Some Good News For Commuters

USA Today posted an article yesterday about gasoline prices. I just got back from California where the price of a gallon of gas was about $4. It’s really good to be back in North Carolina!

The article reports:

Gas prices are expected to plunge sharply in the final days leading up to the midterm elections, potentially nearing $2 a gallon at some stations in low-tax states.

The sudden respite at the pump comes from sharply lower oil prices and declining wholesale gasoline prices.

Oil Price Information Service analyst Tom Kloza said it could amount to a “colossal collapse” in prices for consumers: from a $2.78 national average on Friday to as low as $2.50 by Tuesday.

“There’s the possibility you could see some prices flirt with $2 a gallon in the next 10 days or so in some of the low-tax areas,” Kloza said. “For now it’s going to be a great break.”

The break comes after gas approached four-year highs in October, topping a national average of $2.90 a gallon at one point.

Prices have already fallen by 6 cents per gallon over the last week, according to AAA. But they remain 27 cents higher than a year ago.

The increase in gasoline prices was one of the factors in the housing bubble collapse in 2008. In four years, the price of a gallon of gasoline had gone from an average of $1.85 a gallon to an average of $3.25 a gallon. If you commute thirty miles to work, that could mean as much as $3.00 a day added to the cost of your commute plus the cost of any recreational driving. To some people working with a tight budget, the increase was the difference between being able to pay the mortgage and not being able to pay the mortgage.

The article continues:

U.S. oil prices have fallen about $13 per barrel from their October high, trading at around $63 on Friday morning.

One key reason: Rising oil production throughout the world is causing stockpiles to build up.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ output has reached a two-year high, with leading OPEC member Saudi Arabia’s output “near its all-time high,” Jefferies analyst Jason Gammel said in a research note. American oil output has also spiked.

“This surge has driven the market into oversupply,” pushing prices lower, Gammel said.

A decrease in gasoline prices is good news for all consumers.

They Were For It Before They Were Against It

On Thursday, Investor’s Business Daily posted an article about the rising price of gasoline. It is becoming obvious that the Democrats plan to blame President Trump for the increased cost and use the issue in the 2018 mid-term elections. Well, not so fast.

The article reminds us that in the past the Democrats have supported increasing gasoline prices in the name of the phony science of global warming.

The article reminds us:

Sen. Minority Leader Charles Schumer and other Democrats plan to use this price spike to blast President Trump and, hopefully, improve their election chances in November.

“President Trump’s reckless decision to pull out of the Iran deal has led to higher oil prices,” Schumer said. “These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices, something we know disproportionately hurts middle and lower income people.”

But Schumer, as well as the reporters covering him, should know that the high gas prices are the result of three factors that are beyond Trump’s control.

One is the fact that OPEC has tightened its production quotas to counter the huge increase in U.S. oil production thanks to the fracking revolution. Trump has been trying to boost production still more.

So what have Democrats said about gasoline prices in the past? The article reports:

As recently as 2015, Democrats were pushing to nearly double the federal gasoline tax. At the time, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that it was the perfect time to do so because “if there’s ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax, the time when gas prices are so low — oil prices are so low — is the time to do it.”

Democrats in California pushed through a 12-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s gas tax last year that Republicans are vowing to roll back if they can.

…At the same time, Democrats have pledged to impose a tax on carbon emissions of around $50 per ton of CO2 — which would go up each year at a rate faster than inflation — to combat “climate change.”

Schumer himself promised to enact a carbon tax if Hillary Clinton won and Democrats regained control of the Senate in the 2016 elections.

Well, guess what? A carbon tax of that magnitude would sharply raise gasoline prices. A report out of the University of Michigan last fall concluded that a carbon tax of $40 per ton would hike gasoline prices by 36 cents a gallon.

