Have you noticed how expensive petrol is these days? It now costs over €100 to fill up an average family car. In Ussher’s Quay the other day, there was a tailback of cars because a petrol station decided to offer a cut-price deal on petrol.
Why is the price of fuel going up?
Lots of media coverage is focusing on the Straits of Hormuz and the sabre-rattling between Iran, America and Israel at a time when Syria burns in the background. We are told that old-fashioned supply problems can explain the price of oil. Then, last Thursday, the main oilman in Saudi Arabia told us to chill out there was loads of the stuff left and there wouldn’t be any supply problems. Of course, this is all playing out against a background where the proponents of ‘peak oil’ argue that the stuff is running out anyway.
But might there be another reason that petrol prices are so high? Is there anything else driving up the price of petrol at the pumps that could be closer to home?
The answer is yes. At the moment, the central banks of the world are responding to this mega-debt crisis and huge de-leveraging everywhere with lower and lower interest rates. Earlier this month, a report from the US Federal Reserve (www.federalreserve.gov) on the flow of funds in the US made for quite shocking reading if you are someone who worries about what central banks all around the world are doing.
The report reveals that the Fed bought 61 per cent of the net new debt the US government issued last year. Before the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve used to buy small amounts, but not the lion’s share of the US government’s debt. This is quantitative easing like we have never seen before.
One way of putting all this into context is to examine how much this is in terms of US total income. This is particularly important right now in order to ascertain whether the US recovery is real or temporary.
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