Russian President Vladimir Putin said cryptocurrencies may hold some value, but it’s too early to tell if they can be used in the oil trade.
“I believe that it has value,” he told CNBC at the Russian Energy Week event in Moscow on Wednesday, when asked whether bitcoin or cryptocurrencies can be used in place of the US dollar. “But I don’t believe it can be used in the oil trade.”
Russia has been considering replacing the dollar in crude-oil payments in response to challenges from Joe Biden’s administration and economic sanctions imposed by the US. But it may be premature to consider cryptocurrencies as a replacement, according to Putin.
“Cryptocurrency is not supported by anything as of yet,” he said. “It may exist as a means of payment, but I think it’s too early to say about the oil trade in cryptocurrency.”
Putin separately predicted Wednesday that oil could hit $100 a barrel, from the current range of around $80, as global demand skyrockets in a tightening market.
He also indicated that the negative environmental impact from bitcoin mining, which is said to take up roughly 0.5% of energy consumption worldwide, is another obstacle the digital asset faces for widespread use.
But he maintained that Russia is still keen to ditch dollar-denominated payments.
“I believe the US makes a huge mistake in using the dollar as a sanction instrument,” he said. “We are forced. We have no other choice but to move to transactions in other currencies.”
“In this regard, we can say the United States bites the hand that feeds it,” the world leader added. “This dollar is a competitive advantage. It is a universal reserve currency, and the United States today uses it to pursue political goals, and they harm their strategic and economic interests as a result.”
Russia said in June that it would abandon US dollar assets from its $186 billion sovereign wealth fund as it was at risk of more sanctions.
US stocks ended higher on Wednesday as investors digested minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting in September, which showed central bank officials broadly agreeing to begin tapering assets as soon as November, scaling back pandemic-era support for the economy.
“Participants generally assessed that, provided that the economic recovery remained broadly on track, a gradual tapering process that concluded around the middle of next year would likely be appropriate,” minutes from the September 21-22 meeting said.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq outpaced the S&P 500 and the Dow, led by mega-cap tech companies such as Amazon and Microsoft as the yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 1.545%.
Here’s where US indexes stood at the 4:00 p.m. ET close on Wednesday:
The minutes released were a confirmation on Fed plans but conveyed nothing unexpected, said Lawrence Gillum, fixed income strategist for LPL Financial, in a note.
“There wasn’t much new information to move markets,” he said. “The tapering process could start in either mid-November or mid-December-we still think November but one month isn’t going to matter to markets at this point. There was some interesting discussion on lift-off though and it looks like the Committee remains divided.”
The Consumer Price Index – a commonly used measure of US inflation – rose 0.4% in September, exceeding the median forecast of a 0.3% gain from economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The print shows price growth unexpectedly picking up from the 0.3% jump seen through August.
Kosssurged 43% in two days after meme stock fans cheered the headphone-maker’s patent victory over Apple. Another occasional meme stock, Plug Power,climbed 13% after the hydrogen fuel-cell developer said it inked partnerships with Airbus and Phillips 66.
In cryptocurrencies, Bank of England Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe said a collapse in the crypto market is “plausible,” and regulatory action is urgently needed.
The benchmark US oil price slipped 0.24% to $80.45 per barrel as of 1:56 p.m. ET. Earlier in October, it crossed the $80 mark for the first time since 2014.
Putin maintained that Russia, one of the world’s biggest oil-producing countries, is trying to do its best to stabilize oil prices.
“Russia and our partners and OPEC+ group, I would say we are doing everything possible to make sure the oil market stabilizes. We are trying not to allow any shock peaks in prices. We certainly do not want to have that – it is not in our interests,” he told CNBC, based on a translation.
Oil has rocketed to more than 50% this year amid a surge in demand for the commodity as major economies around the world simultaneously restarted after the devastation brought about by the pandemic lockdown.
Prices got a boost on October 4, when OPEC+ agreed to keep its existing schedule of gradual hikes in oil production, ignoring growing calls for opening the taps at a faster rate to bring down prices.
Putin also said Wednesday that Russia is prepared to supply European markets with as much natural gas as needed as the commodity has hit record highs there.
That echoed comments he made last week. The Russian leader said then that state-controlled giant Gazprom would send more gas than it’s contracted to this year, immediately causing the price of natural gas to pull back sharply. Exports to Europe may even hit a record high for the year, he added.
The watchdog group said that while demand for energy continues to surge as global population growth continues and millions of people are lifted out of poverty every year, it will be essential for supply to play catch-up to avoid an ongoing surge in oil, coal, and natural gas prices.
