Special to the AmNews
Low oil and gas prices are wreaking havoc on economies across the globe. Countries with once healthy budgets have been forced to dip into their savings just to keep the lights on and their public workers paid.
Once costing $148 a barrel in 2008—an all-time high—prices have since dropped to below $30 a barrel in part because of increased drilling in North America and Saudi Arabia’s attempts to undercut American production. Now, there is more oil in the world than anyone knows what to do with, and it is the producers who are really feeling the burn.
North America’s hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and shale oil production have made the continent less reliant on foreign oil and gas. Both processes were once deemed too expensive to undertake, but the high prices in the 2000s made it viable. This increased energy supply flooded the world market, initially decreasing prices.
In the past, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil producer, would decrease their own production in an attempt to keep the global price fairly high. Country officials haven’t done that this time. Instead, they’re further flooding the market with even more cheap oil, hoping to tank the price and crash North American production as a result. This tactic has worked somewhat. Last year, more than 30 American oil companies were forced to file for bankruptcy, according to Haynes and Boone Oil Patch Bankruptcy Monitor.
That said, North American production has been surprisingly resilient. This resiliency, along with production from other countries, has led to a standoff, with the oil industry in the middle and the biggest losers being the oil-producing nations themselves.
Their subsequent decreased revenue is causing massive money problems. National budgets have been slashed, and public employees may soon be laid off. Austerity measures are in full swing.
Saudi Arabia, which partially caused this problem, now faces a $98 billion budget deficit—the largest in its history. Angola, the second largest crude oil producer in Africa, has had to cut public spending in half. Trinidad and Tobago, now officially in a recession, has increased taxes and is being forced to use up to a third of its $5.5 billion sovereign fund to balance its books for the coming year.
Venezuela has been marred by political protests since 2014, in part because of inflation caused by low oil prices. Inflation is expected to reach 200 percent this year if the trend continues. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, has been fairing better than most, but speculation is in the air and the International Monetary Fund warned that if the trend continues, the banking system could default.
Russia and Iraq aren’t in a much better situation, while North America seems to be reaping the most benefits. Now a major world player in oil production, it’s seeing some of the lowest gas prices since 2008. Low oil prices are good for some American industries that have seen their production and transportation costs sink. However, the environmental movement is not pleased about the drilling in their backyard.
Some experts expect the price of oil to stabilize later this year, but no one is sure at what price.