Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.UK House Prices Momentum Crash Threatens Mini Bear Market 2017 - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Perfect Storm - This Fourth Turning has Over a Decade of Continuous Storms to Come - James_Quinn
3.UK House Prices Momentum Crash Warns of 2017 Bear Market - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Billionaire Investors Backing A Marijuana Boom In 2017 - OilPrice_Com
5.Emerging Markets & Basic Materials Stocks Breaking Out Together - Rambus_Chartology
6.Global Currency Reserve At Risk - Jim_Willie_CB
7.Gold and Silver: Your Stomach Is Probably Wrenching Right Now - The_Gold_Report
8.Warning: The Fed Is Preparing to Crash the Financial System Again - Graham_Summers
9.Basic Materials and Commodities Analysis and Trend Forecasts - Rambus_Chartology
10.Discover Why A Major American Revolution Is Brewing - Harry_Dent
Last 7 days
3 Psychological Ingredients behind Great Web Content - 17th Aug 17
The War on Cash - Rogoff, Orwell and Kafka - 17th Aug 17
The Stock Market Guns of August, Trade Set-Up & Removing your Rose Tinted Glasses - 16th Aug 17
Stocks, Bonds, Interest Rates, and Serbia, Camp Kotok 2017 - 16th Aug 17
U.S. Stock Market: Sunrise ... Sunset - 16th Aug 17
The Next Tech Crash Could Delay Your Retirement by a Decade - 15th Aug 17
Gold and Silver Precious Metals Nearing Breakout - 15th Aug 17
North Korea Showdown: Pivotal Market Turning Point - 15th Aug 17
Tech Stocks DOT COM Bubble Do-Over? - 14th Aug 17
Deep State Conspiracy or Chaos - 14th Aug 17
From the Trans-Atlantic Axis and the Trans-Asian Axis - 14th Aug 17
Stock Market Intermediate Correction Underway - 14th Aug 17
The Islamic State Jihadi Pivot to Asia - 13th Aug 17
Potential Pivots Upcoming for Stocks and Gold - 13th Aug 17
North Korean Chinese Proxy vs US Military Empire Trending Towards Nuclear War! - 12th Aug 17
Gold Stocks Coiled Spring - 12th Aug 17
Neil Howe: The Amazon-Walmart Rivalry Will Determine the Future of Retail - 12th Aug 17
How to Alton Towers Half Price Discount Entry 2017 and 2018, Any Time, No Pre-Booking! - 12th Aug 17
Top 3 Technical Trading Tools Part 2: Relative Strength Index (RSI) - 11th Aug 17
What Makes Women Better Investors - 11th Aug 17
Crude Oil Price Precious Metals Link in August - 11th Aug 17
Influencer Marketing Predictions All Businesses Should Take Into Account - 11th Aug 17
Really Bad Ideas - Government Debt Isn’t Actually Debt - 10th Aug 17
Gold Sees Safe Haven Gains On Trump “Fire and Fury” Threat - 9th Aug 17
Why Is The Stock Market Not Trading On Fundamentals Lately? - 9th Aug 17
USD/CAD - Can We Trust This Breakout? - 9th Aug 17
New Monthly Rebate to Help Reduce Your Trading Costs - 9th Aug 17
Stock Market Divergences Are Now Appearing! - 9th Aug 17
Is Inflation an issue or did the Fed Mess Up? - 8th Aug 17
Top 3 Technical Trading Tools Part 1: Japanese Candlesticks - 8th Aug 17
Researchers Find $10 Billion Hidden Treasure In A Dead Volcano - 8th Aug 17
What Happened to Thousands of Sheffield's Street Trees 2017 - Fellings Documentary - 8th Aug 17
Solar, Bubble, Banks, War, and Legal Tender: Five Reasons Why You Should Buy Silver Now - 7th Aug 17
CRASH - If Some People Do It, Nothing Bad Happens, But If Everyone Does It, All Hell Breaks Loose - 7th Aug 17
Gold and Silver : The Battle for Control - 7th Aug 17
Precious Metals Sector is on Major Buy Signal - 7th Aug 17
Stock Market - Has Time Run Out? - 7th Aug 17
Get Ready for an Historic Upside Gold and Silver Run - 7th Aug 17
BOOM! Bitcoin Rockets To New All-Time High As Cryptocurrencies Surge Higher! - 7th Aug 17
U.S. Dollar: This Crash Signals the End - 6th Aug 17
Predicting The Price Of Gold Is A Fool’s Game - 6th Aug 17
Asda Sales Collapse and Profits Crash! UK Retailer Sector Crisis 2017 - 6th Aug 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

