The recent drop in oil prices is generally referred to as a ‘Saudi-Russian price war’. This is a wrong description. Two things are happening. Firstly, as renewables are becoming cheaper and cheaper, oil is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and all countries with large oil deposits are scrambling to get as much as possible out of the ground before it is too late. Secondly, the OPEC+ oil cartel has failed, as outsiders – often called ‘free riders’ – have increased production so much that the cartel is no longer worth while. These two factors are the death knell for OPEC+ and high price oil – the good times for the oil industry will never come back. The fall in demand because of COVID-19 is not the cause, it is only the trigger.
The Middle East has many bizarre regimes. A theocracy in democratic disguise governing Iran, an elected coup general as President of Egypt plus Sultans and Emirs of all shades. And then the most bizarre of all: the Absolute Monarchy of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia. A medieval absolute Kingdom armed to the teeth with sophisticated weaponry and until recently awash with cash. Our most important ally in the region, who we support unconditionally, also when it chops off the head of its opponents, cuts off the hands of thieves and beheads women accused of sorcery. It is an absolute Kingdom and an absolute anachronism. How durable is it?