Demand and supply applied


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Demand and supply applied

  1. 1. Demand and Supply Applied: Oil Prices My elderly friend loves to reminisce about the good old days. He tells the same stories over and over again. He tells of watching Sammy Snead1 hitting towering drives while playing exhibitions at his local golf course; he tells of betting $20 on Seabiscuit in his 1938 match race with War Admiral2; and he tells of buying six gallons of petrol for a dollar. Six gallons for a dollar? During the summer of 2008 I paid $4.36 a gallon while vacationing in Montana. How could this happen? Some want to blame profiteering oil companies, but economists prefer explanations based on demand and supply. Soaring petrol prices are nothing new. It's all old hat to those of us with enough grey hair to remember the energy crisis of the 1970's. Prices climbed rapidly in the 1970's, soaring from about $3 a barrel in early 1973 to over $35 a barrel in 1980. They then took a long slide through the 1980's and 90's, falling to almost $10 a barrel in 1998 before rising again over the last decade, diving back and then spiking again. If we adjust these prices for inflation3 we get an even more interesting perspective. Look at the chart below. It traces the price of a barrel of oil over the last 50 years in terms of 2012 prices. In this case, the price increases of the 1970's look remarkably similar to those of the 2000's. Adjusted for inflation, oil prices in recent years are not much different than what we experienced 35 years ago. Elasticity and prices While these price changes have been controversial, they are the inevitable results of shifts in demand and supply. First, we need some
  2. 2. background information. Both the demand and supply of oil are relativelyinelastic in the short run: changes in price have little impact on either the quantity demanded or the quantity supplied. When oil prices rise we spend considerable time and energy complaining but, at least in the short run, spend almost no effort in trying to adjust our habits to consume less. Similarly changes in price do little to spur new supplies in the short run. Exploring for, drilling, and bringing new sources on-line can take many years. Since the quantities demanded and supplied change very little as prices rise and fall, both curves are relatively vertical as shown below: Because quantities are relatively fixed in the short run, any shifts in demand or supply will cause large changes in prices. For example, suppose that supply falls. The decreased supply creates a temporary shortage that will begin to drive up price. If demand is elastic, only a small increase in price will be needed to get consumers to cut purchases enough to meet the new reduced output. However, if demand is inelastic, it will take a much larger price increase to generate the needed cut in quantity demanded. You want more graphs, don't you? The graph on the left below illustrates the elastic demand case. The demand curve is relatively flat and the drop in supply (from S to S') causes only a small increase in price (from P0 to P1). However, if the demand curve is less elastic or more vertical (as in the graph on the right), the same cut in supply causes a much larger increase in price.
  3. 3. Do you have the concept? When curves are elastic, shifts in demand and supply cause only small changes in price, but when curves are inelastic, those same shifts cause much larger price changes. Apply this to oil markets. For many years members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have controlled most of the world's oil market.4 In the early 1970's, partly reacting to political turmoil in the Mideast, OPEC oil ministers voted to deliberately cut production. As illustrated above, this shifted the supply curve for oil to the left and drove up prices. Because demand was inelastic, the price increase was significant. The higher prices OPEC countries received more than offset the lower sales and their oil revenues rose rapidly. In 1979 a bitter war between long-time enemies Iran and Iraq shut down more oil fields and caused additional price increases. Wait? Much weeping and gnashing of teeth in non-OPEC countries ensued and, in the wake of the media hysteria that followed, economists were thrust into the national limelight. How could this energy disaster be fixed? What should be done? Never very good at giving answers that people or politicians want to hear, most economists replied: "Don't do anything; just wait." The answer was both unpopular and correct. Demand and supply are far more elastic in the long run than in the short run. After oil prices rose, firms began shifting to less energy-intensive ways of manufacturing goods and services. Similarly, consumers started to
