What low oil prices mean for the U.S.

Michael Smith, News Editor

Oil prices are falling. Hard. The price for one barrel of crude oil, which peaked last June at just over $100, is now just below $50.

This change in price is surely more than just a market correcting itself, but instead a result of an increase in supply from Russia, China, and the U.S. and a decrease in demand from the economically ailing Europe.

Usually, when oil prices start falling drastically, the Organization of Petrolum Exporting Countries (OPEC) starts limiting production to keep prices in control.

Yet, this group, which includes the likes of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Venezuela, decided in October to loosen its stranglehold grip and, in turn, no one is stopping oil’s fall.

So, what does this mean for the U.S.? Well, even though the United States is the largest oil producer, the U.S. economy will likely benefit from low prices.

Bloomberg Businessweek predicted this week that if oil prices were at $40, which many see as the commodity’s “floor,” compared to a more typical $84, the U.S. economy would grow an extra .8% in 2015.

This extra push would make America one of the fastest growing major economies in the world, icing on the cake for the U.S. that posted 5% growth for the third quarter last year.

What may be even better news for consumers in the United States is the lowering cost at the pump, with gas prices falling under $2.00 in many places nationwide. These savings will put more money in the pocket of American consumers, who will most likely spend it elsewhere, thus keeping the consumer economy flowing.

Yet, there is some bad news following in the wake of low oil prices, especially for oil companies themselves. CNNMoney calculated that the drop in prices over the last few months have caused the top 10 American oil and natural gas companies to lose $200 billion in profit. Likewise, when oil prices are low, less money is invested in renewable energy and efficiency goals are weakened.

Overall, the American economy will mostly benefit from a decrease in oil prices, but the situation in Russia, Nigeria, and Venezuela could be a lot better. So, be sure to enjoy it while it lasts.