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The impact of declining oil exports

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Brown estimates that worldwide net exports of petroleum liquids--a number that includes both crude oil and refined products such as gasoline and diesel--declined from 45.6 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2006 to 43.7 mbpd in 2011. He uses the net exports number because importers such as the United States export some of their imported crude back into world markets in the form of refined products such as gasoline and diesel. Even so, the United States remains the world's largest net importer of petroleum products.

The decline in global net exports may seem small for now. But it is persistent and comes in the face of growing demand among the rapidly expanding economies of Asia, particularly China and India. And the trendlines, if they were to continue, would mean that China and India alone would consume all the world's available petroleum exports by around 2030. Something's bound to give before then, but it's not clear exactly what.

 
Brown focuses on a key number which he calls cumulative net exports (CNE). It's the total expected volume of exports from oil-exporting countries over the entire period from now until global exports are presumed to drop to zero around 2060. It's based on the trajectory established in the data from 2005 through 2011. Though the timetable is likely to change, when he looks at CNE alongside the current rate of decline for exports, it's clear that the world's remaining exports are "front-loaded." The largest portion will be delivered in the years immediately following the export peak. It's why "we've experienced something close to business as usual" since the apparent export peak in 2006, he said.

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