Price Wars

By: John A. Lanier

I think this is a great time for our country to shift its economic priorities. Rather than try to lead the world in producing oil, what if we instead focused on leading the world in renewable energy?

With COVID-19 still (rightfully) dominating all news cycles, I’m planning to keep this blog focused on the global health and economic crisis for some time. There are multiple linkages between this crisis and environmental issues though, so that will by my angle. Up first is an exploration of what’s been happening in oil markets recently.

To begin, here’s a retrospective. For the past three-and-a-half years, Saudi Arabia and Russia have been cooperating on oil production. Both have abundant and easy-to-extract oil reserves (Saudi Arabia more so than Russia), allowing them to be two of the top three oil producers in the world. Rather than compete on low-cost oil, the countries have been agreeing to restrict supply, thereby keeping global oil prices higher (in economics terms, a lower supply of oil exerts an upward pressure on the price of oil). The end result is both countries get to sell low-cost oil at higher prices, generating massive profits.

All along, another country was benefiting from those higher global oil prices while outpacing Saudi Arabia and Russia in oil production – the United States. The difference in the U.S. oil production industry is that the oil isn’t so easy to extract here. American production is coming from shale oil, which is abundant in America but much more expensive to extract. Still, with oil prices high, American oil exports have been quite profitable.

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