LONDON -- Global demand for oil will grow this year at its fastest rate since 1980, but OPEC's pledge to pump more crude should help ease the pressure on prices, the International Energy Agency said yesterday.
US crude prices peaked this month at more than $42 per barrel, driven by fears about security in Saudi Arabia and uncertainty about whether major producers would provide more crude. The agency, which has often urged the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to augment supplies, welcomed OPEC's decision last week to raise its output ceiling and boost production. "All things being equal, this should moderate prices by allowing stocks to build," it said.
The International Energy Agency is the energy watchdog for wealthy oil-importing countries. Although it analyzes supply and demand, it avoids trying to predict price levels.
Oil inventories held by importing countries grew modestly in April, but strong demand for gasoline precluded much improvement in gas inventories, the agency reported.
US oil prices peaked June 1 at $42.33 per barrel for light crude for July delivery. They have fallen 9 percent since; July contracts of light crude rose 91 cents yesterday to settle at $38.45 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gasoline prices have not followed crude downward, due to refining constraints, environmental standards for reformulated gasoline, and other factors.
Falah Aljibury, an independent energy analyst, said the only way to reduce US gas prices is for the United States to import more gas. "And the only way we can import more is by relaxing temporarily the environmental standards we set for gasoline until we see . . . a drop in gasoline prices like we're seeing in crude," he said.