5 Dollar Gas? Get Ready To Pay An Arm And A Leg For Gasoline

One of the quickest ways to bring down the U.S. economy would be to dramatically increase the price of oil. Oil is the lifeblood of our economic system. Without it, our entire economy would come to a grinding halt. Almost every type of economic activity in this country depends on oil, and even a small rise in the price of oil can have a dramatic impact on economic growth.  That is why so many economists are incredibly alarmed about what is happening in the Middle East right now.  The revolution in Libya caused the price of WTI crude to soar more than 7 dollars on Tuesday alone.  It closed at $93.57 on Tuesday and Brent crude actually hit $108.57 a barrel before settling back to $105.78 at the end of the day.  Some analysts are warning that we could even see 5 dollar gas in the United States by the end of the year if rioting spreads to other oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia.  With the Middle East in such a state of chaos right now it is hard to know exactly what is going to happen, but almost everyone agrees that if oil prices continue to rise at a rapid pace over the next several months it is going to have a devastating impact on economic growth all over the globe.

Right now the eyes of the world are on Libya.  Libya is the 17th largest oil producer on the globe and it has the biggest proven oil reserves on the continent of Africa.

Libya only produces 2 percent of the oil in the world, but with global supplies so tight at the moment even a minor production disruption can have a dramatic impact on the price of oil.

Before this crisis, Libya was producing approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil per day.  Now the rest of the world is wondering what may happen if revolution spreads to other major oil producing nations such as Kuwait (2.5 million barrels of oil per day) or Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia produces 8.4 million barrels of oil a day.  It produces more oil than anyone else in OPEC.

If revolution strikes in Saudi Arabia and a major production disruption happens it could be catastrophic for the global economy.

David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, is warning that if there is major civil unrest in Saudi Arabia we could end up seeing oil go up to $200 a barrel….

“If Libya can spark a $10-a-barrel response, imagine what a similar uprising in Saudi Arabia could unleash. Do the math: we’d be talking about $200 oil.”

200 dollar oil?

Don’t laugh – it could happen.

In fact, if it does happen the global economy would probably go into cardiac arrest.

The truth is that if the flow of oil from Saudi Arabia gets disrupted there is not enough spare capacity from the rest of the globe to make up for it.

Paul Horsnell, the head of oil research at Barclays Capital, recently said that the world does not currently have enough spare capacity to be able to guarantee that an oil “price shock” will not happen….

“The world has only 4.5m barrels-per-day (bpd) of spare capacity, which is not comfortable.”

Horsnell also said that even in the midst of potential supply problems, the global demand for oil continues to grow at a very robust pace….

“In just two years, the world has grown so fast as to consume additional volume equal to the output of Iraq and Kuwait combined.”

For now, Saudi officials are saying all the right things.  They say that there will be no revolution in Saudi Arabia and that there are not going to be any supply problems.

For example, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi recently announced that the rest of the world should not worry because his country is definitely going to be able to make up for any shortage in the global supply of oil….

“What I would like you to convey to the market: right now there is absolutely no shortage of supply.”

But what happens if revolution comes to Saudi Arabia?

Suddenly the whole game would change.

But even with a peaceful Saudi Arabia the price of gasoline in the United States is already rising to alarming levels.

The average price of gasoline in the United States reached $3.14 a gallon last week.  This closely mirrors what happened back in 2008.  Three years ago at this time the average price of gasoline was right around $3.13 a gallon.

Let’s certainly hope that we don’t see a repeat of what happened to oil prices back in mid-2008.  The price of oil reached an all-time record of $147 a barrel and gas prices in the United States absolutely skyrocketed.

So how high will the price of gas in the U.S. go in 2011?

We haven’t even come close to 4 dollar gas yet, but a large number of analysts believe that it is coming this summer.

Is there even a possibility that we could see 5 dollar gas in America at some point in the next couple of years?

Well, there are some in the oil industry that are convinced that it could actually happen.  Just consider the following quotes….

Darin Newsom, senior analyst at energy tracker DTN….

