So, the price of oil has now plunged to nearly $70/per barrel, and in most of the US the pump price is below $3 per gallon and falling. In an article in yesterday's Washington Post, one of the designers of the Toyota Prius, Bill Reinert, warned that at $2.50 per gallon, few people are interested in buying hybrid cars, much less the more expensive plug-in electrics that reportedly will cost $8,000 more to purchase than standard cars. Also, it takes five years to "ramp up production" of a totally new automobile. While several automakers are working on plug-in electrics, which looked good at $140 per barrel of oil, it is some years before they will come on line, and one producer, Tesla Motors, has already canceled a project for a mid-cost sedan due to financing problems.
So, clearly there was a speculative bubble in oil this past summer, but the turnaround has also had fundamental components. Part of it is the oncoming global recession reducing demand, but part of it was due to production increases that were little noted at the time earlier this year. Those came in Iraq, where production has now gotten back up to where it was prior to the fall of Saddam, and in Saudi Arabia. The total between them amounted to about 1 million barrels per day. Needless to say, the Saudis have nothing to offer the world other than their oil, and will do what is needed to make sure that we remain dependent on them. That means killing any serious alternatives to the internal combustion engine before too many of them get on the road by getting production up enough to keep the price of gasoline down enough to do so, even if some other OPEC members are unhappy about it, wanting their oil revenues now.