The bad news is that the Alaskan pipeline has been shut down; the Lebanese conflict has the potential to disrupt supply lines; Iran is threatening to cut-off exports; Nigeria is wobbly and unstable; Venezuela’s Chavez is sounding every day more like a cranky hippo getting ready to charge at us; and if the U.S. hurricane season is anything like last year’s, we can expect more disruption with regard to U.S. oil production.
The good news is that these are all short-term impacts on oil prices. They should pass.
The bad news is that oil demand throughout the world is growing at a staggering rate. As one financial advisor observes:
In 1997, the world consumed almost 74 million barrels of oil per day. By 2002 that had risen to 78 million. Sometime this year, the world will consume 86 million barrels of oil a day, or 1,000 barrels a second. The growth in demand for oil rises about 1.5 to 2 million barrels each and every year.
China accounts for 23% of that growth, with the rest of Asia adding another 18%. The US only accounts for 11%, with the rest of the world growing demand by 48%. At the current pace of growth, we could see the demand for 100 million barrels a day in less than 10 years.
So the good news is that the media is covering the wrong story when it covers all the short-term pressures on oil prices.
But the bad news is that when you strip away the short-term impacts, you still have conditions which will produce a steady increase in the price of oil for the foreseeable future.
So the bad news is that predictions of $100/barrel oil are not looking out of line — even if the Alaskan pipeline is reopened, and even if the Middle East conflict evaporates overnight, and even if Iran, Nigeria and Venezuela all take a sedative and greet us with a warm smile and a hug, and even if all of this year’s hurricanes take sharp turns and only hit Cuba.
So the bad news is that, even if the peak oil guys are wrong and there’s still plenty of oil to drag out of the ground, rising demand will likely still produce higher gasoline prices.
So the bad news is that the nearly 100 million people in the U.S. living in suburban areas that are largely designed for navigation solely by automobile and are typically only within car-commuting distance of major metropolitan business and financial centers — especially those people who are driving gas-guzzling SUVs . . . well, basically, they may be screwed.