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Global Oil Demand To Fall For First Time Since 1983

This is the most amazing fact we've run across in weeks of parsing amazing facts: This year, for the first time in 25 years, the global demand for oil will actually drop.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the global demand will fall 50,000 barrels per day this year and another 450,000 barrels per day next year.

The last time global oil demand fell was in 1983, the last of four straight years of a demand decline that began in 1980. That was the tail end of the Second Oil Crisis, which sent prices spiking.

Step back for a moment and consider the enormity of this fact: This means that, for the first time in a quarter of a century, the global economy is shrinking.

Global economic growth has been a no-doubt given, going hand-in-hand with escalating oil use. Oil is the go-juice in the world's most robust economies -- the U.S., China, you name it. Even as developed economies try to create alt-energies, less-developed nations jump on the oil train. So far, no country has gone straight from burning wood to using solar, skipping over the oil and gas step.

The U.S. is the world's top consumer of oil. But China, with its runaway 9 percent annual GDP growth rate, was considered Answer No. 1 to the question: Who sucked the planet dry?

Just last summer, when crude was selling for a record $147 per barrel, we were talking about "peak oil" and the prospect of running out in a matter of years, not decades.

It was Malthusian thinking, in hindsight.

Funny what a little global economic collapse will do.

In China, growth has stalled. Orders not just for oil but U.S. coal are down.

And even though U.S. gas prices are down from their $4 per gallon peak in the summer and heading to $1.50 per gallon, people are not flocking back to the highways in their cars.

Mass transit use has been rising all year and was up 6.5 percent in the third quarter, said the American Public Transportation Association.

Could we have reached a turning point of sorts? Might the greens have gotten their wish?

If so, too bad it had to happen this way.

-- Frank Ahrens
The Ticker is Twittering!

By Frank Ahrens  |  December 9, 2008; 6:30 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: oil  
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