Publications: Papers

Rising Crude Oil Prices: The Link to Environmental Regulations (November 2011)


Crude oil is not a homogenous commodity. Light sweet crude oils produce a high percentage of products desired by consumers after distillation. Other crude oils (heavy, sour, or high-sulfur crude) must be heavily processed to obtain needed products. The failure to understand the differences between desirable light crudes and heavy sour crude oils can lead to bad forecasts of market behavior. Using a stylized model of the market, this paper shows that tightening environmental regulations in the absence of adequate refining capacity to process heavy sour crude puts upward pressure on crude prices and explains the 2008 price increase. The upward pressure is exacerbated by the monopolist practices of heavy sour crude producers, who set price differentials to maximize income. This model also can be used to analyze the impact of the supplies lost from Libya in 2011.


Business Economics 46, No. 4 (2011): 239–248.