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The Reality Is We May Never See $100 Oil Again

In a matter of 20 years, the People's Republic of China built 200 cities with a population of 1 million or more people.

The typical investor in the stocks of ExxonMobil (XOM) , Chevron (CVX) , Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) and the dozens of smaller oil exploration and production companies currently racing to secure profitable assets at prices around $50 per barrel might not stop to think about the impact China's growth has had on the oil patch since the dawn of the 21st century.

But if they're investing with the hope that the oil industry will return to the glory days when oil company stocks were worth twice as much as they are today, perhaps they should.

Such an enormous growth cycle drove demand up, and, paired with declining drillable U.S. reserves, arguably helped push oil prices to $100 per barrel earlier in the decade.

And it certainly played a pivotal role in fueling the global supply glut that persists today for the commodity, according to Paul de Janosi, a board member of U.S. Shale Solutions and a senior adviser for energy-focused management consulting firm SSA & Company.

"If you think about all the natural resources it took to build those cities in 20 years or less, it's clear that the commodity glut has been largely driven by China," de Janosi said in an interview with TheStreet. "But they're all built now. They may not be fully populated, but these cities are built."

So the question now is: Is there another big wave coming, and if so, where?

The first thought might be India, or perhaps Africa. But de Janosi points out that India doesn't have the infrastructure to...