The recent drop in the price of oil has had widespread negative consequences for Canada and many other net oil-exporting countries. It has also had dire consequences for the United States. The fracking industry has seen lay-offs, rig closures, and the beginnings of consolidation; the smaller outfits are becoming more and more attractive to large corporate buy-outs as their over-leveraged business models are being slaughtered by dwindling margins. We have been told that lower gas prices are good for the average consumer, but how good can it be if it takes out their entire economy? The petro-dollar scheme, it would appear, is showing signs of stress.
Meanwhile, strategic reserves and storage facilities are filling up fast. It has been estimated that all the extra storage space left in the USA will be full by the end of May. According to the American Petroleum Institute (API) last month saw the biggest build-up of US oil reserves in 34 years (at least.) Most countries that can afford to buy more oil are also adding to their reserves; and who can’t at these prices? Stockpiles are at an all-time high, and not just in the USA; China is also buying a lot of oil while the prices are near record lows. When all the storage capacity is used up, oil will be dumped onto the market driving the price down even further. Yet, the algos aren’t crashing; nobody is putting much pressure on the Saudis to cut production, the markets are not in a panic, and there seems to be a laissez-faire attitude towards the whole debacle. Surely this must be temporary. Maybe things will turn out for the best, but how? We’ll get back to this in a moment.
The Arab spring has brought about many changes in the middle-east. Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen have seen meaningful change since 2011, and they are not alone. There has been a political awakening in some parts of the region, and there are now new actors taking the stage. ISIS has become a force thanks to the backing (either direct or indirect) of the Saudi and American governments; a renewed call for a caliphate has re-awoken a new generation of Arabs who want to assert themselves internationally. There are grass-roots political movements springing up all around the region and even spilling into northern Africa. It seems that change is all around.