Waking up Monday morning filled me with a sense of both dread and joy.
Dread that I, like many others in the area, would be spending the next four hours shoveling tons of snow from my driveway, deck and sidewalk – and associated back pain. Dread that, at some point, the snowplow would come and block me in with a wall of snow. And dread that with all this snow comes lots of mud.
The joy, of course, is obvious. Joy that lovers of winter sports would be able to strap on whatever accoutrements their chosen activity requires. Joy that local businesses that rely on snow would attract more economic activity. Joy that in a few months, runoffs will draw river revelers to come play, float and fish.
And, perhaps most importantly, the water tables and reservoirs would once again fill up, mitigating a potentially dangerous drought.
But, perhaps inevitably, as I watched the snow, my attention turned to how the myriad of recent weather is affecting our economy.
Would all this moisture offset western North America’s worst drought since 1314? No, that’s not a typo.
This, of course, has conspired to raise agriculture prices the past few years. Fortunately, trade minimizes the impacts on American’s pocketbooks.
On the other extreme, how have the blizzards in the Northeast, Midwest and South of 2015 affected our economy? Given that close to 60 percent of U.S. gross domestic product is produced in these regions, one can only imagine it might knock off a couple fractions of a percent of GDP growth this year.
Reflections on weather soon led to me to cast my gaze further afield. On the horizon, we are fortunate to have both a sunset and sunrise.
A couple of strikes are also causing “man-made” weather.
Most widely discussed is the West Coast dockworker strike that I suspect will push prices for goods up, at least until the bottleneck can be loosened. The problems is even worse for perishable goods caught in the brouhaha.
Thankfully, the strike part is over − a glorious sunset.
However, the impact has a global impact for trans-Pacific trade, in both directions. Estimates are that freeing up ports and trade could take several months.
Now, refinery workers are on strike − an unwanted sunrise.
For consumers, the timing is good, oil prices are still in the $50 per barrel range – and look to remain below $64 per barrel for the next two years. In addition, many refineries are either scheduled to close for annual maintenance or retooling to change from winter to summer formulations.
For domestic oil producers and associated industries, the timing isn’t so good. Oil prices are already low – for some, lower than the extraction costs. Fortunately, not much labor is required in refining.
Nevertheless, this likely will have a small impact on gas prices.
This is all so abstract. I think it’s time to wax up the boards.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Robert “Tino” Sonora is professor of economics at Fort Lewis College and the director of the Office of Business and Economic Research at Fort Lewis College.