Invitación a una crisis energética

DALLAS – A medida que el consumo y el nacionalismo crecientes en los países de la OPEP disminuyen sus exportaciones de petróleo crudo y obligan a las compañías petroleras internacionales a invertir en zonas de alto costo y pocas reservas debido a que la demanda global sigue creciendo, los precios del petróleo en última instancia podrían romper el récord establecido en 2008. En el corto plazo, una mayor volatilidad será la norma debido a factores económicos, políticos, naturales y técnicos. Sólo hay que examinar el pasado reciente para saber por qué.

Mientras que los especuladores pueden influir en los precios en el corto plazo y aumentar la volatilidad de los precios, los principios básicos del mercado y las medidas gubernamentales explican el sorprendente aumento de los precios del petróleo entre 2003 y mediados de 2008. Durante este periodo, la demanda mundial de petróleo aumentó, principalmente en los países en desarrollo, mientras que la producción se mantuvo relativamente estable de 2005 a 2008. La única manera de cubrir la creciente demanda fue con la utilización de la capacidad excedente y los inventarios comerciales de la OPEP. Una vez que se agotó el excedente y los inventarios comerciales se redujeron a niveles críticos respecto de la demanda futura estimada, los precios del petróleo empezaron a romper un récord tras otro.

Consideremos algunos datos. Primero, la producción mundial de petróleo crudo disminuyó en 266,000 barriles por día (b/d) en 2006, y 460,000 b/d en 2007. Entretanto, la demanda mundial de petróleo aumentó en 1.2 mb/d en 2006 y 937,000 b/d en 2007.

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