If a person reads US newspapers, it is easy to get the impression that all of the world’s oil problems are over. But this is not really the case.
An Overlooked Part of the Problem: High Oil Prices
A major piece of the world’s oil problem is high price. Prices continue to be far above historic levels, now in 2013.Figure 1. World oil price Brent equivalent in 2011$, based on BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy data.
High oil prices disrupt economies around the world because when oil prices rise, the wages of the vast majority of workers do not rise to compensate. Workers find that they need to adjust their spending patterns because the higher price of oil leads to higher prices for many things, including the cost of commuting, the cost of food, and the cost of buying goods that have been shipped long distance.
When workers adjust their spending patterns, discretionary spending is cut. This leads to patterns we associate with recession, or perhaps just slow growth. Unemployment rises, and there is less demand for new homes and cars.
Governments are also affected, because many of their costs, such as building roads, are higher. They also have to pay benefits to workers who can’t find jobs, or who can only find only low-paying jobs. Governments find it increasingly difficult to collect enough taxes because of the low wages of workers. Problems with rising deficits and the debt ceiling become the order of the day. Does any of this sound familiar?