Paul Gilding, whose work I generally admire, has published a new item on his blog after quite some time off. “It’s time to make the call – fossil fuels are finished. The rest is detail.” Sounds good, until you read the ‘detail’. Paul is still convinced that it’s renewable energy that will sink the fossil fuel industry. He writes…..:
The detail is interesting and important, as I expand on below. But unless we recognise the central proposition: that the fossil fuel age is coming to an end, and within 15 to 30 years – not 50 to 100 – we risk making serious and damaging mistakes in climate and economic policy, in investment strategy and in geopolitics and defence.
Except the fossil fuel age may be coming to an end within five years.. not 15 to 30.
The new emerging energy system of renewables and storage is a “technology” business, more akin to information and communications technology, where prices keep falling, quality keeps rising, change is rapid and market disruption is normal and constant. There is a familiar process that unfolds in markets with technology driven disruptions. I expand on that here in a 2012 piece I wrote in a contribution to Jorgen Randers book “2052 – A Global Forecast” (arguing the inevitability of the point we have now arrived at).
This shift to a “technology” has many implications for energy but the most profound one is very simple. As a technology, more demand for renewables means lower prices and higher quality constantly evolving for a long time to come. The resources they compete with – coal, oil and gas – follow a different pattern. If demand kept increasing, prices would go up because the newer reserves cost more to develop, such as deep sea oil. They may get cheaper through market shifts, as they have recently, but they can’t keep getting cheaper and they can never get any better.
In that context, consider this. Renewables are today on the verge of being price competitive with fossil fuels – and already are in many situations. So in 10 years, maybe just 5, it is a no-brainer that renewables will be significantly cheaper than fossil fuels in most places and will then just keep getting cheaper. And better.
With which economy Paul….? Come the next oil crisis, the economy will simply grind to a halt. Paul is also keen on electric cars….
Within a decade, electric cars will be more reliable, cheaper to own and more fun to drive than oil driven cars. Then it will just be a matter of turning over the fleet. Oil companies will then have their Kodak moment. Coal will already be largely gone, replaced by renewables.
When the economy crashes, no one will have any money to buy electric cars. It’s that simple….. Peak Debt is only just starting to make its presence felt…:
The carnage continues in the U.S. major oil industry as they sink further and further in the RED. The top three U.S. oil companies, whose profits were once the envy of the energy sector, are now forced to borrow money to pay dividends or capital expenditures. The financial situation at ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips has become so dreadful, their total long-term debt surged 25% in just the past year.
Unfortunately, the majority of financial analysts at CNBC, Bloomberg or Fox Business have no clue just how bad the situation will become for the United States as its energy sector continues to disintegrate. While the Federal Government could step in and bail out BIG OIL with printed money, they cannot print barrels of oil.
Watch closely as the Thermodynamic Oil Collapse will start to pick up speed over the next five years.
According to the most recently released financial reports, the top three U.S. oil companies combined net income was the worst ever. The results can be seen in the chart below:
Can the news on the collapse of the oil industry worsen…..? You bet……
According to James Burgess,
A total of 351,410 jobs have been slashed by oil and gas production companies worldwide, with the oilfield services sector bearing much of this burden, according to a new report released this week.
The report, based on statistical analysis by Houston-based Graves & Co., puts the number of jobs lost in the oilfield services sector at 152,015 now—or 43.2 percent of the global total since oil prices began to slump in mid-2014.
And then there are the bankruptcies……
A report published earlier this month by Haynes and Boone found that ninety gas and oil producers in the United States (US) and Canada have filed for bankruptcy from 3 January, 2015 to 1 August, 2016.
Approximately US$66.5 billion in aggregate debt has been declared in dozens of bankruptcy cases including Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 15, based on the analysis from the international corporate law firm.
Texas leads the number of bankruptcy filings with 44 during the time period measured by Haynes and Boone, and also has the largest number of debt declared in courts with around US$29.5 billion.
Then we have Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut production to manipulate the price of oil upwards. So far, it appears to have reached a ceiling of $58 a barrel, a 16 to 36 percent increase over the plateau it had been on for months last year. But this has also come at a cost.
The world hasn’t really caught on yet, but OPEC is in serious trouble. Last year, OPEC’s net oil export revenues collapsed. How bad? Well, how about 65% since the oil price peaked in 2012. To offset falling oil prices and revenues, OPEC nations have resorted to liquidating some of their foreign exchange reserves.
The largest OPEC oil producer and exporter, Saudi Arabia, has seen its Foreign Currency reserves plummet over the past two years… and the liquidation continues. For example, Saudi Arabia’s foreign exchange reserves declined another $2 billion in December 2016 (source: Trading Economics).
Now, why would Saudi Arabia need to liquidate another $2 billion of its foreign exchange reserves after the price of a barrel of Brent crude jumped to $53.3 in December, up from $44.7 in November?? That was a 13% surge in the price of Brent crude in one month. Which means, even at $53 a barrel, Saudi Arabia is still hemorrhaging.
Before I get into how bad things are becoming in Saudi Arabia, let’s take a look at the collapse of OPEC net oil export revenues:
The mighty OPEC oil producers enjoyed a healthy $951 billion in net oil export revenues in 2012. However, this continued to decline along with the rapidly falling oil price and reached a low of $334 billion in 2016. As I mentioned before, this was a 65% collapse in OPEC oil revenues in just four years.
Last time OPEC’s net oil export revenues were this low was in 2004. Then, OPEC oil revenues were $370 billion at an average Brent crude price of $38.3. Compare that to $334 billion in oil revenues in 2016 at an average Brent crude price of $43.5 a barrel…….
This huge decline in OPEC oil revenues gutted these countries foreign exchange reserves. Which means, the falling EROI- Energy Returned On Investment is taking a toll on the OPEC oil exporting countries bottom line. A perfect example of this is taking place in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia was building its foreign exchange reserves for years until the price of oil collapsed, starting in 2014. At its peak, Saudi Arabia held $797 billion in foreign currency reserves:
(note: figures shown in SAR- Saudi Arabia Riyal currency)
In just two and a half years, Saudi Arabia’s currency reserves have declined a staggering 27%, or roughly $258 billion (U.S. Dollars) to $538 billion currently. Even more surprising, Saudi Arabia’s foreign currency reserves continue to collapse as the oil price rose towards the end of 2016:
The BLUE BARS represent Saudi Arabia’s foreign exchange reserves and the prices on the top show the average monthly Brent crude price. In January 2016, Brent crude oil was $30.7 a barrel. However, as the oil price continued to increase (yes, some months it declined a bit), Saudi’s currency reserves continued to fall.
This problem is getting bad enough that for the first time ever, the Saudi government has, shock horror, started taxing its people….
Tax-free living will soon be a thing of the past for Saudis after its cabinet on Monday approved an IMF-backed value-added tax to be imposed across the Gulf following an oil slump.
A 5% levy will apply to certain goods following an agreement with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council in June last year.
Residents of the energy-rich region had long enjoyed a tax-free and heavily subsidised existence but the collapse in crude prices since 2014 sparked cutbacks and a search for new revenue.
How long before Saudi Arabia becomes the next Syria is anyone’s guess, but I do not see any economic scenario conducive to Paul Gilding’s “Great Disruption”. The great disruption will not be the energy take over by renewables, it will be the end of freely available energy slaves supplied by fossil fuels. I believe Paul has moved to Tasmania, in fact not very far from here….. I hope he’s started digging his garden.