Category: Economics 10e: Ch 08

Shell have announced record profits of $27bn. This is the highest profit ever made by a European company and is only surpassed worldwide by the annual profits of another oil company ExxonMobil at $40bn. These high profits have led to calls for a windfall tax to be imposed on the oil companies and the articles below consider the likely impact of a tax of this nature.

Threat of windfall tax to energy companies is ‘legalised piracy’ Times Online (28/2/08)
Tax uncertainty a sure-fire killer Times Online (28/2/08)
Q&A: Windfall tax on Shell BBC News Online (31/1/08)
The great fuel folly Guardian (5/2/08)

Video

Windfall tax suggested for fuel profits BBC News Online (February 2008)

Questions

1. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact on the equilibrium level of price and output of Shell of a windfall tax being imposed on their profits.
2. Discuss the extent to which the high level of profitability of oil companies is determined by the oil price.
3. Analyse whether a windfall tax is an economically efficient form of taxation. What alternatives could a government consider that might be more efficient?

The start of 2008 saw oil prices hit $100 per barrel – a new record. This important psychological as well as economic milestone has, as a result, also seen petrol prices rising to over £1 per litre. The increase in prices may prove to be an important factor in determining whether the Bank of England is able to lower interest rates.

The heavy price of $100 per barrel Guardian (4/1/08)
Oil sets fresh record above $100 BBC News Online (3/1/08)
Oil price at record $100 a barrel BBC News Online (2/1/08)
What is driving oil prices so high? BBC News Online (2/1/08)
Global oil industry in figures BBC News Online (2/1/08)
Plenty of oil left in the global tank Times Online (16/12/07)
Oil at $100 threatens to choke economy Times Online (3/1/08)
Videos
Oil prices break $100 barrier BBC News Online

Questions

1. What are the main factors that have driven oil prices over $100 per barrel.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate the changes that have taken place in the oil market.
3. Assess the likely impact of the increase in the oil price on the major UK economic targets.
4. Discuss the extent to which the Bank of England will need to take account of higher oil prices in its decisions on interest rates.

A number of UK supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Safeway, have been fined £116m by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for price fixing. The OFT is still investigating other supermarkets, including Tesco which denies that it was involved in the price collusion. The collusion is estimated to have cost consumers around £270m in higher prices.

Supermarkets fined £116m for price fixing Guardian (8/12/07)
OFT hands out £116m in fines for milk price fixing Guardian (7/12/07)
Supermarkets admit milk price fix BBC News Online (7/12/07)

Videos

Farmers reaction to price fixing claims BBC News Online

Questions

1. Explain how Sainsbury’s and the other supermarkets colluded to fix milk prices.
2. Assess the market conditions most likely to lead to price collusion in a market.
3. Examine the role of the OFT in reducing uncompetitive and restrictive practices in markets.

In the article linked to below from Slate magazine, Tim Harford, the author of the Undercover Economist, looks at how newspapers are approaching the pricing of online versions of their newspapers and articles. Why is it that all the articles we link to in these news items are free for you to read? How is this sustainable for the newspapers?

Why you didn’t pay to read this MSN Slate (27/11/07)

Questions

1. Explain the different pricing models that are available for newspapers when pricing the online versions of their papers.
2. Discuss the extent to which a newspaper website is a complementary product to the printed version.
3. Assess the extent to which competition between newspapers has driven the pricing strategies they have adopted for their websites.

Oil prices have seen a relentless rise in recent weeks with much speculation that they will go over $100 a barrel in the near future. The high oil price has seen the average price of petrol go over £1 per litre in the UK, shortages and rationing in Tehran and violence in Yemen. So what is causing oil prices to rise and what impact is this likely to have on the global economy?

Tempests, truckers and tribesmen – another week in the oil market Guardian (10/11/07)
Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest, says new study Guardian (22/10/07)
The high oil price may begin to take its toll Times Online (12/11/07)
What is driving oil prices so high? BBC News Online (6/11/07)
OPEC: the oil cartel in profile BBC News Online (18/10/07)
Oil price rises after OPEC summit BBC News Online (19/11/07)
Oil markets explained BBC News Online (18/10/07)
Oil prices BBC News Online – Evan Davis blog (10/11/07)
Super-spiked The Economist (1/11/07)

Video

The OPEC statement on oil prices BBC News Online – video link (19/11/07)

Questions

1. Using supply and demand analysis, show the reasons why oil prices are rising.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, assess the likely impact of rising oil prices on the level of economic growth in the UK.
3. Discuss the extent to which OPEC has been the main cause of the rise in oil prices.