击败石油巨头

华盛顿特区——过去18个月以来,油价已经上涨了超过两倍,给全球经济带来了巨大的成本开支。由于中国等新兴经济体的加入一直保持强劲的全球需求毫无疑问助推了油价的上涨。可是油价快速上涨的规模已经超出了正常的供需因素,暗示着投机行为的影响——也更加凸显了采取政策行动清理石油市场的必要性。

作为对市场信心的反映,绝大多数经济学家拒绝接受投机造成油价上涨的思想。如果投机行为是油价上涨的真正原因,他们争辩道,那就应该造成石油库存的上涨,因为高油价应该限制消费,从而逼迫投机商开始囤积石油。而石油库存不曾上涨的事实在他们看来洗清了石油投机商的不白之冤。

可是情况远比这种假设更为复杂,原因是石油需求对价格的敏感度极低。从短期来看,调整消费总量在技术上存在很大困难。举例来讲,每辆汽车和卡车的燃油效率都是固定的,而且多数差旅行为也不以个人的意志为转移。尽管高价机票可能降低人们的购买意愿,但只有当航空公司取消航班的时候石油消费才会下降。

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