Monday, December 01, 2008

Credit Crunch's Impact on the Energy Industries

Oil Drum | I recently looked through news articles to see which energy sectors were being affected by the credit crisis. I was amazed at how widespread and how devastating the impact is.

There are really two closely related problems. One is reduced access to credit, making new borrowing difficult for nearly every business that requires debt. Prices for all commodities have been dropping as well. At least part of the reason for this price decline is the lack of availability of credit—many of the less credit-worth buyers drop out of the market. This leaves fewer buyers and almost the same number of sellers, so the price drops.

In this post, I examine how reduced access to credit and the concomitant decline in commodity prices is affecting energy companies. The impact I am seeing across a wide range of energy companies is a decline in new investment and a stretched-out timeframe for new projects. In addition, many of the weaker companies in the energy supply chain are likely to be forced out of business by the credit crisis.

When energy production is viewed for all companies combined, the below analysis suggests the credit crisis will cause the production of virtually all fuels to be in decline, relative to what they otherwise would have been. I expect production of oil will decline (in absolute terms, not just relative terms) in the years ahead. Since oil production was already on a plateau, this decline is expected to bring about "peak oil". Because of long lead times, uranium production seems likely to fall short of what is needed by nuclear power plants, within the next few years.

The long-term implications of declines in energy production are very serious. Research shows that standards of living are closely tied to energy consumption. With less energy available, standards of living are likely to decline.