Tag: oil

Many important economic changes have occurred over the past two years and many have occurred in the past two months. Almost all economic events create winners and losers and that is no different for the Russian economy and the Russian population.

There is an interesting article plus videos on the BBC News website (see link below), which consider some of the economic events that, directly or indirectly, have had an impact on Russia: the fall in oil prices; the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine; the fall in the value of the rouble (see chart); the sanctions imposed by the West.

Clearly there are some very large links between events, but an interesting question concerns the impact they have had on the everyday Russian consumer and business. Economic growth in Russia has been adversely affected and estimates suggest that the economy will shrink further over the coming year. Oil and gas prices have declined significantly and while this is good news for many consumers across the world, it brings much sadder tidings for an economy, such as Russia, that is so dependent on oil exports.

However, is there a bright side to the sanctions or the falling currency? The BBC News article considers the winners and losers in Russia, including families struggling to feed their families following spending cuts and businesses benefiting from less competition.

Russia’s economic turmoil: nightmare or opportunity? BBC News, Olga Ivshina and Oleg Bodyrev (5/2/15)


  1. Why has the rouble fallen in value? Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate this.
  2. What does a cheap rouble mean for exporters and importers within Russia and within countries such as the UK or US?
  3. One of the businesses described in the article explain how the sanctions have helped. What is the explanation and can the effects be seen as being in the consumer’s interest?
  4. Oil prices have fallen significantly over the past few months. Why is this so detrimental to Russia?
  5. What is the link between the exchange rate and inflation?

A big expenditure for many households is petrol. The price of petrol is affected by various factors, but the key determinant is what happens in the oil market. When oil prices rise, this pushes up the price of petrol at the pumps. But, when they fall, do petrol prices also fall? That is the question the government is asking.

The price of oil is a key cost of production for companies providing petrol and so when oil prices rise, it shifts the supply curve up to the left and hence prices begin to increase. We also see supply issues developing with political turmoil, fears of war and disruption and they have a similar effect. As such, it is unsurprising that petrol prices rise with concern of supply and rising costs. But, what happens when the opposite occurs? Oil prices have fallen significantly: by a quarter. Yet, prices at the pump have fallen by around 6%. This has caused anger amongst customers and the government is now urging petrol retailers to pass their cost savings from a lower price of oil onto customers. Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury said:

“I believe it’s called the rocket-and-feather effect. The public have a suspicion that when the price of oil rises, pump prices go up like a rocket. But when the price of oil falls, pump prices drift down like a feather … This has been investigated before and no conclusive evidence was found. But even if there were a suspicion it could be true this time it would be an outrage.”

However, critics suggest that tax policy is partly to blame as 63% of the cost of petrol is in the form taxation through fuel duty and VAT. Therefore even if oil prices do fall, the bulk of the price we pay at the pumps is made up of tax revenue for the government. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation said:

“It’s a simple story. Before tax we have just about the cheapest petrol and diesel in Europe. After tax we have just about the most expensive … It’s right to keep the pressure on fuel retailers but if drivers want to know what’s behind the high pump prices of recent years all they have to do is follow the trail back to the Treasury … if ministers are serious about reducing fuel prices further then they should cut duty further.”

(Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)

However, even taking out the fuel duty and VAT, Arthur Renshaw, an analyst at Experian has said that the actual price of petrol has fallen by 21% since last year. Still, a much bigger decrease than we have seen at the pumps. One further reason for this may be the fact that dollars is the currency in which oil is traded. The pound has been relatively weak, falling by almost 7% over the past few months and hence even though the price of oil has fallen, the effect on UK consumers has been less pronounced.

The big supermarkets have responded to government calls to cut petrol prices, but how much of this cut was influenced by the government and how much was influenced by the actions of the other supermarkets is another story. A typical oligopoly, where interdependence is key, price wars are a constant feature, so even if one supermarket cut petrol prices, this would force others to respond in kind. If such price wars continue, further price cuts may emerge. Furthermore, with oil production still at such high levels, this market may continue to put downward pressure on petrol prices. Certainly good news for consumers – we now just have to wait to see how long it lasts, with key oil producing countries, such as Russia taking a big hit. The following articles consider this story.


