Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Demand Bifurcation Point

The future of the global economy will, in my opinion, turn more on this question than any other:

Will demand destruction hit India and China, or will their oil consumption continue to rise?

The answer here will determine much of how peak oil plays out. It isn't a "tipping point" where we'll suddenly enter a post-peak world, or an energy-scarcity world. We're already there. Rather, this is a "bifurcation point"--a potential radical divergence in the impact that peak oil has on the global system.

If the Indian and Chinese economies are fragile--as many think--and can't continue to grow with $150 oil, then they will cut back on demand, and oil prices may stabilize as global oil demand stays in line with gradually declining global net oil exports. This will allow for a more gradual response to energy scarcity, a re-tooling toward renewable sources, new settlement patterns, etc. If, however, the Indian and Chinese economies are much more resilient than many think--as I think is the case--then Indian and Chinese oil demand will continue to rise rapidly, more than making up for any demand destruction in the more mature western economies. The result will be continued rapid price oil price increases, additional economic stress in the West, and greater turmoil in general. I think the answer to the question will largely turn on the vibrancy of internal consumer demand from the growing middle class in both states. It's simply too early to predict with confidence, but here's an indicator that suggests Indian and Chinese oil demand will continue growing:

China June Auto Sales up 15% Year-on-Year

That's 836,000 new cars in China in June alone. And, significantly, in China the majority of these new cars are the first car for an individual consumer--so these aren't replacing existing cars that were already on the road, but rather are new cars that weren't on the road before. In India, May auto sales were up 14% year-on-year to 110,000 cars--that shows how much room to grow India has just to catch up to China's level of automobile penetration in the populace! GM expects global auto sales to increase 4% in 2008, meaning 2.8 million more vehicles will be sold this year than last. Especially considering that sales in mature western economies are expected to stagnate or decline, the majority of these new sales will come in developing nations where they are disproportionately more likely to represent a new, additional car on the road, not a replacement car.

The prospects for global demand destruction are not looking good. Oil is a globally fungible commodity--demand destruction in the US may be rising very slowly, but this is irrelevant in the face of rising global demand. Personal investments in cars increase the inelasticity of demand--when people have sunk cost in a car, it skews their calculation on the value vs. cost of consuming gasoline. Unless the trend in global car sales turns around, it's hard to envision a long-term retreat in oil prices...

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe your point that China and India will be much more resilient than people think to be very true. I think this all relies on the fact that the demand elasticity for oil in China and India is much more inelastic than in the United States. The Chinese have not built up decades of wasteful energy uses that can be easily dealt away with in the face of high energy prices. I think this is the reason oil demand has started falling so quickly in the united states, its easy to cut back wehn you make 10 trips to teh grocery store a week but when in India riding a rickshaw or a bicycle, it's just not as practical. The Chinese have moved most their population into urban cities, few people can appreaciate how modern transportation has allowed people to live at such high population densities. As time goes on I believe oil demand will be responding less and less to higher oil prices and could even rise and fall in cycles before the waste energy is rid of, past that point it may become blatantly obvious how important oil and fossil fuels are to our survival. I've always had a theory that the long term cost benefits analysis would fall more and more in line with energy returned on energy invested analysis as true long term energy cost are realized.

Anonymous said...

One of the pillars of the Chinese economy is selling manufactured goods to the West- mostly frivolous junk. Hard to say how the Chinese economy would endure a severe recession in the US and Europe.

The possibilities of the US intervening deliberately is this process to derail foreign economies are disturbing, but our own economy is probably too damaged to engage in much economic warfare.

Jeff Vail said...

You hit at the key issue: to what degree is it still true that China and India are just exporters of cheap junk, and to what degree are they self-sustaining consumer organisms due to internal demand from their own growing middle class. They're certainly moving from A to B, the question is how far down that path they've already gone... something tells me that we'll find out over the next few years.

James said...

I think another key question in regards to demand destruction in Chinese and Indian economies is how long their governments maintain subsides on consumer-level pump gasoline (I don't have the exact data concerning how extensive these are, but from what I've been able to pick up it's pretty significant). I'm not really up on India, but I just got back from 2 months in China, and given how much the Chinese government is invensting in highways and other automobile-centric infrastructure, and the value of a personal vehicle to the Chinese in terms of "face" and status (more of a factor in their collective and personal decision-making than anyone gives adequate attention), I don't suspect they will be lifting those any time soon; the government and people view widespread automobile ownership as a cornerstone of being a fully developed economic power, and seem more than willing to subsidize it's progression.

