Kudlow's Corner

Would oil prices quickly fall if the drilling moratorium is ended?

We asked our panel:

Would oil prices quickly fall if the drilling moratorium is ended?


NO 5

The Kudlow Caucus Breakdown

Stefan AbramsManaging Partner, Bryden-Abrams Investment Management
Oil prices might come down a bit, and perhaps they would stabilize. However, under the best of circumstances, even if all the red tape were quickly eliminated, it would be several years before a significantly incremental amount of production became available, and the market would not discount this for quite a while. In the meantime, soaring demand from the emerging economies will continue to keep the global supply/demand balance very tight.

Joe Battipaglia
Market Strategist, Stifel Nicolaus
While it would take a few years for drilling to have an impact on output, speculators will run for the exits in an attempt to try to get out before the inevitable crude price drop -- the classic ending to an investment bubble.

Jared Bernstein
Senior Economist, Economic Policy Institute
No, no, no! Nada. Uh-Uh. No way. Won’t happen. Nyet. Peak production is well over a decade off and even then you’re talking maybe a couple of hundred thousand bpd. When the Saudi’s announced their intention to quickly crank out another 500K bpd, oil prices didn’t flinch. I’m not saying supply doesn’t move prices, but I am saying that ending the U.S. moratorium won’t “quickly” effect oil prices.

Jerry BowyerChief Economist, Benchmark Financial Network
…if it’s done right. Lift this bizarre economic suicide pact known as a drilling moratorium. Streamline the permitting process so that it doesn’t take 2 years just to get permission before an explorer can even start. Get around nimby-ninnies by using federal properties, for instance, mothballed military bases. It’s not just new refineries. We can streamline expansions of existing ones, and liberalize regulations so that they can profitably use abundant sources of oil that don’t qualify as light, sweet crude oil. That last step would have a big effect on supply. In addition, states should tear down their complicated patchwork of dozens of different gasoline districts all requiring different mixes. The President should address the nation directly, this week, and lay out this plan as essential to our nation’s interests.

Vince FarrellScotsman Capital Management
Oil prices would fall rapidly. If the future supply of oil looks to be growing, the price producers would be willing to take now would fall. Sort of the classic bird in the hand theory. I'll sell my oil now since there is going to be more of it tomorrow. See Martin Feldstein's piece in Tuesday's WSJ.

Jim LaCampPortfolio Manager, Portfolio Focus, RBC Wealth Management
Co-Host, Opening Bell Radio Show, Biz Radio Network
But don't get too excited. Drilling would address one of the energy market’s chief issues, that the supply response to global demand is way too slow and governments are making the situation worse not better. Prices drop, but not dramatically, HOWEVER, Oil prices are due a correction. This could set that ball rolling.

Art LafferFmr. Reagan Economic Advisor
Chief Investment Officer, Laffer Investments
It would make a small difference in spot prices today, but at least oil prices would be a lot lower five years from now.

Donald L. Luskin Chief Investment Officer, Trend Macrolytics LLC
The oil price would fall below $100 in one gigantic wonderful down-tick. Not only because it would improve the expected long-term supply of oil, but because it would take much of the geopolitical risk element out of the long-term oil price.

Then we'd have to deal with the financial fallout from various leveraged hedge funds who were long. But that would be a small price to pay.

Steve MooreSr. Economics Writer, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board
The drilling decision will bring down futures price of oil and will thus reduce the current price.

James Pethokoukis
Sr. Writer, U.S. News & World Report (Money & Business)
Anything that affects perceptions about future supply and demand will influence the price of oil today. Energy deregulation like lifting drilling restrictions would be a biggie. But right now there is also lots of geopolitical fear built into the price of oil. More and more folks I talk with think US/Israel will bomb Iran by year end.

Robert Reich
Former Labor Secretary
Professor of Public Policy, UC Berkeley
Even the Energy Department acknowledges that prices wouldn't fall until 2017 at the earliest. Besides, it's a global oil market, so even if more oil were found off our coasts or in Alaska, that oil would be added to global stocks. We'd be sharing any supply gains with the Chinese, Europeans, and everyone else on the globe.

Gary Shilling
A. Gary Shilling & Co. President
Two reasons. The oil wouldn’t reach the market for at least five or more years. Second, whatever effect there would be has been anticipated.