Econonomics of Energy and Environmental Policy

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The Value of Saving Oil in Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia has one of the highest levels of per capita oil consumption in the world, but attempts are now being made by Saudi policymakers to significantly reduce this. Thus, a relevant policy question is what is the value of saving a barrel of oil in Saudi Arabia? The instinctive answer is that the value saved is the difference between the international market price and the domestic price. However, for Saudi Arabia, this answer is insufficient for several reasons. First, the current administered domestic price of oil is set below international market levels, which leaves room for improved economic efficiency. Second, Saudi Arabia is not a marginal producer of oil but a critical player in the international oil market; a shift in Saudi exports affects international oil prices and consequently the country's revenue from oil exports. Third, there are different ways to reduce the domestic consumption of oil. This paper explores policies that reduce the domestic consumption of oil in Saudi Arabia, increasing the amount of oil that would ultimately be exported and assesses the impact on welfare and carbon emissions (however, given the long-run perspective adopted here, it does not address the optimal timing to export the oil that is saved). Among the various methodologies to do this, we opt for a general equilibrium model. Our results suggest that oil-saving policies would lead to positive welfare gains and a reduction in domestic carbon emissions. The most relevant insight for policymakers is that a barrel of oil saved in the Saudi economy leads to an increase in welfare ranging between $6 to $56 for an international oil price of $52.9 per barrel, depending on the policy, and a decrease in domestic CO2 emissions from 150 kg to 368 kg.
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Keywords: Oil saved, carbon emissions, welfare, policy cost, Saudi Arabia

DOI: 10.5547/2160-5890.8.2.jbla

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Published in Volume 9, Number 1 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.


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