It seemed like only a few weeks ago – actually, it was – when oil prices cracked through the seemingly impenetrable $100-a-barrel barrier, leaving analysts, investors, and motorists wondering how high was up.
Considering the numbers dropped to less than $25 at one point during $2001, and didn’t break $50 until late 2004, the sudden surge has seemed to defy logic. But it’s also busting wallets, with the average U.S. gasoline price now nearing the $4-a-gallon mark. (Driving through Connecticut this week, I was stunned to see the figure top $4.20 at some service stations.)
Virtually every day in recent weeks, the numbers have edged higher and higher, closing at $129.07 on Tuesday. But if you think the steady climb might be reaching its limit, you don’t want to go talking to Arjun N. Murti. An article in the New York Times today finds the Goldman Sachs energy analyst forecasting that oil is likely to surge as high as $200 a barrel.
For those who measure things in price at the pump, that means you could be looking at paying $6 a gallon, or close to $200 to fill up some of the bigger SUVs and pickups.
Murti, the Times reports, doesn’t expect the figures to drop back below $100 a barrel until at least 2011.
The analyst can be wrong, but his track record suggests he may be right. And even if he’s not, a growing number of oil industry watchers are seeing bigger bills ahead. The legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens, for one, is forecasting $150 a barrel before things settle down.
Murti admits he’s not particularly bothered by the run-up, incidentally. He suggests that rising oil prices may actually have a silver lining: forcing fuel-hungry Americans to finally put an emphasis on energy efficiency.