But, as both Anonymous and Jeff just pointed out, this all hinges on just how self-sufficient their consumer economy is. Given what I saw (and I went through the whole socio-economic range, from the Eastern coastal metropolises to the Western inland villages), I they're within 5 to 10 years of not needing us any more; the question is can they get there given the decline of American purchasing power.

kwark said...

How 'bout the synergistic effects of peak oil on other commodities that are vital to maintenance of the current development trajectories in China and India? Copper, steel, phosphorus, concrete . . . Even if China and India can avoid catching the US' economic flu, can they still continue at their current pace?

piterburg said...

I predict that China and India will continue to develop and their overall demand for energy will continue to grow.

But I also predict they will become a lot more energy-efficient as they grow wealthier.

For example, right now many villages in India use diesel generators as their only source of electricity. It is fuel-hungry and inefficient way to get the juice, but it has low upfront cost and rural India cannot yet afford the huge upfront expense of a much more efficient infrastructure of power stations and a sprawling grid.

Nevertheless, as India will develop, such an infrastructure will eventually be built. So the demand will grow, albeit at a slower pace than people predict by extrapolating the present trends into the future.

Anonymous said...

Jeff You say if demand in china wanes the oil price could stabilize. What sort of price range are we talking if this happens and over what sort of time period?

Jeff Vail said...

Piterburg: I agree that they'll probably both become much more energy efficient. This has a dark side, however--highly efficient energy demand is also highly inelastic. There's lots of "low hanging fruit" to pick in America--massive SUVs, summer driving vacations, single-commuter societies, etc. The more efficient a society's current energy usage, the more inelastic it will be in the face of supply disruption or geological depletion.

Jeff Vail said...

Re: what price range oil would stabilize at if demand from China and India wanes...

I think the question is whether global demand destruction matches global rates of depletion (moderated by our ability to develop substitutes).

IF you assume no valid substitutes, then I think global demand destruction will need to maintain a rate of about 5%-8% annually, indefinitely, to keep prices where they currently are over the long-term. I don't see that as likely at all. Right now global demand is still growing, even with some demand destruction occurring in mature economies. It will get increasingly difficult to maintain a rate of demand destruction over time because, as noted in my comment above, you eliminate the easy-to-eliminate energy use first, leaving the more critical energy uses for down the road.

IF viable, long-term substitutes for crude oil come to market, they will impact that demand destruction vs. depletion rate picture. If geological depletion is 5% (low case) and substitutes make up 2%, then we'll need an ongoing rate of demand destruction of 3%. Is it possible for substitutes to be greater than depletion? Sure--though I think unlikely over the long term--but then we also need to consider the added inelasticity caused by a developing third world. Even if total energy supplies can continue to grow, they may grow slower than the rate at which global demand grows, resulting in an increasing price equilibrium over the long term.

Bottom line: If you accept that total surplus energy (after considering quality and EROEI issues) is or will soon peak, then prices will continue to rise over the long term (though may be very volatile over shorter periods). If you think total surplus energy can grow over the long-term, and grow faster than the rate of the rising consumer middle-class in the third world, then energy prices may go down over time. The former seems very likely to me, the latter not likely at all, and quite probably not thermodynamically possible when viewing the Earth as a whole system.

BBC said...

Saw your Linked In "vita" and you have relevant quals to die for!

Rice Farmer said...

And there is something else to consider.

Let's say that high oil prices do substantially reduce world demand. As a consequence, crude gets much cheaper. But then what happens? It doesn't mean the problem is solved, for anyone, because most of the demand won't have been "destroyed," it will have been "sidetracked." Destroyed demand is gone, but as soon as crude prices drop, sidetracked demand will pick right up again. I get the impression many North Americans and Europeans are counting on heavy demand destruction in China and India, but I think that most of their demand would just be sidetracked.

Further, a substantial dip in crude prices would also be bad for developed countries, because much demand there has also just been sidetracked. Prices need to stay high to enforce change.

nika said...

Beyond peak oil and demand destruction, or not, and internal self-sufficiency, China (and I am betting India too) has already passed their Peak Food (due to a toxic landscape) Peak Water and have really and substantially overshot their ecological pollution situation.

I think that China will/would be able to move forward in a technology-driven sort of way but I think they are likely closer to collapse for the water and food and pollution issues.

