Gas prices are falling below $3 a gallon across the United States for two big reasons: (1) the world economy is growing slower than we hoped, and (2) global oil production is improving faster than we expected.
"India and China are slowing down,” said Charles K. Ebinger, director of the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings. "The IMF just downgraded Europe’s growth to less than 1 percent, and they're already quite energy efficient. Brazil’s a problem, too. All around the world there is no great growth story, and expectations are that things will stay that way or get worse."
There is also unanticipated supply. A few years ago, political turmoil was taking up to 2 million barrels a day off the market. Now production is roaring back in Libya, southern Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, and even Iraq, and the global price of crude has fallen about 25 percent in the last five months. It's the same old story: low demand, high supply, etc.
Andrew John Hall, the alleged "God" of oil trading, is predicting $150 barrels within the next five years. But the deeper you dig, the more reasons you find to be down on the price of oil in the near future. "Japan’s announcement that they’re starting two reactors means that there will be less oil import for Japan,” Ebinger said. Second, there are industrial shifts that are reducing oil’s share in the energy market. For example, many U.S. companies are using natural gas rather than petroleum products to power their refineries. Third, hedge funds went long on crude when they saw the Middle East flaming up. But as the price has moved against them, they've dumped oil into a soft market, further driving down the price of crude.