Saturday, 16 July 2011

Continuing Fukushima impact on oil and gas prices

Back in April I wrote about the effect of the nuclear disaster in Japan on gas prices globally and in the UK. Well, the situation continues to develop... Not only are the reactors at Fukushima still not in cold shutdown, but other reactors are being shut down for problems which previously might have been ignored, due to the public reaction to the situation. On top of this, there is a strong possibility that Japan may try to become nuclear-free.

A recent Reuters article gives some more info, suggesting that if all nuclear plants are shut down in Japan their crude oil imports may almost triple as crude oil and fuel oil are burned to generate electricity. Of course, this would mean high CO2 emissions, so in practice they will be burning a lot more gas so that oil doesn't increase by so much. LNG imports are already up 30% on a year ago, and the article predicts that ultimately we could see global prices go up by almost 50% from where they are now.

What this really comes down to is that globally we are now close to a zero-sum game for energy. If one source (Japanese nuclear plants) disappears, and is replaced by oil and gas from the global market, then someone else has to do without that energy. We don't have physical rationing, so instead we will get rationing by price - the cost of fuel will rise until some consumers can no longer afford it, whether that's entire countries or individual households.


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