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Seeing the barrell half full, OPEC rolls out oil forecast



World oil demand will plateau in the late 2030s and could by then have begun to decline, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said on Thursday.

While the forecast marks a major shift for the cartel and reflects the lasting effect of the coronavirus crisis on the economy and consumer habits, it is still much rosier than peak oil forecasts by some major oil companies.

BP released a report last month that said demand for oil may have peaked last year, noting the market for crude may never recover from the blow delivered by the coronavirus.

As recently as July, Royal Dutch Shell said it sees oil demand peaking in the early 2030s.

In its 2020 World Oil Outlook, OPEC sees oil use rising to 107.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2030 from 90.7 million bpd in 2020.

That is 1.1 million bpd below its 2030 forecast last year and more than 10 million bpd below its 2007 prediction of 2030 demand.

“Global oil demand will grow at relatively healthy rates during the first part of the forecast period before demand plateaux during the second half,” said the report, which looks at the 2019-2045 timespan.

“Future demand will likely remain persistently below past projections due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19-related shutdowns and their effect on the global economy and consumer behaviour.”

While oil use to fuel cars, trucks and industry will rebound as economies bounce back, OPEC remains concerned that future growth may be partly offset by factors like a post-pandemic shift to working from home and teleconferencing over commuting, as well as efficiency improvements and a shift to electric cars.

“Proposed green hydrogen projects are surging across the globe as governments seize opportunities afforded by post-pandemic green stimulus packages,” Rystad Energy wrote in a note on Thursday.

Even before the pandemic, rising climate activism in the West and widening use of alternative fuels were putting the strength of long-term oil demand under more scrutiny.

Rystad said as governments establish COVID-19 recovery strategies, green hydrogen will be increasingly included as a key driver, especially in Europe.

Japan and Korea are also considering importing hydrogen and developing international supply chains, especially in transportation. And in the United States, the Biden campaign has made clean energy central to its mandate.

OPEC remains concerned the pandemic could hit demand permanently, which current and former officials say could pressure oil prices and challenge efforts to balance the market.

This year OPEC, with Russia and other allies, a grouping known as OPEC+, agreed to record output cuts of 9.7 million bpd, the equivalent of 10 percent of global supply.

OPEC still sees oil demand rising in the next few years, unlike some others.

The cartel is forecasting oil use will jump to 97.7 million bpd next year, reaching 99.8 million bpd in 2022 – above the 2019 level – and grow to 102.6 million bpd by 2024, OPEC predicts.

OPEC forecast it will pump more in 2021 than this year’s expected 30.7 million bpd, but rising supply from the US and other outside producers means OPEC output in 2025 will likely be 33.2 million bpd, below 2019’s level, it said.

Longer term, its reference case is for oil demand to reach 109.3 million bpd in 2040 and decline slightly to 109.1 million bpd by 2045.

OPEC said the pandemic had accelerated a trend for lower oil use in industrialised Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and non-OECD growth.

Electric cars are gaining share and there is “a constant improvement in battery economics”, OPEC said. They will account for more than 27 percent of new cars globally by 2045.

Nonetheless, OPEC still hopes to boost production in the coming decades as rival output declines.

“Oil will continue to account for the largest share of the energy mix by 2045,” OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo wrote in the foreword to the report.


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The GOP Just Broke the Rules to Advance Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court Nomination



This is a developing story. Please refresh for updates.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee tossed out committee rules Thursday morning and voted to advance Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate without any Democratic minority members present.

The 12-0 committee vote frees the full Senate to vote on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Barrett on Monday. With a 53-47 majority, there’s little to stop Senate Republicans from confirming a ninth Supreme Court justice just a few days before the November 3 election.

If confirmed, Barrett would cement the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, likely for years to come. She would replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazing feminist lawyer who died in mid-September after several bouts with cancer.

Under Senate Judiciary Committee rules, at least two members of the minority must be present for the committee to conduct business. But South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee chair, has broad latitude to control the committee’s conduct.

