Panicking finance ministers. Squabbling OPEC. Slumping stock markets. Cancelled oil projects. Speculators rushing out of energy investments.
Here we sit, inundated with gloomy but indecipherable news on the economy and energy. Perched on the cliff of a slumping global economy, the price of oil slipping down from obscene $100+ levels, the media offers massively contradictory explanations.
Do we have too much oil or too little? Is cheaper oil good or bad for the economy? Will U.S. oil production leave us a major exporter or will North American drilling rigs shut down as oil prices fall? Is Saudi Arabia’s preference for expensive oil prevailing or is it Iran in the driver’s seat seeking exorbitantly costly crude?
The solution—and the only solution—is to break oil’s monopoly. Replacing it as a transportation fuel faster than the global economy grows, with efficient vehicles, electrification, biofuels and road to rail enables rapid growth accompanied by steadily lower oil (and fuel) costs.
We should remember we’ve been here, more scarily, before. The collapse of soaring oil prices signaled the beginning of the 2008 Great Recession. This milder repeat performance is not so confusing if we look at the basics—and remember that what counts about oil is not where it is produced, or exactly how much we need, but its price.
Ten things to remember about the price of oil
1. The price for all 93 mbd (million barrels of oil a day) the world consumes are set by the cost of producing the final, most expensive marginal barrels—currently from tar sands and deep ocean drilling. That price has fallen from $110 to $90 in the last year. It’s still sky-high--triple what it was a decade ago
2. Most global oil costs much, much less than $90 to pump. Half, mostly in Russia and OPEC, cost $40 or less. Another third, conventional oil around the world and shale oil in the U.S., costs $65 or less. Only the final 10 percent requires $75 and up.
3. This gap—high consumer prices for mostly low cost oil—transfers enormous wealth from the U.S., China and Europe to the governments of Russia and OPEC. These “petroleum rents” equal 3 percent of global GDP—$2.2 trillion. They drag down the world economy as much as shutting down Great Britain. (China spends most of its huge trade surplus with the US importing oil. That’s a big reason its growth has slowed.)
4. Oil is a little cheaper because
- U.S. shale oil at $65/bbl (barrel) is reducing the need for $110 tar sands and deep ocean crude. (3.6 mbd)
- U.S. fuel efficiency improvements (less than $40 bbl) replaced another 3.4 mbd of oil.
- Weak economies in Europe reduce demand for oil by a final 0.2 mbd.
5. Oil is still very expensive ($90) because
- Politics and violence keep about 3 mbd of low cost OPEC oil off the market.
- Emerging markets are still using more oil every year. (1.3 mbd)
- Most of the new oil found by Exxon, etc.—in Canada, the Caspian, the Arctic and off-shore—costs more than $90/barrel. High cost crude, even lots of it, doesn’t come to market as cheap gasoline.
6. In 2013 U.S. consumers spent more on gasoline and other petroleum products than ever before—even as U.S. oil production grew substantially. High price trumps lower volume.
7. A global slow down—or worse recession—will temporarily drive oil prices down. That stalls investment in high priced projects in tar sands, Arctic and ultra-deep oceans.
8. But when growth resumes—without equivalent investment in clean transport—crude oil will spike again. Industry will resume investing in expensive new exploration. But once again the growing oil tax on consumers will crush prosperity. Oil prices increase whenever the global economy grows faster than alternatives replace petroleum.
9. Worse, oil companies are not financing the search for new but unaffordable oil fields from their profits—they use those use to pump up their stock. (83 percent in the case of Exxon). Instead, they are borrowing from banks and other investors, putting the entire world economy at risk from an overleveraged oil and gas sector.
10. The core dilemma is that there is a surplus of $100 oil, but consumers cannot afford it. Prosperity requires $60-70 fuel. There is a lot of oil in that price range—but not quite enough to sustain global growth. The world economy is caught in a “volatility trap” between insufficient if affordable conventional oil and abundant but unaffordable extreme crude
The solution—and the only solution—is to break oil’s monopoly. Replacing it as a transportation fuel faster than the global economy grows, with efficient vehicles, electrification, biofuels and road to rail enables rapid growth accompanied by steadily lower oil (and fuel) costs. Our need for expensive crude will fade away. (Remember how much long distance telephone calls cost when Ma Bell had a monopoly. Oil’s transportation monopoly works the same way. We can have cheap transportation—only if oil faces competition).
The terrific news is that substitutes for oil cost less, less than last year’s $110, but also less than the new $90 benchmark. Goldman Sachs estimates that methanol, CNG either fossil or bio-sourced and electric cars are all cheaper than gasoline or diesel powered cars to buy and operate:
So the bottom line is that global energy consumers and their governments face a major choice: they can allow oil to retain its monopoly as a transportation energy source, even though cleaner options like electricity or rail are cheaper. We’ve tried that since oil prices began to rise in 2003, and we know where it leads. Global economic growth drives up oil prices, but provides no alternatives. Importing economies are drained of hundreds of billions of dollars. Eventually oil prices stall economic growth. The cycle begins again.
Or we can do for transportation what we did for telecommunications. Break the monopoly, invest in innovation—and as it happens, start moving beyond the fossil fuel that now looms as the biggest threat to climate security—oil. Cheap fuel will be good for the climate.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
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