rrapier on June 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Optimist said:

    We have sharply different views on how this is going to play out. For 2015, you probably see $50 oil. I see $200 oil. But in 2005, I did see $100 oil for 2011. Lucky guess?

    Really?


     

    I actually predicted that we would hit $100 in the 2010-2011 timeframe. When we got there in 2008, I thought things had gotten ahead of themselves. I wrote a post at one point showing some graphs of how I thought it would play out (one of my Peak Lite posts) and I am pretty sure that I had oil crossing $100 in 2010.

    The West has gotten the low-hanging fruit; I always said there is plenty of fat in the system for us to cut back.

    Are you saying we’ve already cut back in the west, or that we need to cut back much more? If you are saying we’ve cut back already, I have to disagree: at $200/bbl we’ll find a lot of low-hanging fruit.

    We have cut back on easy waste. The next rounds will bite a bit more I think. Or will require some more changes to our lifestyle. Like people taking public transit who have never taken it before.

    But in most of the world, there is no fat in the system…

    Not true. There is a lot of inefficiency in the rest of the world. But bring on $200/bbl, and watch them get better at it in short order.

    I am talking about the “most of the world” that doesn’t use oil (and who wants to).

    That is not good news for oil-based economies.

    Why call it an oil-based economy? At $200/bbl, it won’t be oil-based for long. The transition will be painful for many, but it won’t be the end of civilization.

    Europe begs to differ. They are dealing with the equivalent of more than $300 oil for some time, and life continues to be oil-based. In their case, most of that money stays within their economies. That won’t be the case with us.

    RR

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  31. By rrapier on June 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Addoeh said:

    So can we draw a long term conclusion on what $100 oil does to the developing world?  If the west is cutting back at that figure (and perhaps even lower than that), wouldn’t the developing world also cut back?  Or are they still going forward with all their projects despite the fact a major resource (probably the major resource) just continues to climb ever higher in price?


     

    What we can say is that despite much higher oil prices than a decade ago, demand in developing countries continues to climb. Demand fell in the U.S. as a result of the 2008 price spike, but even as it did it increased by more than that amount in China and India. I have a theory on why that is. At the level the West consumes, we don’t place all that high of a value on the incremental gallon. If you took one gallon of fuel from me, it wouldn’t impact me much. But if you only offered me one gallon of fuel, I would be willing to pay dearly for it.

    RR

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  32. By thomas398 on June 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Optimist said:

    I think you ahve this the wrong way round: prices will increase until there is a reduction in use. That’s the genius of the free market.

    The current situation just means that prices are not high enough (yet). That will change soon enough.

    This will give them [China] more leverage over global energy supplies, potentially at the expense of the West.

    Again, not to worry: in a free market there is always enough for everybody (who can afford it). And if you can’t afford it: that’s when you get inventive.


    Free? Are we talking about the crude oil market?  The market thats dominated by a cartel and socialist dictatorships?   These guys deciede how “free” the market is–and that’s just the supply side.  The Chinese will manipulate the market to their advantage as RR predicts.  The general direction of prices will be higher but these distortions will keep things interesting.  This is not econ class Optimist.

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  33. By paul-n on June 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    This is not econ class Optimist.

    Agreed, this is geo-political gaming at its best.  Unprecedented co-ordinated intergovermental action?  Not part of normal economic theory at all.  For individual producers and sellers, it’s just another bump in the market, but there is huge game playing going on here by governments.

     

     

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  34. By mac on June 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Robert.

    ‘Sorry…

    I should not have used the word “obnoxious” A better word might have been “over-wrought” or something like that. My apologies,

    By the way, the last two posts, Thomas 398 and Paul N. both “hit at the very nerve center of the Oil “Matrix” Standard economics head for the door when you are talking about large scale monetary interventions, geo-political deal-making and military intervention.

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  35. By paul-n on June 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Jeff Rubin (author of Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, and a career economist) wrote about this sort of political-economics disconnect recently on his Smaller World blog

    During the food crisis of 2007 and 2008, record grain prices should have pulled food supplies out of world granaries like never before. Instead, no less than 29 food-exporting countries responding by banning food exports and kept their crop production for a hungry domestic market. As a result of that diversion from export markets, food price increases in those countries lagged well behind the ascent in world prices. Economists may not have approved but the populace did.

    The fact is that companies, buyers and sellers react to price signals, as economic theory predicts.  But governments are not just buyers and sellers, they can, and do, have very different agendas and objectives.

    Energy and food, are about as politically charged commodities as you can get, and have been ever since civilisation began.  For governments, and their voters, security of supply, if it is under threat is more important than price.  

    We can speculate on  the real reasons for taking this action, but I think it is safe to say it there is more to it than just a desire to depress short term prices, even though that is the obvious and immediate effect.

    Maybe Wikileaks can turn up something on this…

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  36. By Optimist on June 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    This is not econ class Optimist.

    Agreed. Maybe it’s time for a history lesson, though.

    Free? Are we talking about the crude oil market? The market thats dominated by a cartel and socialist dictatorships?

    Worth recalling that those evil cartels are just continuing the good work of the Texas Railroad Commission. Americans love free markets, don’t they?