  4. 4. conserve as well. They insulated homes heated by oil furnaces and shifted to alternative energy sources. More importantly, they began buying different types of cars. They gradually ditched the gas guzzlers they purchased in 1971 when fuel prices were not an issue and bought smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. As we shifted from cars getting 12 miles per gallon to ones getting 28 miles per gallon, the demand for petrol (and its price) began to fall. Supplies adjusted as well. The increased prices of the 1970's unleashed a frenzy of successful new exploration and drilling. New oil fields came on line all over the world in places such as Mexico, Russia and the North Sea. Fields that were not profitable to develop when oil was $4 per barrel proved to be veritable bonanzas at $35 per barrel. The combination of conservation and new supplies gradually drove prices down until, in inflation-adjusted terms, they returned to 1972 levels.5 Regrettably it did not last. Prices began to inch up again after the turn of the century and recently have climbed well above historic levels. Why? What happened? Is it still demand and supply? It is. First, demands rose rapidly over the last decade. Consumers, lulled by low prices, abandoned their fuel-efficient Hondas and Toyotas for behemoth trucks, vans, and SUVs. Perhaps more importantly, strong economic growth in countries such as China and India created more factories and more cars that need more oil to run them. Supplies also have suffered. During the U.S. invasion many Iraqi oil fields were destroyed and production there remains well below prewar levels. Production in other countries also has been disrupted, most recently when militant attacks in early 2008 closed major oil fields in Nigeria. Rising tensions in the Mideast added to the problems. Fearing that current pressures might rekindle armed conflict between Iran and Iraq and cause further cuts in supply, many oil brokers increased purchases in an attempt to lock in supplies at current prices. Not
  5. 5. surprisingly, this speculative buying increased demand and drove up prices still more. Do you see it? Increased demand from U.S. motorists, from other countries, and from speculators worried about even higher prices in the future, coupled with supply cuts in Iraq and Nigeria caused oil prices to increase. However, by late 2008 problems in U.S. mortgage lending set off a crisis in global financial markets that led to a global economic slowdown. The slowdown, in turn, caused a drop in demand for oil and began pushing the price of oil back down. [Can you picture how a shift in the demand curve can do this?] Once prices began to fall, speculators who had purchased large volumes of oil expecting to be able to resell at a higher future prices, began to lose money rapidly. To cut their losses they dumped their supplies on the market hoping to unload them quickly before prices fell further. Of course, this increased market supply and drove down prices even more rapidly. Oil prices that peaked above $140 per barrel in July 2008 had fallen to a mere $40 by December. Waiting worked. Rats. It didn't last. Unrest in the Middle East, accentuated by popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria refueled speculative fears. Will lengthy civil wars break out across the region? Will oil fields be destroyed? Will pipelines and transportation corridors be shut off? As firms rushed to lock in supplies, demand surged and prices soared back above $100 per barrel. By May 2011 domestic petrol prices once again approached $4.00 per gallon. What now? Most expect the Mideast crises to stabilize and for oil prices to bump back down. But, given the political instability in the many major oil-exporting nations, coupled with inelastic demands and supplies in the short run, the roller coaster price rides of recent decades are likely to continue. Lower prices? Some argue that the government should step in and mandate lower prices. Such schemes pander to populist preconceptions, but make little economic sense. Are you ready for one last graph? Suppose the government decides to lower petrol prices by decree and forbids firms from charging any price higher than P1 in the graph below. In economic jargon, P1 becomes a ceiling price. Consumers immediately react to the lower price by increasing their quantity demanded from Q0 to Q2. However firms react in the opposite way.
