Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.UK General Election BBC Exit Polls Forecast Accuracy - Nadeem_Walayat
2.UK General Election 2017 Seats Final Forecast, Labour, Conservative Lib-Dem, SNP - Nadeem_Walayat
3.UK General Election 2017 Forecast: Conservative 358, Labour 212 Seats - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Theresa May to Resign, Fatal Error Was to Believe Worthless Opinion Polls! - Nadeem_Walayat
5.UK House Prices Forecast General Election 2017 Conservative Seats Result - Nadeem_Walayat
6.The Stock Market Crash of 2017 That Never Was But Could it Still Come to Pass? - Sol_Palha
7.[TRADE ALERT] Write This Gold Stock Ticker Down Now - WallStreetNation
8.UK General Election Results Map 2017 vs 2015 vs Opinion Polls - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Orphaned Poisoned Waters,Severe Chronic Water Shortage Imminent - Richard_Mills
10.How The Smart Money Is Playing The Lithium Boom - OilPrice_Com
Last 7 days
Gold Back With A Vengeance As Bitcoin Bubble Bursts - 26th Jun 17
Crude Oil Trade & Nasdaq QQQ Update - 26th Jun 17
Gold and Silver Ongoing Consolidation May End Soon - 25th Jun 17
Dollar May Become “Local Currency of the U.S.” Only - 25th Jun 17
Sheffield Great Flood of 2007, 10 Years On - Unique Timeline of What Happened - 24th Jun 17
US Stock Market Correction Could be Underway - 24th Jun 17
Proof That This Economic Recovery Narrative is False - 24th Jun 17
Best Cash ISA for Soaring Inflation, Kent Reliance Illustrates the Great ISA Rip Off - 24th Jun 17
Gold Summer Doldrums - 23rd Jun 17
Hedgers Net Short the Euro, US Market Rotates; 2 Horsemen Set to Ride? - 23rd Jun 17
Nether Edge By Election Result: Labour Win Sheffield City Council Seat by 132 Votes - 23rd Jun 17
Grenfell Fire: 600 of 4000 Tower Blocks Ticking Time Bomb Death Traps! - 22nd Jun 17
Car Sales About To Go Over The Cliff - 22nd Jun 17
LOG 0.786 support in CRUDE OIL and COCOA - 22nd Jun 17
More Stock Market Fluctuations Along New Record Highs - 22nd Jun 17
Understanding true money, Pound Sterling must make another historic low, Euro and Gold outlook! - 22nd Jun 17
Green Party Could Control Sheffield City Council Balance of Power Local Election 2018 - 22nd Jun 17
Ratio Combo Charts : Hidden Clues to the Gold Market Puzzle - 22nd Jun 17
Steem Hard Forks & Now People Are Making Even More Money On Blockchain Steemit - 22nd Jun 17
4 Steps for Comparing Binary Options Providers - 22nd Jun 17
Nether Edge & Sharrow By-Election, Will Labour Lose Safe Council Seat, Sheffield? - 21st Jun 17
Stock Market SPX Making New Lows - 21st Jun 17
Your Future Wealth Depends on what You Decide to Keep and Invest in Now - 21st Jun 17
Either Bitcoin Will Fail OR Bitcoin Is A Government Invention Meant To Enslave... - 21st Jun 17
Strength in Gold and Silver Mining Stocks and Its Implications - 21st Jun 17
Inflation is No Longer in Stealth Mode - 21st Jun 17
CRUDE OIL UPDATE- “0.30 risk is cheap for changing implication!” - 20th Jun 17
Crude Oil Verifies Price Breakdown – Or Is It Something More? - 20th Jun 17
Trump Backs ISIS As He Pushes US Onto Brink of World War III With Russia - 20th Jun 17
Most Popular Auto Trading Tools for trading with Stock Markets - 20th Jun 17
GDXJ Gold Stocks Massacre: The Aftermath - 20th Jun 17
Why Walkers Crisps Pay Packet Promotion is RUBBISH! - 20th Jun 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The MRI 3D Report

Here’s Why We Won’t See An Energy Rally—and How to Profit

Commodities / Energy Resources Feb 09, 2017 - 04:44 PM GMT

By: John_Mauldin

Commodities

BY PATRICK WATSON : Energy stocks jumped after the November election because investors thought new management in Washington would be their ticket to wealth. But what if it’s not?

On the surface, the stars seem lined up for Big Oil & Gas. President Trump promised to reduce the industry’s regulatory burden and open more federal land and offshore areas to drilling.


Furthermore, lower taxes and friendlier regulation will unleash animal spirits, boosting economic growth—and energy demand with it.

Maybe it will work that way, but simple economics tells me it won't be so easy.

The Bullish Case for Energy

So here’s what we know: Energy production is a highly regulated industry, and Trump will make it less so. The president demonstrated this last week when he revived the Keystone and Dakota Access pipeline projects, which had been stalled by his predecessor.

