Pearson - Always learning

All your resources for Economics

RSS icon Subscribe | Text size

Posts Tagged ‘fracking’

Oil prices continue to fall

Over the past three months oil prices have been falling. From the beginning of September to the end of November Brent Crude has fallen by 30.8%: from $101.2 to a four-year low of $70.0 per barrel (see chart below: click here for a PowerPoint). The fall in price has been the result of changes in demand and supply.

As the eurozone, Japan, South America and other parts of the world have struggled to recover, so the demand for oil has been depressed. But supply has continued to expand as the USA and Canada have increased shale oil production through fracking. As far as OPEC is concerned, rather than cutting production, it decided at a meeting on 27 November to maintain the current target of 30 million barrels a day.

The videos and articles linked below look at these demand and supply factors and what is likely to happen to oil prices over the coming months.

They also look at the winners and losers. Although falling prices are likely in general to benefit oil importing countries and harm oil exporting ones, it is not as simple as that. The lower prices could help boost recovery and that could help to halt the oil price fall and be of benefit to the oil exporting countries. But if prices stay low for long enough, this could lower inflation and even cause deflation (in the sense of falling prices) in many countries. This, in turn, could dampen demand (see the blog post, Deflation danger). This is a particular problem in Japan and the eurozone. Major oil importing developing countries, such as China and India, however, should see a boost to growth from the lower oil prices.

Some oil exporting countries will be harder hit than others. Russia, in particular, has been badly affected, especially as it is also suffering from the economic sanctions imposed by Western governments in response to the situation in Ukraine. The rouble has fallen by some 32% this year against the US dollar and nearly 23% in the past three months alone.

Then there are the environmental effects. Cheaper oil puts less pressure on companies and governments to invest in renewable sources of energy. And then there are the direct effects on the environment of fracking itself – something increasingly being debated in the UK as well as in the USA and Canada.

Videos
Oil price at four-year low as Opec meets BBC News, Mark Lobel (27/11/14)
Opec losing control of oil prices due to US fracking BBC News, Nigel Cassidy (4/12/13)
How the price of oil is set – video explainer The Telegraph, Oliver Duggan (28/11/14)
How Oil’s Price Plunge Impacts Wall Street Bloomberg TV, Richard Mallinson (28/11/14)
Oil Prices Plummet: The Impact on Russia’s Economy Bloomberg TV, Martin Lindstrom (28/11/14)

Articles
Oil prices plunge after Opec meeting BBC News (28/11/14)
Crude oil prices extend losses Financial Times, Dave Shellock (28/11/14)
Oil price plunges after Opec split keeps output steady The Guardian, Terry Macalister and Graeme Wearden (27/11/14)
Falling oil prices: Who are the winners and losers? BBC News, Tim Bowler (17/10/14)Hooray for cheap oil BBC News, Robert Peston (1/12/14)
Russian Recession Risk at Record as Oil Price Saps Economy Bloomberg, Andre Tartar and Anna Andrianova (28/11/14)
Rouble falls as oil price hits five-year low BBC News (1/12/14)

Data
Brent Spot Price US Energy Information Administration (select daily, weekly, monthly or annual: can be downloaded to Excel)
Spot exchange rate of Russian rouble against the dollar Bank of England

Questions

  1. Use a diagram to illustrate the effects of changes in the demand and supply of oil on oil prices.
  2. How does the price elasticity of demand and supply of oil affect the magnitude of these price changes?
  3. Explain whether (a) the demand for and (b) the supply of oil are likely to be relatively elastic or relatively inelastic? How are these elasticities likely to change over time?
  4. Distinguish between the spot price and forward prices of oil? If the three-month forward price is below the spot price, what are the implications of this?
  5. Analyse who gains and who loses from the recent price falls.
  6. What are the effects of a falling rouble on the Russian economy?
  7. What are likely to be the effects of further falls in oil prices on the eurozone economy?
Share in top social networks!

Explosion in demand for gum powder

Induced hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, is a technique used to make fractures in shale beds, normally deep underground, through the injection of liquids under high pressure. The idea is to release oil or gas. Fracking has transformed the oil industry by allowing vast reserves to be tapped.

Although the main ingredient of the fracking liquid is water, it is also necessary to include sand and a gelling agent to increase the viscosity of the liquid and bind in the sand. The commonest gelling agent is guar gum, a gel made from powdered guar seeds, which are grown in the semi-desert regions of India and Pakistan. Guar gum is also widely used in the food industry as a binding, thickening, texturising and moisture control agent.

With the rapid growth in fracking, especially in the USA, the demand for guar gum has rocketed – and so has its price. In just one year the price of guar beans, from which the seeds are extracted, has risen ten fold from about 30 rupees (about 34 pence) to around 300 rupees per kilo. This has transformed the lives of many poor farmers. Across the desert belt of north-west India, fields are being planted with guar.

But will it last? What will the oil and gas extraction companies do in response to the higher price? What will the food industry do? What will happen to the demand and supply of guar gum over the longer term? Is it risky for farmers in India and Pakistan to rely on a single crop, or should they take advantage of the high prices while they last? These types of questions are central to many mono-crop economies.

Webcast
The little green bean in big fracking demand CNN, Mallika Kapur (10/9/12)

Articles
Frackers in frantic search for guar bean substitutes Reuters, Braden Reddall (13/8/12)
After first-half surge, US drillers find respite in guar wars Reuters (20/7/12)
Guar Gum Exports From India to Drop on Halliburton Stocks BloombergBusinessweek, Prabhudatta Mishra (3/9/12)
Frackers Seek Guar Bean Substitutes The Ithaca Independent, Ed Sutherland (13/8/12)
Synthetic Fracking Ingredient to Replace Guar Bean Greener Ideas, Madison E. Rowe (15/8/12)
From emu farms to guar crops: Why the desert is fertile for Ponzi schemes The Economic Times of India, Vikram Doctor (10/9/12)
Guar gum replacer cuts cost by up to 40% Food Manufacture, Lorraine Mullaney (4/9/12)
Less Guar Needed: TIC Gums Introduces Ticaloid Lite Powder TIC Gums (27/8/12)
Immediate Supply of Guar Gum Available in the US PRLog (1/9/12)

Questions

  1. Why have guar bean, powder and gum prices risen so rapidly? Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate your answer.
  2. How is the price elasticity of supply of guar likely to differ between the short term and the long term? What will be the implications of this for guar prices and the livelihood of guar growers?
  3. How is the price elasticity of demand for guar likely to differ between the short term and the long term? What will be the implications of this for guar prices and the livelihood of guar growers?
  4. What would you advise guar growers to do and why?
  5. What is the role of speculation in determining the price of guar?
  6. What is a ‘ponzi scheme’? Why is the ‘desert so fertile for ponzi schemes’? (Note that the symbol for a rupee is Rs or ₹, that 100,000 rupees are referred to as 1 Lakh and that 100 Lakh are referred to as 1 Crore.)
Share in top social networks!