In a dramatic and unprecedented turn of events on Monday, crude oil began trading in negative territory for the first time since records began. The price on a futures contract for West Texas crude that was due to expire on 21 April crashed to minus $37.63 a barrel. This is a direct result of the market mayhem caused by covid-19, which has resulted in lockdowns around the world, brought economies to a screeching halt, and crushed demand for transport fuel. Reports say there is so much unused oil in the US that there is no space left to store fresh supplies. Storage costs money. Thus, oil producers had to pay to offload their stock.
The sudden fall in oil prices is tied not just to a demand crunch, but also tensions among the world’s major suppliers. The global effort to contain the pandemic, international pressure, oversupply, and still-sluggish demand seem to have struck both Russia and Saudi Arabia hard. Though a production cut has since been agreed to, demand is estimated to have fallen far more than that.
The best way to turn this situation to India’s advantage, therefore, is to grab this chance to fill up the country’s strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs). We should move quickly to boost our strategic petroleum reserves and strike long-term supply contracts with global oil suppliers.
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