1. The U.S. shale oil boom and Iranian nuclear agreement combine to intensify today’s oil downturn. Each oil downturn over the past 30 years has been different. The most dramatic difference now is the extraordinary growth in U.S. shale oil — an almost doubling between 2008 and April 2015. That surge has put the United States back at the forefront of world oil producers and, to some degree, turned the country into an inadvertent swing producer. Another big difference is the intensity of the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia — and the significance of lifting sanctions on Iranian oil. Estimates of the amount of oil Iran could bring to market over the next few months range from 300,000 barrels per day upwards to 1 million. That’s a big uncertainty hanging over the market.
2. Reports of shale oil’s demise have been exaggerated. The current market has driven greater efficiency and innovation, and that makes shale more competitive.