“If this thing escalates and there’s a good chance that there’d be a shift in supplies, $5 gas isn’t out of the question.”

Peter Beutel, president of energy adviser Cameron Hanover….

“If you are looking at the disruption of movement and production in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, you’re easily talking $5 gas.”

John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, on his belief that we could see 5 dollar gas by 2012….

“I’m predicting actually the worst outcome over the next two years which takes us to 2012 with higher gasoline prices.”

So why is everyone so concerned about gas prices?

Well, because it affects the price of almost everything else in the economy.

David Wyss, the chief economist at Standard & Poor’s, says that every extra dollar that is spent on gasoline is a dollar that will not be spent somewhere else….

“The money that you spend filling up your car is money you don’t have to spend at the shopping mall.”

Not only that, but when gasoline costs more it has a negative effect on economic growth.  Almost all economic activities involve the use of oil in one form or another.  When the price of oil starts getting really high it motivates people to start cutting back on many of those activities.

The truth is that our whole economic system is based on the ability to use massive amounts of very cheap oil.  Now that the price of oil is rapidly rising again, many economists are becoming very alarmed.

Nobuo Tanaka, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, recently told CNBC that his organization is extremely concerned about what high oil prices could do to the global economy….

“That is our concern, regardless of the margins of disruption, if the $100 per barrel of oil is continued in 2011, the burden of oil to the global economy is as bad as 2008.”

So what was so bad about 2008?  Well, the price of oil soared to $147 a barrel in mid-2008 and this was a huge factor in the financial collapse that happened a few months later.  Now oil prices are returning to levels that we have not seen since 2008….

So if the price of oil breaks the all-time record this year will we see another global financial crisis?

It is hard to say.  But what almost everyone agrees on is that it will not be good for the global economy at all.

In addition, a higher price for oil will also have a huge impact on the trade deficit.  Because oil prices were at such a high level back in 2008, oil imports actually made up almost 50 percent of the U.S. trade deficit that year.

In 2010, the U.S. trade deficit was just a whisker under $500 billion.  If the price of oil gets up to 140 or 150 dollars a barrel we could easily see the U.S. trade deficit explode to 700 or 800 billion dollars in 2011.

That would be really, really bad for the U.S. economy.

So where are oil prices going next?

Well, if you could predict that with 100 percent certainty you could make a whole lot of money.  Nobody knows for sure.

But almost everyone believes that the price of oil is going to go up.  In fact, a lot number of investors have been making some very large bets that the price of oil is going to go up very significantly this year.

Recently, large numbers of investors have been betting that the price of oil will rise to $125 a barrel by May.  Shockingly, some investors have even been betting that the price of oil will rise to $250 a barrel by next December.

Let us hope that the price of oil does not rise that rapidly, but as the past couple of months have demonstrated, the world is becoming a very unstable place.   Just about anything is possible at this point.

If the price of oil rises significantly above $100 a barrel and it stays there for an extended period of time, it is going to be absolutely devastating for the U.S. economy.

So what do you all think is going to happen to the price of oil in 2011?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

The Riots In Egypt And The Price Of Oil

As if the world economy did not have enough problems already, now the riots in Egypt threaten to send the price of oil soaring into the stratosphere.  On Friday, the price of U.S. crude soared 4 percent.  A 4 percent rise in a single day is pretty staggering.  The price of Brent crude in London closed just under the magic $100 a barrel mark at $99.42.  The incredibly violent riots in Egypt have financial markets all over the globe on edge right now.  Any time there is violence or war in the Middle East it has a dramatic impact on financial markets, but this time things seem even more serious than usual.  Many believe that we could see an entirely new Egyptian government emerge out of this crisis, and the uncertainty that would bring would make investors all around the globe nervous.  Financial markets like predictability, peace and security.  If Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year reign is brought to an end, it will severely shake up the entire region, and that will not be good news for the global economy.

