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Plunge in Oil Demand Far Worse Than Previous Recessions

Source: BP Statistical Review, IEA, and World Bank

The severe shock to the oil industry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is far worse than previous recessions, World Bank data shows. Reflecting the steep drop in prices, demand for oil has dropped markedly by 9.3%. By comparison, the Great Recession of 2008 only saw a demand drop of 0.66%. 

The sharp drop in demand is owed to global social distancing measures, which have essentially cut excess need for electricity and fuel for transportation. But the world had seen an oversupply of oil even prior to the pandemic, largely due to stiff competition between Saudi Arabia and Russia for increased market share. The International Energy Agency says the plunge in oil demand is “staggering”, with renewable energy set to make up 30% of this year’s demand for electricity.

Oil prices are now expected to average $35 per barrel in 2020 — a huge decrease from the October 2019 forecast of $58 per barrel and a 43% drop from the 2019 average of $61 per barrel. The U.S. administration is weighing possible bailout options, but so far Congress has declined this option. The pinch has been felt by major oil companies, with reported staff layoffs and a 25%-35% reduction in spending on new production.

Finland’s Support for NATO Soars

An overwhelming majority of Finns (76%) support joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, whereas previously, a majority of Finns opposed joining the intergovernmental military alliance, a recent Yle poll reports.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues into a third month, the number of Finnish adults in favor of NATO membership has grown from 53% in February to 62% in March, and 76% in May. Support was strong across political parties, with the strongest support among backers of the Swedish People’s Party and the Centre.

Finland and Sweden, traditionally neutral countries, announced their bids to join NATO this week (though Turkey has blocked the start of the talks for both countries). Finland’s membership would double the alliance’s land border, adding the more than 800 miles of border that Finland shares with Russia and additional support in the Baltic Sea.

Climate Change Causes Heat Waves in India and Pakistan

Extreme heat waves have engulfed India and Pakistan since March, with temperatures rising to up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), according to NASA. The temperatures, which are higher than average, are a result of climate change.

The effects of the heat waves include death, illness, reduced crop yields, poor air quality, and one of the worst electricity shortages in more than six years as power demands go up. While heat waves are common in the region this time of year, the number of spring heat waves has been increasing as global warming intensifies.

The deadly heat waves have also caused India — the world’s second-largest wheat producer — to ban wheat exports. India initially planned to fill the gap left by Ukraine and Russia, which together export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat. This and other factors have driven up global food prices — agricultural prices are up 41% compared to January 2021, with wheat prices up by 60%.

Russian Invasion Hurts Trade with Europe and Asia

Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine will particularly affect the economies of neighboring countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, a new analysis by Statista shows. Both regions are more heavily dependent on Russia for trade in terms of GDP than other partners, like China (which imported $57 billion in Russian goods in 2020) or the U.K. ($24.5 billion in imports).

Belarus is the country most dependent on Russian exports, with nearly half of its imports coming from Russia (49.6%) — nearly 50% of its GDP. Armenia is a distant second, with Russian trade equivalent to 17% of its GDP. Neither Belarus nor Armenia voted in support of the March U.N. resolution to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Sudan, which imports Russian weapons, wheat, seed oils and oil, is the only country with a significant share of GDP impacted that is not from Eastern Europe or Central Asia.

The crisis in Ukraine is estimated to set back economic recovery from the pandemic, potentially causing a recession in Europe. Ukraine’s economy is forecast to contract by 35% as a result of its attacks, while Russia’s could decline by 8.5%.

US Concerns Over Conflict in Ukraine Grow

More than half of Americans (59%) are concerned that Russia will invade other countries besides Ukraine, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. Going into its third month, the crisis in Ukraine has led to an exodus of millions of Ukrainian refugees, accusations of war crimes by Russian troops, and disruption of trade and supply chains.

Over half of Americans (57%) also believe that the conflict will continue for a long time, while 55% believe that Russia will defeat or take over Ukraine. Half of Americans (50%) say they are extremely or very concerned that U.S. or NATO involvement would lead to a war between the U.S. and Russia. 

In late April, President Biden proposed military and economic aid to Ukraine. Fewer Americans now say the U.S. isn’t doing enough to support Ukraine than they did in March, with 31% saying the country isn’t doing enough — down from 42%. 

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