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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.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
39 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Higher education expands its climate push

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New or expanded climate initiatives are popping up at several universities, a sign of the topic's rising prominence and recognition of the threats and opportunities it creates.

Why it matters: Climate and clean energy initiatives at colleges and universities are nothing new, but it shows expanded an campus focus as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the world is nowhere near the steep emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to hold future warming in check.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The pandemic isn't slowing tech

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Thursday's deluge of Big Tech earnings reports showed one thing pretty clearly: COVID-19 may be bad in all sorts of ways, but it's not slowing down the largest tech companies. If anything, it's helping some companies, like Amazon and Apple.

Yes, but: With the pandemic once again worsening in the U.S. and Europe, it's not clear how long the tech industry's winning streak can last.