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Gasoline Prices Are Headed to $4 Per Gallon… and Here's Why

Futures prices for both crude and gasoline were down yesterday. Unfortunately, that barely tells the real story.

So, enjoy the respite while it lasts.

Thanks to the growing Sunni insurrection and the rapid unraveling of the Shiite government in Baghdad, you can bet that prices for both crude and gasoline will be making the headlines over the next two months.

In fact, when it comes to oil, some bankers are now openly questioning the ability of the market to meet global demand a year out. Now prices further out on the futures curve are rising much more quickly than anticipated.

As the next-month rates (August 2014) fell in yesterday's trade, oil prices as far out as December 2018 began to spike.

Here's why yesterday's drop in prices is just the pause before the storm…

If Iraq Unravels, Oil Production Will Be Crippled

There's a reason why Iraq figures so prominently in this discussion. Everybody's estimates now suggest that global oil demand will accelerate to 94 million barrels a day by the end of this year.

That will place a greater reliance on expanding the existing sources of supply.

Previously, when in the same situation, the Saudis would bail us out since they have the ability to put 12 to 12.5 million barrels a day on line in a matter of a few hours. In the past, that provided a reliable cushion, restraining a real breakout in prices to the upside.

Well, this time that's just not so. The projected demand spike will flat out exceed the ability of Saudi Aramco to deliver. That means relying even more on other OPEC members. The problem is that consistent overall production increases have been muted, with Iran and Venezuela actually posting declines.

However, the singular exception in all of these estimates has been Iraq, where the government has ambitious plans to ratchet up production at major fields in the south from the about 3.1 million barrels a day to more than 6 million barrels a day with further expansion planned beyond that.

In this position, Iraq has become the new "balancer" in the international oil equation.

Now, keep in mind that the ongoing crisis has not hit the oil fields directly. And there is little indication that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has the ability (or intent) to capture these fields. While they have effectively immobilized the nation's largest refinery at Baiji, near Tikrit and north of Baghdad, their forces are far too small to capture and control the critical fields and pipelines.

Unfortunately, the ISIL can accomplish the same result without occupying a single square inch. All they need to do is immobilize the current government and allow the fragmentation already underway to render the new Parliament (supposedly sitting by the end of this week) powerless to act. After all, even without a major insurrection, it usually takes that body months to come up with an ineffective patchwork administration.

Needless to say, that would only make a bad situation even worse.

Here's why: Losing centralized governmental regulation of the oil sector freezes field development and will prompt international majors to start moving personnel out of the south, even though insurrectionists are 200 kilometers away.

In fact, some of these companies have already begun to make their exits. And that's what is prompting a rise in prices further out on the curve. The problem is, even more bad news is right on the horizon.

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About the Author

Dr. Kent Moors is an internationally recognized expert in oil and natural gas policy, risk assessment, and emerging market economic development. He serves as an advisor to many U.S. governors and foreign governments. Kent details his latest global travels in his free Oil & Energy Investor e-letter. He makes specific investment recommendations in his newsletter, the Energy Advantage. For more active investors, he issues shorter-term trades in his Energy Inner Circle

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  1. Stanley Goodrich | June 26, 2014

    In So Cal we've been paying more than $4.00 for a gallon of gas for longer than I can remember. Regular has been about $4.37 for months, if not years.

  2. northwind | June 26, 2014

    only need 20 cents more where I am to crack $4/gal. of course in NY everything is taxed more than average. living in a big city, I used to, you get a double hit because with so much traffic congestion you get way less than the EPA mileage estimate.

  3. Ronald Hatt | June 29, 2014

    So…….Isn't it time that our Congress, & Senate take control of this critically vital resource? Why would America, sell it's gasoline abroad, & buy petroleum from it's "ENEMIES?" Start building refineries, immediately, & get the coal business back in production, set time limits for gasoline consumption to be converted to acceptable levels, by developing alternative power sources…….even if it means nuclear power! Intelligent, & responsible control of this objective, [ by conservatives], could mean a return to "sensible", & acceptable costs of fuel for working America!

  4. will | June 29, 2014

    Dear money morning, if we are or are becoming the main exporter in the world, why is gas at the pump going to $4? If we are becoming independent of the arabia debacle, and we have all this new oil, shouldn't gas be around $1-$1.50? It seems oil isn't that much a barrel and the price at the pump never seems to calibrate lower in relation to the price on the world market? It seems to go up, I don't understand this discrepancy, I know people just pull up to the pump and never ask this question, thank you, Lightwire News

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