Are Low Oil Prices Good or Bad? Yes

There’s just no pleasing some people.

When oil and gasoline prices at the pump are high, liberals (and Bill O’Reilly) complain that the oil companies are gouging us, even though certified enlightened opinion among environmentalists is that cheap oil and fuel prices are bad because it encourages consumption and makes it harder for their (subsidized) renewable energy unicorns to compete in the marketplace. I still have somewhere the New York Times headline from 1991, the second-to-last time oil prices were this low, that read “Low Oil Prices Are Bad, Some U.S. Experts Say.”

“Experts” would say that. That’s why they’re experts. (Or “top men,” as they’re rightly called in Raiders of the Lost Ark.) Anyway, today top men are saying low oil prices are going to propel us into a recession. Hitherto it was thought that high oil prices would trigger a recession. Economist James Hamilton has assembled the most persuasive evidence (PDF file) for this thesis.

But maybe we’re already in a recession? A lot of people are abuzz about this Royal Bank of Scotland report that says the world economy is about to tank big time. I checked with a couple of my Wall Street pals who said, “I didn’t know the Royal Bank of Scotland was still in business.”

Then there’s this:

Six Years Later, 93% of U.S. Counties Haven’t Recovered From Recession, Study Finds

More than six years after the economic expansion began, 93% of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover from the blow they suffered during the recession.

Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found. . .

The reality is slowing population growth and industry shifts mean some parts of the country will likely never fully recover. But by the end of last year, more counties had not recovered on any one of the four indicators, 16%, than had recovered on all of them. . . in 27 states, not a single county had fully recovered.

Funny this news was left out of Obama’s state of the union address.

At this point, the best thing to do is probably to repair to that great quote from Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman: “Nobody knows anything.” I’m going to sit back and watch football now.