“As a matter of committee rules, in practical terms, the chairman can kind of get around things, change the rules,” Rich Arenberg, who wrote the book “Congressional Procedure,” a guide to congressional legislative processes, told VICE News earlier this month. “In my view, Graham will be able to get the nomination reported to the floor.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat of New York, said in a statement ahead of the committee vote that Democrats intended to boycott the proceeding.

“Republicans have moved at breakneck speed to jam through this nominee, ignoring her troubling record and unprecedented evasions, and breaking longstanding committee rules to set tomorrow’s vote,” he said in a statement, as reported by the New York Times. “We will not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating in a committee markup of this nomination just 12 days before the culmination of an election that is already underway.”

During Barrett’s confirmation hearing last week, Democrats attacked the process as a rushed sham and a hypocritical turn from Republicans, many of whom agreed to block President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 on the grounds that a new Supreme Court justice should not be confirmed in an election year.

They also sought to extract more information from Barrett, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, about her views on issues like abortion, LGBTQ rights, and the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act on November 10, and Democrats fear that Justice Barrett would help gut the law. (Rather than showing up to the committee vote, the Democrats placed posters of people who, they said, could lose their healthcare if Barrett were confirmed, the Times reported.)


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Area burned in Indonesia fires ‘greater than the Netherlands’



Greenpeace slams Indonesia for lack of action against the palm oil sector as vast areas of forests burned in five years.

Tropical forest and peatland areas bigger than the Netherlands have burned in Indonesia in the past five years, Greenpeace has said, lambasting President Joko Widodo’s government for allowing the pulpwood and palm oil sector to act with impunity despite bearing “considerable responsibility” for the fire crisis.

In a new report on Thursday, the prominent environmental group said some 4.4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of land have burned in Indonesia between 2015 and 2019.

About a third of those areas were located in palm oil and pulpwood concessions, it said, citing an analysis of official maps.

However, despite government promises to punish companies found to be deliberately burning concessions – particularly in the aftermath of the 2015 crisis that caused trans-boundary haze, affecting tens of millions of people across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – “palm oil and pulp firms continue to operate with few or no sanctions”, Greenpeace said.

There has been no action against eight of the 10 palm oil companies with the largest burned areas in their concessions from 2015 to 2019, despite fires burning in multiple years within their concessions, it added.

Further exacerbating the situation, Indonesia’s government and legislators recently passed a new law that dismantles environmental protections, Greenpeace said. The “omnibus” Job Creation law, drafted with the involvement of the plantation sector approved by parliament earlier this month, weakens liability for environmental crimes, the group said, as the “palm oil and pulp sectors will be relieved of responsibility for prior damage they have inflicted on Indonesia’s peatlands”.

People protest against the new so-called omnibus law, in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 13, 2020 [File: Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

The law – which drew huge protests in Indonesia over fears of weakened labour rights – will also protect the plantation sector from future liability for damage to the environment and fires in their concessions, the report said.

“Palm oil and pulp multinationals have practically set the rules in recent decades. Year after year they have broken the law by allowing forests to go up in flames, yet they evade justice and go unpunished,” said Kiki Taufik, global head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest campaign.

“Measures like the pro-business ‘Omnibus Law’ that ignore people and see nature as a bottomless resource to be extracted for short-term profit, can only have a catastrophic outcome for human health, human rights and the climate,” he added, urging the Indonesian president, who is also known as Jokowi, to end “this madness” and veto the law.

Palm oil plantation is pictured next to a burned forest near Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan province, Indonesia, September 29, 2019 [File: Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

Indonesia, which has the biggest forests outside the Amazon and the Congo, is the world’s largest producer of palm oil and each year fires are linked to slash-and-burn practices used to clear areas for palm oil cultivation.

Three of the five companies, Greenpeace said, had the largest burned areas in their concessions from 2015 to 2019 are suppliers to Indonesia’s biggest conglomerate, Sinar Mas Group, and one of the country’s largest pulp and paper companies, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).

