Although the oil price has now dipped significantly from its highs of the summer, its relatively high price is having an effect on both oil consumption and production.
Take the UK: The rising cost of running a car has caused traffic on Britain’s major roads to drop for the first time since congestion was measured, a new report has revealed.
Elsewhere in the UK, the oil price is having a different effect as a record number of prospectors for oil are scouring scores of sites across the East Midlands, Yorkshire and a swathe of southern England.
Although the onshore oil industry is tiny compared to the North Sea it is attracting the attention of companies from as far afield as the US, Australia and Canada. In May this year, the government awarded a record 97 new licenses to 54 applicants for onshore oil and gas exploration. Five years ago, only eight licenses were granted.
“Indigenous resources are becoming more important for security of supply,” says Mark Abbott, managing director of Egdon Resources, an exploration and production firm that operates an oil field in the Lincolnshire Wolds.
However, the UK’s onshore reserves could be overstated, and there is likely to be huge opposition from environmental and conservation groups.
Thousands of miles away, America is also enjoying a back-yard oil boom. Yesterday the London Daily Telegraph states that “oil boom is changing the landscape and finances of North Dakota.” There are now 77 exploratory rigs drilling in North Dakota – each worth $6 million and costing $75,000 a day to operate – and 4,000 wells already pumping oil.
The paper interviews a local farmer on whose land oil has been found and who has joined the oil boom. “For the first time in my life, I’m not in debt. That’s a godsend for folks like us.”
In Oklahoma, too, the high oil price is having an effect. Hundreds of wells that were once plugged as uneconomic have been re-opened. “The landscape is certainly changing. You’re seeing a whole lot of oil wells being unplugged around here,” argues Gary Brown, one smalls Oklahoma independent producer, who has joined the legions of “Mom n Pop” oil producers.
However the lure of striking it rich is not enough to persuade his children to follow him into the business. “My boys have been scared off the oil business by its volatility,” he said.
For what goes boom always goes bust. Eventually.