This year most forecasters assumed oil would stay around $110 a barrel. They correctly saw that US output would rise, but so would demand. Those who pondered more deeply reckoned Saudi would cut her production a little to offset any surplus that emerged. I did not myself expect to see a major price collapse, against the background of raging civil and religious wars close to major oilfields in the Middle East.
Instead oil fell to $95 a barrel, the level market professionals thought would be the Saudi target support price. Instead the OPEC meeting announced no production cutbacks, and the price collapsed to around $60.
For oil consumers it is great news. It means lower inflation and higher real incomes. We all have money to spend on something else that would have been used to fill the car tank and warm our homes. The UK is now a net importer of oil again, so it will make a modest improvement to our balance of payments.
The SNP have been very quiet about the impact it will have on the Scottish economy and revenues. It will show more neutral Scots the value of belonging to the UK. As the oil revenues decline rapidly, so Scotland can still draw on the other tax revenues of the whole UK to make up the shortfall. An independent Scotland would by now be looking at what taxes to raise and what expenditures to cut to offset the fall in oil revenues.
It will worry Labour, as it is a major blow to their “cost of living crisis”. With pay now advancing in real terms for all those in work for longer than a year, this fall in petrol, diesel and other energy costs will give a further boost to the value of take home pay. Generally it will transfer income and spending power to the oil consuming countries, away from the Middle Eastern oil producers, and at the expense of countries like Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela who remain very dependent on oil revenues. Overall it is a boost to consumption and output in the world economy.