“We are not investing enough to meet future energy needs, and the uncertainties are setting the stage for a volatile period ahead,” the IEA said.
A lack of investment in renewable energy sources like solar and wind could be a lose-lose situation for the global population, as it would lead to a continued rise in carbon emissions and could also contribute to an economic shock if energy prices stay elevated.
To achieve the goal of transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050, the energy grid needs to play a delicate balancing act in matching supply with demand when transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward less carbon-heavy alternatives.
“If the supply side moves away from oil or gas before the world’s consumers do, then the world could face periods of market tightness and volatility. Alternatively, if companies misread the speed of change and over-invest, then these assets risk under-performing or becoming stranded,” the IEA report said.
The world is grappling with that imbalance after coming out of the pandemic, as demand was underestimated and energy suppliers are struggling to catch up. Oil prices are up 60% year-to-date, and US natural gas prices have more than doubled.
To meet the expected surge in energy demand and at the same time reach a net-zero emission goal by 2050, the IEA forecasts that $4 trillion in annual spending on renewable energy will be needed by 2030. Much of that funding must come from the private sector, but leadership is required.
“Clear signals and direction from policy makers are essential. If the road ahead is paved only with good intentions, then it will be a bumpy ride indeed,” the IEA report said.
The price of natural gas has surged more than 180% over the past 12 months.
Homeowners can expect a 30% increase in the cost of natural gas this winter, experts say.
Harsh winter weather also increases demand that suppliers may not be able to keep up with.
Home heating prices are expected to rise this year as parts of the world face an increasing energy crisis.
Americans have been paying more to fill their cars with gas since 2014, and the same problem is expected to hit homeowners this winter as the cost of natural gas continues to increase.
Homeowners can expect a 30% increase in the cost of their natural gas bill this winter, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association told Insider. The average residential gas bill is expected to increase from $572 to $859, while heating oil could climb from $1,272 to $1,900. About 61 million households use natural gas to heat their homes, according to a recent report from the US Energy Information Administration.
“If we have a colder winter, prices could go much higher because of increased demand,” Mark Wolfe, NEADA’s executive director, told Insider. “The impact on low-income households will be significant.”
The price of natural gas, which heats about 48% of American homes, has surged more than 180% over the past 12 months, CNN reported. Wolfe says any increase in the cost of natural oil prices will have a “significant impact” on a struggling household’s ability to pay their energy bills.
Last year, 29% of families surveyed by the US Census Bureau said they had to reduce spending on other essential items like groceries, medication, and other utilities.
Weather can also have a large impact on the cost of oil. Winter storms can increase home heating oil prices, as people typically use more at the same time that winter storms interrupt delivery systems, according to the EIA. Harsh winter weather also increases demand that suppliers may not be able to keep up with, ultimately causing the price of home heating oil to rise.
In February, Texas was hit with a devastating winter storm that left millions without power, water, and heat. Some Texas residents were hit with bills up to $5,000 after the mass outage because their bill was tied to the wholesale market. The price increase came as natural-gas plants, Texas’ main sources of electricity, went offline in the freezing temperatures. At the same time, the cold weather also meant that overall energy consumption in the state went up as residents of the state turned up their heaters to stay warm.
This winter, the Natural Gas Supply Association expects prices of home heating to increase citing a multitude of factors like demand, production, and storage in the oil and gas industry’s supply chain, according to a recent press release.
The US Department of Energy recommends setting the thermostat for the lowest temperature that still allows you to remain comfortable, this is typically around 68 degrees during the day and 58 degrees at night to save about 10-15% off of your bill.
Cleaning and replacing your furnace’s filters will also help lower the cost of your monthly bill because it helps it run more efficiently, the Department of Energy says. During winter, keeping the shades open on south-facing windows during the day to allow the sunlight in and closed at night to keep in the heat. Blocking any potential drafts from doors and windows will also help keep costs down by reducing the strain on your furnace.
Americans are once again feeling pain at the gas pump, and it’s because of a classic clash between rising demand and constrained supply.
A report from AAA found that gas prices across the US hit an average of $3.22 on Wednesday, higher than they’ve been at any point since 2014. That’s consistent with data from the US Energy Information Administration, which found gas prices rising throughout 2021, hitting levels not seen since the middle of the last decade:
The reasons for the price spike are textbook supply and demand from an economics textbook: Americans have gotten back to driving more this summer as the pandemic has moderated, and a combination of domestic supply interruptions and trouble in energy markets overseas have made crude oil more expensive.
