Friday, September 23, 2005

Lynne Lays the Smack Down

Lynne Kiesling of The Knowledge Problem, lays the proverbial smack down on a former professor of mine, Don Nichols.

The WaPO quoted Nichols:

Historically, Nichols said, the markup between the price of a gallon of crude and a gallon of gasoline is about 85 to 90 cents a gallon, including refining, distribution and taxes.

The study estimated that for pump prices to reach $3 a gallon, the price of crude oil would have to be about $95 a barrel, but crude prices have been holding around $65 a barrel, and Katrina has not caused a surge in crude oil prices.

"The disconnect between gasoline and crude oil prices is quite remarkable," Nichols said.

And Lynne said:

On its face I find this statement naive. People who study this industry have known for the past seven or so years that increasingly the refining capacity in the US is a bottleneck. If you are analyzing price effects along a vertical supply chain, and you have a capacity bottleneck in the middle of that chain, how can you expect historic relationships between the price of the initial input and the price of the final product to persist? That is incredibly naive and reflects a lack of understanding of how vertical supply chains work.

Of course the price of crude oil and the price of gasoline are going to become more disconnected as your refining capacity becomes the binding constraint. furthermore, when a natural disaster exacerbates that bottleneck, you should expect a further deviation from that historic relationship.

More work for the FTC, which routinely investigates claims of "price gouging" when one politician or another raises the populist hue and cry. The FTC has studies stretching back for almost two decades that show no evidence of anti-competitive outcomes in gasoline markets.

Is there sufficient political will to just deal with the fact that energy scarcity is going to be more binding? Is there political will to let prices do their jobs?

I'm pretty sure he is a moron. I mean in my intermediate macro class he used to brag about being part of Carter's Council of Economic Advisors. Why would you brag about that?

Keywords: Gas, Gouging

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