The Saudis have bragged about increased output in 2016 despite weak demand.
While much of the angst over the current crude market pertains to memories of high prices several years ago, a perspective that has been occasionally offered by experts seems to be gaining traction in lofty circles, and it posits that $100 oil last enjoyed in 2014 was an aberration.
This is the view put forth Thursday by Dan Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit, who told CNBC that U.S. shale producers making their costs cheaper and Nigeria and Libya increasing their production "have really pushed out rebalancing: We are seeing that people can operate in the $45 range when people thought it was going to be in the $50s, because people keep figuring out how to push down the cost."
He added: "Forget that world of $100 — that was not the new normal; that was an aberration"; IHS forecasts oil prices to average at the lower-end of $50 per barrel for 2017.
Alexander Novak, energy minister, Russia
The prices have been stabilized at higher levels
While Yergin insinuates that the new norm for crude was forced upon the market by adverse circumstances, Alexander Novak, energy minister for Russia, seems happy with a level between $50 and $60.
In telling Reuters that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has dampened price volatility via its production cutback initiative, Novak called the $50-$60 range a "fair" value for a barrel, adding that no immediate extra measures are needed to prop up prices.
He said, "I think that the decisions that were taken, they were the right ones; we have got the positive effect for market stabilization.
"The prices have been stabilized at higher levels, which allows the interests of investors, producers and consumers to be taken into account."
However, it's anyone's guess what proponents of the new norm will think about a range below the $50s, which many analysts think is the inevitable result of U.S. production going all-out and OPEC continuing to turn a blind eye to renegade members who refuse to abide by the cutbacks.
Indeed, if the U.S., president Donald Trump has his way, American drillers will be even more productive in the near future: on Thursday Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order to hold more lease sales and to speed up approving permits to explore for oil and gas on federal land.
Meanwhile, crude output from Saudi Arabia, which is persistently portrayed as the positive driving force of OPEC, averaged 10.5 million barrels per day compared with 10.2 million barrels in 2015, according to data published Thursday by state-owned Aramco.
Khalid Al-Falih, energy minister for the Saudis, said this was achieved "against the backdrop of persistently low oil prices and a weak global economy" - which seemingly contradicts is repeated statement that his kingdom and OPEC will "do whatever it takes" to rebalance the market.
Of course, not everyone is pleased with the prospect of crude in the $50s: earlier this week, Raymond James complained that "fake news" had overly influenced traders and caused oil to drop to its current levels when it could otherwise rise to as high as $65.