Another voice suggesting a sharp bounceback: Christof Ruehl, BP’s chief economist, at the International Petroleum Week conference today in London said oil demand was deferred and not, in economic parlance, ‘destroyed’ – or permanently abated.
Ruehl compared the fall in oil demand over the past couple of years to the last period of decline in the early 1980s, and concluded that the forces at play have been very different. Back then, there were structural changes, in particular the shift from oil-fired electricity generation to nuclear power, and higher fuel economy standards for cars.
Today, he said, we are seeing changes in behaviour: people are driving less and flying less, but so far the underlying structures are unchanged.
That suggests that when the world economy recovers – not this year, that is for sure – oil demand could bounce back sharply.
Meanwhile, on the supply side, non-Opec oil production is falling and likely to keep heading on down, with Russia’s output looking particularly dismal. And while oil majors are maintaining their investments - this year, at least – we heard last week that 35 of 150 new Opec drilling projects were being delayed.
It is all setting us up for a painful supply crunch some time in the next decade.
Better get make sure those new fuel economy standards are enforced, and gee up those nuclear programmes and biofuels.