Peak Oil and Higher Prices Have Disconnected in Public Awareness - For Now

by: Paul Kedrosky

Despite gas prices having climbed a good chunk of the way back up to 2008 levels, the level of worry about higher prices hasn't seemed as high this time around. To test that, I pulled data from Google Trends on searches for "peak oil" and compared that to WTI crude prices over the same period. As this graph shows, while the two moved up together in 2007/2008, this time around "peak oil" and higher prices have disconnected in the public awareness - at least for now.

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Why might that be? One explanation is that oil prices haven't climbed as fast as they did in early 2008, with the slope of the ascent being a primary source of worries. Second, with consumers having seen prices considerably higher than today's just two years ago, perhaps they have become desensitized to oil at "merely" $87 a barrel. Of course, if either or both are true it wouldn't take much to turn around perception and have people paranoid about peak oil again: higher prices or a faster ascent would do the deed in short order.