Industries feel pinch from rising oil prices

Rising oil prices are expected to cost airlines an additional $4 billion this year compared to last.
Rising oil prices are expected to cost airlines an additional $4 billion this year compared to last.

From the ports to the planes, the cost of crude oil is eating into the bottom line.

The airlines alone are expected to spend another $4 billion on fuel this year compared to last.

"An industry that uses oil as an input is going to get hit very hard," said Nariman Behravesh of Global Insight. "These include airlines, for example ... the chemicals industry ... even refineries would get hit pretty hard."

The refineries, utilities, basic chemical companies, transportation and storage firms as well as glass and product makers are the biggest energy using industries.

With oil at a record high, companies are stuck paying more to make their products or produce their services.

Some, like the airlines, can not pass along the higher costs to customers because there is so much competition that fare increases never stick.

By comparison, shipping firms have been able to raise their prices because there is so much demand to move goods.

"This is hurting but it isn't hurting nearly as bad as it would have been a couple of years ago," said Bob Costello from the American Trucking Association. "Even though we are at the highest level ever for diesel fuel prices, that's because fuel surcharges have become more prevalent."

If oil prices spike even higher and go well above $50 a barrel, many industries are expected to see sales fall off between one percent and two percent.

But the hit is not as great as it might have been in the past because we are using about half as much oil and natural gas per gross domestic product dollar than we were back in 1973.

As a result, the U.S. economy is less dependent on oil and gas.

"Because services are a much bigger part of the U.S. economy than they were 30 years ago, there is no question that the effect of higher oil prices is less now than it was 30 years ago," Behravesh said.

One more thing to consider with high oil prices and companies is what is happening with manufacturers: Many factories are able to switch to natural gas and use that instead of oil, and that has helped limit costs because the cost of natural gas is down a dollar since June.