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Energy Markets: The Tortoise and The Hare - Barış Sanlı


If demand is a hare, supply is a tortoise. Of course, energy market narratives cannot be compared to Aesop's stories, but sometimes analogies may help summarize the situation. This time, it is no different. The speed of demand and supply in the energy sector is quite different, and the race between the two looks still inconclusive. But I bet on the tortoise. In 2008, April Brent price was 109$/barrel, in May, it was 122$/barrel, and in June, it was 132$/barrel. Then in July 2008, it hit 147$/barrel. This was the highest we have seen in nominal terms. In the December of the same year, oil prices have seen 39$/barrel on average. The whole narrative was about China's growth despite the start of a financial crisis. Will this year be a replica of 2008? I do fear that. However, there are also long-term trends we must be careful about. First of all, a looming electricity crisis may be expected in developing countries. US, France, and other major markets may also face electricity problems. Last year it was drought; this year, it is a mixture of problems such as supply chain issues, nuclear discussions, sanctions, you name it, there is a headline for each of them. Furthermore, Indian power problems are quite interesting. Everyone was aware of the problem that distribution companies cannot pay in full to generation companies. Indian power system highly subsidizes farmers and individuals against industrial consumers. There is a 5-fold difference between the prices. The critical problem this time is logistics. The coal stocks at the coal plants are the lowest on record. Rail freight is not catching up with the demand, and the heatwave is certainly possible. Yet, railroad issues are the only parameter you can control. It is amazing that in dreaming of non-fossil fuel world, we end up with so many problems. If it is not mining or supply, it is logistics. If it is not logistics, it is price. So, the wheel of fortune/problems keeps rotating. OPEC+ cannot stick to its promise of increased oil production. Maybe the vantage point should be different. In climate change, the supply side is fully aware of the problem, and the demand side is completely ignoring the issue in action. In terms of tweets and narratives, demand transfers the blame to supply and carries on with an enhanced status quo. More air travel, more A/C units, more meat consumption… Despite high oil prices, oil demand in developing countries is not cooling down. Supply, however, is like a tortoise. I am neither an ethologist nor an animal psychologist, but the tortoise thinks a lot, moves slowly and can freak out easily. On the other hand, Hare may stop and run suddenly and can also freak out easily but does not disappear. It merely changes the direction. If a tortoise is a philosopher, a hare is the master of earth that doesn't like too much thinking. This is not a race between the two. Yet supply is coming too slowly, and demand is unaware of the problems in detail and keeps running. This reminds us of the tale of Aesop. Shifting the blame is not a solution; it hits you back. It is hitting back now. The supply problems will start to hit demand until it slows down. The hare can run as fast as it can, but the tortoise is destined to be ahead of the hare.

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