Higher gasoline prices impact everyone who drives a car, a truck, or a motorcycle, whether they are rich or poor. To people who depend on their car to get them to work every day, the increased price of gasoline can mean the difference between taking a family vacation or staying home. It can mean the difference between taking the family out to dinner occasionally or eating at home. Financially and mentally, the price of gasoline matters. It is unfortunate that rather than work with the President to help bring the price of gasoline down and bring financial relief to Americans, the Democrats are choosing to make gasoline prices a political issue.

Reaping The Benefits Of America’s Energy Development

On Monday, Investor’s Business Daily posted a commentary on the current global oil market. The commentary noted that Russia has been working with OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) to cut oil production in an effort to keep oil prices artificially high (after all– it worked in the 1970’s).

The commentary reports:

Despite an uptick in oil prices, a closer look at the oil market unveils the real winner of curtailing crude exports: America. U.S. oil output broke through the 10 million barrels a day mark for the first time in half a century. And, according to a recent statement by the Director of the International Energy Agency, it could reach a record of 12.1 million barrels a day in 2023.

Although the price of a barrel of oil has somewhat retreated from the January $70 heights, it is still $10 above its level a year ago and more than double what it was during the price collapse in early 2016. This has been helped along by phenomenal discipline within OPEC+, as the agreement on production cuts between OPEC, Russia and nine more exporting countries is informally known. Apparently compliance has reached a surprising 138% — exporters have made bigger cuts than initially pledged.

The details of this show that one reason for the drop in production is the collapse of Venezuela‘s oil industry. Last year oil production in Venezuela shrunk by 20 percent– roughly 500,000 barrels a day. When the government nationalized the oil rigs in Venezuela, they had no idea how to maintain the rigs and maintain production, so production has continued to drop since that takeover. What has happened (and is happening) in Venezuela is a living example of the fact that socialism does not work.

The commentary concludes:

Arguably, leaders of the Gulf states and Russia are falling victim to politics, a field in which it’s better to be seen doing something than nothing. Especially when no one is sure what (if anything) would work. But who is the biggest economic winner in this game? Ironically, it’s America yet again.

Each time Saudi Arabia and their allies restrict exports, they prop up the price and create a vacant market share which then gives a boost to those producers outside the agreement that are not bound by quotas. The biggest among them is the United States. Naturally, thousands of American companies are keen for a free ride.

All of that is happening already. The U.S. has just overtaken Saudi Arabia in oil production and is expected to rival Russia soon. No wonder U.S. oil companies were expected to be especially cordial with the Saudi delegation during the princely visit. But one might imagine that on the sidelines of the meetings many Saudis will be scratching their heads and wondering how and why did they get themselves into this pickle.

America needs to be energy independent. It allows us to be in control of the fossil fuel that is the backbone of the current world economy. The 1970’s proved that was important.

The Worldwide Impact Of Developing America’s Energy Resources

With the lifting of many of the restrictions on domestic oil drilling (and fracking) in America, the impact of American oil and natural gas on the world market has grown. Today Reuters posted an article about the impact of American energy on the global oil market.

The article reports:

Surging shale production is poised to push U.S. oil output to more than 10 million barrels per day – toppling a record set in 1970 and crossing a threshold few could have imagined even a decade ago.

So what does this mean?

The article explains:

The economic and political impacts of soaring U.S. output are breathtaking, cutting the nation’s oil imports by a fifth over a decade, providing high-paying jobs in rural communities and lowering consumer prices for domestic gasoline by 37 percent from a 2008 peak.

…“It has had incredibly positive impacts for the U.S. economy, for the workforce and even our reduced carbon footprint” as shale natural gas has displaced coal at power plants, said John England, head of consultancy Deloitte’s U.S. energy and resources practice.

The article notes that in an attempt to stop American energy development, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) tried to discourage shale production of oil in America by flooding the market with oil (Saudi Arabia also played a role in financing movies and advertising containing misinformation about fracking).

The article notes:

The cartel of oil-producing nations backed down in November 2016 and enacted production cuts amid pressure from their own members over low prices – which had plunged to below $27 earlier that year from more than $100 a barrel in 2014.

