Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wisdom of the ancients.

I like to track what the old timers think, because they've often been through many cycles, learned hard (and valuable!) lessons, watched history unfold with their own eyes, and seen several bubbles form and later pop, thus developing a better sense of what's a bubble and what's not.

So this 79 year old oil man with a history of good predictions is the kind of person I want to read about.

Article: Production theory could make $100 oil a reality.


The joke is that Mr. Groppe is not so much a fan of such history as a witness to it. He is 79, landed in the oil and petrochemicals industry in 1946 and became an oil consultant in 1955, when he formed Groppe Long & Littel. That probably makes him the oldest active oil guru in the United States. The man knows a thing or two about oil production and prices and what he will tell you in his charming Texas drawl isn't pretty: The "peak oil" theory is no theory, son -- it's happening.

The old guy is not often wrong. For instance, in 1980, when governments, economists and oil companies warned of $100 oil, Mr. Groppe predicted a $15 price by 1985, half its 1980 price. He was right. In 1998, an Economist magazine's cover story, "Drowning in Oil," suggested prices were headed to $5. Mr. Groppe called for a big jump in prices. A year later, oil was on is way to $30.

Canada, thanks to Alberta's oil sands, is the only non-OPEC country whose production probably will keep rising over the next decades.

"We produce two to three times as much each year as we find," Mr. Groppe says. He doesn't think we're running out of oil -- just cheap oil. "We ran out of $2 oil in 1973; it had been $2 a barrel for 25 years," he says. "Then we ran out of $8 oil, then $15 oil. Now we're running out of $40 oil."

This week, oil prices, which went as high as $59 a barrel earlier this year, rose about 6 per cent to more than $55. If he's right, Goldman Sachs's shocking forecast that oil could hit $105 a barrel is not so shocking after all. Not surprisingly, Mr. Groppe is bullish on oil stocks.