Oil and the Affects of Increased Consumption by Competing Economies
Crude oil is an important commodity in the world of today where it provides the major source of energy for keeping economies running. This has seen very high swings in terms of price when there are shortages or excess supply. This price cycle may last over several years as the demand in spread over OPEC supply and non-OPEC supply. (Oil Price History and Analysis) the entire petroleum market is very highly controlled in terms of marketing, and all of the seven companies which control the international market, either directly or in collaboration with other companies, sell all the petroleum products through different subsidiaries and affiliates in all the important markets of the world. (the International Petroleum Cartel) So far as the U.S. is concerned, the price has been directly controlled through production and price controls over the greatest part of the twentieth century. During the entire period after World War II the price of oil has been about $19.61 a barrel and this price is being measured in terms of the value of dollars as in 2000. During the same period, the price paid for local American crude was about $15.25 in terms of 2000 prices. This means that prices of crude during the entire period from 1947 to 2003 has exceeded $15.25 only for half the time. (Oil Price History and Analysis)
In terms of importance, there are seven companies that control the oil market throughout the world and that include five American companies – Standard Oil Co. At New Jersey, Standard Oil Co. Of California, Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., Inc., Gulf Oil Corp., and the Texas Co. There are also two British Dutch companies – Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., Ltd., and the Royal Dutch-Shell group. (the International Petroleum Cartel) the interesting part is that it rose very slowly in the earlier years and was only about $3.00 in 1957 from the low figure of $2.50 in 1948. During the period of the end of the century, it was an entirely different situation and the prices ruling then were between $14 and $16. These prices do not clearly show any increase but are reflections of the inflation that was taking place. (Oil Price History and Analysis) the oil companies have very good controls over their operation and this is even through the directors serving more than one company as directors when they are affiliated to one group. (the International Petroleum Cartel)
International Oil Regime:
When we consider the international situation, the total control on the petroleum industry has two major sharers. One of them is the state monopolies and the other the seven large international petroleum companies. These international companies are already noted above. The control by these companies involves reserves, production, refining, transportation and marketing. (the International Petroleum Cartel) However, in spite of such controls, the prices of oil has reached very high levels in recent times, and recently the price of U.S. light crude has gone over $56 a barrel before dropping down to saner levels. (Higher oil prices hit U.S. growth)
As already mentioned in terms of companies there are seven companies which rule the world. This connection is seen in the tie ups that exist between the oil companies in the local companies. Iraq Petroleum Co and its entire group of subsidiaries are owned by Jersey Standard, Socony, Royal Dutch Shell and Angle Iranian. Similarly, Kuwait Oil is owned jointly by Gulf and Anglo Iranian. There are a lot of linkages between standard of California and Texas co through the group of Texas California group of companies. They are also tied up with Jersey Standard and Socony through the Arabian American Oil co and Trans Arabian Pipe Line Co. (the International Petroleum Cartel) the importance of U.S. In the market of world wide oil sales is because the sales are mentioned in U.S. dollars.
Thus the increase or decrease of the value of other currencies in terms of U.S. dollars affects the pricing by OPEC of the amount of oil that they should produce. Thus when the international price of dollars go down, the members of the OPEC receive lesser revenues in their currency and this decreases their buying power, as they receive their payment in dollars and that is converted to their currency. This led to a situation when Iraq demanded that it be paid in Euro and the currency had just been introduced. It was felt that this decision could hurt the American economy very seriously if this had been taken up as a precedent and followed up by the other members of OPEC. (OPEC: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) at the levels of current price, this is nearly double of what it was last year, the price of oil has become a very important factor in the economy of the world and it cannot be left alone by the leaders of most countries. (Oil and Stagflation)
At present OPEC consists of Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. The organization has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The organization is for the purpose of negotiation with the oil companies regarding petroleum production, prices, and future rights of concession of the oil companies in the different countries. (OPEC: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) Thus, it is clear that OPEC is only a pricing agency for crude oil and does not have further control on future processing. These rights are controlled by the oil companies and these seven international petroleum companies own 65% of the estimated crude oil reserves in the world, and through that they have the control over all oil supplies in future in the world. This is of course with the assumption that different fuels do not start getting used by people.
