rose to $30.10 a barrel Dec. 16 as reduced crude oil supplies resulted
from strikes in Venezuela by Petroleos de Venezuela, the state oil
company, bringing oil prices up more than 50 percent from a year
earlier, The New York Times reported.
the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the United States, accounting
for 9 percent of its daily crude oil supply.
strike began Dec. 2, Venezuela was exporting about 2.4 million barrels
of oil a day, half to the United States. Strikers said just two
oil tankers left Venezuelan ports last week. Normally, 12 to 14
tankers depart daily.
Oil at $30
per barrel does not threaten a return to recession, economists said.
But "it is certainly enough to forestall a more sustained recovery
in the economy when the recovery is still very tepid," said
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com, a consulting firm in
West Chester, PA.
Prices at $35
to $40 per barrel are much more of a threat, economists said. While
that may seem far-fetched now, continuing conflict in Venezuela
could combine with war in Iraq to disturb oil supplies so profoundly
that even OPEC would lack the spare production capacity to make
up for shortfalls, industry experts warned.