Look for the price of crude oil to continue to climb — reaching upwards of $200 per barrel — and for prices at the pump to reach $5.75 per gallon in the next two years, warns Goldman Sachs’ gas guru Arjun Murti .
In an interview with Barron’s, the energy analyst said that with the growth of crude oil supply “constrained,” prices inevitably will rise further.
“Spare capacity throughout the energy complex seems very limited, whether for OPEC crude oil, natural gas, or refining,” says Murti.
“In all of those areas, capacity is limited. And it’s getting very difficult for companies and countries to boost supplies — something that has become increasingly apparent to us over the first half of this decade.”
Murti said the oil industries in some oil-producing countries, like Mexico, are in decline, and other sources of oil, like the North Sea, are now “mature.”
There are other problems as well.
“The places that have large quantities of recoverable oil, notably Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, and Russia, aren’t on track to grow their supply aggressively,” said Murti. “It’s growing at a very moderate rate. “
What’s more, the currently high prices of gas are creating economic disincentives for those countries to spend more money to expand capacity.
Other experts agreed.
“The price of oil and gasoline will continue to grow until we see either greater supply growth, which is unlikely, or demand reduction on a global basis,” Bruce Bullock, director of the McGuire Energy Institute at the Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, tells Moneynews.
But, observers note that companies and consumers are starting to do something about the trend.
The U.S. Department of Transportation last month reported the largest monthly drop in driving since it began keeping records. Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles in March of 2008 than they did in March of 2007.
“There is some evidence that the shift away from dependency on fossil fuels is imminent,” Amanda Pierre, a spokeswoman for the League of American Bicyclists, tells Moneynews.
Owners of SUVs are trying to get out of leases for their gas guzzling vehicles.
“We hear from customers every single day that the price of gas is making life difficult for them,” John Sternal, vice president of LeaseTrader.com, a company that administers lease transfers, tells Moneynews. “We’ve seen a 24 percent increase in the number of people who want to downsize cars because of the energy situation.”
Murti said this is quite predictable. “The price will keep going up to the level where it meaningfully reduces demand,” said Murti.
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