Oil Strikes and our Economy

“Economists” cited by The Wall Street Journal say that the Iranian/Houthi strikes against a couple of major Saudi Arabian oil production facilities are unlikely to do much to our economy. Despite their anonymity, those…sources’…assessment is accurate.

Among other things, we’ve made ourselves essentially self-sufficient in oil and natural gas production, have become the world’s leading producer, and we’re a net exporter of oil and natural gas.  That last, especially, means we’ll easily be able fill any shortfall from the Saudis’ damage.  (Production cuts from that damage are likely to be short-lived in any event.)

In addition,

Today, energy accounts for about 2.5% of household consumption, down from around 8% in the 1970s

The Federal Reserve still has its misconception regarding the proper execution of its role, though:

The Saudi oil-field attack adds a new factor to consider for Federal Reserve officials, who have been weighing how a variety of geopolitical risks will influence the economic outlook, including the US-China trade war, unrest in Hong Kong, and Britain’s impending departure from the European Union.

Those things are irrelevant to the Fed’s task, which is to maintain stable pricing and full employment. The optimal way to achieve this is simply to set its benchmark interest rates at levels consistent with its inflation rate goal, and then—rather than chasing market responses to this or that “geopolitical risk,” or trying to anticipate and preempt them—sit down and be quiet.  The resulting sound economy will produce full employment.

The Fed’s inconstancy is a bigger problem for our economy than hits, even major ones, on another nation’s energy production capability.

On the other hand, the People’s Republic of China burns through three times the oil that it produces; it badly needs oil imports, much of which it got from Saudi Arabia.

Japan imports nearly all of the oil and natural gas that it consumes.  That’s a shortfall we easily can, and should, fill.

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