Shale producers won the price war through aggressive cost-cutting and rapid advances in drilling technology. Oil now trades above $64 a barrel, enough for many U.S. producers to finance both expanded drilling and dividends for shareholders.

The article also  mentions American oil exports:

Efficiencies spurred by the battle with OPEC – including faster drilling, better well designs and more fracking – helped U.S. firms produce enough oil to successfully lobby for the repeal of a ban on oil exports. In late 2015, Congress overturned the prohibition it had imposed following OPEC’s 1973 embargo.

The United States now exports up to 1.7 million barrels per day of crude, and this year will have the capacity to export 3.8 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. Terminals conceived for importing liquefied natural gas have now been overhauled to allow exports.

That export demand, along with surging production in remote locations such as West Texas and North Dakota, has led to a boom in U.S. pipeline construction. Firms including Kinder Morgan and Enterprise Products Partners added 26,000 miles of liquids pipelines in the five years between 2012 and 2016, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Several more multi-billion-dollar pipeline projects are on the drawing board.

Energy independence is important for America. Total energy independence will have a very positive impact on our foreign policy. Because tyrannical regimes in the Middle East have traditionally controlled the oil supply to the rest of the world, western countries have been required to support governments they should not be supporting in order to keep the oil flooding. Russia is another country that has used its pipelines to Europe as a way to control certain European countries. Energy independence will give America a degree of freedom we have not had for a long time. Hopefully we will use that freedom wisely.

What American Energy Independence Means

Yesterday Investor’s Business Daily posted an editorial about the current price of oil. Any person familiar with basic economic theory understands the law of supply and demand. When there is a  lot of something, the price goes down. When something is scarce, the price goes up. Some of our recent political leaders missed this point, but we are now seeing the principle of supply and demand at work in the oil industry.

The editorial reports:

Energy: Last week Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) told investors that it expects oil prices to be “lower forever.” We’re still waiting for all those people who were only recently complaining about higher-forever oil prices to admit their mistake.

It wasn’t that long ago that President Obama was mocking Republicans for their “three-point plan for $2 gas: Step one is drill, step two is drill, and step three is keeping drilling.”

He went on to say that “the American people aren’t stupid. They know that’s not a plan.”

Renewable energy, he said, was the only way to solve the “problem” of high oil prices.

Of course renewable energy came with numerous government subsidies and taxes on ‘old energy.’

The editorial explains the results of ‘drill, baby, drill’:

Domestic oil production was skyrocketing even as Obama made those remarks — thanks to advanced drilling technologies that have opened up vast new domestic supplies to production.

The Energy Information Administration projects that, next year, U.S. oil production will average almost 10 billion barrels a day, which would beat the previous record of 9.6 billion in 1970. What’s more, a quarter of this production is coming from one oil field: the Permian Basin in West Texas.

Those “obscene” industry profits? They’ve fallen as well. ExxonMobil’s (XOM) revenue in 2016 was about half what it was in 2011. In its most recent quarter, the company earned $3.4 billion — or 78 cents share. In the same quarter in 2011 it earned $10.7 billion, or $2.18 a share.

Oil companies for a time even had to borrow money to pay dividends.

Low oil prices have also led to a sharp drop in the taxes paid by the industry to the federal government. In 2016, the federal government collected about $6 billion in royalties, rental costs, and other fees from oil production on federal lands. That’s down from $14 billion in 2013.

Now Shell is saying that it’s bracing for low oil prices forever.

Lower energy prices have a positive impact on the American economy–consumers have extra money to spend, it is cheaper to manufacture goods here, and tourist-related industries thrive when Americans can travel and not worry about the cost of fuel.

The article concludes:

Even if the current oil glut causes some pain to the oil industry and crimps tax revenues, it is good news for the economy, since lower energy prices reduce the cost of doing business across the board, and make the U.S. a more-attractive place to do business on a global scale.

