Mar 10, 2022 - Economy & Business

The good news on soaring energy prices

Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

If there is a saving grace in this new world of $110 per barrel oil, it is that petroleum products play a less significant role in the U.S. economy than they did during the oil shocks of the 1970s, or even the price spikes of 2008.

Driving the news: Energy represented 4.2% of Americans' personal consumption expenditures in January, before the recent price surge. It was nearly 7% in the summer of 2008.

Why it matters: As frustrating as expensive gasoline fill-ups and heating bills may be, they should do less damage to the overall economy than they would have in earlier eras.

  • That reflects a rise in energy efficiency of cars, houses and more, and a shift of consumption toward services over physical goods.

What they're saying: The Biden administration is pitching its clean energy initiatives as a longer-term way to insulate American families from the geopolitics of oil.

  • "We have to make sure that we get that kind of clean energy independence because that's going to create real economic security for families in the decades to come," Heather Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told Axios in an Axios Events conversation this week.

Yes but: The price spikes tied to the war in Ukraine are hardly limited to oil and other energy products. They are affecting many agricultural commodities, as well as metals needed for high-end manufacturing that could cause a broader set of inflationary problems than an oil shock alone.

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