When one looks at the position of reserves outside the United States, the position is even clearer and these “seven sisters” hold 82% of the reserves after owning 34% of the reserves in United States. (the International Petroleum Cartel) the importance of the agreements taken up by OPEC is to help the members earn more from the two thirds of oil reserves that they own. In conditions of today, they supply about 40% of the world production and half the oil supply to the world. Their position gave the 11 countries over $338 billion from oil exports, and this was an increase of 42% from 2003, as per the figures released by Energy Information Administration. A comparison of these figures can be made to the earlier figures of 1972 when the amount collected by the oil exporters was $23 billion from their oil exports. Even in 1977, when the prices were at the highest because of the 1973 oil crisis, their collection was only $140 billion. (OPEC: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
At the same time, one should remember that the dollar figures do not show up the complete picture and one has to take into account the impact of inflation on the world economy. This is reflected in the consumer spending, and that has not been much affected by the high oil prices, though there has been some decline over the last year when the prices slowly increased. The effect is clearly shown in the current year when the prices have climbed over $50 a barrel. This effect on inflation is being seen in the modest pressure due to the higher oil prices. (Prospects for U.S. Economy) the belief of most analysts is that the increase in the second quarter of 2005 could affect the economic growth of United States badly. (Higher oil prices hit U.S. growth) the impact of OPEC on controlling prices has been rather poor even in the past, and this is probably the reason why one cannot define OPEC as a cartel. The primary reason for this is that OPEC is not able to enforce the member quotas, and has not been able to do so from the start. This was seen even in the 1979-1980 period when prices were increasing fast. At that time, the oil minister of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Yamani told other members of OPEC that if the prices were increased fast, then there would be a corresponding lowering of demand. This was not accepted by other members of OPEC. (Oil Price History and Analysis)
B. Wars and Inflation
The concept of oil embargo did not start in 1973, and one of the first attempts was by the United States and Netherlands on Japan even before World War II. This was a concept that came before the first attempt by the Arabian countries to use oil as a strategic weapon in 1956 and 32 years before 1973, the year of the world famous oil embargo. Even in 1960s, the United States and Western Europe were restricting the import of oil from the Soviet Union. They were afraid that the Soviets would stop all oil supplies once the countries were using Soviet oil in large quantities for political reasons, and even stopped the export of wide-diameter steel pipes! (the Failure of the Oil Weapon: Consumer Nationalism vs. Producer Symbolism) at that time, the oil balance of these countries was not as critical as it is today, and they were not really depending on “foreign” oil. The entire situation changed with the October War which started shortly after midday on Saturday, October 6, 1973 with a concerted attack by Egypt and Syria on Israel. (Oil Price History and Analysis)
At the same time, one has to remember three important factors regarding the situation in 1973 embargo. The first of these points is that the evolution of the situation to an embargo was not a surprise to any of the Western nations. United States and its allies had been receiving warnings from different Arab countries months before the embargo took place, and the embargo was not for any economic reasons. The second point was that there had been an energy crisis in United States for a long period before the embargo occurred and this had been mentioned by the then President, Richard Nixon. He had given a speech six months before the embargo regarding the energy shortages in United States. The third point is that the major supplier to the United States, Saudi Arabia did not want the imposition of the oil embargo in 1973. (the Failure of the Oil Weapon: Consumer Nationalism vs. Producer Symbolism)
1973 October War:
Even in the Arab region, the imposition of an embargo was not new and the producing countries had used oil as a political weapon against the Western countries in 1956, 1967 and 1973. The funny situation is that the leaders of these political efforts in those years were led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – the friends of United States. The aim at that time was to force countries supporting Israel to change the political stand and compel Israel to vacate the land that it had occupied during the war in 1967. (the Failure of the Oil Weapon: Consumer Nationalism vs. Producer Symbolism) the actual war started on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. This is the day that Jews are supposed to be in synagogues for prayers and fasts. As the chosen date was a surprise, Egypt had success and managed to cross the Suez Canal and the Syrians took Golan Heights on the day after the start of the War. The tide of the war started changing after October 10th when the forces of Israel were able to go even beyond 10 kilometers of the line established in 1967 due to cease fire. (Israel and Zionism: October War: 1973)
