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January 17, 2016

I’M SO OLD, I REMEMBER WHEN LOW OIL PRICES WERE GOOD NEWS: Fund manager who’s been right on oil has a depressing new prediction: T. Rowe Price New Era’s Shawn Driscoll says the price for a barrel of oil could drop into the teens.

Why? Oil’s oversupply is profound and will last for at least two years, he said, and too many industry people still are in denial.

The oversupply, of course, stems from Saudi Arabia’s efforts to keep pumping to preserve market share from U.S. shale producers and other countries like Russia and Iran, which is chomping at the bit to free itself from international sanctions so it can pump oil again — at any price.

Given current demand — and without new Iranian production — “our model is saying we’re still oversupplied a million barrels a day in ’16,” said the manager of the $2.7 billion New Era mutual fund PRNEX -2.31% . “Our model for ’17 still shows oversupply with above-trend-line demand and without Iran.”

And the oversupply may be even worse than traders and investors acknowledge, because hundreds of thousands of barrels a day of new production are coming online in places like Brazil and Kazakhstan over the next couple of years.

Okay, if I were an oil investor this would be bad. And with the United States shifting from oil importer to oil exporter, our own incentives may change. But at present we’re starving a rogues’ gallery of countries that hate us — from Russia, to Saudi Arabia, to Iran — while getting cheap gas. I can live with that.