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The Return of Cheap Oil Prices?

Reckoning from Sea Island, Georgia…

Will new energy discoveries and new technology sink oil prices? Will lower oil prices rescue the world from the Great Correction?

Maybe, say Porter Stansberry and a good number of the analysts and experts here.

We’re attending an investment conference – for professionals only. It’s a beautiful place for one. The island is a barrier island, mostly sand…surrounded by ocean or marshland. There is a golf course…tennis courts…bocce courts… Maybe even a kangaroo court. Or an appeals court. And a royal court. Not to mention a food court.

The lodge looks like it was built in the ’20s…it has that glamorous look that seems to call out for a white sweater and white flannel pants… You feel you should dress like Cary Grant and hope to meet Claudette Colbert on the lawn.

The rooms are luxurious…large and quiet, while the lobby is lush with rich fabrics and comfortable chairs. The staff is poised, gracious and almost genteel. They would be good people to look after you if you were going broke or insane. Not that we’re planning on either. But it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Whether you lost your mind or your money, the nice people running the place would probably wait a few days before kicking you out.

There seems to be almost no one here. The lobby is empty most of the day. We wonder how it stays in business.

This is also where George W. Bush convened a meeting of the G7 heads of state. In the room next to ours, the walls are hung with photos of Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, George W. Bush…and others.

They’re all gone from office now. Except one, Vladimir Putin, a man who looks like he might never leave.

But the news down here is upbeat. Thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling. They say these techniques are making billions of barrels of oil available. Believe it or not, the US is set to be the world’s top producer by 2020, according to a Goldman Sachs study.

An oilman from Texas showed us a map. It included a large chunk of Southwest Texas, colored to show where drillers had bought oil rights and where they were operating.

Heck, there is hardly an empty county in the whole state! The expert took the map apart, analyzing who was working where…and how much oil they were likely to get.

The results were staggering.

“Oil will fall below $40 a barrel,” predicted Porter Stansberry, our host.

Whether that will happen or not, we don’t know. But it got the group talking excitedly.

“Cheap oil will set off an industrial renaissance in America,” one suggested.

“Sell the oil and gas companies,” recommended another.

“It will help put the US economy on the road to real recovery,” said another.

But hold on a minute. A report at the Financial Times tells us that “the era of cheap oil is over,” because “marginal oil production costs are heading towards $100 a barrel”:

Tracking data from the 50 largest listed oil and gas producing companies globally (ex FSU) indicates that cash, production and unit costs in 2011 grew at a rate significantly faster than the 10 year average. Last year production costs increased 26% y-o-y, while the unit cost of production increased by 21% y-o-y to US$35.88/bbl. This is significantly higher than the longer term cost growth rates, highlighting continued cost pressures faced by the E&P industry as the incremental barrel continues to become more expensive to produce. The marginal cost of the 50 largest oil and gas producers globally increased to US$92/bbl in 2011, an increase of 11% y-o-y and in-line with historical average CAGR growth. Assuming another double digit increase this year, marginal costs for the 50 largest oil and gas producers could reach close to US$100/bbl.

While we see near term downside to oil prices on weaker demand growth, the longer term outlook for higher oil prices continues to be supported by the rising costs of production.

Here at The Daily Reckoning we’re not getting worked up one way or another. We’d like to pay less for oil. But we’ll wait to get excited until we see lower oil prices.

Regards,

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning Australia

From the Archives…

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Investor Choices – Do You Have a Lifeboat or a Bottle of Brandy?
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2012-04-23 – Dan Denning

1 Comment

  1. Jason says:

    Everytime Goldman Sachs, or any of these other oil speculaqtors start babbling about ‘increased reserves’ or ‘increased production’ the production of oil declines. Most of what is being produced from shale is natural gas, not to mention the huge cost of hydro-fracturing. I have heard stories about these US shale regions containing 1 to 1.5 billion barrels of oil (original oil in place) but compared to the amounts of oil discovered back in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s a billion barrels is diddly squat. Peak oil has already occured and nothing, not expensive shale operations or liquified natural gas production, will stop the oil supply cliff from comming before 2015. As for America in 2020 being a top producer, its more like that America in 2020 will be in the middle of a Second Civil War.

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