On the Egyptian side, the Israeli victory was even more spectacular and on 14th October they crossed the Suez Canal and ended up surrounding the Egyptian Third Army. The continued fighting brought in international trouble and the two arch rivals of United States and USSR were on the point of engaging in a battle. In the meantime, a ceasefire agreement had been approved on 22nd and that had not stopped the war. At the end there was a United States and Soviet joint resolution calling for ceasefire in the United Nations that was approved by all parties on 26th of October. (Israel and Zionism: October War: 1973) it had been assumed that a joint effort by consumer nationalism and producer symbolism that “oil weapon” can achieve short-term economic goals, but it cannot achieve political goals. The importance of economic goals cannot be ignored. In the case of this war, the members of OPEC had increased the prices by 70% a few days before the embargo was applied as also a few days before the war. (the Failure of the Oil Weapon: Consumer Nationalism vs. Producer Symbolism)
It is assumed that there is an impact of petroleum prices, but that is not necessarily true. Let us look at the situation in 1970 before the oil shocks came, gas lines started, the term stagflation became a part of common vocabulary and OPEC was considered an important player, the price of oil was $1.80 a barrel. This increased to $2.25 a barrel after two years and that included the effect of a presidential election and the efforts of Col. Mohammad Gaddafi withholding Libya’s oil from the market. Then there was the important change with the war just mentioned, and the follow up with an embargo on oil exports to United States by the Arab countries. This increased the price of oil to $11.58 a barrel, and that interprets to $43.40 in the currency value of today. The apparent increase in prices also frightened the central banks of different countries and they started with tight money policies so that the oil prices could be restricted, but that sort of efforts did not help. In the 80s the war started between Iran and Iraq, and that restricted the supply of oil increasing prices to about $35 a barrel, and that interprets to about $80 a barrel in today’s currency. (Oil and Stagflation) the increase in prices today is being countermanded by Gross Domestic Product rising at about 3.1% as the consumers and businesses are tightening their belts. (Higher oil prices hit U.S. growth)
OPEC has also been warning us for quite some time as it has been saying from August 2004 that its members do not have much of pumping capacity left. This is also showing that this group does not have much influence over oil prices any longer. One of its members, Indonesia is thinking of giving up its membership as it has become a net importer and is not being able to meet the production quota required from it. (OPEC: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) Even the Arab oil producing countries have been able to generate large revenues from the export of oil only for a few years after the embargo. This also did not give it large gains or the international community inflation as these “petrodollars” were sent to the western countries for investment. This helped in the improvement of trade balance for United States while it hurt Western Europe and Japan. Totally this was not a good decision for the Arab countries into the embargo exercise. (the Failure of the Oil Weapon: Consumer Nationalism vs. Producer Symbolism)
C. Economic growth
Asian Giants India and China:
For China, the labor intensive manufactured goods section have now captured a large share of the international market, but the importance of this sector as an engine of growth will slow down. This will lead to high unemployment in the urban areas of the country. (Higher oil prices hit U.S. growth) So far as the petroleum demand is considered, China is the leader with additional demand of 840,000 barrels per day during the last year, and part of the reason for this is the doubling of the sale of cars, but this is expected to fall down. In India, the sales of vehicles have risen by 18% in the last year. (China, India’s oil demand unlikely to decline) the problem of India is further compounded by the position that it is one of the most tightly regulated economies of the world. (India Economy Growth)
The government of India is now trying to reduce prices of oil based items over the immediate future so that inflation can be reduced, and inflation has been running at more than 8% a year. Thus though a truckers strike took place, it is not expected to reduce demand for oil. (China, India’s oil demand unlikely to decline) the Indians have recently going through a period when the economic resources of a large portion is increasing. Today about 10 million Indians are considered to be upper class and about 300 million are estimated to be in the middle class. This has also led foreign businesses to try to take advantage of this large number of potential customers. The demand has been reflected in increase of sales of televisions, refrigerators, motorcycles and automobiles. (India Economy Growth) on the other hand, the Chinese government has been trying to rope in prices of energy for the average consumers in spite of the recent rapid increases. This is with an effort to protect the customers from economic overheating. (China, India’s oil demand unlikely to decline)
Increased demand for oil by both nations:
It is seen that China is one of the fastest growing nations in economic terms and that has taken up the consumption of oil by the country from 2 million tons a year to over 10 million tons now. Even in last year, the growth is over 35% and according to analysis of ban credits, it is estimated that Chin will account for over 40% of the growth in oil demand. There is also a large increase in demand for oil in United States and this is boosting oil demand internationally. The demand for imports has now reached the limit of supply at about 80 million barrels a day, as already mentioned earlier. (Oil and Stagflation) at the same time, there are doubts as to whether the massive imports by China are real annual demand or are for building up strategic stocks. According to JP Morgan, the stocks with china are now about 285 million barrels, and even as per statements from China, there is a stockpile being built which will be completed by the end of this year. (China, India’s oil demand unlikely to decline) This high demand from China is causing difficulties in terms of oil prices is causing difficulties to the federal authorities as the demand for dollars has reached very high levels. Even the Chinese currency is linked to the dollar, and thus in the end, the federal authorities end up as bankers to both the countries. (Oil and Stagflation) So far as India is concerned there is no sharp increase in the demand for oil, and the total demand for both China and India will end up being around 970,000 barrels a day. (China, India’s oil demand unlikely to decline)
