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BP Economist Explains Volatility in the Energy Market

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Lindsay Lewis
Mark Finley, general manager of Global Energy Markets and US Economics at BP, presents statistical energy data to a group of Cullen College faculty and students on June 15. Photo by Pin Lim.
Mark Finley, general manager of Global Energy Markets and US Economics at BP, presents statistical energy data to a group of Cullen College faculty and students on June 15. Photo by Pin Lim.

Mark Finley shares data from BP's 2009 Statistical Review of World Energy

Last year the world experienced an unprecedented rise and fall of oil prices—the barrel of oil that cost $150 in July 2008 plummeted to $35 a mere five months later.

Mark Finley, General Manager of Global Energy Markets and U.S. Economics for BP America, said that a period of strong economic growth followed by a rapidly-developing recession that spread quickly from the U.S. around the globe caused world energy markets to experience dramatic volatility.

"The state of the economy is the primary driver of what happens in the energy market," he said. "The speed at which the U.S. recession spread around the globe surprised economists."

Up until the middle of 2008, the world economy continued to grow as did oil prices, costing U.S. consumers more than $4 a gallon at the pump last July. However, the sharp downturn of the U.S. economy last fall curbed consumption—prices for coal, natural gas and oil weakened by year's end.

"Prices matter," he said. "There's a psychological impact in addition to an economic one. The more money spent on energy means less spent on other things."

Drawing from data in BP's Statistical Review of World Energy, Finley said that the recession and resulting consumer response caused a shift in world market demand. Consumption continued to rise in emerging economies, however, tilting the center of gravity in energy markets away from nations in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

"The OECD no longer consumes the majority of energy worldwide," he said noting energy consumption in non-OECD countries such as China and India surpassed OECD countries (e.g. U.S., U.K., Japan) for the first time.

Finley also discussed the rise in renewable energy, primarily the production of ethanol as well as wind and solar power. Both ethanol production and wind capacity increased around 30 percent last year, while solar capacity rose 70 percent. Though growing rapidly, these forms of energy are far from making a sizable impact on the energy market, he said.

"Wind, solar and geothermal power accounted for 1.5 percent of all electricity generation in 2008 and ethanol was less than 1 percent of oil consumption. Fossil fuels will be utilized for decades to come."

To review the data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, visit www.bp.com/statisticalreview.