Siegel: Libya Problems Won't Quash Recovery

Wharton Professor and Stocks for the Long Run author Jeremy Siegel says the turmoil in the Middle East isn’t likely to be a big disruption for world growth.

“The bottom line is that, if the disruptions in oil supply are limited to Libya and a few other oil-producing nations, there will be no debilitating impact of world growth,” Siegel writes for Yahoo! Finance. “However, if disturbances spread to Saudi Arabia and reduce their oil production, the impact would be more severe.”

Siegel says that oil consumption accounts for only about 4% to 5% of global gross domestic product. And, he says, Libya’s oil exports represent about 2% of global oil output. “If this supply is cut off, world GDP will fall by less than one-tenth of one percent,” he says. “Even if there are disruptions in neighboring states, such as Algeria or Tunisia, this would not be enough to dent the world economic recovery. Saudi Arabia is estimated to be able to produce 3 million to 4 million extra barrels a day (b/d), and they have indicated they will stabilize oil prices.”

Siegel says a much larger price increase — say, oil at $200 a barrel — would have a major impact on the economy. But, he says, “that outcome is likely only if there is a major disruption to the flow of Saudi Arabian oil.”

In addition, Siegel says the U.S. is actually significantly less reliant on oil than it was during the 1970s oil crisis. The increasingly service-oriented nature of our economy and better energy efficiency are two reasons why the economy is half as “energy intensive” as it was 30 years ago, he says. He also says that higher oil prices would accelerate development of alternative fuels, which, in the long run, would be a big boost to the U.S. economy.

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