Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung 4 / 1974, S. 287-299
Urs Dolinski, Hans-Joachim Ziesing
The strained situation on the world energy markets that developed in October 1973 as a result of the supply shortage in the mineral oil sector has changed the conditions surrounding the fuel economy and requires reconsideration of the assumptions that have so far been made as to the future trends in energy supplies. The recent developments on the world energy markets have two consequences for the oil-consuming countries: a quantity effect as a result of the tightness of crude oil supplies; and a price effect resulting from the world-wide increase in crude oil prices. Both factors will have a decisive influence on the future development of the industrial countries as regards their energy situation and their overall economic growth. The quantity problem raised by the crude oil crisis can be relieved in the medium term by the following measures: increased efforts to discover new oil deposits that are located in so-called "safe" areas of the world (e. g. in the North Sea); working of known oil deposits where the production of oil has so far been uneconomical due to the high cost involved; development of alternative fuels offering a possibility to reduce the share of mineral oil in energy consumption to a level that is acceptable from the point of view of security. It will take between 8 and 10 years to realise the possible solutions. By that time new shortages have to be expected on the energy market. But even then the meeting of energy requirements will present problems, at least as far as Western Europe and Japan are concerned, since the latter countries are even in the long run not likely to become largely independent of oil supplies from the Middle East and Northern Africa. The consequences of this to Western Europe and therefore the Federal Republic of Germany are the following: The only available means to achieve a short and medium-term solution to the quantity problem and to minimise the economic effects that may result when crude and mineral oil supplies fall short of requirements is to take immediate, effective steps to reduce energy consumption. ln the long run, however, it will be necessary to restructure energy consumption. The price aspect of the mineral oil crisis implies more dangerous economic consequences than does the quantity aspect, since the strong price increases imposed in the past months threaten to destroy the monetary and economic structures of both oil-importing industrial and developing countries. The outflow of funds from the oil-consuming into the oil-producing countries caused by the increases in crude oil prices is reaching the proportions of an international redistribution process. Without additional exports, the highly developed industrial nations would have to accept heavy balance of payments deficits. Countries which already show a deficit, such as Great Britain, Italy and Japan, might try to obtain export advantages or, failing this, impose drastic import restrictions - as is evidenced by the recent economic policy decisions taken by Italy and Japan. However, such measures bear the seed of economic sanctions on the part of the trading partners affected by them, and these sanctions might develop into general economic warfare. The effects this may have on free international trade, world-wide economic growth as well as the present economic prosperity of the industrial nations are unpredictable.