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The Crude Economy

When oil prices fall, Big Oil has an advantage

Dan Weissmann Jan 28, 2015
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The Crude Economy

When oil prices fall, Big Oil has an advantage

Dan Weissmann Jan 28, 2015
HTML EMBED:
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It’s not that big oil companies love low oil prices, but a part of them doesn’t mind. Companies like Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron — which report earnings over the next few days — aren’t just producers selling crude oil. They’re also refiners, buying crude and selling gasoline. When crude prices drop, that’s good for the refinery side of the business. 

The big producers have another big advantage: long-term planning. “They’re always looking at least 10 to 20 years down the road, so they’re not a quarter-to-quarter type company,” says James Sweeney, a Stanford University professor who studies energy policy.

On the other hand, thousands of smaller producers borrowed money to finance their drilling. Low oil prices are likely putting some of them “in bankruptcy mode,” says David Bellman of All Energy Consulting.

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