But it does raise some important questions: Where are those people who were screaming about Big Oil? Why aren’t they being asked to explain how they could have been so wrong? And just who, exactly, was being stupid?

Economic principles work–every time they are allowed to.

Losing Your Monopoly…Slowly…

Investor’s Business Daily posted an article today about the recent influences on oil prices.

The article reports:

As the mad dash back to the U.S. oil patch has even global oil giants like Chevron (CVX) and Exxon Mobil (XOM) turning their focus to shale, U.S. oil production is on pace to exceed peak production levels in July and could hit 10 million barrels per day in August.

Those milestones loom as OPEC and top non-OPEC producers weigh whether to extend by another six months their agreement to reduce output by 1.8 million barrels a day. The cartel’s next meeting is scheduled for May 25.

The initial pact reached late last year lifted oil prices and encouraged U.S. producers to pump more oil. The extra supply has since weighed on prices, which have fallen more than 10% since the start of the year. But hedges allowed U.S. firms to lock in the higher, earlier prices, and they have continued ramping up output.

U.S. crude futures sank 4.8% to settle at $45.52 a barrel on Thursday, plunging to a five-month low and dropping below the price seen before OPEC reached its production pact in late November.

The result of developing American energy independence by developing America‘s fossil fuel resources is lower fuel costs for Americans, better national security for Americans, and a better negotiating position with the ‘oil bullies’ of the world.

The chart below illustrates what is happening to the worldwide oil market:

There may come a day in the future when green energy is the dominant energy source, but right now the world economy is essentially based on fossil fuel. Until someone comes along and invents a green energy source that can provide energy 24 hours a day and be cost effective, the world will revolve on fossil fuel. Because our economy is based on fossil fuel, it is good to have some leverage against those who are able to deny their citizens basic human rights without being challenged because they have a monopoly on fossil fuel.

 

 

 

The Impact Of American Oil On The World Market

Breitbart.com reported yesterday that according to a draft of its long-term strategy report, The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has admitted that their war on shale oil production in America has failed.

The article reports:

The current international price standard, called “Brent crude” has dropped from about $115 a barrel in June 2014 to $62 today. That is a direct result of the American shale-fracking boom adding 4.5 million barrels of oil per day to the U.S. market in the last 6 years. The U.S. standard, called “West Texas Intermediate” (WTI), sells at $57 a barrel, almost a 10 percent discount.

With revenues plummeting, most OPEC members are in a financial crisis and are forced to increase production from last year and flood the world market to financially survive.

There are a few interesting things in this article. First of all, developing America’s oil resources and decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil will have a serious impact on American foreign policy. It should eventually allow America to support freedom and human rights in places where these are not currently practiced.

Second of all, there is an economic benefit to developing oil resources in America–not only does it bring down the cost of gasoline internationally, if the exporting of these products is allowed, it will strengthen the American economy.

Thirdly, it is interesting that OPEC did everything it could to discourage American oil production. The admission of that fact should give pause to those people who blindly signed on to the anti-fracking movement without checking their facts.

America is capable of leading the world economically. We are a country rich in resources and rich in talent. What we have lost in recent years is our morality and our work ethic. We need to regain both of those in order to achieve economic success.

This Is A Very Interesting Statement

Fox Business posted a story today by Maria Bartiromo. The story included an amazing statement by Saudi billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The Prince stated that we will never see $100 a barrel oil again.

The article includes the following quote:

Saudi Arabia and all of the countries were caught off guard. No one anticipated it was going to happen. Anyone who says they anticipated this 50% drop (in price) is not saying the truth.

Because the minister of oil in Saudi Arabia just in July publicly said $100 is a good price for consumers and producers. And less than six months later, the price of oil collapses 50%.

Having said that, the decision to not reduce production was prudent, smart and shrewd. Because had Saudi Arabia cut its production by 1 or 2 million barrels, that 1 or 2 million would have been produced by others. Which means Saudi Arabia would have had two negatives, less oil produced, and lower prices. So, at least you got slammed and slapped on the face from one angle, which is the reduction of the price of oil, but not the reduction of production.

