April 21st, 2020 by Daryl Elliott
Yesterday, the price of oil dropped below the $0 line. For the first time in history, the price was negative. Bloomberg reports that the price reached minus $37.63 per barrel. This means oil companies are paying people to haul oil away because they have so much of it, more is on the way, and they have to make room for the new oil deliveries already en route.*
The oil market volatility and low oil prices make me wonder if oil executives are missing the boat with a big opportunity before them. Let’s investigate.
From a simple business perspective, there is no difference between the two. Wind turbines and oil well pumpjacks both:
From a practical standpoint, there are big differences:
Perhaps, oil executives, it is time to ask yourselves if you are in the energy business or in the planet destruction business. Because if you are in the energy business, then please consider creating energy that is clean. Please start building windmills and solar farms.
T. Boone Pickens, a former oil and business magnate, now deceased, built a ton of wind turbines. Most of that work was done when wind power was costly, before an adequate grid transmission line architecture had been built, and during his Midwest natural gas scheme boondoggle. The combination of these points had him claiming that he lost money, but at the time of his passing, he was still looking to build more wind turbines because if we examine Lazard’s most recent LCOE (Levelized Cost Of Energy) analysis, we see that onshore grid wind power, along with grid-scale solar, is among the least expensive new production energy sources.
Wind power is best when built with battery storage so that electricity can be delivered to the grid smoothly around the clock as needed. Might you oil execs want to partner with Tesla to build some grid-level storage plants? Capitalism can make strange bedfellows.
Since wind turbines and oil well pumpjacks both sit on the ground, make money for landowners, produce energy, and make money for the device owners, why don’t oil executives give up already on a dying industry and embrace the renewable energy future? Could it be that there is a lack of imagination?
Both paths are profitable, but only one path reveals oil execs as pariahs to society and the planet, while the other would allow a rebranding as people who are building sustainable systems that help humans, animals, and the planet. Please consider yourselves invited to leave behind the madness of the dying and deadly oil industry.
*To be fair, the oil futures price was driven down in part because it was the last day of the May oil futures contract, and the people holding the contracts at the end of the contract have to take delivery — since most futures traders are traders, and are not actually in the oil business, there was a scurry to dump contracts at any price to avert mandatory delivery.