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Is the price of oil falling because it is becoming obsolete?

Stashed in: Economics!, Awesome, The World, Transportation!, Energy

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After years of steadily climbing, the price of oil is falling fast, and while no one on the consumer side is complaining, many people are wondering why. One possibility is the fact that oil has been over-produced for years and is actually in the process of becoming obsolete.


Solar energy is on pace to become the dominant form of energy on the planet. Many experts have predicted that this shift will be occurring in the next few years, as solar technology becomes cheaper and more available to the average person. According to a recent estimate released by the International Energy Agency, solar will be the world’s primary source of energy by 2050.

Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance research unit recently published a report on the cost of electricity worldwide, and it shows that clean, renewable energy is becoming mainstream.

What this means is that wind energy is now economically competitive with fossil fuel energy, and solar is soon to follow. As clean energy technology and financing costs continue to drop, coal, oil and natural gas will become increasingly marginalized.

While all of this is taking place, electric cars are finally becoming cheap and common enough to make a serious impact on the market, and that impact will only continue to grow over time.

As these alternatives have begun to reach the market, oil companies and governments have continued to harvest oil, at even higher rates than they have in the past. According to government statistics, US crude oil production has nearly doubled since 2010. In the past decade, new technology and drilling techniques have allowed for oil to be pulled out of the earth in greater quantities than ever before.

This increased oil production, coupled with the growing alternatives in the energy market, has created a situation where the supply of oil is now much greater than the long-term projected demand. Governments across the planet, and all of the major oil companies now have a massive surplus of oil, possibly more oil than humans will ever need considering the proliferation of new technologies and alternative energy sources. If this is the case, then that would mean that oil is becoming obsolete, which means that the demand for it will continue to decrease, and thus the price along with it.

Too Reddit comment:

I have to believe it's about 10% of the issue. Obviously the main causes are China's slowdown (that's about 1.3 billion buying much less) and the glut going on in Iraq, Iran, the US and elsewhere. 

However, long term investors, who recognize that oil might stay relatively cheap for at least 5 years while this gets worked out, will also recognize that as oil starts to come back up at that time, it'll be getting stiff competition from many directions: more nuclear, wind, super solar and home batteries. Within ten years, these tech will keep oil permanently low -- several countries are making big pledges or have already gone completely towards renewables.

This could only have written as an armchair thought piece, as the economics to support it just aren't there. 

Yeah, it's more to stir thinking than to be the definitive future.

I stashed it to remember a moment in time when someone considered the thought. 

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