In 1999, the price of oil hovered around $16 a barrel. By 2008, it had crossed the $100 a barrel mark. The reasons for the surge ranged from the relentless growth of the economies of China and India to widespread instability in oil-producing regions, including Iraq and Nigeria's delta region. Triple-digit oil prices have redrawn the economic and political map of the world, challenging some old notions of power. Oil-rich nations are enjoying historic gains and opportunities, while major importers - including China and India, home to a third of the world's population - confront rising economic and social costs.
Managing this new order is fast becoming a central problem of global politics. Countries that need oil are clawing at each other to lock up scarce supplies, and are willing to deal with any government, no matter how unsavory, to do it.
In many poor nations with oil, the proceeds are being lost to corruption, depriving these countries of their best hope for development. And oil is fueling gargantuan investment funds run by foreign governments, which some in the West see as a new threat.
Countries like Russia, Venezuela and Iran are flush with rising oil revenues, a change reflected in newly aggressive foreign policies. But some unexpected countries are reaping benefits, as well as costs, from higher prices. Consider Germany. Although it imports virtually all its oil, it has prospered from extensive trade with a booming Russia and the Middle East. German exports to Russia grew 128 percent from 2001 to 2006.
In the United States, as already high gas prices rose even higher in the spring of 2008, the issue cropped up in the presidential campaign, with Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton calling for a federal gas tax holiday during the peak summer driving months. And driving habits began to change, as sales of small cars jumped and mass transit systems across the country reported a sharp increase in riders. --- May 13, 2008 (From www.times.com)