The stakes are getting higher in the global oil market.
Nearly one year ago, producers were worried about too much crude, but now, the fear is that demand will outstrip supply. That prospect has boosted oil prices to their highest level since 2014.
The International Energy Agency says global demand for oil could grow to nearly 100 million barrels a day this year.
But when it comes to the price of oil in 2018, there a number of things to consider.
One of the biggest issues is the likelihood of the United States pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. President Donald Trump has until May 12 to decide whether to bring back sanctions that were eased in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme. That could keep Iranian exports of around two million barrels a day from flowing.
The impact of the sanctions would not be as large as the previous round of sanctions because the US would be alone ... So you should see a shift of Iranian oil exports going more to the east, and the exports of Iran towards Asia have already started to increase.
Additionally, oil output is falling in Venezuela, which is the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries‘ (OPEC) biggest producer in Latin America. The political and economic turmoil there has cut crude production to around 1.5 million barrels a day.
Less oil from Iran or Venezuela makes it easier to keep production targets between OPEC and non-OPEC in place. This is something Donald Trump isn’t happy about. “Looks like OPEC is at it again,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Oil prices are artificially Very High! No good and will not be accepted!”
Before the tweet, Saudi Arabia said it wants oil prices to be between $80-100 a barrel.
“That would not be of benefit to the US and I think this is the first warning given by the president to OPEC to not allow the prices to run too high”, Olivier Jakob, managing director at Petromatix, a Swiss-based independent research group specialised in the oil markets, told Al Jazeera.
“From the president’s side, he does not really want to return to the time of $100 [a barrel] oil that we had under Obama. The higher oil prices could start to be a concern for the consumer confidence in the US, and with the geopolitical agenda in the Middle East he also doesn’t want oil prices to run too high.”
If the US pulls out of the Iranian nuclear deal, “the impact of the sanctions would not be as large as the previous round of sanctions because the US would be alone,” says Jakob. “So you should see a shift of Iranian oil exports going more to the east, and the exports of Iran towards Asia have already started to increase. So I think Iran is probably going to discount its crude oil in order to keep the customers in Asia that are less sensitive to the potential sanctions from the US.”
Asked about potential sanctions on Venezuela, Jakob says: “Right now, Venezuela is suffering as much as Iran was suffering when it was under sanctions. The US right now is in the best position in the sense that without hard sanctions on Venezuela, the country is already feeling the impact of it … So, to add additional sanctions on top of the current drop of production and exports from Venezuela is not fully necessary because Venezuela by itself is restraining its revenue potential.”
Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:
The Korean peace dividend: A historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea has raised the prospect of a formal peace treaty by the end of this year. And that could mean big investment opportunities on the peninsula, as James Bays reports exclusively from Pyongyang.
Jim McCafferty, head of Nomura’s Asia Research, discusses what a peace dividend would mean for the Korean Peninsula.
Nepal’s disaster recovery: Thousands of survivors of a massive earthquake in Nepal three years ago are still living in makeshift shelters. They say the government has not lived up to its promise to provide them with permanent homes, as Subina Shrestha reports from Kathmandu.
South Sudan copyright laws: Writers and musicians in South Sudan are struggling with the absence of copyright laws in the country. And that’s forced many to produce their material abroad, as Hiba Morgan reports from Juba.
Kids versus robots: The World Economic Forum is predicting that machines will replace a fifth of all human jobs over the next 20 years. Divya Gopalan went to a learning centre in Hong Kong that’s teaching kids to stay ahead of robots.