Post-Pandemic Pricing: Oil and Gas Sector

It’s been very interesting to see developments in pricing as the primary dimensions of the pandemic wind down, at least here in the United States. There have been anomalies in a number of different business sectors. These have primarily been driven by supply chain disruptions and other factors which were either uncontrollable or assignable to the pandemic and caused temporary significant movements in pricing. For example, the worldwide chip shortage has caused delays in product release and delivery by a variety of tech companies and also escalation of prices in some specific sub-sectors. This is all very understandable and the result of the natural flow of these developments.

However one sector which has seen significant post-pandemic pricing increase has a troubling etiology. This sector is oil and gas. What we noted during the pandemic, when people around the world began to drastically reduce petrol consumption by driving cars much less and in many cases not at all was the tremendous over-supply of crude oil and gas, especially in the form of petrol for automobiles. In fact, during the pandemic this problem became so pronounced that a secondary problem developed. This secondary problem was the question of storage for the tremendous amount of crude and petrol which was ready to be delivered to the world based on the expectation of the normal utilization pre-pandemic. Since utilization dropped so massively beginning in March of 2020 and continuing for many months, the world essentially ran out of storage capacity for this petrol!

Adjustments were made, new storage facilities were found, ways to further secure this astounding over-supply of petrol were developed so that this product would not be sacrificed and would be available for market when the pandemic ended.

And that’s exactly what happened. Using business ingenuity and creativity, petrol around the world was stored and kept safe – and then made available when the pandemic began to wind down.

But when this happened, the strangest effect took place. Instead of prices remaining low consistent with the over-supply of the product, prices began to escalate rapidly, almost as if supplies were under-available or in serious threat, or not available at all. Of course none of this was true.

As they have shown us so many times before oil and gas companies, especially in the United States, had one singular motive: that motive was profit and shareholder value. In order to achieve this goal, they callously and with gross impunity raised the price of petrol in the United States to the point where it reached above pre-pandemic levels – even though the supply was plentiful and never in jeopardy. To this point, no government agency or regulatory body has stepped in to redress this deplorable, unconscionable example of capitalism without conscience.

One can hope that voices will be raised and those who have promulgated this behavior will be held to account.

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