CNBC posted an article yesterday (updated today) that because OPEC has not been able to reach an agreement about oil prices with its allies (led by Russia), Saudi Arabia has cut its oil prices and increased its production. A price war is expected to follow. This is great news for consumers, but horrible news for American oil production.
The article reports:
WTI plunged 18%, or $7.36, to trade at $33.92 per barrel. WTI is on pace for its second worst day on record. International benchmark Brent crude was down $8.44, or 18.7%, to trade at $36.80 per barrel. Earlier in the session WTI dropped to $30 while Brent traded as low as $31.02, both of which are the lowest levels since Feb. 2016.
“This has turned into a scorched Earth approach by Saudi Arabia, in particular, to deal with the problem of chronic overproduction,” Again Capital’s John Kilduff said. “The Saudis are the lowest cost producer by far. There is a reckoning ahead for all other producers, especially those companies operating in the U.S shale patch.”
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia announced massive discounts to its official selling prices for April, and the nation is reportedly preparing to increase its production above the 10 million barrel per day mark, according to a Reuters report. The kingdom currently pumps 9.7 million barrels per day, but has the capacity to ramp up to 12.5 million barrels per day.
The article concludes:
“$20 oil in 2020 is coming,” Ali Khedery, formerly Exxon’s senior Middle East advisor and now CEO of U.S.-based strategy firm Dragoman Ventures, wrote Sunday on Twitter. “Huge geopolitical implications. Timely stimulus for net consumers. Catastrophic for failed/failing petro-kleptocracies Iraq, Iran, etc – may prove existential 1-2 punch when paired with COVID19.”
But others, including Eurasia Group, believe that Saudi Arabia and Russia will eventually come to an agreement.
“The most likely outcome of the failure of the Vienna talks is a limited oil price war before the two sides agree on a new deal,” analysts led by Ayham Kamel said in a note to clients Sunday. The firm puts the chances of an eventual agreement at 60%.
Vital Knowledge founder Adam Crisafulli said Sunday that oil “has become a bigger problem for markets than the coronavirus,” but also said that he does not foresee prices falling to the Jan. 2016 lows.
“Saudi Arabia can’t tolerate an oil depression – the country’s fiscal breakeven oil prices remain very high, Saudi Aramco is now a public company, and MBS’s grip on power isn’t yet absolute. As a result, the [government] won’t be so cavalier in sending oil back into the $30s (or even lower),” he said in a note to clients Sunday.
OPEC has played this game before. In the 1970’s oil crisis, OPEC boycotted America because of our support of Israel. When American energy companies responded by drilling wells to meet the need, OPEC dropped the boycott and lowered the price to put those companies out of business. I suspect there may be an attempt to do that again, but I am not sure we are as vulnerable as we were then. If America continues on the path to energy independence, our oil prices will be less vulnerable to foreign manipulation. We may have to pay a little more than the price the Saudis will drop to for our oil, but it would be worth it in the long run. Hopefully we have people currently in charge that are looking long term rather than short term.