This is an interesting situation–the Saudis kept the production up so the price would go down. This seriously impacted the economies of Iran, Russia and Venezuela, and indirectly Cuba. It also made oil production in America less attractive–smaller profits. If the Saudis cut production to raise the price, American production comes back up and reduces the price. If the Saudis keep the price low, American production will be less, but will still exist.

I love the idea that we will never again see $100 a barrel oil. I am tired of being blackmailed by the Middle East oil producers. Maybe now we can stop funding terrorism.

Behind The Drop In Oil Prices

Steven Hayward posted an article at Power Line today about the recent drop in oil prices. As of 4 pm today, oil was listed at about $58 a barrel. So what does this mean?

The article reports:

I decided to reach out to the CEO of a very successful private oil exploration company for his inside opinion, and this is what he tells Power Line:

Our Rate of Return (ROR) drops to 10% on our wells at $55 oil.  However, this assumption assumes no drop in costs to drill wells and no contraction in the large differential ($10 to $12 per barrel) between Bakken and WTI oil.  In reality our ROR would actually be above 10% at $55 WTI oil price as our costs to drill would also come down.  There are plenty of drilling locations that would have above 10% ROR at $40 oil.  Even more drilling locations would require $70, $80, or $90 oil prices for that ROR.  Of course, drilling will slow down long before you get down to a 10% ROR.  Most will want at least a 20% ROR.  Of course the quality of the operator matters in addition to the drilling location. . .

Bottom line is that the Saudis want to chill investment in new oil supply to help protect OPEC’s future.  In round numbers we have had about 5 MBOPD increase in world oil demand over the last 5 or 6 years.  Over the same time period US oil production has grown from nearly 4 MBOPD (from 5 to 9 MBOPD) — 80% of the increase in WORLD demand!  This is NOT good for OPEC.  I suspect that we will have ugly oil prices ($60 – $75) for around a year as that is long enough to stop many current oil supply investments and, more importantly, serve to chill the appetite for future large investments in oil supply growth (deep water, arctic, marginal shale, marginal tar sands, etc) which is the Saudi goal in my opinion.  I do not believe that the current price ($65) is a sustainable price going forward.  It would not encourage enough new supply to balance world demand which itself would be goosed upwards with the lower prices.  I suspect that after this ugly price period ends, we likely see oil bouncing around the $75 to $95 range or something like that.

Of course all of this depends on the state of world economy which has many significant challenges such as at the required unwind, or more likely significant revamping, of the unsustainable entitlement states over the next two decades.  I personally believe that the Euro currency was a very idea from the start and is damaging for Europe and unsustainable as an institution.  The unwind of the Euro within the next 5 or 10 years could also cause significant economic headwinds for the world economy.

 This game has been played before–when America is reaching energy independence, lower the price to avoid further exploration. We are fools if we fall for this. As soon as OPEC thinks America is not interested in developing its own resources, the price will go back up to where it has been in recent years. Regardless of the price, energy independence is always a good idea for security reasons. Energy independence also frees America up to support democracies in the Middle East rather than dictatorships.

The Unintended Consequences Of American Oil Production

The Wall Street Journal today included an article by Daniel Yergin about the falling oil prices. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) met Thursday and decided not to cut oil production. That is a major policy change and will have worldwide impact. The demand for oil is no longer the basis for OPEC’s decisions–now the deciding factors are the surge in U.S. oil production and the new oil supply from Canada.

The article reports:

Since 2008—when fear of “peak oil,” after which global output would supposedly decline, was the dominant motif—U.S. oil production has risen 80%, to nine million barrels daily. The U.S. increase alone is greater than the output of every OPEC country except Saudi Arabia.

The world has experienced sudden supply gushers before. In the early 1930s, a flood of oil from East Texas drove prices down to 10 cents a barrel—and desperate gas station owners offered chickens as premiums to bring in customers. In the late 1950s, the rapidly swelling flow of Mideast oil led to price cuts that triggered the formation of OPEC.

