Refinery column

El mejor momento para un impuesto al carbono

WASHINGTON, DC – Estas últimas décadas, el precio del petróleo tuvo amplias variaciones (entre 10 y 140 dólares el barril), que suponen un problema para productores y consumidores por igual. Pero para los gobiernos, estas fluctuaciones son una oportunidad de promover importantes objetivos mundiales (reflejados en los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible aprobados en septiembre y en el acuerdo sobre el clima alcanzado en París en diciembre) para mitigar el cambio climático y crear una economía más sostenible.

Las recientes fluctuaciones del precio del petróleo se parecen al modelo de telaraña clásico de la teoría microeconómica. El encarecimiento del petróleo alienta un aumento de la inversión en su producción. Pero por el gran retardo que se da entre la exploración y la explotación, para cuando la nueva capacidad productiva está lista, ya hubo sustitución, y ocurre a menudo que la demanda ya no justifica la oferta disponible. En ese momento, el precio cae, y con él la exploración y la inversión (incluida la destinada a buscar sustitutos del petróleo). Llegado el tiempo de una nueva escasez, el precio vuelve a subir y el ciclo se repite.

Esta oscilación no se detendrá, pero hay otros factores (como el descenso sostenido del costo de la energía renovable y la adopción de procesos de producción con menos consumo de energía) que implican que probablemente su amplitud será menor. De todos modos, un futuro encarecimiento del petróleo es inevitable.

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