The current sea change in energy markets brings the need for foresight to the front stage.
Foresight feeds the foundation of strategy. The ability to read and react to the likely future defines organizations and executives.
On November 25th, energy expert Daniel Yergin (writer of The Prize among many other interesting books and articles) appeared on CNBC to outline the impact of revolutionary changes in U.S. oil and gas production. Here’s the Link. Video here.
The upshot? The U.S. is becoming a bellwether energy producer…so much so that Russia and OPEC are losing sleep over how to handle the ocean of oil and gas that is slated to come from the U.S. in the next few years.
Subsequent to Yergen’s commentary–on Thanksgiving day–OPEC chose not to alter its production schedule. This was a move to maintain share at the expense of price. The decision sent oil prices plummeting more than 10 percent on Friday. Here is CNBC’s report on that.
These issues impact you, your organization, your city, state, and country. Pick an affinity that you have–any affinity–and this news matters.
Imagine first a future where energy stays cheap. Imagine that the economics of the petrochemical supply chain are severely impacted by low prices. Maybe the dynamics crush upstream commodity producers. Maybe they enhance smart specialty producers who benefit from consumer spend and lower commodity costs. However, lower energy prices directly impact players who depend on energy production, particularly in specific geographies. Laborers in geographies that lie on the high end of the cost curve might not enjoy this news; neither will suppliers to those work-forces–the ones that provide uniforms, tools, meals, and services like laundry and transportation. The more localized the impact, the worse it could be.
But every shock means opportunity. So, meanwhile…
Imagine second a future where consumer and corporate disposable income is unlocked from the dungeon of costly energy. Where an average family receives a dividend that amounts to real cash to spend, just because the world has become more efficient at extracting (and, yes, using) energy. Imagine that the average manufacturer can also contemplate reinvestment of such gains.
Those two imaginary impacts of lower energy prices are strikingly significant to all companies, whether they play in the petrochemical space or not. Now is the time to contemplate change (yes, 2011 was the time, but still, get on board now).
What does this mean for your end products? How about for your capital projects? What about for your procurement targets and programs? Perhaps more importantly, what does this mean for your job?
The market-wide impact of energy costs is practically instantaneous. In 2008, we saw a tremendous reallocation of production in the automotive industry due to sustained spikes in oil prices. SUV and truck plants were closed, not just idled, as reality set in. Demand for efficient vehicles spiked as well, spurred by some (perhaps spurious) legislation in that era. Such corporate moves dwarf in relation to moves that consumers make as energy costs crowd out other spend categories.
What will this sort of change mean for your company or your career? How do you sense and predict what different end states of the world look like, and how each one impacts your capital and expense allocation?
Think about the the future, and develop options for it. Options are the foundation of strategy, and foresight feeds them.
What do you think?