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By Bruno de Vuyst    Twitter: b_devuyst

The Rockefeller family is backing away from fossil fuel. Forget that the forebear built the family fortune on Standard Oil: the descendants want to invest in renewable energy.

For the time being, however, fossils will be needed. Nuclear energy has become a safety suspect, and wind, solar and water energy have not picked up sufficiently to meet energy demands. Moreover, the cost of these alternatives still leaves to be desired if one considers fossil fuel.

In the meanwhile, some fossil facts.

Or the lack thereof.

Venezuelan production numbers are shrouded in mist. Saudi Arabia has, in the last three years, lost market share in nine out of 15 of the most important client countries. All of this while volumes of production grew exponentially.

Crude oil prices hover today around USD 40/barrel, both for WTI and Brent (notice the lack of meaningful spread between the two).

No wonder. If prices go through 45 USD/barrel and sustain such a level, North American production of shale oil may activate again, causing a further oversupply and, ultimately, a price decline.

There is as much talk of higher crude oil prices than of the Fed raising rates. In both cases, there may be much ado about nothing. Indeed, as the supply/demand situation is not globally straightening itself out, there is no escape from a narrow price band. It may be until 2017, at best, that one may expect a price rise, and then it will likely be either a cautious one, not to awaken possible production entrants, or a brutal one, to take a temporary advantage of the lag between the decision to come on stream and the actual coming on stream, before the next price decline.

It is not unrealistic to expect some OPEC and some non-OPEC producers to choose the second scenario, as, apart from Kuwait, all are under budgetary pressure and any windfall may be appreciated.

This assumes that OPEC, and in particular Saudi Arabia, leaves caution – and market share. Giving in to other OPEC members, it would leave market growth to Iran in particular – not a happy thought for Saudi Arabia.

For that reason also, do not assume a production cut in reality. It may be pushed onto some more reluctant members; however, words may be words, and cheating might be rampant.

All of this may be the reality of 2016: a very brittle economic upturn in the US, possibly combined with an about ten per cent correction in the stock markets, Western Europe remaining in the doldrums, Asia attempting to climb out of a lack of export growth and China experimenting with an internal, consumption driven growth model, while at the same time dealing with a real estate bubble and with massive debt burdens in public companies and some municipalities.

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