Even as oil recorded its worst week in a month, some pundits are raising the alarm about $200/barrel oil in the near future, once the global recession eases.
The reasons are several -- production cuts, lack of investment, and expected demand growth as the economy recovers.
It means Texas electric customers should take advantage of today's low energy prices now, by locking in a low, fixed rate for electricity. Customers who use the power of competition to find the lowest rate, can not only a cheap electric rate, but also of receive energy from a reputable, financially sound supplier with a history of healthy operations in the market.
As for oil, some analysts say it could eventually top $150 or $200 a barrel. At those prices, customers at the pump will be paying well in excess of the record $4.11/gallon national average set last summer. Oil is trading just above $40/barrel today.
Pundits point to slowing capital spending by oil producers as one likely culprit that will move prices higher. Lower prices and the credit crisis have compelled explorers and producers to pull back on planned operations. Royal Dutch Shell has already shelved a near-doubling of production in Canada's oil sands, because today's lower prices do not support the investment. Marathon Oil intends to slash capital spending by 15% this year.
Smaller oil producers could reduce investment 30%, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit predicted. Smaller producers account for the bulk of the nation's oil and natural gas production, but such smaller and independent companies have been hit hard by the credit crunch. The frozen credit markets have forced them to postpone or cancel planned investments due to a lack of available financing.
Sean Brodrick, a natural resources analyst at Weiss Research Inc, said canceled or postponed oil and gas projects could cut global oil output by 7% or more in 2009.
While domestic producers face frozen credit markets and large conglomerates slash spending, the OPEC cartel is about to start its biggest single production cut in history. OPEC controls approximately 40% of world crude supplies. Meanwhile, the nationalization of the oil industry from Saudi Arabia to Venezuela has shuttered large swaths of proven reserves to Western companies like Exxon and ConocoPhillips.
Pundits say all these woes will mean higher prices at the pump, and another round of price shocks for consumers.
"Demand will start growing, supply will start coming down, and you'll have that intersect again where prices will take off dramatically," warned Bruce Vincent, president of Houston-based Swift Energy Co., an independent producer.
The futures market is already taking note. While a barrel of light, sweet crude for February delivery costs about $50, the market for September oil is already over $60, the AP reports.
That means electricity prices could soon follow oil's rise, and that Texas customers should not pass on today's low prices.