Oil Finds Lowest in 70 Years and Headed Lower

By Markets Fool.com

Consulting firm Wood Mackenzie found that oil finds have dropped to the lowest they've been since 1947, and show signs of falling even farther.

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In this clip from Industry Focus: Energy, Sean O'Reilly and Taylor Muckerman talk about what's contributing to the lack of new finds, what it means for the energy industry, and whether or not companies will be able to meet the world's oil needs for the next 10 years as estimated by the United States Energy Information Administration.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Sep. 1, 2016.

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Sean O'Reilly: You remember an episode a number of months ago when we talked about how new oil discoveries were the lowest since World War II?

Taylor Muckerman: Yes, I do remember that.

O'Reilly: That number has now been ratcheted up to 70 years, literally right after World War II. New oil finds, according to consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, are at their lowest since 1947 and headed lower. At what point are we going to get to Drake's Well era oil finds?

Muckerman: That's a good question. You see so many companies pulling back. I think some of the biggest news that came out about this was the fact that ExxonMobil(NYSE: XOM) didn't replace 100% of its oil for the first time 22 years. I would expect that returned to 100%-plus in the next couple years, because they do have 10 major projects coming online in 2016 and 2017. But their capital expenditures budget for this year is down 38% in the second quarter.

O'Reilly: And that's good, compared to a lot of people.

Muckerman: Yeah, exactly. It makes you a little nervous for the distant future. Granted, some of these bigger projects do have long life spans, otherwise they wouldn't be pursuing them as heavily, because they are billions of dollars to build and maintain. But, if you're looking out to 2025, 2040, a lot could change, as we just talked about with Texas moving to renewables. But, if we're still even remotely as reliant on oil and gas as we are now in the next 15 to 20 years, you're going to see a price pinch.

O'Reilly: Yeah. And when this came out, it was troubling because it was also noted that the U.S. EIA, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, estimates that global oil demand will grow from the current 94.8 million barrels per day this year to, by 2026, 105.3 million barrels. There's two questions that I want to get your thoughts on with that. How seriously do you take the 105 number? Everyone is like, "Oh, we're all going to have driverless cars by the end of the decade, that will be there, they will have batteries." The U.S. is still the world's largest consumer of oil. There's that. India, China, everybody, is obviously growing. If you were a betting man, what do you think the odds are that we hit that 105 number in 10 years' time?

Muckerman: Simply because of the fact that so many countries are moving off of coal power. And, we have electric cars. Let's not associate driverless with electric just yet. But, granted, what we're seeing is, driverless are electric, because everyone that's designing driverless is more forward-thinking --

O'Reilly: They are buddies.

Muckerman: Exactly. You might as well pair the two if you're going to reach for an automated car manufacturer. I'm a little bullish on the fact that we're going to reduce the amount of oil. Maybe not reduce, but slow the pace more so than people think. Things are just accelerating really quickly these days, in terms of technological change in the automotive space, especially when you look at so many companies sparring, almost, over driverless and electric cars. Uber kicking board members out of the board room that it belonged to, Google partnering with Carnegie Mellon to start producing driverless cars in Pittsburgh, testing them as taxis, maybe.

O'Reilly: Yeah, there's 100 of them right now. How much oil does the U.S. consume? 16 million barrels a day?

Muckerman: Sounds about right.

O'Reilly: Let's pretend something crazy happens, and we cut that in half, thanks to all the stuff you just mentioned. That would get world consumption down to 86 or something, but other countries would hopefully come online. But, 86 to 105, that's a bit more of a jump.

Muckerman: Absolutely. Especially when you look at countries like Saudi Arabia, who's focusing very heavily on renewable energy.

O'Reilly: They invested in Uber recently.

Muckerman: Yeah. One of the members of the Saudi Arabia Sovereign Wealth Fund is on Uber's board. That country is the largest oil --

O'Reilly: Do you think it'll be hard to get to 105 in 2026?

Muckerman: I do. If you look at some of these countries, not only the producing countries, but also the consuming countries, they're changing very rapidly. If you look, 58%, I think, of all new energy production resources that came online in 2015 were renewable. So, more than half of all new energy production is renewable. That's pretty broad --

O'Reilly: Now, that's obviously inflated a little bit because of the lack of oil investment.

Muckerman: Sure. And also, oil isn't necessarily involved that heavily in energy production. You're mostly looking at natural gas. But if you're not drilling for natural gas, you might not be drilling for oil, either. In a lot of instances, especially in the United States, the two go hand in hand.

O'Reilly: Yeah. So, you're a little nervous about it hitting 105.

Muckerman: Well, nervous for the sake of oil companies. Nervous for the sake of humanity? No.

Sean O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. Taylor Muckerman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.