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The dip is a reminder to new producers such as those in East Africa to consider ways to harness oil revenues for development that outlasts price swings.
Saudi Arabia Has its Reason for an Oil Price Drop, Others Need a Plan
Glada Lahn is a senior research fellow in energy, environment and resources at the Chatham House
Not all producers will be hurt by a few years of lower prices. Let’s not forget that OPEC’s leading
member, Saudi Arabia, has long believed that if oil prices are too high they undermine long-term demand for the country’s main export.
When prices hovered around $100/barrel, oil importing countries in the global north and the faster growing south, poured money into energy diversification and technologies to reduce emissions.
High prices let countries diversify their energy, but many producers never diversified their economies.
As a result the cost of solar energy manufacturing in China dropped and solar power took off globally.
Strengthening of climate policies around the world should maintain this trend but cheaper gasoline may keep people and companies from switching to highly efficient or electric vehicle technologies.
Meanwhile, the shale revolution has made the United States some 3.5 million barrels per day more oil
self-sufficient than was expected. Despite the lower prices, shale oil companies that want to avoid bankruptcy will choose to keep producing or sell to others that can.
If countries that depend on oil revenue to support their economies have not used last decade’s windfall to diversify toward sustainable and employment-creating sectors – or at least put away for a rainy day –the cracks will soon begin to show. These are already visible in the economies of Russia and Venezuela, with potentially momentous political consequences.
The price drop should adjust public expectations in countries just beginning to develop oil and gas. At below $70/barrel, investors are likely to withdraw from many high-cost, high-risk prospects such as Arctic offshore and oil sands projects as well as those opening up to foreign investment in Myanmar and Mexico. The dip is a reminder to new producers such as those in East Africa to consider ways to harness oil revenues for development that outlasts price swings.