Using a novel dataset, we develop a structural model of the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) market between the Arabian Gulf and the Far East. We study how fluctuations in oil tanker rates, oil exports, shipowner profits, and bunker fuel prices are determined by shocks to the supply and demand for oil tankers, to the utilization of tankers, and to the cost of operating tankers, including bunker fuel costs. Our analysis shows that time charter rates are largely unresponsive to tanker cost shocks. In response to higher costs, voyage profits decline, as cost shocks are only partially passed on to round-trip voyage rates. Oil exports from the Arabian Gulf also decline, reflecting lower demand for VLCCs. Positive utilization shocks are associated with higher profits, a slight increase in time charter rates and lower fuel prices and oil export volumes. Tanker supply and tanker demand shocks have persistent effects on time charter rates, round-trip voyage rates, the volume of oil exports, fuel prices, and profits with the expected sign. This paper examines the advantages and drawbacks of alternative methods of estimating oil supply and oil demand elasticities and of incorporating this information into structural VAR models. I not only summarize the state of the literature, but also draw attention to a number of econometric problems that have been overlooked in this literature. Once these problems are recognized, seemingly conflicting conclusions in the recent literature can be resolved. My analysis reaffirms the conclusion that the one-month oil supply elasticity is close to zero, which implies that oil demand shocks are the dominant driver of the real price of oil. The focus of this paper is not only on correcting some misunderstandings in the recent literature, but on the substantive and methodological insights generated by this exchange, which are of broader interest to applied researchers.
Oil supply elasticity oil demand elasticity IV estimation structural VAR Bayesian inference oil price gasoline price