A spokeswoman for APP, which is part of Sinar Mas Group, told Reuters news agency that APP has spent $150m on a fire management system, and that it continues to help local communities transition away from slash-and-burn land clearing towards more sustainable methods.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry did not comment immediately.

In February, Widodo told government officials to find a permanent solution to the annual fires, and ordered more frequent patrols on the ground by security personnel across the country, especially in fire-prone areas.

But in June, the environment ministry said, it had to scale back fire patrols because of budget cuts owing to the coronavirus pandemic.


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Why one small-business owner shut down her shop for a month



In September, illustrator and designer Tuesday Bassen made an unusual announcement in response to her size-inclusive clothing company’s recent uptick in sales: She would be temporarily closing her online shop, Tuesday of California, for the entire month of October through the first week of November. In light of, well, everything, Bassen and her three-person team needed to pause.

“We are taking some time to catch our breath and assess where we’re at,” Bassen wrote on Instagram. “We are experiencing rapid growth and want to make sure we do so with purpose and respect to our team members, as well as meet the needs of our customers.” It’s been a year of nimble if difficult business decisions for the 31-year-old Bassen, who started her business in 2015: At the end of May, she permanently closed her 800-square-foot storefront on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles — a year before her lease was up — and used the money that would’ve gone to rent to purchase full-coverage health care for her team. “That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on during this time, the human aspect of the pandemic and doubling down on support for my team,” she said.

On the day before (temporarily) closing down the online shop, Bassen spoke to The Goods how she came to the decision and what she hopes to accomplish during the break.

After shelter in place started in March, of course I was worried. Making clothes is honestly a fool’s errand. It’s so expensive and the [profit] margin isn’t great, especially when you’re producing in the US.

I feel like quarantine has shown us that capitalism isn’t sustainable, and around May or June, I really started thinking more deeply about the ways I’m holding up the more gross aspects of capitalism. Even if I’m presenting an alternative to fast fashion, what are the things that I have internalized as normal that shouldn’t be normal? Not necessarily ‘What are the ways I am evil?’ but more like ‘What are the ways in which I haven’t challenged an idea?’ And I ended up signing up for a class; first I did a one-on-one session and then I signed up for a group accountability session led by a woman named Toi Marie. It’s kind of the anti-capitalist way to think about business. We recognize that we live in a capitalist society, but how can we kind of subvert our place in that?

One major actionable thing I got from Toi was figuring out how to pay everybody a thriving wage. The concept is not paying based on seniority, not paying based on anything except for personal need and then making a plan about how we were going to get there as a team. Also being transparent about all of the different business costs, where our budget is, and where it’s going. Another thing that I realized is that a major part of capitalism is not collaborating, not being open to listening and having a conversation, so we’ve had a lot of transparent conversations. I started spending more time and energy on the human side of the business and was like, here’s a couple different ideas about how we can approach something, what do you all think?

We have experienced a pretty big uptick in sales during quarantine. Part of it was people were recognizing that it is important to be critical with where and how they spent their money. A lot of people were seeking alternatives to big-box stores, [seeking] places that were using sweatshop-free labor, that primarily use deadstock fabric like we do. We hesitated to produce masks for a really long time because we didn’t want to profit off of a pandemic. It felt really gross, especially when the city of Los Angeles had not yet put together a plan for reopening local factories safely — this is kind of an aside, but LA has a sweatshop problem — so we actually didn’t produce any new merchandise for March, April, or May.

Then in June or July we got the go-ahead from the city to work at a smaller capacity with our factories, which are both Latinx owned, because they had passed inspections. Also, once we kicked it to the next level with the fulfillment center, we were able to ship faster and decided to make our shipping to the US and Canada free; I didn’t anticipate quite how much growth that would allow us to have. It was a perfect storm of all those things.

