OiL PRICES: $150 a barrel, according to the director of the International Energy Agency

Oil prices may rise to as high as $150 a barrel because of booming demand from India and China, according to the director of the International Energy Agency.

``In a very high growth scenario in China and India it may move up to $150,'' Nobuo Tanaka said in an interview in Paris today. Those countries ``are consuming energy in a very, very substantial way.''

Oil touched a record $100 a barrel in New York yesterday as renewed violence in Nigeria, Africa's largest crude producer, raised the specter of further supply disruptions. Prices are up 71 percent from a year ago.

``Suddenly the lower-level price age may be over and we are now in the age of very high energy prices,'' Tanaka said.

The IEA won't use its strategic oil stockpiles to ease record prices, Tanaka said. The U.S. also doesn't plan to tap strategic reserves, a spokeswoman for President Bush said yesterday.

Crude oil for February delivery rose as much as 36 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $99.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange today. The contract traded at $99.35 at 3:55 p.m. London time.

Tanaka said he disagreed with officials from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, supplier of more than 40 percent of the world's oil, who have denied that the strength in prices is a result of demand and supply fundamentals.

`Fragile Market'
``The supply-demand situation is a basic determinant to the direction of the price,'' he said. ``The current level of spare capacity and the current level of stocks is showing that the market is quite fragile.''

OPEC officials, including Qatari Oil Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah, have said the producer group can't lower the oil price because it's driven by speculative investors rather than fundamentals.

In a high-growth scenario, oil import prices will rise to $150 a barrel by 2030 in nominal terms, or $87 a barrel in inflation-adjusted 2006-dollar terms, the IEA said in its Nov. 7 World Energy Outlook Report.

Via: Bloomberg | By Alexander Kwiatkowski and Paul George

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