Highlights from article in Barron's about petroleum.
Of oil bulls, article states: Statistics support their view that demand growth is in its infancy in the developing world: U.S. per-capita oil consumption is 25 barrels annually, while Japan uses 14 barrels per person. China's 1.3 billion people consume just two barrels each per year, however, and India's 1.1 billion use less than a barrel a year.
25 barrels equals 1,050 gallons. Of course, that is both gasoline and home fuel.
Edward Morse, chief energy economist at Lehman Brothers, thinks oil could fall to $100 by year end.
|The price of oil may be peaking and plunge to $100 a barrel by year's end says Barron's Associate Editor Andrew Bary, (June 21)|
Skeptics say the Saudi vow to boost production is merely talk, and that the country is struggling simply to maintain production because of aging, overworked fields like the huge, 60-year-old Ghawar reservoir. The Saudi government refuses to allow in outsiders to evaluate the state of its oil industry, which has fueled talk the Saudis are hiding something.
Likewise, the size of speculative positions and commodity indexers is impossible to determine, as most trading occurs away from the major commodity exchanges in over-the-counter transactions.It is hard to argue that oil demand supports $135 crude. Now at 86 million barrels a day, global demand could show little or no increase this year after averaging 1% gains in recent years. Sanford Bernstein analyst Neil McMahon projects that by the fourth quarter, global oil demand could be running below the fourth quarter of 2007.
The dollar's slide and the Federal Reserve's neglect of the greenback have supported commodity prices, oil in particular. But Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues finally seem to have realized that the Fed's aggressive easing actions since last summer, which dropped the key federal-funds rate to 2% from 5.25%, may be fueling global inflation. If the Fed moves to lift rates later this year, as financial markets anticipate, it could buttress the dollar and spur an exodus of speculators from the oil market.
One little-discussed way the U.S. could try to bring down oil prices is to sell oil from the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR). The SPR, intended as a source of oil for national emergencies, now holds 705 million barrels of crude, equal to about 35 days of domestic consumption. With prices higher, Congress moved in May to stop adding to the SPR as it neared capacity. A sale of 100 million barrels of oil would shock the markets and potentially drive down prices.
Long term, the U.S. could benefit through lower oil prices if Congress and the states back President Bush's proposal to allow drilling off Florida, the East and West coasts, and in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, where billions of barrels of oil may lie.
Could, and may.