Oil hit $94 a barrel, just in time for the Holidays, and is staying there. Now the blame is coming on speculation, inflation, QE2, the falling dollar and good old fashioned supply and demand. Despite even bills in Congress designed to curb commodities derivatives, the CFTC delayed rules introduced to curb oil speculation. Bottom line, it's back, we had a pause, due to the global economic slowdown, but we appear to be witnessing the return of $100 dollar oil.
Paul Krugman is saying the reason for increasing oil prices is emerging economies and limited resources:
What the commodity markets are telling us is that we’re living in a finite world, in which the rapid growth of emerging economies is placing pressure on limited supplies of raw materials, pushing up their prices. And America is, for the most part, just a bystander in this story.
After receiving a lot of criticism, Krugman even put up a crappy graph, showing commodity prices versus the consumer price index over a long period of time. To argue Krugman's point a little more, the crude oil prices drop, earlier today (now erased), was attributed to China's interest rate increase. Speculators tried to imply China's consumption of oil is due to it's overheated and growing economy, thus assuming their interest rate increase will slow China's economy. It's highly doubtful China's oil demand will slow.
Below is a graph of gas prices from 1990 onward. Notice the spike in 2007-2008.
From The Oil Drum, is a graph of oil production vs. price.
Whatever one wants to attribute rising oil prices to, including QE2, one thing cannot be denied and that is the devastating effects above $4 dollar gas had on the economy in 2007-2008.
Suppose we stick just to the narrowest eﬀect of the energy price shock, namely changes in spending on motor vehicles and parts. How big a contribution would this alone have made to the subsequent economic downturns, ignoring any possible multiplier eﬀects? The ﬁrst column of Table 3 reports the actual average growth rate of real GDP over the 5 quarters following each of the 4 historical oil shocks discussed here. All of these episodes— in which GDP fell on average over a period of 5 quarters— are included in the list of U.S. economic recessions. The second column does a very simple calculation, asking what the average GDP growth would have been if there had been zero change in the motor vehicles and parts component of GDP over these 5 quarters, with all other components of GDP staying the same as reported.
Although this is a modest contribution (less than 0.8% in any episode), it is enough to move the average from negative to positive territory in the case of the 1980 and 1990-91 recessions, oﬀering some basis for thinking that, had it not been for the signiﬁcant downturn in autos in each of these episodes, they might have been regarded
as episodes of sluggish growth rather than clear recessions. By contrast, in the more serious 1973-75 and 1981-82 recessions, there was clearly something more signiﬁcant than just autos bringing down the economy.
Below is Hamilton's table 3, along with a previous estimate by two other Economists:
The U.S. economy is already in a fragile state. The last thing needed is a return to high oil prices. So much has happened since the oil shock of 2007-2008, hopefully this post will be a reminder on how economically crippling $4 dollar gas can be, not just on regular people not being able to afford the gas to make it to the Doctor, but on the overall economy itself.
Below is a prediction of $5 dollar gas by 2012.