Ten years ago, only 20 percent of the world population, the wealthy Europe, US, Japan, and some Asian tigers countries, enjoyed general ownership of private cars. Since the middle of the last decade the Chinese population started gradually, to join the club of energy consuming nations. It seems, “the butterfly effect”, caused at 2007 dramatic rise on oil prices, (and in other commodities as well), when within a year it grow from 50 US$/barrel to 150 US$ (other commodities behaved accordingly), dropping back to 30 US$/barrel immediately after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
The current economic crisis started process of more evenly distributed consumption in the world, since it had hit primarily the most wealthy regions, and less the emerging economic regions. The economic stimulus made by US and EU moderated this trend, but it will have only temporary effect. If the B.R.I.C s and other huge populated countries of about 4 billion people living in China, India, Latin America and the South-East Asian, will continue to catch up the energy consumption per capita level of Europe and US, this trend will have more and more impact on the commodity prices. What we see with the oil prices is only continuation of the process that started in 2007 and was interrupted at 2008 by the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the economic crisis that followed it. The sharp increase in oil prices is caused by this competition for raw materials and energy sources, and this trend will not disappear in the future. The other question is, what environmental impact this increase of world energy consumption will bring.
The 100 dollar per barrel crude oil price seems to be close to the upper level of price, with what the world economy can cope. This conclusion I derive from the history. At 1980 the oil price was higher than today, and then collapsed.
Since then the efficiency of energy usage has improved significantly, mainly in transportation, but on the other hand new products in other aspects of life increased the energy needs, as a result of this the per capita energy consumption in Europe and US did not change, but it did increase in China.
This process seems unsustainable and some sort of economic crisis will have to come. Most probably some kind of stagflation, which will prolong for years, until an alternative to existing energy will be created.