3 Videos + 8 Charts = Opportunities You Need to See - Free

No Easy Fix for Gas Prices

Commodities / Gas - Petrol Feb 29, 2012 - 02:01 AM GMT

By: Peter_Schiff

Commodities

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThis month, as unleaded gasoline prices increased for 17 consecutive days (to a national average of $3.647 per gallon - up 11% thus far this year) and West Texas Intermediate crude joined Brent crude in breaking through a $100 per barrel level, energy prices emerged as a full blown political issue. While President Obama conveniently claimed that rising prices were the consequence of an improving economy (they're not, and it isn't) Republican fingers began to point sanctimoniously at current drilling policies. And while none of the accusers had any idea why prices were actually going up, the award for the most dangerous 'solution' must go to Bill O'Reilly at Fox News. The master of the "No Spin Zone" announced that high pump prices could be permanently brought down by a presidential order to restrict exports of refined gasoline. Not only does Mr. O'Reilly's idea demonstrate contempt for the U.S. Constitution but it also displays a thorough lack of economic understanding.


Oil and gas prices are high now for a very simple reason: the U.S. Federal Reserve has gone on an unapologetic campaign to push up inflation and push down the value of the U.S. dollar. Just last week on CNBC James Bullard, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, stated this unequivocally. What is somewhat overlooked is the degree to which an inflationary policy at home creates inflation abroad. Many countries who peg their currencies to the U.S. dollar need to follow suit with the Fed. As China, for example, prints yuan to keep it from appreciating against the dollar, prices rise in China. This is especially true for commodities like crude oil.

Many critics, such as Mr. O'Reilly, have relied on a limited understanding of the supply/demand dynamic to question why gas prices are currently so high at home. With domestic gasoline production at a multi-year high and domestic demand at a multi-year low, he logically expects low prices. But he fails to grasp the fact that the price of gasoline is set internationally and that U.S. factors are only a component.

O'Reilly's loudly proclaimed solution is to limit the ability of U.S. refiners (and drillers) to export production abroad. If the energy stays at home, he argues, the increased supply would push down prices. Although O'Reilly professes to be a believer in free markets he argues that oil (and gasoline by extension) is really a natural resource that doesn't belong to the energy companies, but to the "folks" on Main Street. What good would "drill baby drill" do for us, he argues, if all the production is simply shipped to China?

First off, the U.S. government has no authority whatsoever to determine to whom a company may or may not sell. This concept should be absolutely clear to anyone with at least a casual allegiance to free markets. In particular, the U.S. Constitution makes it explicit that export duties are prohibited. Furthermore, energy extracted from the ground, and produced by a private enterprise, is no more a public good than a chest of drawers that has been manufactured from a tree that grows on U.S soil. Frankly, this point from Mr. O'Reilly comes straight out of the Marxist handbook and in many ways mirrors the sentiments that have been championed by the Occupy Wall Street movement. When such ideas come from the supposed "right," we should be very concerned.

But apart from the Constitutional and ideological concerns, the idea simply makes no economic sense.

In 2011 the United States ran a trade deficit of $558 billion. For now at least America has been able to reap huge benefits from the willingness of foreign producers to export to the U.S. without equal amounts of imports. China supplies us with low priced consumer goods and Saudi Arabia sells us vast quantities of oil. In return they take U.S. IOUs. Without their largesse, domestic prices for consumers would be much higher. How long they will continue to extend credit is anybody's guess, but shutting off the spigots of one of our most valuable exports won't help.

