Did Oil Shocks Spark The Recession?

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That's what a paper at the Brooking Institution suggests. Derek Thompson summarizes:

The grand retelling goes something like this. Cheap gasoline from the 1990s into this decade encouraged families to set up their homes farther from the cities where they worked. But as the price of gas began to increase, it put a big strain of these families' commutes. With gas rising from $2 to $4, the price of these long drives doubled, straining those families' most expensive payments, namely: mortgages. When families realized they could not afford their exurban commutes, they sold their homes for a big loss. Voila: Their mortgage crisis became a bank crisis and the rest is our living history.

Thompson gauges the political implications:

My head's still spinning a bit, but it's interesting to think about the political consequences of a report like this being mainstreamed. If the idea somehow stuck that an oil shock was responsible for the financial crisis, it could be a significant catalyzer for the push toward energy reform. Today we're seeing a great national movement to change Wall Street because the general consensus is that Wall Street caused this crisis. Whether Hamilton's theory is wacko or brilliant, just imagine what a national movement to revolutionize America's energy consumption would look like. What if we had oil parties instead of tea parties, demanding more government investment in alternative fuels and subsidies for green technologies. That would really be something.

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