Traders of crude oil and natural gas work at the New York Mercantile Exchange.… (Bebeto Matthews / Associated…)
The U.S. Energy Department predicted this week that the price of crude oil would average more than $100 a barrel this year for the first time ever.
The prediction came from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration in its most recent Short Term Energy Outlook. Energy Department officials were commenting on their expectations for the price of the U.S. commodities trading benchmark, which is West Texas Intermediate crude.
Futures in West Texas Intermediate crude are traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
If the forecast proves correct, it would break the record for the most expensive year for the commodity, which was an average of $99.57 a barrel in 2008.
"EIA expects the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil to average about $100 per barrel in 2012, $5 per barrel higher than the average price last year," the Short Term Energy Outlook said.
"For 2013, EIA expects WTI prices to continue to rise, reaching $106 per barrel in the fourth quarter of next year," the report said.
The Energy Department said that economic growth in the U.S. would be one factor, but it also cited stronger growth and rising energy demand in emerging economies around the world.
The price of crude has soared over the last decade. In 2003, the average price was just $31.12 a barrel. By 2006, it had more than doubled to an average of $66.02 a barrel. The price of oil collapsed during the second half of 2008, but it has been on another sustained rise since then, to $61.65 a barrel in 2009 and $94.86 a barrel last year.
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