Supermarkets cut fuel prices again The Telegraph, Nick Collins (6/11/14)
Petrol retailers urged to cut prices in line with falling oil costs The Guardian, Terry Macalister (6/11/14)
Supermarkets cut petrol prices after chancellor’s criticism Financial Times, Michael Kavanagh (6/11/14)
Governent ‘watching petrol firms’ Mail Online (6/11/14)
Our horrendous tax rates are the real reason why petrol is still so expensive The Telegraph, Allister Heath (6/11/14)
Osborne ‘expects’ fuel price drop after fall in oil price BBC News (6/11/14)
Danny Alexander tells fuel suppliers to pass on oil price cuts to drivers The Telegraph, Peter Dominiczak (5/11/14)
Further UK fuel cuts expected as pound strengthens The Scotsman, Alastair Dalton (6/11/14)


Spot oil prices Energy Information Administration
Weekly European Brent Spot Price Energy Information Administration (Note: you can also select daily, monthly or annual.)
Annual Statistical Bulletin OPEC


  1. Using a supply and demand diagram, illustrate the impact that a fall in the price of oil should have on the price of petrol.
  2. What is the impact of a tax on petrol?
  3. Why is petrol a market that is so heavily taxed? You should think about the incidence of taxation in your answer.
  4. Why does the strength of the pound have an impact on petrol prices in the UK and how much of the oil price is passed onto customers at the pumps?
  5. Does the structure of the supermarket industry help customers when it comes to the price of petrol? Explain your answer.
  6. Militant action in some key oil producing countries has caused fears of oil disruption. Why is that oil prices don’t reflect these very big concerns?

One of the key prices in any economy is that of oil. Whenever oil prices change, it can have a knock-on effect on a range of other markets, as oil, or some variation, is used as an input into the production of countless products. The main products that consumers will see affected are energy prices and petrol prices..

Although on the supply-side, we see a large cartel in the form of OPEC, it is still the case that the forces of demand and supply directly affect the market price. Key things such as the demand for heating, economic growth, fears of war and disruption will change the demand and supply of oil. The possibility of militant strikes in oil producers, such as Syria, would normally reduce supply and push up the market price. However, we have actually seen oil prices drop much faster than we have in two years, dropping below $100 per barrel since September 5th. The slowdown of economic growth in Asia, together with the return of Libyan production at a level greater than expected have helped to push prices down and have offset the fears of global production.

The market forces pushing prices down, while good for consumers and firms that use crude oil or one of its by-products, are clearly bad for oil producers. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.) Countries are urging OPEC to halt its production and thereby shift supply upwards to the left putting a stop to the downward oil price trend. Several countries are concerned about the impact of lower prices, and one country that may be significantly affected is Russia. Some are suggesting that the impact could be as big as 4% of Russia’s GDP, taking into account the ongoing political crisis with Ukraine.

The market for oil is highly susceptible to changes in both demand and supply-side factors. Microeconomic changes will have an impact, but at the same time any global macroeconomic factors can have significant effects on the global price. Expectations are crucial and as countries release information about the size of the oil stocks and inventories, it is adding to the downward pressure on prices. Some oil experts have predicted that prices could get as low as $80 per barrel before OPEC takes significant action, influenced heavily by countries like Saudi Arabia. The following articles consider this global market.


Iran urges OPEC to halt oil price slide Financial Times, Anjli Raval (26/9/14)
Oil overflow: as prices slump, producers grapple with a new reality The Globe and Mail, Shawn McCarthy and Jeff Lewis (27/9/14)
Weak demand, plentiful supply drive decline in oil prices International Distribution (26/9/14)
Oil prices plunging despite ISIS CNN Money, Paul R La Monica (25/9/14)
Oil prices fall on EIA report of big U.S. crude stocks build Reuters, Robert Gibbons (17/9/14)
Sanctions and weaker oil prices could cost Russia 4% of GDP – official RT (25/9/14)


Spot oil prices Energy Information Administration
Weekly European Brent Spot Price Energy Information Administration (Note: you can also select daily, monthly or annual.)
Annual Statistical Bulletin OPEC


  1. What are the key factors on the microeconomic side that affect (a) demand and (b) supply of oil?
  2. Explain the key macroeconomic factors that are likely to have an impact on global demand and supply of oil.
  3. Militant action in some key oil producing countries has caused fears of oil disruption. Why is that oil prices don’t reflect these very big concerns?
  4. Use a demand and supply diagram to explain the answer you gave to question 3.
  5. What type of intervention could OPEC take to stabilise oil prices?
  6. Why is the Russian economy likely to be adversely affected by the trend in oil prices?
  7. Changes in the global macroeconomy will directly affect oil prices. Is there a way that changes in oil prices can also affect the state of the global economy?

