A couple of thoughts on oil
he price of oil is stlll around $50, and there’s no reason to expect it to fall in a hurry. In particular, if China revalues the renminbi yuan, as is commonly expected, there will be a corresponding fall in the effective price of oil, both for suppliers and for consumers in China and other countries that revalue, for any given $US price. This probably doesn’t matter much on the supply side – everyone is pumping as hard as they can and will probably keep doing so. But China’s demand is probably quite price sensitive, and a reduction in the price could keep demand higher, even in the face of a slowdown in exports to the US.
The other thought that occurred to me relates to climate change. Although there are a variety of ways in which we could mitigate climate change, the simplest would be to double the price of carbon-based fuels. This would certainly reduce demand significantly in the long run (I’ll try and update this with some estimates soon). On the other hand, there’s a lot of concern about the short-run macroeconomic impacts of such an increase.
Well we’ve seen a doubling of oil prices, and substantial increases in coal and gas prices over the past few years, and any macroeconomic impact is undetectable amid the general noise. The cases aren’t perfectly comparable of course, notably
* the rising price has been driven by increased demand, not imposed exogenously
* the effect of rising market prices is to redistribute income to oil-producing countries, and increase trade deficits. This effect wouldn’t arise with carbon taxes and would be much smaller with tradeable permits
Still, the evidence is against the idea that higher energy prices would bring the economy to a grinding halt. Rather, the response so far seems to be a textbook case of orderly adjustment, as people gradually shift away from gas-guzzling vehicles, look again at energy saving options and so on. So far the response has been small, but over time (if supply declines and prices stay high) more substantial responses can be expected.