Category Archives: Energy markets

Gail Tverberg: Eight Pieces of Our Oil Price Predicament

Yves here. As oil prices have come into focus as a result of a recent Saudi decision to facilitate a reset at a lower price per barrel, they’ve come into focus yet again as a critical nexus of economic and political power, and that’s before you get to the complicating overlay of climate change considerations.

This article by Gail Tverberg takes a more sophisticated, multi-persepctive approach than the overwhelming majority of articles on this topic. One of her big messages is that there is no way the world economy is getting divorced from oil any time soon.

Even so, I have some minor points of contention. For instance, she correctly points out that oil producers, even the Saudis, need oil prices to be at a moderately high prices to sustain national budgets. But Riyadh has a very low production break even point, a large cash horde, and plenty of borrowing capacity. The desert kingdom could afford a price war, say to hurt geopolitical enemies or to forestall investment in and development of alternative energy sources. Low oil prices make other energy sources look unattractive, and volatile prices also deter investment, making it well-nigh impossible to forecast cost advantages (if any) and end user takeup.

Read more...

Low Oil Prices Hurting U.S. Shale Operations

Yves here. In yesterday’s Water Cooler, Lambert posted a link from Bloomberg that indicated that oil at $80 a barrel would pop the fracking bubble, an outcome we’d discussed previously. Some readers in comments expressed doubts.

In fact, it was already happening as oil prices were falling from over $100 a barrel through the nineties. Seasoned energy hands had warned that shale operations could be shut down rapidly, and that has started to take place. However, the author of this article argues that the shutdowns are likely to be delayed and that most US shale operations have low break-even costs, insulating them from the impact of the oil price drop. However, he misses that another driver of the shale boom has been access to super-cheap credit and an overly-bullish mentality that has not factored in the short production lives of shale wells. The junk bond market has been much less accommodating of late, and if that skittishness continues, the prognosis isn’t quite as sanguine for the industry as Cunningham suggests.

Read more...

How Oil and Gas Leases for Fracking Rip Off Homeowners

Yves here. This post by Steven Horn about that shows the typical terms of an oil and gas rights lease for American Energy Partners buries the lead, in that Steve needs to give the context of how the lease came to be public before he turns to explaining how the lease rips off the party who signs it. Among other things, it requires the homeowner to have any mortgage made subordinate to the royalty agreement, something no lender will agree to. If the homeowner can’t get the subordination (a given), no royalties will be paid! As you’ll see, there are other “heads I win, tails you lose” terms in these agreement.

Read more...

Peter Van Buren: Seven Worst-Case Scenarios in the Battle with the Islamic State

Yves here. This post describes, in a general way, some outcomes of our current Middle East adventurism, with the Islamic State as its current nemesis. However, at least one of Van Buren’s “worst-case outcomes” strikes me as not bad, which would be a thawing of hostilities with Iran. But I don’t see how Israel tolerates that.

But the looming issue behind all of these scenarios is that the game is being played to justify continued large budget allocations to the military-surveillance complex. The cost of defending the American is more guns in the guns versus butter tradeoff.

Read more...

Wolf Richter: Toxic Mix for Fracking – Oil Price Collapse & Junk Bond Insanity

Yves here. As oil prices have collapsed, the fundamentals of fracking, which was overhyped given the short productive life of individual wells, now looks even more dubious at current energy price levels. And given how risky the sector has become, cheap debt, even in this time of ZIRP, is no longer freely available either.

Read more...

Saudis Deploy the Oil Price Weapon Against Syria, Iran, Russia, and the US

Asian stock markets continued to fall today, propelled at least in part by the adverse reaction to the Saudi announcement yesterday that they would let oil prices fall to $80 a barrel. And further reports indicate that the Saudis intend to keep oil prices low enough to force a realignment of prices not just among various grades of crude, but also for intermediate and long-term substitutes.

It is critical to remember that the Saudis have no compunction about imposing costs on other nations to maximize the value of their oil resource long term and hence the power they derive from it. Their oil price cut looks to be a strategic masterstroke.

Read more...

Dropping Oil Prices Send Shockwaves Through Energy Sector

Yves here. Commodity prices have been screaming deflation for some time, but oil prices remained stubbornly resistant…until now. In a period of mere weeks, oil prices have fallen considerably and the slide continues. Today, for instance, Brent fell by $1 this morning despite stronger-than-expected trade data out of China due to reports that OPEC won’t cut production till oil prices hit $80 a barrel. Note that that news hit after this post was published, and represents a much lower price level than analysts assumed. So the outlook is even gloomier than this downbeat piece indicates.

In addition, as this post discusses, the plunge in oil prices has an impact on other energy prices. Or perhaps to put it another way, the way deteriorating economic fundamentals are whacking oil prices clearly has ramifications for other fuel products.

Read more...

Life Inside America’s Oil Boom

Yves here. Be warned, this isn’t standard Naked Capitalism fare. It’s a bit of “road trip meets oil boom subculture.” But while there has been a lot of reporting on what is happening in communities where fracking is underway, there has been comparatively little on-the-ground-coverage of what is arguably the bigger story, the development of the Bakken oil field.

Read more...

Matt Stoller: The Solution to ISIS Is the First Amendment

Yves here. This post focuses on ISIS as a symptom of what is wrong with US policy-making. One way of reading it is as an introduction to the role of Saudi Prince Bandar and the sway that the Saudis have had over US policy for decades. This obvious fact is curiously airbushed out of most […]

Read more...

Oil – The Next Commodity Domino?

Yves here. As we’ve written, austerity in Europe and Chinese efforts to rein in construction-related lending have delivered enough of a hit to global growth so as to start denting oil prices, which were holding up in large measure due to tensions in the Middle East. This post suggests that more oil price weakness is in the offing. This is a big negative for the fracking boom, needless to say, and may give environmentalists more time to stymie further development.

Read more...

World Bank Pays $500 Million to Ukraine Central Bank Despite Warnings of World Bank Board and IMF Staff

Yves here. We are pleased to introduce Naked Capitalism readers to John Helmer, a Moscow-based analyst and journalist who, in the words of Mark Ames, “writes about the murky convoluted world of the extraction industry, its politics, and its oligarchs.” Given that the extraction industry is increasingly driving geopolitics, his beat overlaps with our “follow the big money” orientation. For instance, Helmer did original reporting on the IMF-Ukraine relationship which provided crucial to a recent Michael Hudson post on Ukraine that was first published at NC. Today he continues his look at how the US is funneling money into Ukraine, this time via a sus World Bank loan.

Read more...