World oil prices are headed for US$100 ($133) a barrel, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez predicted yesterday, and said he would cut supplies to the United States if the US Government "attacks" the South American nation again.
"I’ve always said that oil prices are headed straight to US$100 per barrel," he said during a televised speech. "We should prepare ourselves for those prices."
Chavez said high oil prices were the sign of a "global crisis" in energy caused by voracious consumption that had vastly reduced available oil reserves.
Chavez has accused the United States of plotting a bungled coup that ousted him for two days in 2002, though Washington denies the accusations, and has repeatedly made threats to cut off oil sales to the United States that historically account for 12 to 15 per cent of US imports.
"No one should think that we’re going to stop sending oil to the United States, no – unless they attack us again," Chavez said during a speech to leaders of Caribbean nations meeting in Caracas for an energy summit.
"If they attack us again like they did in April of 2002 … there will be no oil."
Venezuela hosted the Caribbean leaders over the weekend. They had come for the third meeting of the Petrocaribe accord, an agreement Venezuela launched in 2005 to provide oil and fuel on advantageous terms to Caribbean countries.
Participants such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are offered soft financing terms and the possibility to pay their bills in-kind with products such as bananas and nutmeg.
Meanwhile, world oil prices were mixed over the weekend, with a barrel of Brent falling below US$69 for the first time since June, on concern that energy demand may weaken amid the US sub-prime crisis.
New York’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in September, lost US12c to US$71.47 a barrel.
MF Global analyst Edward Meir said that while energy markets had initially ignored the sub-prime crisis, oil prices were now closely linked to broader economic woes.
"Energy demand could be the surprising variable that could warrant more attention in the weeks and months ahead," he said.
"Should it weaken in the wake of a credit-induced retrenchment, it could undo the various upward price spirals we have been seeing."
The New York contract soared to a historic high of US$78.77 a barrel this month on falling US stockpiles.
Crude futures are sliding despite the US Department of Energy reporting last Wednesday that crude inventories fell by 4.1 million barrels to 340.4 million barrels in the week ended August 3, a much sharper fall than forecast.