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Murphy’s Law – “If anything can go wrong, it will” – seems headed into the heart of our oil system. As 2003 gets underway, a confluence of events is tightening oil markets to an unprecedented level and threatens to culminate in a day of reckoning for oil as this combination of long-term energy problems finally converges. Most of these problems are not new; they have simply been ignored for too long.
The past decade was marked by a series of sporadic oil booms, inevitably followed by recurrent and devastating oil busts. The latter were each preceded by a violent collapse in oil prices, which then caused new rounds of down-sizing and postponement of long-term plans for added production. With each new collapse, the industry was forced to limit the capital it spent on new assets. The entire petroleum infrastructure continued to age, with minimum new investments; and industry’s ability to make long-term decisions was undermined completely. These repeated busts have made prospects for actively recruiting the next generation of oil and gas executives to replace a very gray workforce quite remote. Capital for future energy projects is scarce – the risk factor is now deemed too high.
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