In the latest monthly IEA oil report, the agency makes a special comment about oil prices as a percentage of global GDP:
At 4.1%, the 2010 global oil burden, albeit below that of 2008 (5.1%), was already the second highest
following a major recession (the highest was reached in 1980, at 8.0%). Put differently, the oil burden rose
by roughly a quarter in 2010. For the OECD, this was equivalent to roughly 0.8% of its collective GDP.
Moreover, under current assumptions for global GDP, oil price and oil demand, the global oil burden could
rise to 4.7% in 2011, getting close to levels that have coincided in the past with a marked economic
slowdown. Indeed, the combination of higher prices with a fragile economic recovery, emerging inflationary
pressures and instability in the Middle East is not a healthy one. A sensitivity analysis for 2011, on a ceteris
paribus basis (holding GDP and oil demand constant), indicates that, at current prices of around $90/bbl
(WTI), the global oil burden is rapidly approaching the 2008 ‘recession threshold’ – and is already well above
the $70‐80/bbl price range described as ‘preferred’ or ‘ideal’ by some producing countries, which would
entail an oil burden of 3.5‐4.0%.