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Healthc Policy. 2016 May;11(4):12-9.

Health, Wealth and the Price of Oil.

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Faculty, Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.


The correlation between health and wealth is arguably a very solidly established relationship. Yet that relationship may be reversing. Falling oil prices have raised (average) per capita incomes, worldwide. But from a long-run perspective they are a public health disaster. The latter is easy to see: low oil reduces the incentive to develop alternative energy sources and "bend the curve" of global warming. Their principal impact on incomes has been redistributional - Alberta and Russia lose, Ontario and Germany gain, etc. Zero net gain. But the price has fallen because technical progress in extracting American shale oil has forced the Saudis' hand. These efficiencies have real benefits for (average) incomes, but costs for long-run health. A compensating carbon tax is an obvious response.

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