The impact of $60 oil prices in 2006 is very different indeed from the impact of high oil prices in the 1970s or 1980s. Energy is becoming a less important part of the global economy. Oil expenditure is currently about two percent of US gross domestic product, one quarter of what it was in 1980.

The price of oil deflated by the U.S. consumer price index would have to be above $110 a barrel to match the prices seen in the early 1980s. So say $55 a barrel today would be the equivalent in real terms to a price of less than $20 in the early 1980s.

If the oil price moves up, companies will be cutting back on labor costs. Corporate behavior and individual behavior seem to be a lot different.