Petro-states urgently need to begin diversifying their economies, shifting away from oil production, or else they face financial risks in the years ahead.
That conclusion comes from the IEA’s new report, “Outlook for Producer Economies,” which warns that a changing energy system threatens the economies of oil-producing countries. The threat comes in multiple forms, both on the supply side and on the demand side.
Energy efficiency, electric vehicles and other technological changes raise questions about peak demand. Climate regulation also threatens to destroy consumption. On the supply side, U.S. shale could capture a bulk of any demand increase that might have otherwise been met by other oil producers.
These factors pose serious threats to major oil producers, and the IEA focused on six countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Venezuela. All of those countries are significant oil producers and are overwhelmingly dependent on oil revenues to finance their budgets.
That dependence is a risk during normal cycles. The IEA noted that Iraq saw its oil revenues plunge by 40 percent after the 2014 oil price meltdown, while Venezuela saw revenues fall by 70 percent. “Major swings in hydrocarbon revenue can be deeply destabilising if finances and economies are not resilient,” the report said.
However, the problem of petro-dependence is even worse looking forward, because electric vehicles finally offer a competing alternative to crude oil in the transportation sector, while forthcoming carbon restrictions will accelerate the shift off of fossil fuels. This means the threats in the future are structural, not just cyclical.
In the IEA’s central New Policies Scenario, the crisis facing oil producers may not be particularly acute in the 2020s, as U.S. shale is expected to plateau and the potential for medium-term supply tightness could keep revenues aloft.
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