Do not forget also there are the psychosocial issues. I have an acquaintance at work who is from China and who tells me vignettes of how massively corrupt and deeply driven everyone is to catch the brass ring, to get that car and that spacious 500 square foot apartment. She says she almost doesnt recognize her childhood friends and hears it from her 80 year old parents who are now pensioners (in cheng du) and are bathed in this miasma of consumerism. She says that the biggest US icon these days is Bill Gates and that her friends think that to be like americans (which seems to be a major goal, woe be us all) is to be as much like Gates as possible. Go figure.

My main point tho is that it seems to be a widespread pervasive and deepseated drive to achieve what americans have (I must not be one of them, I do not have that much :-)) one so powerful and long-in-the-making that they may be willing to suffer some pretty serious cognitive dissonance arising from getting that car but not being able to afford to fill it up or to find a spot on the highly congested highways to drive it.

piterburg said...

//The more efficient a society's current energy usage, the more inelastic it will be in the face of supply disruption or geological depletion.//

Naturally. Any system with redundancy already wrung out of it will become less reliable.

Jeff Vail said...

Here's India's June car sales figures:

India June auto sales up 6.1%

That's still a rise, but well below the 14% rise shown in May. Also, that's a drop in absolute terms from May 2008 (from 111,000 cars to 100,000 cars), though there appears to be some kind of seasonal element, as car sales also dropped from May 2007 to June 2007 (96,000 cars May '07 vs. 94,000 cars June '07). One point worth raising (in the linked article) is that Indian commercial vehicle demand rose 13.5% from June '07 to June '08. It will be interesting to see what happens as we continue to track these figures.

Indian Peaknik said...

Am writing in from India.

The retail prices of gasoline and diesel here are not being increased in view of the fact that federal and many state elections are around the corner.

As a result the 'Oil Marketing Companies' which are kind of Govt. Sponsored Entities are running up losses of about 75 million dollars every day.

Retail prices are subsidised by about 25% in the case of both gasoline and diesel. Granted there are a lot of taxes and govt can reduce those. But, reducing taxes means taking a hit on govt revenues and consequent increased deficits in the general budget.

Bottomline - Crude oil distillates' prices will be increased after elections (approx. six months away), if not before. When that happens expect demand to drop like a stone. There is already high inflation of about 12%and people and businesses are hurting. Add to this the fact that US outsourcing will take a hit as the US economy weakeens further. Software export earnings is what is driving a lot of the demand in general and crude oil demand in particular.

So, Indian crude oil demand will not continue to grow.

Swedy

Jeff Vail said...

I'm not sure I buy that argument with regard to India. It does seem that the internal consumer demand in India is less resilient than China, but suggesting that it will "drop like a stone" is unlikely, in my opinion. An elimination of subsidies may well reduce demand growth, and may even reduce overall demand slightly, in the short-term, but as I wrote about in this article for The Oil Drum, there are many fundamental economic reasons why eliminating subsidies may actually increase long-term demand. One example is that, regardless of whether the expenditure freed up by ending subsidy is spent elsewhere, or whether it reduces debt (and thereby inflation), the result still consumers energy. To the extent that cutting the subsidy reduces inflation and reflects a more market-driven allocation of resources in the economy, the result will be higher long-term economic growth, and this will lead to more consumption. All that is long-term, however. Over the short term, elimination of subsidies will be a real test for the resiliency of Indian demand.

One question: what makes you so sure that the government will eliminate subsidies--partially or entirely--after the election? If memory serves, India has a 5 or 6 year period between legislative elections... I guess that's enough time to make some unpopular choices and live them down before the next election. It will be interesting to see what happens...

Indian Peaknik said...

A bit of a quick background on recent Indian growth.

Indian growth which is currently in the 9% range is largely fed by the software export boom in the last 6-8 years. The surge in export earnings caused a huge increase in the money supply as the forex earnings were not sterilized completely.

As elsewhere in the world there was a housing bubble. The bubble here will put the US one to shame (have been closely following the US housing market since the end stages of the dotcom boom and was incidentally in the Front Range from 1999 - 2005).

This sudden increase in employment (IT sector), and therefore incomes and also a surge in Realty values in the last 4 years especially created an illusion of wealth and sales of autos, 2-wheelers, cons durables & retailing surged. dozens of an hitherto unknown concept of malls took off in the last 5 years.

Hire purchase was not a common phenomenon in India earlier. It has taken off. Same for credit cards. As a result, Indians who are using debt a lot at the retail level for shopping etc have taken on a significant debt under the assumption that their jobs are safe and salary increments will continue at the rate they have been. Given that there is already a slowdown in IT hiring & salary increments (until last year they used to increase by 20-40% a year) have dropped there is a perceptible nervousness.