Oil is a commodity like any other – its price is affected by demand and supply. Back in 2003, with the impending war in Ira and strikes in Venezuela, oil prices increased and continued to do so as further supply concerns developed in Saudi Arabia, Russia and Nigeria. This upward trend continued until 2008, when with the growing banking turmoil and demand for oil falling, the price began to decline. However, the crisis in Libya is only making matters worse. Its credit-rating has been downgraded with the potential for it to be lowered further and concerns are deepening about the country’s crude exports. As Libya is the world’s 12th largest exporter of oil, these supply concerns have started to push up oil prices once more.

With inflation rates already high and political turmoil pushing oil prices up further, consumers and firms are feeling the squeeze. These changes have also been reflected on stock markets across the world. Analyst, Michael Hewson at CMC Markets said:

‘Given the fact that we have seen massive gains in stock markets over the last few months, investors have been nervous about a possible correction for some time… The tensions in the Middle East with Libya imploding and concerns that the unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia could provide a catalyst for (this) correction.’

The disruption in the Middle East has caused companies such as Eni of Italy and Repsol YPF of Spain to shut down production, leading to output losses of some 22% of Libya’s production. As supply contracts from this region, prices will inevitably rise. However, the Saudi oil Minister has said that he is ready to boost production to offset any decline, but that at present there is no oil crisis. So, what can we expect to happen to oil prices in the coming months? It will all depend on changes in demand and supply.


Libyan crisis threatens to spark oil crisis Financial Times, Javier Blas and David Blair (22/2/11)
Libya protests: oil prices rise as unrest continues BBC News (22/2/11)
Oil producers, users sign charter as prices spike Associated Press (21/2/11)
Oil shock fears as Libya erupts Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (22/2/11)
Arab protests pose energy threat BBC News, Damian Kahya (22/2/11)
All eyes on Bahrain as Gulf tremors frighten oil markets Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (22/2/11)
Saudi Arabia seeks to calm market with words not oil Reuters (22/2/11)
Saudi Arabia says oil market needs no intervention Associated Press (21/2/11)
Peace in Bahrain is key to stopping oil prices from surging Live Oil Prices (22/2/11)


Commodity Prices Index Mundi
Crude Oil Price Chart WTI


  1. What are the key factors that influence the supply of oil? How will each factor affect the supply curve?
  2. What are the key factors that influence the demand for oil? How will each factor affect the demand curve?
  3. Putting your answers to questions 1 and 2 together and using your knowledge of recent events in the oil market, explain the changes in oil prices.
  4. How are oil prices affected by OPEC?
  5. How have rising oil prices affected the stock market? What’s the explanation for this relationship?
  6. How might higher prices affect the economic recovery? Think about the impact on consumers and firms.

BP has just published its latest projection of energy trends – its Energy Outlook 2030. According to the press release:

World energy growth over the next twenty years is expected to be dominated by emerging economies such as China, India, Russia and Brazil while improvements in energy efficiency measures are set to accelerate.

The following podcast from the Financial Times features a discussion of the report and the factors affecting oil prices and their relationship to economic growth

Emerging economies seen driving energy demand Financial Times videos, John Authers and Vincent Boland (19/1/11)

Energy outlook Financial Times, Lex column (19/1/11)
BP energy outlook: main points The Telegraph (20/1/11)
High energy prices need not mean doom Sydney Morning Herald, Jeremy Warner (21/1/11)

BP Energy Outlook 2030 (January 2011)

Power slide The Economist: Daily Chart (19/1/11)


  1. What are the most powerful driving forces behind the demand for energy?
  2. Why does the report forecast virtually no increase in energy demand in developed countries? What assumptions are made about growth rates in OECD and non-OECD countries?
  3. What factors would lead to a substitution of sustainable energy sources for fossil fuels? What would detrmine the size of such substitution?
  4. What is the role of the price elasticity of demand for and supply of oil and the income elasticity of demand for oil in determining oil consumption in different parts of the world?
  5. Why may high energy prices not necessarily mean ‘doom’?