Falling oil prices and a surge in green energy policies have breathed new life into an old idea: to nationalize the fossil fuel industry. The problem is, nationalizing oil and gas would be a radical step, and alone it would not be enough to deliver a comprehensive energy transition that can meet climate goals as well as the social objectives of the Green New Deal. While calls have been made to nationalize oil and gas development in the U.S., the inefficiency of government oversight cannot do a better job than private enterprise at developing and managing these natural resources.
The price spread between the world’s most traded crude oil blends and the most actively traded commodities in the world generally track one another, but divergences often reflect technical, supply/demand, or geopolitical issues. Over the course of history, the spread between Brent crude and WTI blends has grown, shrunk, crossed paths, and reversed again countless times. As a result of reduced U.S. pipeline constraints, ongoing OPEC+ production cuts, and China purchasing record amounts of WTI crude oil, the spread between Brent and WTI crude oil prices has begun to shrink close to zero. The future may hold a reversal giving WTI prices the upper hand.
Crude oil prices are ridiculously cheap when compared to the cost of other commodities and equities. For the industry to survive and provide the world with its most important commodity, the price of crude oil must increase dramatically in the near future to break out of the lower tercile historical range it has been caught in since the start of 2020. Another two years of “lower for longer” can only exist if other asset bases devalue themselves to close the gap between crude. A more likely scenario is the positive feedback loop of reduced investment and tightening supply will cause a violent movement upwards for the intrinsic value of oil.
When the coronavirus pandemic destroyed global crude oil demand, supply was slow to respond until dramatic actions were taken. Now, with demand picking up at a rapid rate, supply is again being outpaced by its counterpart drawing down crude oil inventories around the world. While global forecasting agencies and oil companies alike predict slow demand growth to pre-pandemic levels, the supply picture will continue to lag behind well into the foreseeable future.