Opinion

Analysis: Trump and Saudi Collision on Oil, and Bingaman’s Return to Santa Fe


In an earlier column, readers overseas benefited from this writer's forecast that crude oil prices would fall dramatically because most commodity traders got it wrong. Simply, this column's analysis was the buying of oil assumed a shortage would result once the sanctions against Iran would be activated the first week of November.   

President Trump wanted lower oil prices with OPEC and Saudi Arabia pumping more. Two weeks ago, a call from the Middle East confirmed readers of the column had followed the analysis in the Energy Magazine and sold Brent oil — and profited.  

Oil has slumped under $60 as the delusion of a shortage vanished. In the November issue column, this writer made a call: the oil price would reach $50 as a low. There is no change in that forecast. The price in the commodity market for WTI crude would touch in the very high $40 range before the Saudi-led production cut-back is realized. Why? Again, too much capacity to produce too much oil for demand.

Oil demand without commodity traders' bets on the sanctions against Iranian oil production and export contradicts flagging demand. Some Southwest shale producers, faced with discounts on domestic sales, are exporting oil to world markets and capturing the higher Brent price or differential between the WTI priced Midland domestic and the Brent price for the World.    

But this would shift Southwest tight oil into a world market where such supply also chases weaker demand. This switches U.S. oil into world oil as exports and diverts it from going into U.S. storage.

Unlike the last three price sell-offs Saudi Arabia, speaking for OPEC, is strangely silent on calling on non-OPEC producers join it in lowering production or “balancing” the market.   

Quite the opposite. Led by shale producers in the Delaware (New Mexico) Basin in the Permian complex, United State production approaches 12 million barrels per day, a historic high and number one position against the Middle East and Russia.

Only a serious price decline, short of the 2015 bottom, would signal oil non-completions. A cutback of U.S. production by 750,000 barrels per with an OPEC cutback independent of Russian production of around one million barrels will stabilize or balance the world oil market.   

But U.S producers cannot (anti-trust) belong to a collective price-setting organization (cartel).  

President Trump wants lower prices, even if this means a breakup of OPEC into two and a moderate production roll-back by Southwest producers – a negative cash flow for those without or less advantaged by Tier One wells.

The overwhelming Democratic Party electoral win influenced OPEC and Saudi Arabia to resist President Trump's pressure for lower world oil prices because he is much weaker and easier to upend in oil supply and demand world “domination.”

Bingaman is Back!

The Democratic Party indirectly dimmed the “blue flame” price outlook regardless of blue wave voting margins. But enough of “color revolutions” in politics or economics?

This writer is constructively reacting to the return of former Sen. Jeff Bingaman to New Mexico's politics through new state Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham. She asked him to head her transition team. 

With Democratic Party factionalism into Progressive/Ultra-Progressive forces against the traditional Moderate/Conservatives, Sen. Bingaman's experience and history in working with the late Senator Domenici in forging the U.S Energy Act of 2005 is in best interest of New Mexico.

Recall the energy policy of “all of the above” in the Bush and Obama Administrations coupled with the Energy Policy of outgoing Governor Susana Martinez was a compromise of give-and-take between two New Mexico Senators of different parties and energy policy objectives.

Dr. Daniel Fine is the associate director of New Mexico Tech's Center for Energy Policy and the State of New Mexico Natural Gas Export Coordinator. The opinions expressed are his own.



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