Oil's historic ascent from $100 to nearly $150 a barrel in just six months is lending weight to a far grimmer prediction: Crude could reach $200 a barrel by the end of the year.
Oil at that price would wreak deeper havoc on the world's airlines and automobile industries.
In the U.S., $200 crude would push the price of gasoline to well over $6 a gallon, causing commuters to alter their driving habits more sharply than they have already, while putting extreme strains on large sectors of the U.S. economy. In Europe, it would stir more political unrest and increase the clamor to cut the continent's stiff petrol taxes. In Asia, governments would be under pressure to cut fuel subsidies and risk a popular backlash.
U.S. benchmark crude prices leapt 3.6% last week, closing before the Independence Day holiday at a record $145.29 a barrel. Roughly halfway through the year, oil prices have soared 50% since Jan. 1 and have doubled since the same time last year.
Few oil watchers are now ready to bet that oil will hit $200 a barrel by New Year's Eve. But nearly all are wary of predicting how and when oil's upward stampede will be reversed.