Investors searching for how to invest in oil in 2013 should be focused on these latest developments from the Arctic.
In fact, countries are racing to get a piece of what could be the final frontier for oil...
As ice melts in the Arctic region, oil and gas trapped beneath the water becomes more accessible.
Money Morning Global Energy Strategist Dr. Kent Moors recently explained to Money Morning members about the search for Arctic oil and gas.
He spoke about the years-in-the-making U.S. Geological Survey's Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal. The study found that 84% of the total undiscovered oil and gas left on the planet is located above the Arctic Circle, mainly offshore and in three huge basins that lie under shallow seas.
Why Oil Is the New "Gold Standard"
Something very interesting just happened at the 2013 MoneyShow in Las Vegas.
The purveyors of doom and gloom were all still hawking their services there. But the primary solution they offer - a cure-all elixir for everything that ails markets - was beginning to wear thin.
The usual conviction that this one asset is the remedy was gone. And the seats at these sessions were only half-filled.
Indeed, gold is beginning to lose its luster.
The erstwhile commodity fix has been under pressure of late as well. Yet, even while most eyes have been on declining commodities - especially gold, silver, and platinum - something else has been happening.
Crude oil is emerging as a new replacement to reflect stored market value.
That is good for folks like us who invest in the energy sector, because it will provide a floor to downward pressures in oil prices. It will not counter all forces reducing the price of oil, but it is likely to temper such movements, allowing us some leverage.
Why the "Death of Peak Oil" Still Won't Mean Cheap Oil
Today (Wednesday) an analyst from Citigroup became the latest lemming to declare the death of peak oil.
In a report entitled "The End is Nigh," Seth Kleinman says a combination of flattening demand and rising supply will cause oil prices to slide slightly by the end of the decade to $80-$90 a barrel.
But while oil companies have made many large new discoveries over the past few years, including big shale oil finds in North America and Australia as well as deepwater finds in the Gulf of Mexico, that doesn't mean oil prices will fall.
In fact, according to Money Morning Global Energy Strategist Dr. Kent Moors, it's far more likely that oil prices will continue to rise over the next decade.
Moors points out what most other analysts seem to be missing - that all of the new oil finds present many challenges that will add to the cost of extraction.
"None of this new volume is light, sweet crude," Moors said. "The average wellhead costs continue to go up, and that moves its way downstream to processing, wholesale, and retail."
Forget the Kneejerk Reactions, Oil Prices Are Going Higher
With all of the concern exhibited over Cyprus' problems with banks and China's high-profile billion-dollar solar implosion, the doomsayers are once again predicting an oil price crash.
These guys must really need your money!
Each new geopolitical event is cast as the end of the world as we know it.
The fact is there is nothing on the horizon that will collapse oil prices for one very simple reason.
The prospects for oil prices are increasing, and elevating oil products along with them. Most sections of the U.S. will be testing 2008 gasoline price highs at the pump well before mid-summer.
Yes, we did see a swing down in crude futures during the initial stages of the Cypriot crisis, augmented by some short-lived negative comments on Chinese industrial prospects.
But by last Friday morning, stabilization had occurred and an oversold crude oil futures market began to move back up.
Oil Companies Hope for New Opportunity in Energy-Rich Venezuela
One of the biggest headlines recently related to oil companies was news of the passing of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
"El Commandante" as he was affectionately referred to by his countrymen, at least by those who approved of his leftist policies, was 58 and succumbed to a lengthy battle with cancer.
Predictably, news of Chavez's passing has sparked ample speculation about what the future holds for Venezuela's oil industry and those oil companies looking to profit from a possible renaissance there.
Venezuela is South America's largest oil producer and an OPEC member. In what may come as a surprise to some investors, Venezuela could be called the Saudi Arabia of OPEC.
In other words, the South American nation is home to about 300 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, compared to about 270 billion barrels in Saudi Arabia. That is according to OPEC's own estimate.
Not only that, but Venezuela is home to the largest natural gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere.
Given those superlatives, it is easy to understand why some Western oil companies are cautiously optimistic about what the future may hold for them in Venezuela.
Why Bigger Isn't Always Better in the Oil Business
Forty years ago, British economist E. F. Schumacher wrote that "Small is Beautiful" in a famous book by the same name.
The vision champions market approaches that discount the importance of size to results, a philosophy that contrasted the notion that "Bigger is Better."
In bringing the idea of his teacher (Leopold Kohr) to a broader canvass and a wider audience, Schumacher began a debate that has revolved around the impact of technology and market size ever since.
Just last weekend, the debate renewed.
Again it was an English environment, but the subject matter would have been quite unexpected only a few years ago. This time the occasion was our annual energy consultations at Windsor Castle outside London. The debate focused on both size and profitability of oil companies in the development of new fields.
The key lesson: During expanding times in the oil business, like today, small is not only beautiful.
It is also profitable.
And it can be for you as well if you take the time to learn why...