Demand is up as Americans take to the road again
As with so many other aspects of everyday life, the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed how Americans travel. Lockdowns and the uncontrolled early spread of the virus led to canceled travel and a sharp reduction in commutes.
By summer 2021, however, Americans were back on the road. The number of vehicle miles traveled measured by the Federal Highway Administration plummeted in spring 2020, but in July 2021, the most recent month for which data is available, highway traffic was back up to what would normally be seen in midsummer:
That increase in the amount of driving Americans are doing also means an increase in demand for fuel for cars.
Hurricane Ida slowed down US oil production and refining
In addition to that ramp-up in demand, there have been some big supply constraints as well.
While rigs and refineries have quickly come back online since, crude oil inventories remain low, suggesting an ongoing lack of supply. EIA wrote that as of late September, oil stored at Cushing, Oklahoma, one of the main crude depots in the US, was down 40% from the start of the year.
Other EIA data shows that crude oil inventories across the country remain subdued:
A crunch in domestic oil supply and stockpiles coupled with a rise in demand leads to higher gas prices.
Energy markets around the world are in a crunch
In addition to domestic oil supply slowing down, oil and energy markets overseas also aren’t helping matters on the supply front.
On Monday, OPEC and other major oil-exporting countries agreed to only a modest increase in production, despite oil consumers like the US and India pushing for higher exports, according to CNBC. That lack of relief on oil supply sent crude prices higher.
It also shows how the cartel of oil exporters still holds a huge amount of power in global oil markets, even as the US has vastly increased production over the last decade and countries around the world begin the process of moving toward greener energy sources.
Global markets in the past weeks have been on a downtrend as investors try to anticipate when the Federal Reserve will begin tapering asset purchases amid inflationary pressures driven by a surge in commodity prices and supply chain issues.
These factors have pushed yields higher, with tech stocks in particular bearing the brunt.
“The Nasdaq is the punching bag as global bond yields rise and as many investors anticipate the cyclical rotation trade will become the playbook after the DC debt drama,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at foreign exchange Oanda, said in a Monday note.
Also looming is the continuation of the debt ceiling crisis that Congress is trying to avert later this month.
A default would erode trust in the dollar and cause interest rates to soar, which would lift mortgage, car loan, and credit card costs for borrowers. S&P said it would cut its rating to the worst-possible rank of D in the event of a single non-payment on government debt.
Despite this, many analysts, including LPL Financial, remain bullish for the fourth quarter – a period that has historically been best time of year for stocks. Beyond 2021, chief market strategist Ryan Detrick and equity strategist Jeff Buchbinder are also optimistic.
“We see a favorable economic environment for stocks in 2022, consistent with prior mid-cycle expansion years and bolstered by continued earnings growth,” they said in a Monday note. “The gains may not come easy, however, with a number of risks.”
The spill is estimated to have released as much as 126,000 gallons of oil, impacting a six-mile range between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. The US Coast Guard has led a cleanup of the area since Amplify notified them of the spill on Saturday morning and is still surveying the damage and investigating its origin.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said in a news conference that the oil rig linked to the spill was operated by Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy, Reuters reported. The CEO of Amplify said at a press conference that it shut down its pipeline and suctioned out remaining oil.
In response to the oil spill, Roth Capital suspended its price target on the stock in a Monday note, according to Reuters.
“Until we are able to have a discussion with management to confirm this is from an AMPY property, the extent of the spill, the estimated cost of clean-up and any insurance coverage that may apply, we are temporarily suspending our target price, our estimates and moving our rating to Neutral,” the note, seen by Reuters, said.
Amplify Energy is a small oil and gas producer that had a market capitalization of about $125 million on Monday. The stock saw a year-to-date gain of 341% prior to Monday’s decline.
Oil prices spiked after OPEC+ on Monday agreed to keep its existing schedule of gradual hikes in oil production, adding to inflationary pressures engulfing global markets.
West Texas Intermediate crude, the US oil benchmark, rose as much as 3% to $78.13 per barrel, its highest since 2014. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, jumped as much as 3% to $81.77 per barrel.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as Russia and other non-member allies – also known as OPEC+ – ignored growing calls for opening the taps at a faster rate to bring down prices after oil rocketed to more than 50% this year.
Instead, the group “reconfirmed the production adjustment plan” to raise monthly overall production by 400,000 barrels per day in November, according to a statement released after the discussions.
In July, OPEC+ agreed to boost production by 400,000 barrels per day each month beginning August until at least April 2022, according to a statement. OPEC+ will meet again on November 4 to discuss the next monthly production quota.
