Two intriguing circumstances have characterized the behavior of energy markets in the first years of 21st Century: a sharp increase in oil prices without a clear impact on real economic activity and a relative stagnation of energy productivity after 30 years of continuous improvement. This paper uses a standard macroeconomic production function to show that these two circumstances are consistent with sharp global increase in coal production and consumption. Our results suggest that the strong shift in coal production in the period 2000-2007 can explain why the sharp increase in oil prices did not impact negatively global activity and a relative stagnation in energy productivity. In addition, the paper also highlights the shift in the energy mix towards coal and natural gas and alerts that these fuels, and not only crude oil, can be sources of macroeconomic shocks in the future. © FrancoAngeli.
Former Research Associate