Global energy markets are in flux, from the rapid growth in renewable energy production and falling technology costs to talk of peak demand and calls for urgent action on climate change. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions went up last year at the fastest rate they have since 2011, and we saw growth in coal, oil and gas production and consumption. When it comes to energy and climate issues, there’s tension between the rhetoric, our ambition, and the reality of the facts on the ground.

In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff is joined by Dr. Christof Rühl, an internationally renowned economist specializing in macroeconomics and energy economics. Christof served as Chief Economist at BP for nearly a decade, and most recently, was the Head of Research at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. 

Jason and Christof discuss how energy markets are impacting geopolitical risk and the global economy -- from sanctions to trade wars and the escalating tensions in the Strait of Hormuz. They discuss the shale revolution, and its global implications as the U.S. becomes a major exporter of both natural gas and crude oil. They also discuss plastics, electric vehicles and new technologies from advanced nuclear to battery storage and hydrogen, and the role they might play in the energy transition.

View the transcript

[00:00:03]

Jason Bordoff: Hello and welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. I’m Jason Bordoff. Global energy markets are in flux, I think it’s fair to say, from rapid growth in renewable energy and falling costs, talk of peak demand, and the impacts we’re already seeing of climate change and the urgency of faster action. At the same time, emissions went up last year at the fastest rate they have since 2011, and we saw growth in coal, in oil, in gas. There’s a tension there between the rhetoric and the ambition and the reality of what we see. Geopolitical risk continues to dominate energy markets, from sanctions to trade wars and much more, including in the Strait of Hormuz, between Iran, the U.S., and Saudi and others right now. And then the U.S., the revolution in shale, what’s happening as the U.S. becomes a major exporter of natural gas, of crude oil as well. This is having huge global implications. New technologies from advanced nuclear, battery storage, hydrogen, and more, and what role they might play in the energy transition. Enormous amounts of uncertainty, issues for a center like ours to research. These are the sorts of issues that our guest today has spent a career thinking about. Christof Ruhl, who was the Chief Economist for nearly a decade at BP, and most recently the Head of Research at ADIA, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Christof, thanks for joining us on Columbia Energy Exchange.

[00:01:31]

Christof Rühl: Great to be here. Hi Jason.

[00:01:33]

Jason Bordoff: So, I just mapped out a bunch of issues that we could spend our time talking about that will take up way more than the time we already have. So, let’s just start with what we see happening in the global oil market today? It wasn’t that long ago, decade or so ago that we were talking about peak supply, not peak demand. Everybody was worried that prices were gonna be $150 to $200 a barrel and now they are stubbornly in the 60s, notwithstanding efforts by OPEC to prop up prices. U.S. shale continues to surge and displace OPEC supply. Where we are headed moving forward is our oil prices gonna be depressed for years and years to come?

[00:02:09]

Christof Rühl: Depressed, we don’t know but one thing is for sure, I mean, this is one of the rare occasions where the shale revolution, the so-called revolution, is one of the rare occasions where you really have energy markets influencing geopolitics and the global economy. Energy markets are no stranger to being exposed to shocks from politics or from the economy. But the shale developments were so strong, they really now have shifted to parameters for global politics and for the global economy. And what you see on the shale, right now, the overall right now is pretty straightforward. You have too much oil in the system in a well defined sense that production capacity is larger than demand, effective demand or actual demand. And that is likely to continue for a while, I mean, when would you have last seen sort of pick out just like in Iran, Venezuela, there are sanction, ships being stopped in the Strait of Hormuz.

[00:03:04]

Jason Bordoff: Nearly two million barrels they’ve supplied, these sanctions have taken off the market, right.

[00:03:06]

Christof Rühl: Yeah. That plus and the contaminated oil issue from Russian, all of that into price and we shouldn’t be surprised about that because the production increases in the U.S. sort of the largest ever for two years in a row. I think, you know, last year ______ [00:03:23] was the highest ever increase in gas production and then oil production of any country in the 150 odd years of oil markets. And what is happening here, I think is that we now have definitely moved from a system where you have two production centers, Saudi Arabia and OPEC and Russia and the _____ [00:03:41], to where you have three. And the biggest one, the new one, is the U.S. and North America. And the question is where is this going sort of in the long term. In the short term, it’s already clear. U.S. is becoming energy independent in the import sense. The immediate impact on the balance of trade. The immediate impact on the security situation discussion of the middle east. But that’s not end of it. It’s likely to continue into a situation where you have a market, the next big development to probably look at the demand side. There is reason to suppose that peak oil demand is different from…

[00:04:18]

Jason Bordoff: Before we get to demand, let me just ask you about supply. I mean, of course, the big question people ask including folks sitting in Vienna at OPEC is how much this, how far the shale revolution can continue at a time, when it’s still cash flow negative from a free cash flow standpoint and investors are seeking greater returns. The industry, oil and gas hasn’t delivered great but when you look at the returns to investors, compared to the S&P recently. At what point do you think that starts to, at the same time, efficiency is improving, productivity is improving. How does that tension play out?

