As the autocratic rule that has dominated the Middle East for decades continues to unravel, volatility in the global oil markets continues to point toward one overriding concern: How can we maintain an oil-flow balance in the face of this escalating uncertainty?
Global oil prices spiked to their highest levels in more than two years on Friday because of worries that the unrest and resulting production curbs in Libya would spread to other oil-exporting countries.
Oil prices retreated a bit yesterday (Monday) in the aftermath of several developments that investors perceived as positive. In the first, reports said that Libyan protesters were allowing oil shipments to resume from certain parts of the country. And in the second, Khalid Al-Falih, the head of state-owned Saudi Aramco, said that that "all incremental needs" for extra oil have been met.
Of course, even with the Saudi oil supply pledge, these developments offer only a momentary respite in the Mideast crisis. Almost two-thirds of the world's known conventional oil supplies are located in the Middle East region. And the question that isn't being answered – or even asked – right now is this: Are oil supplies sustainable in the face of a longer-term crisis?
The answer to that question will leave you feeling less than sanguine.