These are folks who can cut back expenditures drastically since they have increased them drastically only recently. Also, they are carrying significant debt for two & four wheelers as well as houses / plots.

Reg. what makes me sure that prices of crude distillates will be increased after elections:

1) The Oil Marketing Companies used to be Public Sector Corporations until about a decade back. Since then they have been privatised and are hence not going to swallow losses as they have been. They have incurred losses of about 35-50 billion dollars already.

2) Govt cannot reduce taxes on crude distillates as the Federal Budget is already deep in deficit.

3) In India there is a susidised public distribution system for foodgrains and even kerosene. the burden of that is increasing. However, it is politically a holy cow and there is no way it will be disbanded. The govt. cannot carry the burden of that and crude subsidies. it will have no choice but to reduce crude subsidies.

4) When push comes to shove it will be politically expedient to raise prices on gasoline than on breaking the backs of millions of lower-middle class and poor due to the coming food inflation.

5) The central bank governor here means business and is hiking rates even though the growth rate is slackening. Govt if it has to finance the higher deficits internally will have to pay higher rates of interest.

Bottomline is that the subsidy bill is going to get unbearable and the only thing that can give is subsidised crude distillates. There is already an unofficial rationing of diesel especially in almost all parts of India in the form of sporadic 'No - Stock' boards appearing at gas stations and gas stations not encouraging sales of more than about 3 gallons of diesel for private vehicles. keep in mind though that a typical vehicle in India gives about 30 -40miles per gallon.

As an aside, the monsoon which is supposed to be active now is playing traunt and large farm areas have not been planted due to lack of rain. It is going to be interesting to see how this pans out.

The ruling govt's fate will be decided later today as there is a trust vote on the floor of the parliament going on as I type this. Funny thing is, it came to a no-confidence motion due to the Indo US nuclear deal. If the govt does fall, it will be the second govt falling over energy issues, the first being Indonesia.

Indian Peaknik said...

A bit of a quick background on recent Indian growth.

Indian growth which is currently in the 9% range is largely fed by the software export boom in the last 6-8 years. The surge in export earnings caused a huge increase in the money supply as the forex earnings were not sterilized completely.

As elsewhere in the world there was a housing bubble. The bubble here will put the US one to shame (have been closely following the US housing market since the end stages of the dotcom boom and was incidentally in the Front Range from 1999 - 2005).

This sudden increase in employment (IT sector), and therefore incomes and also a surge in Realty values in the last 4 years especially created an illusion of wealth and sales of autos, 2-wheelers, cons durables & retailing surged. dozens of an hitherto unknown concept of malls took off in the last 5 years.

Hire purchase was not a common phenomenon in India earlier. It has taken off. Same for credit cards. As a result, Indians who are using debt a lot at the retail level for shopping etc have taken on a significant debt under the assumption that their jobs are safe and salary increments will continue at the rate they have been. Given that there is already a slowdown in IT hiring & salary increments (until last year they used to increase by 20-40% a year) have dropped there is a perceptible nervousness.

These are folks who can cut back expenditures drastically since they have increased them drastically only recently. Also, they are carrying significant debt for two & four wheelers as well as houses / plots.

Reg. what makes me sure that prices of crude distillates will be increased after elections:

1) The Oil Marketing Companies used to be Public Sector Corporations until about a decade back. Since then they have been privatised and are hence not going to swallow losses as they have been. They have incurred losses of about 35-50 billion dollars already.

2) Govt cannot reduce taxes on crude distillates as the Federal Budget is already deep in deficit.

3) In India there is a susidised public distribution system for foodgrains and even kerosene. the burden of that is increasing. However, it is politically a holy cow and there is no way it will be disbanded. The govt. cannot carry the burden of that and crude subsidies. it will have no choice but to reduce crude subsidies.

4) When push comes to shove it will be politically expedient to raise prices on gasoline than on breaking the backs of millions of lower-middle class and poor due to the coming food inflation.

5) The central bank governor here means business and is hiking rates even though the growth rate is slackening. Govt if it has to finance the higher deficits internally will have to pay higher rates of interest.

Bottomline is that the subsidy bill is going to get unbearable and the only thing that can give is subsidised crude distillates. There is already an unofficial rationing of diesel especially in almost all parts of India in the form of sporadic 'No - Stock' boards appearing at gas stations and gas stations not encouraging sales of more than about 3 gallons of diesel for private vehicles. keep in mind though that a typical vehicle in India gives about 30 -40miles per gallon.

