Posted by Rewan Tremethick on February 1st, 2016.
You won’t find many people using the term ‘black gold’ without a sense of irony at the moment. The oil market is floundering in the midst of an oversupply crisis, the effects of which are rippling across the world. Many crude producers stopped making money long ago and are piling up debts in the hope the markets will turn around soon. Since the middle of 2014 oil has crashed from US$114.81 per barrel to US$27 and is currently struggling to stray far from the US$30-US$35 mark, around £24.30.
What was once one of the most coveted resources on the planet is now barely in demand thanks to large stockpiles across the globe. Two years ago, the idea that oil would be at its current price would have been laughable to most. But here we are, in a position where some very unlikely things are enjoying the accolade of being more expensive than a barrel of oil.
Here are 6 things that will set you back more than crude.
If anything can understand the current uphill struggle of oil prices, it should be a salmon. Prices vary depending upon where you look, but the fact that crude is cheaper than fish was first noticed by Norwegian aquaculture website iLaks.no. Apparently, a whole 5.5kg salmon will set you back £54.73, compared to £24.31 for crude oil.
Dairy prices aren’t doing overly well at the moment either, which just makes it even worse that the black stuff is now languishing at about half the value of the white stuff. On the 20th, Brent crude hit US$26.19, equating to $0.62 per gallon, while milk was a $1.18 per gallon. The price ratio hasn’t been that low since May 2004, although oil would make an awful substitute for putting on your breakfast cereal.
Everyone knows we Brits have a thing about queuing. It’s practically a national sport, so the idea of paying someone to queue for you might make you feel like you’re missing out. If you’re a busy American, however, you might not have time to stand around for an hour. In which case, you may want to hire the services of a professional line-stander. It’s a service popular with lawyers and non-profit organisations who don’t want to have to queue to get a good seat at things like congressional debates, which often go on for hours or even days. Although from the looks of it, you could hire someone to reserve you a spot in a queue for pretty much any event. It costs $72 minimum to hire someone from linestanding.com, the equivalent of more than two barrels of Brent crude.
A barrel of oil is already an absolute steal compared to twelve months ago, but it turns out you’re getting even more of a bargain than you realise. If you wanted to buy a standard 55 gallon steel drum, it would set you back three times the cost of a barrel of oil – around £69, which is triple the cost of buying oil.
At least, a photograph of a potato, if that makes things any better. To be fair, the striking potato-on-black snap, entitled Potato #345 (2010), has always been more expensive than a barrel of Brent Crude. The artist behind the image, Kevin Abosch, recently sold it directly to a private collector for the sum of £750,000. Abosch is famous for his striking portraits, having photographed Johnny Depp, Steven Spielberg and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg. The current value of oil means the buyer of that iconic potato could have instead been the proud owner of 31,969 barrels of crude.
You’re in luck if you have a desperate need for North Dakota Sour crude, a particularly low and sulphurous grade of oil. Prices have dropped so far that one refinery, Flint Hills Resources LLC, values it at just $1.50, around £1.04, an upward correction from a previously printed figure of -US$0.50. That means that it would cost you less to buy a whole barrel of oil than it would to get 105 penny sweets, or 11 packs of Parma violets.
The future of oil prices is currently one of the most hotly debated topics on the financial markets. Some think we’ve seen prices go as low as they possibly can and that a rebound is inevitable. Others, however, aren’t so optimistic, with several forecasting that crude could even hit the $10 per barrel mark. Either things will resume to normal levels, or we’ll soon be writing another post like this – one that includes ‘supermarket birthday cakes’, ‘socks’ and ‘the latest Adele album’ on the list of things more expensive than crude oil.
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