Honestly, I started to feel kind of overwhelmed by it. We’ve tried really hard to do slow, sustained growth over the years, and I’ve made it my goal to avoid rapid growth because I don’t think it’s super-sustainable. In fact, earlier this year I was like, ‘You know what, growth is not the most important part of it for me anymore.’ I really value being a smaller business. I like the freedoms that it affords me. I don’t think I want to get much bigger. The most important part of it is really honing everything, making sure we’re a well-oiled machine, making sure people — both our team and customers — are happy.

In September, I took a two-week break and just kind of hid out in the woods. I think I felt burnt out. I scheduled all of the Instagram posts for the business ahead of time so I didn’t have to be online. I just needed to step aside for a little bit and allow myself to be a person for a while. As I started to come back to reality at the end of it, I started thinking about business perspectives and what I’ve gleaned from watching different CEOs from afar. One thing I read multiple times was business owners saying things like, ‘I regret prioritizing company growth over cultural [growth], and we just grew too fast. If I could go back I would do things differently.’ And something kind of clicked for me.

I was like, wait a second, this is a critical moment. I can choose where we want to go from here.

And what I think would be positive is closing the store for a month — [taking] a pause so we can implement new strategies, new ways of working, new ways to automate things like returns so customer service isn’t so overwhelmed. To just really take the time to talk about it as a team and implement things together, allow space for collaborative conversation, allow everyone a moment to breathe.

When I got back, I scheduled an all-hands-on-deck meeting and we talked about that concept [of temporarily closing the store]. I talked about my thinking behind it. We all agreed that it would be a good idea, and we also talked about what work would look like in that period and how we would divvy up tasks. Everyone will still be working full time, just from behind the scenes; closing for a month is just giving us a little more time to move forward in a way that feels more purposeful and elegant.

Tuesday Bassen wearing a black sleeveless dress in front of a tropical-themed curtain
Tuesday Bassen.
Courtesy of Linnea Bullion

I think it’s just about taking out one piece of the puzzle — instead of just being reactive, becoming more proactive in this moment of growth. We recognized that customers, [and] people in general, are feeling really raw right now. It’s an intense time in so many different ways, and I think customers need a lot more right now, more love and communication. So how can we best give that to people?

Yes, there is a big part of me that’s like, closing the store for a month will lose money. It’s not insignificant, especially because October is usually a really good month for us, and we’re hiring a social media manager right now, which is another person with health care. But I also feel like that’s short-term thinking. When I think about the long term, and when I think about employee health and safety, employee retention, happiness, customer happiness, and trust too, I feel like this is a wise decision.

I don’t mean to say at all that I’ve been a perfect boss. Last year, I definitely feel like I fell short of where I wanted to be, and I think a lot of that came down to my own personal shortcomings and immaturity, in part because I wasn’t taking care of myself. My mental health was terrible. Part of what capitalism demands from us, from CEOs, is [being] a superhuman, right? You don’t have feelings. So in the past year I’ve really prioritized working on my own mental health. Placing a lot of emphasis on that and caring for myself has really allowed me to go, ‘Everyone needs to have this.’ This can’t stop at me. This isn’t how it should be. When you’re thinking about changing the world in X, Y, Z ways, are you also starting at home? Are you also starting at the ground level?

Like a lot of people, I’ve felt extra-disgusted at the state of things and inspired to attempt to do so much better than our country has. I’ve been looking to democratic socialist governments like Norway, where everybody, no matter what job you have, gets the same amount of paid time off. Moving forward, we’ve actually decided to take two weeks off in the summer together. That’s just really to give everybody a solid break where nobody in the company is like, ‘Hey, I’m really sorry, I know you’re on vacation but I have this question.’ Everybody is off, everybody can have a mental break. We’re also taking a break the week after Christmas.

This year, when the busyness of life has been stripped away, I feel like there has been so much time to say, ‘Wait a second, it doesn’t have to be like this.’ I think there’s a lot of different social justice movements that are having that realization right now. People are less busy, people have more time to think about how things can be. And I think just removing the need to constantly be making money, to constantly be busy, is really positive. Just placing more value on, you know, life.

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