Il faut corriger les magnats du pétrole

WASHINGTON DC – Ces dix-huit derniers mois, les cours du pétrole ont plus que doublé, imposant d’énormes coûts à l’économie mondiale. Une forte demande mondiale, due aux économies émergentes comme celle de la Chine, a sans doute alimenté en partie cette augmentation. Mais l’échelle de cette envolée dépasse les facteurs normaux de l’offre et de la demande, souligne la responsabilité de la spéculation et soulève la nécessité d’une action visant à nettoyer le marché du pétrole.

Tout à leur foi dans les marchés, la plupart des économistes rejettent l’idée que la spéculation est responsable de l’augmentation des prix. Selon eux, si elle était vraiment en cause, il devrait y avoir une augmentation des stocks de pétrole, car des cours plus élevés réduiraient la consommation, obligeant les spéculateurs à accumuler du pétrole. Le fait que les stocks n’aient pas augmenté est supposé exonérer les spéculateurs pétroliers.

Mais la situation est bien plus complexe que cela, car la demande de pétrole est particulièrement insensible aux cours. À court terme, il est techniquement difficile d’ajuster la consommation. Par exemple, l’efficacité en termes de carburant de chaque voiture et de chaque camion est fixe, et les trajets, pour la plupart, ne sont pas discrétionnaires. Si l’augmentation des tarifs des billets d’avion peut effectivement réduire les achats, les compagnies aériennes ne réduisent leur consommation de pétrole que lorsqu’elles annulent des vols.

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