We’re in an Energy Crisis According to the IEA

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Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson (Flickr)

How Deep and How Long Will the Global Energy Crisis Last?

Are we in a global energy crisis? The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Dr. Fatih Birol, is sure of it. He referred to the global situation as a crisis on Tuesday (Oct. 25), speaking first at a conference, and later in an interview on CNBC. He explained that tighter markets for liquefied natural gas (LNG) worldwide and major oil producers cutting supply, have put the world in the middle of “the first truly global energy crisis.”

Our world has never witnessed an energy crisis with this depth and complexity,” according to the IEA head. He explained that until February 24, 2022, Russia was the number one fossil fuel exporter in the world. What has occurred since has been a major turn in oil and natural gas markets. Birol expects the volatility in oil and gas markets will continue throughout the world. When asked on CNBC Internaational if he thought it would be a prolonged war, he made clear that this is not his area of expertise; however, he believes there won’t be a “smooth transition into the next chapter for both oil and natural gas of the energy event.”

U.S. vs OPEC+

As it relates to the U.S. and OPEC being at odds, with OPEC managing toward supply-demand issues, and the U.S. being challenged by inflation, Birol says the two billion barrels cut by the oil-exporting nations is unprecedented. He believes it goes against their ambition to maximize profits as it works against economic growth in a world that is flirting with recession. He also pointed out it isn’t the U.S. that will experience hardship, rather, the emerging and developing countries will be hit hardest.

Image: Fatih Birol, IAEA Imagebank (November 2021)

On the same day, speaking at the Singapore International Energy Week, he shared that higher oil prices would push inflation higher and growth and production to shrink.

IEA projections show global oil consumption growing by 1.7 million barrels a day in 2023. Russian crude will be needed to bridge the gap between demand and supply, Birol said.

Russian Connection

The reduced Russian supply is a result of U.S. and the European Union’s decisions to place partial bans on Russian oil imports after Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country. The current proposed plan as the region heads into the heating season is to institute price caps on Russian resources. That would limit Moscow’s potential profits from oil exports while still allowing modest deliveries. Estimates are that these measures would leave space for between 80% and 90% of Russian oil to flow outside of the price cap. Birol expects this would help to make up for expected shortfalls. “I think this is good, because the world still needs Russian oil to flow into the market for now,” he said.

Oil Reserves

IEA members have built a stockpile of oil reserves that can be released if there’s a need to boost supply or temper prices, according to Birol. “We still have a huge amount of stocks to be released in case we see supply disruptions,” he said. “Currently, it is not on the agenda, but it can come anytime.”

The IEA head says that Europe will get through the winter if the weather remains mild, though somewhat battered. Birol said. “Unless we will have an extremely cold and long winter, unless there will be any surprises in terms of what we have seen, for example, Nord Stream pipeline explosion, Europe should go through this winter with some economic and social bruises.”

Take Away

The Executive Director of the IEA was in Singapore, speaking at a conference and giving media interviews. He did not sugarcoat his expectations. He expects oil and natural gas prices to remain volatile, and believes the emerging markets will be hurt most by OPECs cutting output. As for the upcoming winter, Birol says we are experiencing the worst global energy crisis in history, and it won’t resolve itself soon.

Paul Hoffman

Managing Editor, Channelchek



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