This should be a time of triumph in the oil patch. Even as economists and global majors were fretting over “peak oil” several years ago, independents were perfecting technology and techniques for unconventional development. That has come to full flower, proving that, as James Baldwin famously quipped, “Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”

But with fears of peak oil supply vanquished, concerns about peak oil demand have emerged. Creeping over the assurance of Baldwin’s expression is the shadow of a grimmer outlook voiced by Wolfgang von Goethe: “Everything in the world may be endured except continued prosperity.”

At the same time, a different supply problem has come to vex producers, especially independents—the supply of capital. In an unexpected development, the supply of crude appears less connected to the supply of capital. Independents have overcome one round of bankruptcies already and may be in the early stages of another. The midstream sector has struggled to keep up. And yet the oil just keeps coming.

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