The latest cover from The Economist cover says it all: There’s a standoff between US shale and OPEC — and it’s driving the oil market.
Last week, the long-term oil powerhouse OPEC voted not to cut oil production, which caused oil prices to tank even further.
While the sluggish global economy is partially to blame for the dropping oil prices, there’s a bigger story here.
Following the shale revolution, the US is now a competitor in the oil market. US oil production has signifcantly increased over the last few years.
Additionally, the US is on its way to energy independence: Americans are increasingly consuming oil that was produced in the US (meaning they don’t need to import it).
As a result, some believe that OPEC’s recent decision might be viewed as a deliberate strategy to fight off the competition from the US shale oil industry — and to maintain its share of the US market. Prices below $US100/bbl hurt some of the higher cost US shale producers.
Additionally, OPEC’s decision suggests that the group isn’t as dominant of a player in the oil market as it used to be following the surge in US oil production, according to a Goldman Sachs research note.
“For now, my conclusion is that the US oil industry intends to play the Saudis’ game of chicken,” wrote Ed Yardeni on Wednesday.
“The contest between the shalemen and the sheikhs has tipped the world from a shortage of oil to a surplus,” writes The Economist. “Even if the 3m extra b/d that the United States now pumps out is a tiny fraction of the 90m the world consumes, America’s shale is a genuine rival to Saudi Arabia as the world’s marginal producer. “
In other words, it’s US shale versus OPEC. And things aren’t looking like they’re going to calm down any time soon.