    In spite of that, the US may take on OPEC and challenge its power, or at least add some roadblocks to their route. Unfortunately, US presidents tend to do just the opposite: bend over backwards trying to accommodate the cartel. And then beg them to pump more oil. Whose fault is it then that OPEC is so powerful?

    These guys deciede how “free” the market is–and that’s just the supply side.

    They don’t. But we let them. See above.

    The Chinese will manipulate the market to their advantage as RR predicts. The general direction of prices will be higher but these distortions will keep things interesting.

    Oh yeah? And just how will the (all-powerful, evil) China do that? Market interference may look great in the short term. In the long term it never works. China may have to learn this the hard way, but learn it they will.

    They are in the same boat as us. As prices go up somebody (most likely both) will be buying less. Chinese leadership may not believe that (yet), but reality doesn’t tolerate fantasy well.

    Like any other market, the oil market isn’t perfectly free. But it’s close enough for government work…

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  37. By Optimist on June 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    We have cut back on easy waste. The next rounds will bite a bit more I think. Or will require some more changes to our lifestyle. Like people taking public transit who have never taken it before.

    Oh, the pain of public transport… I dispute that we have cut back on the easy waste. I still see people sitting in their cars on a cool day, running the engine and the aircon, when an open window would be just as pleasant, with the advantage of being quiet. There’s much more that can be cut. Easily. Gas is still too cheap, it appears.

    But if you are right, that will change soon enough.

    I am talking about the “most of the world” that doesn’t use oil (and who wants to).

    I hear you. But that part of the world has serious problems, such as dictators, holding them back. Oil prices is NOT their biggest problem.

    As for how these poor people will deal with higher oil prices: sadly their bigger problems, like the dictators, will prevent them from using their ingenuity. Again: the price of oil is NOT the underlying problem.

    Europe begs to differ. They are dealing with the equivalent of more than $300 oil for some time, and life continues to be oil-based. In their case, most of that money stays within their economies. That won’t be the case with us.

    Maybe the fact that the money stays local have prevented them from serious pursuit of alternatives.

    Even if you are right, it just means that the solution lies somewhere beyond $300/bbl. We’ll find out soon enough.

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  38. By Wendell Mercantile on June 27, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Oh, the pain of public transport… I dispute that we have cut back on the easy waste. I still see people sitting in their cars on a cool day, running the engine and the aircon, when an open window would be just as pleasant, with the advantage of being quiet. There’s much more that can be cut.

    Optimist,

    Concur. In fact, there was an article in the New York Times today about how European cities are “encouraging” drivers to give up their cars and instead walk, bike, or use public transportation: Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy

    While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

    Their tactics would meet much resistance in the U.S. but they do have a worthy goal. I can’t wait to see Rufus ride a bicycle to one of the Tunica casinos.

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  39. By Optimist on June 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I’m thinking of Rufus as the kind of guy who will stay at home and enjoy his own moonshine. IF… he ever got so far as to produce…

    That is an interesting difference, though. But again, at $350/bbl you won’t need local government to encourage you to drive less – you’d do it yourself. And be more innovative than the government could ever be.

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  40. By moiety on June 28, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Optimist said:

    That is an interesting difference, though. But again, at $350/bbl you won’t need local government to encourage you to drive less – you’d do it yourself. And be more innovative than the government could ever be.


     

    Rail travel per person per year in the Netherlands is around 860km. For arguements sake lets say other forms (trams, buses) come to 1000 km. For a dilay commute of 20 km per year for a 46 week year, we have 4600 km. That is around a 20% reduction due to public transport on the daily commute. Paris public transport has around 31% of the market share (all times).

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  41. By Nick G on June 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Robert,

    I would guess Belgium’s high oil consumption is an artifact of it’s large ports and airports (especially Antwerp), whose oil consumption is assigned to Belgium, even though the consumption doesn’t really happen in Belgium.

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  42. By thomas398 on July 8, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Optimist said:

    Worth recalling that those evil cartels are just continuing the good work of the Texas Railroad Commission. Americans love free markets, don’t they?


    What’s your point? That the oil market has never been free? I would agree but that undermines your later point.


     
    In spite of that, the US may take on OPEC and challenge its power, or at least add some roadblocks to their route. Unfortunately, US presidents tend to do just the opposite: bend over backwards trying to accommodate the cartel. And then beg them to pump more oil. Whose fault is it then that OPEC is so powerful?


    How is the U.S. going to challenge OPEC’s power? Oil or war a la Donald Trump?  US presidents have to beg because we can’t produce the stuff and they have it. 


     Oh yeah? And just how will the (all-powerful, evil) China do that? Market interference may look great in the short term. In the long term it never works. China may have to learn this the hard way, but learn it they will.
    They are in the same boat as us. As prices go up somebody (most likely both) will be buying less. Chinese leadership may not believe that (yet), but reality doesn’t tolerate fantasy well.


    I’m not saying that China will prevent their energy prices from rising but they will use their status as the world’s biggest energy consumer to manipulate the market.  This will be at our expense.  The U.S. did the same thing in the past.


    Like any other market, the oil market isn’t perfectly free. But it’s close enough for government work…


    Energy is the world’s largest and most manipulated market.  There are no equivalents and free market economics does not apply.  It can not accomadate government action that promotes economic growth (higher demand), conservation (lower demand), higher supply, and lower prices simultaneously.

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