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Thursday, September 14, 2006

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A. PERLA

"Over the medium term, however, metals prices are expected to retreat from recent highs as new capacity comes on stream, although probably not falling back to earlier levels—in part because higher energy prices have increased production costs."

Higher energy prices have increased everybody's costs. This does not necessarily mean that petroleum prices will never be reduced to, say, half their present values?

New energy sources are coming on line. Let's not forget that this present run up in prices, particularly in the US was not due to the lack of sources but the lack of refinery capacity. This new capacity is also coming on-line. The damage done by Katrina was largely repaired within 9 months succeeding its passage.

Then there is the argument of "alternative" sources of energy. They are four that come to (my) mind: Atomic, biofuels, hydrogen and renewable resources.

Renewable resources are not the panacea that we all once thought, but the use of geothermal sources (whereby house heating can be found within a meter of the surface) will significantly affect, at least, new housing heating costs. Windmill farms dot the countryside in some countries, but they will not have a pervasive effect. The locals find them too ugly and too noisy.

Biofuels are a godsend to Europe's farmers who must look forward to lower CAP subsidies in the coming years. Will biofuels replace the need to simply store/export cereal products? I doubt it, but they remain an important source of farm income ... for as long a petroleum prices remain high.

Atomic energy is not fully exploited, largely because of accidents that have cast a pall over their usage. (Changing from fusion to fission will enhance productivity of the source.) But as people get to understand that alternatives are not all that easy to implement, then atomic energy become more attractive - even though we'll probably never be able to devise an adequate way to get rid of the residue product.

The key is changing from the carbon molecule to the hydrogen molecule as an energy source. This is promising, but neither is it on the near horizon. Hydrogen powering 90% of the planet's vehicles is not expected (today) before 2050. Bottled air, anyone?

Bill Conerly

This is really a first rate article. A great exercise in applying microeconomic principles for commodities with varying lengths of time between short-run and long-run. If I were teaching intermediate price theory still, it would be required reading.

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