Why $100 bbl oil is probably here to stay

Rick Moran
Brad Plumer writing at WaPo's Wonkblog has the bad news; the Saudis need the price of oil to remain where it is because of all the social spending they are doing to avoid the fate of other nations caught up in the Arab Spring:

Over the past few years, the Saudi government has taken advantage of sky-high crude prices to spend lavishly on public works and social programs to stave off the unrest that's capsizing parts of the Middle East. As a result, the country now needs prices of at least $80 per barrel to balance its budgets, up from $60 per barrel in 2008 and way, way up from $20 per barrel a decade ago. It's a big shift in attitude: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil producers used to be wary of overly high prices - because, if oil got too costly, then countries such as the United States might start rooting around for alternatives.

It's not just the Saudis, either. A 2011 report from the International Monetary Fund found that the "break-even" point for the world's major oil producers has been rising at a shocking rate. Russia now needs crude prices at roughly $110 per barrel to shore up its finances. Iraq, Bahrain, Algeria, Iran and the United Arab Emirates all need prices between $80 and $100 per barrel. The lone exceptions, Qatar and Kuwait, can skate by with moderately lower prices, but even those countries have seen their break-even points creep upward in recent years.

So although it's always risky to guess where oil prices are heading, countries such as Saudi Arabia have ample reason to target $100 per barrel, even though the global economy's still weak and demand is slackening.

Meanwhile, President Obama's own commission on jobs and the economy is recommending to "drill baby, drill," among other things - including reducing onerous regulations and reforming the corporate tax structure.

Gee - if I didn't know any better, I would have thought that commission was made up of Republicans, or something.


Brad Plumer writing at WaPo's Wonkblog has the bad news; the Saudis need the price of oil to remain where it is because of all the social spending they are doing to avoid the fate of other nations caught up in the Arab Spring:

Over the past few years, the Saudi government has taken advantage of sky-high crude prices to spend lavishly on public works and social programs to stave off the unrest that's capsizing parts of the Middle East. As a result, the country now needs prices of at least $80 per barrel to balance its budgets, up from $60 per barrel in 2008 and way, way up from $20 per barrel a decade ago. It's a big shift in attitude: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil producers used to be wary of overly high prices - because, if oil got too costly, then countries such as the United States might start rooting around for alternatives.

It's not just the Saudis, either. A 2011 report from the International Monetary Fund found that the "break-even" point for the world's major oil producers has been rising at a shocking rate. Russia now needs crude prices at roughly $110 per barrel to shore up its finances. Iraq, Bahrain, Algeria, Iran and the United Arab Emirates all need prices between $80 and $100 per barrel. The lone exceptions, Qatar and Kuwait, can skate by with moderately lower prices, but even those countries have seen their break-even points creep upward in recent years.

So although it's always risky to guess where oil prices are heading, countries such as Saudi Arabia have ample reason to target $100 per barrel, even though the global economy's still weak and demand is slackening.

Meanwhile, President Obama's own commission on jobs and the economy is recommending to "drill baby, drill," among other things - including reducing onerous regulations and reforming the corporate tax structure.

Gee - if I didn't know any better, I would have thought that commission was made up of Republicans, or something.