Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Plunging Gas Prices May Not Last Long

1/30/15 - Drivers throughout the state and the country have noticed the recent decline in gasoline prices and are hoping that this trend continues for as long as possible. While gasoline was over $3 in most areas a year ago, the cost of gasoline is now at $2 or even less, a nice change for everyone filling up at the pump. Unfortunately, says Don Lee, in his article in the Los Angeles Times, these low prices are unlikely to last long. In fact, he predicts that they will begin to climb within the next few months.

Lee first addresses the main question: why did the oil prices fall in the first place? One of the main answers involves development and usage of new technologies. A somewhat new process called hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” has become increasingly prevalent in the industry for use in forcing extra oil out of otherwise dry wells. Furthermore, the development of shale oil techniques, which allow for the conversion of organic matter within rocks into synthetic fuels, helps to increase supply.

Following the laws of supply and demand, the increased supply will likely lead to increased demand. This increased demand can give producers of gasoline a reason to increase their prices, which is why Lee expects the price of crude oil to be back on the rise before the year is half-over. Lee does admit, however, that it is possible for prices to stay low, if oil production continues to increase. Otherwise, waning supplies would force prices higher, just as they have done in previous years.

Reduced gasoline prices could have dramatic effects on economies around the world. Countries that produce and export oil, like Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Nigeria, are likely to suffer because reduced prices mean less income. On the other hand, countries that don't rely on the export of crude oil, like the United States, Japan, South Korea, and China, are predicted to benefit because they pay less for the crude oil they import. Also, their citizens will pay less for gasoline, and will have more money to contribute to the economy in other ways.

Some states in the U.S. Will benefit more than others. Similarly to the situation in the global setting, oil-producing states like North Dakota and Texas will be harmed by low prices, while other states, and the companies within those states, will be unhurt. In fact, the low prices could even lead to an boost in job growth. Even with increases in employment, lowered gas prices could be disastrous in the long run. A lowered price of gas could lower prices for all commodities, which could force the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates. Inflation is a huge risk when dealing with drastic price decreases.

Lee concludes that the huge quantities of oil being produced in Saudi Arabia, which is another factor in the price decrease, may be an attempt by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to force the United States out of the picture. If Saudi oil prices stay low enough for long enough, it could become economically illogical for the United States to continue producing via shale and fracking. Whatever the true reason for the decline in prices, people are enjoying it for however long it may last.

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