In recent years petroleum has become an increasingly large component of U.S. exports, partially filling the void left by our manufacturing output. According to the IMF, the U.S. exported $10.3 billion of oil products in 2001. By 2011, this figure had jumped nearly seven fold to more than $70 billion. How would our trading partners respond if we decided to deny them our gasoline?

Keeping more gasoline at home could hold down prices temporarily, but how much better off would the "folks" be if all the prices of Chinese made goods at Wal-Mart suddenly went up, or if such products completely disappeared from our shelves because the Chinese government decided to ban exports that they declared "belonged to the Chinese people?" What would happen to the price of energy here if Saudi Arabia made a similar decision with respect to their oil?

But most importantly, limiting the ability of U.S. energy companies to export abroad will do absolutely nothing to improve the American economy. As a result of our diminished purchasing power, American demand for oil has declined in relation to the growing demand abroad. Consequently, we are buying a continually lower percentage of the world's energy output. Consumers in emerging markets can now afford to buy some of the production that used to be snapped up by Americans. If U.S. suppliers were limited to domestic customers, then prices could drop temporarily. But what would happen then?

With the U.S. adopting a protectionist stance, and with gasoline prices in the U.S. lower than in other parts of the world, less overseas crude would be sent to American refineries. At the same time lower prices at home would constrict profits for domestic suppliers who would then scale back production (and lay off workers). The resulting decrease in supply would send prices right back up, potentially higher than before. The only change would be that we would have hamstrung one of our few viable industrial sectors. (For more about how diminishing supplies could exert upward pressures on a variety of energy products, please see the article in the latest edition of my Global Investor newsletter).

Mr. O'Reilly can spin this any way he wants it, but he is dead wrong on this point. It is surprising to me that such comments have not sparked greater outrage from the usual mainstream defenders of the free market. To an extent that very few appreciate, America derives a great deal of benefits from the current globalization of trade. Sparking a trade war now would severely reduce our already falling living standards. And given our weak position with respect to our trading partners, such a provocation may be the ultimate example of bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Rather than bashing oil companies, O'Reilly, as well as other frustrated American motorists, should direct their anger at Washington. That is because higher gasoline prices are really a Federal tax in disguise. The government's enormous deficit is financed largely by bonds that are sold to the Federal Reserve, which pays for them with newly printed money. Those excess dollars are sent abroad where they help to bid oil prices higher.

For years, mainstream economists argued that as long as unemployment remained high, the Fed could print as much money as it wanted without worrying about inflation. The argument was that the reduction in demand that results from unemployment would limit the ability of business to raise prices. However, what those economists overlooked was the simultaneous reduction in domestic supply that results from a weaker dollar (the consequence of printing money).

I have long argued that neither recession nor high unemployment would protect us from inflation. If demand falls, but supply falls faster, prices will rise. That is exactly what is happening with gas. The same dynamic is already evident in the airline industry. Fewer people are flying, but prices keep rising because airlines have responded to declining demand by reducing capacity. Since seats are disappearing faster than passengers, airlines can raise prices. At some point Americans will be complaining about soaring food prices as much more of what American farmers produce ends up on Chinese dinner tables. Because the Fed is likely to continue monetizing huge budget deficits, Americans are going to be consuming a lot less of everything, and paying a lot more for those few things they can still afford.

For full access to the March 2012 edition of the Global Investor Newsletter, click here.

New Special Report:For an even more in depth look at the prospects of international currencies, download Peter Schiff's and Axel Merk's Five Favorite Currencies for the Next Five Years.

Subscribe to Euro Pacific's Weekly Digest: Receive all commentaries by John Browne, Peter Schiff, and other Euro Pacific commentators delivered to your inbox every Monday.

For a great primer on economics, be sure to pick up a copy of Peter Schiff's hit economic parable, How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes.

Regards,
Peter Schiff

Euro Pacific Capital
http://www.europac.net/

Peter Schiff Archive

© 2005-2017 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife