Apart from the human tragedy dimension, the events which are unfolding in and around New Orleans will have an economic impact which in a globalised world can ripple through each and every economy. Fears that gasoline shortages could produce a recession in the US are going the rounds. James Hamilton of Econbrowser probably has the best coverage (here and here) while Dave Altig at MacroBlog is following the debate around the blogs (here, and here). Personally I’m taking a this is serious but lets keep calm view.
As Econbrowser argues the real problem is not with crude prices as such, but with the more short term issue of gasoline prices at the pump. The big problem is that the US has a large strategic crude reserve, but no gasoline reserve, while we, here in Europe, do have large stocks of gasoline. So it was a welcome surprise to open the FT in my browser this morning and read this report:
“European countries were on Thursday preparing to release emergency stockpiles of petrol as the US confirmed that some refineries hit by Hurricane Katrina would remain shut for several months. Earlier US officials had estimated the closures at only one to two weeks…..
Germany has assured the IEA that it would release stocks if asked to participate if needed. Germany holds the largest number of barrels of petrol in public storage. These extra barrels could hit the markets within one or two days. France, Spain and Italy also have large emergency gasoline reserves.”