Monday, 5 March 2012

Rising oil prices during a recession?

So somebody at the Telegraph has noticed that oil prices aren't doing what they should... Of course, back in 2008 it was all playing out as normal - prices reached a peak, most economies in the world went into recession, and the price plummeted back down again.

But look what's happened since 2002:

  • 2002 - Jul 2006: run up from $20 to $76 
  • Jan 2007: dropped to around $52 
  • Jul 2008: up to $147 
  • Dec 2008: drop to around $35 
  • Apr 2010: up to $85 
  • May 2010: drop to $65 
  • Dec 2010: Brent and WTI start to diverge (around $85 at the time) 
  • Apr 2011: Brent at $125, WTI at $110 
  • Oct 2011: Brent at $105, WTI at $77 
  • Feb 2012: Brent at $126, WTI at $108 
So right now many countries are back in recession, or close to it, but the price keeps heading upwards.  Also, from the UK point of view, note that $125 today is about £79.60, while $147 in July2008 was about £73.50 - so in £ sterling, the oil price is at a new high now.

Check out the average prices as well:

Year WTI ($) Brent ($)
2007 average 72.34 72.44
2008 average 99.67 96.94
2009 average 61.95 61.74
2010 average 79.48 79.61
2011 average 94.87 111.26
2012 average 101.09 114.82

So what the guy in the Telegraph has realised is:

The unpleasant fact we must all face is that the relentless supply crunch - call it `Peak Oil’ if you want, or `Plateau Oil’ - was briefly disguised during the Great Recession and is already back with a vengeance before the West has fully recovered.
So we have a remarkable situation. China alone will be adding 125m cars to its roads over the next five years, with auto production targets of 30m annually by 2016. India is spending $1 trillion on infrastructure projects over the next five years.
The West has the disquieting experience of watching crude soar even as we languish in stagnation. This never used to happen. If we faltered, energy costs would fall too, acting as a stabilizer. This harsh new reality is going to become uncomfortable when the emerging world enters a new cycle of growth, leaving us behind. Rising utility costs have already raised the numbers of UK households in poverty from a fifth to a quarter.

We should not be defeatist. Engineers and scientists are forever at work. A quantum-leap is possible in solar technology. The Chinese may crack cheap and safe nuclear power from thorium, abdicated by the British. But we should not be complacent either. Windmills anybody?
Read the full story here.

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