Crude Oil Surges on Middle East Unrest, Diesel Edges Up

Crude Oil Surges on Middle East Unrest, Diesel Edges Up

Political turmoil in the Middle East threatened world supplies of oil and pushed the price of crude oil up 6 percent in a single day’s trading Tuesday. Retail diesel prices in the U.S. were not yet affected in numbers reported by the government from last week.

With plentiful supply and low demand, crude prices had fallen from $92.19 per barrel Jan. 31 to $86.20 per barrel Feb. 18. But over the long holiday weekend, crude futures shot up $5.62 to $91.82 a barrel Tuesday morning and closed even higher at the end of the day at $93.82 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

By The Numbers: U.S. Diesel Prices

The retail price of diesel fuel last week increased 3.9 cents to $3.573 per gallon in the 12th consecutive weekly increase, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That is likely to change dramatically as this week goes on.

Revolt in Libya, Africa’s third largest oil producer, pushed crude oil prices to a 30-month high and stirred fears of slower global economic growth.

Libya declared force majeure on all oil product exports as Muammar Gaddafi vowed to hold on to his 40-year rule and sent troops to battle with demonstrators.

Unrest in Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries recently caused fears of shortages due to problems at the Suez Canal, gateway for ships carrying nearly 3 million barrels of oil per day.

-- Contact Thomas L. Gallagher at tgallagher@joc.com.