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EMF OP 51: Energy Disruptions, Interfirm Price Effects, and the Aggregate Economy

Occasional Paper

In an economy with many imperfect competitors (monopolistic competition), firms that pass through higher oil prices during a disruption will affect the demand for firms in other industries. Firms that charge higher prices for their final product will include the effect on their own final product in their private decisions but will exclude the effect on the final products of other firms. Although a pecuniary externality, these actions will reduce society’s welfare, unlike the case of a perfectly competitive market. This situation creates a societal risk that is much wider than an externality in any single market. Policy interest shifts from one of punishing Persian Gulf oil producers to one of cushioning an industrialized economy from sudden disruptions caused by political and military conflicts. Although the value of reducing oil use depends upon a number of unknown parameters with wide distributions, are presentative numerical example suggests that it may approach $5 per barrel.

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