Have you seen how violent these protests have become?  Cars and buildings are on fire all over the place.  Even the headquarters of Hosni Mubarak’s political party was burned down.  The Egyptian military has been deployed on the streets of Cairo.  Protesters have been showering government forces with stones, firebombs and anything else that they can find to throw.  Security forces have been using rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas to try to disperse the protesters but those efforts seem to be doing little good.  Deaths and injuries are being reported all over the place.  There are even rumors that the wife and son of Hosni Mubarak have already left the country.

At this point, Mubarak has gone on national television and has announced that he has asked his cabinet to resign.  That is an absolutely stunning move, but it is doubtful that the protesters will be satisfied.  All over Cairo protesters continue to chant for Mubarak to resign.

The following is a short compilation of some raw video from the riots in Egypt….

These riots in Egypt come on the heels of violent uprisings in Algeria and Tunisia.  In fact, it seems like virtually the entire Middle East is in a very foul mood right now.  Riots have been reported in Lebanon, in Jordan and in Yemen over the past few days.

Some of the rioting has been motivated by economic factors, but unfortunately all of this rioting is only going to make the global economic situation even worse.  Concern over all of these riots is driving up the price of oil and driving up the prices of agricultural commodities.  These higher prices are going to make it even harder for the poor people in the Middle East to afford food.

But also it must be acknowledged that much of this rioting is being done for very deep political and religious reasons as well.  Many westerners are cheering the protests in Egypt because they envision the protesters to be some sort of “freedom fighters”.  But the vast majority of these protesters do not desire “American-style democracy”.  The Muslim Brotherhood is one of the groups at the heart of these protests.  The government that they intend to set up would not give “liberty and freedom for all”.  Rather, it would be a hardline Islamic government based on Shariah law.  According to Wikipedia, the Muslim Brotherhood bills itself as the “world’s most influential Islamist movement”, and their goal is to impose their version of Islam on society….

The Brotherhood’s stated goal is to instill the Qur’an and Sunnah as the “sole reference point for … ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state”

So unless your version of “freedom” includes being forced to live like the Taliban, then you probably would not enjoy the “liberty” that the Muslim Brotherhood wishes to impose on you.

Coptic Christians all over Egypt are already being slaughtered even with a relatively pro-western president in power.  On New Year’s Day, an attack on a Coptic Christian church in Egypt killed 21 people.  The following is how one eyewitness described the scene to a reporter from the New York Times….

“There were bodies on the streets,” said Sherif Ibrahim, who saw the blast’s aftermath. “Hands, legs, stomachs. Girls, women and men.”

Once a radical Islamic government is installed in Egypt it will be open season on all Christians.

Yes, there is a whole lot of blame to be passed around to other nations, organizations and individuals in the Middle East for things they have done as well, but that does not excuse the horrific persecution of the Coptic Christians in Egypt.

We have to call a spade a spade.  We cannot condemn some forms of tyranny and persecution and then make excuses for other forms of tyranny and persecution just because those doing it are on “our side”.

Replacing one form of tyranny (Mubarak) with an even more repressive form of tyranny (The Muslim Brotherhood) is not something that those who love liberty and freedom should be celebrating.

In any event, everyone should be able to agree that these events are going to severely rattle world financial markets that were already very nervous about 2011.

If these violent riots in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East keep going on, the global price of oil and the global price of food will continue to soar.

Not that oil and food were not going to be heading in that direction anyway.  Yesterday I wrote about the warning signs for the global economy that we are starting to see.  Wheat and corn have absolutely skyrocketed in price over the past 6 months.  The UN had already been projecting that we would see a 30 percent increase in the global price of food in 2011 even before these riots.

If you add rampant political instability into the mix, there is no telling how bad food inflation could get this year.

Many experts have already been forecasting substantial food shortages throughout the world this year based on all the extreme weather we have been having.  So what is going to happen if something causes those food shortages to be even worse than anticipated?

We live in very interesting times my friends.  The globe is becoming an increasingly unstable place.  Even nations that seemed perfectly stable just a few months ago can erupt in rioting at almost any moment.

People around the world are getting angry.  Thanks to the Internet, people are able to circumvent official government propaganda more easily than ever before.  This is making it harder and harder for governments to control people.

