Page last updated at 21:46 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 22:46 UK

Oil soars to new record over $135

Graph of light, sweet crude prices in 2008

The price of oil hit a record high above $135 a barrel on Thursday - more than twice what it cost a year ago.

The latest surge was driven by data showing that US supplies of crude had fallen - but the price later fell back sharply as traders took profits.

In the US, the benchmark light, sweet crude contract hit $135.09, taking its gain for the year to more than 40%. In May 2007 it was priced at about $65.

Higher oil prices push up the price of fuel, energy bills and food.

The average price of a litre of unleaded petrol in the UK is now about 114 pence, and diesel has risen to an average of about 126.4 pence per litre.

And the motoring organisation, the AA, said that another $5 leap in the oil price could add a further 2.5p to the price at the pump.

"The threat of even higher prices in the pipeline will perch like a vulture above UK forecourts waiting to pick an even bigger hole in the pocket of drivers and consumers," AA president Edmund King said.


The impact of rocketing oil prices continues to feed through into the wider economy.

Cheapest unleaded: 107.9p (Gateshead)
Most expensive unleaded: 125p (Northampton)
Cheapest diesel: 117.9p (Mansfield)
Most expensive diesel: 138p (Hexham)

The British Chamber of Commerce warned that companies were being pushed to the "absolute edge", and called on Chancellor Alistair Darling to abandon plans to increase petrol duty by 2p in October

Meanwhile American Airlines has become the first US carrier to charge for checked-in luggage as it tries to increase revenue being eroded by its fuel bills. It will also cut "thousands" of jobs.

Air France-KLM said on Thursday that the cost of oil would make the coming year "challenging".

And earlier this month, British Gas owner Centrica signalled that bills could rise again, as its profits are squeezed by higher gas and power prices.

Investment needed

In a more global economy, there's going to be tougher competition for oil supplies
Stephanie Flanders
BBC Economics Editor

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is working with international partners to persuade the Opec oil producers' cartel to increase supply.

His spokeswoman said that Mr Brown recognised the increases were having an effect on UK consumers and he would be raising this at the forthcoming EU and G8 summits.

But one analyst said Mr Brown's efforts were likely to prove in vain and political pressure should, instead, be exerted on leading producers to invest more in long-term capacity.

"All this excess profit that has been generated by the oil industry really needs to be invested in refineries, pipelines and oil wells," Francisco Blanch, head of global commodities research at Merrill Lynch, told the BBC.

This has hit me hard financially as I have to use my car for work
Kevin, Gloucester

"This is what the market is asking for at the moment and we just need to ensure... we have the political goodwill also supporting this investment."

Opec has so far blamed price rises on speculators and says there is no shortage of oil.

All but three of Opec's members are already at their maximum daily limits for oil output and pressure has grown on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, which do have spare capacity.

Further rises?

Some analysts have raised the possibility of prices rising as high as $200 a barrel during the next 18 months.

In addition to falling US stockpiles, the continuing weakness of the US dollar has been another factor cited as supporting prices.

The US Energy Information Administration blamed the fall in its stocks figure on a fall in imports and a pick-up in demand from refineries.

Oil prices have set new records in 10 of the last 14 trading sessions.

Man cycles past fuel supplies in Indonesia

"You really cannot forecast how much further the market will rally now," said Tatsuo Kageyama from Kanetsu Asset Management in Tokyo.

"All I can say is the market will continue to rise."

Light, sweet crude oil is the type most commonly used for processing into petrol and as a result, it is in high demand.

It has large amounts of the content used to make petrol, top-grade diesel and kerosene. It also has low levels of sulphur.

Its price pulled back sharply as dealers took profits from the surge, settling down $2.36 at $130.81 a barrel

London's Brent crude fell $2.30 to $130.40, having set an intra-day high on Thursday, peaking at $135.14 a barrel.

Petrol price graph

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific