Nevermind Those EVs — Oil Demand Keeps Growing

Like clockwork, the commodities market worries in May about the strength of oil demand heading into the northern hemisphere summer holiday. Nervousness about the seasonal pickup in oil consumption abounds. It happened in 2023, and it’s happening again this year. But as before, traders’ concerns are misplaced: Oil demand growth is doing just fine.

The anxiety is reflected in the price of Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, which has dropped to less than $85 a barrel in recent days, down from about $90 a barrel in April. With the OPEC+ oil cartel meeting on June 1 to decide whether to prolong production cuts, the status of global demand matters. The group should look beyond the current noise and see that consumption remains firm.

oil pares

Admittedly, there are pockets of demand weakness. The middle distillates fuel segment, which includes diesel and heating oil, have seen soft consumption so far this year. But that’s largely due to a warm winter in the northern hemisphere, which reduced heating needs, rather than underlying economic malaise.

In the diesel market, the biggest problem isn’t demand, but supply: Renewable diesel and bio-diesel are taking market share more rapidly than expected, in the process magnifying the diesel glut. In February, the last month with monthly data available, biodiesel and renewable diesel accounted for about 8.5% of total US diesel consumption. In 2020, the market share of both was under 1%.