Oil Prices: A Lesson in Markets
Globe and Mail, December 1, 2014
For 27 years in my graduate energy seminar, I’ve struggled to convince bright master’s and PhD students that oil prices might actually result from competition rather than a price-fixing conspiracy of oil companies and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel. But this year, my task was easier.
We start by reviewing several commodity prices – potash, lumber, copper, oil – which show that the oil market is not atypical. We see that all oil producers receive the same price, which is usually at or above the production costs of the most expensive suppliers, such as Alberta’s oil sands and North Dakota’s shale and tight oil. Low-cost producers, like Saudi Arabia, get more profit from each barrel.