– Richard Heinberg is the author of eight books, including “Peak Everything”, “Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis” and “The Party’s Over”. He is also a senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute. The views expressed are his own. –
Recent shale gas projects, including those involving the massive Marcellus Shale in several northeastern states, have been yielding significant quantities of fuel. Reserves of the stuff are enormous. But drilling costs and per-well decline rates are high, so producers can make a profit only if gas prices are near historic highs.
Where are oil prices headed in 2010? Forecasts for the year are all over the map, from more than $100 a barrel to under $50.
The difference hinges mostly on assumptions about whether the economy will recover or relapse. Yet it may be that price volatility has become an inherent feature of the oil market—and fossil fuel markets in general—for reasons that can perhaps best be explained with the help of a little history and an old children’s story.
Once upon a time (about a dozen years past), oil sold for $12 a barrel and a lot of people thought it would get even cheaper because the market was glutted.