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Today’s Energy Crisis Is Very Different from the Energy Crisis of 2005

Today’s Energy Crisis Is Very Different from the Energy Crisis of 2005

Back in 2005, the world economy was “humming along.” World growth in energy consumption per capita was rising at 2.3% per year in the 2001 to 2005 period. China had been added to the World Trade Organization in December 2001, ramping up its demand for all kinds of fossil fuels. There was also a bubble in the US housing market, brought on by low interest rates and loose underwriting standards.

Figure 1. World primary energy consumption per capita based on BP’s 2022 Statistical Review of World Energy.

The problem in 2005, as now, was inflation in energy costs that was feeding through to inflation in general. Inflation in food prices was especially a problem. The Federal Reserve chose to fix the problem by raising the Federal Funds interest rate from 1.00% to 5.25% between June 30, 2004 and June 30, 2006.

Now, the world is facing a very different problem. High energy prices are again feeding over to food prices and to inflation in general. But the underlying trend in energy consumption is very different. The growth rate in world energy consumption per capita was 2.3% per year in the 2001 to 2005 period, but energy consumption per capita for the period 2017 to 2021 seems to be slightly shrinking at minus 0.4% per year. The world seems to already be on the edge of recession.

The Federal Reserve seems to be using a similar interest rate approach now, in very different circumstances. In this post, I will try to explain why I don’t think that this approach will produce the desired outcome.

[1] The 2004 to 2006 interest rate hikes didn’t lead to lower oil prices until after July 2008.

It is easiest to see the impact (or lack thereof) of rising interest rates by looking at average monthly world oil prices.

Figure 2. Average monthly Brent spot oil prices based on data of the US Energy Information Administration. Latest month shown is July 2022.

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