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Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

The price of oil is at all-time low. Even if you put aside the technical factors that caused the May WTI futures contract to close at negative $37.63 per barrel, oil has never been this cheap, in real terms, since the 1973 oil crisis.

Why it matters: Oil, like cash, is based on flows: the number of barrels produced per day, versus the number of barrels consumed. Oil also literally makes the world move: powering cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships. Now that the world has stopped moving, demand is well below supply, and storage capacity is running out.

  • By the numbers: Global oil demand averaged 99.9 million barrels a day last year. April’s oil demand will be 77.6 million barrels a day, estimates Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis at consultancy Rystad Energy.
  • While demand for oil has stopped suddenly, supply of oil can't stop so easily. Capping wells is expensive, and causes lasting damage. And international cooperation is in short supply these days.

Crude oil is dirty, smelly, flammable, and extremely toxic. It's also the chief contributor to global warming. And as we're now seeing, it's a terrible investment.

The bottom line: Oil is providing an object lesson in why currencies are superior to commodities — and certainly shouldn't be linked to commodity prices.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 30, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Oil giants Shell and Total report profits despite staggering earnings declines

Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Shell and Total SA announced mammoth earnings declines Thursday that reflect the pandemic's toll on energy prices and demand, but the companies nonetheless beat expectations and eked out profits.

Driving the news: Shell announced second-quarter adjusted net earnings of $638 million, an 82% decline from the same period last year.

By the numbers: Census to show first decline of white population

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Census Bureau via Brookings Institute; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The latest census is expected to show the first decline in history for the nation's non-Hispanic white population, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Brookings Institution's William Frey.

Why it matters: The U.S. is rapidly moving toward a majority-minority population — with the racial and ethnic diversity most apparent in younger cohorts. "This really is moving in a direction that’s going to favor the issues and the political agendas of these younger people," Frey told Axios.

Democrats plot filibuster workarounds

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Several Democratic lawmakers are moving away from calls to eliminate the filibuster while privately discussing alternatives to bypass it, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: These talks have ramped up in earnest following the Republicans’ move Tuesday to block a measure to protect and expand voting rights.