  6. 6. Stuck with a lower price they reduce their quantity supplied from Q0 to Q1 and a shortage results. The quantity demanded (Q2) now exceeds the quantity supplied (Q1). Some consumers do get petrol for a lower price, but others get no petrol at all. Since output has been cut from Q0 to Q1 there is less petrol to go around. It simply is not profitable to produce as much at the lower price. Who gets the petrol and who does not? In a free market consumers would compete for the scarce petrol by offering higher prices; those willing to pay the most would get the petrol. However, with a price ceiling in effect, paying higher prices is illegal. Firms and consumers must find a different way to decide who gets the gas and who does not. The traditional alternative is first-come-first-served. Those who get to the station first get the limited supplies; those at the end of the line do not. The gas is gone by the time they get to the pump. But think about this. If the product goes to those in line first, what will you do? That's right. You'll try to be first in line. Unfortunately, everyone else will be doing the same thing. The result will be long lines (and short tempers) at the pump. Those who "win" and get to the pumps first will get their gas at a lower price, but they must pay a higher price in terms of time and energy spent waiting in line. Those at the end of the line lose twice. They lose by having to wait in line and lose again by seeing the gas run out before they get to the pump. Could this actually happen? Readers who remember the 1970's know that it could and that it did. To "protect" consumers, we did slap price ceilings on oil and gas products, only to be slapped back with the long lines and shortages described above. It was ugly. Most economists offer the same advice they gave thirty years ago: wait. High prices are painful, but they serve a very real economic purpose;
  7. 7. they discourage consumers from using a scarce resource and encourage suppliers to produce more. In the long run higher prices will cause consumers to shift back to more fuel-efficient cars and adopt other measures of conservation. In the long run higher prices will cause firms to increase exploration and drilling to bring more supplies to the market. And, more importantly, in the long run higher oil prices will create incentives to develop cleaner and more renewable energy sources. OPEC oil ministers understand this quite well. Saudi officials often have pushed for moderation in oil prices precisely because they fear prices that rise too much too quickly will drive consuming nations to get serious about conservation and alternative energy programs. They understand that this could destroy the long-run market for oil and, in turn, damage their future economic growth. Despite their bad rap, rocketing petrol prices actually can have very beneficial side effects. Evidence suggests that the low gas prices of the past caused an increase in driving which, in turn, led to more pollution, more traffic-related deaths and more obesity.6 As the pinch of higher pump prices causes us to cut back our highway mileage, the likely result could be a cleaner, safer and cleaner America. Calls for patience may not win elections, but may be sensible policy nonetheless. Testing Yourself To test your understanding of the concepts in this reading, try answering the following: 1. 2. 3. Explain and illustrate why shifts in demand and supply cause larger price changes when the curves are relatively inelastic than when they are relatively elastic. Explain why oil prices rose in the 1970's but then fell through most of the 1980's and 1990's. Explain what demand and supply shifts might have caused oil prices to change in recent years.
  8. 8. 4. 5. 6. Explain how speculation might be impacting oil prices. Use demand and supply curves to illustrate the effect of a price ceiling. Explain in words what happens and why economists tend to oppose such ceilings. Explain why "waiting" might be a good way to deal with high oil prices. 7. Explain the beneficial effects high oil prices might create Elastic Oil
  9. 9. All products have some type of Elasticity. Under the category of elasticity there are 4 types of elasticity; Price, Income, Cross Price Elasticity of Demand, and Price Elasticity. Price Elasticity of Demand (PED)measures the proportional responsiveness of the quantity demanded to a change in price, with a scale from 0 to negative infinity, with zero indicating perfectly inelastic and negative infinity as highly elastic. PED’s are usually indicated in a negative number. Income elasticity of demand (YED)measures the proportional responsiveness change in quantity demanded to a change in income. This scales from negative infinity to positive infinity, with zero as a “changing point”. When the elasticity is negative, the good is seen as an inferior good, a good whose demand rises as income or real GDP falls. An example of inferior goods is delivery pizzas. Positive elasticity usually does not do over 3 and indicates normal goods. When it does go over 3 it is considered a luxury good, such as Ferraris. Cross Price Elasticity of Demand (XED)measures ness of the proportional responsive quantity demanded of good X fallowing a change of price in good Y. XED uses the same scale as of the YED. However, in this case, when the good is in the negative zone, it is shows that when good X’s price rose and demand fell, the demand for good Y also fell as well. This good is called a complementary good, for example bike and bike helmets. On the other hand if the good is in the positive zone, it means that the demand for good X raises the demand for good Y drops. It would be said that good x is a substitute of good Y. An example of substitute goods is butter and margarine. Within the all of the elasticity of demand, there are reasons why a good is elastic or inelastic. Brand Loyalty, Lack of Substitutes, the good being a necessity or if a good can cause an addiction are the reasons that a good can be inelastic. Price Elasticity of Supply (PES) measures the proportional responsiveness of a change in quantity supplied to a change in price. The scale is the same as Price Elasticity of Demand.
