U.S. Oil Hits $100 a Barrel

Unrest in Libya, which has Africa's largest oil reserves, is the cause of price increase.

For the first time since 2008, oil hit $100 on Feb. 23, as an uprising in Libya roiled global energy markets.

New York's main oil contract crossed the symbolic threshold -- last reached in October 2008 -- following a run of $100-plus prices for London's Brent.

The market continues to be very focused on the instability in the Middle East, and Libya in particular," said oil analyst John Kilduff. "The violence against the people, Kadhafi now losing control of some of the regions, the defection of some of the military and even the diplomatic corps -- it has escalated the situation to a point where we are likely to lose, at least for a time, Libya's 1.1 million barrels a day to the oil market," he said.

Kadhafi's pledge to crush anti-regime protesters raised the stakes in an increasing bloody fight for control of the country, a fight that could halt oil shipments. Libya, which has Africa's largest oil reserves and is the continent's fourth largest producer, is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the cartel that produces about 40% of global supplies.

Speaking on the sidelines of a producer-consumer meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Feb. 22, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi said OPEC was prepared to meet any shortage of supplies. "There is absolutely no shortage of supply now... OPEC is ready to meet any shortage in supply when it happens," Nuaimi said. "There is concern and fear but there is no shortage," the minister reiterated in a bid to assure consumer countries that crude oil supplies are guaranteed despite sweeping unrest.

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