[00:04:53]

Christof Rühl: I think, what you see here is sort of the micro level and the macro level. On the macro level, I see these production improvements to continue. Efficiency to improve. The break even price is continue to coming down. I think the one thing I’ll forecast about shale so far has been common, they underestimated it. And of course, that means that you will now have investors on the sector. You have a demand for cash positivity. You have demand for improved operational efficiency. And you have now a tendency to consolidation. And companies in that space they are like, and this is always combined and coming together have adjustment processes but the macro outcome there will be continued growth in the shale base and U.S..

[00:05:34]

Jason Bordoff: Does that consolidation on the increased role of the IOCs, the larger oil companies in the shale? Does that…

[00:05:41]

Christof Rühl: I think that’s what is lying head and that’s going to improve capital efficiency even further. And then you have these very fast reaction times. Price reaction times. You have a situation where I believe the U.S. is actually on the verge of being a beneficiary. U.S. economy becoming a beneficiary of rising oil prices. Look at the major transmission channels, there is one that’s already turned, that’s in terms of trade effect. Every time, we have seen prices going up. In the last few years, there have been great experiments and the oil price came down in 2014 because there were large fluctuations in oil prices. They were all exogenous to the economy. They were not driven by global economy but OPEC actions and what you clearly can see is that and prices went up, shale production increased and when prices went down, shale production decreased and what we can also see is that this century old relationship of higher oil prices equals slow economic growth and vice versa is falling apart. It’s just not there anymore in the data. And the suspicion of course is that this is because of shale in the U.S. It was always a relationship between sort of the developed economies and the oil price. Now, that has been broken in the U.S. and there is three major channels to look at. One has already changed that is in terms of trade effect. Every time oil prices go up, shale production goes up. Import requirements in the U.S. fall or in the future exports really increase. That’s positive contribution to GDP growth. The second channel which I think has turned in around 2016 is the investment impact. We can see that again, every time oil prices went up investment in the shale sector went up. It’s much more volatile than private capital investment in general. And the contribution to GDP growth has become positive oil prices fall become negative. And the one where the jury is still out is the biggest effect, the biggest transition channel from prices to GDP growth that’s through consumption because most of the oil is ending up in final consumption. And there what we see the data is that the old relationship has loosened and the new one is slow to emerge and that is simply because there is such a large diversified economy. So, I bet you if somebody finally sits down and does the number state by state what you discover is that the effect of oil prices through consumption is already positive, if oil prices rise in oil producing states and probably still negative in states within the U.S. which are oil importing so to speak and that is just something which perpetuates through the system gradually.

[00:08:08]

Jason Bordoff: So, just to be clear and make sure, we understood. What I think you were just saying, as the U.S. becomes basically now a net zero oil importer in the few years will be a large exporter of petroleum.

[00:08:22]

Christof Rühl: Beginning of next year, we’ll switch.

[00:08:24]

Jason Bordoff: And that creates a perception you hear it from our president that the middle east doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what happens in the Strait of Hormuz. Of course, he is still going on Twitter to ask OPEC to increase supply because what OPEC does can matter for the global price and the price that people pay at the pump is still set by the global price. But your point is that from a macro, not a consumer standpoint at the pump but from the standpoint of GDP, the health of the U.S. economy overall, even though there are winners and losers because consumers still pay more at the pump that we might be in a situation in a few years where higher prices are better for the U.S. macro economy than lower oil price.

