Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.” — Robert A. Heinlein
World oil prices have plunged over the last six months with a surge in production and weaker than expected global demand.
For several years, global oil prices were fairly stable, sitting at around $110 a barrel.
But since June prices have almost halved to around $60 a barrel.
This is good news for countries which import oil, with motorists having to pay less to fill up their cars, but not for exporters, which have seen a significant drop in income.
:: India imports 75% of its oil and so lower prices are set to bolster the country’s finances, giving its government the opportunity to ditch subsidies for motorists and increase taxes on fuel.
:: Japan imports nearly all the oil it uses, but high energy prices have helped to keep inflation high, which has been central to plans to get the country’s economy back on track.
:: The United States is a winner too, where shale-oil production is at its highest levels in decades. Falling petrol prices mean more money in the pockets of hundreds of millions of consumers.
:: The UK sees a more mixed picture, with Aberdeen – the oil capital – taking a hit, but its loss is the rest of Britain’s gain, with lower oil prices helping to push inflation to a 12-year low and the news petrol prices could fall below £1 a litre in the coming months.
A breakdown of UK fuel prices
:: Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers and so tumbling prices have taken their toll on the economy, with the rouble seeing its value halved since the start of the year, leading to a dramatic interest rate hike of 17%.
:: Venezuela is another big loser where oil makes up 96% of all the country’s exports, and economists say every dollar drop in the oil price costs the country $700m.
:: Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter and the most influential member of Opec, but has deep pockets and so can handle lower prices for some time.
A temporary lull in prices may also suit Saudi Arabia, by putting the US’s more expensive shale oil industry under pressure.