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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Energy in the 21st Century - Commodity Markets

'Cheap resources underpinned economic growth for much of the 20th century. The 21st will be different'.

Read the short article about the future for commodities to give you a better overview of the commodities market. You might need to register to read the full article, but if you don't want to register, I have posted up a summary below.

  · Research from McKinsey Quarterly shows that in the past eight years, prices have risen to levels not seen since the 1900s.

  · Price are very volatile – similar to that of the oil shock in the 1970s.

  · The future oil prices look set at remaining high and volatile because of two factors:
o Global supply is changing. If oil reserves begin to decline, prices will shoot up, until a factor such as new reserves being found, affects the price and they begin to drop.
o Inelastic supply. This means that OPEC for example, can charge high prices because they know that demand from Western countries particularly, will not decrease so much. To refresh your memory on elasticity, click here.

· Demand for energy, food, water and raw materials will rise exponentially as three billion new middle-class consumers will arise in the next 20 years.
o In India, calorie intake is predicted to rise by 20% within the next 20 years and per capita meat consumption is set to rise by 60%
o Demand for infrastructure will rise

  · Through the 20th century, demand rose between 600-2000% for some commodities, however the reason prices did not rise so dramatically was due to improvements in exploration and extraction techniques enabling new reserves and sources to be found.

· Climate change and rising carbon emissions illustrates the rise in resource usage.

· For the future, outlook for supply increases in bleak because it is becoming harder to find new reserves of raw materials and freshwater in the short run.
o Supply is increasingly becoming inelastic in the future
o The marginal cost for resources is increasing as they are depleted faster and costs of extracting in unconventional methods/locations rise. For example, tar sands, the alternative to pure crude oil, requires separation from sand, using up more energy and water.
o In Uganda, water shortages have led to higher energy prices in a country already trying to develop. This has led to burning wood for energy à deforestation à soil degradation à food supplies fall.

·  A future solution includes trying to increase productivity from natural resources by, for example, improving mining recovery rates, making households more energy efficient (home insulation, solar panels…etc) and reusing wastewater.  

·  If you want to find out more, check out this live stream of the event ‘Resource Revolution: Meeting the World’s Energy, Water, Food and Material Needs’ that you catch watch on Thursday 24th November through this link:

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