The slump in oil prices is leaving many investors wondering whether the price will ever recover.
Last year, the price per barrel plunged from more than $100 a barrel to below $50 and has not really staged what anyone could call a real recovery.
The current price is around $60 a barrel and analysts and investors say they cannot see the price claiming much higher for a long time.
The world has a glut of oil as producers have not turned off their gushers despite the frail market conditions.
To make matters worse, the end of sanctions against Iran has turned on an even bigger tap to add to the market over supply,
Producers in face-off
Oil producing countries are in a face-off. Many are worried about reducing output because they will lose market share to a rival.
As any investor will confirm, too much oil and too little demand can only mean prices stalling at best and falling in the long term.
This is great news for consumers enjoying a cheaper cost of living as the price of energy goes down.
Businesses are benefiting from reduced production costs that make their margins more profitable.
Investors and workers in the oil and gas industry are the ones suffering.
Oil company share prices are falling as projects are mothballed and thousands of workers laid off in the US, the UK’s North Sea oil fields and in the Asia Pacific.
In the Middle East, the sheikhs are continuing to fiddle like Nero watching Rome burn by taking little action to tackle the crisis.
The leading OPEC producers churned out more than 32 million barrels of oil in August 2015 – 2 million a day more than a year ago when the price first slumped.
Playing a long game
So should investors take a punt on oil stocks or funds?
Conventional wisdom suggests buying at a low price and holding may show a long term profit, but with OPEC countries predicting the price per barrel might not hit $100 again before the late 2020s, it’s a long game indeed.
A lot can happen in that time in oil producing countries that have a reputation for economic and political instability.
Other factors come into play as well, such as a slowdown in emerging market economies, especially China and the US taking less oil imports.
Many developed countries are also looking to nuclear power to supply cheaper and cleaner energy and 15 years is an open window for building and commissioning more nuclear power stations.