Expanding unrest in the Middle East has jolted the oil market, sending crude to $119 a barrel since Egyptians first took to the streets in January. The oil market doesn’t like uncertainty, and nothing could be more uncertain than the volatility spreading to Libya, Africa’s third-largest oil supplier, and Tunisia. Some analysts are even concerned about Saudi Arabia.
Rising oil prices mean rising gasoline prices, which have surged to an average of about $3.13 a gallon at the pump in the U.S. This comes on the cusp of the summer driving season, when prices usually peak as Americans hit the roads.
Some analysts say oil could reach $220 a barrel if Libya and Algeria halt exports. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Feb. 8 that the monthly average retail price for regular gasoline could exceed $3.50 a gallon during summer 2011. And that was before the Libyan situation developed.
What typically follows these price upticks is a round of Congressional hearings as indignant constituents’ wallets are squeezed.
Surging oil prices usually bring a fresh look at renewables too, so green energy companies should be prepared to seize the moment. Companies involved in alternative fuels such solar and wind can use this time of high oil prices to once again showcase their offerings.
This would also be an opportune time for oil companies to press for Gulf of Mexico drilling permits, long stymied by the ghost of Macondo.
Times of unrest often call for times of new beginnings.