HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Brent crude oil futures for April 2011 delivery ended the week’s trading session at $115.78 a barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange at close Friday evening.

The price fell, after the close and remained well below the 2008 record peak of $147 a barrel.

The cause: The “supply shock” created by internal strife in Libya –and worries that the “small” Libya supply shock could wind up triggering a “humongous supply shock,’’ Dreyfus chief economist Richard Hoey told the Bank Insurance and Securities Association conference Sunday, in an opening keynote.

But “unless there is a further spikeup, I don’t see it breaking the sustainability of this recovery,’’ which Hoey pegged at 4 percent or greater growth in global output this year, compared to last.

One countervailing move that would keep the supply shocks from getting out of hand is the United States’ strategic petroleum reserve, he said.

Where the Bush Administration was content to let oil prices rise to compensate oil companies for risk they took in keeping supplies uninterrupted, the attitude of the Obama Administration is different, he said.

If oil prices rise another $10 or $20 a barrel, he said, “the strategic reserves are coming out.’’

The second countervailing factor, Hoey said in a February 11 market commentary, is innovation that will create sustainable alternatives to oil.

The focus on peak prices in fact may miss the point altogether about oil prices and their impacts on economies worldwide.

“The potential problem of ‘peak whale oil’ a century and a half ago was not solved by an increase in the number of whales,’’ he wrote. “Rather it was solved by innovation, as substitutes derived from crude oil were developed.’’

Similarly, he said, innovations in the supply energy are likely to help resolve the "peak oil" problem over the coming years. Already, rapid development of unconventional sources of gas in the U.S. are lowering natural gas prices and the energy cost of some U.S. plants, according to Hoey, who is both chief economist of The Dreyfus Corporation and chief economist and senior vice president of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation.

But that may not overcome the recent surge in oil prices, if $4 a gallon gasoline at the pump becomes a fixture. Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency, has warned if prices were sustained at current levels, they could tip the world back into the deep financial crisis of 2008.

“If $100 continues through 2011, we call it the oil burden, this will create the same level of crisis as in 2008,” Tanaka said last week.

But Hoey told bank investment consultants gathered at the BISA event that he expects oil prices won’t derail “a strong sustained global economic expansion” this year and next, unless the relatively small LIbyan shock turns into a wider, "humongous supply shock" in the Middle East.

The Dreyfus Corporation, which began operation in 1951, manages approximately $400 billion in mutual funds and separately managed accounts. Bank of New York Mellon overall manages about $1.2 trillion in assets.


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