NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The 30% plunge in oil prices is already having a profound impact on the world economy. Whether or not the oil-producing nations that make up OPEC decide how to arrest the slide at its Vienna meeting later this week, if prices keep falling more changes could come.
It's a different oil market, with the U.S. close to self-sufficiency. Even if oil prices bounce back, most of the money stays in the U.S. rather than flowing to the Middle East. On the other hand, the development of alternative fuels in the U.S. has been spurred by higher oil prices. If oil continues to fall, these alternatives become a lot less economic and their development could slow.
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With that in mind, here are some of the winners and losers in the recent oil price decline.
Winner: Oil Refineries
Oil refineries benefit doubly from an oil price decline. First, lower prices increases increase demand, so they can run at a higher percentage of capacity. Second, as prices decline, refiners can make product prices decline more slowly than input prices, increasing margins. Hence the decline since July has doubly benefited refineries; when prices stabilize their volumes will remain higher but their margins will shrink.