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Energy world turns upside down as prices slide

Energy world turns upside down as prices slide
Brent crude fell firmly below $30 in Monday trade, but there's more to the story.

Chalk it up to lifting of the Iran sanctions, or continued pumping by all oil producers into a market that already uses less than what is being produced, but energy prices continue to slide. It appears the global energy cycle has entered new territory with prices falling below levels not seen for more than a decade.

We round up some interesting facts about this new energy world, with the hope of offering some insight.

Speculators see an opportunity in oil as a record number increased shorts in the last week. According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission hedge funds increased short bets 15% last week. And Bloomberg reports that bearish oil wagers continue to rise.

Crude prices slide on Iran sanction news, offering opportunity for savvy buyers. (Photo: zhengzaishuru/Thinkstock)

And markets like this create odd situations too. Flint Hills energy - a major refiner - picks up North Dakota Sour crude - which is high in sulfur - for negative 50 cents per barrel. In essence, the producer paid Flint Hills to take this oil away.

That price is down from $13.50 a barrel a year ago, and $47.60 in January 2014, Bloomberg reports. Basically the producer paid Flint Hills to take the Sour crude in an effort to clear it's pipeline, and Flint Hills which has the capability to turn that crude into gasoline gets a windfall. reports that Sour crude is a small part of what they produce out of the Bakken fields in North Dakota. These high-sulfur grades of crude are more expensive to refine, so often fetch a lower price, but perhaps not a negative price.

Of course Iran will be the newest player in the market - long held back by global economic sanctions. Those were lifted over the weekend when third-party inspectors verified the Middle East nation was meeting new nuclear control targets as part of the new agreement. Of course for Iran the ability to sell oil on the world market is a cash windfall, hitting the market when prices are at a 12-year low may not be so "happy."

Part of that price slump is due to the eventual return of Iran to global oil trade, but the market didn't expect those sanctions to be lifted so soon. And Iran has pumping capacity - though old - ready to roll. As one analyst pointed out, Iran's oil production capacity wasn't left like Kuwait's was after Saddam Hussein left during the first Gulf War. Iran can start moving oil into the market soon.

And as oil prices fall so do diesel prices, though a little more slowly. However, the Energy Information Agency has reported that diesel prices fell last week by 3.4 cents. New numbers for this week are delayed due to the Martin Luther King holiday. However, for farmers looking toward planting in 2016, falling diesel prices will be good news.

In the Weekly Energy Review report prepared by Farm Futures, Bryce Knorr, senior market analyst, Farm Futures, notes that wholesale prices fell below $1 last week, and he offers insight into why farmers might consider locking in some fuel now.

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