As one who is a common investor in commodities, I think I can shed some light and create some confusion!
China and India (Mainly China) have rapidly expanding economies, and have seen a explosive growth for crude oil demand. As a whole, the world is producing oil about as fast is it can(or wants to). We are right now consuming very close to that rate.
The oil market is real nervous right now, any news of any supply shortage, the buyers are all bidding up the price ensuring that they will have oil. There is some speculation about the weakening US dollar being a culprit. But I dispute that since oil is traded in only the US dollar in the world market.
I am not an OPEC fan. But current high prices run a lot deeper than OPEC. In the 90s, oil got down to $10 a barrel. Because of that, suppliers have been reluctant to do things that would increase production. Shell, BP
, and Exxon(the big three in the oil industry) are actively looking for and finding more oil, but are not bringing it to the market as they fear another price fallout.
Refining capacity in the US has been blamed for high gasoline prices before. And there is a lack of it thanks to "interesting" clean air laws. However gasoline inventories are at a 6 year high right now in the United States and we just beat the record for average price per gallon in the US.
The oil industry discovered last year that the oil market can sustain $40 a barrel. The industry I think is doing damn little to bring down prices. But the industry also knows that $55-$60+ oil can(will) cause a global economic recession. Then watch what happens to oil prices!
The great positive about this. It finally forces the American public to look for other energy sources and be more efficient. The US consumes more than 40% of the crude produced in the world. That number needs to come down. The only way you are going to get Americans to park our SUVs and look for more efficient ways of transportation is to make SUVs to expensive to drive. SUV
sales have fallen greatly in the last 2 months in the US.
That kind of market shift causes automakers to adjust. General Motors and Toyota are working together on fuel cell technology for example. Capitalism pure and simple.
Back to aviation. I don't see airliners running off of anything else than Jet fuel in the next 40 years. In fact there has been a shift to put diesel engines that run off of JET-A in general aviation aircraft.
I think the oil market is doing some weird stuff. I am currently not invested in the oil market right now. I also have some "conspiracy theories" that I will keep to myself. But I believe we are one global recession or political investigation away from very cheap oil.
[Edited 2005-03-19 21:10:56]