[00:09:01]

Christof Rühl: Yes, the rising prices. So, we have this, this very, very long standing relationship that if the prices rise, the global economy suffers. It always works with the most advanced economies. It’s a very long established relationship. People put numbers to it left and right. And it has been the case for since we can remember and I’m saying that this is likely to change in the sense that because of the U.S. developments, rising oil prices are actually beneficial for the U.S., for U.S. growth. And for that we have to distinguish. One is the input independency of the U.S., so they don’t, as they are no longer importer that’s already happening. But then there are other channels one of which, the biggest of which is consumption expenditure and they are sort of unclear. The way, I always talk about this when you have an audience and so is to say, it used to be very clear case. So, somebody, you know, save some money and again pump and with his SUV and then went and spend it consumption and so lower oil prices translated into higher demand and bigger contribution to economic growth. Nowadays when oil prices fall, first and of course at the pump and the prices are lower, he’s jubilant, he’s deciding to go and buy flat screen TV and then his phone rings and it’s his nephew from North Dakota and says, uncle, uncle, I just lost my job. Can you borrow me some money? You know, that’s the picture behind that, so that the propensity consumer economist would say, is going to change, is going to be effective. And I think once that sinks into the public perception that higher oil prices, rising oil prices have been officially effect. Then the already existing impact of the U.S. no longer being an importer becomes multiplied. Why does your president still sends tweets about lowering prices, either because they haven’t realized or more likely because his electorate of course is specific group which people who are not very rich, usually have very big cars.

[00:10:53]

Jason Bordoff: Well, it’s not electorate. I think your point about the macro economy is interesting and important. I’m not holding my breath when politicians start calling for higher oil prices instead of lower oil prices.

[00:11:01]

Christof Rühl: Well, it’s not but it will translate into a different behavior with oil producing countries where oil impact will be that there will be things three times longer until before you bail out some mid-size oil producers which is an economic or political trouble. So, and right now we see is still sort of ostensibly close cooperation with especially the countries in the gulf, in the Arabian gulf but nobody holds his breath that this will survive another round different administration. And the gradual withdrawal from the U.S. from that security arrangement will also have consequences in the long term.

[00:11:34]

Jason Bordoff: You mentioned a few minutes ago, the outlook for demand and the estimates oil demand will peak from a few years from now 2040 or beyond. Just tell us your view on that and then I want to ask you about one or two particular elements of what the drivers might be.

[00:11:50]

Christof Rühl: Well, as you said, you know, the oil peak theory was from the supply side. That’s a battle that economists have always won. Economists have always argued, you don’t run out of oil at some point. The peak will come from the demand side and here on the demand side, that’s very interesting. So, we had of course within the industry some worry about the take off of EV and so there are a lot of studies been undertaken. How big the impact of electric vehicles will be and the consensus seems to be that it’s much smaller than expected simply because it will take time for the car fleet to be replaced given its current massive size. What has been much less investigated or just the opposite of many of these long term forecast see is a right of hope is demand for oil as feet stuck in the petrochemical sector and it’s driven largely by plastic and I would argue that with the complain, the global complain against plastics that this strand of demand is actually in danger.

[00:12:48]

Jason Bordoff: And just you wrote an interesting piece in the financial times about this recently. So, people, they talk about this often. I don’t think people always really count up the numbers and the numbers are hard to get when you think about what is pet chem and how does it, how much of oil demand goes into it. How do we, what counts as single use plastic and what doesn’t. What is subject to push for recycling and what isn’t? So, just talk a little bit about how much, if there is more of a push to reduce single use plastics for ocean pollution and other reasons. How much of a dent will that make in oil demand?

[00:13:18]

Christof Rühl: It’s always difficult because the plastic industry and oil demand, doesn’t seem to be broken. So, it’s not only different forecast is also different histories. But the bottomline is that underlying the standard forecast for example by the AIC assumption or plastic demand growth about 3% going forward. So, that’s slightly faster than the assumption for global GDP growth. And that’s essentially an exploration. It’s extrapolation of what’s happened in the 70s and 80s in Europe and OCG countries. And I don’t think that’s true when you look at how easy it is to replace some of the single use plastic. Every plastic bag which is used twice is diminishing demand by 50% and why would not China, India and all the smaller countries in between sort of leapfrog this crown jewel of modern civilization of the plastic bag. In terms of numbers what this means is…

[00:14:06]

Jason Bordoff: And just to remind people how much oil demand today goes to pet chem.

[00:14:09]

Christof Rühl: It’s not very much. It’s about 15% of the total. But pet chem is supposed to account for more than 50% of the increment of the growth between now and 2040 in the IEA outlook, we just used that as a benchmark, it's by and large true for all the outlooks. And we did the numbers as you said and with some sensible assumptions about the increasing in recycling rates and the decline in demand for single use plastic, you diminish that demand growth by easily by 20%. And that means there are looms, the growth, the projected growth is 20% lower exactly and because the numbers are so fine turned. That would, if you just take the IEA long term forecast and you would put read all the other numbers the same, change these assumptions of plastic, that would bring peak demand forward by 10 years. That would…

[00:14:59]

Jason Bordoff: From when to when?

