Taking Stock of the Oily Plunge
Every major paper has carried a sober to slightly disbelievingly gleeful depiction, kitted out with solemn graphs and charts, of the precipitous plummet of oil prices since June of 2014.
The Wall Street Journal spoke of the concern of OPEC if the price should settle further below $60/barrel. The NYT speaks to the agita experienced in Venezuela, until recently the benefactor of Cuba and other non-friends. Nigeria and especially Russia are hurting, as in the past decades, these have been one-commodity countries.
Unstated in these trenchant analyses by pooh-bahs famed for their sagacity and intense knowledge of the sector are several important ramifications not discussed.
We’re all familiar with the alarums raised by Russia’s invasion and takeover of parts of the Ukraine and the Crimea. Without oil pegged at $100 a barrel, however, Vlad Putin has a hard time coming up with hard currency to pay his expenses, never mind takeovers. Absent a Cadillac cost for their crude, Iran cannot keep alive its pipeline to terror groups from Hezb’allah to Syria, IS, Boko Haram, the Haqqani Network and whatever freelance killer radicals mushroom in the dank space beneath the West’s laxity.
Iran is reputedly losing $1 Billion per month. Though the oil and energy ministers of the UAE bluster and fumfur in public that they can manage down to even $20 a barrel, in point of fact, the emirates are hurting at income that barely covers extraction, carrying costs and processing. Mexico joins the Middle East in its painful contractions. The baby is late in coming, and yet the pain is coming fast and frantic.
Returning to the issue of outcomes, should oil continue its pleasant amble down below feasibility for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the continent, a skinnier revenue profile means that Saudia cannot so magnanimously bankroll all those Wahhabist extremist madrassas and far loon breakaways. While the initial satisfaction experienced by the OPEC nations was to handcuff Russia while maintaining the lion’s share of market, these breakaways cannot independently maintain their nefarious character, backed by oil money that is no longer leveraging them.
This signifies that overall, terrorism will decrease, as the mighty nonworking moiety that clomps around wreaking havoc won’t be earning their dirhams and reals. Some may have to take a well-earned caesura from yelling in public while waving around loaded Kalashnikovs.
Similarly, the urge to protest itself will have to yield to a more reliable source of income.
A strong entrée into the energy sector has been the vast gas and oil reserves of newly uncovered Tamar and Leviathan fields just 70-90 kilometers off Haifa and environs. New court and legal problems may have sidelined these trillion-barrel-plus finds, but when they do finally online, Israel will be a major player, a net exporter of gas and oil, as opposed to perennial importers. This, even in outline, spells assurances for the future upward direction of Israel’s robust GDP. The legalistic delays are not good news, and it may take two years or more to overcome the challenges facing these vast fields. Tamar is likely to come onboard sooner than Leviathan, but like the potential development of the Keystone XL Pipeline, prices can find their market level in justifiable expectation of release. IS might still be a force to reckon with, but lower prices from selling formerly approximately $1 million worth of oil per day purloined from their prior owners Syria and Iraq will sooner than later hurt their rampage around the desert.
More salient, no mention is made in the trumpet tomes -- and tombs from time to time -- of the price slashing being promoted by IS in the mix: They deliberately undercut the prices of the more stable shepherds of the oil oceans to impoverish and stick it to their less belligerent brethren. They still have a mighty bankroll, ripped from the coffers of those they seek to harness and corral under their fierce black standard.
With the decisive plunge downward of the gallon, the American traveler, the massive numbers of cars plying their way daily around the roadways of the country, there is a corresponding surge in utilization of the commodity, such that families drive farther, go on driving vacations, and take to the macadam more easily and longer. It stands to revolutionize a long compressed and suppressed need. Gas pump costs make an enormous dent, of course, in the average family income. Every penny lower per gallon means millions daily in potential travel and fret-free light-on-the-wallet fill-ups.
Finally, the crescendo of radical Islamist violence fueled by fuel in Libya, Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela and across the UAE means a decided subsidence of snappy ad hoc janissaries of those armed to the teeth with weapons, and armed to the kondura with oil-backed sponsorship. Lone wolves, so-called, can still pose a menace. But larger actors and segments of the Arab hate-driven violence will subside and implode. Russia will be forced to pay her people rather than career afield. China will be able to march more men, as purchasing oil from the cheaper sellers will mean impetus toward their own engines of development. If China does better vis a vis purchase, then North Korea will be advanced, as a client state of the ocean of China’s largess.
The engine of employment and full development that boosts supply and adds greatly to the USA’s GDP will become irresistible in terms of maintaining its hegemony in premier energy supplier -- gas or oil -- in the world, a new prospect not dreamt of just 10 years ago, when energy dependence on the Middle East was considered par for the course and unavoidable.
Under this compelling scenario, the Keystone XL Pipeline will become all-but-mandatory, no matter how dilatory and foot-dragging the current occupant of the White House has been to date.
It is spurring the Dow and allied markets to unseen heights, and cheering on those who have been sweating the triple-digit price of oil until very recently.
Recapping, the current status of vast reserves of gas and oil in the hands of the US, and soon, Israel, spells the eventual weakening of IS no matter their efforts at undercutting global prices; the effect on the economies of the West will be salutary; the slashing of Wahhabi budgets, for terror and conversion of Christian and other minorities, will result in fewer massacres and abductions; and the decline of the single-product oil-dependent Mideast. Joining forces with defeated and depleted terrorist actors will be less appealing. The juggernaut of ugly murder and mayhem will be lessened by the squeezing of pocket change.
While this may be to some eyes a too rosy assessment, there is good reason to smile at the coming months, should oil continue its slide downward. Or even if it stays where it is, occasioning deep pain in the incomes of many of our erstwhile "friends" of the derrick.