Egypt tried to regain some of that control during the riots by shutting down cell phones and by shutting down the Internet but it did not work.

Let’s just hope that Egypt can soon find peace and that the changes that are made in the Egyptian government are good for freedom and liberty.

100 Dollar Oil Is Coming

The price of oil has been hovering around 80 dollars a barrel for quite some time now, but get ready, because it is going to move significantly higher.  Oil prices have already risen about 9 percent over the past month, and many believe that this could very well be the start of a new trend.  Lawrence Eagles, a top analyst at JP Morgan, recently made headlines across the globe when he stated that oil could hit 100 dollars a barrel “much sooner than we expect”.  Not only that, but a number of top OPEC officials are also publicly discussing the possibility of 100 dollar oil.  But just because a few people are talking about it does not mean that it is going to happen.  So are there any other reasons why we should anticipate a significant increase in the price of oil?

Well, yes there is.

*The Decline Of The U.S. Dollar

Since August 27th, the U.S. dollar has declined approximately 4.8% against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners.  Unfortunately, there seems to be every indication that the dollar is going to continue to decline.  As the U.S. dollar continues to display weakness, just about everything priced in dollars (including oil) is going to continue to rise.

*The Threat Of Quantitative Easing By The Federal Reserve

For weeks, top Federal Reserve officials have been making public statements about the need for more quantitative easing.  If the Fed does initiate a significant program of quantitative easing in the coming months, that is going to put even more downward pressure on the U.S. dollar and even more upward pressure on the price of oil. 

*Other Commodities Have Been Skyrocketing

Over recent weeks, the prices of a wide array of key commodities have been absolutely skyrocketing.  As I noted in a previous article, not only has the price of gold been setting records, the truth is that almost every major commodity has been spiking.  In a recent column entitled “An Inflationary Cocktail In The Making“, Richard Benson noted some of the commodity price increases that he has been tracking this year….

-Agricultural Raw Materials: 24%

-Industrial Inputs Index: 25%

-Metals Price Index: 26%

-Coffee: 45%

-Barley: 32%

-Oranges: 35%

-Beef: 23%

-Pork: 68%

-Salmon: 30%

-Sugar: 24%

-Wool: 20%

-Cotton: 40%

-Palm Oil: 26%

-Hides: 25%

-Rubber: 62%

-Iron Ore: 103%

The increase in the price of oil is just part of a larger trend of soaring commodity prices.  As long as this trend in commodity prices continues it is unlikely that the price of oil will go down.

*The Strikes In France

The austerity strikes in France have interrupted the flow of gasoline in that country.  Once the strikes are over there will be an increase in demand as inventories are restocked.

*Increased Demand From China And Other Emerging Nations

Most analysts are forecasting that the demand for oil in China and other emerging nations will continue to grow at an impressive pace.  This growing demand will also cause upward pressure on the price of oil.

*The Potential Of War In The Middle East

As always, war could break out in the Middle East at any time.  A minor conflict in the Middle East would likely push the price of oil over 100 dollars a barrel very quickly.  A major conflict would likely push it over 200 dollars or even beyond.  War is very, very difficult to predict, but it does seem quite likely that some kind of conflict will break out in the Middle East at some point over the next several years.

So how soon will oil reach the 100 dollar mark?

That is very hard to say. 

But even now, Americans are already having to dig deeper into their wallets at the gas pump.

For the two week period ending October 22nd, the average price of gasoline in the United States increased 5.23 cents to $2.82 a gallon.

As the price of oil continues to rise significantly over the long-term, it is going to have an impact on thousands of other prices.  Virtually all products must be transported, and an increase in the price of oil will cause those transportation costs to go up.

So an increase in the price of oil would be really bad news. 

If we do see 100 dollar oil, that will be a huge challenge for the U.S. economy.

If we end up seeing 150 dollar oil (especially for an extended period of time) it will be an absolute nightmare for the U.S. economy.

So where do you think the price of oil is going?  Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion….

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