[00:15:00]

Christof Rühl: From 2040 to 2030. That will leave, that would leave stranded assets in order of magnitude of 20% and a lot of the especially the national oil companies are heavily invested in that.

[00:15:12]

Jason Bordoff: And that’s about, when you said, it reduces the growth 20%, it’s about how many million barrels a day? What impact…

[00:15:18]

Christof Rühl: We’re only talking about three million or so barrels per day because generally the assumptions are that oil demand for industrial use, for power generation is falling. For transport, it’s slowing. And only for Petchem it holds up very well also very well, so reducing one ______ [00:15:34]. And, what is interesting also in the political level, it turns out that under reasonable assumptions the dent in oil demand by lower demand for feed stock from the petrochemical industry is larger than the dent the IEA assumes for the existence and the growth of electric vehicles. So, it’s a bigger impact which has escaped attention so far and which I’m sure, you’ll see it already keeping up in discussion and it will become more and more prevalent. But it’s not a forecast. In terms of forecast, in terms of peak oil demand, most long term forecasts see it somewhere around 2035, hugely between 2030 and 2040. There is a nice way of looking at this, when you just leave aside all the gas, plastic about EV, just concentrate on the oil intensity of GDP. So, there is so much oil you need per unit of GDP. Then you discover something amazing. It’s a very, very, stable relationship. This demand, this oil intensity of global GDP peak in the late 70s with very high oil prices and since the 80s it has come down almost in a straight line. Almost, 1.1% decline every single year. And if you are only willing to exploit that long term trend for another 10 to 20 years without any additional assumption and then you match that with one of the growth forecast from the IMF also, you’ll arrive at peak oil demand in 2030. Again, this is not a forecast but it shows that...

[00:17:00]

Jason Bordoff: Just want to be clear. Leave aside policy, carbon pricing, climate change. You’re just saying if all of that went away tomorrow, you’re saying just historical trends of energy intensity suggest peak demand.

[00:17:14]

Christof Rühl: In the 2030s yeah. So, if the only thing, you need to do is to be willing to extrapolate an extremely stable 40 year old trend and you end up in a 2030.

[00:17:22]

Jason Bordoff: And so, how do you think about, you know, using a 100 million barrels today, three million from a backlash against pet chem is very, very small. Peak in 2030s, you know, that’s still a lot of oil. That means that we are coming no where close to meeting the kind of climate goals that nations have committed to and climate science tells us we need to hit. So, how do you think about potential to see a much different future, where oil demand starts to peak and decline much more rapidly and what are the key drivers of that…

[00:17:52]

Christof Rühl: Two things to keep in mind. Number one for me. Peak oil is not like a peak. You know, it’s not like a mountain and then it goes all down and this is going to look much like, much more like oil demand already looks since 2005. It peaked in 2005 but it’s not falling like a stone. It’s more like a plateau. It goes back a few years and then it goes back up if prices go down, then it goes down a little bit and so, this way, it will be a system which plateaus and secondly to meet the climate goals, they are out of reach in my opinion completely anyway. But it was much more important for the climate goal is power production and the oil market is sort of only second fiddle.

[00:18:29]

Jason Bordoff: And how do you think about the potential for a much more abrupt kind of tipping points people refer to an S curve where electric vehicles suddenly just become the norm. Everybody, it just, it cross that line when they become more economic and then they become the norm. We went from horse and buggy to car, landline to cell phone. You’ve seen all those analogies. If a country like China decides for pollution, the reasons or it wants to dominate a new emerging market, an industry we’re gonna just make EV the norm. How much, how likely is that and how much would that change the picture you’re talking about?

[00:18:59]

Christof Rühl: Well, that would just accelerate the picture I’m talking about. Personally I am a bit skeptical of EVs. I don’t think that there is sort of create the breakthrough which is necessary. I don’t think that their production is as carbon friendly as sometimes suggested. It’s actually damaging. So, I’m skeptic. But it doesn’t matter personally. You have already a picture which is pretty clear when you think about oil coming from these three production centers, we talked about and now, you add to that peak oil demand or just a plateauing of demand. Then you have a shrinking market. It’s a different animal from the growing market which we are used to. And then you would typically say, okay, in a shrinking market, the low cost produce is king. So, we would have a quantity of oil which is produced by the middle east which then within OPEC starts into competition actually about market share as prices stay low. And the rest goes to the U.S.s as the first taker and how much is produced by the U.S. is determining the global price because that’s where the flexible price goes. And you would think of a high cost producer potentially like Russia being the loser. But I think what happened will be more likely that Russia is very well prepared, very well sheltered and has an almost flexibility treatment in its exchange in domestic service sector which the middle east doesn’t have. So, it’s quite likely, there is actually the middle east which suffers most from a period of prolonged low oil price which will come. But in order to address the carbon question, you need a bigger picture which affects the whole energy transition.

[00:20:26]

Jason Bordoff: And where are we in the energy transition? I said at the beginning that you know, emissions went up at the fastest rate since 2011 despite lots of promises of policy action from different countries and the fact that we have seen zero carbon technologies like renewables grow very rapidly. But we are growing lots of other things too because energy use is rising.

[00:20:45]

Christof Rühl: We are nowhere close to meeting any kind of climate goal. I mean, just think of the dimensions of the system and you talk about new technologies and renewables. So more on renewables by which I mean, solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels account for about 4% of the total system. That’s much less than the new technologies which have given us shale oil and shale gas. Even new technologies have more powerful in the process sector. Secondly, when you think of the entire system, by far the most important use of primary energy is conversion into another type of energy namely into electricity. 60% of all primary energy is used to be converted into electricity and it’s rising. By the shares of the primary energy which are used to produce electricity, then you see what by expense, you know, most frightening, boring flat lines in history which is that the shares of oil plus gas and of coal and of all the non-fossil fuels haven’t changed in 30 years. So we are nowhere clear…

[00:21:46]

Jason Bordoff: Just to be clear, that means, we’re using more. But you’re saying the share hasn’t changed. The share, the total. The total amount of energy is rising.

[00:21:54]

Christof Rühl: The system is growing so fast and particularly the consumption is growing so fast that the shares remain constant in global carbon emission continue to rise. And when you try to get to the bottom of that, then sometimes people try to get some wisdom and some help by historical explanation, looking at previous energy transition. And there is two previous energy transitions of which we have knowledge. One, the replacement of biomass and essentially wood by coal during the industrial revolution as the largest fuel and secondly the replacement of coal as a dominant fuel by oil after the second world war. And when you do that comparison, then you suddenly realize when you look at it closely that the current energy transition has absolutely nothing in common with these only two historical examples we have. It is very different. Why? Because when coal replaced wood, that was part of a much larger transformation of society and the economy. New product, new processes. Everything must transform. It’s not for nothing that we call it the industrial revolution and coal was essential fuel of the industrial revolution. Modern renewables are nothing of that sort. Some people are sort of chattering about a fourth industrial revolution, digitalization, all of that. You need power and electricity for digitalization. But there is nothing in the books which says where this power is coming from. It doesn’t have to be from renewables. It can come from coal. It doesn’t matter for our smartphones and for all these technological transformation which we have now. And then the second historical transformation, the replacement of coal by oil as the dominant fuel. That was much more a case where suddenly a new more economic fuel became available and the oil indeed replaced coal initially not just was not focused on transport but everywhere. Industrial use and production under the boiler and power generation. It’s only in the 70s after the oil price dropped and the increasing prices that became specialized in transport. So, I think, there it’s fair to say that we had economic striving the system with a new fuel oil, more energy dense, higher energy density, lower prices replacing coal in existing applications. And again, this is not the case for modern renewables. They have not been introduced anywhere because they are more cost efficient something like that. So, the previous two large…

[00:24:01]

Jason Bordoff: The costs are coming down.

[00:24:05]

Christof Rühl: The previous, the big point here is that the previous two energy transitions have been driven by economics. The current one is being pushed against economics. That is going to be the case as long as there is low carbon price. And yes prices are coming down, the costs are coming down for renewables of course and that’s a good thing. You see, nuclear, gas, even coal in some places challenges. Yes, but you have to look at just in cost. There is a huge big problem here because we have not solved the storage problem for a lot of renewables and what you see is take a country like Germany and I bet you California wouldn’t look much different which is very well advanced in the share for renewable for example in power generation that produce about five, between 5 and 200% of demand. That means the cost sometimes, you know, the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, you’ll really need backup generation capacity and that’s usually referred to as system cost and this backup generation can come from fossil fuels, from power from coal, it can come from gas. It can come from nuclear. Very often, it can come trade electricity, comes from neighboring countries or states. This is the case in California. But it has to come from somewhere.

[00:25:11]

Jason Bordoff: And good scale storage is…

[00:25:13]

Christof Rühl: And you can optimize the grid as much as you want as long as that fundamental problem isn’t addressed, you cannot have a system which is completely decarbonize and so that leads me to this general hypothesis that given the relative size of the fossil and the non-fossil segment in todays energy system, there will be no successful energy transition if it’s not going hand in hand with closer integration between the fossil and the non-fossil segment rather than you know, these segments completely different narratives and just being substitutes of each other and by closer integration, I mean bridge fuels, gas for coal of course and that also mean storage facilities which is and backup generation which has to be done for some time. Development of things like hydrogen which can be generated from fossil and from non-fossil sources. So, where it becomes a matter of arithmetic. If you use that for backup generation fuel or storage fuel which one is better. And it’s a very, very long road ahead. But we are nowhere close to reaching, you know, what scientists tell us is to be reached in terms of carbon emissions for 3%.

[00:26:18]

Jason Bordoff: Do you see any technologies from carbon capture to hydrogen to other new innovative types of battery, energy storage, not just batteries that might significantly change that outlook?

[00:26:32]

Christof Rühl: By far the biggest, it’s not a technology but the biggest step on solution would be a carbon price, there is just no doubt about that. In terms of technologies, I think there is two on the horizon. One is hydrogen which will have to be pursued for the moment. It’s very too expensive. It’s not anywhere close to where it needs to be. But it has this properties that it can be generated with fossil and non-fossil fuels that it can use the fossil infrastructure, that it can be transported without using the grid, producing pipeline systems. So, it’s quite conceivable that at some point, you have a big solar station somewhere in the market countries which export solar energy into Europe and hydrogen which comes from Russia. It’s produced with fossil fuels and comes on the back of gas deliveries. That’s conceivable scenario. And then the second thing in my personal book is the biggest recoverable, technical, recoverable reserve in shale gas are in China. And China has of all the big economies the biggest problem. It needs to replace coal. It needs to get more gas. It needs to push for the energy transition also for local reasons, for local pollution reason and I think what is happening there is that they have not yet have policies in places. It’s not so much on matter of geology, it’s a matter of competition and allowing access to these resources to get them started and if the Chinese, the history of Chinese reforms is any guide that at some point, they will do that and I’m pretty sure, in 20, 30 years, that will be one of the large approaches that we’re talking about.

[00:28:05]

Jason Bordoff: Just to wrap up in our remaining minutes. You just spent four or five years living in Abu Dhabi and so a lot of the potential, the whole energy transition, the potential for peak demand to be accelerated and come forward. Obviously, this has huge implications for many parts of the world including the oil dependent economies of the gulf. Talk a little bit about what you saw in your time there about how the gulf states are adapting to the way in which the world is changing? How concerned they are about shale or about energy transition? And what you think the outlook is for energy supply and demand in the economies of those regions?

[00:28:44]

Christof Rühl: I think it’s a very difficult and I’m not saying this sort of in a deregotary way in anyway but it’s difficult to actually diversify an economy and particularly if have an economy which is growing fast in a geographically and climatically disadvantaged region like the gulf region and the point which one has to understand is that when you expand into any kind of economic activities and urbanization in that region, then you have high maintenance costs. You know, every tree which is there, it needs to be watered. Every empty apartment in that block needs to be cooled not to get moldy. So, these kinds of costs are with you and so that means the larger the thing grows, the higher these maintenance costs and this is the point which I don’t understand. They all have grown their economies in the belief that bigger is better and that means that more and more of the oil resources of the export revenues goes into just maintaining these economies even if you abstract from all the issues related to subsidization and inefficient use of oil and all these things like in Saudi Arabia. So, I’m very skeptical on the long term that in the present environment they are a match for what is happening in the U.S. and what Russia is capable of doing in terms of lowering production cost. Once we arrive in a world where this excess supply is durable and where it becomes a competition.

[00:30:05]

Jason Bordoff: Christof always a pleasure to have the chance to spend time with you and hear your thoughts about what’s happening in the rapidly changing and dynamic energy mix. I hope, we can do it again soon. Thanks for making time to be with us.

[00:30:15]

Christof Rühl: Thank you and sure we can.

[00:30:17]

Jason Bordoff: And thanks to all of you for listening. For more information about Columbia Energy Exchange and the Center on Global Energy Policy, visit us online at Energypolicy.columbia.edu or follow us on social media at Columbiauenergy. I’m Jason Bordoff. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next week.