How to cut the price of oil
Energy costs have become a driving force of inflation.
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But it's not clear how fast such moves will occur. Some central banks (including America's Federal Reserve) are also worried about a slowdown in economic growth – which typically calls for cutting rather than raising interest rates.Skip to next paragraph
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For months, in fact, some economists have been predicting that a US-led economic slowdown will reduce worldwide demand for oil and that prices will fall.
Part of that scenario has come to pass: Global demand is rising much slower than expected this year. But so far it hasn't pushed oil prices down.
Conservation. Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy analyst at Rice University's Baker Institute in Houston, says stricter emissions rules for cars in the US and China would send a signal that nations are determined to cut consumption.
Some experts add that other conservation options could have an immediate impact, from reducing speed limits to spending money to adjust traffic lights for greater commuter efficiency.
Ms. Jaffe says encouraging workers to telecommute or carpool just one day a week "would dramatically lower demand."
Production. It's not just Saudi Arabia that could pump more oil. The problem, of course, is that it's controversial.
"I believe that Alaska is a religious experience, so I don't mention Alaska," Jaffe says. More offshore drilling, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic coast, could yield 2 million barrels per day, plus big supplies of natural gas, she says.
Alternative resources. "The government has to take the lead in investing to help provide access to alternatives," says Tyson Slocum, an energy analyst with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen in Washington.
Part of the effort, he says, would involve bigger tax incentives for consumers to install solar panels on their roofs and put hybrid cars in their garages.
Market regulation. Investor speculation may be playing a significant role in the oil-price run-up. Although not everyone agrees this is a big factor, many analysts support the idea of increased oversight of energy-contract trading, and new limits on "margins" – investors' use of borrowed money to place trades.
Tough love. The rising energy-cost burden has prompted India, Indonesia, and Malaysia to reduce fuel subsidies. This angers consumers but promises to reduce demand somewhat as people respond to real price signals.
Together, some of these changes might shift the mood of markets that now seem fixated on the notion that oil can only go up in price.