THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 22 April 2020 (Futures shock: On oil price fall below $0(The Hindu))

Futures shock: On oil price fall below $0(The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: West Texas Intermediate
Mains level: Economic impact due to decline the crude oil prices in US 


  • Five decades after the oil shock of 1973, when an Arab embargo on the supply of oil to some western powers including the United States sent the price of crude skyrocketing fourfold to $12 a barrel.
  • The global economy faces a fresh shock from a free-fall in oil prices. 
  • On Monday, May futures for the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) U.S. crude plunged below zero to touch a historic low of -$40.32 a barrel. 

Negative price: 

  • A negative price implies that a seller would have to pay the buyer to hold the oil to be supplied. 
  • While the unprecedented plunge in the particular futures contract could be partly explained away as a technical anomaly given that the May contract was set to expire on Tuesday, beyond which buyers would need to be ready to take physical delivery, the reality is that oil prices are desperately in search of a bottom. 
  • A perfect storm of a supply glut exacerbated in March by a price war that saw key producers Saudi Arabia and Russia ramp up output even as demand continued to contract on account of the COVID-19 outbreak sent prices into a steeper slide. 
  • Brent crude futures have tumbled more than 67% in 2020 to about $21 a barrel as of Tuesday afternoon in London trading, while the WTI futures have plunged about 110% to -$5.78. 


About West Texas Intermediate:

  • West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil is a specific grade of crude oil and one of the main three benchmarks in oil pricing, along with Brent and Dubai Crude. 
  • WTI is known as a light sweet oil because it contains 0.24% sulfur, making it "sweet," and has a low density, making it "light." 
  • It is the underlying commodity of the New York Mercantile Exchange's (NYMEX) oil futures contract and is considered a high-quality oil that is easily refined.

Curtail output: 

  • With storage for crude — on land or offshore in supertankers — nearing capacity or becoming prohibitively expensive, oil producers are going to have little option but to curtail output. 
  • Saudi Arabia is reported to be considering output cuts even before a 9.7 million barrels per day deal it had struck with Russia to cut production takes effect from May. 
  • Still, merely closing the tap a notch or two is not going to redress the oversupply in the market at a time when the ‘Great Lockdown’ has destroyed demand on an unprecedented scale. 

Strategic reserve: 

  • India has prudently been using the sharp fall in both crude prices and domestic demand to accelerate the build-up of its strategic reserve. 
  • While the sliding oil prices would help significantly pare India’s energy import bill, a protracted demand drought would end up hurting the government’s tax revenues severely, especially at a time when it badly needs every additional rupee it can garner. 
  • Also, rock-bottom oil prices risk damaging the economies of producer countries including those in West Asia, hurting inward remittances. 
  • After the lockdown, the Centre ought to consider using this opportunity to cut retail fuel prices sharply by foregoing some excise revenue for a while in order to tease back momentum into the wider economy.


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Prelims Questions:

Q.1)With reference to the Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, consider the following statements:
1. He and his wife, Savitribai Phule started first school for girls in 1848 in Pune.
2. In 1873 he formed the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) to attain equal rights for people from lower castes.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2



Mains Questions:
Q.1) What is the West Texas Intermediate? Do you think there has been any impact on India by falling the crude oil prices as it goes to negative?