Also, Trump’s key appointees should be a boon for the industry:

  • Scott Pruitt, nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, was the energy industry’s best friend as Oklahoma attorney general.
  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for secretary of energy, once advocated abolishing the very department he will soon lead.
  • Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was the CEO of ExxonMobil (XOM) and negotiated many overseas energy deals. US companies will no doubt gain opportunities under his watch, maybe even in Russia.

Reducing compliance headaches will make life much easier for oil and gas companies. All other things being equal, it should translate into higher profits.

There’s just one problem: All other things aren’t equal.

Supply & Demand & Oil

As the available supply of a good or service increases, its price will normally fall unless demand also increases. When supplies fall, the opposite happens: prices rise unless demand falls, too.

However, the seller’s cost to acquire the goods isn’t part of this equation. It is an indirect factor. Lower costs let sellers supply more, thereby pushing the unit price lower.

This is the oil industry’s present problem. The very same factors that reduce their costs will also lead to higher supply. In the absence of higher demand, lower prices will follow.

Energy intensity is shrinking

So what about that demand growth? Will we use more energy in the coming years?

Yes, says the new BP Energy Outlook, an exhaustive report from the former British Petroleum. BP thinks world energy consumption will grow 1.3% per year from 2015 to 2035.

That’s impressive until you consider that it grew 2.2% a year from 1995 to 2015.

Why? The amount of energy it takes to generate economic growth, or “energy intensity,” is shrinking fast. Today’s vehicles and technology are far more fuel-efficient than those of the past. BP believes world GDP can double in the next 20 years with energy usage growing only 30%.

Worse, the demand growth isn’t happening here. It will be flat or even decline in the OECD countries (the US and other developed markets). Most growth will happen in China, India, the rest of Asia, and Africa. You can see it in the chart below from BP.

Source: BP

The energy mix is changing too. Renewable sources like solar are growing fast in much of the world. Depending on location, in many places solar is now economically on par with fossil fuels, even without government subsidies. And these technologies will only improve.

So if demand for oil, gas, and coal is flat or rising slowly, producing more of these energy sources will keep prices steady at best, and more likely push them lower.

There’s a supply glut

You may have heard that oil reserves have grown steadily since 1980. But in reality, the oil supply is not growing at all. Whatever is down there is what we have. So when you hear that supply is rising, it means we’re finding more… thanks to improved technology.

The chart below ought to terrify energy bulls.

Source: BP

Even if the entire world stopped exploring for oil right now, the amount we’ve already located is more than twice the cumulative projected demand from 2015 to 2050.

So if you own some of those untapped reserves, this tells you to bring your oil to the surface as fast as you possibly can. Then sell it to someone while they still have a use for it. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a stranded asset nobody wants.

That’s what is happening too, despite the oil price falling sharply since 2014.

Debt-financed energy producers keep producing even when the oil price is below their production cost, just to cover their debt service. They literally can’t afford to stop—and that’s capping the oil price in the $50–$60 range.

Meanwhile, new technologies are pushing production costs even lower by automating the dangerous work formerly done by well-paid humans.

  • National Oilwell Varco (NOV), for instance, makes an “Iron Roughneck” that does the tedious, repetitive work of connecting drill pipe segments.
  • In offshore fields, submersible drones are doing much of the repair and maintenance work once done by human divers.
  • Nabors Industries (NBR) says its new automated drill rigs will cut down the number of workers needed at each site from 20 to just five.

Lower production costs mean the supply curve can shift even more, letting producers supply the same quantity at a lower price. If that happens in a declining-demand environment, the price can drop even lower—and almost certainly will.

Similar trends are underway in coal and natural gas. All these energy sources face abundant supply, falling production costs, and lower demand.

In my book, that doesn’t add up to a sustainable bull market.

You can still profit from the energy sector… for now

I am not predicting doom for the energy sector by any means. There is still plenty of opportunity to earn good revenue and even boost it.

But in the aggregate, the extractive energy sector faces serious headwinds, and there’s nothing President Trump and/or Congress can do to change it.

If you’re a nimble trader, you might be able to extract some profits in the next year or two. I’ve recommended natural-gas pipeline plays in both of my publications, the income-focused Yield Shark and its big brother, Macro Growth & Income Alert, a premium alert service for advanced income investing.

Opportunities exist—for now. But in 5–10 years, it'll be a different story.

If Donald Trump gets a second term as president, the energy industry will be dramatically smaller than it was when he started.

Stay a Step Ahead of Economic Disrupters with Connecting the Dots

Don’t let energy stocks drain your portfolio. Keep on the forward edge of Big Oil, Trump’s energy agenda, and more every week in Connecting the Dots. In this free newsletter, Patrick Watson identifies budding macro trends long before mainstream investors catch on, and explains how they’ll affect your life and your portfolio. Click here to subscribe for free.

John Mauldin Archive

© 2005-2017 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife