US diesel prices wake from short slumber

NEW YORK — After a temporary lull last week, American diesel prices shot back up as the national average retail price soared 18.2 cents to a new record high of $4.331 for the week ending Monday, May 12.

Worldwide oil prices spiked to a new record above US$126 a barrel Monday as the massive earthquake in China raised the possibility of a drop in demand.

The average weekly price — which has climbed 37.6 cents in the last five weeks — is $1.558 higher than the same week last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The DOE reports every U.S. region experienced price increases, with the Midwest posting the largest spike and the Central Atlantic seeing the highest overall prices.

Demand for diesel, especially, continues to grow worldwide as the supply of distillates fell unexpectedly in early May. That’s inflating North American prices to record highs in the futures market.

In Canada, diesel hovers around $1.35 a liter — about 10 cents on average more than gasoline. As always, the Atlantic provinces and parts of Quebec , especially in remote areas experience the highest pump prices.

So how high can prices go?

Goldman Sachs predicted last week that crude prices could soar to $150-$200 a barrel this year as non-OPEC producers struggle to maintain output, let alone increase it.

“We believe the current energy crisis may be coming to a head, as a lack of adequate supply growth is becoming apparent and resulting in needed demand rationing in the OECD areas in particular the United States,” a Goldman Sachs analyst wrote in the report dated May 5.

As with oil prices themselves, cost projections are volatile

But other analysts beg to differ. A survey of oil and gas executives by KPMG’s Global Energy Institute found that most of them (55 percent) think the price of oil will drop significantly by the end of the year — to below $100.

Twenty-one percent think that the price will close between $101 and $110; 15 percent think between $111 and $120; and nine percent believe it will close at above $120. And, while 44 percent felt that prices would peak by the end of the year, a further 39 percent thought that they would not peak until after 2010.

“The combination of traders moving resources into commodities and the weak dollar has had a significant role in the surge in pricing in recent weeks,” said Bill Kimble, executive director for KPMG’s Global Energy Institute.

“However, in addition, there are underlying, issues in the energy industry, such as escalating energy demand in emerging markets and declining oil reserves, which will continue to contribute to upward pricing pressure for years to come.”

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