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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.

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after 3rd woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch, a former member of the Obama administration and the 2020 Biden campaign, told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.