As an aside, the monsoon which is supposed to be active now is playing traunt and large farm areas have not been planted due to lack of rain. It is going to be interesting to see how this pans out.

The ruling govt's fate will be decided later today as there is a trust vote on the floor of the parliament going on as I type this. Funny thing is, it came to a no-confidence motion due to the Indo US nuclear deal. If the govt does fall, it will be the second govt falling over energy issues, the first being Indonesia.

Anonymous said...

Buy Oxycontin Online. Order Oxycontin
Mevacor generic 10mg.Buy mevacor
Generic Mobic.Buy Mobic.Mobic 7.5 mg
Buy Oxycontin online.Order Oxycontin
Order Azithromycin.Cheap azithromycin
Purchase Acyclovir.Acyclovir 400mg
Buy Oxycontin

Anonymous said...

Buy Oxycontin online.Order Oxycontin
Order Oxycontin online.Generic Oxycontin
Buy Sertraline online.Discount Sertraline
Generic Restoril.Buy Restoril.Restoril 30
Buy Cheap Imitrex.Discount Imitrex

fdg said...

I like your blog. Thank you. They are really great . Ermunterung ++ .
Some new style Puma Speed is in fashion this year.
chaussure puma is Puma shoes in french . Many Franzose like seach “chaussure sport” by the internet when they need buy the Puma Shoes Or nike max shoes. The information age is really convenient .




By the way ,the nike max ltd is really good NIKE air shoes ,don’t forget buy the puma mens shoes and nike air max ltd by the internet when you need them . Do you know Nike Air Shoes is a best Air Shoes . another kinds of Nike shoes is better . For example , Nike Air Rift is good and Cheap Nike Shoes .the nike shox shoes is fitting to running.



Spring is coming, Do you think this season is not for Ugg Boots? maybe yes .but this season is best time that can buy the cheap ugg boots. Many sellers are selling discounted. Do not miss . Please view my fc2 blog and hair straighteners blog.
.thank you .


I like orange converse shoes ,I like to buy the cheap converse shoes by the internet shop . the puma shoes and the adidas shoes (or addidas shoes) are more on internet shop .i can buy the cheap nike shoes and cheap puma shoes online. It’s really convenient.
Many persons more like Puma basket shoes than nike air rift shoes . the Puma Cat shoes is a kind of Cheap Puma Shoes .
If you want to buy the Cheap Nike Air shoes ,you can buy them online. They are same as the Nike Air shoes authorized shop. Very high-caliber Air shoes and puma cat shoes . the cheap puma shoes as same as other.




polo shirts

ralph lauren polo shirts
chaussure puma

chaussure sport



chaussures puma

puma CAT

ed hardy clothing

ed hardy clothes



ed hardy womens

ed hardy sunglasses

fdg said...

http://www.myshoess.com/cheap-shoes-show
http://danacarnegie.blog126.fc2.com
http://nlla20.blog126.fc2.com
http://fashion-ugg-boots.blogspot.com
http://fengwind789.blogspot.com
http://cheap-puma.blogspot.com

j said...

Burberry polo shirt the steady, solid, so many young girls also love it. Speaking of people of a ralph lauren polo, think it a sign of nobility elegant waving in the horse club.spyder jacket in the cold in your winter activities can be easily.columbia jacket it is expensive, but here you do not need to consider the price of it. the north face jacket one of my favorite money, I do not know how many in this world of its fans.
ed hardy clothing
ed hardy clothes
ed hardy shirts
ed hardy t-shirts
ed hardy sunglasses
ed hardy mens
ed hardy womens
Wholesale Handbags
Cheap Handbags


In preparation for the purchase of a tennis racquetbefore, we must consider your financial ability to bear; On this basis, a further comparison, as far as possible, choose your tennis racket. Now a lot of cheap tennis racquet and more mixed materials, the proportion of mixed-use to control the stiffness of the tennis racquet discount and the shock-absorbing capacity, the more rigid cheap tennis racket, the swing more powerful force; but the relative resilience of the shock-absorbing capacity and discount tennis racket performance of talks on the easier it is for the wrist and elbow injury.
head junior tennis racket
wilson tennis racquet
wilson tennis racket
head tennis racket
babolat tennis racket
Womens Handbags
Cheap Purses
Designer Handbags