Oil: Despite Decline, A 'Must-Have' Profit Play

Includes: DBO, OIL
by: Keith Fitz-Gerald

Commodities may be down, but they’re not out – and they shouldn’t be out of your portfolio, either.

As the investment director for Money Morning, I’m invited to a large number of speaking engagements each year. It’s something I enjoy, and it’s quite useful, too, for the questions that I get tell me a great deal about investor sentiment and the general tenor of the financial markets. The same is true for the questions I receive daily from our readers.

Lately, the most intriguing questions have dealt with the price of oil and other key commodities. It’s a topic that’s clearly on a lot of people’s minds so I thought I’d share some of them with you today.

Q: With crude oil prices down more than 75% from their record high set in July, do I really need to worry about “peak oil”?

A: Let me be blunt. Producers are operating near maximum capacity every day with 89.5 million barrels per day. We’re using 89 million barrels per day. That means there is essentially no excess capacity anywhere – period. If you factor in war, routine maintenance of pipelines or refining facilities, and diminishing supplies, we’re probably already running at a deficit even though current data does not yet reflect that. There is a very high probability that in the near future demand will outrun supply – and by that I mean permanently outrun supply.

I don’t think this is “just” peak oil. But I do think it’s the investing opportunity of our lifetime.

Q: That sounds alarmist. What about other commodities?

A: There’s a difference between being alarmist and being prepared – and, in this case, we’re talking about the latter especially when it comes to potential profits.

We are in the initial stages of a fight to the death for energy supplies and many other commodities – most notably potable water.

As I’ve noted for years, and as Money Morning detailed yet again in an analysis just last month, China, among other countries, is using its huge currency reserves – and the financial weakness of rivaling other global players – to lock up long-term supplies of commodities. By any stretch of the imagination, I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of this kind of thing.

The bottom line is that the outcome of this battle will affect every nation on earth. Absent truly fungible substitutes, it’s reasonable to expect to see oil nationalized at some level within our lifetime, and the first armed conflicts over water somewhere on the planet possibly as soon as 10 years from now. Certainly there is going to be economic conflict over those two things and on a level that is presently unimaginable. Depletion is happening at a far faster rate than most people realize.

Q: But oil’s still cheap.

A: It’s always been cheap – cheaper, in fact, than a cold soda or bottled water. But at a time when market forces are inevitably diminishing the supply, even as demand continues to grow, we’re looking at a one-way trip over time.

The average American uses two times the amount of oil used by each European, four times the amount used by each Japanese consumer, 12 times their counterpart in China, and 30 times the amount used by the typical consumer in India. And that’s at a point in time when nearly 4 billion people live in complete poverty without the stuff we take for granted…like oil and water.

Supplies are destined to shrink. And until we can find replacements, we’re stuck with what we’ve got – there’s no more of it.

Q: Isn’t the world working on substitutes as fast as they can – having been shocked by record prices of $150 a barrel?

A: Yes. And they’re making good progress. However, even if substitutes were found tomorrow, we still have to replace trillions of dollars worth of manufacturing and infrastructure processes that have to be changed completely. Some studies I’ve seen suggest that oil is used in more than 60,000 manufacturing processes and it’s much the same with water, in particular.

Even the most wildly optimistic estimates suggest that changing to new technology may take another 30 to 50 years to work through. In the meantime, oil is set to run out 35 years from now using the highest-reserve-level calculations available – and that assumes no demand growth and no population change. It’s even worse when it comes to water. Some predictions suggest that by 2050 nearly 7 billion people will live nearly waterless lives.

Q: That’s pretty forceful thinking.

A: I’ve always operated under the philosophy: “If not now, then when? If not you, then who?”

As the investment director of Money Morning, my job isn’t to “force” anybody to think a certain way, or to take a certain action. It’s to analyze the best data available to me, to make the appropriate recommendations, and to provide you with the insights you’ll get nowhere else.

I think we have the opportunity to invest in a group of “real assets” (which I define as oil and other key commodities) at a point when supplies are declining as demand is escalating. That combination suggests very rapid appreciation as demand eventually overwhelms production in the next few years. It’s a rare combination, and that’s why I say it may be the “profit opportunity of a lifetime.”

This reminds me of a conversation that I had with my colleague Jim Rogers, not too long ago, when the legendary investor observed that “real assets represent real wealth.”

I agree. And you will, too.

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