Amid a persistent fall in oil prices, many oil-exporting countries are realising that economic diversification should be a top priority. One important pathway is to create a dynamic export sector. This column argues the standard policy of structural reforms – which mostly tackle ‘government failures’ rather than ‘market failures’ – are not sufficient. The state needs to intervene to change the incentive structure of firms and workers, and impose a strict accountability framework.
Reda Cherif, Fuad Hasanov, Min Zhu, 03 September 2016
Brock Smith, Thomas McGregor, Samuel Wills, 28 August 2016
One of the biggest challenges in fighting poverty is to know where it is. This column describes a new way to measure poverty by using satellites to count people who live in darkness at night. This shows that the economic benefits of oil booms don’t trickle down to the very poor.
Rabah Arezki, 18 August 2016
The dramatic and largely unexpected collapse in oil prices has sparked intense debate over the causes and consequences. This column argues that a broader energy perspective is now needed to comprehend oil’s long-term outlook, and provides answers to several questions about the oil market in the global economy.
Roberto F. Aguilera, Marian Radetzki, 17 August 2016
After decades of oil price rises, new extraction techniques for shale and conventional deposits mean that recent dramatic price falls will be here to stay. This column argues that, even with oil at $50 a barrel, global producers will invest to catch up with US-led technological innovation and so add 40 million barrels a day to production by 2035. This will revolutionise domestic energy policymaking, environmental commitments and global geopolitics.
Lutz Kilian, 29 March 2016
Lower oil prices are putting increasing pressure on Arab oil producers, and many pundits have been quick to blame US shale oil producers for the decline in prices and in Arab oil revenues. This column measures how much the shale oil boom contributed to the fall in the global price of crude oil. The Brent price of crude oil since 2011 would have been as much as $10 per barrel higher in the absence of US shale oil. But as large as this effect is, it pales in comparison with the decline in the price of oil that took place after June 2014, to which shale oil actually contributed little. The column goes on to discuss the policy options facing Arab oil producers.
Christiane Baumeister, Lutz Kilian, 08 February 2016
Expectations play a key role in assessing how oil price fluctuations affect the economy. This column explores how consumers, policymakers, financial market participants, and economists form expectations about the price of crude oil, the differences in these expectations, and why future realisations of the price of oil so often differ substantially from these expectations. Differences in oil price expectations are shown to matter for quantifying oil price shocks and their transmission.
Pierre-Louis Vézina, David von Below, 20 January 2016
The price of oil rose to unprecedented highs in the 2000s, and its recent plunge took many by surprise. Although there are many consequences of such price fluctuations on the world economy, they are notoriously difficult to pin down. This column examines the trade consequences of varying shipping costs caused by oil price fluctuations. High oil prices are found to increase the distance elasticity of trade, making trade less global. The recent drop in oil prices could thus be a boon for globalisation.
Rabah Arezki, Adnan Mazarei, Ananthakrishnan Prasad, 29 November 2015
As a result of the oil price plunge, the major oil-exporting countries are facing budget deficits for the first time in years. This column goes through the evidence, suggesting that the low price environment is likely to test the relationship between governments in oil-exporting countries and their sovereign wealth funds, at a time when spending is going up.
James Feyrer, Erin Mansur, Bruce Sacerdote, 16 November 2015
Fracking has driven an oil and natural gas boom in the US over the past decade. This column examines the impact these mining activities have had on local and regional economies. US counties enjoy significant economic benefits, including increased wages and new job creation. These effects grow as the geographic radius is extended to include neighbouring areas in the region. The results suggest that the fracking boom provided some insulation for these areas during the Great Recession, and lowered national unemployment by as much as 0.5%.
Sascha Bützer, Maurizio Habib, Livio Stracca, 07 March 2015
The large dip in oil prices reverberated across asset markets, contributing to the depreciation of the Russian rouble. This column argues that the recent fall of the rouble may be more an exception than the norm. Oil shocks have only a limited impact on global exchange rate configurations, since oil exporters tend to lean against exchange rate pressures by running down or accumulating foreign exchange reserves.
