OPEC often touts its 81% share of global “proven” reserves of oil. However, today it seems like OPEC’s peak influence is in the rear-view mirror due to several external factors. To start with the obvious, oil is slowly waning in importance in the global energy mix. According to the EIA, oil made up 34% of total global energy demand in 2010. By the year 2040, the EIA expects this share will be closer to 30%, though things could happen faster if the technology behind renewables and batteries makes a bigger impact than expected.
Next, U.S. domestic production has almost doubled because of the shale and fracking revolution. In 2008, the U.S. produced 5.0 million bpd, and in 2015 the country averaged 9.4 million bpd. Lastly, as you can see on the chart, accelerated development of Canada Oil Sands has enabled the U.S. to buy any imports needed from Canada instead of the Middle East. In 2005, Canada only supplied 16.1% of U.S. oil imports, but Canada is now the major supplier of oil to the U.S. with a massive 43.0% share.
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“The economics of oil have changed. Some businesses will go bust, but the market will be healthier. The official charter of OPEC states that the group’s goal is “the stabilisation of prices in international oil markets”. It has not been doing a very good job. In June the price of a barrel of oil, then almost $115, began to slide; it now stands close to $70.
This near-40% plunge is thanks partly to the sluggish world economy, which is consuming less oil than markets had anticipated, and partly to OPEC itself, which has produced more than markets expected. But the main culprits are the oilmen of North Dakota and Texas. Over the past four years, as the price hovered around $110 a barrel, they have set about extracting oil from shale formations previously considered unviable. Their manic drilling—they have completed perhaps 20,000 new wells since 2010, more than ten times Saudi Arabia’s tally—has boosted America’s oil production by a third, to nearly 9m barrels a day (b/d). That is just 1m b/d short of Saudi Arabia’s output. The contest between the shalemen and the sheikhs has tipped the world from a shortage of oil to a surplus.
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