Increased prices equal less economic growth:
It is true that there has been a slowdown in the United States economy, and the growth was expected to be about 3.6% for the first three months of 2005, and the present data shows that this has not been the case. The reason for this belief is that the last quarter for 2004 had shown a growth of 3.8%. (Higher oil prices hit U.S. growth) Some had felt that this will force the oil prices down to about $25 to $30 a barrel, but the fact is that now the price is hovering around $50 a barrel. (Oil and Stagflation) at the same time, according to economists, the reduction in growth of the economy is not enough for increase in the interest rates by the Central Banks to curb inflation. (Higher oil prices hit U.S. growth) Thus it is clear that oil prices are not the predominant reason for the present inflation. The local price of petroleum in China is based on the main three trading centers in Rotterdam, Singapore and New York. At the same time the government is worried about the domestic price, and has not permitted any increase in domestic prices of petrol and diesel since August 2004. Thus the domestic levels are below the world rates. (China, India’s oil demand unlikely to decline) in India too the domestic rates are controlled by the government and they have not let the prices increase much and this time through the reduction of taxes there. At the same time one has to remember that both these countries are poor users of oil due to their ancient facilities in many areas. (Oil and Stagflation)
The origin of stagflation is that prices go up, while the salaries and other benefits of the people do not go up. It does not affect the industries or the owners of facilities as their values keep going up with stagflation. In the oil industry, the countries where state monopolies exist, this is not affected by stagflation as they have to import almost everything else. The oil producing countries producing enough for exports are now only Russia, Rumania and Mexico, and even there most of the state run organizations have been privatized. The oil produced by the state monopoly countries constitutes only 7% of the reserves and 10% of the production. (the International Petroleum Cartel) the usage of energy by individuals is also low and cannot lead to inflation; on the other hand there are important economic reasons why this is taking place.
The notable period of stagflation has started over the last decade or so. At the same time, there has been a substantial flow of jobs outside the United States, and the government has not taken effective steps to control. The flow is aided by technology, and in general the historical laziness that develops in a country after ruling the world for some time, as can be seen in the case of United Kingdom which lost its world empire after the Second World War. The American worker has now become too expensive for many jobs that the industry and even professionals are able to get done outside the country at a much lower cost. Wealth is today not measured in terms of cash but goods, and the valuation of the industry’s shares is going up. So why should they bother about stagflation?
Alhajji, a.F. “The Failure of the Oil Weapon: Consumer Nationalism vs. Producer Symbolism” Retrieved at http://www2.onu.edu/~aalhajji/ibec385/oil_weapon2.htm. Accessed on 8 May, 2005
China, India’s oil demand unlikely to decline” (28 September, 2004) Retrieved at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-09/28/content_378979.htm. Accessed on 10 May, 2005
Higher oil prices hit U.S. growth” (29 April, 2005) Retrieved at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4495695.stm. Accessed on 10 May, 2005
India Economy Growth” (2000) Retrieved at http://www.indianchild.com/india_economy_growth.htm. Accessed on 8 May, 2005
Israel and Zionism: October War: 1973″ Retrieved at http://www.jafi.org.il/education/100/maps/octwar.html. Accessed on 8 May, 2005
Makin, John. H. (1 September, 2004) “Oil and Stagflation” Economic Outlook. Retrieved at http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.21078/pub_detail.asp. Accessed on 10 May, 2005
Oil Price History and Analysis” Retrieved at http://www.wtrg.com/prices.htm. Accessed on 8 May, 2005
OPEC” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OPECAccessed on 8 May, 2005
Pingyao, Lai. “China’s Economic Growth: New Trends and Implications” Retrieved at http://www.iwep.org.cn/pdf/2003/wec_2003_1-2_laipingyao.pdf. Accessed on 10 May, 2005
The International Petroleum Cartel. (1952) Staff Report to the Federal Trade Commission, released through Subcommittee on Monopoly of Select Committee on Small Business, U.S. Senate, 83d Cong., 2nd session. Washington, DC, Chapter 2, “Concentration of Control of the World Petroleum Industry,” pp. 21-36. Retrieved at http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/Petroleum/ftc2.htm. Accessed on 8 May, 2005
Yellen, Janet. L. (2 March, 2005) “Prospects for U.S. Economy” Presentation to the University of California at Berkeley Boalt School Alumni. San Francisco, California. Retrieved at http://22.214.171.124/search?q=cache:FFBLJJewQ1MJ:www.frbsf.org/news/speeches/2005/050302.pdf++present+inflation+U.S.&hl=enAccessed on 8 May, 2005
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