Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oil at the Tipping Point

An interesting confluence of events:
  • Boone Pickens predicts $150/bbl oil sometime this year.

  • Arjun Murti predicts a spike to $200/bbl oil, with prices remaining above $100/bbl through 2011.

  • And, last but not least, we have oil futures moving uniformly into contango, i.e. the price of futures further and further out gets higher rather than lower.
There's probably a bit of a bubble building here, but it seems pretty clear that everybody's realized that supply is going to be no better than flat and demand will continue to explode as top tier of the developing nations, well, develops.

This is going to be very painful but I'm pretty sure that the speed with which we hit the knee in the curve for alternative energy deployments is directly proportional to the level of pain. So far, it doesn't look like the pain is great enough to crash the economy, although that's certainly possible.

I'm not sure whether an economic crash is better or worse than slowing the growth of green energy. Of course, an economic crash will cause demand to crater, which will drop the price of oil and retard green energy growth anyway. Seems like the optimum solution is to cause pain just below the crash threshold. But of course nobody can manage that process.

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