  10. 10. The Article talks about the elasticity of oil and how it has become more inelastic than ever. Oil has always been textbook example of an inelastic good. This is mainly due to the fact that there are not many effective substitutes, and it has become a modern necessity. It looks at price elasticity from the supply point view and demand point of view. For demand, many consumers are willing to pay more for the same amount of oil. This is due to the fact that many of us enjoy a luxurious life with somewhat superfluous amount of comfort. This means that the demand for oil is not very sensitive to price change. On a graph, the demand curve would look more vertical. This would mean that if the supply were to change, causing the price to change, Demand wouldn’t change much either. From the supply side view, it explains that the countries that are the world’s main exporters of oil (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. ) are doing its best at trying to get oil, yet the fact of getting oil and keeping their economy in check costs a lot of money. Even if we potentially have plenty of oil, we do not have enough at hand. On a graph, the supply graph would also look vertical, making the final graph to look like this.
  11. 11. In my opinion I think this is a good graphical interpretation of the elasticity of oil. There is not much of it for consumption, and that causes the high prices. Yet we are willing to pay the price for our desires.
  12. 12. Indirect taxation Author: Geoff Riley Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012 Introduction An indirect tax is imposed on producers (suppliers) by the government. Examples include duties on cigarettes, alcohol and fuel and also VAT VAT is a tax placed on the expenditure / a tax set as a percentage of the price of a good) A tax increases the costs of production causing an inward shift in the supply curve The vertical distance between the pre-tax and the post-tax supply curve shows the tax per unit With an indirect tax, the supplier may be able to pass on some or all of this tax onto the consumer through a higher price This is known as shifting the burden of the tax and the ability of businesses to do this depends on the price elasticity of demand and supply In the left hand diagram, demand is elastic so the producer must absorb most of the tax and accept a lower profit margin on each unit. When demand is elastic, the effect of a tax is to raise the price – but we see a bigger fall in quantity. Output has fallen from Q to Q1. In the right hand diagram demand for the product is inelastic and therefore the producer is able to pass on most of the tax to the consumer by raising price without losing much in the way of sales.
  13. 13. The table below shows the demand and supply schedules for a good: Price (£) Quantity Demanded Quantity Supplied Quantity supplied (Pre-tax) (Post-tax) 10 1280 600 9 60 1000 400 8 150 850 150 7 260 600 50 6 400 400 5 600 150 4 1 20 900 50 What is the initial equilibrium price and quantity? Price = £6 Quantity = 400 2 The government imposes a tax of £3 per unit. The new supply schedule is shown in the right hand column of the table – less is now supplied at each and every market price 3 Find the new equilibrium price after the tax has been New price =£8 imposed 4 Calculate the total tax revenue going to the government 5 Tax revenue = £450 How have consumers been affected by this tax? There has been a fall in quantity traded and a rise in the price paid by consumers – this leads to a fall in economic welfare as measured by consumer surplus
  14. 14. Who pays the tax? The burden of taxation The Government would rather place indirect taxes on commodities where demand is inelastic because the tax causes only a small fall in the quantity consumed and as a result the total revenue from taxes will be greater. An example of this is the high level of duty on cigarettes and petrol. Specific taxes: A specific tax is where the tax per unit is a fixed amount – for example the duty on a pint of beer or the tax per packet of twenty cigarettes. Another example is air passenger duty Ad valorem taxes: Where the tax is a percentage of the cost of supply – e.g. value added taxcurrently levied at the standard rate of 15%. In the diagram below, an ad valorem tax has been imposed on producers. The equilibrium price rises from P1 to P2 whilst quantity falls from Q1 to Q2.
  15. 15. Note that the effect of an ad valorem tax is to cause a pivotal shift in the supply curve This is because the tax is a percentage of the unit cost of supplying the product. So a good that could be supplied for a cost of £50 will now cost £58.75 when VAT of 17.5% is applied whereas a different good that costs £400 to supply will now cost £470 when the same rate of VAT is applied The absolute amount of the tax will go up as the market price increases Tobacco is an example of a product on which both specific and ad valorem taxes are applied.