Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oil Is Cheap

You think oil is expensive now, just wait:

Mexico provides about 14% of the oil the US imports. On any given day that makes it either the #2 or #3 leading source for US oil imports after Canada and Saudi Arabia. Given that the US currently imports close to 70% of its oil needs, the Mexican oil is critical.

But here's the thing. Using straightforward ELM calculations, Jeffrey Brown is confident that Mexico will ship its last barrel of oil to the United States -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- about 6 years from now, in 2014. In a recent interview with Brown, I asked about this forecast.
And this there this evaluation of the global supply:
"Global production peaked in 2005, and we're now into the third year of decline. And the critical point to keep in mind is, our model and case histories show that the decline rate accelerates, year by year. Using the Lower 48 in the United States as an example, you can see the annual declines going 2%, 3%, 5%, 7%, 10%, 15%, 20, on and on. So it's an accelerating decline rate."

Underscoring Brown's concerns:

On April 15, 2008 the Russians, the world's second largest oil exporter, announced that their oil production appeared to have peaked, with production in the first quarter of this year declining for the first time in a decade. If they have indeed peaked then, based on the ELM, the world could lose Russia's current ~7 million barrels a day in exports within 6 to 9 years.

Echoing the baseline premise of the ELM, Herman Franssen, president of International Energy Associates, projects that Iran, the world's fifth largest exporter, may consume an amount equal to their exports by 2015. A prominent oil analyst, the late Dr. Ali Samsam Bakhtiari, estimated that Iran is either at or near peak.

Most concerning, this April Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah announced they were not going to raise oil production above 12.5 million barrels a day. Commenting on the news, Tom Petrie, vice president of Merrill Lynch, said

"King Abdullah's quote speaks to the fast-emerging reality of what I call 'practical peak oil.' The Saudis and other exporters are placing a new emphasis on elongating the petroleum exploitation and depletion cycle. This stems from a growing awareness of the challenges of conventional resource maturity, as well as rising resource nationalism. This is likely to result in an earlier occurrence of global peak oil output than many consumers yet recognize."
Summing it up, Brown told me that "The reality is that this thing is coming so much faster and so much harder than even most pessimists were expecting."
These are from John Mauldin's newsletter in a piece written by the oil analyst David Galland. Galland's take on Saudi Arabia is the most optimistic. I personally think that the Saudi's are hiding the fact that they are at, or very near, peak oil themselves. Then, add this to the equation:

"If you look at the situation in US presidential terms, looking at fossil fuels plus nuclear, the world burned through the equivalent of 10% of all oil ever consumed in Bush's first 4-year term. And, in our model, we're going to burn 10% of all remaining conventional crude in the second 4 years of Bush's term.

Whoa! That's some incredible increase in consumption!

You may have read such analysis before. But you will not often read it coming from a highly mainstream, very conservative market analysts.

If you like $4.00/gal oil, you're going to absolutely love $10/gal oil.

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