April 1, 2010

Wall Street is driving up oil prices

Oil prices have risen steadily over the last year, and experts are worrying further increases could snuff out an already-fragile global economic recovery.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday his plan to open oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico. The proposal aims to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil, which theoretically could hold down prices for U.S. consumers.

But analysts contend that the rise is prices is not a supply problem — it’s a Wall Street problem.

OPEC countries also are convening in Mexico this week to map out a strategy for keeping prices from rising higher.

But officials may face an even bigger problem: The recent rise in prices seems to be driven by commodity investors — not market supply and demand.

Though prices crashed from their peak of $140 a barrel before the recession began in December 2007, they have since recovered substantially. Last year, the price of crude fell to $33 a barrel before a relentless recovery to about $80 by year-end.

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