In just a matter of months, the price of a barrel of oil has dropped from more than $100 to about $70, and gas is now cheaper than it has been in years. But a recent report conducted for the American Petroleum Institute claimed oil would cost twice as much as it does now if it weren't for America's fracking boom, which wrings oil and natural gas out of shale miles underground.
But the next question could be whether the fracking industry can survive the low prices it brought.
“The shale boom is on a par with the dot-com boom," Russian oil baron Leonid Fedun of OAO Lukoil told Bloomberg. "The strong players will remain, the weak ones will vanish.”
2. A great story on Vox about OPEC's strategy
This marks a big shift in global oil politics. Essentially, OPEC is now engaged in a price war with oil producers in the United States. The cartel will let prices keep falling in the hopes that many of the newest drilling projects in the US will prove unprofitable and shut down.
If these were companies within the US instead of countries in OPEC, they would be violating two laws. It is illegal to have a cartel to conspire to raise prices. (Which OPEC is not doing at this exact moment but it is their usual strategy.) It is also illegal to attempt to force a company out-of-business with lower prices and then raise prices once the competition is gone.
The catch is that no one quite knows how low prices need to go to curb the US shale boom. According to the International Energy Agency, about 4 percent of US shale projects need a price higher than $80 per barrel to stay afloat. But many projects in North Dakota's Bakken formation are profitable so long as prices are above $42 per barrel. We're about to find out how this all shakes out — and which numbers are correct.