Lutz Kilian, 14 January 2015
The recent expansion of US shale oil production has captured the imagination of policymakers and industry analysts. It has fuelled visions of the US becoming independent of oil imports, of cheap US gasoline, of a rebirth of US manufacturing, and of net oil exports improving the US current account. This column asks how plausible these visions are, and examines the evidence to date.
Christiane Baumeister, Lutz Kilian, 19 November 2014
Futures prices are a potentially valuable source of information about market expectations of asset prices. This column discusses a general approach to recovering this expectation when there is no agreement on the nature of the time-varying risk premium contained in futures prices. The authors illustrate this approach by tackling the long-standing problem of how to recover the market expectation of the price of crude oil.
Mathilde Mathieu, Thomas Spencer, Oliver Sartor, 22 March 2014
The US unconventional energy boom has reversed the decline of domestic production, lowered oil and gas imports, reduced gas prices, and created political space for tougher regulations on coal-fired power plants. This column argues that it is not a panacea, however. Even if current estimates prove accurate, the long-run benefits to the US economy will be relatively small. Improving energy efficiency and promoting low-carbon technologies will be just as important as before – especially for the EU, given its more limited known reserves of unconventional oil and gas.
Christiane Baumeister, Lutz Kilian, 30 November 2013
Recently, there has been great concern among policymakers worldwide about rising food prices and increased food-price volatility. It is widely believed that oil and food prices have become closely linked after 2006, owing in part to a shift in US biofuel policies. This column presents evidence that challenges this conventional wisdom.
Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 15 November 2013
During the Great Recession, advanced economies have not experienced the disinflation that has historically been associated with high unemployment. This column shows that using consumers’ (as opposed to forecasters’) inflation expectations restores the traditional Phillips curve relationship for recent years. Consumers’ inflation expectations are more responsive to oil prices than those of professional forecasters. The increase in oil prices between 2009 and 2012 may in fact have prevented the onset of pernicious deflationary dynamics.
Francesco Caselli, Massimo Morelli, Dominic Rohner, 19 July 2013
Oil has often been linked to interstate wars. This column argues that asymmetries in endowments of natural resources are important determinants of territorial conflict. When one country has oil near its border with an oil-less country, the probability of conflict is between three and four times as large as when neither country has oil. In contrast, when the oil is very far from the border, the probability of conflict is not significantly higher than between countries with no oil.
Simon Commander, Alexander Plekhanov, 29 January 2013
Russia aims to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on natural resources. Despite laudable aims, this column argues that progress has been sluggish. Longstanding obstacles of corruption, low business-entry rates and weak competition afflict other countries that, like Russia, are in transition. Yet Russia comes pretty much bottom of the class. Crucially, the fact that economic diversification requires improvements to education and skills acquisition has been somewhat overlooked by the state. What attempts the state has made, such as supporting technology innovation, appear to have been ineffectual and, at times, counterproductive. Going forward, Russia would do well to focus on improving incentives for market-relevant research and development, complemented by private sector-led sources of finance for early-stage firms.
Bassam Fattouh, Lavan Mahadeva, 21 December 2012
In the last decade, there has been an explosion in the variety of instruments that permit speculation in oil, such as futures, options, index funds, and exchange-traded funds. This has been called the financialisation of the oil markets. This column examines whether this has affected the oil price and predicts powerful natural limits on the ability of financialisation shifts to raise spot prices in frictionless markets.
Ton van den Bremer, Rick van der Ploeg, 14 December 2012
Many countries experience substantial revenue windfalls from natural resources. The consensus is that these should not be consumed but put in a fund to smooth the benefits across generations. This column examines how policy recommendations may differ among oil-rich countries, here Norway, Ghana and Iraq. It suggests that oil exporters may need to accumulate not only an intergenerational fund but also a liquidity fund to cope with oil price volatility and a domestic investment fund to alleviate the burden of capital scarcity.
Johannes Stroebel, Arthur van Benthem, 21 October 2012
The sharp increase in the oil price between 2003 and 2008 brought back the practice of expropriating assets of independent oil companies. This column suggests that bilateral investment treaties may mitigate expropriations and allow resource-rich countries to shift a larger proportion of the risk associated with variations in natural resource prices to oil companies.