The Arckaringa Basin Could Be the Largest Shale Oil Find of All Time
Over the past few days, I have released information on what could be the largest shale oil find ever recorded.
It's located in an area of Australia called the Arckaringa Basin and contains as much as 233 billion barrels (or more) of recoverable shale oil.
That's more than all of the estimated oil in Iran, Iraq, Canada, or Venezuela. And it's just 30 billion barrels shy of the estimated reserves in all of Saudi Arabia.
The discovery at the Arckaringa basin is so big it's already prompting some observers to begin talking about energy independence for Australia, much in the same way Americans did after similar discoveries in the Bakken, Marcellus, Eagle Ford, and Utica basins.
And there is one small company that controls what is shaping up to be the biggest worldwide oil project to hit in decades.
After Nexen's Buyout, How Should You Play Canadian Oil Sands Stocks?
The purchase of Calgary-based energy company Nexen Inc. (NYSE: NXY) for $15.1 billion by China's CNOOC Ltd. (NYSE ADR: CEO) is the largest overseas purchase ever by the world's second-biggest economic power.
But it will likely be the last time China, or any other country, takes a big chunk out of Canada's oil sands - the world's third-largest proven reserves of crude oil.
That's because after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved the Nexen deal in December, he banned further foreign firms' investment in Canada's oil sands and will allow them only under "exceptional" circumstances.
"The government's concern and discomfort for some time has been that very quickly, a series of large-scale controlling transactions by foreign state-owned companies could rapidly transform this [oil sands] industry from one that is essentially a free market to one that is effectively under control of a foreign government," Harper said in December.
"Foreign state control of oil sands development has reached the point at which further such foreign state control would not be of net benefit to Canada," he added.
But foreign government control isn't the real problem facing Canadian oil sands companies.
Two Reasons to Expect Greater Volatility in Oil Prices
A combination of rising demand and tension in the Middle East means oil prices will continue to climb.
How this plays out in the short term will have a primary impact on the profitability of oil sector investments. One conclusion is already clear. This will once again be a volatile market.
And this time, volatility will be point upward.
That is not to say that the rise will be continuous or without occasional pull backs. In fact, yesterday we witnessed two contrary signals attesting to an ongoing collision of forces.
Both of these are exogenous to market factors, a very important observation to recognize moving forward.
The direct relationship between supply and demand would oblige a rise in oil prices for the simple reason that more end use is moving back into focus.
Both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and OPEC have raised demands projections for the near term. Those levels are now approaching less than 3 million barrels per day of global supply.
Now we are not going to have a crude shortage anytime soon, although there may be some regional constrictions on the horizon. Ample supplies are available for quick pumping to meet rising demand. Nonetheless, there will be a greater use of unconventional production (tight, shale, heavy, oil sands).
And that means the oil coming on market will be more expensive.
Knee-jerk reactions to global events will again pull on demand sentiment. That, in turn, will spike the volatility. Yet this is likely to be more subdued on the down side than at any time in the last year.
Pundits have also introduced the specter of another (or "double dip") recession and fanning the flames of that fear would prompt the price of oil to move south.
The likelihood of a recession is rapidly dissipating and the prospects of these fear tactics are declining along with that reality. Reversals, therefore, while still inevitable, will be short in nature so long as the current underlying dynamics remain. Those are now pointing up.
I have a series of personal indicators used to determine what should be happening with oil prices. There are 10 of them, designed to estimate the actual composition, strength, and direction of pricing movements. For the past month, six of them have been pointing positive. As of Friday (these are calculated at the end of each week), seven are now moving north.
The upward pressure is building, reflecting the overall higher revisions in forecasted demand by IEA and OPEC. Yet we are once again reminded that the oil market hardly operates in a vacuum.
And that leads me back to those two outside signals we received yesterday.
Will the New U.S. Shale Boom Kill Oil Prices?
These days everybody wants to extol the virtues of rising U.S. domestic crude oil production.
From decades of increasing reliance on foreign providers, some hardly sympathetic to American interests, the new prospect of having significant unconventional oil reserves here at home has been a major development.
The assumption advanced says that domestic sources will be cheaper. As a result, this should comprise a positive boon to consumers of oil products but a problem for producers and refiners. In short, the mantra among some commentators is to proclaim the end of the oil market as an attractive option for investors.
As with most such simplistic observations, however, it turns out not to be true.
A number of these "analysts" are actually talking down the prospects of oil prices because they have already shorted the commodity and will benefit their own investments if they can continue the downward push.
Well, oil prices are now going up, with both West Texas Intermediate (WTI) in New York and Brent in London at more than three-month highs.
In addition, the spread between WTI and Brent is narrowing.
The narrowing of that spread is occurring while both benchmarks are rising in price. The mantra of the pricing doomsayers would expect it to be going in the other direction.
There are two broad categories of reasons why matters are not happening as the doomsayers had expected (aside from the obvious - they misunderstood the dynamics from the beginning).
And once you understand both, you'll be in position to profit as prices continue to rise.