The rapid ascent in oil prices comes amid a surge in demand for the commodity as major economies around the world simultaneously restarted after the devastation brought about by the pandemic lockdown. Bank of America last week said Brent crude could hit $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014, especially ahead of another cold winter.
Rather than increasing output by 400,000 barrels per day, adding 800,000 to the market in November would likely reflect the current market condition, according to Rob Thummel, portfolio manager at Tortoise, a firm that manages $8 billion in energy-linked assets.
But he acknowledged OPEC+ retains most of the leverage over the oil market. “OPEC+ holds all of the cards because they have available oil supply capacity that can be returned to the global markets in days.”
Even the ambitious climate goals laid out by politicians in campaign promises fall far short of what’s needed to stop the climate crisis.
Though Biden and the Democrats can be blamed for their conflicting and inconsistent priorities, the base of the issue lies not with politicians, but with those of us who care about combating global warming. If Biden represents the most ambitious mainstream climate plan to date, that means we have not been ambitious enough in what we demand of our politics. We can no longer ask for abstract goals, or rely on the slow machine of electoralism. We must demand radical action – the complete abolition of the oil and gas industry.
We need a big, concrete goal
We already know that the time for action on climate is past-due. Even if we stopped all oil and gas production today, it’d be too late to arrest many of the effects of climate change. The desire to do something about climate change is there – public concern about climate change has grown steadily over the last few years, and the majority of people in most developed countries say they’d be willing to take action to prevent climate change.
Yet the demands we make of our politicians are milquetoast. Climate was not a central feature of the 2020 presidential debates, and the broadcast media barely covers climate at all, meaning our politicians are rarely pressured to take the drastic measures necessary to tackle the crisis.
And that’s because Americans don’t have a concrete goal for how to tackle climate change – we get lost in the morass of individual action (reduce, reuse, recycle), or in the technocratic, long-term goals of politicians. Only when the mainstream public has a real target to strive for will we be able to make actual progress on climate change. We need to call for the complete abolition of extractive industries.
But as long as there’s a profit incentive to keep extracting oil and gas, there will be no reason for oil and gas companies to stop. So we must eliminate the ability of oil and gas companies to profit from extraction, whether through laws that make the process illegal, or through massive protests that make the daily functions of oil and gas companies untenable.
This might seem like a lofty goal considering the bleak political moment we live in, but by drawing this line in the sand, we can then effectively evaluate whether politicians are moving toward that goal or not, and can develop a clearer sense of what actions need to be taken to meet that goal.
As Naomi Klein writes in “This Changes Everything,” politicians almost never declare an issue a crisis worth taking drastic action on until people force them to.
“Slavery wasn’t a crisis for British and American elites until abolitionism turned it into one,” Klein writes. “Racial discrimination wasn’t a crisis until the civil rights movement turned it into one … if enough of us stop looking away and decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one, and the political class will have to respond.”
Shifting the Overton window
Having a concrete goal (stopping the worst effects of climate change) with a concrete target (stopping oil and gas extraction) is the only way to move a pro-environment agenda forward.
As of now, there is no mainstream coherent objective when it comes to climate beyond “do something about it.” Contrast that with other successful political movements: Occupy Wall Street fought not for incremental change, but against the actions of specific banks and for the end of economic inequality. During the uprisings over police killings of people of color in the past year, activists fought not for an abstract idea of reform, but the complete abolition (or at least defunding) of the police. Socialist activists who supported Bernie Sanders in 2020 fought not to “do something” about healthcare, but for an actual policy proposal – Medicare for All.
Though all of these movements met setbacks and were repressed by the state, they undoubtedly shifted the Overton window of our politics so that once seemingly impossible ideas are now part of everyday political dialogue. Dramatic restructuring of police departments, vast economic change and free healthcare – ideas that just a few decades ago were barely even part of mainstream discourse – are now discussed as realistic goals. This push creates a positive cycle of change: The discourse shifts, lofty goals then seem feasible, and that allows people to push for more change – more people show up at pipeline protests, more people support movements against police brutality, more people pressure politicians into action – which then further shifts the discourse.
We can now see the same thing happening with the climate crisis: Even major publications are platforming what once seemed like radical solutions to stopping oil and gas production and consumption.
But these movements, as powerful as they are, still remain on the fringe of the fight against climate change. As Klein points out, mainstream environmental organizations push for incremental change, while people thirst for something more radical.
We cannot end climate change without ending the extraction of fossil fuels. But if we keep considering that an unrealistic proposition, we’re doomed to use up massive amounts of people’s energy to push for small reforms, a cycle that creates cynicism and defeatism.
It’s a tall order to abolish all fossil fuel extraction, but the first step is simply naming it as a goal.