Living In A World Of Cheap Oil

Ultra-low prices are a boon for business--and just about everybody

Consider it a surprise birthday gift to the economy as the 1990s expansion enters its eighth year. Over the last six months the price of crude oil has plunged from $22 a barrel to a low of $12.91 a barrel on Mar. 17, a level not seen since October, 1988. And the prices of gasoline, electricity, and anything else produced with petroleum are headed down: Energy prices nationwide fell 2.4% in the first month of this year and are down 25% in the 12 months ended in January. In some cities, gasoline has fallen below 80 cents a gallon.

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