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Rebounding US Oil Production: The Historical View

Excitement continues to run at very high levels, over the rebound in US crude oil production. Coming out of the new, historic low of 4.95 mbpd (million barrel per day) in 2008, the annual average of US production in the first 4 months of 2012 is currently on pace at 6.156 mbpd. This new production has largely been made possible by the price revolution in crude oil, which finally broke through the long-term, $25 ceiling during 2003-2004, and which is now mostly sustaining marginal production around the $90 level. A question: has the US, since its own production peaked near 10 mbpd in 1971, seen this kind of production rebound before? Let’s first take a look at the past decade. | see: US Average Annual Oil Production mbpd 2001 -2012

If maintained, the current rebound would add back a little more than a million barrels a day to US production, compared to the 2008 low. Some analysts fervently believe that, despite ongoing declines from existing US fields, that production will go even higher into the end of this decade. Well, just leaving that issue aside for now, given that so much of this new production depends on sustained high prices, let’s briefly take a look at a previous rebound in US oil production. | see: US Average Annual Oil Production mbpd 1972 -1985

Coming out of the 1976 low, at 8.136 mbpd, US production rebounded over the following 9 years by 800 kbpd–not quite a million barrels per day. However, a volume comparable to the current rebound. Afterwards, the 40 year decline in US production resumed its decline.

The course of US production into 2020 will be more dependent than usual on price. An increasing portion of total global production is crowded into the marginal price band of $80-$100 a barrel, and yet the world economy appears to struggle–on the demand side–at that very same level. Thus, new marginal production in the US and elsewhere is fated to continually pass back and forth, in and out of the domain of economic viability, as the world economy chokes, recovers, and chokes on high oil prices.

Source -Gregor

Let’s blame speculators

May 5, 2011
Laurel Leader-Call

LAUREL — Here’s a non-rocket science question: If you expect a reduced harvest of wheat, corn, rice or any other commodity some time in the future, what would be the wise thing to do about your consumption today? I bet that the average person would answer: Consume less now so that more will be available in the future.

But how in the world can people be encouraged to consume less now? Enter the futures market, which consists of a worldwide group of millions upon millions of traders, often called speculators. Speculators, betting on a future shortage, buy up wheat, corn and rice today in the hopes of making money selling it for a higher price when the bad harvest hits. As speculators buy more and more wheat, corn and rice, they drive up today’s prices. As today’s price gets higher, people consume less, but more importantly, people do the intelligent thing without bureaucratic edicts. The vital role of the futures trader, or speculator, is to allocate goods over different time periods. And, it’s not just wheat, corn and rice that must be allocated over time but all commodities including oil.

There’s no guarantee that speculators will make money. They might guess wrongly. For example, they might buy wheat now at $8 per bushel, expecting to make a killing in November at $12. Weather predictions might have been wrong and instead of a reduced harvest, there’s a bumper crop driving November wheat prices down to $4 per bushel. That would make the speculator’s $8 investment worth $4.

If we don’t like commodity speculation, we could easily outlaw it. That way, for example, even though there might be every indication of a reduced fall wheat harvest, today’s price of wheat wouldn’t rise. We could consume wheat today and not fret about fall.

President Obama has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether Wall Street speculators could be manipulating oil markets. If Obama could convince other nations to put an end to worldwide oil speculation, we might be able enjoy $2 per gallon gas and ignore Middle East conflicts that might impact heavily on future oil supplies.

White House and congressional attacks on oil speculation do not alter the oil market’s fundamental demand-and-supply reality. What would lower the long-term price of oil is for Congress to permit exploration for the estimated billions upon billions of barrels of oil off our Atlantic and Pacific Ocean shores, the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, not to mention the estimated billions, possibly trillions, of barrels of shale oil in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and North Dakota.

Some politicians pooh-pooh calls for drilling, saying it would take five or 10 years to recover the oil and won’t solve today’s problems. Nonsense! I guarantee you that if permits were granted to all of our oil sources, we would see a reduction in today’s prices.

Why? Put yourself in the place of an OPEC member knowing there’s going to be a greater supply of U.S. oil in five or 10 years, which might drive oil prices to a permanent $20 or $30 per barrel. What will you want to do now while oil is $120 per barrel? You would want to sell.

OPEC’s collective efforts to sell more would put downward pressures on current oil prices. The White House, U.S. Congress and environmental wackos, by keeping our oil in the ground, are OPEC’s staunchest ally. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we discovered OPEC reciprocity in the forms of political contributions to congressmen and charitable donations to environmental groups.

In the wake of higher gasoline prices, the only intelligent thing that Obama has called for is an end to $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to oil companies. To get that done, he has an uphill bipartisan fight on his hands. Oil companies buy off both Republicans and Democrats in order to receive government handouts and special treatment.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Original Article

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