Oil is currently selling at about $69 per barrel after hovering around $100 per barrel for the past three years. The shale oil being drilled in America is still economical to produce with prices between $50 and $69 per barrel, so the lower prices will not drive America from the world market.

So what are the international implications of cheap oil? The Russian budget is funded over 40% by oil, but Putin has built up a reserve of a few hundred billion dollars that will help Russia cope with the falling oil prices. Venezuela and Iran are also negatively impacted by falling oil prices. Just for the record, the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline would have a severe negative impact on the Venezuelan economy–the Gulf Coast refineries would replace the heavy oil from Venezuela with the Canadian oil.

There is, of course, the possibility that OPEC could change its mind in the Spring and cut output, but even if they were to do that, they would only be hurting themselves, as Canada and the United States would simply increase their production to make up the difference.

Trouble In Paradise

The Middle East oil countries have done very well during the past thirty or so years. The have combined to form the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and have raised the price of oil from somewhere near $5 a barrel to over $100 a barrel (although the cost of oil is currently dropping).

The Wall Street Journal reported today that as the Western countries begin to develop their oil resources, OPEC members are fighting over production quotas and prices.

The article reports:

But even modest cooperation between many members has broken down, and Saudi Arabia, in particular, has moved to act on its own. While it cut output earlier this summer, other members didn’t go along. Since then, it has dropped its prices.

Each member has a different tolerance for lower prices. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia generally don’t need prices quite as high as Iran and Venezuela to keep their budgets in the black.

Late Friday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez, who represents Caracas in the group, called for an urgent meeting to tackle falling prices. The group’s next regular meeting is set for late next month.

But on Sunday, Ali al-Omair, Kuwait’s oil minister, said there had been no invitation for such a meeting, suggesting the group would need to stomach lower prices. He said there was a natural floor to how low prices could fall—at about $76 to $77 per barrel—near what he said was the average production costs per barrel in Russia and the U.S.

The history of oil prices has often been that when the Middle East begins to drop their prices, Americans stop looking for cheaper oil in their own country. Considering the current instability in the Middle East in the OPEC nations, that would be a big mistake.

America needs to be energy independent for both economic and security reasons. It is time to develop our own resources.

Is Anyone In Congress Reading The Constitution ?

 

Yesterday The Hill reported that six House Democrats, including Dennis Kucinich, have proposed a “Reasonable Profits Board” to control gas profits. When are they going to propose a “Reasonable Profits Board” to control movie industry profits, sports organization profits, college profits, etc.? Why are they only picking on the oil industry? Because they have an ulterior motive. When you read down the article a bit, you find it.

The article reports:

According to the bill, a windfall tax of 50 percent would be applied when the sale of oil or gas leads to a profit of between 100 percent and 102 percent of a reasonable profit. The windfall tax would jump to 75 percent when the profit is between 102 and 105 percent of a reasonable profit, and above that, the windfall tax would be 100 percent. The bill also specifies that the oil-and-gas companies, as the seller, would have to pay this tax.

Kucinich said these tax revenues would be used to fund alternative transportation programs when oil-and-gas prices spike.

What is going on here? It’s simple. This is using class warfare to channel the anger that will occur when oil and gas prices go up because of America’s energy policies. Why am I blaming America’s energy policies? The Obama Administration just ended the Keystone Pipeline project, which would have helped with America’s energy independence and helped keep gas and oil prices stable. Please note that the federal tax on gasoline is 18 cents per gallon. The government does nothing to earn that tax money–no exploration, no scientific research, etc., yet they collect money every time an American fills up his gas tank.

The government does not have the right to judge whether any corporation’s profits are reasonable or not. Blaming the oil companies for the Administration’s failure to encourage domestic energy production is simply wrong. At some point the American people will wake up and see what is going on if they haven’t already. The people proposing this should be voted out of the House of Representatives this year!

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